Monday, 6 April 2015

The Robots of Death

I wonder who the killer will be...  

MAW Holmes@MAW_H "Watch the trousers" (as the movie poster probably wouldn't say)

Kosmic Kris@KosmicKris I adore this story. I know it has its critics (including some of the creative team involved) but it is so entertaining.

Jason McLaughlin@jangomac72 It's a brilliant story and one of the few classic stories that is so successful at convincingly world building immediately.

Everything about it oozes quality, which helps paper over any perceived weaknesses.

Kosmic Kris@KosmicKris  It starts with a thrilling idea, adds a committed director and one of the best ensemble casts in Who history! 

All together now, "It's only a model!" 
50dw50@50dw50  its a rather brilliant model though! 

 I like the purple/green lighting, very effective. 

What a truly beautiful design those robots are. Of course the voices make a massive difference.  
Jason McLaughlin@jangomac72 Both beautiful and terrifying at the same time, I love the Voc robot design 
11thDoctorAdventures@11thDoctorComic And incredibly difficult to draw!! 
Nick Mellish@nickmellish Just... just ignore the gloves. 
50dw50@50dw50 i just love the gorgeous sets and costumes. They predicted the Apple Watch. 

This 1st scene with the Sandminer crew is pure Agatha Christie, and brilliant for it. 
50dw50@50dw50 i am very disappointed that in this 2000's i am not going to work in a fantastic space frock and eye make up 
Mark Walker@Mark_Walker I always imagined that you did! 
Kosmic Kris@KosmicKris Croucher and Hunter - both give full value for money here! Russell Hunter in particular is brilliant 

Lovely to see future people playing plain old ordinary chess instead of some daft space version, by the way. I'm looking at you, Star Trek. 

Makes me laugh the way they put on their crazy hats to get to work. 
Mark Walker@Mark_Walker yes, so practical!

The Space Pirate@SpacePirateOz Help them concentrate no doubt... 
Wobbly TARDIS alert! 

And Leela's first scene in the TARDIS. 
Isaac Dakin@IWhittakerDakin Leela thinks the Tardis works by a yo-yo. If I had a time machine I'd have it powered by yo-yo's! 
11thDoctorAdventures@11thDoctorComic  This TARDIS scene is absolute magic. Something about this interior that gives me those vibes. 
50dw50@50dw50i just love that console room, its never been bettered for me. 

I'm probably not alone in thinking of Father Ted with the "that's because it's further away scene" 
Kosmic Kris@KosmicKris When I first saw this, I thought this was the most elegant ‘bigger on the inside’ explanations - tries to make sense of it! 

It's one of the best, and simplest, "bigger on the inside" explanations. (Still doesn't make sense of course). 

The TARDIS arrives in an empty ore hopper. Doesn't look very appealing from here, so they'll have to go out and explore. 

Actually this control room does look much better from that high angle. 

The Doctor persuades Leela to leave her Janus thorns and gun behind. 

"If people see you mean them no harm, they never hurt you. Nine times out of ten..." 

This would be the same "nine times out of ten" accuracy with which he claims to control the TARDIS. 

The Sandminer crew track a seam of lucrative lucanol... 

Interesting little details about the "founding families"; such clever world-building. 

Chubb needs a hand, but this plastic pal isn't fun to be with... 

Oo-er, this robot's eyes have gone all red! 
Kosmic Kris@KosmicKris Here we are - the moment of my very first Doctor Who nightmare when I was 6! Those red robotic eyes!

50dw50@50dw50 i saw this story as a child and it totally terrified me the robots give me nightmares for years

Kosmic Kris@KosmicKris Me too! This was the very first story (of any work of fiction) that affected me deeply

50dw50@50dw50 i just loved Toos and was terrified she would get killed. 
Even as a kiddie i knew that Dr Who would survive it was the guest cast i worried about!

David Collings is always classy. 
MAW Holmes@MAW_H Watching him in the almost unbearably bleak "Level Seven" last Sunday... as you say, ALWAYS classy. 

Even the corridors are beautifully designed. They *must* have gone over the design & costume budget on this one. 
Isaac Dakin@IWhittakerDakin And even then the next story (Talons) doesn't suffer from 'end of season budget' 

One of the reasons Hinchcliffe was replaced, IIRC. Complaints about increasing horror, but money the real reason. 

