The title sequence is rudely interrupted by Ronald Allen.
Sue: Oh, it’s the man from Crossroads. He’s been in Doctor Who before. I’m surprised they asked him back after what happened last time.
And then the titles pick up where they left off.
Sue: What the **** was that? Was that a mistake?
The Doctor is tinkering with the TARDIS console.
Sue: Where are we supposed to be now? Are we inside the TARDIS? Has the Doctor redecorated, or did he have another control room hidden away somewhere?
Me: We’re not inside the TARDIS. The Doctor’s moved the console outside.
Sue: How did he get it through the doors? And why has he painted it green?
Me: Pale green looks more white in black and white.
Sue: Yes, but we’re watching Doctor Who in colour now, so that’s a bit silly.
Me: Yes, dear.
Sue: I’m glad the Doctor still holds a grudge against the Brigadier after what he did to the Silurians. I thought they’d brush that under the carpet and forget about it. It’s good, this. I feel like I’m watching a continuing story.
High above the Earth, Recovery 7 is preparing to dock with Mars Probe 7.
Sue: There are lots of sevens in this story. Is that why it’s seven episodes long, Neil?
As the spaceships moor, the soundtrack skates perilously close to copyright infringement.
Sue: It was nice of Procol Harum to do the music.
Me: I think they’re trying to emulate 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Sue: It’s almost as boring as 2001. Actually, it reminds me of Apollo 13.
Me: It’s funny you should say that because this story was broadcast during the real Apollo 13 crisis. They’ll blow their fuel tanks somewhere between Episodes 4 and 5.
Sue: That is a bit weird. Do you think they would have shown the rest of it if the astronauts had died?
A news reporter is on hand to feed the audience all the raw exposition it needs.
Sue: This feels quite modern and clever, even if it does look like an Open University lecture.
A mysterious signal is beamed to the probe from Earth, and when the Doctor triangulates the source of the transmission, he discovers that it’s only seven miles away.
Sue: The writer is obsessed with the number seven. Who wrote this? The weird titles were so weird I didn’t notice.
Me: David Whitaker.
Sue: He’s done loads, hasn’t he? He’s definitely been around the block and back again. Is this his seventh story or something?
Sue: Damn it. I thought I was on to something, there.
Sue isn’t a big fan of UNIT’s theme tune.
Sue: It’s too jaunty. It should be mysterious and ominous. It sounds like something you’d hear at a wife-swapping party.
Me: Oh, really? And you’ve been to a lot of those, have you?
Sue: Only with my first husband.
UNIT are forced to deal with some common thugs.
Sue: It’s the world’s most boring gunfight. They’re politely queuing up to take it in turns to shoot at one another.
Events eventually spiral into an orgy of protracted violence.
Sue: It’s as if The Sweeney and The Professionals have turned up to lend them a hand. I don’t know what I’m watching, but it isn’t Doctor Who. Not that I’m complaining, mind.
Thugs leap from balconies and crash through sheets of glass, and Sue is relieved when her favourite character doesn’t sustain any injuries.
Sue: The Brig is so cool.
And then, apropos to absolutely nothing at all, a Frenchman pulls a gun on the Doctor and Liz.
Sue: Eh? Where the hell did that cliffhanger come from?
Sue: They keep ****ing up the title sequence. It doesn’t work. It’s over the top. I wish they’d stop doing it.
Bruno Taltalian’s accent is ripe for ridicule (“Docteur! Do you have a license for that dewg?”), but when the Doctor makes a reel of computer tape vanish into thin air, and puts it down to simple transmigration, my wife is bloody furious.
Sue: Oh come on! What the hell is that supposed to mean? Is he a magician now? And what’s with all the sodding rainbows on the wall?
Sue isn’t happy with the quality of the recording we’re watching – it’s a digital copy of the official 2002 VHS release, if you’re interested.
Sue: This is bad. It definitely hasn’t been VidFIREd.
