Doctor Who #268: The Ambassadors of Death Part 2

"No, no, no. No, that was simply transmigration of object. There's a great deal of difference between that and pure science, you know!"TECHNICAL SPECS: Not on DVD, so the Internet it is. First aired Mar.28 1970.

IN THIS ONE... Persons unknown try to steal the Recovery 7 capsule, but the Doctor recovers it with his magic car.

REVIEW: Ok, that opening sequence experiment is NOT working out. Since Part 1, the music's come on, there's been a bit of a teaser, then a shocking sting and return to opening sequence for the episode title. Please stop. Also, with the procedural countdowns. Though the journalist provides welcome narration at times, Recovery 7's reentry could really have used a little model work. Ferguson manages some tension in these scenes, but they still go on too long. The British space program also continues to strike me as unrealistic too. Not only is it undermanned, but their capsules apparently drop down on the ground rather than the ocean. That has to be more dangerous than it's worth for Britain (though I understand the production's need to have it this way). And once landed, the ground crew has no way of opening the door from the outside, even if the astronauts are in danger. The plot demands all this, but it's still pretty unreasonable to this Apollo fan.

Not that it's the only thing that's rather dodgy about this episode. The music, for example, is bizarre. To support the conspiracy at the space center, Dudley Simpson uses inappropriately sexy spy music. And the flutes over the UNIT convoy put me in mind of flower power. The big about the sabotaged computer answering 2+2 as 5 is pretty silly, especially by today's standards. Then there's the Doctor's use of "transmigration of object", basically making a tape reel disappear and reappear from his hands through magic. Liz asks if it's the same trick as last episode's console pop to the future, but it apparently isn't. Well why not? It would at least be motivated by earlier happenstance. Instead, it's just a case of the Doctor doing anything regardless of good sense, which actually undermines Bessie's ability to magnetize would-be thieves to its chassis. Is it a real feature of the car? Or just more "anything goes" from this production team? (I'll at least attempt a Theory, below.)

One element that redeems itself is the HAVOC stunt team. After a lackluster firefight in Part 1, there's some big vehicular action in Part 2. Helicopters smoke bombing a convoy, unknown forces firing their hairdryers at motorcycles, and even a UNIT soldier jumping onto a copter in flight. Though they lose the convoy and the Doctor must reclaim it (and well done too), UNIT does seem a lot braver and competent this time around. The design is also pretty good, especially the large capsule lab set and bad guys' gas masks. The Doctor and Liz get their moments to, with Liz starting to decode the alien message (she's consistently being given the solutions the Doctor usually thinks of in other pairings and that's cool), and the Doctor tricking a captive into revealing he's a military man (though the uniform kind of gives it away, no?), and later surprising the Brigadier with the capsule thought lost. And don't count the antagonists out! This conspiracy goes all the way to the top, and the baddies remain always a step ahead of our heroes. The mystery continues to intrigue and monsters be damned.

THEORIES: Could his conjuring trick be a function of his suit's bottomless pockets? If the Doctor's suits are dimensionally transcendental, he might be able to pull as large an object as a tape reel into its sleeves, perhaps by extending the "shell" of his jacket. I'm grasping at straws, but it so happen that I have thousands of them, straight and silly, in my coat pockets.

VERSIONS: The DVD restoration team is fixing this, but the original color tapes of The Ambassadors of Death were lost and many sequences only exist in black and white. From this episode on, the story's color becomes intermittent. Not a big problem for this viewer since the color at this stage is rather soft and sickly anyway.

- Watch it for the Doctor and the action sequence, but try to ignore the nonsense that various members of the production team are trying to sell here.


snell said...

It's just a (less subtle) version of Court-Martial's "Spock can beat the computer at chess now!"

Siskoid said...

What I might call "utility belt writing". Something usually reserved for the sonic screwdriver on this show.

Wriphe said...

Soviet and Russian space missions land on solid earth after re-entry, but I suppose they have far more land to work with than Great Britain.

Siskoid said...

What is Britain known for? It's NAVY. I'd have made use of that, if I were its space program.


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