Doctor Who Reactions: "Frontier in Space" (SPOILERS)

1)And so we come to what unintentionally became Roger Delgado's last appearance as the Master.  The DVD extras for this story have interviews with Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks which describe how the character was supposed to exit.  After they introduced the character, they quickly realized that using him as the baddy in every story was no good, so they started using him less frequently.  This was better for the show, but not so good for Delgado, who found that he wasn't making enough money from Doctor Who to make ends meet, but that other directors weren't offering him work because they figured he was tied up playing the Master.  Delgado went to Letts and told him he wanted out.  Letts agreed, and asked him whether he wanted simply to fade away or to go out in a blaze of glory.  Delgado opted for the blaze of glory, and a story called "The Final Game" was planned for the 1974 season. In it the Doctor and the Master would be forced to team up to fight some great menace, and in the end, the Master would die saving the Doctor's life, but in such a way as to leave it ambiguous as to whether this was accidental or if the Master had deliberately sacrificed himself.  At any rate, the Master would be definitely dead - they don't seem to have given any thought to "regenerating" him, for whatever reason. In the end, of course, Delgado was killed while in Turkey working, and "Frontier in Space" inadvertently became Delgado's last story.  It's not the way one might have chosen for him to go out, but he does have some good moments in this. I've heard it said that Delgado's Master is the only one in the show that subconsciously half-suspects that he is a character in a melodrama. I'm not sure I entirely agree with that idea, but it does have its moments.

Some good Master bits/quotes:

  • "Penny for them, Miss Grant?"
  • "In a reminiscent mood, are you, Doctor? Poor Miss Grant, you have my deepest sympathy."
  • I like how he's reading The War of the Worlds on the ship - looking for ideas, perhaps?
  • "Thank you, Miss Grant, we'll let you know." Possibly my favorite Delgado line, ever.
  • "I seem to have failed again."
  • "I knew I could count on you to get out of your cage."
  • When one of the Dalek operators seems to be having trouble moving, Delgado discreetly but noticeably gives it a helpful push in the right direction.

 

2)The Doctor has some good moments as well:

  • "Oh, how very embarassing. Good afternoon."
  • "Jo, will you stop pacing up and down like a perishing panda?"
  • "Madame, I can assure you that I have never been employed by anybody." So, he's never had a job?
  • "I like the new outfit. Who are you fighting tonight?"
  • "I seem to be quite the master criminal, don't I?"
  • "Are you feeling alright, old chap?"

 

3)Jo's quite good in this, too - much stronger, able to resist the Master's hypnotism and the fear machine. She's really progressed as a character.

 

4)The Draconians were an interesting attempt to create an alien race that were more than just "monsters" - sort of "outer space samurai".  John Woodnutt plays the Draconian Emperor. I liked how Earthmen was just as baffling to them: "The ways of the Earthmen are devious. They're an inscrutable species."

 

5)The whole repressive "Earth Empire"/"Cold War in Space" scenario was largely shaped by Malcolm Hulke's own left-wing politics - he was, or had been, a communist, and this sometimes would bleed over into his writing. The whole Earth President/General Williams subplot was interesting, too.  The Lunar penal colony would get a mention many years later in "The Long Game". I notice some of the prisoners playing what appears to be 3-D chess - someone's bene watching Star Trek.

 

6)"That sound made you see what you fear most."  I still think that there should have been ships reporting being attacked by "Clowns" or "Paternal disapproval".

 

7)The newscaster was played by Louis Mahoney, who would return to play Ponti in "Planet of Evil" and the older Billy Shipton in "Blink".

 

8)The Ogrons were their usual selves - the lead Ogron was notcieably voiced by Stephen Thorne - Barry Letts gave him alot of work, didn't he?  The Ogron predator is somewhat goofy-looking.

 

9)When the Doctor re-enters the spaceship in Episode Four, if you look closely, you can just see someone's hand opening the hatch for him.

 

10)And the Daleks appear at the end to set up the next story.  One could argue that "Frontier" is actually the first half of a twelve-parter, which would bring the combined "Frontier in Space"/"Planet of the Daleks" to the same length as "The Daleks' Master Plan".

 

 

11)Cliffhangers:

  • Episode One: The Doctor and Jo are accused of treachery!
  • Episode Two: The Ogrons break into the Doctor and Jo's cell!
  • Episode Three: The Doctor and the Professor are trapped in the airlock while the air is being pumped out!
  • Episode Four: The Ogrons are homing in on the Draconian ship!
  • Episode Five: The Master  threatens Jo with the fear machine!
  • Episode Six: The wounded Doctor sends a message to the Time Lords!

 

Overall:

Quite a good story - one of the ones that's better than I remembered it being.

 

[Part of list of Doctor Who episodes here.]

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I've heard it said that Delgado's Master is the only one in the show that subconsciously half-suspects that he is a character in a melodrama.

Anthony Ainley's Master, by contrast, clearly believes he's a character in a Dudley Do-Right cartoon.

And John Simm's Master is a bit more Hanna-Barbera.

I have to say, I enjoyed most of the first 3 years of the revived series. But when they got to The Master, I feel they REALLY blew it, big-time. I did not like that last 2-parter at all in season 3.

I didn't like John Simm as the Master at first - he grew on me a bit after awhile.

I forgot to mention yesterday that, over the weekend, my audio listening led me to revisit "Frontier in Space" in preparation for the Sixth Doctor and Charley story, "Paper Cuts." I don't think it drags in the middle the way some six-parters do, and it's really a 12-parter as it leads directly into "Planet of the Daleks."

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