Colin Baker headlines this special story, originally a 2013 Big Finish subscriber freebie, alongside his Trial of a Time Lord co-stars Lynda Bellingham and Michael Jayston reprising their roles as the Inquisitor (who does use her Gallifrey-given name Darkel) and the Valeyard respectively. It’s a three-hander, divided unusually into Acts rather than episodes, which gives all participants the chance to shine, thanks to Barnaby Edwards’ confident direction.
There are some clever twists throughout, playing on both the questions posed by the Trial season of the original series, and the whole “Doctor coming to the end of his 13th life” aspect of the forthcoming The Time of the Doctor – whether by chance or design, this story has some synchronicity with the TV show. Writers Alan Barnes and Mike Maddox suggest theories about the Valeyard’s origins which don’t invalidate appearances in other media (notably a BBC Books tale) but leave a great deal of leeway for future scripts – it’s not spoiling anything to suggest that a sequel could well be forthcoming. The final Act, particularly, reveals further clues about the Valeyard and his links to the Doctor which aren’t immediately picked up on.
The trial scenes on television may not have been Doctor Who’s finest hour, but this shows how they could have been done much better, while still maintaining the feel of the bickering between the Doctor and his putative future self. Baker gets a chance to go off on a rant; Jayston musters the necessary sarcasm; Bellingham’s frustration with both of them is evident.
Verdict: A smart tale. 8/10