FRONTIOS

Part One

Frontios begins in a mine.

Sue: Ooh, mining. We haven’t had a mining story for ages.

A man is examining some ore samples when the ground begins to give way beneath him.

Sue: Are we supposed to see that finger wiggling about under the soil, or is that a mistake?

Chief Orderly Brazen calls for his men to evacuate the mine before it collapses.

Sue: He’s famous. I don’t know what I might have seen him in, though.
Me: Did you ever watch The Onedin Line?
Sue: No, we would have been watching whatever was on ITV at the same time. Whoever he is, he’s a terrible actor. If they were mining for ham, they’ve hit the mother lode.

Meanwhile, on the TARDIS.

Sue: Why is Turlough urinating against a wall?

The Doctor is spring cleaning.

FrontiosMe: Have you spotted what’s missing yet?
Sue: Oh for ****’s sake, not this again. No, I haven’t got a ****ing clue. Is something missing from the thing that goes up and down? What is it?
Me: It doesn’t matter. Forget it I said anything.

Before Sue can argue the point further, the TARDIS encounters a Boundary Error (404).

The Doctor: The TARDIS has drifted too far into the future.
Sue: How far is too far? Is this the end of time? That sounds exciting.

Turlough delightfully informs Tegan that colonists from the doomed planet Earth took refuge in the Veruna System to avoid an imminent collision with the sun.

Sue: Do you think Tegan and Turlough ever got it together between episodes?
Me: Well they definitely do in my fan fiction. I had a story published in a Big Finish book once, and I managed to concoct a scene where Turlough bought Tegan some lingerie.
Sue: Of course you did, dear.

Incredibly, Tegan’s new outfit doesn’t raise so much as an eyebrow.

FrontiosSue: Tegan looks like she’s dressed for a night out in an 1980s disco. I used to have a leather skirt just like hers.
Me: **** off!
Sue: I did. Mine came with a stainless steel chain across the waist, too. It was very trendy. Completely impractical for hostile alien environments, but I never had to deal with that. Unless you count Gateshead, of course.

Brazen informs the chief scientist and medical officer, Mr Range, that he will shut down the colony’s research room.

Sue: There’s no ambient sound. That’s very odd. I’d expect background hum at the very least.
Me: There’s a good reason for that.
Sue: Have they crashed on the planet?
Me: Yes.
Sue: So it’s a bit like Lost?
Me: It’s almost exactly the same as Lost.
Sue: It’s got some atmosphere. The location is pretty bleak but it’s not too bad considering they are stuck in the studio. I’m not convinced about the pan pipe music, though. Unless Enya is a member of the ship’s crew.

The colony is led by the young Plantagenet.

Sue: He’s not very good either. He’s doing Shakespeare in the park.

FrontiosSue vaguely remembers Jeff Rawle from Drop the Dead Donkey (she wasn’t a big fan), but when Nicol walked into the living room later that evening, she was amused to find the serial killer from Hollyoaks strutting about in Doctor Who.

Sue: The sets are incredible. They’re trying really hard with the meagre resources they’ve got, I’ll give them that.

I tell her how the original designer assigned to this story had a nervous breakdown and another designer had to step in at the last-minute.

Sue: Why did the other designer have a nervous breakdown? Did he see the programme’s budget?

The Doctor and Plantagenet meet for the first time.

The Doctor: As soon as I’ve helped Mister Range with arrangements, I’ll be on my way.

The Doctor draws attention to his unintentional play on words and Sue laughs. And then the Doctor gives Plantagenet a good dressing down.

FrontiosSue: Wow. Peter Davison was really passionate in that scene. That’s just what we need – more passion. He appears to be very comfortable in the role, now. It’s taken him long enough, mind.

Tegan and Turlough sneak off to find some battery acid.

Sue: Could Tegan have chosen a less appropriate costume for this story? She looks like she’s touting for business in the ruins.
Me: Well, you should know. You used to wear a skirt like hers.

Two cushions in the face in rapid succession.

Tegan and Turlough are joined by Range’s daughter, Norna, but Sue doesn’t recognise Lesley Dunlop and claims never to have seen the sitcom May to December. That’s a shame, I tell her, the show’s premise is a bit like our own relationship, and then I get another cushion in the face. Thankfully, Sue has now run out of cushions.

Sue: She’s got Nik Kershaw hair.

FrontiosThe trio arrive on top of the crashed colony ship.

Sue: Why didn’t they key out the white background? Did they forget to do it? They could have chromakeyed some clouds in at the very least. I bet the fans have keyed in loads of interesting backgrounds in their spare time.

Frontios is suddenly bombarded by asteroids and then, completely out of the blue.

The Doctor: The TARDIS has been destroyed.
Sue: Well, there’s definitely something missing now.

The credits roll.

