Doctor Who: Frontios (parts three and four)

Well, how nice. There’s a scene with Janet Fielding in her awesomely eighties outfit and one of the big bug monsters. Saves me the trouble of taking two pictures.

From the perspective of watching TV with my kid, the most interesting surprise about “Frontios” is that he was much more frightened by it than I was expecting. There’s a grisly body horror aspect to the story – it’s really driven home in writer Christopher H. Bidmead’s novelization of the script for Target Books’ line, which is downright disgusting – which centers around the bug monsters’ excavation machine. They need living humanoid minds to run the thing, and so the cliffhanger to part three reveals that a character everybody thought was dead is still hanging on, zombie-like, inside the machine. Our son volunteered that this was the scariest adventure since “Pyramids of Mars”, which remains his benchmark for scary Doctor Who.

From my own perspective, there’s a surprising revelation that the most intelligent bug monster, the one who controls all the others, is surprisingly well-read for bug monsters. He knows about Gallifrey and TARDISes, but he also specifically has heard of the Doctor. This may be one of the first occasions in the show where our hero’s reputation has preceded him quite this much. You can imagine Young Steven Moffat jumping at what a great idea it is that the Doctor’s such a big-shot legend.

It’s established that the Tractators are very long-lived specifically, and we can infer that their species has been around, digging up planets, for many millions of years, since Turlough’s home planet was once infested with them, and this story is set so far in the future that the Time Lords forbid TARDISes from going any farther. Perhaps the rank-and-file digger bugs just shuffle about in their tunnels while the bright one goes out, reads the papers, and stays abreast of cosmic events. He talks a lot, in his awesomely eighties electronic-synthesizer voice, so maybe he’s been gossiping with all the villains from all the other set-so-far-in-the-future stories about who beat ’em.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Doctor Who: Frontios (parts three and four)

  1. I haven’t seen “Frontios” since probably the mid 1980s, so I only have vague memories of it. I’d actually like to re-watch it, because with the benefit of hindsight, and much more of an awareness of the behind-the-scenes personnel involved, I realize that it is the product of two individuals who had extremely different approaches to Doctor Who. It’s written by Christopher H. Bidmead, who during his short tenure as script editor was very keen to have stories that were cerebral and thought-provoking and based in scientific principles. It’s script edited by Eric Saward, who was all about action, and gunplay, and violence, and amoral SOBs, and everything being grim & gritty. So I’m curious to look at this one again to see just how those two extremely disparate approaches came together. I’m going to see if I can find the DVD cheap on Ebay.

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