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What became the opening story in The Trial of a Time Lord began life as a very different adventure…

Robert Holmes was Doctor Who’s most prolific scriptwriter during the late 1960s and most of the 70s, as well as serving as script editor on the series during Tom Baker’s first three-anda- half seasons in the title role. After a gap of around five years, during which he wrote for various other BBC programmes such as Blake’s 7, Shoestring and Bergerac, Holmes returned to scripting Doctor Who in the early 1980s. He quickly built up a good rapport with the incumbent script editor, Eric Saward, who knew Holmes’ talent lay not just in good storytelling but also with delivering tight, workable scripts that required minimal editing.

Accordingly, Holmes was commissioned to write the opening four-part serial of Season 23, the first episodes due on air after the show’s 18-month hiatus. The working title of the new story was ‘Wasteland’.

Holmes was formally contracted on 2 September 1985, with a specified delivery date of 14 October. The title having briefly changed to ‘The Robots of Ravolox’, but the scripts didn’t arrive on Saward’s desk until 15 January 1986. Having gone through various drafts and rewrites, the story was by now called ‘The Mysterious Planet’ – and it was to undergo a further rewrite in early March, following a scathing analysis of the scripts by Jonathan Powell, the BBC’s Head of Series and Serials.

Writer Robert Holmes in 1977, surrounded by some of the Doctor’s monstrous foes.
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About Doctor Who Magazine

In DWM 542, today's Doctor Who writers pay tribute to the series' pioneers. Featuring exclusive contributions from: Paul Cornell, Sarah Dollard, Matthew Graham, Peter Harness, Pete McTighe, Steven Moffat, James Moran, Rona Munro, Robert Shearman and Toby Whithouse. This issue also includes: • Exclusive interviews with Billie Piper and Camille Coduri ahead of Big Finish’s new audio series Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon. • The Robots of Ravolox – investigating Robert Holmes final mystery. • Bonnie Langford answers questions from the TARDIS tin. • 1980s script editor Eric Saward reflects on the troubled production of The Trial of a Time Lord. • The Trial of a Time Lord on trial: could it be Doctor Who’s most underrated story? • The Fact of Fiction explores the 2008 Tenth Doctor story Planet of the Ood. • An exclusive preview of Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 23. • Part Three of Power of the Mobox, a new comic-strip adventure featuring the Thirteenth Doctor and her friends. • The Blogs of Doom, audio reviews, previews, news, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!