Recap: Doctor Who S23 E4 "The Ultimate Foe"

The Doctor gazes into the abyss, and the audience gazes back. At least we can't see his coat... (I think we're done with the coat jokes... for now.)
"In all my travels through time and space I have battled against evil, against power-mad conspirators. I should have stayed here! The oldest civilization: decadent, degenerate and rotten to the core! Power mad conspirators? Daleks, Sontarans, Cybermen they're still in the nursery compared to us! Ten million years of absolute power: that's what it takes to be really corrupt!"
The Doctor, finally fed up with the Kangaroo Court he's been thrown into, ripping into his own people's despicable acts with a lovely monologue.

"Carrot juice, carrot juice, carrot juice..."
—The final line of the adventure; sadly, Colin Baker's final line as the Doctor. (Well, at least on TV...)

Picking right up where the previous story left off, The Ultimate Foe opens up with the Doctor being accused of genocide. The Doctor objects, and both he and the Valeyard get into a well-written argument that suddenly ends when Sabalom Glitz and future companion Melanie show up almost literally out of nowhere. When the Doctor asks how they got there, the Master shows up to torment the Doctor and everyone else - revealing major plot points like how Ravalox (from the first part) was really the Earth. Furthering his gloating, the Master reveals that the Valeyard is really the Doctor.

Well, not exactly. The Valeyard is a piece of the Doctor: specifically, the Doctor's dark side, split off from around the last of his regenerations. Even when being specific, this origin is incredibly abstract.

Either way, the Valeyard flees into the Matrix (no, not that one! We've been over this!) and the Doctor and Glitz pursue. Inside the Matrix, the Doctor and Glitz are tormented by the Valeyard repeatedly until finally winding up in what can only be described as a world that was co-designed by MC Escher and Charles Dickens on PCP and acid. The Valeyard continues to gloat in his own way, while Mel and the entire judge and jury stare at the viewscreen like it's the Monday Night Football game.

Not much later, things go back to the courtroom, where the Doctor is convicted of his so-called crimes and will be executed. Only it's all an illusion, and the Doctor knows it's an illusion, but Mel doesn't know that he knows, so she runs into the Matrix to try and stop it all. The Valeyard gets all pissy about this, deciding to vanish for the time being. Meanwhile, Glitz and the Master decide to steal the records of the Matrix to make some cash in a story that, sadly, goes nowhere.

Finally, the Doctor and Mel find themselves face-to-face with the Valeyard, and his plans to destroy the current government of the Time Lords. Through a brief struggle, the Valeyard spits out technobabble about things not going his way and is finally defeated (OR IS HE...?!). The Time Lords saved, the random Time Lady presiding over the trial tells the Doctor that Peri survived and is living with King Yrcanos after his rambling that she would be his queen... for some reason. Mel and the Doctor leave together, presumably for him to drop her off somewhere for his future self to pick up later (See the Past Doctor Adventures novel Business Unusual... or maybe the Big Finish Audio The Wrong Doctors. Either one works.), and the Sixth Doctor goes on to many, many more adventures, where th-

Oh.

Shit.

...

...

Anybody know the name of a good animator?
The two episodes were written by four different people, though few really notice. The first episode was written by Robert Holmes and script editor Eric Saward together, with Holmes slowly dying from disease. He passed away without finishing the final episode, which was finished off by Eric Saward himself and then withdrawn when Producer John Nathan-Turner disagreed with it. The final episode was then entrusted to Pip and Jane Baker (no relation to Colin or Tom Baker, who themselves are also unrelated), who had written previously for the series. In fact, Pip and Jane weren't even allowed to see the original script, not to mention they had no clue how the story was supposed to end.

