THE ROBOTS OF DEATH

Part One

Sue: Oh no. Not Chris Boucher again.
Me: It’s pronounced Boucher, actually.
Sue: Whatever.

A sandminer is churning up the landscape on a desolate and dusty planet.

Sue: This looks good. They’re really selling it to me. The camera movement certainly helps.

The sandminer is run by robots.

The Robots of DeathSue: These robots look like walking BAFTAs. Were the BBC trying to be subliminal, hoping they’d win something?

The human crewmembers relax elsewhere in a comfortable room.

Sue: So this is 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?
Me: Yes.
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… I dare you.

The Robots of DeathMeanwhile, in the space-time vortex, the Doctor is explaining transdimensional engineering to Leela.

Sue: That was nice. I appreciated that. And I’m glad Leela is questioning everything. Because you would, wouldn’t you?
Me: I’m just relieved Nicol wasn’t around to witness that.

When the TARDIS materialises in the sandminer, the Doctor can’t wait to explore.

Me: I thought you’d have something to say about Leela not changing into something a little less comfortable.
Sue: I’m not surprised. This Doctor is still a bloke. He isn’t going to tell her that the TARDIS has a massive wardrobe so she can cover herself up. He’s not stupid.

As the Doctor and Leela explore the sandminer, its crew prepare for an oncoming storm.

The Robots of DeathSue: Oh. My. God. They’ve dressed up to go to work. Look at their hats! They can’t be miners. This is more like Abigail’s Party than the Labour Party. Come on, what are they doing, really?
Me: They actually are miners. Honest.
Sue: Well, it isn’t 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 one of the crew to death.

Sue: That was scary. The POV shots are great; a bit like The Terminator. There’s something really creepy about the robots’ faces, too.

When Commander Uvanov and Chief Mover Poul investigate the crime scene, they find a red disc on the victim’s hand.

Sue: It’s a bicycle reflector.

Uvanov assembles his crew together and suggests that one of them is a murderer.

Sue: So this is Agatha Christie in space. I’m surprised Doctor Who doesn’t do this sort of thing more often.

Uvanov asks his crew if they know what the red disc is.

Sue: It’s a bicycle reflector! We’ve been through this already.

As the crew bicker among themselves, Sue’s EastEnders Detector goes into overdrive.

The Robots of DeathSue: 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: These robots are very creepy. It’s their fat lips that do it.
Me: Do you like their design?
Sue: I do. 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 should convert this mining business into luxury timeshare cruises. It’s lovely.

Uvanov orders his crew back to work.

Sue: 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 set design.

Sue: A lot of thought has gone into this. There’s a sense of scale that you don’t usually get in the studio-based stories. I can’t fault the design at all.

But something unnerves her.

The Robots of DeathSue: 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 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 when he’s near a balcony or some stairs.

The Doctor is locked in a hopper and it isn’t long before he’s drowning in sand.

Sue: Leela will save him. It’s what the companions do now.

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.

 

Part Two

The Robots of DeathSue: The sets are great, but they could have looked even better if they’d dressed the crew in plain overalls. Just think of all the money they could have saved.

Sue is suspicious of Dask already.

Sue: Why doesn’t he wear a silly hat? What makes him so special?

Leela meets a robot called D84. The robot shows her the corpse of a crewmember – a red disc has been placed on the back of their hand. D84 wants to know what it is.

Sue: I’m not going to tell them again.

Uvanov interrupts D84’s interrogation and slaps Leela across her face.

Sue: Hey!

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 terrible 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 hands?
Me: Don’t be silly. A bicycle reflector won’t stick to flesh without superglue. By the way, if Gregory from Form 6B is reading this, I’m really sorry, mate. Can you still see the scar?

Uvanov and the Doctor lock horns.        

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 only vaguely remembers Callan, and she’s never read Dune (although she has seen the film). Anyway, the Doctor accuses Ted Hills of being a classic example of the inverse ratio between the size of the mouth and the size of the brain.

The Robots of DeathMe: I used that line in a real life, once.
Sue: Seriously?
Me: 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 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. He even gave me an apple the following week. What do you think he did? He called me a ****ing twat.

As luck would have it, I taught my last class today. After 18 years of lecturing, I finally threw in the towel. I just don’t have the energy to hurl Doctor Who quotes at my students anymore. As I said to them today, if you stop enjoying something, you should give it up. But enough about me – the Doctor and Leela have been taken to a storage area and 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?

The Robots of DeathThe Doctor suggests a robot could have been responsible for the mysterious deaths. Poul finds this impossible to contemplate, until the Doctor reminds him 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 future DVDs. I know, let’s burn him!

