Doctor Who: The Androids of Tara (1978)
Review by Doc Ezra

Written by David Fisher
Directed by Michael Hayes
Starring Tom Baker and Mary Tamm


Rating: NR, suitable for most audiences

Anamorphic: N/A

My advice: Own it or forever live in ignorance of the Doctorís swordsmanship.

Pursuing the fourth segment of the Key to Time, the Doctor decides he needs a day off, and intends to spend it on their latest destination, the planet Tara, fishing. He sends Romana on a stroll to collect the fourth segment while he settles in for a quiet afternoon on the bank of a creek. As is typical of the Doctorís luck, however, there is no rest for the weary here. After easily collecting the fourth segment, Romana is accosted by Count Grendel, a sword-wielding horseman who mistakes her for a rogue android duplicate of the nationís princess. Fearing she will jeopardize his plans for the throne, he returns with her to his castle.

Meanwhile, the Doctor himself has a run in with the locals, servants of Prince Reynart Ė the heir apparent to the throne of Tara. Reynartís men must present the prince in the throne room at the appointed time to be crowned the new king, but fear Grendelís machinations and suspect he will attempt to sabotage the coronation. To this end, they employ the Doctor to repair their android duplicate of the prince so that they can employ it as a diversionary tactic.

Romana discovers the reason for the Countís interest in her when she discovers Princess Strella, a veritable duplicate of herself, locked in Grendelís dungeon for resisting his advances. As the Countís plans become more and more at odds with the Doctor, tensions escalate, and the princeís life is placed in jeopardy. In order to get himself, his assistant, and the fourth piece of the Key off of Tara, the Doctor will have to foil assassinations, build androids, play king-maker, and exhibit his heretofore unknown superb skill at swordplay.

The Androids of Tara is an excellent Doctor Who adventure, full of action and drama. The tale is tightly plotted and well paced, so that each episode draws the viewer deeper into the troubles of Tara. The acting is fairly solid throughout the cast, which is in and of itself a rarity in Who-ville. The costuming leaves a tad to be desired, but other than that, the production values all the way Ďround are fairly solid. The fight choreography is quite good, and yet another Doctor Who rarity.

The DVD has an excellent commentary with the Doctor and Romana themselves, along with the director of this story arc. The pop-up notes are extensive, as usual. Video and audio are both excellent, itself a remarkable achievement given the age of the original material. BBC continues to produce high-quality discs for the loyal Who faithful, and I only wish more shows did the same.

A must-have for those following the Key to Time story arc, this installment makes for a great stand-alone Who, as well. The key segment plays such a trivial part in the dramas of Tara that it doesnít really matter if the viewer isnít familiar with the whole of the story. This is also a great disc for those looking to get into the Doctorís adventures, as it contains all the classic elements, plus a little more action than is typical.

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