Thursday 2 August 2012

618 Frontios Part Four

EPISODE: Frontios Part Four
TRANSMITTED: Friday 03 February 1984
WRITER: Christopher H. Bidmead
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 5.6 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Frontios

The Doctor negotiates with the Gravis, the Tractator leader. The Tractators are mining Frontios with the intent of turning it into a mobile base to roam & colonise the universe. They draw the meteors down onto Frontios' surface with their gravity powers and it was they who brought the humans' ship down onto Frontios in order to use them as operators for their excavator. They intend to use Plantagernet as their new operator but he is saved by the arrival of Brazen and a party of orderlies. Brazen is grabbed by the machine and assimilated as it's new operator but it goes berserk burying itself in the tunnel. The Doctor finds the remains of the Tardis buried in the rock and coerces the Gravis into using his gravity powers to re-integrate the Tardis which then isolates him from the other Tractators rendering them harmless. The Doctor takes the Gravis to the uninhabited planet of Kolkokron guaranteeing the safety of the colonists on Frontios. He bids them goodbye and leaves in the Tardis but as they dematerialise the Tardis is once again seized by an external force.....

OK..... I can accept that the Gravis gravity powers can draw the Tardis back together but I'm still not happy with the idea of it being destroyed by a meteorite strike anyway. If the Gravis has been dumped on an uninhabited planet does that mean there's still a load of Tractators crawling around under Frontios. Gravis appears to be effectively their "Queen Bee" - are they capable of evolving/growing a new one? Where did the Tractators excavating machine come from? There's no sign of them having any other form of technology at all. Is it, and the spare they mentioned having, a piece of the colonists quarrying machinery that they have stolen and adapted?

We started this story with a throwback to a Hartnell story: Human Colonists having fled from the Earth which has plunged into the sun. We end with the Tractators wanting to fly Frontios round the Universe, just like the Daleks in Dalek Invasion of Earth! Years later Russell T Davies picks this idea up in The Stolen Earth & Journey's End.

As I've been writing the story summaries I've managed to completely omit the story thread about orderly Cockeril being treated as the colony's messiah after he survives being sucked into the ground: in this episode it just vanishes once Norna tells them Plantagernet has survived..... It doesn't really serve any purpose. In fact the whole story is a little bit flabby: it doesn't really get going till the second episode. At four parts it really just wanders along without any urgency. A little trimming would have probably turned it into quite a decent 3 parter. I thoroughly enjoy Christopher H. Bidmead's two previous Doctor Who stories, Logopolis & Castrovalva, but this one doesn't do it for me. It's his last contribution to the series. He has since pursued a career as an IT Journalist and contributed outspoken interviews to Doctor Who Magazine and the DVD range. You can follow him on Twitter at!/chbidmead.

Bidmead novelised his story in 1984 for Target books. It was released on video with the preceding story, The Awakening, in March 1997. It was released on DVD on 30th May 2011 a month before the Awakening was inexplicitly released with The Gunfighters instead of the more understandable Frontios. There's no direct connection between The Awakening & Frontios , but Frontios directly leads into the next story, Resurrection of the Daleks so it's slightly odd that these two have never been released together.

Anyway. Daleks tomorrow!

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