Sunday, 26 February 2017

448 The Talons of Weng-Chiang: Part One

EPISODE: The Talons of Weng-Chiang: Part One
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 26 February 1977
WRITER: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: David Maloney
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 11.3 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: Revisitations 1: The Talons Of Weng-Chiang, The Caves Of Androzani & Doctor Who - The Movie

"Have I ever, in my thirty years in the halls, seen such a dazzling display of lustrous legerdemain? So many feats of superlative, supernatural skill? The answer must be never, sir, Never!"

At a Victorian theatre a cab driver arrives enquiring of Theatre Manager Henry Gordon Jago and his star hypnotist & ventriloquist Li H'sen Chang as to the whereabouts of his wise. The Doctor & Leela arrive nearby, intent on visiting the Theatre. The taxi driver is murdered by the ventriloquist's dummy, Mr Sin, who is moving by himself and the Doctor & Leela attacked by a group of Chinese workers. A policeman arrives and takes the Doctor & Leela into custody along with one of the men attacking them. Li H'sen Chang is called in to translate but when left alone he gets the man to commit suicide taking scorpion venom. Jago finds blood on the hands of Mr Sin.

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An autopsy is organised allowing the Doctor to meet pathologist Professor Litefoot and gets to see the mutilated body of the taxi driver. The Doctor finds evidence that the man was killed by a giant rat. The Doctor is assaulted by another Chinese man in the street who Leela kills. They venture into the sewers where they are confronted by the giant rat.

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Ah, Victorian London. Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes, pea soupers. An ideal setting for a Doctor Who story and it's amazing that, bar a visit to a Victorian Country House, that Doctor Who hasn't visited this era & setting before. Oddly enough that visit, in Evil Of The Daleks, took place in the end of season story too exactly ten years before this, Yes, OK, The Gunfighters is set just eight years earlier, but that takes place on the other side of the world! Throw in some Chinese gangsters and a few disappearing women (we're back to the Ripper again) and away we go.

Cast time, and there's a fair few characters and extras in this one!

Christopher Benjamin, plays theatre owner Henry Gordon Jago. He was previously Sir Keith Gold in Inferno, and appears in the new series as Colonel Hugh in The Unicorn and the Wasp. He was in The Prisoner three times: as the Labour Exchange Manager in Arrival, Number Two's Assistant in The Chimes of Big Ben and Potter in The Girl Who Was Death. You can see him in one of my favourite Inspector Morse episodes Cherubim & Seraphim where he plays Professor Furlong though my wife would probably more identify him with being Sir William Lucas in 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. He was in Gangsters, by future Doctor Who scribe Philip Martin, as the Assistant managing director where he appears alongside several other members of the cast of this story. He appeared in the 1990s The Tomorrow People as Middlemass in The Monsoon Man: Part 5. I assume the reason he's playing the French Ambassador in the Yes Prime Minister episode A Diplomatic Incident was because Andre Maranne, UK TV's resident Frenchman, had already played another character in the series!

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His opposite number Professor Litefoot is played by Trevor Baxter who seems to have avoided playing science fiction and fantasy roles till he returned to the role of Litefoot for Big Finish.

Chris Gannon was a Patient in the second episode of The Day of the Triffids produced by this story's director David Maloney. He's also in Gangsters appearing as the IRA Unit Commander.

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The supporting artist playing the theatre doorkeeper, Charles Adey-Grey was in Day of the Daleks Episode Four as an American Diplomat and can be found in Doomwatch as a Magistrate in Friday's Child.

Aggrieved husband Buller is played by Alan Butler. He's got a Blake's 7 to his name appearing as Dal Richie in the first episode The Way Back.

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Playing the Ghoul by the riverside is
Patsy Smart: she too will be in Blake's 7 as Giroc in Duel. She can be seen in The Prisoner episodes Arrival, where she's a Waitress, and Dance of the Dead, where she's the Night Maid. She has the recurring role of Aunt Mable in Rentaghost on her CV too.

Onto the Station Policemen :Jim Delaney was a 1862 Confederate Soldier in The War Games episode four, a Resistance Man in The War Games episode seven and an American Soldier in The War Games episode eight followed by a UNIT Soldier in Doctor Who and the Silurians and a Presidential Guard in Frontier in Space episode two. Colin Thomas was also a UNIT Soldier in Doctor Who and the Silurians episode 3 and Sole in The Face of Evil part one. He'll be back as a Mentiad in The Pirate Planet, a Foster in The Keeper of Traken part one, a Time Lord in Arc of Infinity part one, an Elder in Planet of Fire and a Pallbearer in Remembrance of the Daleks part four.

The group of Chinese thugs who kill Buller and attack the Doctor are notable for mainly being not Chinese! Because the scene involved fighting stunt men were required and no stuntmen of Chinese origin could be found working in the UK! So we have the familiar faces of Stuart Fell, Alan Chuntz and Max Faulkner making up the three who actually attack the Doctor! Of the original party of four the only actor actually of Chinese extraction is John Wu who plays the member of their party who is captured by Leela!

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Interestingly although there's clearly four people trying to remove the body, FIVE people can be seen attacking the Doctor at the end! According to the production notes on the DVD the count was meant to be five but one of the extras turned up late! according to IMDB somewhere in this episode are two Chimney Sweeps. No I've not spotted them either! One of them, Kevin Sullivan will be in Blake's 7 as a Robot Operator in Seek-Locate-Destroy. The other is Arnold Lee who we'll attempt to spot later!

Finally, making an on-screen appearance for the first time, Dudley Simpson, the series regular composer, appears as the Conductor.

