Monday, 24 February 2014

Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Androids of Tara (Revisited)

See here for my previous look at this story.
Count Grendel "saves" Romana and carries her off.
From doctorwhoreviews.
Doctor Who - Season 16, Story Four - The Androids of Tara (Revisited)
Written 5/8/13
"Oh do stop being so tediously heroic, my dear fellow."

Well, I'm already biased. Then again, it's sorta the point of this site for me to be biased, so I guess that's fine. I just really see no way in which anyone could dislike this story. I mean, no offence, but unless you're a hardcore member of the Prisoner of Zenda appreciation society I really think that this story has everything you could ask for in a Doctor Who story, with heaps of charm to top it off. I think one of the reasons that I love it so much is that it's a proof-of-concept of sorts for what Doctor Who is - after a few seasons of alternating between grey spacecraft and scenes in southern England, we're thrown into a lush Medieval fantasy setting that takes itself entirely seriously.
     My love for the story has certainly grown over the years, and that's not due to any unforeseen subtlety in a script but rather an appreciation of how simply the story gets things done. The whole-plot reference to another work, The Prisoner of Zenda, fits the serial with a more conventional act structure, and as a result we actually get a satisfying beginning, middle and end instead of the typically rushed resolutions that are far too common in Classic Who. Of course I usually wouldn't abide by such a premise, but the simple fact is that David Fisher adapts it to the point where you'd be surprised that it's anything other than a standard Doctor Who runaround.
     And those adaptations are mainly to do with the way that one person can become two. Whereas the original story had the King replaced by his nigh-identical cousin, this serial uses the idea of androids and adapts that to the setting to create a rather wonderful society in which the peasantry are adept with futuristic technologies and the upper classes prefer electro-shock swords. Thanks to the presence of Romana, we do get a set of randomly identical characters, as well as their android doubles, meaning that all in all there are four roles for Mary Tamm to play and two roles for exquisite guest actor Neville Jason. Despite the overreliance on that one doppelganger trick, it never really breaks unless you look at it for too long, and carries the serial well.
Sorry, can't review this story without the Taran Wood Beast.
From the BBC.
     Talking of exquisite guest casts, this episode has one. While the aforementioned Neville Jason is tickety boo as the erudite and noble Prince Reynhart, the star of the serial is Peter Jeffrey's Count Grendel, who is without a doubt my favourite Classic Series villain for the sheer audacity of his bastardry. The part is played with just the right mix of ham and charm (not a good sandwich combination), and the script gives him some absolute crackers to work with. My favourite moment of his is either the finale scene, in which he finishes his epic swordfight with The Doctor with the line, "Next time, I will not be so lenient!" and then gracefully jumping into the Castle Moat, or the scene in which he casually informs his minister that he will need a wedding, a funeral for the groom and a second wedding for the widow.
     Just as The Doctor expresses his desire to take a break from the search, a break from the search he gets. The arc in this story has a very marginal role, with the finding and collecting done in the first five minutes and the rest of the story the result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time - taking these two intergalactic travellers and driving them to help solve the affairs of a single monarchy on a single, relatively primitive planet. It was more focused on enjoying itself with it's own concept, and with acting of this calibre and a script which manages to be both effortlessly epic and witty, I really can't find anything at all to fault with this story. Except the Taran wood beast. But I'm sure we've all forgotten about that.


NEXT WEEK: We meet a giant squid as we awe at The Power of Kroll.

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