Doctor Who #497: The Androids of Tara Part 4

"Next time I shall not be so lenient!"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Dec.16 1978.

IN THIS ONE... It all comes down to a swordfight between the Doctor and Count Grendel.

REVIEW: Yes, it comes down to a swordfight, and it's a stellar one. The Doctor starts out a clown, apparently in over his head against the arrogant Grendel, but soon starts to showboat and prove he hasn't lost a jot of skill between incarnations. In fact, I doubt Pertwee's Doctor could have done any better. The swordplay manages to be amusing, then fierce, running through the castle location up to the ramparts, where Grendel, still outrageously confident, turns tail and runs. Or dives. Into the moat. All the while saying Gracht men never surrender. He's that awesome. The whole thing takes place at night, adding some wonderful atmosphere to the proceedings. It's certainly what allows us to forgive the timid siege (too few extras to make it really believable). K9 drifting away on the moat in the night is fun enough image to go out on (plus, affords Baker another chance to end on a laugh, which he obviously loves).

Prince Reynart also gets a little action in, despite his wounds and milquetoast disposition. While the Doctor fights the villain of the piece, he settles for pushing the treacherous hunchbacked henchman. Hey, you take what you can get. Sadly, the captain of Grendel's guard is done in by the two Mary Tamms hitting him with soft objects upside the head. Who gets stunned by canvas?! It doesn't work. But the girls finally meet, and the doubles FX are excellent, comparing very well to a similar scene with two Reynarts in Part 1 that has some eyeline issues.

We find out why Reynart was captured alive - Grendel was going to marry him to one Mary Tamm or another to insure the line of succession, soon marrying the Queen to King himself - and Romana almost gets hitched. It's a good thing the Doctor loves (to disrupt) weddings. He even says so (New Who fans will be happy to note that Doc4 has Doc11's inclinations). The dialog gets a bit repetitive early on, with two scenes basically explaining the same thing, but the real tragedy in The Androids of Tara is the loss of Madam Lamia in Part 3. Grendel mentions her simply as an engineer he needed, which is too bad, and I'm left perplexed by that scene in Part 1 that had her looking into the distance as if in a trance. Segment playing tricks? It's never explained. Wasted potential.

VERSIONS: I am not aware of any significant difference between the Target novelization and the story as televised.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - It's the big action finale and it doesn't disappoint. Not perfect, but the flaws are all forgivable.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A lovely fantasy full of twists and turns, and shot in a number of wonderful locations.

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