The Space Pirate@SpacePirateOz Maybe they said well eff Hand of Fear, it's a naff story anyway 

Yes, that's the cheapest-looking one this season, isn't it? 

Kosmic Kris@KosmicKris Michael Bryant said that because of his perception of the script weaknesses, the show would go overboard on the visuals. I have to say, I love the script - it’s vintage Boucher, punchy and funny and sardonic. 

The Doctor and Leela need to get a shift on or they'll be cut to ribbons by the oncoming (sand)storm. 

Poul breaks the news of Uvanov's death to an incredulous crew. 

The Doctor is more than a little put out to discover the robots have pinched his TARDIS, but at least the shutters are down now. 

Poul shows Commander Uvanov the body... 

...and they find a mysterious marker on the corpse.  

Mysterious, unless you've ever seen a bicycle reflector in your life, that is. 
 lovely D84, the best companion we never had? 

Isaac Dakin@IWhittakerDakin could he be one of the influences for K9?

50dw50@50dw50 it might well have seeded the idea of a robot companion

Mark Walker@Mark_Walker would've worked better than Kamelion!

Jason McLaughlin@jangomac72 D84 would've made a great companion.

Suspicion is rife amongst the Sandminers. 

Uvanov points the finger at rubbish Travis 

Mainly because Chubb was winding him up about his special robot massage.  

Rubbish Travis marks Cass for death to prove his point. Erm... 
Tom always looks strange without the scarf. 

The Doctor and Leela make the acquaintance of the miner's Head Robot, SV7. 

The Sandminer Crew breathe a sigh of relief with the knowledge that the Doctor and Leela have been captured. 

But it doesn't last long - they've escaped! 

While Leela's curiosity leads her to investigate Chubb's corpse... 

...the Doctor has found the TARDIS. 

But he too decides to get the dirt on the sandminer. 

The Space Pirate@SpacePirateOz No! Don't go in to that confined space on an unfamiliar craft full of people hostile to you Doctor!! 

The now bescarfed has been lured into one of the hoppers by the sight of a dead body... 
Tom's getting stoned! End of part 1! 
Kosmic Kris@KosmicKris What a brilliant episode - it fair rattles along and a proper cliff hanger as well! What a great story this is!

50dw50@50dw50 its not an original comment but Tom is totally brilliant as Dr Who its so easy to take him for granted

Kosmic Kris@KosmicKris I’m going to make a bold assertion: I don’t think Tom was ever better than in this story. He was utterly masterful

Leela hides as the robots arrives to take Chubb's body away...  

The Doctor snorkles to avoid suffocation. 

The Doctor's rescued from the hopper when a robot detects him as an impurity. 
50dw50@50dw50 Robots of Rescue would have lacked a degree of drama 

Leela is captured and quizzed by the mysterious D84. 

50dw50@50dw50who is rather blowing his cover! 
50dw50@50dw50 Dudley Simpson has done some great music for this, proper Who music 

Yes, it's a very effective score. Dudley another one at the top of his game during this period. 
Rubbish Travis doesn't like Jelly Babies. 
50dw50@50dw50 the true sign of a rotter! 

"What are you doing here?"
"Just standing here talking to you..." 

The "inverse ratio" line's great too, sadly overused and devalued by fans. 

More rumblings of Zilda's distaste for Uvanov. 

My money's on the robots being the killers. You know, the ones of death. 
Matt Badham@mahdaBttaM A ridiculous theory. 

Minerals ahoy! 

Bumblebees! Terr-An insects! 

Love Louise's sarky little "thank you" when Poul finally releases her! 

50dw50@50dw50 the sarky savage. Great acting from both of them when you consider that they hated each other at this point.

I think it was more that Tom was very anti-Leela and unable to divorce that dislike from Louise herself.

Kosmic Kris@KosmicKris I think that creative tension really gave it the edge - Lou was keen to prove herself and really stepped up! 

Love this little bit where the Doctor demonstrates to Poul what happened to Chubb. "I'd... call for a robot..."  

Zilda thinks she's discovered "the truth" about Uvanov, and accuses him over the intercom of being a murderer... 

"Oh, I should think it's the end of this civilisation"; One of those great Tom deliveries. 