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Dudley Simpson is conducting the orchestra in front of the auditorium at the The Royal Theatre, Northampton. The town is used for several other locations in the story most of which can be seen clearer in the next episode! However in this episode we also see Skin Market Place, serving as the streets near where the Tardis landed, Clink Street, for the actual landing site and where Buller is pursued, Winchester Square, for the scenes of Chang's carriage, and Wapping Old Stairs where the body in the river is found.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

447 The Robots of Death: Part Four

EPISODE: The Robots of Death: Part Four
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 19 February 1977
WRITER: Chris Boucher
DIRECTOR: Michael Briant
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 12.6 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who Revisitations 3: The Tomb of the Cybermen, The Three Doctors & The Robots of Death

"Your orders are to find and destroy all remaining humans. Secrecy is no longer necessary."

Uvanov immobilises the robot attacking the Doctor with a probe from the repair bay. A robot gains access to Toos' quarters but is summoned away by SV7. The Doctor & Uvanov reach the command deck, closely followed by Leela & Toos and finally D84 bringing the near catatonic Poul. The Doctor has the others lock themselves into themselves onto the bridge while he, Leela & D84 go to deal with Taren Capel. Dask hammers on the command deck door but Toos won't admit him. He is revealed to be Taren Capel, and is dressed like a robot. The Doctor constructs a device to destroy robot brains and obtains some helium gas from the stores. They return to the workshop where Leela hides in a cupboard with orders to release the gas. Capel enters, and cripples D84. While the Doctor is strapped to the operating table by Capel, Leela releases the gas his voice begins to change. Capel tortures the Doctor but S84 activates the Doctor's device destroying himself and the robots accompanying Capel. SV7 arrives, and failing to recognise Capel's voice it kills him. The Doctor destroys SV7 with a probe. As Uvanov & Toos await a rescue ship The Doctor & Leela sneak away in the Tardis.

Superb. Fabulous. A great final resolution that's set up earlier in the episode...

TOOS: I don't understand what's happening. Robots can't harm humans. It's the first principle.
LEELA: The second principle is that humans can't harm robots. I know, I've tried, and they don't bleed.
TOOS: I think we should warn the Doctor. Doctor, can you hear me? Answer me, please.
SV7: SV7 here. Is that you, Acting Commander Toos?
TOOS: Yes. SV7, listen. Some of the Voc class robots are running berserk, out of control and dangerous. Do you understand?
SV7: I understand. Countermeasures are being taken. Report your position, please.
TOOS: I....
LEELA: Shush. In your cabin.
SV7: Please say again, Commander. I must know your present position.
TOOS: I'm in my cabin, SV7.
SV7: Please stay in your cabin, Commander. There is great danger if you leave it.
TOOS: What was all that about?
LEELA: There's something wrong. I could feel it.
TOOS: I didn't notice anything. Except
LEELA: There was something.
TOOS: The robots are programmed to understand our voice patterns.
TOOS: My voice is in the Command programme. Why did SV7 ask if it was me?
LEELA: Because that wasn't SV7.
Chekov's Gun: Having established the robots identify voice patterns, which maybe they could have slipped into an earlier episode, we then proceed to do something which changes voices.
DOCTOR: Now this is a cylinder of gas. When Dask comes in, I want you to turn the valve, so.
DOCTOR: No, when Dask comes in.
LEELA: What will it do?
LEELA: I said, what will it do?
DOCTOR: Change his voice. : When a mixture of air and helium is breathed, it alters the resonance in the larynx. Didn't they teach you that in the jungle?
LEELA: So the robots won't recognise Dask's voice. They won't obey him.
DOCTOR: That's it.
Very clever.

Of course before this Dask can't resist going the full Bond villain on us, even strapping the Doctor down while pointing a laser at him in shades of Goldfinger!

DASK: Do not kill him. Not yet. Bring him to the bench.

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DOCTOR: Hello, Dask. Nee Taren Capel.
DASK: I'm glad you have recovered, Doctor.
DOCTOR: Oh? Why?
DASK: You came close to ruining my plans. It's fitting I should make you suffer for that.
DOCTOR: I see. You're one of those boring maniacs who's going to gloat, hmm? Are you going to tell me your plan for running the universe? (Dask's voice starts to go up in pitch as the helium takes effect.)
DASK: Oh no, Doctor. I'm going to burn out your brain. Very, very slowly.
DOCTOR: Dask. Dask! You look ridiculous in that outfit. Not half the robot your father was.
DASK: You insolent animal!
DOCTOR: Losing your calm, Dask, hmm? That's not the robot way. It was your verbal and physical precision that made me spot you. Robot upbringing?
DASK: Yes, Doctor. I was brought up a superior being. Brought up to realise my brothers should live as free beings, and not as slaves to human dross.
DOCTOR: Robots would have no existence without humans. Don't you see that, Dask?
DASK: Now I shall free them. I shall programme them with the ambition to rule the world, and then ,,,,

