During Jon Pertwee's first two seasons playing The Doctor,
the Time Lord was exiled to Earth.
Unable to make his TARDIS dematerialization he was stranded on
planet and in one time, but that didn't mean he wasn't still battling
aliens. During this period, they came to
him as in the seven-part story the Ambassadors
of Death. While the story does last
an episode or two longer than it needs to, it's a generally fun
an eerie creature for The Doctor to confront along with an internal
While working on the TARDIS trying, in vain, to get it
working again, The Doctor and his companion Liz Shaw see a television
report about Mars Probe 7. It blasted
off from the surface of the Red Planet 7 months ago, but there has been
contact with the astronauts during that whole time.
A rescue capsule is sent up to meet the Probe
in orbit and when they dock a loud, piercing noise is heard, and the
the rescue capsule ceases communication.
The Doctor races to Space
after hearing the noise because he's convinced that he knows what it is: a message from aliens. When
the sound is repeated, The Doctor is
able to talk the head of Space Command, Ralph Cornish, into letting him
their computers to attempt to decipher the signal.
What's surprising however is that the message
is answered, and that answer originates from London.
Triangulating the earthly message pinpoints the transmission
point to an abandoned warehouse in the industrial district. When the Brigadier takes a squad of men to
investigate he's met with heavy resistance by ordinary looking thugs
military training. The UNIT forces
prevail, but not before the signal device is destroyed and the leaders
That seems almost inconsequential when the rescue vehicle
falls out of orbit and starts its decent.
It lands safely in the British country side and is cordoned off
police until UNIT arrives to retrieve it, but as soon as they get it
a truck they're attacked by smoke bombs being hurled from a helicopter
armed men. Just what is in the capsule,
and who on Earth is communicating with whoever is sending the strange
signals? Most important of all, just what
happened to the astronauts that were manning Mars Probe 7?
I'm a fan of Pertwee's run on Doctor Who, and this story has
a lot of what I enjoy about his characterization of the Time Lord. He's smart and usually the first to figure
out what's going on, but also a bit pompous and slightly arrogant. I like the fact that he's a flawed character
(thought granted the flaws aren't too great and sometimes played for
it makes him more interesting. He also
has a problem with authority figures (which makes sense given the fact
ran away from his own race due to too many rules and regulations) and
he does a
great job of dressing down some people who think they're terribly
important. It's always great fun to
watch The Doctor give a bureaucrat a well-deserved dressing down.
This serial also has some rather eerie villains, the titular
Ambassadors who are humanoids in British space suits with darkened face
so you can't see their faces. They
shamble and walk slowly, but they're bullet proof and their touch is
deadly. It's a great low-budget creature
actually looks more menacing than silly.
Unfortunately the story does have some flaws. Being
a seven episode adventure, there are a
few too many plot twist and the result is a script with some pretty
in it. Why did the antagonists fight
UNIT for the rescue capsule when they knew that they didn't need the
contents? How come the villains could
communicate with the creatures in space, but not when they were on
Earth? And why did the shadowy figures
Doctor is constantly fighting against come up with such a convoluted
the first place. His objectives could
have been achieved much easier. Oh yeah,
and the title gives a lot of the plot away too.
Even so, it's easy to look past these inconsistencies and
just enjoy the show. There's plenty of
space travel, mysterious creatures and science fiction elements to make
fun way to spend an afternoon.
This release is a two-disc affair. The seven-episode story is on disc
the second one is reserved for the bulk of the special features.
This show comes with the original mono soundtrack that fits the show
fine. The dynamic range is nothing to write home about, but the
generally crisp and clear and there is no background noise, tape hiss,
or dropouts. There are optional subtitles in English.
While all of the Pertwee era stories were recorded in color, the BBC
some of the color tapes and many chapters only exist in black and white. That's the case with this adventure. The first episode was taken from an original
2" videotape master, and it looks great.
The other chapters survive on momochrome 16mm film.
Using recently created algorithms to extra
color information from B&W images, the Restoration Team was able to
the entire story to the original color.
The results are okay, but not fantastic.
The second episode is a bit choppy in parts, with a lot of
some faint horizontal color lines in a few scenes.
The rest look better though, and I'd bet the
image on the DVD surpasses what viewers saw back in 1970.
This two-disc set has some nice extras, as always.
First off is a commentary track that's a
little bittersweet... it features two actors who have died since it was
a couple of years ago: Nicholas Courtney
(Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart) and Caroline John (companion Liz Shaw). I'm just glad someone had the foresight to
get their thoughts down. Various
episodes also have include director Michael Ferguson, script editor
Dicks, and three of the stuntmen who worked on a couple of the
episodes. They are moderated by Toby
The video bonus items include a nice making-of featurette,
Mars Probe 7: The Making of The
Ambassadors of Death, and Tomorrow Times:
The Third Doctor a 13-minute look at the critical reception
stories garnered at the time they were aired.
In addition there is a pop-up informational text option
which is very informative as always. It does give some dry
statistics, like how many people viewed each episode, but there are
interesting notes such as script changes that were made and background
information on the supporting characters. The extras are rounded
storyboard comparison, a trailer for the story, a photo gallery, and
listing from the Radio Times in .pdf format.
While I'm not a huge fan of the longer Doctor Who stories, I
did enjoy this one more than some of the others. The
plot does get a bit convoluted and there
are some holes because of that, but when all is said and done it's a
enjoyable serial. It gets a strong Recommended