The Androids of Tara
|101 – The Androids of Tara|
|Doctor Who serial|
Romana (centre) meets her first doppelgänger, the Princess Strella (left)
|Script editor||Anthony Read|
|Incidental music composer||Dudley Simpson|
|Length||4 episodes, 25 minutes each|
|Originally broadcast||25 November – 16 December 1978|
||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (August 2010)|
The Androids of Tara is the fourth serial of the 16th season in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts from 25 November (two days after the fifteenth anniversary) to 16 December 1978. This is the fourth of six linked serials that comprise the whole of Season 16, known collectively as The Key to Time.
The society of the planet Tara is a mix of the feudal and the futuristic, with a rigid social monarchical hierarchy developed alongside a skill in advanced electronics and android making, a skill reserved to the lesser orders. Centuries earlier, after a plague wiped out nine tenths of the population, the peasants, abandoned by the nobles, began building androids to deal with labour shortages. The planet is now troubled by a struggle for the crown and the power on Tara. The rightful heir, Prince Reynart, is facing a challenge to his rule and coronation from his cousin, Count Grendel of Gracht, a suave but deadly villain who has kidnapped Reynart’s sweetheart, the Princess Strella, and is holding her captive to persuade Reynart not to take the throne.
The Fourth Doctor and Romana arrive on Tara in search of the fourth segment of The Key to Time and, for once, the quest is simple. While the Doctor goes fishing, Romana identifies and transforms the fourth segment alone – it was disguised as a segment of a Grachtian statue – though her luck does not last. She is attacked by a native Taran bear and only saved by Count Grendel, who takes Romana to his castle on the pretext of treating her injured ankle and "registering" the Key segment as an exotic mineral. Once there, it becomes clear that Grendel believes she is an android, because she exactly resembles the captive Strella, and even goes as far as ordering Romana's head to be chopped off for Grendel's private possession and she was rescued only at the discovery of her swollen ankle (because androids don't get injuries like people do) — and Romana too is imprisoned like the Princess.
The swordsmen Zadek and Farrah have meanwhile recruited the Doctor to the party of Prince Reynart. He agrees to help repair an android copy of the Prince, which is to be used to help him reach his throne and crown by diverting the attention of Grendel’s men while the real Prince slips into the coronation chamber through a back way. This plot looks plausible, but Grendel strikes first, drugging the Prince’s retinue and kidnapping Reynart himself. When the Doctor and the swordsmen recover they decide to change the original plan and crown the android Reynart instead. The party move through the tunnels beneath the royal castle to get to the throne room so that the facsimile Reynart can be crowned, for if he is not there at the correct moment then he forfeits his claim and the crown may be offered to Grendel. The real Reynart was wounded in his capture and has been imprisoned with Romana at Castle Gracht to prevent any legitimate succession. The Doctor and his party sneak the android Prince into the throne room, and the coronation begins; but the android Prince is damaged and it is clear the ruse will not hold for long. After the Prince is crowned King, Strella appears, to swear loyalty to the King. Although struck by her resemblance to Romana, the Doctor recognizes that she is an android and hits her on the head with the King's sceptre.
K-9 is enlisted from the TARDIS to provide armed support and scanning intelligence that confirms that the Count has the Prince, the Princess, and Romana in his castle. Shortly afterward, Till, Grendel’s manservant, arrives at the Reynart estate and offers the Doctor a chance to collect Romana from the Pavilion of the Summer Winds, a nearby gazebo. It is, as ever, a trap. Grendel knows the Doctor is the man who has deprived him of the throne and has persuaded his android maker Madam Lamia, who is in love with him, to make an android in the image of Romana that is programmed to kill. While this is happening, the real Romana escapes from Castle Gracht and heads off to find the Doctor. She arrives at the Pavilion in the aftermath of Grendel’s attack, which has left Lamia dead, and helps the Doctor flee. The situation is soon reversed; Grendel, coming under a flag of truce to secretly offer the crown to the Doctor, destroys the Reynart android and then recaptures Romana. The evil Count now wishes Romana (as Strella) to marry the real King, who will then be killed, leaving Grendel free to take her hand himself and be declared the legitimate King of Tara.