Describing these episode to you I inevitably have to cut out some detail and this story is packed with wonderful little detail: the corpse markers, the ranks for the crew that tell you what they do, the detailing of Robophobia which causes the full story of what happened between Uvanov and Zilda's brother to come out, in the process revealing what Poul and D84 have been up to:
UVANOV: I don't understand.
DOCTOR: Shut the door, Toos. I may not have time to explain. There's a new generation of killer robots about, Uvanov. The killers are controlled by Taren Capel, and D84 is controlled by Poul. These two are undercover agents for the Company.
D84: Poul is damaged. I do not understand what has happened to him. This may be because I am not human.
DOCTOR: Yes, that's very likely.
TOOS: How did you find out about Poul?
DOCTOR: Well, his body language was all wrong.
LEELA: What's body language?
DOCTOR: Well, it's a theory that a person expresses himself in the way he moves.
LEELA: I said he was a hunter.
DOCTOR: Yes, you did. Do you know what's wrong with Poul, Uvanov?
UVANOV: Yes. Robophobia.
DOCTOR: That's right. The Loid call it Grimwade Syndrome.
UVANOV: I have seen it, Doctor, once before. My very first command. A young kid just ran outside the mine. I tried to save him, but I couldn't. I'll never, ever, forget the look on his face.
TOOS: Zilda's brother.
UVANOV: His father, of course, had it all hushed up. He was afraid his son would be thought a coward. But robophobia is a mental thing, right?
DOCTOR: Oh, yes, yes, it is, until one gets its hands around your neck. I don't suppose there are any weapons aboard this mine?
TOOS: They aren't necessary.
DOCTOR: They are now.
The Doctor goes into further detail:
LEELA: Look at his hand, Doctor. That's blood.
DOCTOR: Yes, Borg's at a guess. He was strong enough to put up a struggle.
LEELA: If Poul saw that....
DOCTOR: Yes, that's what probably triggered his collapse.
LEELA: Doctor, what is robophobia?
DOCTOR: It's an unreasoning dread of robots. You see, most living creatures use non-verbal signals. Body movement, eye contact, facial expression, that sort of thing.
LEELA: Body language.
DOCTOR: Exactly. While these robots are humanoid, presumably for aesthetic reasons, they give no signals. It's rather like being surrounded by walking, talking, dead men.
LEELA: That's what Poul said.
DOCTOR: Yes. It undermines a certain type of personality, causes identity crisis, paranoia, sometimes even personality disintegration. Robophobia. At least, that's Grimwade's theory.
The medical name for Robophobia: Grimwade's syndrome, named after Production Assistant and future director & writer Peter Grimwade.

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And the design. Oh what wonderful sets and corridors, a lavish environment completely different from the harsh functionality you usually see on spaceships.

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But best of all: The Robots. How fabulous do they look?

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And isn't Gregory de Polnay's performance as D84 superb?

D84: Please do not throw hands at me. She will recover.

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LEELA: So Dask turned off all the friendly mechanical men.
DOCTOR: Yes, planning to modify them and reactivate them later. Today the mind, tomorrow the world. Right now he must be a happy little maniac.
(D84 enters with a white gas canister.)
D84: Is that what you wanted?
DOCTOR: Yes. Well done, D84. Now you're going to have to stay here.
D84: I cannot do that.
DOCTOR: D84, this is a final deactivator. If I have to use this and you're around, it'll destroy your brain.
D84: I am not important.
DOCTOR: What? I think you're very important.
D84: My duty is to the Company.
DOCTOR: All right, but you be very careful.
D84: I will.
The Doctor will shortly end up with a robot companion but they could have done worse than leave the Sandminer with D84 in the Tardis but sadly he gets blown up at the end of the story, sacrificing himself for the Doctor and the surviving crew. I'm more sad D84 died than many of the humans I've seen perish in Doctor Who!

The long & the short of it is that Robots of Death is probably one of my favourite Doctor Who stories and is also one of the best. As we shall see in a short while the two are not exclusive to each other. If I was looking for a classic Who tale to show to a "Not-We" this would be it.

Sadly it's the last directing job for the show for Michael Briant. While his stories haven't necessarily always been from the top drawer he's always done his best with the material that he's been given and, since he started contributing to the DVD range, has been an enthusiastic & entertaining commentator - see Colony in Space & Sea Devils for the two commentaries that he's on that have so far been released.... and bellow for a third that's coming shortly!

Although this is the only appearance of The Robots of Death some of the costumes go into store and pop up again in the most odd of place. I can recall spotting at least one in Destiny of the Dalek during the Romana regeneration sequence. Last Christmas I had my attention drawn to this blog entry on Rentaanta, the Rentaghost Christmas special which shows the three ghosts wearing them at the end!

Robots of Death was repeated later that same year (and very early the next) as two 50-minute episodes on the Saturday 31 December at 6:25pm & Sunday 1 January 1977 at 4:45pm. Terrance Dicks novelised Robots of Death in the middle of his "one book every month" phase. It isn't the greatest or indeed longest book in the range. It was released on video first as a compilation tape in 1986 and then as an episodic tape in 1995. I'd never had that much enthusiasm for the story from what I read about it and didn't buy it during my initial phases of video buying. I acquired it while at University (Royal Holloway College, University of London) and can remember sitting down with some friends to watch in in my room and thinking "my goodness, this is rather good really". Doctor Who - The Robots Of Death was the second DVD release on 13th November 2000 and as such isn't quite up to the technical quality of some of the later titles. The commentary in particular, the first to be recorded, featuring writer Chris Boucher & producer Philip Hinchcliffe is a bit flat and is the only one just to feature production personnel. This made Robots of Death the ideal candidate to be revised and it was included in the Revisitations III box set along with Tomb of the Cybermen, which needs VIDFiring, & The Three Doctors, which had a fault. New documentaries, a brand new commentary featuring Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Pamela Salem, who played Toos, & Director Michael E. Briant.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

446 The Robots of Death: Part Three

EPISODE: The Robots of Death: Part Three
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 12 February 1977
WRITER: Chris Boucher
DIRECTOR: Michael Briant
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 13.1 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who Revisitations 3: The Tomb of the Cybermen, The Three Doctors & The Robots of Death

"There are three types of robots aboard this mine. Dums, Vocs, a Super Voc, and then there's you. Would you care to explain that?"

