Sunday 30 October 2011

342 Frontier in Space Episode Five

EPISODE: Frontier in Space Episode Five
TRANSMITTED: 24 March 1973
WRITER: Malcolm Hulke
DIRECTOR: Paul Bernard
SCRIPT EDITOR: Terrance Dicks
PRODUCER: Barry Letts
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Dalek War: Frontier in Space & Planet of the Daleks
Episode Format: 625 video

The Master's ship lands on Draconia: The Master, Doctor & Jo are taken to the Emperor. The Doctor addresses the Emperor as a noble of Draconia as is his right due to the honour being conferred by the fifteenth Emperor due to his aid to the planet and accuses the Master of provoking war between the two worlds. A spaceship from Earth arrives with a delegation come to see the Emperor, but it's the Ogrons disguised by the hypnotic effect. They rescue the Master, but one of the "Earthmen" is killed and reverts to it's true Ogron form. The Emperor sends the Prince, Doctor & Jo with the Ogron captive to Earth in the Master's ship. The ship is attacked by the Ogrons rescuing their missing comrade and capturing Jo, before they are interrupted by the arrival of an Earth cruiser. The Doctor & Prince are taken to the Earth President who grants them help. General Williams overrides her, and ends up arguing with the Prince. It emerges that the General accidentally started the first Earth/Draconia war by opening fire on an unarmed ship that he thought was attacking him. A penitent General Williams agrees to help and lead the expedition to the Ogron planet. The Master has taken Jo to the Ogrons' planet where she and the Tardis form the bait for a trap for him. Jo resists the Master's hypnotic control so the Master subjects her to his fear device....

I watched this episode with my son Jonathan, who's nearly 5. After it finished he turned to me and said "I like Doctor Who". You know he's about the same age I was when I started watching Doctor Who. And it is a pretty good episode with the Draconian court, an Ogron attack and finally people starting to listen to the Doctor. The Master's rage at the Ogrons for having one of their number left behind is fabulous, but in the book it works even better when an Ogron, who's obviously going places, comes up to the Masters and says "I count" before telling him that there's one of them missing! As we've already said, The Revelation of General Williams having started the first Earth/Draconia war should have been prefigures in an earlier episode so here the entire story comes out of left field instead of presenting the general's version of it first. Hmmm, we already thing Star Trek: The Next Generation's writers had seen this story I wonder if Babylon 5's J. Michael Straczynski had either as the plot element of accidentally opening fire on a defenceless ship is familiar there as the spark for the Earth Minbari war.....

We've got occasional Doctor Who guest artist John Woodnutt playing the Draconian Emperor, who was previously George Hibbert in Spearhead from Space, in the dual roles of Broton and His Grace, the Duke of Forgill in Terror of the Zygons, and Seron in The Keeper of Traken. Meanwhile the Draconian messenger is played by Ian Frost who was Baccu in The Ark. For the first time in the series the Ogrons are credited: Rick Lester returns from their previous appearance in Day of the Daleks while the remaining two are played by Stephen Thorne & Michael Kilgarriff. Thorne was Azal in The Dæmons and we've just seen him as Omega in The Three Doctors, a role recorded after this story. He'll be back as the final Eldrad in The Hand of Fear. Kilgarriff was the Cyber-Controller in The Tomb of the Cybermen, a role he returns to in Attack of the Cybermen as well as playing the title role in Robot.

The "getting captured" tally for this story stands at 12: here's the one new entry for the episode:

13) Jo captured by the Ogrons

When the BBC's Film & Video Archive was first checked in 1978 they found that they had episodes 4 & 5 on video tape (Incidentally episodes 1, 2, 3, 6 & Planet off the Daleks 3 were the only episodes missing this season). Further investigations at BBC Enterprises showed that they had all 6 episodes as black & white film copies. In July 83 625 line videotape of episodes 1-3 & 6 of Frontier in Space were returned from ABC TV in Australia. These prints are thought to be 3rd or 4th generation copies and nobody is quite sure how the ABC came to have them. At some point after this the BBC Archive discovered that one of their copies of episode 5 is an earlier edit containing the abandoned new "delaware" version of the theme. This copy was used for the story's video release.

This is the only Doctor Who story featuring the Draconians and this episode is their real opportunity to sign showing us the Royal Court that so enrages Jo Grant's feminist leanings, an increasingly common theme in mid 70s Doctor Who. The Masks, a very early make up prosthetic, were created by John Friedlander, allegedly from a cast of the comedian Dave Allen. Jon Pertwee was frequently on record as saying the Draconians were his favourite monster due to the masks allowing the actor underneath to actually act and wanted an episode of Frontier in Space on the Pertwee years tape. I suspect it was this one he was thinking of, with lots of Draconians in, rather than the one that we got, the next which has just one, the Prince!

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