FRONTIER IN SPACE
"Displaying your usual sickening lovability, I suppose."
After Colony in Space, Malcolm Hulke gives us Frontier in Space (doesn't he have a way with titles?), another Blake's 7-flavoured trek through Earth's future. We've got the government you're not supposed to criticise, we've got the Servalan collars, we've got the president in flashy frocks, we've got the generally doomy atmosphere. Oh yeah, and the horrible model shots. Since Malcolm Hulke didn't actually write any Blake's 7, we can only assume the future scriptwriters were taking notes.
So that's interesting. What else? Although Frontier In Space's first episode is intriguing, overall the plot's dull and static, full of holes and relying too much on annoying contrivances. The whole thing hangs on the Doctor not ponying up information when he could and on everybody disbelieving him when he does.
And frankly, Malcolm Hulke's got to be taking the piss. We know the Doctor has a reputation to maintain for getting locked up, but this is ridiculous. Got a four-parter you have to stretch to six? Bung in another prison scene!
Guest aliens the Draconians, while they have cool speech patterns, are yawnsomely unoriginal. And because the story segues directly into the next, there's a rushed and abrupt ending which makes a poor farewell for Roger Delgado.
It's not all bad, though. The adorably Gumbyish Ogrons are hilarious. There's some great character work between the Doctor and Jo - we particularly like the prison scene where Jo's planning their escape while the Doctor sits and rolls his eyes. And the Master's a delightfully reasonable, polite and urbane villain who's light years away from that "nothing and nobody can stop me now" stuff. It's a fantastically watchable portrayal, and we love every second of it. And Daleks are always cute. Oops. We mean scary. Daleks are always scary.
So, ignore the bad, enjoy the good and shed a tear for the tragic passing of Roger Delgado. We shall not see his like again.
MORAL: Always ask for identification.
IíLL TELL ĎEM IíVE GOT THE FLU
Isn't Jo supposed to be working for UNIT? What's she doing jaunting round in the TARDIS?
When the Doctor and Jo are first imprisoned, the Doctor gets shoved into the cell and crashes into Jo. Was the collision accidental? It looks like it, although Jo makes an excellent recovery.
ITíS ALL AN ILLUSION
The way these fear hallucinations work is distinctly dodgy. The first time, Jo sees a Drashig. After the Doctor tells her what's going on, she isn't affected by it the second time. But if knowing about it causes the hallucination to lose its power, why does Jo see the Drashig again later on? And if you can see the truth when the sound wears off, as the Master says, how come no one's rumbled it before?
YOU DIDNíT ASK
When the Doctor and Jo are first taken to see the President, why doesn't the Doctor mention the Ogrons? And why does the President allow them to be hustled out just after she's asked them to stay?
LETíS NOT THINK ABOUT THIS TOO HARD
The concrete monstrosity on the South Bank that is the National Theatre makes a terrific stand-in for the forbidding, brutal architecture of a totalitarian state.
YOU INSULT ME, SIR
When the Doctor's referred to by the Draconians as an Earthman, why doesn't he say he's a Time Lord?
ITíS THE PRINCIPLE OF THE THING
The Doctor and Jo know the Ogrons have the TARDIS. So when the Ogrons come to take them away, why do they fight it?
BEAM ME UP, SCOTTY
That 3-D chess set is a complete ripoff from Star Trek.
NEXT MONTH THEYíRE MOVING ONTO SOLIDS
Those drinking things the Doctor and the moon prisoners have look remarkably like baby drinking cups.
A BIT BRAD PITT
"The rest of your natural"? Gawd blimey, Master, strike a light, up the apples and pears, etc etc.
THESE SETS DONíT COME CHEAP, YOU KNOW
The Doctor makes a pretty pathetic job of banging on the door with the air tanks. Come on, give it some welly!
THE BARE FACTS
We don't, repeat do not, want to see the Doctor's bare legs poking out of the bottom of his prison uniform. Argh! Put them away! Which brings us to Androzani Theory Number Two: at least part of the Doctor's authority stems from the amount of clothing he wears. In all his incarnations, he's loaded down with the stuff - jackets, coats, hats, scarves, waistcoats - and generally speaking, the more formal the occasion and/or the higher the status, the more comprehensively men tend to be clothed. (This isn't always true for women, but let's not go there.) And this is why there's often something off about the Doctor when for some reason or other he's wearing less than he usually does: his status has dropped, and we don't like it. Can we have our PhD now?
EVERYBODY OVER TO THE LEFT
At least the spaceships have seatbelts. Star Trek could learn a thing or two.
The Doctor's ruse to fool the Master into thinking he's still in the cell is fantastically weak - it'd only take one glance from the Master at the screen to rumble him.
KEEPING UP WITH THE OGRONSES
When the Doctor's doing his first space walk and loses contact with the spaceship, he manages to get back to the ship by propelling himself with his air tube. Brilliant plan - if the ship was just sitting there in space. But it isn't. The Doctor would have fallen miles behind the ship the instant he lost contact.
I WAS JUST KIDDING
The Master keeps reiterating that the health of the Doctor is important to him. Then, when he thinks the Doctor is floating in space, he laughs gaily. Later, he insists he wants to off him (" Of course I do!"). Then at the end, he wants the Doctor alive again! Huh?
REGENERATION. ITíS NOT JUST FOR TIME LORDS
The Doctor escapes from the cell by sawing through the lock. But later, he's imprisoned again in the same cell and the lock seems to be intact.
WE KNOW WHICH WAY WEíRE BETTING
Two moderate leaders, two hot headed second-in-commands. Subtle mirroring drawing together the common threads of human and Draconian or hackneyed plot device?
HE DOESNíT KNOW HIS OWN STRENGTH
When the Ogron rattles the door of the cell, all the bars move.
WE TRUST YOU
Wouldn't a police ship be pretty well armed?
NO, THESE ARE BLASTERS
When the Doctor's ship is boarded by the Ogrons, the Doctor immediately goes for the blasters. But of course, he never touches guns, no, no, no.
YOU CAN'T KEEP A GOOD IDEA DOWN
The misunderstanding between the humans and the Draconians in which the humans mistake the Draconians' ceremonial gesture of sending their ambassador in a battleship for an aggressive action is repeated in Babylon 5 when the humans mistake the Minbari's greeting gesture of open gun ports for an aggressive act.
THEN AGAIN, MAYBE YOU WONíT
We love the Master's failure yet again either to hypnotise Jo or to successfully use the fear thing on her. "You will obey me ... oh, all right!" Bwa-hahaha!
Who would be stupid enough to build a prison cell with an earth floor?
OH, GO ON THEN
Why do the Daleks, who are supposed to act entirely out of logic, agree to keep the Doctor alive as the Master suggests?
WEíVE ALL HAD BOSSES LIKE THAT
If the Ogrons are so afraid of the Daleks, why do they work for them?