Our Doctor Who expert, Tony Cross, is journeying through all of time and space to bring us his thoughts on every available Doctor story. Today is the Fifth Doctor adventure Frontios...
I like Frontios, even though the Gravis & his Tractators are victims of the eighties Doctor Who lack of budget. They look like fish-headed woodlice but lack animation & suffer from the much-mentioned-in-this-blog problem of 'waddle'. The willing suspension of disbelief is tough in those circumstances, even for a 'Web Planet' loving Doctor Who geek like myself. However there's enough oddness & tension in the build up to their appearance to take a little edge of it.
Particularly praiseworthy is Mark Strickson's sterling work as Turlough dredges up a 'race memory' of the Tractators from deep in his subconscious & forces himself through his cowardice & out the other side. One of themes of this story - intended or unintended - seems to be 'coming of age'. It isn't really heavily pushed but this is the story when Turlough grows up. It is also the story of a boy king, Plantagenet, who is forced to take up his responsibilities to a failing colony, even if he isn't ready for it. There's a hint of Henry IV-V about it if you're pretentiously minded like me.
Plantagenet (played with a perpetual pained pride by Jeff Rawle) talks in speeches. He's acting the King, perhaps because he isn't one yet & it takes the events of this story to make him one. Or at least one more true to himself. Before this he's trying too hard to be his father, the semi-legendary Captain Revere. After this perhaps - to steal a West Wing episode - the people of Frontios will let Plantagenet be Plantagenet.
Tony Cross is the creator of the wonderful Centurion Blog's found HERE and HERE.
Image – BBC.