Thursday, 3 October 2013


The Doctor with Platagenent (centre)
Christopher H. Bidmead was asked back by Eric Saward to write another story, and it was his best story by far. A more traditional Who-tale than ‘Logopolis’ and ‘Castrovalva’, ‘Frontios’ again is a strange, single word title stemming from the location of the story. Whilst the similarities don’t end there, at least there’s a decent story here rather than four episodes of exposition of a scientific concept.
Turlough at work
A rust-proof, solid cast adds to some pretty good design work (bar the Tractators), and it all comes together to make an exciting adventure which pace and energy. The production got off to a horrific staff when the actor booked to play Mr Range was brutally murdered the day of his costume fitting, and the actors recall that hanging over the production, which it surely would. However the whole team deserve kudos for pulling it all together in the wake of such a tragedy.

Bidmead’s fascination with the TARDIS hadn’t waned, it plays an important role in this story. I’m trying to think of a single Peter Davison story which doesn’t feature a TARDIS scene, and at the moment I’m coming up blank. So there’s some phaffing about going on at the start as the TARDIS gets pulled down towards Frontios. And then the TARDIS ends up in pieces scattered around the tunnels of Fronitos.
The Doctor is trapped!
The plan of the Tractators is a little like the Daleks’ plan to pilot Earth around as a big space ship. Which is their plan for Frontios too. They use a strange machine to make the tunnels, and they require a human operator which is merely a plot device I guess. The Tractators are presented as burrowing insects (albeit not the most convincing ones), so I think making the machine responsible for the tunnelling was a strange choice by the author.
Tractators at work.
He uses Turlough very well, and Mark Strickson turns out a fine performance as a companion losing their mind. He’s a decent foil for the Doctor, with an added pinch of cowardice yet displays bravery at times too, especially in ‘Frontios’. It is a bit convenient plotwise that Turlough has a race-memory of the Tractators which slowly reveals the way to defeat them and their leader, the Gravis, but it’s easy enough to overlook.
It’s a very moody piece and there are some great, strong characters such as Plantagenant (Jeff Rawle), the colony leader, and his 2IC, Rudge, played by Onedin Line and Carry On veteran, Peter Gilmore. Sadly Tegan’s character is getting lost with no development whatsoever. Janet Fielding always puts in a good performance, but they never write any changes in her character, nothing since ‘Snakedance’.
The sets are rather stylish in places, and generally good. The stuff which is supposed to be ‘outside’ on
Frontios is done better than say ‘Snakedance’, the lighting is worked to better suit the location. The mixing of tunnels and the TARDIS is great. The only disappointment is the Tractators, bigger than humans but shelled insects. It’s fair to say that they were never going to be well realised, it was asking too much. Their arms are just basically hands which look terrible and are the worst part of a bad costume. The movement is hampered by the costume two, with no legs – or should I say one? But they don’t hop, they shuffle everywhere. Hard to take seriously a monster which if you pushed over – and that looked pretty easy to me to do, they wouldn’t be able to get back up.
So that is ‘Frontios’, a well written, exciting piece with just a couple of issues.


No comments:

Post a Comment