Those are some good robots. Rivalling the early Cybermen in terms of creepiness, thanks to their blank faces and calm voices, and completely overshadowing more recent Cybermen in terms of fear factor. They were an incredibly effective threat, and the vision of them quickly and efficiently hunting down humans, with eyes aglow, is very powerful. It’s only a shame that the scenes of all out robot war were so brief.
The design work was superb, not only on the robots, who RTD later completely recycled in Voyage of the Damned, but with the weird ceremonial clothing of the humans. It was a neat little world they created, with a detailed and intriguing society fuelled by greed. The whodunnit elements to the story were entertaining – at first I assumed it’d be a bit of a waste of time, considering the title contains a pretty big clue as to the identity of the killers, but the element of there being a human conspirator helped maintain the sense that nobody could be trusted.
Ultimately though, I wasn’t completely satisfied – I was waiting for the chaos to begin, and when it did it was quite late on, and over rather quickly. A proper base-under-siege would be the best way to utilise such a scary baddy, but when those elements came in during the last episode, the threat never seemed too immediate – our heroes were able to make their way around the craft quite easily, with very little action in between.
Elsewhere, Leela continues to be strong and promising – like a lot of former companions, she has a tendency to ask a lot of questions rather than figure things out for herself like Sarah did, but that’s balanced out by how quickly she takes action, and her ability to look after herself and others. Her sixth sense for danger is interesting; it veers a little towards the supernatural, which I’m not keen on, but it at least makes sense considering the mind-bending nature of her origin story.
It was also interesting to have D84 function as a one-story companion towards the end – a lovable and loyal robotic chum for the Doctor, who can help him out with his plans whilst gladly putting himself in danger to protect him. The power of hindsight, or is this the very beginnings of K-9’s development?