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!

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