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TDP 179: Frontios

Frontios is a serial in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four twice-weekly parts from January 26 to February 3, 1984.



[edit] Synopsis

Its inhabitants having fled a dying Earth, the planet Frontios is mankind’s last colony and the location of hidden dangers.

[edit] Plot

The TARDIS lands in the far future, on the planet Frontios, where some of the last vestiges of humanity are struggling for survival. The planet is being attacked by meteorite showers orchestrated by an unknown enemy responsible for the disappearance of several prominent colonists, including the colony’s leader, Captain Revere. After witnessing Revere being “eaten by the ground,” Security Chief Brazen engages in a cover up. To the public, Captain Revere died of natural causes. After a state funeral, Revere’s son, Plantaganet, assumes the leadership of the colony.

The TARDIS is mysteriously affected by a meteorite storm and dragged down to the planet by gravity. The Doctor, Tegan and Turlough emerge, in the middle of the bombardment, to investigate. Despite his earlier reservations about getting involved, the Doctor violates the cardinal rule of the Time Lords by helping the colonists who were injured by the meteorite bombardment and by providing medical assistance.

Needing better light in the medical facility, the Doctor sends Tegan and Turlough to fetch a portable mu-field activator and five argon discharge globes from the TARDIS. However, once they arrive, they find that the ship’s inner door is stuck, preventing them from getting beyond the console room. Norna, Tegan and Turlough obtain an acid-battery from the research room to power the lights. On their way back, however, they are forced to render the Warnsman unconscious to avoid capture. Another bombardment occurs and, in the Warnsman’s absence, catches the colony unawares. When the skies clear, the TARDIS has gone, seemingly destroyed; all that is left is the Doctor’s hat stand.

Plantaganet orders the execution of the Doctor, but Turlough intercedes, using the TARDIS hat stand as a weapon. Plantaganet tries to attack the Doctor with a crowbar but suffers a heart attack. The Time Lord manages to save his life using the battery, but Plantaganet is later dragged into the ground by some mysterious force.

The Doctor, Tegan and Turlough discover that the culprits are the Gravis and his Tractators, giant insects with incredible powers over gravity. Turlough briefly undergoes a sort of nervous breakdown due to the fact that the Tractators once attempted to invade his home world long ago; his mind contains a deep, horrific "race memory" of the event. The disappearing colonists were being used by the Tractators to run their mining machines. Plantaganet was kidnapped to replace Captain Revere, the current driver who is now brain dead. The Gravis intends to transform Frontios into an enormous spaceship. Once successful, he would be able to spread the terror of the Tractators across the galaxy. The Doctor, Turlough, Brazen and his guards rescue Plantaganet by knocking out the Gravis. However, Brazen gets caught by one of the mining machines and is killed while the others escape.

Tegan wanders around in the tunnels and comes across bits of the TARDIS’s inner walls. She is chased by the Gravis, who has now regained consciousness, and two of his Tractators. She inadvertently comes upon one of the TARDIS’s inner doors and she opens it to find herself in the TARDIS console room, which has bits of rock wall mixed in with its normal walls. She also finds the Doctor, Turlough and Plantaganet hovering around the console. The Doctor ushers the Gravis in and then tricks him into reassembling the TARDIS by using his power over gravity. The Gravis pulls the TARDIS back into its normal dimension. Once fully assembled, the Gravis is effectively cut off from his fellow Tractators, which revert to a harmless state.

The Doctor and Tegan deposit the now-dormant Gravis on the uninhabited planet of Kolkokron. Returning to Frontios, the Doctor gives Plantaganet the hat stand as a farewell token and asks that his own involvement in the affair not be mentioned to anyone, especially the Time Lords. Once the TARDIS has left Frontios, its engines start making a worrisome noise. The Doctor appears to be helpless as the ship is being pulled towards the centre of the universe.

[edit] Cast notes

[edit] Continuity

  • No explanation is given for companion Kamelion's absence from this story.
  • This story remains, to date, the sole appearance of the Tractators in the television series. However, on March 6, 1984, then Doctor Who script editor Eric Saward wrote to Bidmead a request that he write a sequel to Frontios, which would have featured the return of the Tractators and the Doctor’s arch nemesis, the Master. This lost story is brought back to life (minus the Master) in the Big Finish audio The Hollows of Time.
  • The short story Life After Queth featured in Short Trips: Farewells details an adventure the Doctor, Tegan and the Gravis had on the way to Kolkokron.
  • The Big Finish audio story Excelis Dawns details an adventure the Doctor had on the way back to Frontios.

[edit] Production

Serial details by episode
EpisodeBroadcast dateRun timeViewership
(in millions)
"Part One" 26 January 1984 24:39 8.0
"Part Two" 27 January 1984 24:35 5.8
"Part Three" 2 February 1984 24:30 7.8
"Part Four" 3 February 1984 24:26 5.6
  • The story’s working title was The Wanderers.
  • This story was the final televised story written by former Doctor Who script editor, Christopher H. Bidmead.
  • The actors who played the Tractators were all trained dancers, as the script called for the actors to curl around their victims like woodlice. In the event, the Tractator costumes produced were too inflexible for this to be done.
  • It is unstated what happens to Kamelion, who has been inside the TARDIS since The King's Demons. The writers of The Discontinuity Guide theorise that he is disguised as the hatstand.[5]
  • The final episode ends on a cliffhanger, with the TARDIS dragged into a time corridor. The episode was followed by a trailer of clips for the following serial, Resurrection of the Daleks, which continued the story.
  • In addition to the death of Peter Arne, production designer Barrie Dobbins committed suicide after finishing most of the preparations for the story. His assistant had to complete Dobbins' work.

[edit] In print

Doctor Who book
Book cover
Series Target novelisations
Release number 91
Writer Christopher H. Bidmead
Publisher Target Books
Cover artist Andrew Skilleter
ISBN 0-426-19780-1
Release date 10 December 1984

The story was novelised by Bidmead and published by Target Books in December 1984.Bidmead includes many gruesome images of the Tractators technology including a hovering translation device. The cliffhanger that led into Resurrection of the Daleks is removed.

[edit] Broadcast and VHS release

  • This story was released on a double VHS set with The Awakening in March 1997. It is due to be released on DVD in May 2011.

[edit] References

  1. ^ From the Doctor Who Magazine series overview, in issue 407 (pp26-29). The Discontinuity Guide, which counts the unbroadcast serial Shada, lists this as story number 133. Region 1 DVD releases follow The Discontinuity Guide numbering system.
  2. ^ Shaun Lyon et al. (2007-03-31). "Frontios". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 2008-07-31. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  3. ^ "Frontios". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  4. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (2007-08-07). "Frontios". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  5. ^ Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "Frontios" (reprinted on BBC Doctor Who website). The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. p. 299. ISBN 0-426-20442-5. Retrieved 20 April 2009.

[edit] External links

[edit] Reviews

[edit] Target novelisation

Direct download: TDP_179_FRONTIOS_FINAL1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:23pm UTC