Surely one of the gold nuggets of the original series The Robots Of Death has it all; superb lead performances, memorable monsters and a script that’s been influenced by writing from a master.
The TARDIS, carrying the Doctor and his new companion Leela, arrives aboard a huge sandminer on a deserted world. The small human crew rely almost entirely on robots to carry out their every task and whim while they mine the planet’s rich minerals.
Brooding with atmosphere and tension, The Robots Of Death is a story that should be at the top or very near the top of everyone’s favourite adventures. From the performances to the robots themselves, this is prime Doctor Who. Tom Baker is at his most wonderful and Louise Jameson brings a real edge to her newly introduced character. Their feisty dynamic is a stark contrast to the relationship the doctor had with Sarah Jane But what makes this such a memorable experience is the supporting cast. All bicker and fight with wonderful acidic tones making each one as loathsome as the next.
Though it can be looked at as Agatha Christie in space with hints of Dune it should be judged on its own merits and Chris Boucher’s intelligent and dry witted script oozes creativity and intelligence proving that The Face Of Evil wasn’t just a one off. This is far more then just a kids show, this is the adventure that will hook adults in too. The Voc robots are beautiful creations and the multi-cultural society they serve on is a timely cross-section of poor attitudes and greed.
The way the two species (if robots can be species) have their own hierarchy and elitist traits is solidly constructed and even though the effects and costumes leave a lot to be desired (apart from the stunning Voc masks) the action is kept moving along at a steady and considered pace.
Commentary – This is the one from the original release with Philip Hinchcliffe and Brian Croucher. Not the most dynamic one I’ve heard as these two wonderful people aren’t the most interesting speakers but it does have some excellent pieces of information.
Commentary – Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Pamela Salem and Michael Bryant are on hand for this brilliant gag-track which contains a lot of laughter and fun. One of the best of recent times each one feeds of each other to great effect.
The Sandmine Murders – Tom Baker, Michael E. Bryant, David Collings, Brian Croucher, Philip Hinchcliffe, Louise Jameson, Pamela Salem and Elizabeth Waller entertain us with this superb look at the production of the story. Lots of stories come to the surface; from Baker’s dislike of the story to the problems with the costumes, it’s all here and well worth investing your time in.
Robophobia – The star that is Toby Hadoke takes us on a journey exploring the robots of Doctor Who wit a huge slab of hilarity. Seriously this is the way to affectionately poke fun at the show without being condescending or uppity. This is another fine piece from Toby, how about a Best Of Hadoke DVD from the BBC?
Studio Sound – As you may expect this is a clip directly from studio recording of the piece. Nice to see what it would have been like during production but not long enough to be really interesting.
Model Shots – Mute model test shots can be found here and most were left unused in the story. Though low quality its great to see the detail in this old fashioned piece of SFX.
Studio Floor Plan – A 3 page scan of the shooting plan for the story. Bizarre and complicated this will appeal to people who like complicated maps!
Continuity – Ah nostalgia time again where we get to se the old BBC1 spinning globe with post announcer and the promotion slide used for this serial. Happy memories.
Photo Gallery – Never my favourite this is a selection of snaps from the production of the story with sound effects on the top.
Info Text – Always worth sitting through for more information on this story than you could shake a Voc at!
PDF Materials – Radio Times listings are here for those who like such things, myself I like to bypass it.
Coming Soon – A great trailer for The Face Of Evil.
So then, another great set from the BBC. With the end in sight for the DVD range (of new material anyway) I wonder if they can maintain this quality of extras right till the finish?
The Robots of Death Special Edition features in The Revisitations 3 boxset which was released on February 13th 2012 - you can order from Amazon today for just £25.97, a saving of 28% on the RRP!