Special Edition DVD Extras include:
After an exceptional introduction to the sandminer and its diverse crew, the Doctor, Leela, and the TARDIS get a near perfect introduction as well. Establishing shot, TARDIS interior nicely explained, new Doctor/companion relationship showcased, full materialization for the police box, interior and exterior juxtaposed..... everything you'd want when introducing the series to completely new viewers, except for one niggling element. We still suffer the silly old primitive dark secondary control room. Arrghh! The view on the scanner screen is not particularly interesting or easily understandable at first either, so this control room's one usual strength is not particularly well boasted either.
Dudley Simpson turns in one of his better scores with this story, reusing a simple but effective motif for the creepy advance of the robots on their possible victims, and accompanying many of the wide scene-setting shots with beautiful light and airy synthesizer sounds, adding to the majesty and uniqueness of the story's setting. Plus there are his renditions of classical music in the lounge. All excellent stuff.
"The Robots of Death" works in large part thanks to the eye-candy design of the production, and some expert direction from Michael E. Briant. The cast does a marvellous job, and the robots themselves are unforgettable. Unlike many other monsters, these ones need not hide their physical features in the shadows to remain frightening - their features have been deliberately designed aesthetically. It's what's going on behind their face-plates that is truly frightening and left to our imagination, and Poul's dilemma at the end helps to emphasize this for those with any doubt.
The fixation on strangulation is an unattractive element of the story, and there is some curious non-interaction going on in the plot as well. Leela and even more so the Doctor are kept from meeting the human guest characters until quite a ways into part two, which is too long in my view, and not aided by their voluntary wanderings back towards the machinery near the end of episode one. And after one flippant prisoner dynamic scene with them in the lounge, half the crew is dead, eliminating the Doctor's chances to interact with them further. Then in part three, Uvanov gets no screen time until the cliffhanger, despite the fact that his character is under more suspicion than anyone else, and the fact that he still does a lot of suspicious things. His escape from custody should have been on screen, it would have worked perfectly to keep suspicion where we want it for the time being. A little too much character interaction happens off screen in this story, with someone else coming in and reporting it to the others.
In the end, though, these are all minor points. The story remains gripping, thanks to the solid formula at work in the writing. The characters and the setting are interesting, and one wants to be there to find out how it will all work out. Uvanov gets a lot to do in part four to make up for what he didn't get in part three, and the story builds to a satisfying conclusion that makes up in dramatic quality for what it lacks in non-violent elegance and imagination.
The lead villain revealed near the end of the piece doesn't quite have a motivation as believable as I would have liked, but single story villains don't need to make too much sense in my view - they haven't got their act together, and they're going to go to pieces in the end anyway.
This story has become available on DVD and VHS video:
Comments on this article are welcome. You may contact the author from this page: