Please do not throw hands at Sue.
Sue: Oh no. Not Chris Boucher again.
Me: It’s pronounced Boucher, actually.
On a desolate and dusty planet, a sandminer is churning up the landscape.
Sue: This looks good. They’re selling it well. The camera movement certainly helps.
The sandminer appears to be run by robots.
Sue: The robots look like walking BAFTAs. Were the BBC trying to be subliminal in the hope that they’d win something?
The human crew members are relaxing elsewhere in a very comfortable room.
Sue: So this must be a luxury cruise ship.
Me: Not quite.
Sue: Well what is it then?
Me: It’s a sandminer. They mine sand.
Sue: They’re miners?
Sue: They don’t look like miners to me. They’re too middle-class to be miners. Have they never seen Alien?
Me: Unlikely. It hasn’t been made yet.
Sue: Imagine Alien with the crew dressed like that. Go on, try it. I dare you.
Meanwhile, in the space-time vortex, the Doctor is trying to explain transdimensional engineering to Leela…
Sue: That was nice. I really appreciated that. And I’m glad Leela is questioning everything. Because you would, wouldn’t you?
Me: I’m just relieved that Nicol wasn’t around to witness that scene.
The TARDIS materialises in the sandminer and the Doctor can’t wait to explore his new surroundings.
Me: I thought you’d have something to say about Leela not changing into something a little less comfortable.
Sue: I’m not surprised. The Doctor is a bloke. He’s not going to tell her that the TARDIS has a massive wardrobe so she can cover herself up, now is he? He isn’t that stupid.
As the Doctor and Leela explore the sandminer’s interior, its crew prepares for an oncoming storm…
Sue: Oh. My. God. They’ve dressed up to go to work. Look at their hats! They can’t be miners. This is more Abigail’s Party than the Labour Party. Come on, what are they doing, really?
Me: They really are miners. Honest.
Sue: Well, it’s not very practical. I bet that woman’s hat keeps banging into her computer screen when she leans in to read her email. It must drive her mad.
In an isolated storage room, a robot strangles a crew member to death.
Sue: That was scary. The POV shots are great – just like The Terminator. There’s something really creepy about the robots’ faces, too.
When Commander Uvanov and Chief Mover Poul investigate the scene of the crime, they find a red disc on the back of the victim’s hand…
Uvanov: What’s this?
Sue: It’s a bicycle reflector, stupid.
Uvanov assembles his crew and he gives them the bad news: one of them is a murderer.
Sue: So this is Agatha Christie in Space. I’m surprised that Doctor Who doesn’t do this sort of thing more often.
Uvanov takes out the red disc.
Uvanov: Now, does anybody know what this is?
Sue: It’s a bicycle reflector! We’ve already been through this.
As the crew bicker among themselves, Sue’s EastEnders Detector goes into overdrive.
Sue: I know him. He lived in Albert Square for years.
Me: Ted Hills.
Sue: Yes, but which character did he play?
Me: Ted Hills! The actor’s name is Brian Croucher.
Sue: Isn’t it pronounced Croucher?
Me: Very funny. What about the woman playing Toos? She was in EastEnders as well.
Sue: Maybe if she took her hat off.
Me: She had Dirty Den killed. You know, the first time he was killed.
The Doctor and Leela are apprehended by some robots.
Sue: The robots are very creepy. It’s the fat lips that do it.
Me: Do you like the design?
Sue: Yes, it’s very Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
The Doctor and Leela are taken to a cabin and told to wait.
Sue: This is very plush. They really should covert this mining business into luxury timeshare cruises. It’s lovely.
Uvanov orders his crew back to work.
Sue: You know, if they spent less time applying their make-up and choosing the right hat to match their outfits, they’d get a lot more done. God knows what they wear when they go out for dinner.
Sue is much happier with the design of the sandminer itself.
Sue: A lot of thought has gone into this. There’s a sense of scale to this that you don’t usually get with the studio-based stories. I can’t fault the design at all.
But something does unnerve her.
Sue: Do you want to know what scares me the most about this period of Doctor Who?
Me: Go on.
Sue: You’ll laugh.
Me: Probably, but tell me anyway.
Sue: I’m worried that Tom Baker will trip over his scarf and he’ll do himself a serious injury.
She’s deadly serious.
Sue: Whenever he’s in a long-shot, I can’t stop looking at his feet. I can’t relax whenever he’s near a balcony or some stairs.
The Doctor and Leela are separated and the Doctor finds himself in one of the sandminer’s hoppers.
Sue: I had a torch like the Doctor’s. I loved that torch. It was an Eveready, I think.
Me: You can’t say that without being certain. What if it was a Panasonic or a Uniross? They’ll come down on you like a ton of bricks.
The Doctor is locked in the hopper and sand starts pouring in on top of him.
