Wednesday 28 March 2012

492 The Androids of Tara Part One

EPISODE: The Androids of Tara Part One
TRANSMITTED: 25 November 1978
WRITER: David Fisher
DIRECTOR: Michael Hayes
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Key to Time Box Set (Ribos Operation/Pirate Planet/Stones of Blood/Androids of Tara/Power of Kroll/The Armageddon Factor)

The Tardis lands on the planet Tara searching for the fourth segment of the Key to Time. The Doctor sends Romana to complete the task while he takes a day off to go fishing. She quickly finds the fourth segment disguised as a statue and uses the tracer to transmutate it back to it's crystal form. However she is attacked by a Taran woodbeast and then saved by Count Grendel of Gracht who, interested in her and the crystal, takes her back to his castle. The Doctor is found on the river by two swordsman and accused of trespass on Prince Reynart's hunting estate. Hearing that he is a Doctor they ask him to look at their damaged android. Romana is taken to Madam Zamia, Count Grendel's surgeon/engineer to be checked out. They marvel at her and have her restrained. Grendel orders Romana disassembled but orders that her head is kept because it's "quite remarkable". Taken to a hunting lodge, the Doctor is introduced to Prince Reynart and his damaged android. Zamia & Grendel realise Romana is flesh & blood, and not an Android as they had thought. Reynart intends to use his android to prevent an assassination attempt on him at his coronation from Count Grendel. The only other contender for the throne, Princess Stella has disappeared. Grendel has Romana drugged. The Doctor demonstrates the repaired android duplicate of the prince and after it leaves the room they celebrate with a glass of wine. Soon however all collapse, drugged by their drink, as Count Grendel arrives.....

Oh that was fun. Looked nice, especially the location stuff, a decent bit of humour to the script and sets up the story with political intrigue, missing princesses and android duplicates. Been a while since I watched this story but that was good, competent stuff. I remember the swords with their electric charges vividly from when I was younger.

We saw the Doctor emerge from the Tardis in robot in a variety of costumes, and many a companion has walked into the console room wearing a new outfit but I think this is the first time we see the actual Tardis Wardrobe as Romana chooses an appropriate dress to wear on Tara. Unfortunately what she picks is hideous and the dress she's wearing at the start of the episode, reused from the Ribos Operation, is much better!

This episode aired 2 days after the fifteenth anniversary of the first episode of Doctor Who being shown.

I've never read The Prisoner of Zenda or seen any of it's many adaptations but homages to it, like this Doctor Who story, abound. I know enough to know it's something about political intrigue, a marriage and at least one double. In fact only last night I was, without any forward planning on my part, watching Futurama season 5 episode The Prisoner of Benda which also uses Zenda as inspiration and tosses in some mind swapping and the Harlem Globetrotters! Order it on DVD or Blu-ray.

1 comment:

  1. The first episode of Androids of Tara is wonderful. Unapologetically old-fashioned with a charmingly melodramatic villians, proper comic-opera guards (electric fencing foils are just so much more fun that swords made of laser) and a wonderful moment of petulance from The Doctor as he demands a day of from the Epic Quest of Epicness.

    There is such a sense of fun to the whole thing that is very infectious. (And if you do know your Prisoner of Zenda then there is added charm in the fact that it is so unapologetic about its homageness).

    I didn't see this for the first time until a few years ago when I stumbled on the VHS releases of the Key to Time season in an Oxfam shop. I remember being struck by this episode pretty much from the beginning and very much onboard with the story from the very beginning.