Review: Trial of the Valeyard (Doctor Who) / Author: Alan Barnes, Mike Maddox / Publisher: Big Finish Productions / Starring: Colin Baker, Michael Jayston, Linda Bellingham / Release Date: Out Now to subscribers (general release, December 2014)
Every December Big Finish release a special single CD story which subscribers to their main range get for free. This year’s tale is Trial of the Valeyard by Alan Barnes and Mike Maddox, and it will not be available on general release until December 2014. Directed by Barnaby Edwards and starring Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor, this is a reprise in some ways of the 1986 TV series Trial of a Timelord, with Lynda Bellingham returning as the Inquisitor and Michael Jayston as the Valeyard.
Although this story presses lots of fan buttons, a more casual listener will be quickly brought up to speed: all you need to know is that the Doctor was once on trial for his life, prosecuted by the Valeyard, who was later revealed to be the dark side of the Doctor from between his 12th and 13th incarnations. This story is all about the Valeyard now being on trial and the Doctor defending him. There are plenty of amusing moments, great interplay between characters and several twists and turns. The drama is split over three acts and the final of these involves an encounter that will leave any fan pleased with the number of references back to the show’s deepest history.
Despite being primarily a December giveaway, this is a solid story produced to the publisher's normal high standards and is very entertaining. In this anniversary year and with the forthcoming Time of the Doctor addressing the regeneration limit, it is interesting that this story comes very close to giving a definitive view on what is and isn’t possible with Time Lord regeneration and it goes deep into the mythology of the show without closing off any possibilities. The writers need to be congratulated for the care they took with the plotting and indeed everyone should be pleased with their contributions to this release.