Production Code: 4R
Season 14, Story Number 90
Each episode is identified with date of transmission, duration, ratings in millions, and (for 1963-1974 only) archive status.
29 January 1977 | 24'06" | 12.8
05 February 1977 | 24'15" | 12.4
12 February 1977 | 23'51" | 13.1
19 February 1977 | 23'42" | 12.6
Archive Status: All four episodes exist in color as PAL 2" videotape, as held by the Film & Videotape Library when audited in 1978.
(Doctor Who), Louise Jameson
(Leela), Russell Hunter
(Commander Uvanov), Pamela Salem
(Toos), David Bailie
(Dask), David Collings
(Poul), Brian Croucher
(Borg), Tania Rogers
(Zilda), Tariq Yunis
(Cass), Rob Edwards
(Chub), Gregory de Polnay
(D.84), Miles Fothergill
(S.V.7), Mark Blackwell Baker
(Robot), John Bleasdale
(Robot), Mark Cooper
(Robot), Peter Langtry
(Robot), Jeremy Ranchev
(Robot), Richard Seager
Leela and the Doctor arrive in the scoop of a massive sandminer, Storm Mine 4, which is combing an alien world for precious ores (lucanol and zelanite amongst others) for the controlling company.
The miner is run by Commander Uvanov and his small human crew aided by numerous robots which are split into three classes: in overall control is a single Super Voc, under him come the Voc class robots, and at the bottom of the hierarchy are the mute Dum robots. Almost as soon as the Doctor and Leela escape from the scoop and into the main part of the ship, just prior to a sandstorm, mysterious deaths start to occur, beginning with the strangulation of mineralogist Chub.
The humans are picked off one by one by an unknown and unseen killer. The remaining crew immediately suspect the Doctor and Leela, but the time travellers are able to convince Chief Mover Poul, a government agent working with D84, another Super Voc posing as a Dum, that they are not the killers.
The culprit is revealed to be one of the human crew, Chief Fixer Dask, who is in reality the scientist Taren Capel. Capel was raised by robots and regards them as superior to humans. He has been reprogramming the robots on the mine to kill the humans leaving a totally robot community.
The Doctor manages to trick Capel into outlining his plans for conquest while a helium canister discharges itself into the room. Capel's voice is altered by the gas, and a rogue SV7 kills him as it cannot recognise its master's voice and has been ordered to kill all other humans.
Synopsis from Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Handbook by David J. Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker, reprinted with permission; further reproduction is not permitted.
(Assistant Floor Manager), Elizabeth Waller
(Costumes), Kenneth Sharp
(Designer), Peter Chapman
(Film Cameraman), Dudley Simpson
(Incidental Music), Ann Briggs
(Make-Up), Philip Hinchcliffe
(Producer), Peter Grimwade
(Production Assistant), Chris D'Oyly-John
(Production Unit Manager), Robert Holmes
(Script Editor), Dick Mills
(Special Sounds), Duncan Brown
(Studio Lighting), Tony Millier
(Studio Sound), Delia Derbyshire
(Theme Arrangement), Ron Grainer
(Title Music), Richard Conway
Arguably one of the series' most popular stories, "The Robots of Death" was written by Chris Boucher, who had also penned the previous story "The Face of Evil," and was inspired by the Frank Herbert novel "Dune" as well as the "Robot" series by Isaac Asimov. The designer, Ken Sharp, based his concept for the look of the sandminer and the robots on an art deco style. This idea was carried forward into the make-up and the costumes for the human crew. This story saw the final appearance of the TARDIS's secondary control room, introduced in "The Masque of Mandragora." The music played to the crew in part one is None but the Weary by Tchaikovsky and Girl with the Flaxen Hair by Debussy. Robophobia, an irrational fear of robots, is at one point referred to as ‘Grimwade's syndrome'. This was an in-joke reference to production assistant Peter Grimwade (later to become a director and writer on the series) who had bemoaned the fact that the stories on which he was assigned to work almost always involved robots. Pamela Salem (Toos) had been a finalist for the role of Leela. Boucher, who was instrumental in the writing and production of the BBC series "Blake's 7," [enned a sequel to this story, "Corpse Marker," published by BBC Books, as well as commissioning the "Kaldor City" series of audios produced by Magic Bullet Productions, where Russell Hunter (Commander Uvanov) reprised his role for four stories until his untimely death in 2003; the "Kaldor City" audios also revive a Blake's 7 character, inexorably tying the two shows' universes together for the first time.
For more in-depth information about the contents of this story, a complete episode-by-episode detailed breakdown can be found at the Doctor Who Reference Guide
Released in the UK [October 2000] and Australia/NZ [July 2001] (BBC DVD catalog #1012), US/Canada [August 2002] (WHV catalog #E1120); episodic format; photomontage cover. Includes commentary by Chris Boucher and Philip Hinchcliffe; film clips including BBC1 continuity announcement, a short clip with the original voice of SV7 prior to dubbing, model shots of the Sand Miner, and a Tom Baker/Louise Jameson continuity slide; photo gallery; production notes; and studio floor plans from the production. US/Canada version also includes Who's Who and Howard DaSilva introductions (taped for US broadcasts in the late 1970's).
Released as “The Robots of Death” in the UK [April 1986] and Australia/New Zealand [March 1988] (BBC catalog #4108), US/Canada [July 1987] (WHV catalog #E1120), edited omnibus (movie) format, photomontage cover. Also released in December 1986 in Japan. Re-released in complete, episodic format in the UK [February 1995] (BBC catalog #5521), with a new photomontage cover.
Novelised as “Doctor Who and the Robots of Death” by Terrance Dicks (Target #53), first released in 1979 with cover art by John Geary. Re-released as "Doctor Who – The Robots of Death" in 1994 with cover art by Alister Pearson. Released in the US in hardcover as "The Further Adventures of Doctor Who" in 1985 with "Doctor Who and the Deadly Assassin" and "Doctor Who and the Face of Evil".
For more details on the various novelizations of this story, with additional background material, artwork and details of both UK and foreign releases, visit On Target
Descriptions of each story screen capture above right, top to bottom:
- One of the robots of death, possessed by Taren Capel
- the Sandminter
- Captain Uvanov (Russell Hunter)
- Leela (Louise Jameson) and one of the robots
- Taren Capel was Dask (David Bailie) all along!
- the Doctor (Tom Baker) demonstrates perspective to Leela
- Toos (Pamela Salem)
- the Doctor and Leela held captive