Zilda retires to her cabin for a nap (her incessant whining must have worn her out), but before her head can hit the pillow, she’s confronted by a revelation so shocking, she’s reduced to tears.

Sue: 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 a few seconds later the sandminer ends up tilting dangerously over the edge of 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 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.

 

Part Three

The Robots of DeathDask cuts the power and the sandminer begins to sink.

Sue: He has the look of Gary Glitter.
Me: If Gary Glitter had Wolverine’s hair.

It’s at this point 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. He should be on the stage instead of the telly.
Me: You’re wrong, but I forgive you.

Poul freaks out when he discovers a robot with blood on its hands.

Sue: See! Tell me that wasn’t hammy, Neil. Anyone would think he’d never seen brains smeared all over a robot before.

A Super Voc robot has been reprogrammed by a sinister individual who broadcasts his commands on a scrambled frequency (either that or he has a really bad cold).

Sue: Are we supposed to know who that is?
Me: No.
Sue: Good.

How can she not tell? Anyway…

Sue: Is that a Marigold icon I can see on that robot’s hand? Oh my, they are Marigolds! I thought they were, but I didn’t want to say.

The Robots of DeathThe Doctor and D84 discuss the whereabouts of Taren Capel (a mad scientist who has a thing for robots).

Sue: D84 is very sweet. I bet the kids 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.

Unfortunately, D84 didn’t entertain the possibility an evil mastermind who would try to impersonate a member of the crew.

Sue: Can we have a D84, please? He’s so cute.

A corrupted Super Voc transforms a group of robots into a bunch of killers with impeccable manners.

Sue: They’re so polite. That’s the scariest thing about this.

Leela is attacked by a robot, but thankfully 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 fleshes out the world. Maybe the marigold thing wasn’t a mistake, after all. Perhaps in the future, the company branches out into fetish wear for robots in the future?

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 a trick.

The Robots of DeathToos barricades herself in her room and calls the Doctor for help. D84 volunteers to assist her because he’s the fastest.

Sue: I doubt that. You’re wearing carpet slippers for a start.

The Doctor tells Toos that help is on its way.

Sue: Isn’t he going to tell her that he’s sent a robot? It’s going to be very awkward if he doesn’t.

Poul cowers under a table.

Sue: Is he working with the robots?
Me: No.
Sue: So why is he behaving 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 fending off a robot who wants to massage him to death.

Sue: Not bad. At least the cliffhangers are good.

 

Part Four

The Robots of DeathSue doesn’t say anything for a long time, and I manage to convince myself that her protracted silence is the result of her being gripped by the story. Oh boy, was I wrong…

Sue: How long until this ends, Neil? I can’t keep up with this nonsense. Why is the robot with the blue eyes bad? I thought it was the robots with the red eyes who were evil. There’s no consistency to this. And where’s the bloke in the Ku Klux Klan gear? What’s he waiting for? Whoever the hell he is.

The only thing that piques her interest is Toos’ 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 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 is suffering from robophobia.

Sue: I don’t buy that. Maybe if the actor wasn’t hamming it up so much, I could believe it, but he might as well be scared of a fridge. And whose bright idea was it to pair a robot with a man who’s terrified of robots?

The Robots of DeathD84 is stabbed in the head with a Laserson probe, but instead of turning bad, he 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.

The Super Voc turns on Taren Capel because, thanks to the Doctor, his voice suddenly sounds a bit funny.

Sue: I can’t tell if that solution was silly or inspired. And I’m not thrilled to see Leela sitting this out in a cupboard.

The Doctor and Leela leg it back to the TARDIS.

Sue: I hate it when no one sees them off. How ungrateful can you get?

 

The 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 looked 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.

5/10

 

87

Comments

  1. Lewis Christian  June 1, 2012

    5/10? Good. I agree with Sue.

    Now, off to read the rest before I have to hide behind Sue to avoid the torches.

  2. Matthew Kilburn  June 1, 2012

    Sue and Michael E Briant – soul mates? He doesn’t think much of the script either…

  3. jsd  June 1, 2012

    Well, I don’t agree with Sue. This is an easy 9 for me, maybe a 10. Very exciting, creepy, great design, mostly excellent acting. Maybe it’s the sort of thing that grows on you?

  4. Harry  June 1, 2012

    I respect Sue’s right to rate any story as she sees fit, and I would never berate her if her opinions diverged from my own, but a 5/10 for this one seems cruel…maybe I’m just biased, as it’s one of my favourite stories.

