Number : Season 16, serial 4 of 6.
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 episodes.
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. Peter Jeffrey as Count Grendel.
Whats bad : Too similar to The Android Invasion. Talky and boring. The Taran Bear!?
Review With Spoilers : The Androids Of Tara is the fourth 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 serial to fill, something will still 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 Count Grendel.
After the nice momentum, built by The Pirate Planet and Stones Of Blood. Doctor Who goes all pedestrian, with a medieval retread of <>Invasion Of The Androids.
The culture clash, of a world ruled by medieval kings in castles; who can build life-like 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 real’ paranoid-type affair.
However, this is something covered much more effectively, 2 seasons earlier; in both the 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 and intending to take some time out – and fish. Baker also gets to flex his action-muscle, with a swordfight, against the Count near the end and his overall performance – as usual, bonds the episode – together.
When Doctor Who raid the mighty Beeb period-costume cupboard, to put on the Doctor Who – equivilant of Prisoner Of Zenda; it smacks more of a cost-cutting exercise. 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 more boring period Hartnell numbers, at least this one has a sci-fi angle – in terms of the robots. However, we covered this “impostors or robots masquerading as people” story before, so it feels like a less effective retread.
From the aspect of a period piece, the costume and set-design; is rather 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 ‘sensational-ist’ robot-angle. After the good work of the previous Key-To-Time stories, things flatline here.
The period-angle could be a refershing change, from the more – ‘all out’ sci-fi of the previous 2 Key-To-Time stories but in terms of building, on the season; it doesn’t.
In summary, if you like the thought of Doctor Who’s revisionist take – on ‘Prisoner Of Zenda’; with robots. Then you may like this. On the other hand, you could watch the first 10 minutes, just to see Romana get the fourth segment of the Key-To-Time (straight away) – and then leave it there.
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