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The Fourth Dimension

The Robots of Death


Russell Hunter plays Uvanov, the commander of the sandminer. Hunter was well known at the time for playing the regular character of Lonely in the long-running TV series Callan, starring Edward Woodward.

BORG FOR BLAKEBrian Croucher plays Borg who is fated to die at the hands of Taren Capel’s killer robots. Croucher would soon star as regular Travis in Blake’s 7, taking over the part in the show’s second series from Stephen Greif. Chris Boucher, who wrote both this story and the preceding The Face of Evil, would also go on to become the script editor of Blake’s 7 as well as writing several episodes of the series.


Poul suffers from a condition known as Robophobia, said to be an irrational fear of robots caused by their lack of body language. The condition is also referred to as Grimwade’s syndrome. This was an in-joke which referred to production assistant and future director and writer on Doctor Who, Peter Grimwade. Apparently Grimwade had noted that the Doctor Who serials he was assigned to always featured robots…


Although not credited, production assistant Peter Grimwade directed all the model sequences for the serial.


After only being introduced in the season’s opening story, The Masque of Mandragora, the new wooden TARDIS control room makes its fourth and final appearance. It was felt that it had not been a success with the lack of moving parts making it appear too static. In addition, the wooden walls had warped during storage between seasons, so a new set would have to be constructed anyway.


We see three kinds of robot in the story, with each type indicated by a different colour of costume. The menial black ‘D’ class – where ‘D’ stands for ‘Dumb’ – don’t speak. The more sophisticated green ‘V’ class – with the ‘V’ standing for ‘Voc’, short for ‘Vocal’ – are able to communicate by speech with the crew. A single, silver clad ‘Super Voc’ called SV7 is the boss robot. It’s also very likely that the undercover robot, D84, who clearly isn’t dumb, is really a Super Voc in disguise.


Once Taren Capel reveals his true colours and throws off his masquerade as the crewman, Dask, he is quick to show his love of robots by dressing up as one himself, including appropriate face paint.


To prevent Taren Capel’s voice being recognised, the Doctor uses helium gas to change Capel’s voice. But as Leela points out, the Doctor’s own voices is impervious to the gas.


All four episodes of The Robots of Death have been restored and remastered and are available on DVD. The episodes are accompanied by a commentary by producer Philip Hinchcliffe and author Chris Boucher. Also included are the unedited model sequences filmed for the serial.

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