  5. Luke Harrison  June 1, 2012

    She’s right about Cass and Zilda, terrible acting from both. I love the story though and it’s shame that it could only muster a 5 from Sue.

  6. Alex Wilcock  June 1, 2012

    I’m just glad she didn’t give that mark to Assassin (do it to Julia! Do it to Julia!). Sue’s getting more demanding – even the carpentry didn’t save this one.

    The Boucher and Croucher made me laugh. I know how to pronounce Boucher these days, but I still say Boucher – it just suits him, doesn’t it (Merry Christmas, ten-year-old me)?

    Best lines this time:
    “The robots look like walking BAFTAs.”
    “Why doesn’t he wear a silly hat? What makes him so special?”
    “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.”

    I wonder if any of us commenting here haven’t used that line in real life? Or if it worked for even one of us?

    On Sue’s “Agatha Christie in Space” moment, I always think the writing there’s very clever: when Uvanov calls in the crew to accuse one of them of murder, it’s really a stylistic inversion of Christie; everyone’s gathered at the beginning instead of the end; he’s not the detective but a suspect; he knows no more than the rest; and instead of resolving the situation he makes everyone more fractious.

  7. Glen Allen  June 1, 2012

    Well……

    I DO like the story but Sue has picked up on the very things that annoyed me.
    The ridiculous hats, the apalling acting (Hello Zilda Im talking to you)
    It should be “gold” but it isnt quite.

    Is there someting I should know about Croucher/Boucher. I thought both were pronounced the same. They rhyme with the first part of “Ouch” surely?

  8. Dave Sanders  June 1, 2012

    “So this is Agatha Christie in Space. I’m surprised that Doctor Who doesn’t do this sort of thing more often.”

    She’ll find out why in another nine seasons.

    Please do not throw up your hands in despair at Sue.

  9. Fuschia Begonia  June 1, 2012

    It never floated my boat, either. Average is about right

  10. Tim Lister  June 1, 2012

    I’ve always thought the Doctor (or Chris Boucher if you want to get technical) already knew the “bumblebee” story was a myth when he told it to Poul. In fact I think that’s why he used it: on that planet the belief that robots are incapable of killing humans is also a myth.

  11. Jazza1971  June 1, 2012

    I’m sticking my fingers in my ears, “La la la la la”. It means I can ignore the onslaught that is to come. A 9 or 10 for me, this one, but Sue is entitled to her opinion…even though it is wrong! ;o)

    And Neil, good luck after deciding to quit the teaching profession. I’m sure you have a bright future ahead of you. I’m looking forward to the book!

  12. Tim Lister  June 1, 2012

    This has always been one of my favorite stories. But I can understand why Sue thought it was average. Chris Boucher’s writing is an acquired taste. That’s why Star Cops did so poorly. His dialog style and some of the plot elements he used were way ahead of their time but still written in a contemporary framework so they don’t come across as effectively as they did when they were used by later writers.

  13. Neowhovian  June 1, 2012

    I have to say, I wasn’t really excited about it the first time or two, either. It wasn’t till about the third time through (when I was reviewing the Special Edition DVD) that I took to it. I think jsd‘s surmise about it being the kind of thing that grows on you is probably right.

    To be fair, though, Sue makes plenty of valid points. Some of the acting is horrendous, and much of it doesn’t make sense the first time through. The robots themselves are clearly the best part. That, and listening to Louise Jameson’s helium-ized voice.

    p.s. Neil, I’m sorry the teaching gig has soured for you. I totally understand where you’re coming from, though. Sometimes my students make me want to play in traffic…

    • PolarityReversed  June 3, 2012

      Yup. Trying to out-smartarse a teenager is never going to work in a classroom.
      Anyway, teaching is the ultimate in delayed gratification isn’t it? Often so delayed, you never even get to experience any payback at all. But that’s the territory. And it’s interesting, given time, how well the cocky SOBs come through, compared to the suck-ups…

  14. Simon Harries  June 1, 2012

    Obviously the robots are fabulous, with unexpectedly calm voices for such brutal stranglers. Two or three members of the cast are excellent and, for most of the time, the direction is assured. In terms of style versus content, I think it’s best to strike an even balance and on this occasion, the design tour de force never quite compensates for the story. I don’t think it’s interesting enough, certainly not after repeated viewings. Even so, for what it’s worth, this story and the next one are literally my earliest memories of watching on TV as a child, so I’ll always have a very soft spot for “Robots” even though I have issues with it. I agree with Sue and some of the previous posters that Cass is utterly terrible and that Zilda is also utterly terrible. However as anyone who has seen the original Play for Today of Gangsters will testify she has eye-catching breasts .. Perhaps that’s what made Michael E. Briant cast her in the first place?! 🙂

    • Wholahoop  June 3, 2012

      Without the internet I would never have been able to view Gangsters, all in the name of research of course, in order to be able to comment on your supposition about how Zilda may have been cast.