Me: I think this is an old NTSC recording.
Sue: That makes sense. NTSC: Never The Same Colour.
Just as she says this, the picture slips into black and white. Sue doesn’t say a word, although she does throw a cushion at me.
Sue: Who thought it would be a good idea to play sleazy porn music over a prison breakout?
But it’s not all bad news.
Sue: Liz’s hair is very nice this week. Liz would look quite trendy nowadays.
As Recovery 7 returns to Earth, Cornish urgently presses some buttons to make himself look busy.
Sue: Oh dear, that’s a very bouncy console. That can’t be good. Unless bouncy consoles are supposed to be futuristic or something.
In a welcome break from all this claustrophobia, the Doctor heads to the landing site in Bessie.
Sue: I’m glad the Doctor’s got his roof up this week. He must have learnt a valuable lesson when he got his bum soaked in the one with the Silurians.
As the Doctor leaves the scene, crunching Bessie’s gears in the process (“Can he play any other tunes on that?”), the bad guys ambush the convoy from above.
Sue: This programme is obsessed with helicopters!
Me: I love the identification number on this particular one.
Me: Yes! Godawful!
When an outrider falls off his motorcycle – backwards – Sue is genuinely worried about his safety.
Sue: Ooh, I bet that hurt! Was he supposed to fall as hard as that?
Me: Cry HAVOC, and let slip the stuntmen of yore!
The villains make off with the capsule, although they still find the time to pull over and help the Doctor push Bessie off the side of the road when he apparently breaks down.
Sue: They are incredibly helpful criminals, it has to be said.
The Doctor traps them in a force field and returns the capsule to the space centre (which makes the last 10 minutes completely redundant). The Doctor complains the astronauts still won’t come out of their capsule, and Sue doesn’t understand why he hasn’t cottoned on yet.
Sue: Why doesn’t he assume the capsule is full of rotting corpses? Surely that’s the logical conclusion?
The hatch is opened and the theme music crashes in.
Sue: That was creepy. I’m enjoying this.
Me: It’s time for Episode 3 of The Ambassadors…
Sue: …OF DEATH!
Sue: The Moff obviously borrowed the idea of a spooky catchphrase from this story, but “Would you clear us for re-entry?” isn’t half as scary as, “Who turned off all the lights?” or, “Are you my mummy?” They haven’t grasped the concept yet.
The Doctor hops onto a ladder.
Sue: Pertwee is very nimble for his age. You wouldn’t think it to look at him.
Reegan abducts the astronauts, who are being kept in a shed.
Sue: He just punched that guy in the balls! And now he’s shot another guy in the balls! That was pretty low.
The Doctor races to the scene in Bessie.
Sue: I’ve noticed that Jon Pertwee does all his own driving. He would have been brilliant on ‘Star in a Reasonably Priced Car’.
Meanwhile Reegan is being a total git in a gravel pit.
Sue: Is this our first proper quarry, as in: this is supposed to be a quarry and not just a quarry that’s pretending to be something else? And why do I even care?
Reegan buries his dead associates under a slagheap.
Sue: It’s turned into Get Carter. This is so bleak. What were the kids supposed to be doing when this was on?
And then Reegan’s van changes its appearance.
Sue: That was pretty good. That would have been very difficult to do back then. It’s very James Bond, this. Or maybe the van is really a TARDIS and this guy is…
Me: Stop it!
When Sue gets a good look at the mysterious astronauts, she makes the obvious connection.
Sue: I’m convinced Steven Moffat has a thing for this story. Just look at it! There isn’t just one impossible astronaut – there are three impossible astronauts! And they’re very similar to those skeletons he had running around in spacesuits in the David Tennant story set in a library.
As Sue chews this over, it’s time for Doctor Who’s very first car chase!
Sue: A Mark I Ford Capri! Classic. My first boyfriend had one of those. But the music isn’t right. It isn’t exciting enough. Bring back Dudley, all is forgiven.
Me: This is Dudley.
