Doctor Who #620: Frontios Part 3

"Frontios buries its own dead."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Feb.2 1984.

IN THIS ONE... Turlough has ancestral memories of the Tractators. The Doctor and Tegan get lost in their tunnels.

REVIEW: It's ye olde paddede episode. After Tegan saves the Doctor by smashing a chemical light in the Tractators' faces (a variation on her trick from Part 2, but I'm still happy to see her be this useful), and a bit of well-played "gravity" acting and rolling a giant ball of dung around, the two of them spend most of the episode wandering through tunnels. Tegan even gets the line "all these tunnels look the same", a joke Saward likes so much, he would use again and again through the 6th Doctor era.

Meanwhile, Turlough comes in and out of a catatonic state in which "race memories" flash before his eyes. I was unconvinced these monsters in the far, far future should be known to a boy from 1983, but they're from well before that. They used to terrorize Turlough's ANCESTORS, possibly PRIMAL ancestors. Sure, humanity's been around forever too, but it does seem like a pretty convoluted way to deliver exposition about them. And besides, we've SEEN humans across the centuries. I guess no one looks underground for all these Tractators, eh? Turlough gets better though, and I appreciate the moment where he makes a non-choice to go out and find the Doctor, using a variation on the Doctor's own shtick with a coin. He can be brave, it just takes time for him to build enough courage to leap over the edge.

All the regulars do get some good lines and bits, but the guest characters seem to be getting the bulk of the plot development. Brazen has his heart in the right place when he isn't a raving paranoid, but that means he's all over the place. Range and Norna are allowed a recognizable father-daughter relationship (she gives him a kiss before he goes into the bowels of the earth). The apathetic Cockerill has this strange thread where he leaves the colony to become a Ret (a retrograde) and is immediately set upon by animalistic Rets, then falls prey to the "hungry earth", survives, and becomes their heroic champion or something. It's even stranger if you haven't watched all his scenes deleted from Part 1 where he had room to show his rogue spirit. The Tractators are given voice through a differently-colored "boss", but his conversations with Plantagenet don't reveal much information, other than the fact they need human minds to drive their digging machines, which seems highly inefficient. Why not adapt their tools to work on Tractator minds instead? I guess then we wouldn't get the shocking sight of Captain Revere's head on one of those things, evoking for New Who fans the equally cheesy sight of Max Capricorn in Voyage of the Damned. Except the technology seems incongruent with the rest of the Tractators' stuff.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Yes, the episode delays the Doctor's inevitable meeting with the Tractator leader, but at least most of the characters get some entertaining moments.


Doc Thompson said...

The Doctor surviving in deep space,seemed to bad superhero comic bookishly silly

Siskoid said...

You mean in Four to Doomsday?


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