      Depressingly I think you could be right

  15. M.Lawrenson  June 1, 2012

    When I first saw this, I thought the writer’s name was pronounced Boucher (Boo-SHAY), but later evidence and the wicketkeeper of the South Africa cricker team informed me it was Boucher (BOW-cher).

    I disagree with Sue about the rating, but it’s a free world. I hope you have some of that whisky soon. The Invisible Enemy isn’t far away.

  16. Noodles  June 1, 2012

    She doesn’t like acting that’s too theatrical. I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it again – she’s going to hate Colin Baker, isn’t she?

  17. matt bartley  June 1, 2012

    Sue’s ability to casually dismiss sacred cows with a shrug never ceases to be refreshing. Talons and Fang Rock will be very interesting…

    • DPC  June 2, 2012

      Hehe… 🙂

  18. Pete Galey  June 1, 2012

    Haven’t seen this one in years, but it’s never done much for me; I do remember having the same objection to the costumes. It’s interesting that someone above says it grows on you, since I didn’t take to either Genesis or Deadly Assassin at first, both of which I enjoy more these days. I think it might be to do with Holmes as script editor focussing on set pieces at the expense (some of the time anyway) of consistency or sense. I’d make the same criticism of RtD’s Who, actually, so I might come to love that in years to come.

  19. Simon Harries  June 1, 2012

    I enjoyed Sue’s inference of lesbianism. I hadn’t read quite so much into Toos and her touchy-feely tenderness towards Leela, I’ll look out for it next time.

    • BWT  June 2, 2012

      Agreed. I’m looking for the disc now…

  20. BWT  June 2, 2012

    “Attack of the BAFTAs” – now that has a ring to it. T-shirt? Well, maybe not.

    And as for Tom Baker’s scarf: yeah… this is the one where it appears and disappears a lot, isn’t it?

    As a stage actor and drama teacher, I totally see Sue’s point – one must adapt to the medium. However, I still have a lot of time for David Collings and always will. Sorry, Sue – it’s a mixed reaction here.

    Oh, and I totally understand about your career decision; so many people seem to see it as the end of the world when a teacher leaves the profession – teachers are human to (believe it or not) and one is perfectly entitled to consider other ways of spending one’s life…

    • BWT  June 2, 2012

      * too

      Yes, I made a boo-boo. Sue me.

      • BWT  June 2, 2012

        *Ahem*

        Yes, that *was* an unfortunate choice of word, wasn’t it?

  21. encyclops  June 2, 2012

    Of course I consider this an easy 10, but that’s probably just because it’s f***ing incredible.

    I made a list of my 20 favorite classic Who episodes the other day. The first 19 were really easy, but there’s a 20th I’m really not sure about. At first I filled that slot with a Colin Baker, feeling slightly guilty about the fact that there are 5 Pertwees, 9 Tom Bakers, and 5 Davisons, but now I’m thinking I was insane; if all my favorites belong to three Doctors, that’s just how it is.

    Icon notwithstanding, this is not my absolute favorite — that story is yet to come and I don’t expect Sue to like it any more than she liked this one. In fact, I’m not even sure this is in my top 5, but it’s got some really fierce competition. I do think the Robot design is one of my favorite things to look at in all of Doctor Who, not counting a few of the companions (and if I started listing those I’d come to the one where you’d REALLY think I was insane), hence the icon.

    I’m frankly disappointed, but that’s what this blog is all about. The costumes make perfect sense if you read this as a society where the robots do all the work and the humans are the upper-class twits who laze about and assume they can rely on their slaves, sticking around mainly to give orders and do the less dirty jobs. I don’t recall having a bigger problem with the acting than I’d have with just about any other episode of the show. Oh well.

    All I can say is, if this is really only half as good as Seeds of Doom (and I LIKE Seeds of Doom), we may need some negative numbers in a couple of seasons.

    • Neowhovian  June 2, 2012

      I don’t know what all of Sue’s reasons were, but for me personally, it wasn’t just the acting that made me file this under “average” the first time I saw it. Because yeah – there’s almost always at least one character who’s poorly acted. There’s no real “hook” unless you already know how it turns out (at least, that’s my recollection of what I first thought, after having now seen it several times…). The robots are flippin’ gorgeois (stole that word), but the rest… falls a bit flat on first un-invested viewing. At least, it did for me.

