Retro ‘Doctor Who’ Reviews: ‘The Ambassadors of Death’

Ambassadors of DeathOnly recently released on DVD this epic seven-part serial occurred during the first season of the Third Doctor’s run when Liz Shaw was still serving as The Doctor’s companion. The story picks up after UNIT’s encounter with the Silurians and begins with The Doctor continuing to work on the TARDIS, frustrated with the knowledge that had been removed from his memory by the Time Lords. Meanwhile the British Space Program is launching a recovery mission to seek out a missing Mars Probe and the two astronauts who were on board. When the rescue ship makes contact with the probe a high pitch screeching is transmitted before the radio goes silent.

When the space craft returns to Earth the three astronauts are kidnapped by persons unknown who leave soldiers and scientists dead in their wake. The Doctor quickly deduces that the three spacesuits were not carrying the human passengers but a trio of aliens who have arrived on Earth as ambassadors of their race. The group who have captured them are holding them hostage and forcing them to commit murder. The Doctor resolves himself to heading into space in the next shuttle to seek out the missing astronauts and solve the mystery.

The Ambassadors of Death

On the whole this serial plays out like a thriller more than a science-fiction story, though it is not without a few elements from the latter. The aliens coming down to Earth under the guise of human astronauts and the ambassadors of another world being mistreated by those with an ulterior motive are both concepts that can be taken further on their own. The crux of this story, however, concerns the power play between the various factions and the conspiracy behind the abductions of the alien ambassadors. This side of the story plays out pretty well with many different characters each of whom could be playing either side. The Doctor is hardly James Bond but he does well enough playing the part in this outing.

Ambassadors of Death

Looking back it seems as though Jon Pertwee is still trying to find his feet in the role of The Doctor. The character has more in common with the previous incarnation, and many of Pertwee’s trademark tics and one-liners are rare. Liz Shaw is not the most engaging of the companions, seeming to act as only a placeholder in the role.

Overall the action is fast paced and the story imaginative, and it’s bigger in scope then most of the other stories of the era. Well worth checking out for fans.