The Tour quests ever-forward with HD Re-classic-ation moving into the most tumultuous of all classic seasons, ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ Season 23. For anyone who wasn’t around at the time, the 18-month hiatus (which, as a matter of pure pedantry the Tour insists was more of a 9-month production interruption in pure calendar terms) was a foundational blow to the year-in year-out security that Doctor Who, in whatever form it has been scheduled, enjoyed.
To reflect the existential cloud the show was under in the text of the program itself couldn’t help but seem risky. On top of that to link all of the stories which comprised the Trial season may have made sense in 2010., but not in 1986. This was not at all the light-touch umbrella from ‘The Key to Time’ Season 16. This was storyus-interruptus, and nowhere was this more evident than in The Mysterious Planet.
The Mysterious Planet is late-stage Robert Holmes all-the-way. There are disparate elements all over the place, most of which work along with one or two which clang, and double acts which spark them. The most important of these double acts was the Doctor and Peri, and it was one badly in need of a revision. The received wisdom is that during Season 22 was one-long bicker between the Doctor and his companion, and who are we to ‘argue’ with that. It grated quite unnecessarily and went on story after story, even during Holmes’ own The Two Doctors. A corrective was in order, and most welcomed in The Mysterious Planet.
It wouldn’t last of course, as the next story would amply demonstrate, and indeed it didn’t really happen all that much here because the Trial with a capital T had to be established, and established, and then established some more. Any story flow which The Mysterious Planet had was stymied by wrenching attention back to the courtroom, often for the bickering which had been bled out of the Doctor-Peri dynamic.
The Mysterious Planet part of the story simply wasn’t allowed to work, and that’s a shame, because this was Robert Holmes’ last full contribution to Doctor Who. He, and the audience, deserved better.