Trial of a Time Lord (pt1): The Kangaroo Court

Doctor Who- Trial of a Time Lord. Photo by Mani.
Doctor Who(c)BBC

Doctor Who – one of my all time favorite TV shows – I’ve just been watching one of my old video tapes..

In the story `Trial of a Time Lord’ – the High Council of Gallifrey (Doctor’s own people)  take him out of time (sort of a `hi-jack’) and start with an `inquiry’ into his behavior.

“By Order of the High Council, this is an impartial inquiry into the behaviour of the accused person- known as The Doctor – who is charged  that he on diverse occasions has been guilty of conduct unbecoming a Time Lord. He is also charged with on diverse occasions of transgressing the first Law. The Doctor is an incorrigible meddler in the affairs of other peoples and planets”   – says Valeyard , the Court Prosecutor.

The proceedings start and the Prosecutor begins showing `evidence’  – bits of scenes gathered and presented, with parts of it censored or deleted (for security reasons, he claims). As the Doctor was yanked out of Time, he has temporary amnesia, and plays along with the `inquiry’  in order to get to the bottom of things.

And of course, what started off as an `impartial inquiry’ starts to evolve alarmingly – against The Doctor!

“These proceedings started as a mere inquiry into the Doctor’s activities. I am suggesting that now it becomes a trial. If he is found guilty, I strongly suggest the termination of his life..!”   blows the Court Prosecutor.

(Of course it is later revealed that the High Council was corrupt, and the Valeyard was hired to scapegoat and destroy the Doctor.. in a trumped up Trial.. There is more to the nature and identity of the Valeyard, but that’s a big psychology topic for another post!)

`Trial of a Time Lord’ –  first broadcast by the BBC in UK way back in 1986 (produced by the late John Nathan Turner). It is a 6th Doctor story (starring Colin Baker, who is currently on `I’m a Celebrity..Get me out of here’ on ITV..). By the way, few decades ago,I met Collin Baker in a science-fiction convention..  I won the first prize for creative art, and he gave me the prize on stage for me (but I also got to talk to him informally that day).  I have a photo of us somewhere…must post it when I find it 🙂

So this story `Trial of a Time Lord’ – it is one of my all time favorite .  Not just because it’s my first proper viewing of Doctor Who shows in UK..when I was beginning to understand English (back in Ceylone, I didn’t know English!)..  but because if the actual over-reaching story arc of the `Trial of the Time Lord’. It is of course about what we call `Kangaroo Court’ –  where a collection of individuals adjust, fabricate or  keep misrepresenting evidence, in order to reach their pre-fixed decision or judgement. It is a clever way of seeming to have a `public impartial trial’ – just to get what they already want- ie the condemnation of the accused. It is done in many dictatorial countries and systems… as a way of getting rid of people who otherwise pose a personal threat to the Controlling Body.

You see – at that time in the UK (1985-86) ,  Doctor Who (show) had come under heavy criticism by a few politically minded people.. (Mary Whitehouse?) who was attacking it for its story lines of guns, killing and violence.  Collin Baker’s 6th Doctor came after Peter Davison’s 5th Doctor – the Edwardian Cricketer costumed `nice guy’..  So am sure it was a shock to many people..  to see a Doctor who was seen to be impulsive, rash, radical, had his shadows showing here and then, and one who did not pull punches!

The Forfeit – Drwho art by Mani Navasothy
(The Doctor vs Valeyard)

I believe- and so do thousands of others – that Doctor Who stories of that era had far less violence that could be seen in other shows and films of the time.  (No one complained about all the other shows…I mean look at Star Wars?)   I think it was a politically motivated Witch-Hunt on Doctor Who..  and it manipulated public’s feelings with some threat of how children watching Doctor Who are getting badly influenced (right…and what of the hundreds of video games where children get to shoot, torture and kill…kill..kill.. with their own hands…with hyper-realism?!)

The BBC halted production for 18 months (until then Doctor who had been regular for every year..since 1963!!).   So when it came back on TV in 1986, people were watching it cautiously ..BBC was  cautious…and so the good Doctor Who was on trial..in the storyline..and for real too.   (sadly, after that series, it was suddenly changed…They scapegoated Collin Baker the Actor (for portraying the Character as it was written), instead of the writers for their stories…and instead of giving him decent new stories, they junked the whole thing-   cowardly scapegoating  damage control to shift blame..!

It was an unfair time!   And similar things happen to real people in real world communities and situations.  Guess what? It happened to me recently. But that’s another story..and this is about Doctor Who 🙂

Now here’s an art work I did many years ago..  showing the battle between the Doctor and the Valeyard – who wants the remaining life-force of the Doctor! It shows chess pieces.. Black Knight up and the white Bishop down..  The dice shows a total of 13 points..  representing the 13 `incarnations’ that a Time Lord has, and of course the `Hanged-Man’ card of Tarot – showing the Doctor being hung!   This one didn’t win the prize…but am fond of it. 🙂

Till next time..

Mani  (rebel Time Lord) 🙂

other post

Robin Hood & Roj-Blake: Rebels against the Sheriff & The Federation

Doctor Who: A Screwdriver gone too far? 

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