Serial Review: The Robots of Death (Season 14)
It only took about three minutes of watching “The Robots of Death” to realize that I was watching the Doctor Who interpretation of Isaac Asimov’s robot stories, featuring basically the same laws of robotics as featured in Asimov’s series. Although I like Asimov, I’m not crazy about him, and actually found the story collection I, Robot a bit repetitive and boring. That being said, the concept is great and I was immediately taken by the visual design of these robots. They are entirely badass looking.
Leela, just after joining the TARDIS, arrives with the Doctor on a ship where a string of murders has the TARDIS team become prime suspects due to their strange circumstance of “stowing away” on board the ship. Of course, this doesn’t last particularly long as if the Doctor were to spend the entire serial in the brig he wouldn’t have a chance to set everything straight.
This is not the first time I’ve seen Leela, but the first time I’ve seen this version of the TARDIS control room. I instantly thought “Why did they get rid of this? It is totally badass.” The design of the control room seen early on with the people and robots before shit hits the fan is also very good. The pace is fast by classic Who standards, and basically I was in love with the story by about the twelve minute mark.
Although I’ve previously been a bit negative when it comes to Tom Baker, I was pleased with him here. I find that he often hams it up, but I was never distracted by him in this story. Louise Jameson is quite strong as Leela. She is definitely a character I like, and not just from “Oh boy lookit her outfit!” sort of way. She’s pretty sharp despite her unfortunate history and tough as nails. I’ve always had more of an affinity for female companions who were tough and/or brilliant (Ace, Zoe) and Leela fits in nicely with that bunch.
There are times in “The Robots of Death” when I thought the people on the ship hammed it up a bit, but not so much so that it distracted me from the fact that I was really enjoying the story. I’m always a fan of when Doctor Who gets particularly sci-fi heavy, and this is definitely as pulp science fiction as it gets, complete with its Asimov influence. “City of Death” and “Pyramids of Mars” are often cited as the best of the Fourth Doctor era, but for my money I would pick “The Robots of Death” over either of those. This is easily my favorite of his so far.