This story provides examples of:

  • Author Existence Failure:invoked Poor Robert Holmes, may he rest in peace. He was supposed to write Yellow Fever and How To Cure It for this season (before the plans for a trial).
    • Eric Saward, the architect of the 'Trial' and de facto showrunner of Doctor Who, effectively took his ball and went home before this storyline was finished. The conclusion of the Trial was hastily cobbled together by Pip and Jane Baker, thus explaining its incoherence.
  • Belated Happy Ending: Peri, assumed dead after the events of "Mindwarp," gets one of these.
  • Bizarrchitecture with a Steam Punk flavour.
  • Creepy Children Singing: As the Doctor explores the Valeyard's Dickensian private world, Creepy Children sing "Ring-a-Ring-o-Roses" in the background; it isn't clear if he can hear them or not.
  • Defector from Decadence
  • The End... Or Is It?: After the Doctor and Mel depart, the Inquisitor starts organizing the surviving Time Lords with the intent of restoring order to Gallifrey. She gives an order to the Keeper of the Matrix, who then turns to the screen to reveal the Valeyard himself. Cue end credits.
  • Enemy Without: The Valeyard is a time-travelling one.
  • Evil Me Scares Me
  • Fiery Cover-Up : The Time Lords are revealed to have engaged in this on a planetary scale, nearly wiping out the Earth and moving it across the galaxy, and then willing to execute the Doctor, who accidentally stumbled across the evidence without even realizing it in order to hide their own embarrassing indiscretions.
  • Government Conspiracy: Committed by the Time Lord High Council.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Colin Baker vs Michael Jayston! Taking all bets, taking all bets...! O
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Onslow is Mr. Popplewick!
  • Hijacked by Ganon: Subverted - the Master turns out to have caused most of the events of the "Trial" season, but then the Valeyard took advantage of his actions to become the real "Ultimate Foe".
  • Infodump: The first fifteen minutes of episode one are basically one long courtroom infodump courtesy of the Master, who reveals the answers to almost all of the questions that have been building throughout the entire Trial of a Time Lord story arc.
  • Not So Above It All: There is a golden moment where the Valeyard in lecturing the Doctor in his typical dour manner, even explicitly stating that he "wishes not to be contaminated by [the Doctor's] whims and idiosyncracies." ...when Glitz tries to participate in the conversation, the Valeyard teleports directly behind him for the explicit purpose of insulting him in a rather comedic way. Then again, his compulsion to out-cool adult male companions and recurring characters was always one of the Doctor's character flaws...
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Mr. Popplewick inside the Matrix, the Inquisitor outside of it.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Stated by the Master in part two as to why he's helping the Doctor.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: After having put up with the Kangaroo Court of the previous season and the numerous pompous and self-righteous condemnation of his character from the Time Lords, when he learns that the whole thing was orchestrated as part of a cover-up of a theft of Time Lord secrets that also resulted in the destruction of the Earth the Doctor takes the opportunity to tell the assembled Time Lords exactly what he thinks of them.
    • You can also interpret that speech as Robert Holmes and Colin Baker himself telling off the BBC for their contemptuous treatment of the show and plans to take it off the air.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: In episode two, as is pretty much par for the course in Pip and Jane Baker scripts. Key example: "there's nothing you can do to prevent the catharsis of spurious morality."
  • Spanner in the Works: The Master, of all people, derails the whole plot against the Doctor. Not out of any sense of altruism, naturally, but for both the chance to pit two aspects of the Doctor against himself and topple the High Council of Time Lords.
    • For bonus points, he makes himself this as literally as he possibly can, by revealing the plot from within the Time Matrix viewing screen.
  • Technology Marches On: The idea that a "megabyte modem" is impressive.
    • Since it's not clear exactly what it means even in context, it's also an example of gratuitous Techno Babble.
  • Teleport Spam: The Valeyard...
  • Xanatos Speed Chess

Hey, don't be sad ol' Sawbones Hex got drummed out of the series. He was rescued by Big Finish! Take some spare time to look at the overwhelming collection of Sixth Doctor audios. And if you want to see more of him, start HERE. But sadly (or perhaps mercifully is a better word), you can't witness his coat in action as you listen to his stories; while audio can broadcast the dulcet tones of the Sixth Doctor, it doesn't do so hot where the visual department is concerned, let alone visualising a coat that is a certified cornucopia of clashing colour hues.

And if you really want to know what happened to the Sixth Doctor, have no fear! Big Finish is releasing an audio series in September 2015 to deal with his regeneration story.