Dask cuts the power from the motor units averting an explosion but without power the Sandminer starts sinking. He leaves to fix the motor units. Leela tends to injury sustained by Toos while Poul explains about Zilda's past history with Uvanov: her brother was killed on a previous trip that Uvanov commanded. The restored motor units raise the Sandminer to the surface. Poul discovers one of the robots damaged in the incident has blood stained hands and collapses on the floor. SV7 is reprogrammed by the human killer. The Doctor catches the supposed dum D84 examining Zilda's body and asks him to explain itself. In a hidden lab another robot is reprogrammed. D84 admits he was put on board by the company suspecting that Taren Capel, a human supporting robot revolutionaries is aboard. They leave to seek his hidden workshop. SV7 reports to Toos that Uvanov has escaped his quarters. SV7 dispatches robots to kill Toos, The Doctor & Leela while he kills the others. V5 comes for Leela but enables her to escape the crew room that Poul locked her in. The Doctor & D84 find the workshop and warn the others, asking Toos to get everyone to the command deck, but a robot comes for her trapping her in her room. Leela finds the scared Poul sheltering from the robots, incapacitated by his fear. Uvanov finds the Doctor in the workshop just as a robot arrives to kill the Doctor.

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Fab stuff again. Incredibly nobody dies during this episode, which is a shock after the rate they'd been bumped off in the first few episodes. There again there's only the Doctor, Leela and four of the Sandminer crew left so we're running out of both potential bodies and potential suspects!

My favourite suspect from the first episode was Borg. However Dask was another popular one: he knew what the corpse marker was. Seemingly The Doctor is suspicious of him too:

DOCTOR: Well, if the damaged motive units can be repaired, the mine can float itself.
DASK: I'll see what I can do.
DOCTOR: I'll give you a hand with the diatrodes.
DASK: That will not be necessary. You repair the remote controls.
(Dask leaves.)
TOOS: There isn't much time, Doctor. Pressure on the hull is increasing.
DOCTOR: I'm sure Dask knows exactly where to look for the damage.
Poul reveals whatthe story is between Uvanov and the deceased Zilda, who it looks like he murdered, in the process hinting at there being more to Poul:
TOOS: Thank you very much. Poul, why is Commander Uvanov under restraint?
POUL: Because he murdered Zilda. I think he killed the others, too.
POUL: Look, ten years ago, Uvanov deliberately murdered a member of his crew. Left him outside to die rather than lose a promising storm.
TOOS: I don't believe it!
POUL: I saw the.... I was there. And so was Kerril, and he's dead now, of course.
TOOS: But there'd have been an enquiry. He'd have been stripped of command.
POUL: Uvanov gets results. He's the best pilot this company's ever had and they didn't want to lose him.
TOOS: You must be mistaken.
POUL: It's true! A note on his confidential biograph and that was it. Case closed. Until Zilda turned up, of course. I should have recognised her before. The dead man was her brother.
The Doctor certainly finds him suspicious, and is also concerned by Leela's story of a talking Dum class robot.
DOCTOR: I want you to stay with Poul. Don't let him out of your sight.
LEELA: He's lying, isn't he?
DOCTOR: He's not telling the whole truth.
LEELA: Where will you be?
DOCTOR: I think I'll go and talk to your dumb friend.
Which leaves Leela to find out a bit more about Poul:
LEELA: Ugh. This water has no taste.
POUL: Yes, the water on a sandminer never does. Here, use one of those. We've been out from base for eight months now. That means every drop of water on board has been through the filtration pump eight times.
LEELA: Why do you do it?
POUL: Do what?
LEELA: Live this strange life.
POUL: Oh. Money, Leela. Everyone on board dreams of taking a sandminer back home with every tank full of lucanol.
LEELA: Is that your dream?
POUL: It used to be. I haven't been on one of these trips for years.
LEELA: Why not?
POUL: I prefer cities. I'd rather live with people than robots. That's all.
Finally catching D84, examining Zilda's body the Doctor finally starts to get some answers:
DOCTOR: Professional interest or morbid curiosity? Which? There are three types of robots aboard this mine. Dums, Vocs, a Super Voc, and then there's you. Would you care to explain that? I see. Well then, perhaps I'd better tell SV7 you can talk.
D84: Please do not.
DOCTOR: That's better. Well?
D84: I cannot explain.
DOCTOR: Oh, but you can. You can.

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DOCTOR: You're a robot detective. What does your computer mind make of this?
D84: Strength is indicated, but not beyond human capacity.
DOCTOR: Typical robot. No imagination.
D84: I require, I require evidence. Your suspicions are not evidence, nor are lunatic threats of a robot revolution.
DOCTOR: The Company took those threatening letters seriously. Seriously enough to put you on board.
D84: A simple precaution. Those letters were signed by Taren Capel.
DOCTOR: Taren Capel.
D84: Before he disappeared. He was an important scientist.
DOCTOR: Taren Capel. Scientist. In what field? Robotics.
D84: Correct.
DOCTOR: And you're still looking for evidence?
D84: If I was to tell you the world would end tomorrow, would you merely accept my word?
DOCTOR: If I knew you had the power to, I'd listen. What does Taren Capel look like?
D84: There are no records. From childhood, he lived with only robots.
DOCTOR: Oh, that's dim. Even for a Dum, that's dim. You realise he's almost certainly on board.
D84: No. I have checked extensively. There are only the crew, and you.
DOCTOR: But you don't know what he looks like.
D84: But I know what they look like.
DOCTOR: Before they came on board?
D84: I had overlooked the possibility of substitution.
DOCTOR: Yes, you had.
D84: I have failed.
DOCTOR: Yes. Oh, come on. Don't be upset. Yes, you failed, you failed, but congratulations. Failure's one of the basic freedoms. Listen. Do you think that looks a likely place?
D84: Likely for what?
DOCTOR: Well, if Taren Capel is on board, he'd have a workshop, and we must find it before it's too late. Would you like to come with me?
D84: Yes, please.
DOCTOR: Good. Come on then.
You can't not mention the knife noise: As Leela throws her hunting knife at the robot there's a load comedy boing noise as it hits the robot. Deary me.

