Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

Doctor Who: The Androids of Tara (The Key to Time Part Four)

"Would you mind not standing on my chest? My hat's on fire."

Doctor Who has never been shy about, and let’s be perfectly blunt here, pillaging the classics for inspiration. The show has already given us takes on the likes of Frankenstein, Jason and the Argonauts and many more. But it is rare that the show has taken a source and adapted it practically word for word.

'The Androids of Tara' is a blatant and unapologetic photocopy of Anthony Hope’s classic swashbuckler The Prisoner of Zenda. The script follows the plot of the book to the letter. The only major changes are relocating the action to another planet, throwing in some androids and merging Prince Michael and Rupert of Hentzau into one character.

It also happens to be one of the most fun stories of the entire Key to Time season. After the misstep that was ‘The Stones of Blood’, David Fisher quickly redeemed himself with this marvelous story. 'Androids' is simply an absolute treat, a charming swashbuckler that finds Tom Baker at the top of his game, perfectly matched against Peter Jeffery’s charmingly despicable Count Grendel, this story’s Rupert of Hentzau substitute.

With so much goodness, it is very disappointing that Mary Tamm’s talents are completely wasted in this one. As in 'The Stones of Blood' Fisher doesn't seem to have a clue what to do with Romana. What's the point of giving the Doctor a companion who is just as smart as he is (probably even smarter) if all you're going to do is lumber her with the thankless role of damsel in distress? Even giving her the extra role of Princess Strella adds nothing as Strella barely appears, does nothing but weave, and is so similar in personality to Romana that you wouldn't think that Tamm is even playing a different character.

Name-Drop Alert

The Doctor saw José Raúl Capablanca play Alexander Alekhine at chess in 1927. He also met Izaak Walton, author of The Compleat Angler.

Notes and Quotes

--For this story only, the opening title credits are in the order: title, part, writer. Usually it's title, writer, part.

--Grendel's castle is actually Leeds Castle in Kent.

--At first glance it looked like the Romana android shot lasers out of its crotch area. On closer examination it is actually the waist.

--Even by this show's standards, the Taran Wood Beast is embarrassingly bad:

Romana: "Count, far be it from me to query this woman's competency as a doctor, but where I come from, you don't cut off a patient's head if you wish to cure their ankle!"

Count Grendel: "Well, why so miserable? This should be the happiest day of your life. It will also be your last, so you'd better enjoy it."

Zadek: "This is Prince Reynart's hunting estate."
The Doctor: "What? Prince Reynart!"
Zadek: "Yes."
The Doctor: "I've never heard of him. Decent sort of chap, is he?"

The Doctor: "I shall have to go alone of course. It's funny. They always want you to go alone when you're walking into a trap. Have you noticed that?"

Three out of four Grachtian statues.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.

1 comment:

  1. This one is around a 2.5-2.75 for me, and I enjoy a bit more than Stones of Blood, but less than Pirate Planet or Ribos Operation. It's decent and interesting, but isn't quite up there, mostly due to how underused Romana is as you point out here, Mark.

    Mary Tamm was born to play aristocratic roles in my eyes. She carries herself like a noblewoman, so her dual (triple with the android?) role here should be much better, but if I recall correctly, part of why she left was how unsatisfied she was with Romana not being more than just that damsel in distress role.

    It's a cool combo of tech and medieval Europe that works surprisingly well, and the world feels fleshed out with how those who handle the tech for the androids are still peasants, while noblemen fight with some high tech sabers. I like it when they do that as it makes me more interested in the story and the characters involved beyond our regulars.


We love comments! We moderate because of spam and trolls, but don't let that stop you! It’s never too late to comment on an old show, but please don’t spoil future episodes for newbies.