Number : Season 14, episode 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 parts.
Plot : The Doctor and Leela land on a huge 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 5th episode 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 both Leela and actress Louise Jamieson. 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. It 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 kind of technologically advanced but lazy humanoid culture, who dress like
Egyptian gods; whilst their robotic C3PO-style servants – run around after them.
It has a strong machine-versus-man moral tale 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 but 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 are. With their smiling angel-looking gold faces. They were also homaged as the gold robotic angels from nu series 2007 Xmas episode; Voyage Of The Damned.
“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’.
A note of congratulations should goto the robot’s movement actors. They all seem to move with a slow and similar range of movement. 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 understand their programmer’s instruction and they kill him.
The Robots Of Death is a memorable episode of Who and the robots are well designed and creepy. Who hasn’t done as good a robot story, since The Android Invasion. Another Baker highpoint.
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