Sue: I really enjoyed that. Some of the acting was a bit ropey, but the sets are brilliant and the plot is very interesting. Stick the next one on.

 

Part Two

FrontiosMe: Do you believe the TARDIS has been destroyed, leaving only its hatstand behind?
Sue: No, and I don’t think the Doctor believes it, either. He’s taking the news on the chin so I’m not really worried about it.

Turlough brandishes the TARDIS hatstand like a weapon.

Sue: That’s funny and clever. I’m not sure I like the Doctor condoning the use of threatening behaviour, though, even if it is a joke.

Turlough turns the hatstand on Plantagenet and the leader collapses to the floor in agony.

Sue: See, it’s backfired. Now everyone will think Turlough killed their leader! This always happens!

The Doctor treats Plantagenet’s wound.

Sue: The Doctor is spending most of his time being a proper Doctor in this story. I like it.

The Doctor admits to saving Plantagenet’s life with a home-made defibrillator, but…

FrontiosThe Doctor: Not a word to the Time Lords.
Sue: Eh? He usually saves whole planets, why would they care about him? He hasn’t broken the laws of time, has he? I’m confused.

The Doctor decides to investigate the colony’s research room.

Plantagenet: Your assistant may stay here with me.
Sue: I bet she can. He’ll be asking her for a bed bath as soon as the Doctor’s back is turned.

Brazen believes that Mr Range has spread rumours about unexplained deaths in the colony.

Sue: Dear, oh dear. He really is terrible. I’m glad I never saw The Onedin Line, now.

When no one is looking, Plantagenet is sucked into the ground.

Sue: Great idea. Shit special effect.

FrontiosThe Doctor decides to investigate the mine. He asks Mr Range to remain topside.

The Doctor: These sort of adventures depend on a well-manned home base.
Sue: That reminds me, I need to buy some new drill bits.

Turlough and Norna explore the interior of Frontios. Living creatures are hidden in the walls..

Sue: Ooh, that gave me a shock!
Me: Seriously?
Sue: Yes, what are they? Giant slugs?

After three, everyone… 1…2…3….

FrontiosMe: Giant slugs in Doctor Who? Don’t be ridiculous.

Turlough has a nervous breakdown.

Sue: He’s such a brilliant actor. Look at him! He always gives it everything he’s got.

The Doctor leaves his disturbed companion with of Mr Range.

Sue: He missed a chance to do another joke, there. “I’ll leave the deranged with Range”. Do you get it?

The Doctor is captured by the Tractators.

Sue: No, they’re not slugs, they’re witchetty grubs. I hate insects like this. They give me the creeps.
Me: The Tractators are based on woodlice, I think. Like many boys my age, I tortured a few woodlice in my time.
Sue: Neil!
Me: Don’t worry, I grew out of it eventually. I moved into conducting post-mortems on dead sticklebacks instead.
Sue: I worry about you sometimes.

The credits roll.

Sue: I’m really enjoying this. The Tractator things are very creepy. Yeah, this isn’t bad at all.

 

Part Three

Me: This is our 600th episode!
Sue: We should dance. We haven’t danced in ages.
Me: Did you ever think we’d reach 600 episodes?
Sue: I did. I’m not sure about you, though.

FrontiosTurlough is still freaking out.

Sue: I don’t know why he’s in shock. He’s seen worse than this, hasn’t he? I thought he must have seen his new girlfriend get killed the way he’s going on about it. Great performance, though.

The Doctor and Norna are held prisoner by the Tractators but Tegan manages to rescue them. The Tractors panic and run/shuffle off.

Sue: Oh dear. That looked ridiculous. I’m not scared of them any more. They look like they’re disco dancing. What a shame.

The Doctor bowls them over.

Sue: It was a bleak and grim drama a minute ago, and now it’s a stupid comedy knockabout. That was shit.

The Doctor makes a run for it but he doesn’t get very far.

FrontiosSue: What the hell is that?
Me: A tractor beam. Hence the name Tractators, I think.
Sue: I could do without the pink Ready Brek effect.

Turlough dredges up an old race memory.

Sue: He’s actually frothing at the mouth. I just keep thinking about Adric doing this scene. That’s even scarier.

Brazen is arguing with a man named Cockerill about public order.

Sue: Oh great, two terrible actors going at each other. It’s a shame because the ideas in the script are really good, it’s the performances that let it down.

Cockerill is thrown out of the colony for looting and he is immediately attacked by a gang of retrogrades.

Sue: It’s the colony’s version of The Village People.

FrontiosMeanwhile, Plantagenet is being held prisoner under Frontios.

Sue: They’ve put him in his own hamster ball.

The Doctor honestly believes that he’s seen the last of his TARDIS.

The Doctor: I think you can forget about the TARDIS. It’s probably scattered in little pieces across the whole of Frontios.
Sue: It’s just been pulled underground, you berk! It’s obvious.

