Doctor Who Blog

50 Glorious Years: Episode 24 - 1986

1986 could be seen in a number of ways for Doctor Who fans. The year the show came back from the hiatus. The year the show was reduced to just 14 25-minute episodes a year. The year the Colin Baker era came to an abrupt and premature end. The year that the Eric Saward era came to an end. The year we lost Robert Holmes.

All of the above statements are true, before you enter into the realm of opinion of that season’s sole story, The Trial of a Time Lord, the longest Doctor Who story of all time at 14 episodes, although fan opinion on it should really count as four stories rather than one is divided to this day, despite what the actual titles of the episodes as broadcast state. Certainly fans publicly moaning in the UK about the show reached a new level this year (which is a shame, considering what an awesome story it was), so let’s not dwell on that and talk about how great things were for fans in North America. After nearly two years of waiting, fans finally to a chance to see Colin Baker as the Doctor - at least some of us did, with his episodes beginning broadcasting in my neck of the woods on Saturday November 1st, 1986. Within 6 weeks, on December 13th, the first 7 Colin Baker adventures had been shown (one full story each successive Saturday) culminating with the broadcast of Revelation of the Daleks on PBS starting at 12:30pm. This was followed by the broadcast of the PBS documentary Doctor Who’s Who’s Who, and then finally by the broadcast of An Unearthly Child for the first time in this area of the world in over 20 years. With pledge breaks the Doctor Who marathon stretched out for the entire afternoon, and then as soon as it was over TVOntario’s broadcast of an episode of Resurrection of the Daleks occurred, making this about 7 straight hours of Doctor Who for a fan to watch, including the earliest and what was the most recent episode we could ever have. In those days, with far fewer channels on cable than today and before the advent of specialty networks doing marathon broadcasts of specific shows on holiday weekends, this was unheard of. And An Unearthly Child! I often forget how impossible that seemed at the time. While the near-two year wait between The Caves of Androzani and The Twin Dilemma seemed agonizingly long at the time, it was always anticipated that we would get the Colin Baker episodes. But the original black and white episodes of Doctor Who did not seem inevitable at all.  1986 was a truly wondrous times to be a Doctor Who fan for both new and old episodes of the show.


I agree, “The Trial of a Timelord” is just ONE 14 part story and should not be viewed as 4 different stories. After all the final episode is titled “Trial of a Timelord Part 14” and NOT “The Ultimate for Part 2”
I too enjoyed TRIAL and have always felt that Colin Baker had “Nailed it” regarding his performance as the Doctor in this season. It was a shame and unjustified that he was fired from the role so abruptly. Had he been given 1 more year under a different Production team, dare I say things could have ended up quite differently.

Posted by Doug Grandy  on  07/02  at  01:12 PM

oops, Noticed a typo. Although I’m sure everyone has picked it up but that should say “The Ultimate Foe Part 2”

Posted by Doug Grandy  on  07/03  at  12:23 PM

I saw Trail when it was in two different formats: Movie Format (Each story as a 90 minute story) and in Episode format. I always felt that Colin got the raw end of the deal, and that there was a lot going on that we didn’t know about. Trail was interesting, but looking back on it, it feels like it was a attempt to recapture the love we had of the show, with a theme that had been tried before.

Posted by Harry M VanHoudnos III  on  07/04  at  03:59 PM

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