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A WHO-dunnit with provocative space plants that flounders a little in the mystery department

After a small recess in the trial, we’re treated to another piece of evidence, i.e. another regular Doctor Who serial played out on Time Lord TV. This time, however, it’s Doc who’s using some material from the Matrix, as he’s finally got a chance to defend himself. Weirdly, he’s chosen a piece from the future, which he’s reviewed out-of-episode and has decided will absolutely, without question, prove his innocence and definitely, in no way whatsoever will it backfire. Oh, it’s possible he was also influenced by the producers because it conveniently gifts us a new companion without any of the awkward “getting to know them” stage.

So then, Hyperion 3, a space liner in, well, space is on its way somewhere and has about enough passengers for a Christie’esque mystery. There’s the security guard with an ulterior motive; the two discriminated aliens with a grudge; the botanists with a hidden agenda; and a few red shirts to make it all worthwhile. Doc and his new companion, Mel, arrive amongst this convenient setup, having been summoned by way of a mayday, and are soon drawn into the many parallel plots happening around them. Sentient plant life is being smuggled aboard; someone keeps breaking crockery; and another’s just been murdered. It now falls upon our intrepid twosome to figure out whodunnit!

Here's what we think of C146 Terror of the Vervoids (Trial of a Time Lord: Part Three)

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

3.8

Jim | @jimmythewho

2.2

Here's what we think of C146 Terror of the Vervoids (Trial of a Time Lord: Part Three)

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

3.8

Jim | @jimmythewho

2.2

Here's what you think 9 Responses to “C146 Terror of the Vervoids (Trial of a Time Lord: Part Three)”
  1. GP Haynes | @FindingGspots (Insta & YouTube)

    This is not too bad, perhaps the best serial of the “ Trial of a Timelord” saga.

    Overall a terrific production, even if those plant costumes leave a lot to be desired!

    I love the sets on this one, and I thought it did a great job of conveying the space and size of a future cruise liner.

    As per usual though I found the court scenes quite boring and not always necessary, however they were less intrusive in this serial than the previous two.

    The cast did a pretty good job, and Bonnie Langford did a great job as her first outing as companion Mel.

    Colin Baker gives his usual solid performance, and Michael Craig as the Commodore lends some gravity to an otherwise silly script. The little bits of humour inserted in places
    I do think falls somewhat flat….again, which is a shame.

    If it wasn’t for the sets, costumes ( go Mogarians ) and said cast, I think this could have been a really stupid story. As it were, they lifted this to an above average serial, and the best for a few.

    I do feel somewhat saddened though, that Mr Bakers role is coming to a rapid end, and like his predecessor, his role is remembered as less than satisfying and disappointing.

    Rating: 2.9 Mogarian translator units

  2. Kieren Evans | @kjevans2

    Hi folks

    So we have the third segment of the Trial and we have the Doctor using evidence from the future! Answering a distress call from a space liner, he and his new companion get involved in a murder plot. Ah, it’s Mel played by Bonnie Langford as the companion. I’ll be upfront and say that Mel is definitely a companion that gets fixed by Big Finish. Her on-screen appearances aren’t the best. She’s a little too annoying and you can tell they aren’t sure how to write her. Not having a proper introduction story makes her a little strange.

    Less intrusive trial scenes I think, maybe. The Blu-ray set has a re-edited version of this one with the trial scenes removed. Apparently it works fairly well. Bond girl and The Avengers star Honor Blackman, holy shit! Doctor Who does get an amazing variety of actors.

    Apparently Commodore Travers has met the Doctor before, the BBC Books PDA Instruments of Darkness has this as Six and Evelyn (she’s a Big Finish companion and a very good one as well). I don’t think the method of destroying the vervoids makes sense but that’s a given for the science in Doctor Who. It’s shaky at best. Can we comment on the vervoid design? Hmm it’s a bit weird. And by killing them all, the Doctor has committed genocide which carries the death penalty on Gallifrey. Oh dear…

    Segment wise is a fairly decent story even if it looks quite cheap in places 3.4/5, trial sequences 3.3/5

    Cheers
    Kieren

  3. Peter Zunitch

    I can’t wait to hear the podcast for this series, because for the life of me I can’t understand why animal kind hates it. While not an epic thrill ride, it’s got the seeds of a good production, and certainly does not deserve the compost pile of hate it’s known for.

    First, Mel. She’s not as bad as everyone says. She’s actually pretty likable in many ways. I think what bothers people at first impression is A) no proper introduction, and B) that workout music. Okay she screams a lot, but man what wonderful screams! They’re worth recording. Her rapport with Doc is that of old friends, which some might feel is undeserved. For anyone who says it’s Bonnie herself, PAH! She brings a ton of energy to the set. Still doubting? Listen to her audio dramas, she’s almost electrifying.

    The next issue is the who-dunnit aspect. While I admit the story rambles at a plant’s pace, what’s there is done quite well. Half of the acting is quite natural and the other half is mostly acceptable. Even trivial characters have a moment of development and/or their time in the high intensity light. There are many sets, the effects quite remarkable considering, and the makeup just takes over. Also, in a strange twist, I actually judge the court scenes as quite enjoyable.

    Is it awesome? No, but it’s certainly not worth throwing into a black hole.

    2.3 times I felt bad for trolling my Venus Fly Trap with a pencil.

  4. Steven from Canada | @SAndreyechen

    It’s the Doctors turn to present evidence and this time it’s being pulled from the future! The Doctor and new addition Mel are called to a space liner but it is never so simple. Upon arrival the Doctor is entangled in an Agatha Christie esque murder mystery in which everyone is a suspect.