      To summarize: I doubt it’s just the acting that reduced the score. I’d have scored it low my first time, too, but now like it much more.

      • encyclops  June 2, 2012

        Of course I don’t begrudge Sue her opinion, let’s get that out of the way. She can dislike it for any reason she likes, even if she’s wrong. 😉

        I can understand how someone might not love this. I’m not even sure I can articulate why I love it myself, unless it’s that I love mysteries, and Art Deco, and Leela being badass, and the adorable D84, and political allegories, and the suggestion of a culture outside of what we’re shown, and the slightly dubious but clever resolution involving helium.

        But I think I must have a bit of a blind spot regarding reasons someone might dislike it. “Falls flat,” if you don’t share my love for those things, would I guess make sense.

        • encyclops  June 2, 2012

          Why is it clever, encyclops? Well, it’s a little more interesting than just “blow it up,” that’s what I mean.

          • PolarityReversed  June 3, 2012

            No need to go all Butters on us – some others really like it too…
            In this story’s defence, we get proper robots for the first time in ages. That’s enough for me.

  22. Wholahoop  June 2, 2012

    5/10!!! I’m with Jazza on this one, everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if they are wrong. Yes there’s some bad acting but is it that bad that it drops 5 marks off the score? I suppose if we use bad acting as a means of dropping points then Revelation of the Daleks is heading for a minus score!

    • Wholahoop  June 2, 2012

      No disrespect meant though 🙂

      • Neil Perryman  June 2, 2012

        It was the acting *and* the plot she didn’t take to.

        And none taken.

  23. DPC  June 2, 2012

    I would never disrespect Sue or why she votes for stories the way she does!

    She’s utterly right in that some of the acting is bad… Cass in particular stands out as being the worst.

    The story could be too claustrophobic. It gets too wound up on itself to really be bothered with details on galactic conquest from Dask and his happy band of robots. In terms of telling the audience how much of a threat they could be… it’s iffy, but watching them kill so nimbly still gives a good scare.

    Leela is a fantastic companion, so there will be more moments from Leela that Sue will definitely enjoy, even if she’s not fond of the overall stories… 🙂

    And, yup, Chris Boucher is an author whose works develop with time. He’s one of my favorites, but “Blake’s 7” is one he fully understood as a series and for the characters within. His WHO scripts are good (IMHO) but B7 is where he kept hitting home run after home run with.

    Dask’s pyjamas were a massive blunder of a reveal in ep 2 as well…

  24. Josiah Rowe  June 2, 2012

    Re: bumblebees — obviously, it’s a myth that Terran bumblebees shouldn’t be able to fly, but Tom Baker clearly says Tehran insects. And it’s completely true that insects in the capital of Iran shouldn’t be able to fly. It’s a no-fly zone.

    • Noodles  June 2, 2012

      If it’s a no fly zone then should there be insects there at all?

      • Josiah Rowe  June 2, 2012

        No flies on you!

    • Jazza1971  June 2, 2012

      Boom boom!

  25. Scottieboy  June 2, 2012

    I love the idea that the Doctor deliberately hid the wardrobe from Leela. “Just run around in your bra for a while love… thanks for that. I’m off to the Zero Room for a bit now. Don’t interrupt me.”

  26. Joseph Lidster  June 2, 2012

    “Sue: Oh no. Not Chris Boucher again.

    Me: It’s pronounced Boucher, actually.”

    That might just be the best thing on the Internet.

    joe

    • Chris Too-old-to-watch  June 2, 2012

      To (mis)quote the Gershwins:

      “You say Boucher and I say Boucher,
      You say Croucher and I say Croucher,
      Boucher, Boucher
      Croucher, Croucher
      Let’s call the whole thing off (seque into tap dance)

  27. Richard Parker  June 2, 2012

    With some Doctor Who stories, it’s just not worth the time or the effort to spot the flaws. Robots of Death is one of those.

  28. Richard Lyth  June 2, 2012

    This was the first Doctor Who video I ever bought, so I’ve always had a soft spot for it, and watching it again a few days ago it’s still one of my favourites. If Sue thinks this is only worth 5 out of 10 there’s going to be a lot of very low scores over the next couple of seasons…

    • Neil Perryman  June 2, 2012

      I wouldn’t bank on that. She gave The Time Monster 8/10, remember?