Sue: Is it? ****.
The episode concludes as Liz Shaw tumbles off a weir.
Sue: That must be a stunt double. Nice legs though, whoever he is.
Me: How are you finding this story so far?
Sue: I’m starting to lose interest, to be honest. It’s very slow. Here we are, 90 minutes into it, and I still haven’t got a clue what’s going on. Maybe it’s because it’s in black and white, but I’m struggling.
Sue: Jon Pertwee has great comic timing. He’s funny and straight at the same time. And his Doctor is quite sarky, isn’t he? It’s as if he’s permanently in a bad mood.
Me: He is in a bad mood, Sue. He’s stuck on Earth. He’s doing the Time Lord equivalent of time, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Sue: This episode is basically people running backwards and forwards between locations. Just because there aren’t any corridors linking them all together, it doesn’t mean this isn’t the same thing we’ve seen a hundred times before. And when does this turn back into colour? It’s starting to piss me off.
Me: Most people would have seen this in black and white in 1970.
Sue: I don’t care. It’s 2011 and I want bright colours on my 50? plasma, thank you very much. You told me everything was in colour from now on. You lied to me, Neil. Again. How many years does this black and white nonsense go on for?
Me: Only another four.
A cushion sails over my head.
Sue: Oh look, d’Artagnan.
Sue: Whatever. He’s got a “beumb”!
Ronald Allen changes his facial expression from hangdog to hungdog.
Sue: He looks like he’s had enough. I can see why he gave up on the space programme to work in a motel.
The Doctor volunteers to go up in the recovery capsule himself, even though it is a primitive heap of junk.
Sue: At least it works and you can steer it. That’s more than he’s used to.
Taltalian returns to the lab with his “beumb” in his briefcase.
Sue: Could this guy be any more suspicious? It’s bad enough that he’s wearing a false beard without him drawing even more attention to himself.
The bomb goes off in Taltalian’s face.
Sue: Oh look, the Doctor’s been injured.
Me: He must have been cut by Taltalian’s cheekbone as it sailed through the air.
An Ambassador (OF DEATH!) can kill people just by touching them, so the cliffhanger involves one of them walking up behind the Doctor with an outstretched hand…
Sue: Can’t he hear him? Is he completely deaf? The astronaut is practically asthmatic!
Sue: Oh look, there’s another character called Masters in this one. I don’t suppose…
Me: This episode is in colour.
Sergeant Benton has some bad news for the Brigadier.
Me: That’s John Levene.
Sue: The guy who worked with Take That?
Me: No, that’s Ian Levine. You briefly saw John Levene at the Doctor Who convention last week. He was on his way to deliver some edgy stand-up comedy.
Sue: He looks fairly normal here. But I thought you said…
Me: Trust me, you haven’t seen his stand-up comedy.
Talking of acute embarrassment, the Doctor is determined to brush the results of his recent medical under the carpet.
Sue: I assume that Cornish was going to mention his two hearts?
Me: Either that or he’s picked up a communicable disease. You’d think Cornish would be more surprised the Doctor was an alien. Or maybe he is surprised. It’s difficult to tell with Ronald Allen.
And then, probably because she hasn’t been threatened for at least seven minutes, Reegan points his gun at Liz’s chin.
Sue: This bloke is a right bastard. Where’s Bodie and Doyle when you need them?
To relieve the boredom of sitting around all day, Reegan then spends the rest of the episode running across gantries, which Sue recognises as an early version of parkouring (although she’s not sure about his denim hat). Anyway, Reegan kicks a technician off one of these gantries and the poor man lands on his elbows.
Sue: Ouch! That looked great!
There’s only one thing missing.
Sue: Where’s the bloody rocket?
Me: I think this place is supposed to be attached to the rocket.
Sue: So where the hell is it? It looks like a gas refinery.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the security at this place (wherever the hell we are) is practically non-existent.