The Tractators leader, the Gravis, gloats about his plans for Frontios.

Sue: Oh no, they talk. They don’t frighten me any more. They’re just another generic Doctor Who monster I can barely understand.

Turlough prepares to return to the Tractators’ lair. Norna tries to talk him out of it.

Sue: What’s with all the pan pipe music? It’s not very appropriate, is it?
Me: It’s the Love Theme from Frontios.

Turlough gives Norna a two corpira piece.

Turlough: You blow through it for good luck.

Sue: Play the Love Theme from Frontios on it. Go on.

FrontiosTurlough descends into the darkness.

Sue: Blow through it, then! She hasn’t blown through it. That’s bad luck and Turlough will die. What a bitch.

The episode concludes with a horrific twist.

Sue: Is that a decapitated head driving around in that machine? That is definitely not for kids.

The credits roll.

Sue: The story is beginning to flag a bit in the middle, but it certainly has its moments.

 

Part Four

The Doctor treats Tegan like a robot.

FrontiosThe Doctor: I got it cheap because the walk’s not quite right. And then there’s the accent, of course.
Sue: Brilliant.
The Doctor: But, when it’s working well, it’s very reliable. Keeping track of appointments, financial planning, word processing, that sort of thing.

Sue: She’s really good at whinging, too.

The Tractors are using humans as replacement parts for their mining machines.

Sue: This is relentlessly grim. I bet this would have scared you if you’d seen it as a child. And then you could be scared of woodlice on top of everything else that terrifies you.

For the next five minutes or so, Sue doesn’t say very much. She’s been sucked into the story. Can you see what I did there? Oh, forget it.

Sue: Some of the ideas are very interesting. I like the way the aliens have misdirected the humans by making them stare at the sky instead of the ground. That’s very clever.

Turlough is caught in a Tractator’s gravity beam, but he is saved when Brazen and a gang of Orderlies beat the living crap out of it.

Sue: That’s pretty brutal. I almost feel sorry for it.

Sue has mixed feelings when it comes to the Tractators.

Sue: I like their weird mouths, and if you lit them properly they would be really scary. But their little hands are very silly and they shouldn’t show the feet at all. If they came back today, they’d be great. They would curl up and roll at you. Trust me, it would be great.

Brazen sacrifices himself so the Doctor and his companions can escape.

FrontiosSue: He was a bit of a dick – and Turlough technically killed him by going a bit nuts – but at least he came good at the end. A very strange performance, though.

The Gravis’ plan becomes clear: he wants to turn Frontios into a spaceship.

Sue: That’s quite an audacious plan for a half a dozen termites to pull off.

As Tegan wanders through the caves, she notices bits of the TARDIS scattered around.

Sue: Okay, I’m lost. How has this happened?

The Doctor tempts the Gravis into his console room, and then he tricks the monster into reassembling the TARDIS with his superpowers.

Sue: He’s the Tractator’s Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The Doctor dumps the Gravis on an unpopulated planet.

Sue: You could easily bring him back again. Just light him a bit better, give him some decent hands, and he’ll be fine. Oh, and you might want to work on his voice so he has more gravitas.
Me: You’ve been dying to say that for ages, haven’t you?

Plantagenet asks the Doctor to stay.

Plantagenet: But surely you’ll stay a while longer and enjoy some of the new colony we’re building?

Sue: Is he having a laugh? What could you possibly enjoy on a shit hole like this?

Me: I’m sure Turlough could think of something.

The Doctor asks the colonists not to mention his involvement with Frontios to the Time Lords.

Sue: He never normally does this. What’s the big deal? He interferes all the time.

The TARDIS dematerialises but the episode isn’t over yet.

FrontiosThe Doctor: We’re being pulled towards the middle of the universe!
Sue: That’s a quick revenge! The Gravis isn’t as stupid as he looks. Nice fake ending. It had me going.

The credits roll.

Sue: Eh? I thought you said this was four parts?
Me: I wasn’t lying. The Gravis wasn’t responsible for that.
Sue: Ahhh, it must be the Time Lords. They’ve made such a big song and dance about not getting found out, it must be them.

 

The Score

Sue: That wasn’t bad at all. The design was excellent, the script was full of interesting and original ideas, and at least they were trying to do something a little bit different. Some of the performances were a bit dodgy and the direction could have been better (especially when it came to the Tractators) but Peter Davison was really good. Yeah, I enjoyed it.

7/10

 

Coming Soon

 

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Comments

  1. Sarah Hadley  November 1, 2012

    Yay! Hooray for Sue liking Frontios. It’s one of my favorites, and I agree with her, bring the Tractators back with a budget and they’d be properly creepy. Peter Davison is also at his most wonderful in this one, so many great lines.