    This one reminds me a lot of Robots of Death, and while I don’t think it’s as good as that I think mystery is a genre that works for the show. Come to think of it the Doctor plays the inspector archetype very well.

    Mel is a good addition to the show, and has great chemistry with the Doctor. While it was a unique choice to have such a cold open for a character, I think it worked. I get the feeling the whining is going to be getting on my nerves but Mel seems to be more Than she screams- I mean seems. She is really clever and very persistent. I think she has definite potential as a character.

    Sets costumes and effects are very nice in this story. The designs of the aliens is very interesting and the consideration of language is something often glossed over in Who. Also the use of comic book pages as wall art in the cabins was a great bit of world building.

    Overall this story earns 4.7 Mel screams out of 5.

    Steven From Canada
    @SAndreyechen

  5. Dan from Devon

    Hi both,
    Agatha Christie? In space? With unnecessarily rude aliens? And Honor bloomin’ Blackman? Yes please!
    As part of the Trial arc, it’s probably the most stupid choice Doc could have made to save his reputation/life. ‘Hmm, shall I pick one of the many, many times I’ve saved the universe in a rather dashing and non-controversial way? Or shall I peek into my future and choose that time when I’ll discover an exciting new species of sentient plants – and then wither them all to death?’
    So, yeah, daft as a brush. But as a piece of 80s disposable horror-comedy nonsense, it’s a right giggle. The cast are all giving it the requisite amount of gusto without going full pantomime (okay, maybe Bonnie crosses that line). And – sadly, given how close we are to his last episode – Colin is a delight: charming, commanding and brilliantly comic. That bit when he whips out flowers for Janet always makes me smile.
    My score: 3.6 perfectly-tuned screams out of five

  6. Ed Corbet

    Doc arrives on a space-cruise-liner being taken over by the most poorly conceived monsters since the Mykyr (though the liner itself looked quite good and differentiated between public and private areas well). He’s accompanied by Mel, a companion he hasn’t met yet; sort of a discount River Song. On paper Mel works, she’s proactive, has agency and even motivates the Doctor into action. I’m not 100% convinced on the execution yet, but it’s early days.

    I liked the idea of a cliff-hanger being caused by someone actually trying to selflessly sacrifice themselves to save the day, but we have the problem that the Doctor has already told us everything will be fine, so a cliff-hanger only affecting some people e.g. Mel would have been more effective. But as the story has established that:

    The Matrix supposedly never lies

    This is set in the Doctor’s future

    If he loses this trial, he will be killed

    we can conclude he will be found not-guilty. So, the fact that the Valeyard has been shown definitive proof that he loses yet is still proceeding (and even escalating things) means that everything we’ve seen is bull5**t and he knows it, otherwise why is he still bothering?

    A more family-friendly version of the horror-themed stories from the 70s, which (probably intentionally) removed a lot of its bite, but it’s still quite well-structured despite this. There’s lots of twists and turns and for me this is a step-up from the previous trial-sections.

    3.1

  7. Michael Ridgway | @bad_movie_club

    – Listen up everyone. This memo says that BBC Execs want to cancel the show because of the violence. Let’s tone it down for this one, okay? Good. Oh, alright – just the one poisoning. Okay, and an electrocution. And maybe just a few grisly spikes in necks. Okay, just the one horrible body horror transformation. But that’s absolutely it! Oh fine, and some freaky plant monsters with faces like Georgia O’Keeffe’s plant-vagina pictures.
    – The Vervoid cunningly turning on the shower to deceive the Stewardess. Missed opportunity for a Muttley laugh.
    – The computer game that probably ate 40% of the budget.

    Question – genocide is Article 7 of Gallifreyan Law. What are Articles 1-6? Or is 7 the most serious?

    Rating: 3.8/5 passengers doomed to a spikey death. Worst. Space Cruise. Ever.

  8. Neil | @neilandrozani & @neiljamesactor

    Ahhh, an Agatha Christie mystery in space! Well, kind of. I love Honour Blackman (what a Bond girl!), but she joins the long line of quality guest actors who seems completely baffled as to what the hell is going on.

    I quite like Mel. It’s interesting not to see the companion’s first meeting with the Doctor but I think she does really well and this story suits her plucky, curious character. That being said, the story is sadly a bit ropey and rubbish.
    And as for the terrifying Vervoids:
    Their dialogue is outrageous – “We are doing splendidly.” WTF?!
    Their design is cheap and vaginal. WHO APPROVED THEM?!
    Finally, one of them is clearly from Liverpool and every time he speaks I’m reminded of Brookside.

    The trial scenes are now an actual trial for us viewers at this point, and this story just makes me want to watch Poirot to see it done properly.
    Rating – 2.4

  9. Richie Blagg | @richiesexington

    No you can make the obvious joke about the vervoids

    I remember seeing bits of this as a kid before Casualty on a Saturday, probably with a sandwich spread sandwich. It scared the bejesus out of me then and still does a bit now when they find the half transformed human. This and the triffids have led to a distrust of plants

    I don’t mind the introduction of Mel and some timey wimey stuff which has to suggest Doc wins but I’m not a lord of time. Overall I think she is another companion that could give more but gets the screaming role

    I also love the doctor wins via his usually methods and gets called on it as genocide. Please note I do not love genocide

    It’s a solid Who story stiffled with the trial stuff but unlike Mindwarp isn’t just nasty

    I’ll give this 3 out of 5 get that plant seed away from my cuts

    RVs

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