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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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