Sue: The British Space Programme seems to be run by six people. Is it any wonder we didn’t get to the Moon first?
And then, just as Sue is about to relinquish any hope of ever seeing the actual rocket, there it is.
Sue: Ah, so that’s why they never showed us the rocket. It looks terrible.
When the Doctor finally reaches orbit (after some very impressive gurning), a UFO arrives to intercept him.
Sue: Oh look, the plot has turned up at last.
Recovery 7 is swallowed by an alien spaceship.
Sue: It’s a giant pair of lips.
The Doctor floats out of the capsule and into the aliens’ ship.
Sue: Okay, what the **** is this?
When the Doctor meets the missing astronauts, they act as if he’s just interrupted a football match on the telly.
Sue: There’s too much mind-control in this programme. Every single week someone is being brainwashed!
Me: Nah, that’s just you, love.
And then we get our first good look at the aliens. Well, erm…
Sue: Never use chroma key on venetian blinds – it’s a nightmare to light properly. I mean, what the **** am I supposed to be looking at, here? This has gone a bit mental.
The bad guys offer Liz a job.
Sue: She should ask them what their pension plan is like before she commits to anything.
And then Reegan spends the rest of the episode running up and down some gas pipes. Again.
Sue: This is exactly the same crap we saw in the last episode. It’s just this bloke running up and down these pipes in a silly costume. And who in their right mind holds a spanner like that?
The episode concludes as General Carrington threatens to perform his moral duty, which, for some inexplicable reason, involves shooting the Doctor in the head at point-blank range.
Sue: Good cliffhanger, that. I didn’t understand a bloody word of it, but what a great cliffhanger.
When the Ambassadors raid a company that deal in radioactive isotopes (yes, I know!), Sue thinks she’s spotted a fatal flaw.
Sue: How come the van doesn’t blow up when the Ambassadors sit down in it?
Me: That’s a bloody good question.
Sue: There’s too much sitting around waiting for stuff to happen in this story. It’s endless scenes of people with their feet up on desks.
I notice that Geoffrey Beevers is playing a UNIT private.
Me: Oh look, it’s the Master.
Me: Sorry, I’m just pulling your leg.
Sue: UNIT’s theme tune sounds medieval, don’t you think? It would be fine if they were armed with bows and arrows, but they’re not.
When UNIT arrive at Carrington’s lair, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d stumbled upon something indiscreet.
Sue: Are these two blokes cottaging? Haven’t UNIT got anything better to do than break up this kind of thing?
Cue yet another tightly-choreographed fight scene.
Sue: At least that one was relatively short. Oh wait, it’s started up again. Have I got enough time to make a cup of tea?
As the Brigadier exchanges fake punches with another thug, Sue frowns.
Sue: I’ve noticed the action sequences are almost completely silent. I’m not sure if that makes them grittier or less exciting.
The Brigadier finally makes it to the bad guys’ base. He throws open the door and shoots the first person he sees.
Sue: The Brig doesn’t piss about! Whatever happened to, “Don’t move or I’ll shoot”? Wow!
Back at the space centre, Carrington is preparing to deliver a television broadcast that will supposedly spark an intergalactic war.
Sue: He’s the only person holding this story together.
Me: John Abineri?
Sue: He’s very good. He’s very intense.
Me: Yes, he really is spoiling us.
And then it’s all over. Carrington gives himself up, and even Reegan survives, which is extremely rare for a henchman in Doctor Who. With a cheery wave, the Doctor disappears into the sunset.
Sue: The Doctor can’t be arsed with all the tedious details. He just sods off and leaves them to it. You have to admire that.
Sue: It was too long. Three episodes too long, in fact. Maybe it was the black and white bits, or the ropey quality of that print, but I struggled to get into it. It started well, but it didn’t hold my attention like the last one, and the end was a bit of an anti-climax, as well, so I’ll give it:
Sue: If only they’d removed some of the stunts, it would have been over in five episodes. How long is the next one?
Me: Erm, seven.