Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 23, the Sixth Doctor’s epic fourteen-part swansong entitled The Trial of a Time Lord – is coming to Blu-Ray on the 7th October, featuring an array of extras, an updated score, and extended recuts for the whole season.
Originally broadcast after an 18 month hiatus, Season 23 mirrors the show’s hanging in the balance, by depicting the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) on trial through four separate stories (“The Mysterious Planet”, “Mindwarp”, “Terror of the Vervoids”, and “The Ultimate Foe”). If found guilty, his prosecutor, the Valeyard (Michael Jayston), will demand the Doctor’s execution. But who is this mysterious Valeyard? Where is the Doctor’s beloved companion, Peri (Nicola Bryant)? And is the Matrix, the supposed repository of all Time Lord knowledge, really as impartial as it seems?
Here’s the trailer:
A recent screening of “Mindwarp” at the BFI provided a sneak peak of what the new box-set will offer, by way of a Q&A with Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), and Old Sixie himself, Colin Baker, who provided his usual presence and charisma, along with anecdotes about his vendetta against Michael Grade, and his gratitude to Big Finish for taking the edge off his controversial character.
The Q&A also discussed making of the show, in particular the relationship between the Doctor and his companion: Bryant revealed that they conspired to read their trademark bickering with an ironic detachment, giving their banter the more playful timbre. When the director didn’t call them out on it after their first day of filming, the two concluded they’d gotten away with it, and kept up the gag until Bryant’s departure. Baker also revealed many a few choice tidbits about his co-star (and human shouting machine), the legendary Brian Blessed: Blessed apparently forgot the names of the villainous Mentors while filming his last take of the day, instead calling them something Baker wouldn’t dare repeat in front of the little ones in the audience.
Those lamenting that they’ve perhaps missed their chance to bask in Baker’s bombastic glory (say that six times quickly) can rest in the knowledge that the forthcoming Blu-Ray release also contains a lot of the cast having their own share of misadventures behind the scenes. Aside from the outtakes – obligatory, but charming nonetheless – we also have a running commentary of companions past gathered around (or should that be behind?) the sofa to watch the operatic season along with us, including former companions Frazer Hines (Jamie), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric) and Mark Strickson (Turlough).
Another gem featured on the set is “The Doctor Who CookBook: Revisited”, a look back on the most baffling artefact of Whovian paraphernalia until the Weeping Angel Frubes. The segment is presented by Toby Hadoke (Moths Ate my Doctor Who Scarf), and India Fisher (the voice of Masterchef and Big Finish companion Charley Pollard), and features the cast returning to their old recipes with huge fondness (…and a healthy side of derision).
Doctor Who fans will also be delighted by the fine-tuned special effects – even though none of them quite measure up to that jaw-dropping opening shot, the one that infamously swallowed up half the budget of the series (even if it is, as Baker pointed out at the Q&A, completely pointless). The real standout, however, is the updated score, redone (from scratch) to glorious effect; “Mindwarp” is all the more camp and operatic for the Mentors entering to a gorgeous synthesiser fanfair.
Remembered more for its daring and camp than its actual quality, Season 23 is a beloved oddity in the Whovian canon. If you’re willing to overlook its nonsensical twists and turns, its baffling reveal of the Valeyard’s true identity (something which Whovians are still scratching their heads over to this day) and Peri getting married off to Brian Blessed of all people, this Blu-Ray box set will likely prove a worthy addition to your collection.
Doctor Who – The Collection: Season 23 will be available on Blu-Ray on October 7th from BBC Worldwide.