82 – Frontios

Frontios is a prime example of the type of stories that might have persuaded Peter Davison to stay for a fourth season as the Doctor. While not spectacular by any means, it is clever, intriguing and well produced, and certainly keeps the viewer engrossed from start to finish. Those who have enjoyed the excellent Series 3 episode Utopia will see evident parallels between the two stories – the Doctor and his companions arrive at the end of the known universe, at a point beyond which the TARDIS is meant to travel. On the planet Frontios, a group of human colonists are fighting to survive, unaware of why their planet is being constantly being bombarded by meteorites. Of course, the Master does not appear in this story, and thus the parallels fall somewhat short!

It turns out that beneath the surface of the planet live a hostile alien race known as the Tractators, possessing several terrifying capabilities, not least manifested when they steal the TARDIS beneath the planet’s surface, seemingly vanished without trace. As cliffhangers go, Davison stating in a would-be-calm voice “The TARDIS has been completely destroyed” has to rank as one that would have left viewers utterly gripped, wondering how he was going to get the TARDIS crew out of this one. In truth, the reason why this story is so effective is because there is so much intrigue and mystery, and the Tractators are not revealed until the denouement. Turlough in particular puts in a sterling performance, with a racial memory of his own people coming under the attack of the Tractators. The race would return in the Big Finish audio The Hallows of Time, a story originally planned for Season 23 – more proof if needed that the BBC were fools not to give Colin Baker a proper second season in 1983!

As with many stories in this section of the review, I really have not got a bad word to say about Frontios. I was very probably too young to appreciate the VHS, but thoroughly enjoyed the DVD and would cheerfully watch it as a standalone four-parter – indeed if you are looking for an entry level to the Davison era, you could do much worse than to start here, with what is a good solid classic Doctor Who story. The only reason is not higher is that we fans wonderfully get to enjoy even more stories that are just as good!

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