Trial of the Valeyard Review – His Secret Finally Revealed!
Gustaff Behr gives his verdict on the Big Finish audio drama.
“Doctor! Sit down at the bench and shut up!” – Inquisitor Darkel
“Shut up? Is that a legal term?” – Sixth Doctor
This has been a story almost three decades in the making. It is one of the darkest secrets in the history of Doctor Who, one of the most interesting and sought after mysteries we’ve been given over this fifty year run: Who is the Valeyard?
A Little Background
Now for those of you who don’t even recognize the title, the Valeyard made his first appearance in Trial of the Time Lord in 1986 opposite the Sixth Doctor. The Doctor was put on trial for meddling (otherwise known as the Law of Non-Interference in Gallifreyan society) and the man in charge of prosecuting him was the Valeyard, who was later revealed to be a future evil Doctor somewhere between his twelfth and final incarnation. Fans were shocked and astonished that the Doctor’s life had been reduced to a predestination loop, fated to end at the Sixth Doctor’s trial and to be defeated by his past self. However, the Valeyard managed to slip away at the last second of The Ultimate Foe and was never seen or heard from again, until the Great Intelligence mentioned that at some stage, the Doctor would become the Valeyard. Steven Moffat has voiced his opinions on the matter, deciding that the Valeyard is a rather dull villain and I agree, a lawyer is a dull villain, but that’s not where the charm comes from, it’s the mystery of the true identity of the Valeyard. Is he really the Doctor? Trial of the Valeyard explains all!
Trial of the Valeyard
As the title implies, it’s the Valeyard who’s on trial in this story. The High Council have captured him and now he’s on trial for a crime that is so illicit that it may not be disclosed – even to the Doctor – who is defending the Valeyard. Irony! For those of you who don’t know much about legality, part of the accused’s right to a fair trial involves disclosing the reasons why they are on trial in the first place.
So if you haven’t put together by now that the High Council is again showing us what a kangaroo court looks like by stacking the deck (Time Lord Stratagem One), then you’ve obviously not been paying enough attention.
The Doctor’s sole purpose for defending the Valeyard is out of curiosity as he (like us) wants to know who and what the Valeyard truly is; a feat he can only accomplish by helping his alleged evil future self. The story itself isn’t gripping, it’s driven solely by the prospect of finding out who the Valeyard truly is and how he came to be. Don’t worry though, it has enough drama to keep your attention for the hour and there are several twists that opt to rewrite what we know about the dreaded Thirteenth Regeneration. For those of you who don’t know about this (where have you been), Time Lords are limited to twelve regenerations before dying. It is revealed in this story that Rassilon himself imposed this limit and did something to sabotage the thirteenth deliberately to keep Time Lords from living past the thirteenth incarnation. This means that Matt Smith is most definitely dead. Should he try to break the limit by inducing a thirteenth regeneration (Time Lords can do that) like Azmael did in The Twin Dilemma, then he will die.
Plot and Characters
As for the characters, Colin Baker is back to being in my favorite version of the Sixth Doctor – loud, brash and generally flinging insults at everyone around him! This is TV Six and I absolutely adore him. You can tell that Colin is enjoying himself by going back to his roots. As for Michael Jayston, his voice is a little older, but you quickly grow attached as it makes him sound more distinguished. Both actors play off well against each other and Lynda Bellingham is utterly fantastic as the “Just” and “Fair” Inquisitor Darkel. Within the first five minutes of this story, these actors prove their prowess by jumping back to 1986 and entertaining the hell out of us!
Lastly, time placement for this story. This is rather tricky as there are numerous references to Trial of the Time Lord (knacker’s yard anyone), but none to indicate where the Doctor is at this point in his life, so generally, this story is standalone – I mean really standalone! For the Sixth Doctor, given his attitude in this story, this story occurs sometime after The Wormery for him, but before he meets Mila, Flip Jackson or Evelyn Smythe. For the Inquisitor, this story takes place a few hundred years after Trial of the Time Lord. For the Valeyard, if his gruffer voice is anything to go by, this story also takes place a few years after Trial of the Time Lord. And there you have it.
If I had to rate this tale, then 8.3/10 would suffice. However, I feel like I’m forgetting something. Oh yes! I said the secret of the Valeyard would come out in this story. Oh… did you think I’d reveal it… in a review… so soon after it was released? Seriously? If I pulled a Moffat and gave you the wrong impression, I don’t apologize as you should have known better. You’ll just have to listen to it yourself. Yes, I’m aware that this story is available to buy in December 2014, but no spoilers (big ones anyway) in this article I’m afraid.