    You should show her the novelisation, Neil – it is grim, grim, disturbing stuff. The Gravis speaks through a floating translator made out of a human head and arm fused to machinery, if I recall correctly…

    • Robert Dick  November 1, 2012

      The RNIB did a spoken word version of the novelisation read by Beth ‘Raine’ Chalmers.

    • Jane  November 1, 2012

      It’s one of my favorites, too, and I’m glad Sue liked it (though it really deserved an 8 or 9, but if it can go toe-to-toe with Sue’s take on Pyramids, I’m satisfied enough.)

  2. Nick Mays  November 1, 2012

    Sue: Tegan looks like sheโ€™s dressed for a night out in an 1980s disco. I used to have a leather skirt just like hers.
    Me: **** off!
    Sue: I did. Mine came with a stainless steel chain across the waist, too. It was very trendy. Completely impractical for hostile alien environments, but I never had to deal with that. Unless you count Gateshead, of course.

    Laughed uproariously at this. Nice one, Sue! ;o)

    Frontios – a wonderfully dark story (in so many ways) but sadly overshadowed by the two stories that follow it. A buried treasure of a story, if you will…

    • DPC  November 1, 2012

      There are indeed some gems coming up!!

  3. chris-too-old-to-watch  November 1, 2012

    I always enjoyed Frontios (even though it sounds like a dodgy DIY shop), but thinking the corpse machinery from the book would have been very impressive…

    • DPC  November 1, 2012

      It would have been very gory, and the gore in “Frontios” was more often contrived… the ramifications of violence (bloody Plantagenet) were definitely creepy for the right reasons, but it felt contrived to have the mining machine operated by a head. Especially as computers are more capable with doing precise mathematics, and more quickly…

      • John Miller  November 2, 2012

        Did anyone else think of Captain pike in the ST episode “The Menagerie” when they first saw that head? Or is that a dirty term here?

        • Andrew Bowman  November 2, 2012

          Why would ‘menagerie’ be a dirty word? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. Warren Andrews  November 1, 2012

    I’m no great fan of this one but I suppose that 7/10 is fair enough. I’ve always been very quickly bored by it. The ideas are there but it’s often very dirgey thanks to dirgey direction from Ron Jones (though not as bad as previous efforts, he is slowly improving), intensely irritating music from Paddy Kingsland (his final score) and bored performances. Yet it’s got loads of potential, the book was very irritating. For a former script editor, you’d think that Bidmead would have known what was achievable. Davison is excellent, you can tell he’s finally excited by a script that gives him some character rather than exposition.

    • Warren Andrews  November 1, 2012

      “the book was very irritating” – no, that was supposed to be enjoyable.:)

  5. Jay  November 1, 2012

    When I watched this I noted “Five is fucking OVER it.” Sue’s right about the passion, either The Doctor or Peter or both know things are coming to a head. I recently took a survey for someone planning an academic presentation, and when asked for least favorite Doctor I thought about it for a while and ended up saying Five, because he’s got the least personality. I don’t dislike him, but…that’s how it is.

    • Warren Andrews  November 1, 2012

      I agree. I’ve always thought of Davison as playing a straight-jacketed reaction against Tom Baker’s Doctor. Davison could have given us a very energised, fun, strong Doctor but the whole limit on humour and superDoctor, really limited him. Bidmead’s script gives him stuff to actually do and that’s why it’s normally noted as one of Davison’s best performances. You can tell he actually excited by what he’s given for once. It’s the same energy he had in Four to Doomsday. There’s colour to his performance. Throughout most of season 20, he was just given exposition. A waste. Davison has often said of his love of Douglas Adams, if Adams had written material for Davison’s Doctor I’m sure he would have shone.

      • DPC  November 1, 2012

        I’m ambivalent – each Doctor is typically a polar opposite, or at least a contrast. Given the press circa 1979/80 saying the show had gotten way too silly, etc, JNT did opt to rein in the humor. Perhaps too much so, but – yeah – Doc5 does often seem like “Doc4 sans the humor”. “Four to Doomsday” (one of my faves) does see Doc5 acting more like Doc4 on occasion…

        A lot of season 20 was reduced to exposition all around – great ideas but lacking a tad with flair…

        “Frontios” does give Doc5 some humor and Davison definitely relishes the story. The Doc4-mannerisms are rarely out in force, and Davison still keeps the Doctor his own.

        I do like the more serious take on his era, but if anything his era could have had a more colorful companion to make up for his being seriousness. A complementary balance is always ideal…

        • Thomas  November 1, 2012

          I think the quality of Davison’s Doctor as a character is more dependent on the scripts than most any of the other Doctors (performance-wise, he’s excellent in every one, though). In the hands of a good writer like Bidmead, Bailey, Holmes, Clegg, etc., he’s a very capable and strong character. In the hands of Byrnes or Saward…

          • John G  November 1, 2012

            It’s a shame really that Peter wasn’t given more of a chance to play up the humour and eccentricity, because as he displays in this story (and in other shows like All Creatures), he is an excellent comic actor. He can most certainly do passion as well, as he will conclusively demonstrate later on in Season 21, but his ability to vary the characterisation was limited by many of his scripts. It is somewhat ironic that Bidmead, who had been so determined to rein in Tom during Season 18, actually creates here one of the fifth Doctor’s liveliest stories – it makes you wish he had stayed on as Script Editor for longer.

