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"For your ears and eyes only, my Lady..."
―The Valeyard
The Mysterious Planet
Series: Doctor Who -
TV Stories
Season Number: Season 23
Story Number: 144a
Doctor: Sixth Doctor
Companions: Peri
Writer: Robert Holmes
Director: Nicholas Mallett
Broadcast: 6th September - 27th September 1986
Format: 4 25-minute episodes
Previous Story: Revelation of the Daleks
Following Story: Mindwarp

The Mysterious Planet is the title given to the first four episodes of The Trial of a Time Lord, the series-long story that constituted Season 23. The on-screen title is simply The Trial of a Time Lord. The story marked the first appearance of the Inquisitor and the Valeyard, two characters who would appear throughout the season, along with Sabalom Glitz, who would also appear in Season 24. With this chapter, the series returns to half-hour episodes, and also beginning with this story the series was now completely produced on videotape (with the exception, in this story, of a brief special effects sequence in Episode 1).



The Doctor is put on trial by the Time Lords for his interference in time and space. In the beginning of the prosecution's case, presented by the Valeyard, the events of the Doctor's and Peri's adventure on the planet Ravolox are presented to the court.



Part One:

The TARDIS materialises in a corridor, and the Doctor steps out bewildered and alone. He walks into a room, where it is revealed that he is being put on trial for conduct unbecoming a Time Lord. The Inquisitor notes that the Doctor has been on trial previously, and the Valeyard states that he will argue that the Doctor was shown too much leniency on that occasion. The Valeyard opens the case by using the Matrix to show the Doctor's involvement on the planet Ravolox.

The Doctor and Peri arrive on Ravolox, which is virtually identical to Earth. He tells Peri that the official records state that the planet was devastated by a fireball, but they note that the forest they are walking through suggests otherwise. They are seen by Sabalom Glitz and Dibber, who attempt to shoot the Doctor; but he moves off just in time. Glitz and Dibber discuss their plan to destroy the "L3 robot" by sabotaging its light conversion system, which has been turned into a totem by a primitive tribe on the planet.

The Doctor and Peri explore a cavern. Peri discovers a sign saying "Marble Arch" — a London Underground sign, which means that they are on Earth. Peri begins to mourn for her planet.

The Doctor asks what the relevance of this is, then asks why Peri is not with him on the station. The Valeyard answers that she is where the Doctor left her, and states that the Doctor's evident temporary amnesia - a side-effect of being taken out of time - should soon pass.

The Doctor goes into the complex alone because Peri is upset, but she is captured by two masked figures. Meanwhile, Glitz and Dibber are brought before Katryca, Queen of the tribe. Glitz claims that the totem attracted the fireball that devastated Ravolox, and asks for it to be taken down. The Queen tells him that others have asked for the totem to be dismantled, and none have succeeded. Glitz and Dibber draw out their guns, but they are overpowered and locked up.

The Doctor finds an underground complex, but is caught. He is accused of spying, and sentenced to be stoned. The Doctor tries to block the rocks with his umbrella, but is knocked unconscious.

The Valeyard proposes that the inquiry into the Doctor's activities should become a full blown trial, with the penalty being the termination of his life...

Part Two:

Other officials arrive and break up the stoning. The Doctor is still breathing, but before he can be killed, Merdeen receives a message from the Immortal stating that he wishes to question the Doctor. The Immortal, revealed to be a huge humanoid robot, commands its two assistants to release the service robot.

Peri is brought before Katryca, who informs Peri that as there are few women, she will need to take many husbands. She is then put in the same prison as Glitz and Dibber. They tell Peri their plan to destroy the Robot. They are taken back to Katryca, who tells them that Glitz will be sacrificed because of his attempt to destroy the great totem.

The Doctor is taken to the Immortal, who introduces itself as Drathro. He commands that the Doctor work with the two assistants. The Doctor identifies the problem, and tries to leave in order to fix it, but Drathro does not allow him to leave, as his instructions were to maintain an underground system. The Doctor electrifies the robot and his assistants, and escapes. Drathro sends the service robot to track down the Doctor. Meanwhile, Peri, Glitz and Dibber overpower the guards and escape. Dibber remains behind to plant a bomb on the Black Light converter, whilst they go to the underground complex.

In Marb Station, Merdeen tells Balazar that there has been no fire for hundreds of years, and that he should leave the complex. They encounter the Doctor, and Merdeen implores him to help Balazar escape. Peri, Glitz and Dibber, pursued by tribesmen, find the Doctor, and they flee into the Marb Station, but are trapped between the tribe and the service robot. When Peri asks what they should do, the Doctor replies: "I don't know. I really think this could be the end..."

Part Three:

Luckly, the Doctor and Peri are saved when the tribesmen shoot at the service robot and disable it. The Doctor tries to re-enter the underground complex, but the tribesmen insist they all return to the village. There, The Doctor is brought before Katryca, but she is unimpressed with his explanation of the true nature of the Totem, and puts them all back in the prison cell.

