CRRRaSh! 375 Doctor Who: The Robots of Death

By Roy Mathur, on 2021-03-12, at 23:00:00--23:22:28, for Captain Roy's Rocket Radio Show, Listen

The State of the Rewatch

And we're back. Sorry about the gap, but I wasn't well generally and I also cut the tip of my right middle finger, making driving and everything else including typing, which as far as you the audience are concerned made podcasting too difficult. It's still difficult to use a computer, but I'm making the effort, so if you like this pod, please get your friends to listen. The cherry on the cake? Playing my instruments was too painful, which is exactly what you want when you've nothing else to do but dwell.

Happy Maha Shivaratri yesterday and Happy Mauritian Independence Day today. Why the celebration? It's just something to cheer ourselves up and, if you need a reason, I missed the celebration last year. Facts about Mauritius? Located in the Indian Ocean, just go east from the middle of Madagascar and eventually you'll hit Reunion, then Mauritius. Population 1.2M, mid-60th richest country, famous for the extinct dodo murdered by white sailors, beaches, birds, bugs, holidays, sugar cane, and being on the right side of the argument Diego Garcia.


Fourth Doctor: Tom Baker
Companion Leela: Louise Jameson
Director: Michael Edwin Briant
Writer: Chris Boucher
Producer: Philip Hinchcliffe
Location: Ealing Television Film Studios, Ealing, London and BBC Television Centre, Studio 8, Shepherd's Bush, London
Broadcast: Story 5 of season 14, following The Face of Evil covered in 373, 4 x 25 minute episodes, first broadcast from 29 Jan to 19 Feb 1977.

On this Day

David Soul was number one in the UK charts with something depressing (Don't Give Up on Us).

What Happens

The TARDIS lands inside a huge mobile mine crossing a desert and extracting valuable ores from beneath the sand. As the Doctor and Leela investigate, the TARDIS is move by internal machinery almost leading to their deaths when a storm hits.

The paranoid crew, who are already suspicious of one another after the murder of a crewmate, immediately suspect the newcomers.

The Doctor later convinces a government agent and his robot assistant, secreted within the crew, of their innocence and begins to help looking for the murderer.

Eventually, we find out that one of the crew, Dask, is actually mad scientist Taren Capel. Brought up by robots, he is a robot supremacist, and has reprogrammed the robots onboard to murder the crew.

He tells the Doctor his plans to instigate a robot revolution, but is killed by a robot that can no longer recognise his voice after Leela, hidden nearby, releases helium from a tank on the instructions of the Doctor.

The Doctor and Leela leave the surviving crew waiting for rescue.

What I Thought

At last! The Robots of Death is one of the Doctor Who all time classic stories. Murder mystery, cool, stylish costumes, sci-fi horror, and a bad guy with whom I can actually sympathise.

I found the robot model types and names fascinating: Dums, Vocs, a Super Voc, and a mysterious black robot called D84 who turns out to be a detective.

And, oh my god, so many references. There are the rebellious slave androids of Karel Capek's R.U.R. (1920) (Rossumovi Univerzalni Roboti; Rossum's Universal Robots); Taren Capel is an obvious homage to Czech playwright Karel Capek. What about the bending of the Three Laws of Robotics from Isaac Asimov's I, Robot and a detective and his robot assistant, like Elijah Baley and R. Daneel Olivaw from The Naked Sun? Or the massive peripatetic desert traversing manufactories of Frank Herbert's Dune? And, of course, an ensemble cast picked off one-by-one as in Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. The Doctor Who creative magpies are busy again.

Seeing Russell Hunter as the cool Uvanov was a welcome change from the smell-inflicted grass from Callan.

Brian Croucher played crewman Borg and later was a not-so-great, and very different, replacement for Blake's 7's Space Commander Travis, when Stephen Greif, not wanting to be typecasted, left the role.


For a change, I'm not alone in my praise of this story. It garnered universal acclaim---including in the Radio Times and IMDB---as one of the best stories of Doctor Who.