We continue with our series of Doctor A Day and today’s Doctor is the Sixth incarnation of our favourite Time Lord, as portrayed by Colin Baker. This era of Doctor Who wasn’t one of the best. Viewing figures were plummeting, funding from the BBC was being cut and the special effects were a lot to be desired, and lastly not forgetting some of the stories didn’t entertain many of the faithful fans of the show.
Baker’s era began with the serial Twin Dilemma (1984) which was to many fans a dilemma in itself. Twin Dilemma isn’t a fan favourite and many would go as far to say it is the worst story of Classic Doctor Who. The story was dull and just dragged; I personally think that it’s not a suitable story to introduce a new Doctor. So Colin Baker’s era of Doctor Who isn’t off to great start. We have a Doctor that has a costume that is a complete eyesore and a rubbish story to introduce the new incarnation of the show’s title character.
Not many of this era’s stories were the best, which had a hard blow on the show’s audiences. Many audiences who grew up through the 1980’s would describe it as ‘a time when you wouldn’t openly admit to watching Doctor Who.’ I can somehow agree with them to a certain extent, the show at this time was struggling. It was, one would say in distress. It was after the transmission of Revelation of the Daleks (1985) did the show suffer an immense blow and was put into hiatus for 18 months, one year after Colin Baker made his debut as the Doctor. Two weeks after the announcement that the show was to be cancelled a song was put together labelled Doctor in Distress. Which featured several cast members from the show.
It was after the 18 month hiatus that the show made a dramatic return to British television screens. Season 23 was unique to other seasons of the show’s run; Season 23 consisted on one story that spanned over four serials. Trial of a Time Lord (1986) was the final story for Colin Baker’s Doctor. “Trial” which is what many fans label it as, was in my opinion the most ambitious story for its time. The BBC hardly had any money to fund the show and it was the 18 month hiatus that gave the show a kick up the backside.
The opening scene for the first instalment known as The Mysterious Planet was the most expensive piece of special effects for the entire duration of Classic series run. Having Trial of the Time Lord straight after the show’s long break was very fitting and putting the show’s title character on Trial was a little nod towards those at the BBC that wanted to remove the show from our screens.
The Mysterious Planet was penned by Doctor Who veteran writer Bob Holmes. The mastermind behind 18 scripts for the show’s run. He was commissioned to pen Yellow Fever and How to Cure It for the original plan for Season 23. However the script was never made. The story was to feature the return of the Master (Anthony Ainley), the Rani (Kate O’Mara) with the Nestenes. The story was to be set in Singapore.
It was during this story’s run had the BBC reverted back to the episodes being 25 minutes long instead of 45 minutes. 45 minutes was too ambitious for its time, it wasn’t until the show’s return in 2005 did the episodes have the duration of 45 minutes, however instead of the stories being four episodes long they spanned over only one episode, maybe sometimes two depending on the story.
The one thing that the series from 2005-2017 and Colin Baker’s era had in common was that some stories were two episodes long. This was mainly down to budgeting but looking at the two part stories from the Sixth Doctor’s era you can see where a cliff-hanger would’ve been placed for it to span out over four weeks.
The final appearance of Colin Baker’s Doctor was of him getting into the TARDIS with his new companion (who had no introduction) Mel Brown (Bonnie Langford) uttering the words “Carrot juice!” with great disgust. Our first glimpse of Mel was in the third serial from Trial which was known as Terror of the Vervoids.
The third serial for Trial Of the Time Lord was penned by Pip and Jane Baker, which fell victim of a discussion on national television. One of the small group of audience members who gave the writers his negative opinion of the serial was non-other than new Head-writer and Executive Producer; Chris Chibnall.
However I enjoyed Terror of the Vervoids, it was a great who dunnit but in space. Pip and Jane Baker both wanted to pen an Agatha Christie style Doctor Who serial, and in my opinion they achieved it. Trial of a Time Lord is in my opinion a great story; I thoroughly enjoyed the story and found it far more exciting than the other stories from the Sixth Doctor’s run.
However it IS a shame we didn’t really get to see him regenerate into the 7th Doctor, all we had was Sylvester McCoy in a curly blonde wig in the opening scenes for The Time and the Rani (1987). Which brings me to the next incarnation which developed a love for question marks, and that’s putting it mildly!