Glitz confirms that the planet is actually Earth. Drathro reactivates the service robot, and send it to the village. It breaks into the building with the Doctor, stuns him and takes him away. The tribesmen disable the service robot, and decide to attack the Immortal's castle to steal his technology. Peri rescues the Doctor from the service robot, and they set off to the underground complex to stop Katryca and disable the black light system.

Part Four:

Katryca and the tribesmen arrive at the Castle, where they are confronted by Drathro,. He electrocutes Katryca, and dismisses the rest of the tribe. The Doctor enters Drathro's domain, promising to help repair the black light system. However, he determines it to be beyond repair, and tells Drathro that he must shut down the Black Light System to prevent a massive explosion. Drathro refuses to allow that as it would mean its own destruction. The Doctor pleads with him, saying that the explosion could destroy the entire universe, but that only makes Drathro determined to allow what he thinks is a unique event.

Balazar and Peri plead with Merdeen to help them, noting that he would die if the converter exploded. Glitz and Dibber arrive and follow them into the Castle through a food chute. Drathro attempts to kill by turning on the food processing system, but Dibber shoots him through the wall. Glitz tells Drathro that they have black light on their ship, and offers to take the robot to the Andromeda Galaxy. Drathro agrees, and leaves with Glitz and Dibber.

The Doctor realises that the black light system has already begun to self-destruct, and that all he can do is prevent it starting a chain reaction. The system explodes, but the blast only destroys the Castle, and as a result Drathro collapses. The Doctor and Peri leave Merdeen and Balazar to take the remaining inhabitants to a new life on the surface.

The Doctor announces to the court that he has saved the Universe, and starts to present his defence. The Valeyard warns the Doctor that he has more evidence to come, and that the Court will demand the Doctor's life at the end.





  • Sabalom Glitz knows some Latin, and lots of Polari, has been to prison many times, seen many psychiatrists and comes from a polygamous society. He knows of the Time Lords, and is wanted in six galaxies. He's from Salostophus, in the constellation of Andromeda.
  • Drathro is also from Andromeda, he knows of Gallifrey.

Earth / Ravalox

  • Earth and its "constellation" have been moved "a couple of light years".
  • The Doctor dates the events on Ravalox as at least two million years after the 20th century.
  • Only part of Earth was affected by the fireball.
  • The Sleepers, from Andromeda, found a way into the Matrix 500 years ago, fled to Earth, which was then devastated by a fireball.
  • The three sacred books of Marb station are Moby Dick by Herman Melville, The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley, and Canadian Goose by H.M. Stationery Office.
  • The underground dwellers call their world UK Habitat.

The Doctor

The Doctor's items

  • In his pockets he carries a torch, an oil can, a paper mask, a teddy bear, and a bag of sweets.
  • As Tandrell and Humker rummage through the Doctor's coat pockets, they discover a bag of jelly babies, which the Doctor quickly snatches back into his possession before ultimately offering them each one of the sweets.

Story Notes

  • Beginning with this chapter of Trial of a Time Lord, Doctor Who returned to its original 25-minute episode format, which it retained for the remainder of the original series. However, the total length of the broadcast season remained fixed at about three months annually, resulting in about a 50% drop in seasonal output as compared with previous seasons.
  • While listed as a single story this story and the three others that make up 'The Trial of a Time Lord' are in fact one long story making this the longest Doctor Who story, second only to The Daleks' Master Plan which has 12 parts to it. Trial of a Time Lord has 14 parts, if taken altogether.
  • Beginning with this story, all exteriors would be recorded using Outside Broadcast video, rather than film has had usually been the practice for the previous 22 years. The use of OB for exteriors would continue for the remainder of the original series, until its end in 1989.
  • The filmed insert that begins Part One of a special effects sequence involving the TARDIS would be the last shot-on-film footage made for Doctor Who until the 1996 TV movie. Ironically, the Fox network recycled this footage for its promotional advertisements for the film (even though it wasn't included in the movie). Technically, disregarding the TV movie, this was the last shot-on-film footage ever shot for Doctor Who, as the series revival from 2005 to the present uses videotape which is later processed to look like film.


  • Part One - 4.9 million
  • Part Two - 4.9 million
  • Part Three - 3.9 million
  • Part Four - 3.7 million


  • The unnamed character "The Inquisitor" is Flavia, last seen in The Five Doctors and presumably regenerated. (This question remains unanswered in terms of televised episodes. Spin-off works, however, give her a different name, Darkel)
  • While shooting publicity photographs for the Trial season, and also when doing television interviews promoting the season, Colin Baker sported a beard; this led to the mistaken assumption by media and fans that the Doctor would be bearded during this and the other stories.

