Saturday, 23 October 2010


The Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Turlough travel to the far, far future and find humanity struggling to survive and are menaced by giant woodlice.

When completing my viewing of the entire classic series, the serials I had left until last were most of the better Peter Davison stories. The Peter Davison era is quite a mixed bag, with dreadful stuff like Time Flight and some excellent stories like Kinda. Frontios finds itself on the classier side.

Frontios presents us with a dark and bleak vision of the far future, where humanity is scattered and struggling for survival in a cold, uncaring cosmos. Its a vision that works well in Doctor Who. The grey set and costumes reflect this barren idea of the future. The sets really are very well created and present a convincing snapshot of a grim colony planet.

The Tractators are a great monster. There is something really visceral and creepy about big woodlice. They really make your flesh crawl, even if the they don't look quite as menacing at first as some monsters. The suggestion of humanity being prey to such lowly life forms adds to the sense of hopelessness of this vision. The Tractators use of humans as cyborg slaves operating tunnel machines is very macabre.

A significant problem with this story is the destruction of the TARDIS. It just does work together with the Frontios plot very well. The destruction of the TARDIS ought to be an highly significant event in Dr. Who, but it is here just a minor subplot against a much more interesting tale of rugged colonists and giant woodlice. The regular cast also fail to give us a very believable reaction to the destruction of their home and their only way off Frontios.

Despite not quite reacting believably to the destruction of the TARDIS, Peter Davison's Doctor is acting at his best here. The lack of charisma and presence that characterised his first season is long behind him. Mark Strickson is good, while hamming it up a little too much when overcome by race memories. Janet Fielding is great as Tegan. Some of the supporting cast are a little wooden.

I am a bit puzzled by the supposed dangers and illegalities of interfering in the far future. Surely there is far more danger in interfering in the past and the future would be more of a free for all? The Doctor has usually shown less concern about getting involved in the past, on earth and beyond.

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