      • Ludwig Wittgenstein XI  June 2, 2012

        ah, yes …! always good to keep in mind that reverse “redemption” will (almost) always work miracles for any relationship’s *public face*, especially a marriage … (I’ve been there …)

        cheerio …!

  29. Jamie  June 2, 2012

    “…inverse ration… ” ?
    Can you two leave your petty breakfast squabbles aside and concentrate on Robots of Death, please.

  30. Dave Sanders  June 2, 2012

    I heard a sob. That was Neil.

    • Neil Perryman  June 2, 2012

      Yes, it was me.

      I have failed.

      • Dave Sanders  June 2, 2012

        Oh come on, don’t be upset. Yes you’ve failed, but congratulations, failure is one of the basic fandoms.

  31. Chris Too-old-to-watch  June 2, 2012

    Interesting review there Sue, and (as everone seems to be saying it) everyone has their own opinion.

    I always loved this, from the incredible design of the costumes/robots to the (for the time) tight, exciting and different story. Here we are on an alien planet, with robots, but it is essentially a locked-room murder mystery. I always took this to be a reflection of the Southern States of America during the slavery era: plantation owners wearing their exotic outfits, white overseers (V robots) and the black workers (D’s).

    Or I may have a Gone With The Wind obsession.

    Must agree with the bicycle reflectors: all that money spent on great design and they spoil it with these cheap things. Still looking at the politics usually involved, it’s fortunate they weren’t yellow stars or pink triangles.

  32. PolarityReversed  June 2, 2012

    Wasn’t Pamela Salem (Toos) originally in the running to be cast as Leela? That would have been an interesting alternate timeline.

    Enjoyed the splicing of murder mystery, technophobia and slave revolution themes and, looking past the spray-painted marigolds and brothel creepers, visually very stylish for me. Perhaps a 7 or an 8.

    The Abigail’s Party comment is on the mark – many of the sandminer crew are obsessed with social climbing, so dressing like Swedish Christmas decorations to go to work is very Beverley…

  33. John G  June 2, 2012

    “I liked D84. He would have been an interesting companion.”

    It’ll be interesting to see what Sue makes of Kamelion when you get there… Glad to see that (so far at least) the trolls have not descended to castigate Sue for slaughtering another sacred cow. I like Robots better than Sue does, but it’s not a story that excites me that much. The robots, the regulars and the design are all great, but the crew don’t do much for me and the story is serviceable but not outstanding. I would agree though with the observations above that the crew are clearly presented as being a bunch of pampered parasites who let the robots do all the hard work, which makes their elaborate dress understandable.

    I await with some trepidation Sue’s verdict on the next two stories, particularly Talons. I’m hoping that the evocative period setting will help to make her well-disposed towards it, even if certain elements of the script knock off a mark or two. Hopefully by fearing the worst I might be pleasantly surprised…

    • gangnet  June 3, 2012

      Never understood the Kamelion thing. They had a companion that could look like anyone they wanted, and they pretended he didn’t exist because… the animatronic didn’t work?????

      • Jazza1971  June 3, 2012

        I totally agree. It always struck me as very strange indeed.

        • gangnet  June 6, 2012

          I think it was probably more a case of JNT throwing a temper-tantrum than anything reasoned.

          • Dave Sanders  June 8, 2012

            Look up the ‘Curse of Kamelion’…

  34. Dave Sanders  June 2, 2012

    That cartoon swoosh-doink noise over Leela’s knife in part three wasn’t the foreign dub edit, it was Neil’s self-esteem audibly plummeting to the floor.

  35. Gareth Lee-Thomas  June 2, 2012

    Having seen some of Sue’s arrow work I’m surprised there was no comment about the twanging knife throw. I have to say this is a great story. The fact that everyone is dressed in a ridiculous fashion only serves to emphasise what the Doctor and Leila are all about. Who survives? I think it says something about commercialism as well how being ‘human’ and ‘survivors’ can also make you vulnerable because of the foibles of the successful. Plenty of good tropes in this one. The downsides are plain to see but are due to the usual issues of time and budget. It has atmos. it has pathos, ethos, logos and other oses. The doctor in the silo with the reed is daft (would be crushed by the weight of material reed or no, and acts like he’s been buried in the sand at the seaside) but I think this is the best of British in examining the class divide between the servile working classes and the elitists. It’s like every dinner party I’ve ever been to. If it’s not clearly a nine or ten then I think a 6 or 7. 5 is not a consistent mark. There have been some serious duffers with better marks than this. I think the irony is the whole ‘Boucher’ pronunciation issue may have coloured Sue’s outlook. I mean – come on…”Please do not throw hands at me.” This and others, shear brilliance.

