By Christopher H. Bidmead
“Oh, you think so? I got it cheap because the walk's not quite right. And then there's the accent, of course. But, when it's working well, it's very reliable. Keeping track of appointments, financial planning, word processing, that sort of thing.”
The TARDIS has gone as far into the future as it is allowed to by Time Lord law. They look on the screen and see the planet Frontios which happens to be an Earth colony that houses some of the last humans from Earth before it was destroyed. Tegan wants to go down to the planet and see them but The Doctor is insistent that they do not go down there and interfere with their development. But a meteor storm appears to have happened and the TARDIS appears to have gotten caught in a gravitational pull and is heading to the planet.
It appears that Frontios has been under threat of meteors for quite a while now and it seems to be having its toll as the population has thinned out and for some reason people have been disappearing into the ground. The Doctor and his companions decide to help with the wounded and get involved but it comes at a price. During the next wave of meteor storms the TARDIS is destroyed and all that is left is the hat stand. The Doctor decides to explore the underground passage ways that exist under the settlement along with Turlough, Tegan, Norna and Brazen.
What they find down there fills Turlough with fright as his mind snaps at a memory of great pain during his planets past that seems to affect him in a bad way. What he sees is the Tractators. The Tractators are a race of aliens that burrow the planet out to a certain radius so they can focus their gravity powers and drive the planet through space. Turlough remembers this as not only can they do this but they also need the minds of humans to operate their machines which in turns makes the humans zombie like and eventually kills them. So it is up to The Doctor to save Frontios from the Tractators and to also somehow trick them into putting all the pieces of the TARDIS back together again.
Frontios is a pretty good story that suffers from the same fate as the Awakening as it is overshadowed by the other stories in season 21 mainly the Dalek story, the regeneration story and one that is not very good that features the new Doctor. I like this story as it is pretty simple as we have a story that is basically aliens threaten inhabitants of a planet and The Doctor finds a way to defeat the aliens thus saving the planets inhabitants. Sometimes it is the simplest stories that work the best as there is not much thinking to be done and you can just sit there and enjoy it for what it is.
Frontios is actually a Turlough story. For once he has something significant to contribute to the story besides getting captured or being left in the background adjusting his tie. We get more background on his people and their planets history and we get to know a bit more of him. We know that when he mentions Tractators that he gets all flummoxed to the point of foaming at the mouth. Turlough also had good chemistry with Norna. At times it looked like they really liked each other and you could see Turlough staying on Frontios to be with her but it was not to be. But you could not deny that the two were flirting with each other and there was something there.
I liked the Tractators as an alien in Doctor Who. Even though they looked like a snail that was crossed with a slug I thought they looked pretty neat for the early Eighties. Making them to be able to us gravity against you and to be able to pull objects towards them was pretty cool idea and made them pretty powerful. It was almost to bad that they were defeated easily and tricked by The Doctor when it appeared as if the Gravis was pretty intelligent. I did like the way they sparred with The Doctor verbally and the conversation going back and forth. It was good to see The Doctor use sarcasm against them also as The Fifth Doctor was pretty good in the sarcasm department.
Frontios also sets up the next story as it ends on a cliffhanger as the TARDIS gets caught in a time tunnel of some sort and gets sent to Earth where The Doctor meets up with some old enemies. On a whole Frontios is a nice story to watch from time to time as it is simple and does have some nice moments in it. Plus the Tractators are a decent Eighties alien that does not look all that bad.
Grade B -