Sunday, August 30, 2009


Way back before I even had a blog, I tried sending an article to Kaldor City website. Nyder/Alan Stevens/Fiona Moore wanted some stuff sorted out before they'd publish it (and fair enough) until it became clear to the website they could do without my input as I was clearly deluded. Before the foregone conclusion I discovered this critique on my harddrive, taking up space.

To be clear, the article's quite crap and wouldn't have merited publishing anyway...

The penultimate segment of The Trial of a Time Lord by Pip & Jane Baker (variously known as The Ultimate Foe, The Vervoids, and Terror of the Vervoids) is widely considered to be one of the better Sixth Doctor stories, and definitely one of the more enjoyable Trial 'evidence'.

AS: But is it though? Although “Mindwarp” is deeply flawed, much of the dialogue and characterization is much better than anything that appears in “Vervoids”. The incidental music is also fantastic, and both Nabil Shaban and Christopher Ryan are outstanding.

FM: Also, is it true to say it’s “widely considered to be one of the better Sixth Doctor stories”? I thought the consensus was fairly mixed on that, as with most Colin Baker stories.

Although naturalistic dialogue has never been the Bakers' strongpoint, it has a plot which is easy to follow

AS: Well, it’s only easy to follow if you aren’t really paying attention to what’s going on. If you give it any thought at all, the story makes very little sense.

and a clear purpose as 'evidence'.

AS: I think that is in dispute as well. If it’s meant to be evidence for the defence, why does the Doctor end up on a more serious charge after it has been shown?

The Doctor has chosen this material to show that, in the future, his behavior

FM: "behaviour"

becomes more acceptable to the Time Lords (it appears that only the Valeyard picks up on the main fault, while the Inquisitor and the jury seem satisfied).

AS: How do you know that the jury seem satisfied? They never speak.

For example, the first choice of evidence against the Doctor (the Ravalox segment) has no such purpose, but instead arguably strengthens his case (he is shown to save lives and the universe) and also implicates the Time Lords (who moved Earth to protect their secrets).

AS: All true, but that still doesn’t justify the inclusion of “Terror of the Vervoids” as a legitimate piece of evidence for the defence.

FM: Also, as an introductory paragraph it’s very long, and seems mostly to be devoted to justifying the story’s inclusion rather than actually laying out an argument.

The plot is not without its flaws, but considering that the Bakers were chosen by producer John Nathan-Turner due to their proven ability to write scripts rapidly

AS: It may also have had a lot to do with the fact that they were personal friends of JNT.

(and the fact JNT also had to act as script editor during the time), it is surprising the story hangs together at all

FM: Well, considering what gets said below that’s a debatable statement, but also, better scripts have been written under similar/worse pressure: cf. “The Ark in Space,” so that’s not much of a justification.

There are a few minor problems

AS: From what the analysis is uncovering, I’d say that the flaws in the story are enormous.

that, with a bit more time, could easily have been fixed

FM: No, I think it would have needed a top-to-bottom rewrite to actually work.

For example, the first episode has the Doctor imply that some of the passengers will survive the journey

AS: No he doesn’t. Again, what the Doctor says is. “The crew is aboard. The last passengers are reporting in. Many will never complete the journey”. When the Doctor says “many” he may well be referring to the passengers and the crew as a whole. The fact that all the passengers appear to have been killed doesn’t contradict the Doctor’s statement, because some of the crew survive.

(none do, which suggests that this particular plot point had not been decided at the first).

AS: No. See above.

It appears that the locks to the sixth and ninth cabins, if not all of them,

AS: We only have evidence that the locks of cabins nine and six are identical. There is no evidence to suggest that this is the case with all the locks.

are identical - an unlikely event on a Grade 1 security craft - and this could easily have been remedied by the script (i.e.: the door to cabin 6 could have been left open accidentally).

AS: The reason why this key mix up takes place is to introduce the audience to Lasky.

FM: What Pip and Jane should have done is found a better way of doing this, rather than coming up with a convoluted idea involving doors, luggage and numbers. This might be a holdover from the Bakers’ early days writing cheap-and-wacky British farce movies, as it seems more like something from a silly comedy than a space opera.

The Hyperion 3 is described as an intergalactic liner, when it is said to only travel within the Milky Way (it travels between Mogar and Earth, which is in the same galaxy).

The Doctor, Commodore Travers and Professor Lasky at various times observe that Rudge is totally useless as a security officer,

AS: Travers does criticise Rudge on at least two occasions, but when do Lasky and the Doctor criticise him?

Ed Note: Lasky disses him in their first scene and the Doctor calls him "a weak man gone rogue".

which makes you wonder how he got to the position in the first place and why he feels so badly about being given early retirement or, more likely, long overdue retrenchment. His idiocy does not appear to be an act, as he is shown to be nervous and bumbling around his own conspirators and when doing his duty that’s because when he is talking to his co-conspirators and doing his duty

AS: He’s doing it in front of everyone else.

- besides, why would acting incompetent aid his cause?

AS: Because if the audience think he’s incompetent, then they aren’t going to believe that he is capable of devising and following through with a plan to take over the ship.