    • Kannen Manmarten  June 4, 2012

      The idea of robophobia is a very powerful one too – getting gradually freaked out by being surrounded by apparent humans but ones with no body language. Robots being equated to walking, talking dead people. Very few other Who stories went for that kind of psychological complexity. No one was ever freaked out by the cybermen, just scared of them because they were dangerous. This feels like a real society, it’s so much richer and deeper than most stories.

  36. Dave Goddard  June 2, 2012

    Brilliant. I’ts been a long time since I read something and didn’t stop till the end.

    They should have you do an alternative commentary on all the DVD’s from now on.
    Now do the ‘Twin Dilemma’ and ease the pain….. ease the pain….the PAIN!

  37. Bryan Simcott  June 2, 2012

    I never understand when this story gets a kicking for the costumes. Anyone here work for McDonalds? or seen someoen who has. I doubt they choose the uniforms to wear at work any more thn this team did. I would have thought these are desiginations as much as anything.

    I love the Robots to death (see what I did there 🙂 ) I actualy think the script is very clever in the way it twists Agatha Christie but the Direction and Design are simply superb. And Tom and Lousie are so so good in every scene they are in.

    9/10

    and then here comes trouble with a whole raftt of points knocked off…

  38. Roderick T. Long  June 2, 2012

    “I love the idea that the Doctor deliberately hid the wardrobe from Leela.”

    “You turn up in the middle of the night, get me out of my bed in my nightie… which you then don’t let me change out of for ages… and then you take me for a spin in your time machine…”

  39. Andrew Bowman  June 3, 2012

    Whilst Robots is an undoubted classic in fan circles, the “not-we” have different rules, which Sue is clearly sticking to. Actually, she’s absolutely spot on about David Collings’s extraordinary performance, although I wouldn’t say it was theatrical as such, just weird. Cass and Zilda are token ethnic characters for their own sake, and Taren Capel does look ridiculous. Saying that, the Robots look great, the rest of the cast are on form, and the plot rattles along at a fair old pace. Personally, I would give it a solid 7, but that’s because I could connect with the story straight away. If Sue can’t do that, then an average score is very generous indeed. How will she deal with Victoriana, racism, and the irrepresible Jago and Litefoot. In fact, on the racism bit, given the casting decisions made in this story, perhaps it was just as well they got an English actor to play Chan; the alternative could have been disasterous!

  40. Jazza1971  June 3, 2012

    Today, 11 days short of 6 years after I started it, I have finally completed my own project to watch (or listen to) all of the “Doctor Who” stories in order, with the rule being that I could only watch a maximum of one episode a day, but not necessarily an episode every day. Anyway, I just wanted to tell some! 😀

    • PolarityReversed  June 3, 2012

      Congratulations.
      Your prize – a field full of dewinneted ewes.

      • Jazza1971  June 3, 2012

        Excellent! 🙂

  41. fromEssex  June 4, 2012

    I loved this story, but I think it may have taken me a few viewings to get to the point of 9/10. I think that the story is a grower.

    I think it takes a 2nd viewing to get past the design and “get” the story.

  42. Christopher Pittard  June 4, 2012

    I rather like The Robots of Death, partially because (like so many others…) it was one of the small clutch of VHS tapes I had as a kid. But I think those who complain about the costumes are missing a point; the outfits are meant to be silly and impractical because it’s quite clear that the crew don’t actually do any of the real work (the robots, on the other hand, have real-life washing up gloves on. I always thought that was a nice touch rather than simply cheapness, cf. Cybermen cricket gloves). They’re miners, but not really miners. Minor miners, I suppose.

  43. Ryushinku  June 4, 2012

    First off – best wishes with the lecturing retirement, Neil!

    A firm favourite, Robots. If not the tippy-top drawer then very much just one tier down. I love Uvanov, both as a character and as played – he’s a bit of a bastard but develops into an understandable bastard, and I’m cheered he survives it all in the end.

    Lovely Season 14 is getting a rougher ride than I expected…Talons will be interesting!

  44. Kannen Manmarten  June 4, 2012

    This is my favourite of all Doctor Whos, so nyeh.

  45. Kannen Manmarten  June 4, 2012

    PS – If you haven’t seen this already, watch out for Hairbot. 🙂

  46. Frankymole  June 5, 2012

    Best of luck for the post-lecturing life; now is certainly not the time to be a public servant, they’ve never been more calculatedly set up to be reviled.

