The Robots of Death
Reviewed by Michael Mayo
The Philip Hinchcliffe era has become famous for 'ripping off' the plots of well-known movies or books. So far, we've seen Frankenstien aka The Brain of Morbius, and Curse of the Egyptian Mummies aka Pyramids of Mars just to mention a few. The Robots of Death is one of these stories, a direct descendant of an Agatha Christie murder mystery. There is, however, an added twist: even if the Doctor did discover the murder's identity (which he did), there was little or nothing he could do about it.
I found only one error, and that was in the climax to the last episode. The murderous SuperVoc killed Taren Capel, and then the Doctor deactivated the robot. What about the other robots still programmed to murder the humans? They should have continued to wander around the Sandminer until they had fulfilled their orders. We saw that they only obeyed Capel's voice, and still killed even after his death, so the only explanation I can offer is than before leaving, the Doctor and Leela must have run around stabbing the remaining deadly robots with the 'Laseron' probe.
Although there were many characters initially, each of them showed through 3-dimensionally. Perhaps Zilda's persona was the strongest in this area, even though she did not last long. Dask was a brilliant villain, reminiscent of Delgado's Master. It is a shame we didn't see more of him as Capel. The idea of a group of humans in a deadly situation, slowly being picked off one by one is an excellent concept. It was reused in several later stories, most notably Horror of Fang Rock and Terror of the Vervoids.
The incidental music was way above average, since it included many great haunting and menacing themes, like outside the Sandminer, and following a murderous robot. Top marks to writer Chris Boucher. This story was an obvious improvement on his first script, The Face of Evil, and was a nice change from the usual format.
This item appeared in TSV 3 (October 1987).