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Dr Who

Up to date as of January 31, 2010

From TARDIS Index File, the free Doctor Who reference.

"He said the earth was hungry..."
―Norna
Frontios
Series: Doctor Who -
TV Stories
Season Number: Season 21
Story Number: 133
Doctor: Fifth Doctor
Companions:
Enemy:
Setting: Frontios, The Far Future
Writer: Christopher H. Bidmead
Director: Ron Jones
Broadcast: 26th January - 3rd February 1984
Format: 4 25-minute episodes
Previous Story: The Awakening
Following Story: Resurrection of the Daleks

Contents

Synopsis

...Frontios buries its own dead...

In the far reaches of the future, the Doctor's TARDIS crash-lands on the planet Frontios in the Veruna system, where the last remnants of humanity have fled the collision of Earth with the sun. Gruesome tales of a hungry earth stalk the struggling settlement, and a bombardment of meteors from an unseen enemy hold the future of humanity in a precarious balance. At a crucial point in history, with the future still unknown, the Doctor is unable to intervene for fear of violating the laws of Time itself. But when the TARDIS is destroyed in an attack on the colony, he may have no choice.

Plot

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Part One:

The TARDIS lands in the far future, on the fictional 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. The Doctor says to Tegan and Turlough: "The TARDIS has been destroyed."

Part Two:

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. The Doctor watches from hiding as a group of Tractators gather round a young woman prisoner, Norna. He then sees Tegan approaching and warns her to keep away, but in doing so reveals his own presence. He is caught in a gravity force beam and drawn to stand next to Norna in the midst of the group of Tractators... 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.

Part Three:

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.  The Doctor and Tegan are surrounded by Tractators. A mining machine trundles into view and they see that the body of one of the colonists is trapped within it. Tegan thinks that she recognises the man's face and the Doctor realises that it is the colonists' original leader, Captain Revere...

Part Four:

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....

Cast

Crew

References

  • Turlough makes reference to the Arar Jecks of Heiradi, who had hollowed a huge subterranean city beneath the surface of their planet during the Twenty Aeon War.
  • Turlough's home planet was attacked millenia ago by Tractators - an event that was locked into their ancestral memory. The sight of the Tractators triggers a memory resurgence which causes Turlough to go into catatonic shock. Gradually he recalls more and more of these memories, which allow him to 'remember' who the Tractators were, what their goals were - and more importantly, how to defeat them.
  • Gravis is aware of the capabilities of a TARDIS, presumably by reputation.
  • The Doctor asks Turlough to get a portable mu-field activator and some argon discharge globes.

Story Notes

  • This story had a working title of The Wanderers.
  • For the first time, we see a solid reference to Turlough's home planet, which was attacked millennia ago by the Tractators.
  • The helmets of the Frontios security forces would be familiar to viewers of Blake's 7 as the helmets of Federation troops.
  • The role of Range was originally supposed to be played by Peter Arne, a character actor perhaps best known for his roles in the films Victor/Victoria and Return of the Pink Panther, as well as several guest roles on The Avengers. Following a wardrobe test for the part, Arne returned to his flat where he was bludgeoned to death by an unknown assailant. The role was recast with William Lucas filled in for Arne.[1] While a student Arne was in a relationship with, and who was later found floating dead in the Thames, remains a prime suspect, the identity and motive of Arne's killer is a mystery to this day.
  • During breaks in the studio recording the actors playing the Tractators had to have air pumped into their costumes from underneath as they were insufficiently ventilated for the hot conditions of the studio recording.[2]

Ratings

  • Part 1 - 8.0 million viewers
  • Part 2 - 5.8 million viewers
  • Part 3 - 7.8 millon viewers
  • Part 4 - 5.6 millon viewers

Myths

  • This story was originally intended to feature Richard Hurndall in a black and white flashback remembered by Peter Davison's Doctor after hitting his head on the TARDIS control console. (False)

Filming Locations

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • In the opening scene, as Captain Revere sees the earth moving beneath him, the fingers of one of the technical crew are visible giving it a helping hand.
  • When Tegan traps Brazen in the medical unit, she puts a bar across the middle of a door handle. By the next scene it has moved to the top of the handle.
  • Could a simple direct meteorite strike be capable of destroying the TARDIS when so many other more destructive forces have failed to do it any damage at all (e.g. the molten lava flow on Dulkis in The Dominators to name one)? (Perhaps the Gravis' gravitational influence weakened the TARDIS' structure.)
  • Would the Gravis really have the power to reassmble all the pieces of the TARDIS together and back into full working order, simply by using his powers of crude gravitaional attraction - i.e. it is hard to see how gravitaional attraction alone could re-wire all of the damaged complex circuitry of a machine as sophisticated as the TARDIS. It doesn't. All the Gravis does is bring the pieces back together. The TARDIS auto-repair systems do the rest.
  • The Tractators maintain an entire human colony just to use two humans; Captain Revere and Plantagenet for their machines? Surely their must be a simpler way. There are lots of other machines besides the one we see. They do need the use of lots of humans.

Continuity

DVD and Video Releases

  • Released on video along side The Awakening. Not yet released on DVD.

Novelisation

Main article: Frontios (novelisation)

External Links

  • BBC - Doctor Who - The Classic Series - Episode Guide: Frontios
  • Doctor Who Reference Guide - Detailed Synopsis - Frontios
  • Doctor Who: A Brief History of Time (Travel) - A Brief History of Time (Travel): Frontios

Footnotes

  1. Howe, David J., Stammers, Mark, Walker, Stephen James, 1997, Doctor Who: The Eighties, Doctor Who Books, an imprint of Virgin Books, London, p.56
  2. Howe, David J., Stammers, Mark, Walker, Stephen James, 1997, Doctor Who: The Eighties, Doctor Who Books, an imprint of Virgin Books, London, p.54
Season 21
Warriors of the Deep  • The Awakening  • Frontios  • Resurrection of the Daleks  • Planet of Fire  • The Caves of Androzani  • The Twin Dilemma

This article uses material from the "Frontios (TV story)" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

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