          • charles yoakum  November 1, 2012

            when peter is given some meat to the script, he shines, that is really what is such a shame, that his doctor was less personality driven and HAD to have that great script. Also a shame to give an actor so good at doing humor so little comedy to do. Peter, like Sylvester, didn’t do anger as well. they sound petulant, whereas, when Tom or Matt get angry, you get very very afraid. Certainly it would help writers to know the strengths of the actors their writing for, wouldn’t it?

          • Dave Sanders  November 2, 2012

            In the hands of Eric Saward, the Doctor doesn’t get a lot to do anyway.

  6. Glen Allen  November 1, 2012

    I do like Frontios. Like Sue says (and is often the case in WHO) the idea is great, just the other elements let it down.
    I’ve never understood the attraction of Turlough. If attraction is the right word. The whole breakdown bit annoys me enormously and as I may have mentioned, I just want to slap him.
    Maybe it was because he was trying to nobble The Doctor in the first few stories that put me off him. Im really not sure.
    Still a good story and a great score.

    • encyclops  November 1, 2012

      Turlough would probably have been my least favorite companion if it weren’t for the ones who came after him. I think Mark Strickson’s splendid, though, and it’ll be a thrill to meet him at Gallifrey. It’s the character he played that I didn’t like, though he’s grown on me since.

    • Dave Sanders  November 1, 2012

      Don’t cry Glen. There’s always A Fix With Sontarans.

      • Dave Sanders  November 1, 2012

        Oh wait, I probably shouldn’t be bringing that up with the recent BBC revelations, should I?

        • Nick Mays  November 1, 2012

          Now THERE’S a load of 70s/80s TV show tapes that SHOULD be wiped!

          • John G  November 1, 2012

            Now then, now then, let’s not go airbrushing TV history…

  7. P.Sanders  November 1, 2012

    Huzzah! Frontios was a favourite of mine as a kid. It’s flawed and in places the production is obviously rushed but it’s still a strong effort dripping with atmosphere. TARDIS destroyed? Well that takes a pinch of salt but still good stuff. Glad Sue saw the good stuff in this one.

  8. John Callaghan  November 1, 2012

    My favourite ever Short Trips story is a sequel to Frontios, “Life After Queth” by Matt Kimpton. It features such wonderful lines as “[The Gravis spoke with] a voice dripping with what sounded like pure evil but which the Doctor had assured her was only mucus”.

    Although he’s clearly an imaginative and talented writer, I’m not a fan of CH Bidmead’s very mundane take on the TARDIS, as if it was just another conventional spacecraft. How, for instance, could it be spread out underground if the interior is in another dimension? I’ve a soft spot for the Time Monster because it makes explicit my take on how the TARDISes actually work!

    Entertaining write-up, as ever! And Glen, shurely shome mistake? “One, two, three, four”? They never had more than three, did they? ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thomas  November 1, 2012

      I wouldn’t say Bidmead treats the TARDIS as ordinary at all- there’s a certain mystical element to how he utilizes it in his previous two stories.

      Even here, you could argue that it’s only the one dimension being spread about underground. We never see bits of a police box anywhere, after all.

  9. Noodles  November 1, 2012

    That’s a very good point – what *does* happen to The Thing That’s Missing From The Console Room during this story? I’d never thought about it before, but if the TARDIS is spread all across Frontios, then where’s The Thing That’s Missing From The Console Room?

    • John Callaghan  November 1, 2012

      The Discontinuity Guide suggests the hat stand!

      • Dave Sanders  November 1, 2012

        So do I. Nothing else explains it or what it does.

        • Noodles  November 2, 2012

          It’s a stand on which you put hats.

          • Frankymole  November 2, 2012

            Badumtish. It’s interesting though that the Doctor says at the start that there are now two hatstands… Maybe he was tired of Tegan and/or Turlough using The Missing Thing for recreation?

          • Dave Sanders  November 2, 2012

            About Time V’s mock-essay question, “Oh Alright Then… Was There Hanky-Panky In The TARDIS?” ends on exactly that note with the sentence, “No wonder he hides in his room and won’t come out.”

  10. Robbie Moubert  November 1, 2012

    It’s a shame we never got a sequel, Back to Frontios.

    • John Callaghan  November 1, 2012

      And the box set could have been called Full Frontios.