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The Doctor and D84 meanwhile have uncovered Taren Capel's lair leading to the robot producing one of the finest lines in Doctor Who:

DOCTOR: Yes, this is the place.
D84: How do you know?
DOCTOR: About this? Well, it's a reasonable assumption.
D84: Why?
DOCTOR: What? Because modifying brains isn't something you do standing around in corridors, you know. Do you know what that is?
D84: 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.
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Poul meanwhile has discovered proof the robots have been killing which breaks his mind.

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He in turn is then found hiding in the robot storage bay by Leela.

LEELA: Poul.
POUL: No. Please, no.
LEELA: Are you hurt?
POUL: Please, go away. They know I talk to you. They watch me all the time. They hate me! They did what I told them, but only because that gave them the power, you see.
LEELA: Do you mean the robots?
POUL: Not robots, walking dead. They pretend we control, but really, but really.
LEELA: Poul, you can't stay here.
POUL: No! They don't mind me being here. It's you they want, not me.
LEELA: Poul, you need help.
LEELA: Come on now.
POUL: No, please. Help! Help! She's in here. Help!
LEELA: Shush! You can stay here but you mustn't make another sound, do you understand?

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Robot D84, one of the pair that find the Doctor & Leela, is played by Gregory de Polnay. He's not got any Doctor Who credits to his name but was in former script editor Terrance Dicks's Space 1999 episode The Lamda Factor.

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Like many of the rest of the cast the actor playing chief robot SV7, Miles Fothergill, has a Blake's 7 credit on his CV: he was in The Web as Novara.

The remaining robots are played by Mark Blackwell Baker, Mark Cooper, Peter Langtry, Jeremy Ranchev, Richard Seager ans John Bleasdale. Bleasdale is the only one I've seen in anything appearing in a pair of Inspector Morse episodes as a Constable in The Secret of Bay 5B and a Desk Sergeant in The Day of the Devil.

The inspiration behind the story in general is, as we said yesterday, an Agatha Christie style murder mystery. Elements of it are taken from elsewhere: the sandminer would appear to be a lift from Dune while the frequently mentioned Laws of Robotics, an in particular "A robot may not injure a human being", are the work of Isaac Asimov. The name of the commander of the Sandminer, Uvanov is a corruption of “Asimov”, while the use of the name Poul was a reference to author Poul Anderson, and Taren Capel a homage to Karel Capek, the man who first coined the term “robot” in his play RUR (Rossum's Universal Robots). I don't know if the rest of the characters names mean anything but I do see an awful lot of four letter names here; Poul, Dask, Chub & Toos which looks a little odd seeing them written like that.

You know if you view the Robots as servants then effectively the Butler did it!

Sunday, 5 February 2017

445 The Robots of Death: Part Two

EPISODE: The Robots of Death: Part Two
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 05 February 1977
WRITER: Chris Boucher
DIRECTOR: Michael Briant
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 12.4 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who Revisitations 3: The Tomb of the Cybermen, The Three Doctors & The Robots of Death

"That's your great theory, is it? Well, my friend, robots cannot kill. Their prime directive!"

The Doctor survives by using a blowpipe to breathe and is rescued & captured by supervisor SV7 who identifies the body as Kerril. Leela works her way back to the room they were captured in where she finds Cass' body and is grabbed by a black robot, D84, who interrogates her before turning her over to Commander Uvanov who tells her that D class Dum robots can't speak. Both are taken to the crew room while the crew argue. Few of them even begin to believe the Doctor's story. A robot is instructed by an unseen human to kill Zilda as the Doctor & Leela are imprisoned in the robot storage bay. Poul visits them, but Leela is wary because "he moves like a hunter". The Doctor tells Poul he believes a robot could have killed them in violation of the robotic laws. He frees them to assist him and they re-enact Chub's murder with Poul realising he would need to summon a robot to help him with his task. Zilda breaks into Uvanov's quarters and is distressed by documents she finds, accusing Uvanov of murder. When Poul arrives he finds Uvanov standing over Zilda's dead body. Poul assumes Uvanov killed her and has him confined to quarters, with Toos taking command. The Sandminer's motors jam & overload causing it to rock violently. The Doctor & Leela come to the bridge as Dask reports to Toos that Borg is dead. Toos orders the motors shut down but the robots are unable to comply as the readings head way over the safety margins pushing the Sandminer closer towards exploding.

Another cracking episode! Starts as a murder mystery and then goes disaster movie towards the end!

The crew automatically see the new arrivals as to blame.....