Worried that a siege could take years, the Doctor resorts to other means to get his friends back from Castle Gracht. K-9 helps them gain access to the castle by means of the moat and underground tunnels. The Doctor reaches the throne room just in time to stop Reynart's coerced marriage to Romana. He then engages the Count in a deadly fight with electro-swords, defeating him and forcing the villain to jump into his own moat and swim for his survival.
Romana has meanwhile freed Strella and the royal party is united, with Grendel disgraced and presumably on his way to exile. It is a time of reunions: Reynart with his love Strella; and the Doctor and Romana with the fourth segment of the Key and the TARDIS – once K-9 has been retrieved from a boat in the moat.
Mary Tamm designed Romana's distinctive purple outfit after the originally planned costume proved unsuitable. Although Tamm was a skilled horse-rider, she refused to do the horse-riding sequence herself because she could not wear a helmet and felt that the potential of an accident was too great. Location work was performed at Leeds Castle, Kent.
In the opening credits, the episode number appears before the writer's name, contrary to the order in most Doctor Who stories.
Mary Tamm plays four roles in this story: Romana, Princess Strella and their android doubles.
Peter Jeffrey previously played the colony pilot in The Macra Terror. Declan Mulholland previously played Clark in The Sea Devils. This is Cyril Shaps' fourth and final appearance in Doctor Who, the others being The Tomb of the Cybermen, The Ambassadors of Death and Planet of the Spiders. It is his only appearance in which his character is not killed. Simon Lack had previously appeared as Professor Kettering in The Mind of Evil.
The plot of the serial is inspired by The Prisoner of Zenda. Among the working titles were The Androids Of Zenda, The Androids Of Zend and The Prisoners Of Zend.
Broadcast and reception
|Episode||Broadcast date||Run time||Viewers
|"Part One"||25 November 1978||24:53||8.5|
|"Part Two"||2 December 1978||24:27||10.1|
|"Part Three"||9 December 1978||23:52||8.9|
|"Part Four"||16 December 1978||24:49||9|
In their book The Discontinuity Guide (1995), Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping described The Androids of Tara as "Wonderful, Doctor Who as heroic romance, with plenty of swashbuckling, wit and colour." They particularly praised the Doctor's duel at the end and the small stakes. On the other hand, David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker in The Television Companion (1998) felt that the story relied on The Prisoner of Zenda, which made it "rather less engaging than the other stories of the season, coming over more as a gentle run-around than as anything particularly significant". They praised the premise, but wrote that there was a lack of suspense and the characters were bland, with the exception of Grendel. DVD Talk's Justin Felix agreed, writing that "its whimsical nature makes this episode feel more like an excursion than an advancement of the season's storyline" and described the story as "a competent albeit standard runaround". However, he praised Baker and the development of Romana's character. Felix gave the story three out of five stars. In 2011, Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times praised the acting and direction, but stated that it "strays too far into the 'adventure serial' territory" and lacked a sense of "real urgency or jeopardy".
|Doctor Who book|
|Doctor Who and the Androids of Tara|
|Cover artist||Andrew Skilleter|
|Release date||24 April 1980|
A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in April 1980. An audiobook release of this story was made in 2012, and does not use the Target novelistion by Terrance Dicks, but uses a brand new novelisation written for audio by David Fisher and narrated by John Leeson.
The Androids of Tara was released on VHS in May 1995. This serial, along with the rest of season sixteen, was released in North America as part of the Key to Time box set. A remastered version was released on region 2 DVD in September 2007, and region 1 in March 2009.
- DVD commentary
- "The Androids of Tara". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
- Sullivan, Shannon (2007-08-07). "The Androids of Tara". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
- Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "The Androids of Tara". The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-426-20442-5.
- Howe, David J & Walker, Stephen James (1998). Doctor Who: The Television Companion (1st ed. ed.). London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-40588-7.
- Felix, Justin (29 March 2009). "Doctor Who: The Androids of Tara". DVD Talk. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
- Mulkern, Patrick (21 January 2011). "Doctor Who: The Androids of Tara". Radio Times. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
- "DVD News". BBC. 18 May 2007.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Fourth Doctor|
- The Androids of Tara at BBC Online
- The Androids of Tara at Doctor Who: A Brief History Of Time (Travel)
- The Androids of Tara at the Doctor Who Reference Guide
- Fan reviews
- Target novelisation
- Doctor Who and the Androids of Tara reviews at The Doctor Who Ratings Guide
- On Target — Doctor Who and the Androids of Tara