Frontier In Space – 1973 – S10 – E3/5

imageNumber : Season 10, episode 3 of 5

Which One : War between Humans and Draconians.

Cast : The Doctor : Jon Pertwee
Jo : Katy Manning
The Master : Roger Delgado
Earth President : Vera Fusek
General Williams : Michael Hawkins
Congressman Brook : Ramsay Williams
Draconian Emperor : John Woodnutt
Draconian Prince : Peter Birrel
Draconian First Secretary : Lawrence Davidson
Draconian Space Pilot : Roy Pattison
Draconian Captain : Bill Wilde
Draconian Messenger : Ian Frost
Gardiner : Ray Lonnen
Kemp : Barry Ashton
Hardy : John Rees
Stewart : James Culliford
Professor Dale : Harold Goldblatt
Prison Governor : Dennis Bowen
Patel : Madhav Sharma
Cross : Richard Shaw
Sheila : Luan Peters
Newscasters : Louis Mahoney, Bill Mitchell
Secretary : Karol Hagar
Cell Guard : Timothy Craven
Lunar Guard : Laurence Harrington
Earth Cruiser Captain : Clifford Elkin
Space Ship Pilot : Stanley Price
Technician : Caroline Hunt

Written By : Malcolm Hulke

Produced By : Barry Letts

First UK Broadcast : 24 February–31 March 1973.

Length : 6 x 25 minute parts.

Plot : The Doctor and Jo land the Tardis right in the middle of a plot by The Master, to stoke hostilities between Earth and Draconia, by using disguised Ogrons – to raid their cargo ships.

Whats good : Star Trek political intrigue. The Master, Daleks and Ogrons – all in one episode.

Whats bad : Overly long. Slow paced. The Master turn fails to add sparke.

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Review With Spoilers : Frontier In Space is the 3rd episode of season 10 and forms the first of a 2-episode story, concluding with Planet Of The Daleks.

It’s the Who equivilent of Star Trek’s – Star Fleet versus The Klingon empire. We even have the Who equivilant of the Neutral Zone, or the titular – ‘Frontier In Space’ – between the 2 empires.

The Draconians might aswell be pasty headed and brown looking, being almost carbon copies of the Klingon’s in war-like outlook and temperament.

The humans in this future, have banded together into a ‘Starfleet’ type empire. If writer Malcolm Hulke wasn’t a big Trekkie at heart, then Frontier In Space is a massive coincidence.

Frontier In Space is a political piece at heart and features alot of political manoveuring between the Humans and Draconians, whilst one blames the other – for the attacks on their respective ships. It’s interesting watching how both empires react to the Master’s staged attacks on their ships.

It begins well enough aswell – with the Doctor and Jo loosing the Tardis to an Ogron attack, on a human cargoship. The Doctor loosing the Tardis usually makes for an interesting story. Freed from the easier plot-device of using the Tardis to undo problems – or as sanctuary.

Unfortunately, the more interesting political intrigue and drama caused by the buildup to war, is undone by a largely dull subplot of prisons cells and long slow journeys in spaceships.

The Doctor and Jo are initially taken to Earth, accused of being Draconian spies and thrown in a prison cell. They spend much of the rest of Frontier In Space locked in a series of different prisons cells – on Earth, on the Moon, in the Master’s ship and on the Ogron homeworld, etc.

It does get a bit tedious – after a while and makes for a very pedestrian plot with little pace. Especially as the Doctor and Jo sit around in their cell, waiting for something to happen. Either that, or a deathly slow journey flying a ship somewhere – really, really slowly.

It’s not helped by the reuse of the same ship’s bridge set for the human cargo ship, the Master/Ogron ship and General Williams fighter. It makes it very confusuing at times, which ship’s bridge we are supposed to be on. A bit of set redressing here, would have been a must.

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“Many of our noblemen felt it was a mistake to make a treaty with the Earthmen. Perhaps they were right. You attack our ships and when we protest, you trick us with lies and evasions. I give you a final warning. The path you are treading leads only to war. And in that war, Draconia will destroy you!” Draconian Prince

Of course, Frontier In Space is really notable – as the final appearance of Roger Delgado – as The Master (he died shortly after in a car crash and a season 10 finale appearance was scrapped).

In previous episodes, The Master had provided good value as the dually motivated thorn in the side of the Doctor – sometimes aiding and sometimes sabotaging. Usually dragging a than less interesting episode up a notch or two.

However in this, the Master is a little subdued, as if the character feels a bit tired – after so many other appearances, over the previous 2 years. The sparkle from Terror Of The Autons is just not here, as if Delgado himself is a bit sick of the whole charade.

Part of that might infact be, after so many appearances, The Master was devalued somewhat, into more of a comedy sideshow. He couldn’t even hypnotise Jo anymore. Some of his scenes with Pertwee still add value though.

Also appearing, are the Ogrons – as the hired help. We even get a trip to their barren homeworld and meet an Ogron-eating indigenous alien creature. As monsters in Who, they were pretty good value. Tall and imposing, with brute force strength.

A brief cameo appearance by the Daleks – as The Master’s employer; only serves to set in motion the events of the second part of this story – Planet Of The Daleks; other than that, they are not really part of this.

The cliffhangers are a bit lame, aswell. Not the usual life or death scenarios you exoect in Who. One of them even remains completely unresolved, which ends with the Ogrons attacking Earth and fighting their way into the Doctor’s prison cell. Only for the next part to begin with the Doctor still in his cell, the Ogrons having cleared off and no conclusion as to what the Ogrons were doing – or why.

The final part does resolve this somewhat with an interesting last cliffhanger, which involves The Master shooting the Doctor with a lazer pistol, seriously wounding him. A kind of a – ‘to be continued’ story thread – for Planet Of The Daleks.

Its worth noting that the music in Frontier In Space is out of place and annoying here, being another synthy experimental mix, rather than the usual orchestral fills. Not unlike the annoyng score from The Sea Devils. It doesn’t frame the scenes or add layer to the production but feels like someone tinkling on a keyboard, with a hundred different musical motifs.

Out of the two stories – Planet Of The Daleks is the stronger tale of the two. Frontier In Space is just too long at 6 parts and feels stretched out, to fit the running time. It should have been cut to a punchier 4-part number.

🔵🔵🔵⚪⚪ (3/5)

Old Doctor Who


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