The Space Pirate@SpacePirateOz Spine chilling delivery of a brilliant piece of scripting 

When Poul arrives to find Zilda dead, he thinks Uvanov's killed her, and relieves him of command. 

Something's jammed the motors! Jam, I bet. 

The Doctor plans to fight sabotage with sabotage... 

...but Dask leaps to conclusions and tries to stop him. 

They're going down! 

Dask's good in a crisis, isn't he? Keeps his emotions in check well. 

Toos has injured her arm... 
MAW Holmes@MAW_H Now how did she manage to do that...? 

Practicing her "handbrake turns" rather too enthusiastically, I reckon.

Now the Sandminer's been saved she can get some medical attention. Or a funny space bandage. Either's good. 
Jason McLaughlin@jangomac72 You can't beat a glittery space age bandage!! 

Leela thinks Poul is a "hunter" and the Doctor has his suspicions about the overly chatty D84. 

Dask goes about his work, decommissioning some knackered robots. 

There's quite a lot of gore on that Robot's hand considering it was supposed to be a strangulation. 
50dw50@50dw50 the gore on the hand is incredibly graphic, they would never get away with it today

Why didn't Dask spot that, I wonder...?

SV7 has a bit of a personality change. If you look closely the killer is revealed (again). 

50dw50@50dw50 Tom looks like a pixie when he confronts D84 

The mysterious Taren Capel indulges in a little bit of robot brain surgery. 

"Your suspicions are not evidence, nor are lunatic threats of a robot revolution." 

The Space Pirate@SpacePirateOz How sad then that for governments in 2015, suspicion is almost the next best thing to actual evidence. 

D84 hadn't considered the possibility that Taren Capel could have switched himself for one of the crew before arriving onboard. Even for a Dum that's dim. 

"I have failed." Awww, poor old D84. 
Mark Walker@Mark_Walker a robot with feelings and pride! 

Robot vision's quite cool. 
MAW Holmes@MAW_H To see the entire world as if it's Top of the Pops... 

Like D84, SV7 has been outwitted by a point of logic... 

...the Commander's voiceprint wasn't de-authorized so he simply ordered the robot guard to release him, and he's on the loose. 

"I heard a cry!"
"That was me." 

"I heard a cry!"

SV7's gone completely rogue now, ordering the robots to finish off the last of the humans. 

The comedy sound FX on Leela's knife throw let the story down worse than the robots' silver marigolds. 

I like that Taren Capel sent threatening letters. Nowadays he'd just troll the Sandminer company on Twitter. 

"It is a Laserson probe. It can punch a fist sized hole in six inch armour plate or take the crystals from a snowflake one by one."

Toos is attacked by a handy robot. 

"Just doing what the story says on the tin, Commander Toos."  

The Doctor rather tactlessly sends D84, another robot, to her rescue. 

Leela finds Poul hiding under a desk, scared out of his wits. 

(The sound of Bob Holmes' sinister chuckling edited out.) 

Uvanov finds the Doctor in Capel's lair and leaps to the obvious conclusion. 

"Either it followed you, or else it homed in on this. It depends which of us is going to be killed first." 

"Oh bugger, it's me." 

MAW Holmes@MAW_H "KILL THE DOCTOR! KILL THE DOCTOR!!!" (Both pant-wettingly terrifying and terrific!) 

Wouldn't be the first to try! 

50dw50@50dw50 as a wee kiddie i found this episode totally traumatic! 

Carrying the injured Uvanov and cornered, the Doctor resorts to desperate measures and sacrifices his scarf. 

Love the way SV7 is like a patient, yet weary, parent with the other robots. "V4, that is not the Doctor..." 

When he recalls another robot he inadvertently saves Toos from being finished off. 

Please do not throw hands at me. Feet, shapes, hissy fits, all fine - but no hands. 

The robots fall foul of logic that borders on laziness. "I already looked in there, mate, move on." 

Leela's spider-sense tingles and Toos realizes that wasn't SV7 on the phone. 
11thDoctorAdventures@11thDoctorComic Her savage-sense is tingling! ;) 

"There's a new generation of killer robots... They've stuck an apple sticker on themselves and idiots are queueing round the block to be the first victims." 

