The Bottom Line
"The Trail of a Time Lord" on DVD is the ideal resource for fans of the classic series who want to know the whole story behind the show's most controversial Doctor, Colin Baker, and the twists and turns of his final season on the air. Though the 14 episodes of season 23 vary in quality, they contain many of Baker's best moments in the show and some of the entire series's most indelible images, including the haunting death of Peri Brown. The commentaries and extensive featurettes on the "Trial" DVD set are impressive, making it fun for Who fans and a must for those who appreciate Colin Baker's turn as the Doctor.
- Contains scads of excellent behind-the-scenes material on Colin Baker's last season
- Multiple audio commentaries featuring many of the key actors, writers, and directors
- Cleaned-up, digitally remastered print
- The story behind the "Trial" is more interesting than some parts of the actual program
- Directors: Chris Clough, Nicholas Mallett, Ron Jones. Writers: Robert Holmes, Philip Martin, Pip and Jane Baker, Eric Saward.
- Stars Colin Baker (The Doctor). Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown). Bonnie Langford (Melanie Bush). Lynda Bellingham (Inquisitor).
- Also stars Michael Jayston (The Valeyard). Anthony Ainley (The Master). Nabil Shaban (Sil). Brian Blessed (Yrcanos).
- Featurettes: "Trials and Tribulations" (55 min). "Making Of" for all four segments. "Now, Get Out of That" (cliffhangers).
- Also: "The Lost Season" (stories lost in hiatus). "On the Trail of a Time Lord" (locations). Deleted/extended scenes.
Guide Review - "Trial of a Time Lord" on DVD
The story behind season 23 of the original series of 'Doctor Who,' which aired from September to December of 1986, is worthy of dramatization all by itself. After a rocky season 22 in which the abrasive new Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker, polarized fans in episodes ranging from decent ("The Mark of the Rani") to aggressively bad ("Timelash"), unsympathetic BBC Controller Michael Grade put the show on a hiatus from which many thought it would never return.
Finally brought back to work after languishing 18 months off the air, the production team led by John Nathan-Turner was given a vague message to improve the show or else. The feeling that the show was on trial inspired Nathan-Turner to incorporate the same idea into the abbreviated 14-episode season: the Time Lords would put the Doctor on trial, and the evidence presented would be story-within-a-story adventures. But disaster after disaster ensued: the lead writer died while working on his climactic segment; the tension between Nathan-Turner and the story editor, Eric Saward, exploded, causing Saward to quit and forcing last-minute replacement for his segment; and the trial format proved a failure, wearing out the viewers over the epic four months of the series.
Then came the final twist: Grade phoned Nathan-Turner to say the show would be renewed for a 24th season. The only catch: he would have to recast the lead. Baker became the only Doctor ever to be fired from the show.
The ins and outs of this tale are given their best revelation yet in the extensive documentaries and commentaries on the four-disc "Trial of a Time Lord" DVD, featuring many of the surviving key players (and the late Nathan-Turner in archive interview footage). The intervening 22 years have given Baker and the others the perspective to evaluate what happened and why, which is reason enough to enjoy this set.