Number : Season 10, serial 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 episodes.
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 : Star Trek rip-off. Overly long. Slow-paced. The Master turn fails to add sparke.
Review With Spoilers : Frontier In Space is the 3rd serial of season 10 – and forms the first of a 2-part story, concluding with Planet Of The Daleks.
It’s the Doctor Who equivilent of Star Trek’s – Star Fleet versus The Klingon empire. We even have the Doctor Who equivilant of the Neutral Zone, or the titular – ‘Frontier In Space’; between the 2 empires.
The Draconians might aswell -be pastry-headed and brown-skinned; being almost carbon-copies of the Klingons. Epsecially 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 manoveurings – 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.
Frontier In Space begins strongly enough, aswell. With the Doctor and Jo, losing the Tardis to an Ogron attack – on a human cargoship. The Doctor losing 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 build-up 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 l, after a while – and makes for a very pedestrian plot, with little pace. Especially, as the Doctor and Jo – sit around in their cell – discussing events; waiting for something to happen. Either that, or a deathly slow journey, whilst 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 William’s fighter. It makes it very confusing – at times, which ship’s bridge we are supposed to be on. A bit of set redressing here, would have been a must.
“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’s – Master (he died shortly after in a accidental car crash – and a season 10 finale appearance was scrapped).
In previous stories, 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 less interesting story – up a notch or two.
However – in this, the Master is a little subdued, as if the character feels a bit tired; after so stonking appearances, – over the previous 2 years. The sparkle from Terror Of The Autons is just not here anymore, 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 comedic sideshow role. The Master couldn’t even hypnotise Jo anymore! Some of Delgado’s 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 Doctor Who go, 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-linked story; Planet Of The Daleks. Other than this cameo, they are not really part of this story.
The cliffhanger’s are a bit lame aswell, here. Not the usual life-or-death scenarios, you expect in Doctor 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, given.
The final episode does resolve this – somewhat with an interesting last cliffhanger, which involves The Master seriously wounding the Doctor, with a lazer pistol. A ‘to be continued’ moment; for Planet Of The Daleks.
It is additionally 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 equally annoyng score from The Sea Devils. It doesn’t frame the scenes or add layers to the production. Feeling more 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 episodes – and feels stretched out. It should have been cut, to a punchier 4-part number.
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