As the production notes are sure to tell the viewer several times, this story is "Doctor Who"'s homage to "The Prisoner of Zenda", following the plot twist by twist, and adding only a few modest sci-fi elements (two androids and some electric swords). As Tom Baker points out on the commentary track, visiting guest stars used "Doctor Who" as an opportunity to "do a turn" (or, as the fans say, "chew the scenery"), and this serial's guest villain Peter Jeffrey (playing the aptly-named Count Grendel of Gracht) gives a delightful performance as the scheming nobleman who doesn't kill a soul and is allowed to swim away at the end of the story, uttering the famous face-saving line above.
The DVD production is bare-bones, unusual for the high-quality "Doctor Who" line. The text commentary is notably weak, perhaps because it's not written by Martin Wiggins, who did the notes for the first three DVDs in this set. Now authored by Richard Molesworth (who did notes on a few of the earlier "Who" DVDs), the notes are basically endless lists of the supporting actors' other TV appearances -- most of which will not be familiar to the audience watching these US-release-only discs -- and the dates of location filming. It indeed adds a lot to your enjoyment of Part Three to learn that Romana's stunt double rode her horse on the 27th and 28th of July.Read more ›
First of all, the story seems to jar slightly from the usual way that the Tom Baker Doctor interacts with others. Rather than being at the center and driving the action forward, the Doctor takes a passive role for the majority of the tale. He eventually does become a mover in his own right near the end, but for the most part this is a story that he influences rather than drives. ANDROIDS OF TARA is very much the story of the King, the Crown and the fight for the throne rather than having a structure more typical of the average Doctor Who adventure. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though. It's interesting to see a more subdued Fourth Doctor, although occasionally I was wishing for him to take a more active stance. It just seemed odd that the Doctor would cave so easily under the threat of violence and that it was only this threat that kept him in the story. It's even more odd when one realizes that the Doctor would usually be predisposed to want to help out the Prince, Zadek and Farrah anyway. The fact that most of the plot points are borrowed from other sources is fairly obvious so perhaps this is an inadvertent holdover from an earlier draft.Read more ›
To be fair, theres some well played out scenes, and some good one-liners by Tom Baker. Humour is there, and you get the impression the story isn't taking itself too seriously. The problem is, by the start of Episode 3, you'll probably wish it was all over.
Two and a half stars for Androids of Tara.