Monday, April 20, 2015

Agatha Christie IN SPACE! - The Robots of Death

Leela's second outing, The Robots of Death is one of those highly regarded episodes. But I'm not overly sure why.

Don't get me wrong. It's good. But it's not amazing. There's not much more to it than robots reprogrammed to kill.


It starts out well, with the murder mystery that comes across almost like Agatha Christie style whodunnit, except the title tells us that. There's obvious I, Robot influences, and a lot rolling around the three laws of robotics. When it hits robot revolution time it does flows perfectly, and is a proper progression of what we've seen and been told.

It's also another fairly well thought out sci-fi universe that once again I'd not mind seeing more of. The crews rather decadent living while on a mining operation and just leaving the day to day stuff to robots is damn interesting. I've already done the checks and can see that The Doctor never comes back in the show. Which is annoying as he certainly seems au fait with it. Just like The Face of Evil we're now well past the point where the show makes it clear that we don't see everything. The setting apparently gets an outing elsewhere, which is something I might keep in mind.

On a minor note, there’s an actual full blown change of the ‘desktop’ of the TARDIS to a wooden version. I realise it’s probably been around for a while for Baker, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen a different Console Room in Classic. I thought there it was all minor changes and it was New that introduced the idea of the desktop, which helped explain the Eight’s gothic setup.

Meanwhile, I’ve come to yet another realisation about Tom Baker, and why he’s so highly regarded. Over the last two or three years, I’ve made many references to the different types of Doctors. There’s the version started by Hartnell, the grumpy no-nonsense Doctor, then there’s Troughton's which is zany. David Tennant did a great job of playing the spectrum, though was more melancholy by default. So did Matt Smith, but was also possibly the zaniest ever. Finally there’s the great manipulator as seen with Sylvester McCoy. Tom Baker manages to encompass them all, and plays the extremes brilliantly.

Watching the end of the Hinchcliffe era, and watching the lack of goofiness and a more serious Doctor by Baker, has made me come to appreciate him a lot more. I finally understand why many hold him up as the best. Even if I don’t agree. While he can hit the extremes of the range required for the role, the middle ground is a little less well defined.

Leela herself gets a decent second outing. She proves herself quite capable, despite her less advanced upbringing, and even impressing the Doctor with a bit of first aid. Unfortunately, her rather unique entrance into the TARDIS isn't addressed. Except that she kept a gun from “The Face of Evil”, allowing the Doctor to give his no weapon speech, but doesn't seem to apply to Leela's ever present knife.

Then there's the reveal of the undercover agent. Leela spots it way before anyone else because of body language. Not only setting up something important for later in the story, but showing her to be quite capable.

That the security guy later has a mental breakdown is a great move. As well as the Doctor defeating the mad scientist with helium so the robots he's co-opted won't recognise his voice pattern. There's no denying The Robots of Death is good, and should definitely be on a recommended list, but probably not a Must Watch list.

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