Episode 19: The Ambassadors of Death

A look at the Third Doctor’s third episode.  An investigation into a failed space rescue takes a turn when the returned astronauts seem to be something quite different than they were before. 

How does the Daleks Aren’t Robots team react to it?  Find out!

Podcast Contents Include

Editor’s Note: The following are my original notes for the podcast, slightly edited for readability. They’re very far from the full contents of the pod, though.  – Kari

SUMMARY

An astronaut is being sent up to retrieve the astronauts of Mars Probe 7, which has been silent for more than 7 months, but the rescuer hears a nasty noise up there and then goes silent himself. Because we are not on our earth, this is an AU.

The Doctor sees it on the TV and goes to help. It turns out it’s a message and a group of people on Earth is replying to the messages; when Briggy sends guys there there’s a huge gunfight and half of UNIT dies.

Eventually we retrieve 3 guys from space, but it turns out they’re radioactive aliens that can kill with a touch and NOT the astronauts. The astronauts are being held hostage by aliens who want their ambassadors back–it turns out that a bunch of crappy humans kidnapped their ambassadors and mindcontrolled said ambassadors into committing crimes for them.

The ringleader is Carrington, a military bad guy who is basically a xenophobe and wants to nuke the aliens, and his dragon, metaphorically, Reegan, is a frighteningly competent asshole helping for the paycheck. Carrington wants to fake an alien attack so that earth’s governments all nuke the aliens, but the Doctor and Liz rescue the aliens and then it ends and YES IT IS ACTUALLY THAT ABRUPT.

OUR TEAM

  1. The Doctor is great in this one. He Karens his way into the bowels of the space center right off the bat, traps a bunch of baddies by somehow magnetizing their hands to Betsy (I mean it’s magic but whatever) and even actually goes to space to talk to the alien leader. He is short with people and at one point he gets knocked out, which was hilarious, so it’s nice that he’s not immune to things happening to him.
  2. Liz is kidnapped in this one, but she’s still actually pretty great. She struggles to escape physically and then when she DOES escape, only to be recaptured, that doesn’t stop her from trying to get out yet AGAIN. And she actively helps the Doctor make a signal device to get help from UNIT when he too gets captured, as well as a gadget for being able to actually talk to the Ambassadors of Death. At one point she sarcastically promises the baddies not to hurt them, which was hilarious.
  3. Briggy can’t hit the broad side of a barn and leads from the front, which is pretty stupid since he’s probably the only one who knows what’s going on. That said he does OK in this episode mostly, and backs up the Doctor when given the chance. So far he does always act within the constraints of his role in the military, i don’t know if that will continue.
  4. The TARDIS has been FUCKING DISMEMBERED. Not that we are explicitly told that in this episode. I thought that he and Liz were IN the Tardis as there’s a scene with them at the console, but apparently the Doctor REMOVED THE CONSOLE. LIKE A GODDAMN MANIAC. YOU DISMEMBERED HER YOU GODDAMN VIVISECTIONIST PRICK!

THE OTHERS

Loads of one-hit wonder characters in this one, most of whom don’t really have personalities.

Carrington, Evil Military Guy: He’s basically a caricature, and he’s doing this because the aliens accidentally killed his coworker when he went on an earlier Mars mission. He’s explicitly called out as being mad in the show, and claims that it was his moral duty to nuke the aliens. Sure, Jan, nuke the scary brown I mean blue people who literally came here as ambassadors. You bet.

Reegan, Terrifying Competent Dragon of the Big Bad: This guy was actually pretty spooky. He absolutely does not care about alien life but he also doesn’t care about human life or anything, apparently, other than money. He was almost certainly planning to screw Carrington over and use the Ambassadors to commit robberies, and he’s not even ruffled when he gets caught at the end.

Cornish, Competent Bureaucrat: This guy is just like the bureaucrat in the Silurians except he’s not evil, he doesn’t suck at his job and he’s totally cool under pressure. So basically exactly the opposite of that guy. This guy had a lot of charisma for kind of a thankless part, he did a good job.

Taltalian, AKA Evil Beardo: Bad guy scientist, turns out to be a mook and is then blown up by his own boss.

Lennox, AKA Wormy Scientist: Scientist who tries to care for the Ambassadors as much as he can, even though he’s working for the baddies technically. He tries to help Liz escape, escapes himself and is then horribly murdered by radiation.

There are some other guys, like a reporter who’s got 80s style a few years before the 80s, but I don’t really care about them.

The Ambassadors themselves? They’re not characters, and neither is their alien captain. They are just plot devices. Only for a very little portion of the show are they able to act under their own power and they don’t really talk about how traumatic it’s been to be forced to murder people or anything. There is SO LITTLE RESOLUTION after this show. It’s even more abrupt than the Silurians, who at least got blown up. These people are gonna be super traumatized! They were mind controlled and dazed and zombielike for a long time! They were forced to murder people on a weird planet! They’re gonna need SO MUCH THERAPY.

Also they are tinsel mummies.

THE SETTING

  1. Earth of the 1970s.
  2. Also they dismembered the Tardis and put her controls in the UGLIEST ROOM EVER CREATED, GOOD GAD. Everyone went spontaneously blind in the 1970s, I’m pretty sure.
  3. There are some cool location shots, like some sort of factory with many pipes and walkways and stuff, that are nicely used.
  4. The space scenes actually looked pretty good. The alien ship had some greenscreening which was VERY unconvincing but not unusually so for the time and budget, but the design of the human spacecraft and control room was pretty good, considering it was probably mostly sheet metal and paper clips.
  5. The alien spaceship looked OK. Not super distinct, but there was a scene where the astronauts were watching an alien TV showing light blobs but they saw a football game, which was satisfyingly creepy and well-executed.

THE PRODUCTION

  1. That’s the most 1970s music I’ve ever heard. That sir is no krumhorn, thank god. It’s GOOD music and once we figured out what was going on with the ambassadors, their eerie, slow harp-like music fit really well. I liked it, but O M G SO SEVENTIES.
  2. The 80s news guy is weirdly ethically void. Like, he doesn’t even argue about what he should do, just shrugs and whatevers his way into almost being responsible for genocide.
  3. When do we find out that the Doctor dismembered the Tardis?
  4. Why are we on an alternate earth? What’s the deal with that? Is NuWho in the same alternate earth?
  5. There’s a whole part where the Doctor sends himself and then Liz 15 seconds forward in time, and then it comes up again when he hides a macguffin from a baddie that way. CAN HE JUST DO THAT NOW??? I had to literally stop the show to WTF over that, does that literally EVER come up again?!
  6. Is UNIT based on a real thing? They don’t seem like it.
  7. UNIT likes to shoot but they also GET SHOT like a looooot. How many UNIT guys get shot or get dead in this one?
  8. Were there rewrites in this? There were some loose plot threads, like we never did find out where the Doctor had heard the Ambassadors’ signals before this episode. And the episode ended SO SUDDENLY.

General

Novelization

Reviews

Locations

Restoration

Doctor Who Kits carcinogenic

How they reconstructed the episodes for what we see today

UNIT

Episode death count

BTS photos

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