This week finds the Doctor (Baker) and Leela (Louise Jameson) in an interesting looking four part adventure, that just isn’t as exciting as one would like, but has lots of redeeming things I did like about it.
The Robots of Death was penned by Chris Boucher and ran from 29 January to 19 February, 1977.
Arriving on Storm Mine 4, a mobile mining platform, the Doctor finds himself wrapped up in a murder mystery fairly quickly, as the biological members of the crew seem to be getting knocked off one by one. Being the new arrivals, seemingly from out of nowhere, the Time Lord and his companion quickly find themselves the prime suspects in each and every murder, while the Doctor begins to suspect that someone may have tampered with the programming of the platform’s complement of robots. And that even they may have secrets that the rest of the crew don’t realize.
There are a number of things I like about this story… I like that Leela is working to shed her superstitious beliefs, while still being the fierce warrior she has always been. I like the look and design of the sand miner, and the robots themselves have a bit of a familiar look to them, or will do a few Doctors down the line. There is also the fairly well-established relationships of the crew, the interactions work, hinting at the political and monetary realities beyond their work place, and there seems to be a little bit of history to them, though the outfits and craft itself are far too clean to ever be a mining craft.
While the Doctor and Leela try to evade the robots, as well as the rest of the crew, it seems that someone amongst the crew is not all they claim to be, and has been changing the programming of all the robots on hand, leading a bit of a revolution with the intention of wiping out biological life in favor of mechanical.
But they, of course, didn’t count on the Doctor, who starts sussing things out, and quickly discovers what it really going on, and who is at the center of the story… Dask, one of the craft’s engineers, but his true name is Taren Capel (David Bailie), and he has always identified with robots more than people, and now plans to lead the robotic uprising! But with a loyal robot at his side, the Doctor and Leela are able to stop everything and save the day once and for all.
This one was alright. I think a little more rounding out on the robotic side of the story, with more about Capel and the desire for an uprising may have played better, especially if there was something to make him a little more sympathetic.
Still, not a terrible tale, though it does force us to bid farewell to the Victorian console room… sigh.
And next time, we close out the 14th season with fan favorite The Talons of Weng-Chiang…