Which One : Robotic Prisoner Of Zenda.
Cast : The Doctor : Tom Baker
Romana : Mary Tamm
K9 MK-II : John Leeson (voice)
Prince Reynart : Neville Jason
Count Grendel : Peter Jeffrey
Zadek : Simon Lack
Farrah : Paul Lavers
Lamia : Lois Baxter
Kurster : Martin Matthews
Till : Declan Mulholland
Archimandrite : Cyril Shaps
Written By : David Fisher
Produced By : Graeme Williams
First UK Broadcast : 25 November – 16 December 1978.
Length : 4 x 25 minute parts.
Plot : The Doctor and Romana locate the fourth piece of the Key-To-Time, on planet Tara. A mix of medieval society and high robot tech.
Whats good : Rich period costume piece.
Whats bad : Too similar to The Android Invasion. Talky and boring. The Taran Bear.
Review With Spoilers : The Androids Of Tara is the 4th Key-To-Time episode and features the Doctor looking for the next segment on a medieval world of Tara.
The Doctor and Romana find the fourth segment of the Key-To-Time pretty quickly, as it is hidden as a statue; which is rather surprising but with a full episode to fill – something will go wrong.
Romana then gets harrassed, by the most unconvincing black bear – ever commited to celluloid, more unconvincing than the bear which attacked Hercules, in Hercules In New York; before being kidnapped by the evil Taran; Count Grendel.
After the nice momentum, built by The Pirate Planet and Stones Of Blood; in the Key-To-Time story. Who goes all pedestrian, with a medieval retread of <>Invasion Of The Androids.
The culture clashing of a world ruled by medieval kings in castles, who can build lifelike robotic cyborgs but still live in castles; is an interesting mix – and in terms of a robot story it makes for a reasonable ‘which person is the real person’ paranoid-type affair.
However, this is something covered much more effectively, 2 seasons earlier; in Terror Of The Zygons and the The Android Invasion – than here.
That said, Tom Baker himself, does have a hoot in this; bored of searching for the Key-To-Time, he intends to take some time out and fish. Baker also gets to flex his action muscle, with a sword fight against the Count near the end and his overall performance, as usual – bonds the episode together.
When Who raid the mighty Beeb period-costume cupboard, to put on the Who equivilent of Prisoner Of Zenda, it smacks more of a cost-cutter – than a real attempt to tell an interesting period story.
“Tomorrow, at the appropriate hour fixed by the astrologers, in the great Coronation room of the Palace of Tara, I am to be crowned King… ….Count Grendel of Gracht… …He’ll kill me if he needs to. After all, you can’t crown a dead Prince. Grendel and his men will be watching every entrance to the palace to prevent my getting to the Coronation room at the ordained time!” Reynart
Still, unlike some of the boring period Hartnell numbers, least this one has a sci-fi angle though – in terms of the robots. However, we kind of covered this ‘impostors masquerading as people’ story before, so it feels like a retread.
From the aspect of a period piece, the costume and set design is good. But the story was much more snappily executed in Mask Of Mandragora or The Crusade. Although Peter Jeffrey – is good value, as the evil Count Grendel.
So what we are left with is a rather talky historical-piece with a sensationalist robot angle. After the good work of the previous Key-To-Time episodes, things kind of flatline abit.
Obviously, the period angle could be a nice change from the all out sci-fi of the previous 2 Key-To-Time episodes but in terms of building on the season; it doesn’t.
So if you like the thought of Who doing Prisoner Of Zenda – with robots and plenty of talking, then you’ll like this. On the other hand, you could watch the first 10 minutes, just to see Romana get the fourth segment and leave it there.