    • Frankymole  June 5, 2012

      PS when’s your last day? Mine’s June 28th…

      On topic, despite the goofs like Dask’s trousers reveal (oo-er), Tehran insect, marigold’s, etc, I still have to give this story at least 9/10 for the zest with which the glorious dialogue is delivered by all the main cast. Who is fun again!

  47. FRANKIE MUSH  June 5, 2012

    Clearly Sue is not have a good day 5/10 I ask you!

    Can I just point out that I am disgusted that you chaps are watching DrWho trash during the weekend of the Diamond jubliee. You should be seeing sunlight for once! and enjoying one of the many poundland street parties and soaking up the atmosphere of seeing 80’s leg-ends Maddness, Grace Jones and other p-poor Z-listers of the Barlow concert. THIS IS NOT A TIME TO BE SITTING WATCHING WHO! Celebrate the Queen.

    • Dave Sanders  June 5, 2012

      You are Charlie Brooker and I claim my five pounds.

  48. P.Sanders  June 5, 2012

    Ah well, I love Robots but to each their own.

    Though I was thinking: if Chris “it’s pronounced Boucher” Boucher’s name is going to be as maligned as Terry f*cking Nation, maybe it would be worth distracting Sue with the old “make us a cuppa” ploy at the start of ***** of the *******. It’s flawed but still effective and the last gasp of gothic Who until G**** L**** (bar the first half of The S***** of B****), and it’d be a shame if his name earned it a rougher ride than it deserved…

    • Dave Sanders  June 5, 2012

      Spitting Image Of Nigel Kneale, if you want my opinion.

  49. Nick Mays  June 6, 2012

    I could never work out why the crew wore such silly hats indoors (I was a very critical teenager at he time). Interesting to note they shed them when the action starts.

    But (Michael Caine voice) Didjewknaaaa that Toos’ hat turned up 2 years later in an early episode of Grange Hill? Surely you knew that Neil!

  50. Professor Thascales  June 6, 2012

    I always thought Robots of Death was a good story, for the reasons other people have listed above.
    I admit a few of the actors are not so good, and even as a child I thought Zilda was a bad actor.

    Also– Will someone take pity on me and say how Boucher’s name is pronounced? Boo-shay? Bootcher? Boo-ker?

    • Matthew Marcus  June 8, 2012

      Yes! Please! I’ve read through all the comments now and I have less idea of how to pronounce Boucher than when I started. It’s gotten to the point where I didn’t even know how Charlie Brooker was pronounced, when somebody brought it up.

      I have a soft spot for Robots and would certainly have rated it well over 5/10. What’s silly old Genesis got that this claustrophobic little gem hasn’t?

      • Frankymole  June 10, 2012

        “No tea, Harry.”

    • Frankymole  June 10, 2012

      “Bow” to rhyme with “wow”, “cher” as in “butcher”.

  51. CJJC  June 10, 2012

    I like Robots but will never complain about Sue’s ratings. I’ve got plenty of places I can go online if I want to read reviews tainted by received wisdom and the weight of expectation. When I first saw Genesis of the Daleks, I felt that I was *meant* to like it, that not doing so just wasn’t an option. Thankfully, I thought it was great BUT I still dont’ quite get the fuss about Inferno, and I quite like Black Orchid so there you go.

    • sparklepunk  June 24, 2012

      I enjoyed Black Orchid too.I grew up somewhat isolated by fandom and only got the internet after mine had already been established. When I finally did I was a bit shocked to find out that fans of Dr Who existed who were as irritating as some of the worst the Trekkies that I’d been exposed to (not the kind of thing that would shock me now, but I was younger) and that coupled with the creepy fanfic I found on my first search for my favorite show put me off looking much for Doctor Who related stuff online. I only started reading this blog because of a recommendation from an online friend and then another one that was linked in the comments here recently. I am finding myself almost put in Sues position, while I have been a fan all of my life, I am sometimes surprised (but mostly amused) to see that episodes I watched repeatedly are almost universally hated and sometimes that the ones I really didn’t care for are considered to be the cream of the crop.

      This episode was okay, I don’t remember really having much of an opinion one way or the other aside from the fact that the robots looked nice. I didn’t dislike it and probably would have marked it a bit higher, but really of all the universally loved episodes she could mark low this probably bothers me the least.

      • sparklepunk  June 24, 2012

        actually that’s not true, I will be even less bothered if she doesn’t like Talons, that was one of the only episodes I actively didn’t like as a kid, and it wasn’t even for the normal reasons, I just, for whatever reason, found it to be boring and stupid and when I grew up and realized that there were other reasons to find it less than awesome I didn’t feel there was much reason to revise my opinion.