LEELA: Are you all right?
DOCTOR: I'm fine.
UVANOV: Cass is dead.
LEELA: That one's ready to kill. I had to restrain him.
DOCTOR: Shush. It's because they're frightened. That's why they're dangerous.
BORG: She murdered him, didn't she.
POUL: How do you know he was murdered?
BORG: It's obvious.
ZILDA: You marked Cass for death.
BORG: What are you talking about?
POUL: You did put a corpse marker on him.
BORG: Well, yes, but I didn't mean anything by it.
DASK: Was Cass the same as the others?
UVANOV: Yes, exactly the same. And who are you?
DOCTOR: I'm the Doctor. I assume you're in command here.
UVANOV: Yes. What are you doing here?
DOCTOR: Just standing here talking to you.
UVANOV: I should be very careful if I were you.
DOCTOR: No doubt you would.
UVANOV: What are you doing on this mine?
DOCTOR: Well, we're travellers. We came here by accident.
UVANOV: Oh, I see. A hundred million miles of uncharted desert and you just stumbled across us?
DOCTOR: Well, it's a small world.
UVANOV: Yes. I suppose it's also a coincidence that as soon as you two arrive, three of our people are killed? Well?
DOCTOR: Oh sorry, I thought it was a rhetorical question. Yes, it's just a coincidence.
But to be fair Uvanov isn't the first person to be suspicious of the Doctor arriving unexpectedly!
BORG: Why are we wasting time on them? We know they're guilty.
ZILDA: We don't know anything of the sort.
POUL: We just hope they're guilty.
BORG: He was hiding Kerril's body in that hopper and got trapped when it was turned on. Now that's a fact.
DOCTOR: No, that's an inference. I wasn't hiding that body, I was finding it, and I'd say it was put there for precisely that reason. Someone wanted to kill me, too.
ZILDA: The murderer?
POUL: No. The others were strangled. Why should he be any different?
DOCTOR: To put suspicion onto me.
POUL: Why bother? You're a stowaway. What could be more suspicious than a stowaway?
DOCTOR: A dead stowaway.
ZILDA: It's possible, you know. He could be telling the truth.
TOOS: As a lie, it's pretty feeble.
UVANOV: Ever hear of the double bluff?
DOCTOR: Well, yes, now you come to mention it, I do remember once
UVANOV: Lock them up in the storage bank. Put a guard on them.
BORG: I agree with the Commander.
ZILDA: Well it gets you out of an awkward situation, doesn't it?
BORG: Why don't you shut your mouth.
TOOS: Why don't you shut yours.
BORG: What? She's as good as accusing me of murdering my friends.
ZILDA: You never had any friends.
UVANOV: Have you quite finished? Look, either one of us murdered them or they did. Which do you think is the more likely?
DOCTOR: Er, ahem. There is one other possibility you seem to have overlooked.
BORG: We've heard quite enough out of you.
DOCTOR: You know, you're a classic example of the inverse ratio between the size of the mouth and the size of the brain.
BORG: Stinking murderer!
Their case isn't helped by Leela being discovered with a Dead Body.
LEELA: Doctor, you were right. There was a body. Two of the robots, they took it to a special place.
D84: Please do not cry out. It is important that I am not found here.
LEELA: Obviously.
D84: If I had killed him, would I not have killed you too?
LEELA: You still haven't explained what you're doing here.
D84: You have not explained what you were doing here.
LEELA: Oh, well I was looking for the Doc. I don't have to explain anything to you. You're just a mechanical man. You're not real.
D84: Do you know what this is?
D84: I must ask. I must ask that you tell no one about me.
LEELA: Is there anyone left alive to tell?
It's at this point Uvanov walks is and Leela proceeds to further undermine their story:
UVANOV: Oh, so we've caught one..... But not soon enough, though.
LEELA: I didn't kill him. Ask this thing.
UVANOV: You'll have to do better than that. Who are you?
LEELA: Leela. Who are you?
UVANOV: Why did you kill him?
LEELA: You try that again and I'll cripple you.
UVANOV: Why did you kill him?
LEELA: I didn't! Tell him.
UVANOV: That is a single function labour robot, D class. D for dumb. It can't speak.
LEELA: Has anyone told him that?
UVANOV: You have cost me and company a great deal of money and you have killed three people. Can you think of any good reason why I should not have you executed on the spot?
LEELA: No, but you can, otherwise you'd have done it.
UVANOV: Now don't get clever with me.
Now we know D84 can speak so there's obviously more to that robot that meets the eye. At this point Poul enters but I'd like to suggest he's been in earshot for a bit and heard some of that conversation.
POUL: We've caught the man, too. Seems he killed Kerril. Poor Cass. You must be stronger than you look. LEELA: You must be stupider than you look if you think I did that.
UVANOV: Where is this man?
POUL: They're taking him to the crew room now.
UVANOV: Well, come on, then.
POUL: Why do you use these? Robot deactivation discs. There was one on Kerril, too.
UVANOV: You fool! What did you have to tell her that for?
POUL: I assumed she knew.
UVANOV: If we could have got her to tell us what those corpse markers were, we'd be halfway to a confession.
POUL: Halfway to two confessions. Dask knew what they were.
UVANOV: Which rather rules him out. He would hardly have admitted it if he was responsible.
POUL: Have you never heard of the double bluff?
UVANOV: You seem very keen to spread suspicion, Poul. Could it be that you have got something to hide?
POUL: We've all got something to hide. Don't you think so, Commander?
UVANOV: Bring that!
LEELA: I didn't kill him. I didn't kill him!
POUL: No. Pity, but no.
Later events would suggest that maybe Poul overheard Leela claiming that D84 could speak which then lends weight to her arguments. We know Leela is a warrior and quite capable of killing Cass, a slightly overweight middle age man.