      • Jazza1971  November 1, 2012

        Ah, ah, ah…boom, boom!

  11. Melvin  November 1, 2012

    Love “Frontios” – the Gravis is one of my very favourite Doctor Who creatures, mostly because he’s of a more philosophical bent than many of the Doctor’s foes. Their exchanges about travel itself are excellent. Gravis’s line, “only those who have been isolated for millennia truly appreciate the power of mobility,” is actually quite poignant, given that, according to the story, he’d been alone a long time before the events of “Frontios” and was exiled by the Doctor afterward. I mean, it doesn’t excuse his turning people into meat-machines, but, you know, one does develop a bit of sympathy for the Gravis.

  12. Melvin  November 1, 2012

    Further, it’s very likely I’d purchase a Davison-silhouetted mug with “Thatโ€™s quite an audacious plan for a half a dozen termites” emblazoned on the side.

    • DPC  November 1, 2012

      Be careful of copyright infringement…

    • James C  November 2, 2012

      I’d go for ‘Ooh, mining!” myself.

  13. DPC  November 1, 2012

    “Sue: Thatโ€™s quite an audacious plan for a half a dozen termites to pull off.”

    The Daleks tried it with Earth in “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”… ๐Ÿ™‚

    Pepper pots vs termites… ๐Ÿ™‚

    • chris-too-old-to-watch  November 2, 2012

      Seeing at the time the Daleks were mostly made of wood, I’d put my money on the termites….

  14. encyclops  November 1, 2012

    Second best story of the season, I’d say, but the competition is awfully weak. I’ve never had a problem with the acting (didn’t seem that much worse than usual), but the monsters are sort of the opposite of a “butterface,” aren’t they? Fantastically detailed head, poorly thought-out limbs. Still, I’ll take a silly monster suit over yet another humanoid with a forehead appliance any day of the week.

    Has Sue ever remembered any of your scoffing (e.g. at giant slugs) later on when the scoffing becomes relevant?

  15. Josiah Rowe  November 1, 2012

    So, which Big Finish collection can we find Neil’s story in? :^)

    • John Callaghan  November 3, 2012

      “A Christmas Treasury”, I believe.

  16. Dave Sanders  November 1, 2012

    Ah, the programme’s last gasp – or blow – from Paddy Kingsland. I’ve got a hankering now for some fish and chips, with lots and lots of ketchup on. What’s making me think of that?

  17. Jesse  November 1, 2012

    I recently re-watched this. When I saw Tegan’s outfit, my first thought was, “She dressed for Rio first.”

    • chris-too-old-to-watch  November 2, 2012

      And she dances on the sand…..

  18. Gavin Noble  November 1, 2012

    I love Frontios. I think it’s Chris Bidmead’s best script for the programme and I think the design is pretty good for a studio bound 1980’s story given the budget. Davison is wonderful though I think Turlough is quite annoying in this and a bit OTT.

    I do remember being worried about the TARDIS at the time. I had seen Carnival of Monsters in the Five Faces season which had said it was indestructible and I remember having friends at school saying how could it be indestructible the day after part one went out.

    A return to form from Glen with the Next Time trailer as well – though I disagree with him bout Tegan. I’m with Sue on that one.

    • encyclops  November 2, 2012

      Well, to be fair, the TARDIS wasn’t actually destroyed…just temporarily dismantled. ๐Ÿ™‚ If you can fly between dimensions with just a console room (“The Doctor’s Wife”) or even just a console (“Inferno”), the actual walls must just be for comfort, like seats on an airplane.

  19. Thomas  November 1, 2012

    I quite like this one. Not as much as Bidmead’s prior work (but then that’s my all-time favorite season of Doctor Who, so of course it doesn’t compare), but still quite good. Though I was never bothered by any of the performances- I quite liked most of the actors, and thought Strickson in particular was in top-notch form for this one.

  20. John G  November 1, 2012

    Lots of great comments by Sue on this one, and a pleasing amount of domestic sparring going on too – Neil really is a glutton for punishment sometimes, but it adds to the gaiety of proceedings!

    Frontios is definitely one of the Davison era’s more engaging stories, and it was good that Sue can see its virtues. As always with Bidmead, there are interesting ideas and concepts thrown into the mix, and the design work is pretty good. Mind you, the production does seem to have been cursed a bit, given that not only did the original designer have a breakdown (and kill himself, as I understand it), but one of the actors cast for the story was murdered just before filming began. In general I think the acting is pretty solid, though I have seen The Onedin Line and I can tell Sue that Peter Gilmore’s performance in that is pretty much identical to the one he gives in this story. I quite like him though, even if his range is distinctly limited.

    The EastEnders fan in Sue is going to have a field day with the next story. I wonder if she’s fond of The Likely Lads too…

    • Nick Mays  November 2, 2012

      “… though I have seen The Onedin Line and I can tell Sue that Peter Gilmoreโ€™s performance in that is pretty much identical to the one he gives in this story. I quite like him though, even if his range is distinctly limited.”