Sue: Leela will save him. It’s what the companions do.
As the credits roll, I ask Sue to sum up.
Sue: It’s a good start. The costumes take a bit of getting used to, but they’re still miles better than the Tesh.top
Sue continues to wrestle with the story’s costume design…
Sue: The sets are great but they could have even better if only they’d dressed the crew in plain overalls. Just think of the money they could have saved.
Sue is already suspicious of Dask.
Sue: Why doesn’t he wear a silly hat? What makes him so special?
Leela encounters a robot called D84. The robot shows Leela the corpse of a crew member – a red disc has been placed on the back of its hand.
D84: Do you know what that is?
Sue: I’m not going to say it.
Uvanov interrupts D84′s interrogation and the robot pretends to restrain Leela. Uvanov slaps her in the face.
Leela retaliates with a swift kick to Uvanov’s balls.
Sue: You go, girl. I’m really starting to warm to Leela.
Uvanov believes that Leela killed Cass.
Sue: Cass was played by a really bad actor. He won’t be missed. I hope they kill the characters off in order of acting ability. If I’m right, Zelda (sic) is next in line for the bicycle reflector of doom. Did you run around your school putting bicycle reflectors on your friends’ hands?
Me: Don’t be silly. A bicycle reflector won’t stick to flesh without using superglue. By the way, if Gregory from Form 6B is reading this, I’m still really sorry, mate. Can you still see the scar after all these years?
A robot rescues the Doctor from the hopper before presenting him to the increasingly suspicious sandminer crew. When Commander Uvanov and the Doctor lock horns, Sue laps it up.
Sue: Tom is on form today. The other guy playing the commander is very good, too. They are definitely egging each other on.
Before you ask, she’s never seen Callan and she’s never read Dune.
When the Doctor accuses Ted Hills of being the classic example of the inverse ratio between the size of the mouth and the size of the brain, I have to join in.
Me: I used that line in a real life, once.
Me: We’d just met. I didn’t tell you at the time. I didn’t think you’d understand. Anyway, I’d just started teaching and I had to deal with an obnoxious loudmouth student. He probably sensed that I was new to the job and he tried to exploit my inexperience. He really wound me up. So I used the inverse ratio line on him. I thought it sounded like the sort of thing a teacher might say.
Sue: What was his reaction?
Me: He shut his mouth and he was as good as gold from that point on. He even gave me an apple the following week. (pause) What do you think he did? He called me a ******* ****.
As fate would have it, I gave my very last class today. After 18 years of lecturing, I have decided to throw in the towel. I don’t have the energy to hurl quotes from Doctor Who at my students anymore. As I said to them today, if you stop enjoying it, give it up. Anyway, come July, this blog will be my full-time (unpaid) job.
The Doctor and Leela are taken to a storage area where they restrained with metal straps.
Sue: Just whip your sonic out.
The thought doesn’t even cross the Doctor’s mind.
Me: I’m sure he had the sonic with him earlier. What’s that all about?
Poul decides to question them further. The Doctor suggests that a robot may have been responsible for the deaths. Poul finds this too impossible to contemplate, but the Doctor retorts that it’s aerodynamically impossible for bumblebees to fly, but they do it anyway.
Me: That’s a myth.
Sue: Did the Doctor just get a fact wrong? We should write a letter of complaint. Or maybe we could start an online campaign to have it removed from any future DVD releases. I know, let’s burn him!
Zilda retires to her cabin for a quick nap (her incessant whining having worn her out), and she is confronted by a revelation so shocking, it reduces her to tears.
Sue tutted so loudly, you probably heard her.
Sue: Thank God she’s dead. She’s a strong candidate for the worst actor in Doctor Who so far. Rule number one: never give your weakest actor the hardest scene.
Leela senses danger and seconds later the sandminer is tilting dangerously over a cliff.
Sue: Is Leela psychic? Did that computer mess with her head in the last story? I bet that skill will come in handy later.
The command deck in plunged into chaos as the sandminer threatens to blow itself apart. The Doctor implores Toos to cut to the power but it’s too(s) little, too(s) late – she’s gonna blow!
Sue: Not bad.top
Dask cuts the power and the sandminer begins to sink.
Sue: He has the look of Gary Glitter.
Me: And Wolverine’s hair.
It’s at this point that Sue decides to pick a fight with David Collings.
Sue: I don’t like him very much. He’s too theatrical. And that’s really saying something in this story. His ridiculous costume doesn’t help, but he really should be on the stage instead of the telly.
Me: You’re wrong, but I forgive you.
Poul finds a robot with blood on its hands and he freaks out.
Sue: See! Tell me that wasn’t hammy. Anyone would think he hadn’t seen a person’s brains smeared all over a robot before.
A Super Voc robot designated SV7 is reprogrammed by a sinister person who broadcasts their commands on a scrambled frequency (either that or he has a really bad cold).
