The Robots of Death
By Robert Holmes
Reviewed By Will Barber
The Doctor: You're a classic example of the inverse ratio between the size of the mouth and the size of the brain.
The Fourth Doctor and Leela land in the cargo hold of a sandminer in the 23rd Century, whose crew are being murdered one by one. The Doctor must discover who is responsible before The Robots of Death claim another victim.
The Robots of Death is a classic Doctor Who story, a mixture between gothic horror and sci-fi epic. The sets look like they have been taken from an Agatha Christie production with servants who are art deco style killing machines.
The story plays out with a murder mystery, two strangers arrive, a death occurs and throughout the story we get lots of twists and turns that Agatha Christie would have been proud of. The subtleness of the story mean that we are kept guessing until the end who is behind the deaths and why. Boucher manages to keep things alive by making the body count higher and higher throughout the serial until the climax; this helps to keep the audience interested as it gives the solving of the crimes urgency before another murder is committed.
Tom Baker demonstrates his versatility as he slips between cheerful and flippant to serious and angry. Baker manages to create a good Doctor/Companion relationship with Leela even though at the time Baker didn’t like Louise Jameson and missed Elisabeth Sladen. It does however, feel a little uncomfortable and not as warm as the Doctor/Companion relationship with Sladen or later with Mary Tamm and future wife Lalla Ward. Instead the best connection Baker makes is with the undercover robot D84. Both actors are deadly serious but we can tell that there is a hint of mischief in it all. Even when Baker is acting seriously he can still add a comic edge to whatever he is doing.
The Robots of Death is a wonderful mixture, drawing on the classic Whodunnit story, combining it with a future setting and some great ‘70s acting and writing. The end result is a magnificent soup of great Whoness. Just what The Doctor ordered.