      I swear there’s a bit where he calls Mr Range “Mr Baines”.

      • Wholahoop  November 2, 2012

        He was very good in the Carry On films…….

  21. wholahoop  November 1, 2012

    I seem to recall some delightful lines from the novel where Tegan is fuming at the Doctor for the comments about the walk and the accent and almost imperceptibly the Doctor winks at her (Anne Robinson style I guess)

    I missed the last two episodes as I was playing Judge Hathorne in the school production of The Crucible and, disappointingly, unlike Enlightenment (when we did Oh What a Lovely War) no-one at school was enthused enough to tell me what happened. When I finally saw it in the 90’s I loved it. A solid script perhaps let down by the production values but not drastically so IMHO.

  22. charles yoakum  November 1, 2012

    finally some love for Frontios, which does the end of the universe thing much better than the Tennant version years later. Classic Doctor Who really, excellent concepts let down by money and time, but still miles more interesting than most of the rest of the stuff on TV. Having read the book first, i saw what they were shooting for, but couldn’t put on the screen, and that made me love the story more. True, also, the Bidmead didn’t explain how the TARDIS was pulled apart when the interior doesn’t actually exist in our dimension, but i guess we’ll never have that little bit of technobabble in the actual episode.

    • Nick Mays  November 1, 2012

      I’d always rationalised the Tardis’ apparent scattering as being just the console room and bedroom dimension as this was fixed – at that point – in Frontios’s reality. The rest of the Tardis exists in a dimension which doesn’t exist in Frontios’ reality. Somehow the Tractators’ ability to suck objects and human beings down affected the Tardis in some way so that it ‘scattered’ its main area as a kind of defence against the rest of the ship being damaged.

      Of course, none of this explains the hatstand, although in the novel I believe Bidmad said there was residual energy ‘earthed’ at its base which made it spark like a weapon. Or a certain a*d*r*id, disguised in this form, was even then short circuiting.

      • charles yoakum  November 2, 2012

        i’ll take that. its better than anything that made it on screen. i do recall the residual sparking being mentioned by the way. good call.

  23. Ollie  November 2, 2012

    The regulars are all outstanding, I think I’ve changed my perception on number 5 now, I never used to think he was good enough but I feel he reaches a peak here, he also sustains it right to the end.

    Pity he didn’t do a 4th year.

    When did we last see the Bidmead specs before Frontios? Was it Castrovalva?

  24. chris-too-old-to-watch  November 2, 2012

    Some good comments and discussions re Frontios. Litle bit disappointed we’ve not had a rambling essay proving that the Gravis is actually the Slyther from Daleks Invasion Earth…….

    • Nick Mays  November 2, 2012

      Oh come on! Everyone knows the Slyther was placed there to distract the Doctor by Fenric, who of course was also the War Chief and the Meddling Monk….

      … and of course, then there’s The Trickster to take into account. Is the Time Beetle form Turn Left related to the Tractators?

        • Dave Sanders  November 2, 2012

          I CAN’T STAND THE CONFUSION IN MY MIND

      • John Miller  November 2, 2012

        How frightfully amusing that Neil blames one person(guess who?) for all the stupidity here, yet these serial trolls continue with their provocation and stupidity. I apologise to Neil and Sue, as well as all the non-fuckwit posters, for foolishly taking the bait that these idiots seem to delight in posting all the time.

        I really enjoyed Sue’s review here, as it’s interesting what first-time viewers see. Rather than anticipating the groanworthy bits, actually seeing it with fresh eyes. Although the line “Great idea. Shit special effect.” could sum up a lot of Doctor Who! ๐Ÿ™‚ The line “Could Tegan have chosen a less appropriate costume for this story? She looks like sheโ€™s touting for business in the ruins.” had me in stitches. Unlike the tedious little twats who just will not shut the fuck up trying to needle and insult certain other posters. Again, sorry for letting these imbeciles get to me, and my stupid reaction. But they’ll be laughing on the other side of their faces when they watch Mark….oh never mind. ๐Ÿ™‚

        By the way, Neil, which version of the next story will you be watching? For a really authentic viewing, you need someone sitting there complaining about “the bloody Winter Olympics”….