The real explanation of the Zilda/Uvanov back-story is very Agatha Christie too.  

Like Poul, Zilda's brother fell prey to robophobia and ran outside the mine on Uvanov's first command, and couldn't be saved. 
Kosmic Kris@KosmicKris ironic that Grimwade was one of the insiders who hated Robots the most! 

The Doctor, Leela and D84 leave the bridge to go on a Taren Capel hunt. 

Dask - for 'tis he who is really Taren Capel - gives it some welly with the fake cries for help... 

But the others doesn't like his makeover and won't let him in. 
Jason McLaughlin@jangomac72 Such a shame the mystery of Capel is bungled by that reveal of his stripy trousers in Ep 2. Not to mention his TOTP style fuzzy graphic face but I guess viewers didn't spot these things when aired weekly. 

Robophobia is otherwise known as "Grimwade's Syndrome". On account of the inhuman creepiness? 
James Cooray Smith@thejimsmith I think it's Tom who made it "Grimwade's"; Peter was Doctor Who's Production Assistant as this point. 

Taren Capel orders the death of the humans on the bridge. 

Uvanov prevents a robot from breaking down the door... blowing up the door.

The Doctor has a plan to break Capel's hold over the robots... 

...but is caught in the act. 
50dw50@50dw50 poor old D84! 

Just when it looks like Capel is going to laser the Doctor's brain... 

...the plan comes together... 

...his control over the robots is lost... 

...and SV7 no longer recognises his helium-altered voice... 

...and the Robots of Death kill him - to death! 

"Well squeaked, mouse!" 

Time-Lords are helium proof. Which means they can't do that party trick with balloons. 

Oh, bye, then! Bit rude, they just naff off without saying goodbye to Toos & Uvanov. 
50dw50@50dw50 as a kid i assumed they were dead! 
The Space Pirate@SpacePirateOz The Doctor's after sale service is truly terrible 
Jason McLaughlin@jangomac72 A very Troughton style ending with the Doctor just buggering off like that! 
11thDoctorAdventures@11thDoctorComic It's a brilliant story, makes you wonder why the Vocs were never brought back! 
The Space Pirate@SpacePirateOz They were... in Voyage of the Damned. 

Yes, the Host are very obviously and deliberately based on them. 
Matt Badham@mahdaBttaM One of my faves. What would have been if Chris Boucher had become script editor of Dr Who rather than Blakes 7?
Season 15 (including his own Image of the Fendahl) would probably have been much stronger, but I think most of 16 is good already & I wouldn't want to do without his B7! But a very good writer & script editor, yes, so I'd have loved to have seen more Who from him one way or another.
MAW Holmes@MAW_H The Robots of Death is superb, although I do get distracted by the incredible vanishing scarf from time to time.
Matt Badham@mahdaBttaM I love how developed the world is, a lot of which is down to the excellent design work. But the script deserves credit too. Boucher has actually come up with a society rather than just a 'back-drop'.
Yes, completely agree. Intricate in front of and behind the cameras; rewarding because of it.
50dw50@50dw50 its also the best Dr Who story EVER!!!
MAW Holmes@MAW_H ...and interestingly, it takes so few lines in the script to imply an entire world. That's classy.
Matt Badham@mahdaBttaM A 'How To...' in world-building for TV makers. One of the stories I would have been tempted to 're-make' in some form for New Who. This and Web of Fear. The Robots are a design, like the Daleks, which wouldn't need updating.
Slightly sturdier foot and hand wear and you're done! 
Matt Badham@mahdaBttaM And a bit of a polish. 

Coming Soon... The Cybermen


  1. Zosimus the Heathen9 December 2016 at 14:16

    Yes, this one was a true classic - it's been far too long since I last watched it myself! I seem to recall it being the first one I ever watched in its entirety - certainly the Target novelization of it was the first of those I ever read. Loved the bleakness and desolation of the world whose surface the Sandminer was crawling over; it sort of made you realize how thoroughly screwed the unfortunate human crew of the Sandminer were - inside their vessel, they're being picked off, one by one, by someone or something; outside their vessel, it's a veritable deathworld where they'd probably die even faster should their desperation to get away from whoever or whatever's hunting them down impel them to try fleeing the Sandminer. Great costumes too - very glam. You've gotta love the '70s!