Sue: Are we supposed to know who that is?
How can she not tell? Anyway…
Sue: Is that a Marigold icon I see on the robot’s hand? Oh my, they are wearing Marigold gloves! I thought they were, but I didn’t want to say anything.
The Doctor and D84 discuss the possible whereabouts of Taren Capel, a mad scientist who has a bit of a thing for robots.
Sue: D84 is very sweet. The kids probably loved this story. I can see why people might like this. I wish I did.
Me: That makes two of us. I wish you liked it, too.
Sadly, D84 didn’t entertain the possibility that an evil mastermind could impersonate one of the crew.
D84: I have failed.
Sue: Awwwww, bless. Can we have a D84, please? He’s so cute.
Toos is sleeping in her cabin when a robot wakes her. She demands that Leela be brought to her immediately.
Sue: OK, so she wants Leela brought to her bed chambers so she can tend to her sore wrist. Riiiight.
Me: I’m not complaining.
A corrupted SV7 transforms a group of robots into killers with impeccable manners.
Sue: They are so polite. That’s the scariest thing about this.
Leela is attacked by a robot but she manages to run away.
Sue: The robots need a weapon of some sort. Brute strength only works if you can run after your intended victims.
The Doctor and D84 find a Laserson probe.
Sue: The machine has ‘Laserson’ emblazoned all over it. That’s futuristic product placement. I like it – it helps to flesh out the world. Maybe the marigold thing wasn’t a mistake after all. Perhaps the company branched out into fetish wear for robots?
The Doctor contacts Toos and he tells her to make her way to the command deck. Toos tries to leave her cabin but a robot blocks her exit.
Sue: They should have cut to a close up of the robot’s face when that door opened. The director missed an obvious trick there.
Toos barricades herself in her room and she calls the Doctor for help. D84 volunteers to assist her.
D84: Please let me go. I am faster.
Sue: I sincerely doubt that. You are wearing carpet slippers.
The Doctor tells Toos that help is on its way.
Sue: Is he going to tell her that he’s sent a robot to help her? It’s going to be very awkward if he doesn’t.
Leela finds Poul cowering under a table.
Sue: He is working with the robots?
Sue: So why is he acting like this?
Me: He’s having a nervous breakdown.
Sue: Did Chris Boucher want to be a psychiatrist when he grew up?
The episode concludes with the Doctor fighting off a robot who wants to massage him to death.
Sue: Not bad. At least the cliffhangers are good.top
Sue doesn’t say anything for a very long time. I’m enjoying the episode too much to care and I convince myself that her protracted silence is the result of her being gripped the story. Oh boy, was I wrong…
Sue: How long until this ends? I can’t keep up with this nonsense. Why is the robot with the blue eyes bad? I though it was just the robots with the red eyes who were bad? There’s no consistency to this. And where’s the bloke in the Ku Klux Klan gear? What is he waiting for? Whoever the hell he is.
The only thing that piques her interest is Toos’ intense interest in Leela.
Sue: There’s a strong lesbian subtext in her performance. Look at the way she’s touching Leela’s knee. Oh, and now she’s managed to sneak in a cuddle. Leela has definitely scored.
It turns out that Dask was the mad scientist, Taren Capel, all along…
Sue: It’s Gary Glitter meets the Hulk. Actually, that look probably passes for normal in this society.
The Doctor suspects that Poul could be suffering from a bad case of robophobia.
Sue: I don’t buy that. Maybe if the actor playing him wasn’t hamming it up so much, I could believe it, but he might as well be scared of a fridge. And who’s bright idea was it to pair a robot with a man who’s terrified of robots? It’s a bit contrived. And what’s the point?
Capel plans to take over the world with his beloved robots. He is very sure of himself.
Dask: We will be irresistible.
Sue: Have you looked in a mirror recently?
In the battle that follows, D84 is stabbed in the head with a Laserson probe. But instead of turning bad, D84 disables several evil robots, bravely sacrificing himself in the process.
Sue: That’s a shame. I liked D84. He would have been an interesting companion.
SV7 turns on Taren Capel because his voice is all funny.
Sue: I can’t tell if that solution was silly or inspired. I’m not thrilled to see Leela sitting it out in a cupboard, though.
The Doctor and Leela leg it back to the TARDIS.
Sue: I hate it when no one comes to see them off. How ungrateful can you get?top
The Final Score
Sue: That was average.
Me: Average? Are you mad?
Sue: It didn’t make any sense. The villain’s plan was very vague. Why was he pretending to be a miner? What was that all about? If you were going to take over the world, would you really start there? Yes, the robots look very nice, and there are some interesting ideas fighting to get out, but it was too hysterical for my taste. I don’t see what the big deal is.
The experiment continues…top
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