Number : Season 7, episode 3 of 4.
Which One : Radioactive Spacemen.
Cast : The Doctor : Jon Pertwee
Liz Shaw: Caroline Johns
Brigadier : Nicholas Courtney
Sergeant Benton : John Levene
General Carrington : John Abineri
Ralph Cornish : Ronald Allen
Bruno Taltalian : Robert Cawdron
Miss Rutherford : Cheryl Molineaux
Collinson : Robert Robertson
Grey : Ray Armstrong
Sir James Quinlan : Dallas Cavell
John Wakefield : Michael Wisher
Reegan : William Dysart
Lennox : Cyril Shaps
Dobson : Juan Moreno
Van Heldorf : Gordon Sterne
Masters : John Lord
Flynn : Tony Harwood
Technician : Roy Scammell
UNIT Sergeant : Derek Ware
Corporal Champion : James Haswell
Private Parker : James Clayton
Private Johnson : Geoffrey Beevers
UNIT Soldier : Max Faulkner
Alien voices : Peter Halliday
Alien Space Captain : Peter Noel Cook
Astronaut Van Lyden/Alien Ambassador : Ric Felgate
Astronaut Lefee/Alien Ambassador : Steve Peters
Astronaut Michaels/Alien Ambassador : Neville Simons
Written By : David Whittaker, Trevor Ray, Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks
Produced By : Barry Letts
First UK Broadcast : 21 March – 2 May 1970.
Length : 7 x 25 minute parts.
Plot : Three astronauts returning from a mission to Mars are kidnapped by a sabotage group, operating out of UNIT. The human astronauts have been replaced by aliens, who thrive on radiation and can kill with just a touch.
Whats good : Interesting premise. The alien astronauts as weapons. Ralph Cornish. General Carrington.
Whats bad : Too long. The espionage plot is silly. UNIT’s basic security incompetence.
Review With Spoilers : The Ambassadors Of Death is the 3rd episode of season 7 and the only episode to feature a one-off short additional title sequence following the main credits and recap on the previous episode.
3 Astronauts returning from a Mars mission, go missing and when they finally return to Earth they are kidnapped by a shadowy splinter cell of UNIT.
The Astronauts have been switched with radiation-loving aliens, who can kill with just a touch but require constant recharge through radioactive isotopes.
It’s a neat idea and the quietly shuffling alien spacemen have a strange eerie quality about them. They are feel like they may have which influenced the Vashda Neradu Spacemen from the new series Silence In The Library episode. Especially the repeating speech recording from inside the capsule requesting re-entry.
The Doctor even breaks his Earth exile for a while, by offering to pilot a rocket into orbit, to go looking for the original human Astronauts – replaced by the aliens.
The Ambassadors Of Death is a really tightly acted and well produced serial of Who. It has some good performances and plenty of strong location work, which is particuarly reflective of early Pertwee era.
Strong performances from Who character regular John Abineri as General Carringron and Caroline Johns as Liz, help – along with a strong performance from Pertwee.
However, due to the script passing through a number of hands and subsquent rewrites. The plot and narrative is choppy and inconsistent.
The UNIT conspiracy angle is initially mysterious and promising. However, due to too early a reveal – the viewer gets to knows too early that General Carrington is behind it all, it quickly becomes tedious.
The other thing that you really notice about The Ambassadors Of Death is that – it is just far too long at 7 parts and much of the action, dialogue and plot is stretched out to fit.
“No! You saw three spacesuits. I don’t know what came down in Recovery 7, but it certainly wasn’t human!” The Doctor
The story really doesn’t have enough in it, to stretch to 2 hours and 15 minutes. A few cuts to make it a brisk 4 parter would have made it a far better paced adventure.
The Brigadier and UNIT get a good supporting role in this but to their detriment, UNIT seem to be totally incompetent at protecting the space centre and launch pad, from attacks.
Even though they are fully aware of a conspiracy and a group of saboteurs on the loose. As a result, the badguys seem to come and go from UNIT controlled bases as they please – easily killing, or rendering UNIT’s finest red shirts – unconcious.
There is also a distinct lack of SFX in Ambassadors Of Death, bar some modelwork of the Mars Seven Lander probe and the alien ship. Which leaves some of the action scenes stangely sterile.
The sequences featuring the Doctor piloting the rocket into space, is left to the imagination or described by mission control. Even though any added SFX would have dated with time, it would have given a bit more scope and grandiose to proceedings, which remain flat.
The Ambassadors Of Death is an overly long boring astronaut/spacerocket romp, which bar a few neat ideas (the alien spacemen) fails to liven up proceedings. As a result, most viewers attention will begin wandering – around part 4.
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