Terror of the VervoidsBookmark and Share

Thursday, 14 December 2006 - Reviewed by Robert Tymec

Still not sure, exactly, why Pip and Jane are so maligned by fandomn. 

Okay, "Time and the Rani" was pretty bad in spots (though still not half as bad as some of the other "duds" the series has produced now and again), but their other submissions to the series are actually quite strong. And, in all honesty, I can see why JNT turned to them as often as he did during this highly tumultous time. The bottom line is, they're fairly solid writers. 

And "Terror of the Vervoids" is a pretty good example of this. Even though it's probably my least favourite story in the Trial of a Time Lord season, it's still a damned good one.

Okay, the dialogue is a bit overblown in places and we practically need a thesaurus in order to follow along with some of the dialogue. But I can think of plenty of authors who do this in Who. It's actually part of what I like about the show. It has seriously enriched my vocabulary over the years because the scriptwriters weren't afraid to give the actors some real mouthfuls sometimes. So, really, to bitch about Pip and Jane doing this is pretty silly. I could find you some pretty overblown stuff from the great Robert Holmes without having to look too hard. So let's get off the poor Bakers' back about it, already, okay? 

Now, rather than address the sillines of fandomn's tastes, let's get into the story proper. It's a nice little premise, of course and the parallells between it and "Murder On the Orient Express" are obvious enough (and I'm pretty sure we all got it without the shot of the book sitting on the table but it was still nice touch). The characters are also well-suited to a murder mystery premise. Although I did find the actual execution by the actors playing Lasky and Rudge to be a bit "off". Honor Blackman just doesn't seem to have the prescence of her "dragon lady" personae "down" right. And I feel that Rudge needed to, perhaps, "bumble" a bit more to convey that he's a bit on the incompetent side. Although, once he shows his true colours, I did feel his performance improved.

The direction of the storyline works pretty good, overall, and Chris Clough does a good job with what he's given (which he does in all the stories he directed). Even with the budget increased because of the episodes being reduced, the classic series was still never given enough money to achieve all the proper visuals. So Clough is smart enough to not dwell too hard on certain sequences whereas he puts a nice chunk of the budget into that opening shot of the Hyperion III and gives us a very nice first impression of the third case in the trial because of that shot. He also put some nice work into the Vervoid costumes (even if we do see a jumpsuit or two) and their death sequence looked quite impressive. I'm still not exactly sure how he got all those leaves to turn colours at once! 

The biggest drawback that I feel this story suffers from is one that happened in a few mid-80s Who tales. There are, perhaps, just a few too many plot strands going on here. We've got murder, hijacking and killer plants all weaving in and out of each other a bit too much at once. It's just a bit on the prepostorous side to have so much going on in the plot and it stretches credulity a tad too far because of it. Although, in its defense, too much plot is always better than too little. But still, I just find it hard to believe that so much can happen on just one flight of a ship! But that's really my biggest gripe.

There are, of course, some silly inconsistencies like the whole "key upside down" sequence but they're hardly worth getting "up in arms" about. Sillier things have happened in a Who story. And some of the clever things like the Mogarian translator not switching on makes up for any of these smaller problems quite nicely.

The trial going on outside of the Hyperion storyline is getting quite interesting by this point. We now see that the Doctor definitely believes the Matrix is being falsified and even suspects who's up to it. And the charge being changed at the end of the final episode is a nice little twist and a good way to finish the whole story off with a bit of a bang. Some very well-achieved scenes. But then, I loved the trial scenes throughout this season so it's a bit of a bias, really! 

So, not a whole lot of problems with this story in my book. A bit too "busy" plot-wise and a few minor problems with some of the acting but this really is another fairly well-told story from Pip and Jane Bakers' pen. So, once again, gang: What is the big problem with the Bakers? I think they did the show quite good, overall.