In February 1985, the BBC announced that the planned twenty-third season of Doctor Who
had been cancelled. After vocal protests by the press and Doctor Who
fans (including a charity single, "Doctor in Distress
"Doctor in Distress" is a pop song related to the BBC television programme Doctor Who. It was released as an ensemble charity single in 1985.- Background :...
"), the BBC announced that the programme was merely on "hiatus", and would return in September 1986. Several stories which had been planned or commissioned for the original Season 23 were abandoned in favour of an overarching "trial" theme, reflecting the fact that the programme itself was on trial at the BBC.
This story was the last complete Doctor Who
story written by Robert Holmes
This entry is about the television scriptwriter. For other people with the same name, see Robert Holmes .Robert Colin Holmes was an English television scriptwriter, who for over twenty-five years contributed to some of the most popular programmes screened in the UK...
. Its plot is similar to Holmes' first contribution to Doctor Who
, The Krotons
The Krotons is a serial in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts from December 28, 1968 to January 18, 1969...
. In both stories, an alien machine subjugates a humanoid civilization and forces its brightest young people into its service.
The opening model shot of the Time Lord Space Station where the trial is held throughout the season was the most expensive model shot from the classic series run (costing more than £8,000). The sequence depicts the Time Lord Space Station orbiting in space then dragging the TARDIS inside via the use of a tractor beam
A tractor beam is a device with the ability to attract one object to another from a distance. Since the 1990s, technology and research has labored to make it a reality, mostly at microscopic level. Less commonly, a similar beam that repels is called a pressor beam or repulsor beam...
From this serial onwards, all location work would be recorded on Outside Broadcast (OB) tape instead of 16mm film. This practice would continue until the end of the series. The only footage shot on film for this episode was the opening special effects shot of the TARDIS. The BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...
had been encouraging the replacement of film cameras with OB cameras since the early 1980s on the grounds that they were cheaper, and mixed with studio-shot material better. John Nathan-Turner had actually wanted to switch to OB shooting as early as Peter Davison
Peter Davison is a British actor, best known for his roles as Tristan Farnon in the television version of James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small and the fifth incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who, which he played from 1982 to 1984.-Early life:Davison was born Peter Moffett in Streatham,...
's first season in 1982, but met with resistance from the directors working on the show at the time.
Roger Brierley, who voiced the role of Drathro, was originally supposed to wear the robot costume and physically play the role, but it was realised that the costume would not fit Brierley's 6'4" frame. Therefore a special effects assistant, Paul McGuinness, who helped design the costume, was called in to physically play Drathro, while Brierley spoke his lines from off-camera.
Dominic Glynn is a British composer, known for his arrangement of the Doctor Who theme music which served as the series' theme for Season 23 of the programme...
was hired to score the music for The Mysterious Planet
, and John Nathan-Turner offered him the chance to rearrange the opening title music. His new score for the opening theme was the shortest lived, lasting this season alone (not counting the unused 1973 version by Delia Derbyshire
Delia Ann Derbyshire was an English musician and composer of electronic music and musique concrète. She is best known for her electronic realisation of Ron Grainer's theme music to the British science fiction television series Doctor Who and for her work with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.-Early...
and Paddy Kingsland
Paddy Kingsland is a composer of electronic music best known for his incidental music for science fiction series on BBC radio and television whilst working at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Educated at Eggars Grammar School, Alton, in Hampshire, he joined the BBC as a tape editor before moving on to...
The actor playing Merdeen, Tom Chadbon, had previously appeared in the 1979 Fourth Doctor
The Fourth Doctor is the fourth incarnation of the protagonist of the long-running BBC British television science-fiction series Doctor Who....
serial City of Death
-Pre-production:Writer David Fisher had contributed two scripts to Doctor Whos sixteenth season – The Stones of Blood and The Androids of Tara – and was asked by producer Graham Williams for further story ideas...
A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks
Terrance Dicks is an English writer, best known for his work in television and for writing a large number of popular children's books during the 1970s and 80s.- Early career :...
, was published by Target Books
Target Books was a British publishing imprint, established in 1973 by Universal-Tandem Publishing Co Ltd, a paperback publishing company. The imprint was established as a children's imprint to complement the adult Tandem imprint, and became well known for their highly successful range of...
in November 1987.
VHS and DVD releases
- In October 1993, this story was released on VHS
The Video Home System is a consumer-level analog recording videocassette standard developed by Victor Company of Japan ....
as part of the three-tape The Trial of a Time Lord set.
- It was released on DVD
A DVD is an optical disc storage media format, invented and developed by Philips, Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic in 1995. DVDs offer higher storage capacity than Compact Discs while having the same dimensions....
on September 29, 2008, similarly boxed with the other three stories of this season.