Filming Locations

  • Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Gravel Hill, Horndean, Hampshire
  • Butser Ancient Farm Project (now known as Little Butser), Butser Hill, Hampshire
  • BBC Television Centre (TC6 & TC3), Shepherd's Bush, London

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • The Doctor claims that Earth was moved "a couple" of light years from its original position. Two light years is less than half the distance to the nearest extra-solar star, Alpha Centauri - a tiny distance in cosmological terms.
  • Additionally, the Valeyard claimed Ravolox was in the Stellian galaxy. A move of two light years would still be well within the Milky Way (Mutter's Spiral). Often, people use terms like "a couple" loosely. It could have been many light years, and the Doctor was simply speaking glibly. He's been known to say things like "a couple of years" when referring to centuries.
  • Why conduct the trial on a space station, instead of on Gallifrey? They were involved in a cover up at this point.
  • The Third cliffhanger and it's reprise makes little sense. The person who is revealed to have been shot instead of the Doctor is in plain view right behind them - but the Doctor and Peri were walking that way just a few seconds before - surely they would have spotted him. Also, wouldn't it be polite for the person to shout "Look out" or "get down" to alert the Doctor and Peri to the danger behind them. The person who was shot was not their ally, and it is possible that he was following them in an attempt to kill them.
  • Why didn't Glitz and Dibber blow the door? They instead just ran into Peri, Merdeen and Balazar.
  • Instead of clumsily (and suspiciously) bleeping over Glitz and Dibber's dialogue while they are discussing the Sleepers and the Matrix, why doesn't the Valeyard construct his presentation to omit those scenes altogether? He could simply switch into a different character's point of view (which seems to be a legal form of editing in Time Lord Matrix-based trials), or - since he obviously has no qualms about fabricating huge chunks of his second presentation - make it appear as if Glitz and Dibber are talking about something else entirely.


  • Though the Doctor won the emergency election to the Presidency of the High Council of Time Lords in The Five Doctors, he has been deposed by the time of this story for leaving the office vacant too long. This doesn't stop the Seventh Doctor from later using the title in Remembrance of the Daleks.
  • The trial depicted in Episode 10 of The War Games is referenced here by the Inquisitor as having "been on trial already for offences of this nature". In response, The Valeyard contends that the High Council were "too lenient" with the sentence that resulted from that trial. Although not referenced directly, the sentence in question was the forced regeneration of the Second Doctor and his subsequent exile to Earth.
  • Sabalom Glitz returns in the final segment of the trial and later in Dragonfire. Along with Davros, this makes him the most-recurrent, non-leading character of 1980s Doctor Who.
  • At one point, Sabalom Glitz and Dibber come to a locked door. Glitz assesses that the only way through the door is to blast through. He says, "Five rounds, rapid ought to do the trick" — an almost certain reference to one of the Brigadier's most famous lines from DW: The Dæmons.
  • The Earth was also briefly moved from its location in the 21st century. (DW: The Stolen Earth). In The Ultimate Foe, it is revealed that the Earth was moved by the Time Lords using a magnetron. In DW: Journey's End, it is revealed that the Daleks moved the planet with their version of the device, although the episode also established that a single TARDIS, operating at full power and with a full compliment of crew, is capable of moving the planet (albeit with a little help from the Cardiff rift). Gallifrey eventually gets its "comeuppance" when it is relocated briefly to Earth's solar system in DW: The End of Time.
  • In BFA: The Dark Flame is is explained what exactly "black light" is (it isn't ordinary ultraviolet light, but energy from quantum meta-fluctuations in the space/time continuum).
  • In a featurette included with the 2008 DVD release, Nicola Bryant states that "some time has passed" since the events of Revelation of the Daleks, and therefore she and Baker played their roles as if the two had grown closer over time. Exactly how much time passed for the character's during the show's 18-month hiatus has never been established. The Doctor in this story states he is 900 years old, the same age given in Revelation, however in an episode of The Ultimate Foe, Mel states the Doctor's age as "900-odd" suggesting this is an approximation (or it reflects the fact the Doctor meets Mel at a later time than he does Peri).

DVD and Video Releases

DVD release

Video Releases

Released as Doctor Who: The Mysterious Planet


  • UK October 1993 (Released with the other Trial of the Timelord stories in a Tardis-shaped tin with a random picture of one of the (then) seven Doctors on the base)
  • US October 1993 (Same as the UK release except packed in a cardboard box in honor of Doctor Who's 30th anniversary)
  • Australia October 1993


Main article: The Mysterious Planet (novelisation)

External Links

  • BBC Episode Guide for The Mysterious Planet
  • Doctor Who Reference Guide: Detailed Synopsis - The Mysterious Planet
  • A Brief History of Time (Travel): The Mysterious Planet
  • The Locations Guide to Doctor Who - The Mysterious Planet
  • The Tardis Library: Video release information for The Mysterious Planet
Season 23/The Trial of a Time Lord
The Mysterious Planet  • Mindwarp  • Terror of the Vervoids  • The Ultimate Foe

This article uses material from the "The Mysterious Planet" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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