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Doctor Who - The Robots of Death

episode 90

UK 1977
produced by
Philip Hinchcliff for BBC
directed by Michael E. Briant
starring Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Russell Hunter, Pamela Salem, David Bailie, David Collings, Brian Croucher, Tania Rogers, Tariq Unus, Miles Fothergill, Gregory de Polnay, Rob Edwards
written by Chris Boucher, script editor: Robert Holmes, music by Dudley Simpson

tv-series
Doctor Who, Doctor Who (Tom Baker), Doctor Who (classic series)

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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A sandminer drills its way through a god-forsaken desert planet in some equally god-forsaken corner of the galaxy ... and it seems the miner has been on the planet too long since the skeleton human crew - a moneyhungry and greedy bunch - starts getting on each other's nerves but good. Then a murder occurs - and the captain, Uvanov (Rusell Hunter), doesn't even want to stop operations long enough to investigate, afrait to lose a promising ore ...

At roughly the same time Doctor Who (Tom Baker) and his new companion, the savage Leela (Louise Jameson) - who had joined him only in the previous episode, The Face of Evil, rather against his will - arrive on the miner int eh Doctor's timemachine TARDIS, and when the robots, who do most of the word on the miner anyway, detect and apprehend them, Uvanov seems to have his tailor-made suspects to calm the crew and get then to go back to work. The Doctor's suggestion that the service robots on the ship could be behind the killings is not even ignored - only the audience knows the Doctor is actually right.

But wait, one of the crew, Poole (David Collings), believes that the Doctor and Leela are innocent, frees them and asks them to help against the robots gone amock - and then there's robot D84 (Gregory de Polnay), who is supposed to be a dumb, low-class robot, but who seems to be doing an investigation all of his own

Poole reveals himself to the Doctor and Leela to be an undercover investigator, with D84 being his aide, and they are trying to find out more about threats of a robot revolution, and about one Taran Capel, a human brought up by robots who wants to lead them into battle ... and his trail seems to lead to the miner.

Meanwhile, the crew continues to die like flies, and eventually even Captain Uvanov gets in the center of suspicion ... and ultimately only 4 crewmembers survive, Uvanov, his second in command Toos (Pamela Salem), Poole, who has been stricken by a serious case of robophobia, and chief engineer Task (David Bailie), who of course turns out to be Taran Capel. And then there's of course the Doctor and Leela, who together with D84 go on the offensive, using an anti-robot bomb and helium ...

Why helium ?

Because it alters Task's voice, and in the decisive moments the robots can't identify his voice pattern anymore and kill him because he is one of the humans. From there on, to turn of the kill-crazy robots is a walk in the park, and the miner is saved once more ... though I'm not sure if the miner had previously been saved.

 

Even if my synopsis does not sound like much, this episode is wonderful, a serial killer whodunnit in a science fiction setting, featuring uniformly strong supporting characters, who all seem to have stories of their own which are frequently hinted at, and stringent, exciting storytelling that, even if the culprit is easy to spot early on, keeps one on the edge of one's seat throughout. And then there's of course those fantastic sets. For once, a sci-fi show does not rely on pseudo-futuristic designs but everything, from the sets to the outfits to the robots, has a definite art deco touch to it. It might not always be convincing (especially the robots look silly), but it is just so nice to look at, and it gives the whole episode the feel of conceptional art. One just has to love this one.

 

 

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD