The Doctor claims the evidence presented by the Valeyard (Michael Jayston) has been falsified and the Matrix tampered with. Con-man Sabalom Glitz (Tony Selby) and future companion Mel (Bonnie Langford) arrive in the courtroom. The Master (Anthony Ainley) appears on the screen to claim responsibility and demonstrate it is possible to tamper with the Matrix. Glitz reveals the data he received on planet Ravolox included secrets from the Matrix. The Doctor denounces the Time Lords as decadent and corrupt. No, really? The Master reveals that the prosecutor—the Valeyard—is a manifestation of the Doctor’s darker side.
When the Doctor demands a halt to the trial because he cannot be both defendant and prosecutor, the Valeyard flees into the Matrix, where logic does not apply. With Glitz, the Doctor pursues him, emerging next to the Fantasy Factory. A clerk named Popplewick sends him to a wasteland where hands emerge from the ground and drag him down, but the Doctor rises, declaring that nothing is real (Didn’t the Beatles say that? Perhaps they were smoking the same stuff as these writers.) The Valeyard appears and releases nerve gas. So, they stumble into a cottage which becomes the dematerializing TARDIS.
The Master prefers the Doctor to win because he fears the Valeyard. He puts the Doctor into a catatonic state. The Valeyard appears on a balcony and he and the Master fire weapons at each other. Mel emerges from a tunnel and her voice awakens the Doctor. They agree she should tell the truth at the trial about the Vervoids and she testifies that, yes, the Doctor wiped them all out, so he is found guilty. He accepts this and is led out to execution.
But this is another illusion. Mel invades the Matrix and warns the Doctor, but he already knows the courtroom is fake. Bribed by the Master, Glitz returns to the Fantasy Factory, finds the data he thought was destroyed, and escapes in the Master’s TARDIS. The Doctor unmasks Popplewick as the Valeyard. They realize there is a particle disseminator about to kill everyone in court.
The Inquisitor (Linda Bellingham) learns the High Council of Gallifrey has been deposed. The Master appears to restore order. He loads Glitz’s tape into his TARDIS, but a booby-trap is triggered, paralyzing him and Glitz. Mel emerges and warns the Time-Lords. The Doctor sabotages the Valeyard’s weapon and the Fantasy Factory explodes. The Inquisitor drops the charges and reveals that Peri did not die on Thoros Beta after all, but married King Yrcano and lives happily ever after. The Inquisitor nominates the Doctor for Lord President of Gallifrey and he leaves to return Mel to her proper time. The keeper of the Matrix turns out to be the Valeyard, who looks into the camera and laughs.
Whew! Got that? All this in a two-episode story. This turned out to be the last of the Sixth Doctor. Half a dozen stories already planned for the 23rd season were suddenly abandoned. One was to be the return of the Celestial Toymaker from the third season of the First Doctor, in 1966. The brilliant Michael Gough was ready to return and the script was already done. Another was the return of the popular and scary Autons, set in Singapore and featuring the Master, and perhaps the Rani. Another was to feature the return of the slimy little Sil, backed up by the Ice Warriors.
Robert Holmes wrote the first draft of the first episode of the Ultimate Foe and promptly died. Script editor Eric Saward resigned, but agreed to write the rest. Saward did not like changes which had been made and withdrew the script after rehearsals had already started. Eccentric but reliable writers Pip and Jane Baker were hired to write a replacement final episode. By law, they could not be told what had already been written. I swear to God.
Nicole Bryant was incensed that her character hadn’t died, after she went through having her head shaved, suffering a brainectomy, and being accidentally shot dead for good measure. Colin Baker was fired and refused to return to help with his own regeneration into the Seventh Doctor. His last words to the Time Lords: “In all my travels through the universe, I have battled against evil, against 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.” One wonders if he was thinking of the BBC.
After a cancellation of the series disguised as a hiatus, after a reluctant and underwhelming revival as The Trial of a Time Lord, and the sudden sacking of Colin Baker (who, I believe, never had a chance), the show was indeed picked up for a short season with the likable, low-key Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor, and then it was cancelled again in 1989. Then, in a 1996 TV Movie, McCoy was regenerated as Paul McGann. This was supposed to make a big splash in the US, heralding a revival of the series, which never happened. The series was finally allowed to die a natural death, only to come roaring back in 2005 with Christopher Ecceleston. The story is that the years in between had seen the last Great Time War, in which the Time-Lords were annihilated.