Doctor Who #619: Frontios Part 2

"Oh, marvellous. You're going to kill me. What a finely tuned response to the situation."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.27 1984.

IN THIS ONE... Plantagenet is sucked down into the Earth. There are giant woodlice down there.

REVIEW: When I saw guest character Norna step up and Tegan immediately sent to play nurse/engineer in the infirmary, I thought "here we go again; Eric Saward really is side-lining the companions every chance he gets; no wonder he would soon return to a single-companion format". But it's not quite so clear-cut. Norna goes off with Turlough (who still does a lot of the heavy lifting, mentally speaking), not the Doctor, and Tegan gets a chance to show a lot of resourcefulness too, sneaking around, spying, locking antagonists into rooms after blinding them with an electrical flash... If only she didn't have such a big mouth, though to be fair, the way she blows the whistle on Range to Brazen seems a perfectly acceptable slip-up and not a particularly stupid one.

But while Turlough gets a good role, investigating dead Captain Revere's so-called laws and finding a way into the underground tunnels beneath the colony ship, his knowledge of the Tractators does beg an important question: What is the point of setting a story far, far in the future where Time Lord knowledge ends, only to have a 1980s companion (alien though he may be) know what the monsters are? The show seems no longer capable to create situations where all the characters are in a state of discovery and surprise, and expository tasks somehow MUST be shared by the regular cast. More on this later, when we discover what ties these giant insects with humanoid features have to Turlough's home culture. Fear of them seems hard-coded into his DNA, although Turlough is pretty intense on any given day (it's the eyes). Still a good episode for him up to that point, with his use of the hat stand as a weapon to keep the rubes at bay particularly memorable.

Whatever the Tractators are, they do seem to have telekinetic (or more likely gravitic) powers, which should have allowed them to move a little more gracefully than Wirrn, but no, they like to hop on their behinds. Sigh. They can use their purple energy beams to capture the Doctor, and bombard the planet, "invaders" from below and not from above as the colonists thought. When you think about it, it's a riff on the Silurians, and in fact, the new series' Silurian story took its title from this episode. Captain Revere once told little Norna that "the earth was hungry", and Plantagenet is abducted through means seen again in "The Hungry Earth". Moffat has gone on record saying the fifth Doctor era was a favorite, so this can't be a coincidence even if he didn't write that particular story.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The companions are smart and resourceful, but the monsters are a potential source of mirth. A link to New Who gives it a little boost and is of interest to Who historians.



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