The Ultimate Foe brings this trial of a Time Lord to an end, and not in quite the way I had expected. Yes, the Valeyard is trying to frame the Doctor, but I didn’t imagine there would be a conspiracy to cover up evidence that ran all the way to the top of the high council, nor that the Valeyard would be a manifestation of the Doctor’s dark thoughts, from a post-twelfth regeneration future. That fits quite nicely with the upcoming 50th anniversary special – perhaps they’ll mention it?
The mysteries from the previous stories actually are explained, which is surprising! The valuable data Glitz was after was leaked from the Time Lords’ information matrix, and the planet Earth was pushed away and disguised as Ravolox to cover it up. To help his defence, Glitz and Mel are brought back to corroborate the Doctor’s story, by none other than the Master. It’s quite a reunion they’ve got going on, fitting for a season finale.
Most of the story takes place inside the matrix, where the EvilDoc/Valeyard is hiding, plotting to assassinate the judge and jury with a wibbly-wobbly matrix energy something-or-other. It does get a bit silly, with them waiting around in Popplewick’s office, being exposed to illusions and the Doctor being hypnotised by the Master. It’s not exactly a tidy conclusion, and the appearance of both the Master and the Valeyard as ‘villains’ (and both Glitz and Mel as companions) only clutters things further. Alas, it is a fairly forgettable mini-adventure, and it would seem the Valeyard isn’t defeated anyway, laughing maniacally prior to the credits rolling.
As this is the final story to feature Colin Baker, I was expecting him to be injured at the end and forced to regenerate, but it never happened. In fact, the whole way through this trial, I had expected a forced regeneration as his sentence (much like at the end of The War Games) – instead, the judge drops all charges because he saves their lives and the Doctor and Mel just leave. Meh, fair enough.
Regarding Mel, then. Her pantomime performance is a poor replacement even for Peri, but the weirdest thing is how she’s introduced. She’s from this Doctor’s future, so from her perspective they met in the past. But this is the first time the Doctor has met her. Presumably, then, he will have to take her back to her own time, then travel back to an earlier version of Mel who will then meet the Doctor for the first time? Goodness me, that’s messed up. Oh, and the explanation of what “really” happened to Peri is pathetic. Married to King Yrcanos, who she found creepy? C’mon, I’d rather she died! What a lame cop-out.
Well, the trial wasn’t a total waste of time. Thematically, the “ultimate foe” being the Doctor himself is quite cool. I also enjoyed the Doctor’s epic rant in the courtroom about the corruption of long-lived societies, proclaiming the Time Lords to be more evil than Daleks, Sontarans, etcetera. Colin Baker may be a bit one-note in his performance, but when that note is ranting hysterically, he does it with flair. However, I will have more to say on the sixth Doctor shortly.