The Doctor's argument and this encounter with Leela sway Poul towards talking to the prisoners:

POUL: I'd like to help you.
DOCTOR: You could undo these clamps.
POUL: You said there was a possibility that we had overlooked. What is it?
LEELA: Be careful of him, Doctor. He's not what he seems.
POUL: Why do you say that?
LEELA: Well, you move like a hunter. Watch all the time.
DOCTOR: Are you a hunter, Poul?
POUL: Never mind about me. What matters to you is Commander Uvanov. I know him, and I know it's only a matter of time before he decides that it's a waste of food, water and labour keeping you alive.
DOCTOR: That concerns you?
POUL: I don't think you did it. I know she couldn't have strangled Cass, not without knocking him out first, and there's no sign of that. So tell me what you know and I'll try to help you.
DOCTOR: Well (cough) Thank you. One of your robots could have done it.
POUL: That's your great theory, is it? Well, my friend, robots cannot kill. Their prime directive.
DOCTOR: I know, I know, I know. It's the first programme that's laid into any robot's brain from the simplest Dumb to the most complex Super Vic. But suppose, suppose someone's found a way of bypassing it.
POUL: It's impossible. It's just impossible!
DOCTOR: Bumble-bees.
POUL: What?
DOCTOR: Terra insects. Aerodynamically impossible for them to fly, but they do it. I'm rather fond of bumble-bees. Come on. There's something I want to look at.
So we return to the scene of the crime:
POUL: The first murder happened here.
DOCTOR: Tell us about it. What was his name?
POUL: His name was Chub, a government meteorologist. I don't know much about him, he wasn't part of the team, just along to study the storms.
DOCTOR: Who found him?
POUL: I did. I heard him scream. I came looking. It was odd, that, because he was strangled like the others.
DOCTOR: So whoever killed him was strong. Too strong for him to resist.
LEELA: He could have been taken by surprise.
POUL: He had time to scream.
DOCTOR: What do you think he was doing here?
POUL: Oh, we were on a run up to a storm. He came to get an instrument package to send up in one of his weather balloons.
DOCTOR: Where was he found?
POUL: He was lying there.
DOCTOR: Is that one of his packages?
POUL: I think so. Yes, yes it is.
DOCTOR: Good. Imagine you're Chub. There's a storm coming up. Pass me one of those packages.
(Poul reaches for the box, but it won't move.)
POUL: It seems to be stuck. It must be jammed at the back.
DOCTOR: Come on, come on. In those circumstances you're in a hurry. What would you do?
POUL: Well, I'd call. I'd call for a robot.
The consequences of this are huge:
DOCTOR: What did you call those robots?
LEELA: Creepy mechanical men.
DOCTOR: Yes. You know, people never really lose that feeling of unease with robots. The more of them there are, the greater the unease and of course the greater the dependence. It's a vicious circle. People can neither live with them nor exist without them.
LEELA: So what happens if the strangler is a robot?
DOCTOR: Oh, I should think it's the end of this civilisation.
Meanwhile there's more personal rivalry brewing on board.
UVANOV: There are fewer of us now. We'll each get a larger share, if that's any consolation.
ZILDA: No, Commander, that isn't any consolation.
UVANOV: Tell me, Zilda. Why do you hate me?
ZILDA: You flatter yourself.
UVANOV: Well, let me tell you something. By the time this trip is over, I'll have more money than you or your fancy family ever dreamed of.
ZILDA: May I go now, Commander?
Unfortunately just as Zilda makes a discovery which may explain their enmity she leaves us too:
ZILDA: You did it, Uvanov.
UVANOV: Zilda, is that you?
ZILDA: You thought you'd get away with it, didn't you.
UVANOV: What are you doing in my quarters?
ZILDA: You filthy murderer!
UVANOV: Toos, take over.
ZILDA: You filthy, disgusting man and animal.
TOOS: Uvanov's on his way down. What's wrong, Zilda?
TOOS: Zilda?
DASK: The killings. They've affected her mind.
TOOS: No, she's found something out.
To paraphrase The Mary Whitehorse Experience: "Dead, Dead, Dead, Chub died first." They're dropping like flies in this story the order being Chub, Kerril, who we never saw alive, Cass, Zilda & Borg. It's a shame cos Borg was my lead suspect from part one! As far as we know there's just Uvanov, Poul, Toos & Dask left alive so, unless there's someone else on the sand miner we've not seen yet, one of them must be responsible for ordering the robots to kill. Which one is it? Effectively it's Doctor Who's version of a murder mystery, with Ten Little Indians/And Then There Were None frequently sighted as an influence. The clues are there, with a big hint being given when we see the trousers of whoever is dispensing the Corpse Markers.

vlcsnap-clue vlcsnap-group

Now is there anyone dressed like that on board?

But beyond that Poul's got a secret, Uvanov's got a secret which involves Cass & somebody dying and D84 is trying to his that he can actually talk!
Oh look, there's our old friends, the computer panels from UFO again on the sand miner bridge!

vlcsnap-ufo2 vlcsnap-ufo3

Among the departed in this episode is Brian Crouches, here playing Borg, who was Travis in the second series of Blake's 7. So it's time to look at that second series and see who else we know that was involved. Still at the helm as producer & script editor are David Malone, who'll be directing the next Doctor Who story that we watch, and Chris Boucher, who wrote this one and it's predecessor The Face of Evil.

