Number : Season 14, serial 5 of 6.

Which One : Creepy cherub-faced killer robots.

Cast : The Doctor : Tom Baker
Leela : Louise Jamison
Uvanov : Russell Hunter
Toos : Pamela Salem
Dask : David Bailie
Poul : David Collings
Borg : Brian Croucher
Zilda : Tania Rogers
Chub : Rob Edwards
Cass : Tariq Yunus
D.84 : Gregory de Polnay
S.V.7 : Miles Fothergill

Written By : Chris Boucher.

Produced By : Philip Hinchcliffe

First UK Broadcast : 29 January – 19 February 1977.

Length : 4 x 25 minute episodes.

Plot : The Doctor and Leela, land on a huge moving sand mining-vehicle. Which is being driving over a desert planet; syphoning the sand for precious rocks. It is staffed, by a small crew of humans and robotic servants. However, the human crew begin getting picked off one-by-one, and the Doctor suspects; that the robots – might be to blame.

Whats good : Creepy robots look like Cherubs/Angels. The sand-miner is an interestingly different location on which to set the story.

Whats bad : The Doctor and Leela, initally – have little visible chemistry.

Review With Spoilers : The Robots Of Death is the fifth serial of season 14 – and Leela’s first full adventure; following her meeting with the Doctor; in The Face Of Evil.

It’s tough going, for Leela in her first full appearance, alongside the Doctor (actor Louise Jamieson claimed that Baker ignored her on-set, between takes!). It shows, with little chemistry between Leela and the Doctor; not at all like when Sarah-Jane, was around. Relations did improve though, as the show went on – and relationships (off camera) improved.

The sand mining-vehicle is staffed by a crew of humans. A technologically advanced (but lazy) humanoid culture, who dress like
Egyptian gods; whilst their robotic C3PO-style servants – wait on them.

It has a strong machine-versus-man moral tale element to it, with a healthy observance of Isaac Assimov’s rules. The humans treat the robots badly and as a result, kind of deserve the robot’s retribution. The robots themselves, have lots of fail-safes built in, to stop them malfunctioning; we are assured. However, some of them do still go crazy. Principally, because someone with know-how, is reprogramming them; to kill.

The real trick here – though, is how creepy and effective the robots themselves are. With their expressionless smiling cherub angel-looking, gold faces and blank staring eyes.

“A Voc class robot has over a million multi-level constrainers in its circuitry. All of them would have to malfunction before it could perform such an action.” Dask

The robots are split into different classes; black ‘Dums’ that cannot speak. Pale green ‘Vocs’ – that can talk, and a silver ‘Super Voc’ which is independant and controls all the other menial class robots; the ‘Dums’ and the ‘Vocs’.

Kudos should goto the robot’s movement actors. They all seem to move with a slow and similar range of movement; which gives the feel that all of the robots are built the same. Also, when a killer robot is on the loose; their eyes shine bright red – as if under an angry red mist; which gives the robots – a creepy undertone.

The way, in which – the Doctor deals with the rogue robot re-programmer, is quite blackly humorous aswell; by unleashing a canister of helium in the robot’s repair workshop. Meaning, the robots cannot recognise their programmers vocie or understand the programmer’s instruction – so they kill him!

The Robots Of Death is a memorable episode and the robots are well designed and creepy. Doctor Who hasn’t done (as good) – a robot story, since The Android Invasion. Another Baker highpoint.

🔵🔵🔵🔵⚪ (4/5)

Old Doctor Who

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