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The Ambassadors of Death

Review by Jeff Stone

In my opinion, the idea that Ghost Light is the most confusing story in Doctor Who history is a load of cobblers - without a doubt The Ambassadors of Death is the most hard-to-understand seven episodes of Doctor Who I've ever seen. The story is full of continuity bugger-ups and plot-holes large enough to fly a Death Star through. That said, however, I love this story!

Why? Because it has atmosphere, and lots of it; too many Doctor Who stories deal with enemies and villains that are constantly on screen. With The Ambassadors of Death the reverse is the case - the Martians are only briefly seen, and their disturbingly out-of-place spacesuits obscure their true form, keeping you guessing up to the end. I remember running behind the sofa, when I first saw the story way back in 1985, at the first sight of the chilling astronauts - one of the few times this has happened to me.

The cast were at their usual best. Jon Pertwee is in full control and has settled into the part after only eleven episodes as though he has played it for years. Liz Shaw was surprisingly good in this story, not half as haughty and annoyingly aloof as in Spearhead from Space or Doctor Who and the Silurians. Nick Courtney turns in a wonderful performance as usual as the Brigadier. I love his 'Robobrig' scene in Episode 1 where he guns down crooks left, right and centre. Marvellous stuff!

John Abineri, who also appeared in Fury from the Deep, makes a very convincing Carrington - his sense of moral duty to defend Earth is very well played by Abineri, though his defeat was a bit wet - I was expecting one of the Martians to kill him.

Despite the rather large holes in the plot (see Doctor's Dilemma this issue), The Ambassadors of Death is a damn good story. Being in black and white lends it an air of atmosphere that colour would destroy. In short, another great story in Jon Pertwee's best (overall) season.

This item appeared in TSV 26 (December 1991).

Index nodes: The Ambassadors of Death