42 – Terror of the Vervoids (The Trial of a Timelord episodes 9 – 12)

If it was a shock that Robot featured in the top 50 ahead of The Seeds of Doom, this one will have fans choking on their beverages in disbelief. This is story is best (and most infamously) known as the one ‘with the monsters that are a bit rude.’ I guess it was inevitable after such efforts as the Cyber Controller and Alpha Centauri that eventually the special effects team would produce a costume that by-passed ‘hint of anatomy’ and went directly for a more than unfortunate resemblance.

Which is a huge pity, because I thoroughly enjoy this four part adventure. It is very much what a Patrick Troughton base-under-seige style adventure would have looked like had Troughton been plying his craft in the 1980s, containing all of the elements of the rather crusty base commander in the personage of the Commodore, the sinister unknown menace in the form of the Vervoids, and a whole host of characters with their own vested interests at play. Of all of the stories that feature in The Trial of a Timelord season, this one is the one that best stands in its own right as a standalone story, and arguably would have been even better if it hadn’t been interspersed with the trial scenes, or with the visual evidence being altered, making us unable to wholly trust what we were seeing.

The story also shows us a tantalising insight into what Season 24 could have looked like had Colin Baker had his contract honoured for a third season. In this adventure he is witty, brave, charming and urbane – drawing strong parallels to the kind of transformation Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor has been going through in the most recent series. Even Mel shows promise in what was her debut appearance in Doctor Who, demonstrating what Bonnie Langford could have been capable of if she’d been given a more tangible role than ‘get into trouble and scream.’ The chemistry oddly worked, which makes the actual Season 24 all the more frustrating.

On top of all this, Terror of the Vervoids is a genuinely good adventure. There is little in the way of hammed up acting, the production values hold up surprisingly well, and while there are a healthy number of subplots at play to distract from the main threat of the Vervoids, at no stage does it become overbearing or overly complicated. The Vervoids themselves, phallic resemblance notwithstanding, are worthy foes – genetically created plant creatures intended to serve mankind as slave labour, but opposed to all animal kind by instinct. In that regard, it would be fantastic to see a future Doctor Who adventure featuring a link-up between the Krynoids and the Vervoids – what an adversary that would be!

So I unashamedly place Terror of the Vervoids well within my top 50. It is true that some of the stories below are more robust, but for simple and enjoyable story telling, this story gives me a surprisingly large amount of enjoyment!

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