FM: At this point, you seem to start arguing within the article with someone who isn’t actually there; presumably this is because you are responding to editorial points, which is fine, but the argument should be integrated within the essay rather than actually addressing the absent editor.

(In a deleted Trial scene, the Time Lords ponder over Rudge's uncharacteristic efficiency when calling on the Mogarians, so even if Rudge was pretending to be a fool,

AS: Which he clearly was doing, because the reason why the “Time Lords ponder over Ridge’s uncharacteristic efficiency” is because it is out of kilter with the persona he has been presenting the audience up to this point.

it seems odd of him to stop moments before it is actually important not to arouse suspicion).

AS: The ship is being flown into a black hole. Which is hardly the time for Travers to say, “Hang on a minute? That’s a very clever plan. How did you come up with that? You’re supposed to be stupid! You’re not a hijacker , are you? Intent on stealing my cargo?” Now it’s true to say that Rudge, for the first three episodes, is acting too stupid to be credible, and that his sudden change of character is crudely done, but that ‘s because “Vervoids” is a story written primarily for children, who need things spelt out for them.

It is also unclear what the original plan was to take over the Hyperion 3, indeed if there was an original plan at all.

AS: Well, there must have been an original plan. What happens, however, is that Rudge cleverly takes advantage of the emergency to take over the bridge. The fact that Bruchner is able to highjack the ship by running on to the bridge and pointing a gun at Travers, indicates that Rudge could have easily done the same thing. The reason why he doesn’t act sooner is because they have to wait for the pick-up.

Also, Mogarians can drink tea quite happily, but exposure to water seems fatal (it is possible the fluid thrown on their masks is some kind of acid and it is the oxygen that kills them, but it is never confirmed). Travers' revelation that the bridge is 'supposed to be hijack-proof' while he is locked outside the hijacked bridge with a gunshot injury is presumably an ironic quip, but Michael Craig plays the line earnestly, making the scene redundant. This is compounded when we find the doors can be cut through and the bridge itself can be accessed via the air ducts.

AS: The bridge can’t be directly accessed through the air ducts, because none of the Vervoids make it onto the bridge, but the bridge can be viewed from the air ducts, and gas can be pumped into that area.


Meh, this is getting too much hassle to type out. You get the picture, though.


Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

Yeah, it could probably be summed up as

ECC: I like this story

AS: Bitch!

ECC: Though it has some flaws-

AS: Those are not flaws! But other things are!! And they are worse!! Get your alien opinions the fuck out of here!!!!

FM: Constructive criticism.

AS: Did you... betray ME?!?

Youth of Australia said...

Heh,. Pretty much.

Don't get me wrong though, all their points are totally valid. It's just the way every point they made seemed to rhyme with "is there something WRONG with you?" is what bugged me.

They sent back my review with their comments typed IN IT rather than a line by line deconstruction, hence the difficulties to type out it all. To summ it all up, I'll give AS's last addition to the material:

"In your conclusion, you should bring up that the Vervoids don’t work, the characterisation is poor and nobody’s actions make any sense whatsoever. Also that the Doctor would have to be insane to pick it as a piece of evidence for the defence, and that he is a mass murderer—and only escapes being a convicted mass murderer by virtue of Time Lord Society collapsing."


Kinda put me off the whole thing.

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

I find it distinctly odd that AS hasn't worked out why the Doctor chose it as a piece of his defense - because Vervoids is a very trad story in what it does. It's basically a This Is What the Doctor Does story. And because of the way the Doctor sees these things it's unequivocably a good thing - he saves the lives of some of the crew and whole planets by doing what nobody else is brave enough to do. He does this by destroying creatures that have been made in a lab, so even the definition of 'genocide' is quite a loose one.

Basically he takes them on the same way he did The Axons, The Autons, The Daemons before. And nobody sentenced him to death on any of those occassions so he doesn't see why it should happen now.

Personally, I always got the vibe that 'genocide' was meant more as a trumped-up charge than a legitimate accusation. (After all, it's subsequently revealed just how crooked a show trial it was)

But, hey, that's just me.

Youth of Australia said...

I find it distinctly odd that AS hasn't worked out why the Doctor chose it as a piece of his defense - because Vervoids is a very trad story in what it does. It's basically a This Is What the Doctor Does story. And because of the way the Doctor sees these things it's unequivocably a good thing - he saves the lives of some of the crew and whole planets by doing what nobody else is brave enough to do. He does this by destroying creatures that have been made in a lab, so even the definition of 'genocide' is quite a loose one.
Another factor is

a) Lasky created them, yet she agrees to help the Doctor destroy them, conceding it needs to be done
b) the Doctor actually tells the Inquisitor "that cannot apply!" - it means, right or wrong, he believed that wiping out the Vervoids wouldn't get him charged with genocide. He's not surprised that he's accused of it, he's surprised when the judge accepts it

(After all, it's subsequently revealed just how crooked a show trial it was)
Exactly. I mean, the only time we next get any reference to genocide is the dream sequence in the Matrix!

But, hey, that's just me.
Well, I'll email you the whole thing. That way if some blogger calling themselves Alan Stevens starts slagging us off, all the evidence has been presented fairly!!

*close up of Colin Baker's face*