EPISODE: B1 Redemption

DIRECTED BY: Vere Lorrimer
WRITTEN BY: Terry Nation
BROADCAST ON: 09/01/1979

Sheila Ruskin (Alta One) The Keeper of Traken: Kassia
Harriet Philpin (Alta Two) Genesis of the Daleks: Bettan
Roy Evans (Slave) The Daleks' Master Plan as Trantis, The Green Death as Bert & The Monster of Peladon as a miner

EPISODE: B2 Shadow

DIRECTED BY: Jonathan Wright Miller
WRITTEN BY: Chris Boucher
BROADCAST ON: 16/01/1979

Vernon Dobtcheff (Chairman) The War Games: Chief Scientist

EPISODE: B3 Weapon

DIRECTED BY: George Spenton-Foster Director: The Image of the Fendahl & The Ribos Operation
WRITTEN BY: Chris Boucher
BROADCAST ON: 23/01/1979

John Bennett (Coser) Invasion of the Dinosaurs: General Finch & Talons of Wang Chiang as Li H'sen Chang
Scott Fredericks (Carnell) Day of the Daleks: Boaz & Image of the Fendahl: Maximilian Stael

EPISODE: B4 Horizon

DIRECTED BY: Jonathan Wright Miller
WRITTEN BY: Allan Prior
BROADCAST ON: 30/01/1979

William Squire (Kommissar) The Armageddon Factor: The Shadow
Brian Miller (Assistant Kommissar) Snakedance: Dugdale and Resurrection of the Daleks & Remembrance of the Daleks: Dalek voices. Married to Elizabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith)

EPISODE: B5 Pressure Point

DIRECTED BY: George Spenton-Foster
WRITTEN BY: Terry Nation
BROADCAST ON: 06/02/1979

Jane Sherwin (Kasabi) The War Games: Lady Jennifer Buckingham. Former Script Editor/Producer Derrick Sherwin's wife.
Yolande Palfrey (Veron) Trial of a Timelord 9-12 (Terror of the Vervoids): Janet


DIRECTED BY: Derek Martinus Directed: Galaxy Four, Mission to the Unknown, The Tenth Planet, The Evil of the Daleks, The Ice Warriors & Spearhead from Space
WRITTEN BY: Chris Boucher
BROADCAST ON: 13/02/1979

John Savident (Samor) The Visitation: The Squire
Peter Miles (Rontane) Dr. Lawrence in Doctor Who and the Silurians, Professor Whitaker in Invasion of the Dinosaurs & Nyder in Genesis of the Daleks

EPISODE: B7 Killer

DIRECTED BY: Vere Lorrimer
WRITTEN BY: Robert Holmes The Krotons, The Space Pirates, Spearhead from Space, Terror of the Autons, Carnival of Monsters, The Time Warrior, The Ark In Space, Pyramids of Mars, The Deadly Assassin, The Talons of Wang-Chiang, The Sun Makers, The Ribos Operation, The Power of Kroll, The Caves of Androzani, The Two Doctors, Trial of a Timelord 1-4: The Mysterious Planet & Trial of a Timelord 13 The Ultimate Foe.
BROADCAST ON: 20/02/1979

Morris Barry (Wiler) Directed: The Moonbase, The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Dominators. Appeared in The Creature from the Pit as Tollund

EPISODE: B8 Hostage

DIRECTED BY: Vere Lorrimer
WRITTEN BY: Allan Prior
BROADCAST ON: 27/02/1979

John Abineri (Ushton) Fury from the Deep: van Lutyens, The Ambassadors of Death: General Carrington, Death to the Daleks: Railton & The Power of Kroll: Ranquin
Kevin Stoney (Joban) Mavic Chen in The Daleks' Master Plan, Tobias Vaughn in The Invasion and Tyrum in Revenge of the Cybermen
Andrew Robertson (Space Commander) Pirate Planet: Mr Fibuli

EPISODE: B9 Countdown

DIRECTED BY: Vere Lorrimer
WRITTEN BY: Terry Nation
BROADCAST ON: 06/03/1979

Tom Chadbon (Del Grant) City of Death: Duggan & Trial of a Timelord: Murdeen
Paul Shelley (Provine) Four to Doomsday: Persuasian


DIRECTED BY: Voice from the Past
WRITTEN BY: George Spenton-Foster
BROADCAST ON: Roger Parkes

No Doctor Who cast members involved

EPISODE: B11 Gambit

DIRECTED BY: George Spenton-Foster
WRITTEN BY: Robert Holmes
BROADCAST ON: 20/03/1979

Denis Carey (Docholli) Professor Chronotis in Shada, the Keeper in The Keeper of Traken and the old man in Timelash.
Aubrey Woods (Krantor) Day of the Daleks: The Controller#
John Leeson (Toise) K9 in the Invisible Enemy Onwards
Sylvia Coleridge (Croupier) Seeds of Doom: Amelia Ducat
Deep Roy (Klute) Talons of Wang Chiang: Mister Sin
Paul Grist (Cevedic) Claws of Axos: Bill Filer

EPISODE: B12 The Keeper

DIRECTED BY: Derek Martinus
WRITTEN BY: Allan Prior
BROADCAST ON: 27/03/1979

Bruce Purchase (Gola) Pirate Planet: The Captain
Arthur Hewlett (Old man) State of Decay: Kalmar and Terror of the Vervoids: Kimber
Ron Tarr (Patrol leader) Destiny of the Daleks: Prisoner

EPISODE: B13 Star One

DIRECTED BY: David Malone
WRITTEN BY: Chris Boucher
BROADCAST ON: 03/04/1979

Gareth Armstrong (Parton) Masque of Mandragora: Giuliano
Michael Spice (Nova Queen Pilot ) Brain of Monster: Voice of Morbius & Talons of Weng-Chiang: Magnus Greel