Tuesday 16 August 2011

267 The Ambassadors of Death: Episode Three

EPISODE: The Ambassadors of Death: Episode Three
TRANSMITTED: 04 April 1970
WRITER: David Whitaker (and Malcolm Hulke - Uncredited)
DIRECTOR: Michael Ferguson
SCRIPT EDITOR: Terrance Dicks
PRODUCER: Barry Letts
FORMAT: VHS: Doctor Who-Ambassadors of Death
Episode Format: 16mm b&w film recording partially recoloured using 525 off air video

Recovery 7 is opened up but is empty, the voices supplied by a tape recorder. A high amount of radiation is detected within. The Astronauts were seized during a fake security check. Sir James Quinlan, Minister for Technology, introduces the Doctor & the Brigadier to General Carrington (who we've seen at the warehouse and leading the raid). He tells them the Astronauts have been infected with a highly contagious form of radiation and isolated. The Doctor demands to see them, but when he arrives at the site where they were being kept he find them gone. They have been abducted by Reegan and two other men. Reegan drives the van used in the kidnap away with his two heavies riding in the back with astronauts, but he pauses at a quarry and, while wearing a radiation suit, dumps their bodies. The Doctor determines the astronauts could not have stood the amount of radiation they're now emitting so concludes that the astronauts are still in space and what returned to Earth is the astronauts. Reegan is being aided in caring for the astronauts by disgraced scientist Lennox. They are feeding them more radiation to keep them alive. Reegan receives orders to deal with the Doctor & Liz. Liz is summoned to where Unit has found the bodies but is pursued in a car. She flees on foot onto a weir where she slips over the side.....

A seven part Doctor Who story is inevitably going to have a little padding and there's some evidence of it here as the Astronauts are kidnapped twice in the episode, first by General Carrington's group and then by Reegan & his unseen masters. Reegan evidentially knows what he's doing using the astronauts to kill off his accomplices in the heist. The first kidnap serves to introduce General Carrington, ok we've seen him already but it introduces him to the Doctor & the Brigadier. Why not have the General, who we know is a Mars Probe veteran, at the Space Centre anyway, cut out the two expensive set pieces and then have Reegan heist the astronauts from the Space centre? But where the Silurians was slow and stretched Ambassadors is at least moving on at a fair click and if you have to pad a bit of action to take the viewers mind off things isn't the worst thing to do. We'll come back to padding a story out in Inferno where the trick used there to extend the story works superbly.

This serial is credited to David Whitaker, but evidence points to the final version being written by other people. The serial was apparently commissioned as early as 1968 by Derrick Sherwin originally as a six parter, possibly making it clear why there's so much obvious padding in the final version: it's been stretched by one episode. Sherwin, unhappy with what Whitaker turned in, had Assistant Script Editor Trevor Ray revise episode one but the final scripts for the remaining episodes were written by Malcolm Hulke, who received no onscreen credit. There is some confusion as to exactly what David Whitaker did write for this serial but consensus is that he wrote nothing in script form beyond episode 3.

He's been in both previous episodes but John Abineri is named here as General Carrington. He'd previously been Dutch government advisor Van Lutyens in Fury from the Deep and will return in Death to the Daleks as Railton & The Power of Kroll as Ranquin). In fact all of the new cast members in this episode have prior Doctor Who form: William Dysart, playing Reegan, appeared briefly as Alexander McLaren in The Highlanders. Both Liz and I were struck quite how much he looks like John Cleese! Dallas Cavell , playing Sir James Quinlan, was the Road Works Overseer who Hartnell tricks in The Reign of Terror, Bors, one of the convicts on Desperus, in The Daleks' Master Plan, was another member of the cast to appear in The Highlanders as Trask and finally is the the Head of Security Castrovalva. Steve Peters Astronaut Joe Lefee & his Alien counterpart was an Ice Warrior in The Seeds of Death & a Pirate Guard in The Space Pirates as well as being an uncredited extra in The Romans. Cyril Shaps, as Doctor Lennox Lennox, was the nervous Viner in The Tomb of the Cybermen and will return as Professor Herbert Clegg Planet of the Spiders and as the Archimandrite in The Androids of Tara.

This is the 24th consecutive episode of Doctor Who that we've watched passing the previous longest run of 23 episodes from Reign of Terror 1 to The Crusade 1. Obvious this run continues for a little while yet.... In fact it's only real interruption between now and the end of the series is for six episodes made in 1979 that were never completed.

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