16x4. The Androids of Tara
Writer: David Fisher
Director: Michael Hayes
Script Editor: Anthony Read
Producer: Graham Williams
Synopsis: The Doctor and Romana
arrive on the planet Tara, where a society that possesses some advanced
technology but has retained many medieval-style customs is embroiled in
intrigue over the choice of a new king. Althoguh Romana manages to find
the fourth segment of the Key to Time quickly, she is captured by the
nefarious Count Grendel, who hopes to use her striking resemblance to
the Princess Strella as part of his plot to seize the throne illegally.
Review: Two disclaimers are in
order: (1) for whatever reason, medieval period pieces are not all that
appealing to me; (2) I am wholly unfamiliar with The Prisoner of Zenda,
the novel of which this serial is reportedly a parody. With those in
mind, it is perhaps not surprising that I found "The Androids of Tara"
to be fairly ho-hum. It's certainly competent enough in moving the plot
from A to B, and it has a few moments that stand out, such as the
Doctor stepping into the line of fire just to shout "Liar!" at Grendel
and his apparent willingness to let Romana find the fourth segment
while he takes a break to go fishing. The script also portrays the
various nobles as somewhat dim - scientific knowledge is
apparently considered to be the domain of "peasants" in this society,
and it is observed that the android replica of Prince Reynart
(programmed by the Doctor) is noticeably more intelligent than the real
one. There isn't much going on in terms of characterization, however.
There's a hint of depth to the character of Lamia, the engineer who
works for Grendel, but it doesn't lead anywhere. We also see that
Romana shares the Doctor's willingness to sacrifice her life for
others, allowing Grendel to set her up to be murdered when he threatens
to have Strella tortured to death otherwise. But in general, this
strikes me as a fairly conventional and one-dimensional story - not
bad, but not especially memorable.
Rating: **1/2 (out of four)
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