        • Nick Mays  November 2, 2012

          Oooh! Someone touched a nerve? ;o)

        • wholahoop  November 3, 2012

          Seems like we had the same thought about the Winter Olympics as I made a similar comment on the Facebook page, although my take was that for validity the experiment should be suspended until the next Winter Olympics and this story viewed then

          As for the trolling, as one of the unintentional catalysts on previous blogs I would like to think that they are poking fun at the nature of the discussion rather than directly at you. I might be wrong mind you, but one thing that has been consistent in my fan life is the gentle teasing that is directed at Who fans (by non fans and fans alike). If it gets too much a shrug of the shoulders and a quiet inward sigh normally lets me keep calm and carry on

          • Andrew Bowman  November 3, 2012

            I agree. I doubt it was a fully-loaded attack on you, John, more a reaction against the peculiar debate that was taking place. It strikes me that this blog is read, and commented on, by intelligent people who, even if they’ve never met each other, become mates. And mates take the mickey out of mates, simple as that. Frankly, it might be an idea to lay off the comments until the dust settles or, as Wholahoop suggests, just shrug it off and laugh along with the silliness of it all. Taking it seriously when everybody else is enjoying the ride is just a hiding to nothing, I’m afraid. ๐Ÿ™‚

          • Nick Mays  November 3, 2012

            Andrew: Exactly my take on it and exactly how I participated in this particular thread. No personal offence or antipathy directed at John or anyone else, just the sheer enjoyment of the delerium that is ‘Who’. ๐Ÿ™‚

            When one gets into ‘Who’ continuity and character debates, it’s impossible to try to square the circle – you end up with a decohedron!

          • John Miller  November 3, 2012

            Well, I was half-joking all the time(except in that I honestly do believe you-know-what). But I guess the internet doesn’t give tone of voice very well.

            Maybe the topic of joking should move onto something else? Which shouldn’t be too hard to find over the next few serials, should it?

            I also think that there are only so many comments that can be made about any one serial(although perhaps not when it’s Colin Baker and Sylvester Mccoy ๐Ÿ™‚ ). Inevitably, being Doctor Who, the discussion wanders, which interests certain people, amuses others, and annoys others.

            There’ll certainly be enough to chew over with the next TWO-PARTER.

  25. Merast  November 2, 2012

    I never realised you wrote a short-story for Big Finish! So all this time you have been or haven’t been an actual contributor to the overall canon of Doctor Who depending on whether you do or do not personally consider any spin off media canonical?

    Well you learn something new everyday Woodlouse murderer.

    ๐Ÿ˜€

  26. DamonD  November 2, 2012

    I like Frontios, but on the last watching the pan pipes got seriously on my wick. Odd saying as that is. I think it’s the overuse and overuse of that little refrain that gets on the nerves.

    Still, Davison’s really good in this one and I agree with a lot of Sue’s plus points here. A solid 7.

  27. BWT  November 2, 2012

    The Doctor: But, when itโ€™s working well, itโ€™s very reliable. Keeping track of appointments, financial planning, word processing, that sort of thing.

    Sue: Sheโ€™s really good at whinging, too.

    Quoted for Truth

  28. Jennie  November 2, 2012

    I took part in an acting course run by the actor who played the Gravis, John Gillet. Twas very good. Saw him again at a Big Finish day last year.

    Agree with Sarah Hadley about the novel. Lots of disturbing moments eg Brazen’s death and the desciption of the Tractator’s mining machine was very gory…

  29. Ian  November 2, 2012

    This is the only story where I hate Mark Strickson’s acting. His breakdown is beyond over the top in my opinion. Davison is allowed to really shine though and the novelization of this one is quite scary.

  30. Judkins Major  November 2, 2012

    Glad to hear Sue got a kick out of this one. I remember increasing depression at the quality of some of the Davisons when my local PBS station (WLPB, Baton Rouge) ran them in the very early 90s, and then “Frontios” came along. I have to say, the Tractators really did it for me; a bravura idea (and rather daring, considering the potential limitations of the Who budget at that time) that, as Sue and others have suggested, really deserves a comeback. Of all the one-off “monsters” to appear on the show, they’re probably at the top of my list for rehabilitation. Admittedly, I haven’t seen it since then, but this is one I’ll definitely be interested to get on DVD.

  31. Dave Sanders  November 3, 2012

    “Oh no, they talk” should be on a mug for EVERY Doctor.

    • encyclops  November 3, 2012

      With an audio chip spoken by Anjelica Huston in Morticia mode.

  32. Bestbrian  November 3, 2012

    Spent the last week working my tail off to clean up after Sandy, and when I finally get my interwebs back, I find this gem. Thanks for the smile Sue and Neil. ๐Ÿ™‚

  33. Mark  November 3, 2012

    So are you going to do a video review of one of the Davidson era stories?

    • Neil Perryman  November 3, 2012

      No. Time is against us and the videos have been too divisive.

      • Dave Sanders  November 3, 2012

        Pity – the obvious one to do would have actually been The Twin Dilemma, assuming that as the season closer, Sue is subjected to it right after Androzani the same way we were. It wasn’t Patrick McGoohan blowing up The General when Channel 4 reran The Prisoner in 1984.

      • Mark  November 4, 2012

        Well just for the record I really liked them:)