The Doctor and Leela arrive in a mobile sand refinery on a distant planet at precisely the wrong time – a murder has just taken place. Since they’re the only newcomers among a bunch of paranoid miners who have been cooped up together for months, the Doctor and Leela are naturally the prime suspects, but even while they’re under guard, members of the crew continue to turn up dead. The Doctor is the first to propose an outrageous theory – that the ships large complement of robots have somehow been programmed to override their built-in inability to harm human beings. But by the time he is able to convince anyone of the merit of this idea, most of the crew have fallen victim to the robots’ onslaught – leaving the Doctor, Leela, and the surviving crew as the next victims.
written by Chris Boucher
directed by Michael E. Briant
music by Dudley Simpson
Guest Cast: Russell Hunter (Commander Uvanov), Pamela Stern (Toos), David Bailie (Dask), Rob Edwards (Chub), Brian Croucher (Borg), Tariq Yunus (Cass), David Collings (Poul), Tania Rogers (Zilda), Miles Fothergill (SV7), Gregory de Polnay (D84)
Broadcast from January 29 through February 19, 1977
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: Of the numerous times Doctor Who has tried its hand at an Agatha Christie style murder mystery, Robots Of Death is probably the most successful of that category. The atmosphere is appropriately gloomy, and the cast of characters are a bunch of gloomy people with their own skeletons in the closet. Almost every last one of them is a viable suspect at some point. And the robots are indeed creepy mechanical men, and strangely sculpted ones too. Their ever-calm voices are very unnerving, escpecially when they offer a reassuring “I only want to kill you” to their victims – as if that makes it all better! If only for the spooky atmosphere, this one is a must-see. It also contains, at the beginning, the Doctor’s now-famous description to Leela of how the TARDIS can be bigger on the inside than out.
Also watch closely for the Doctor’s always incredible scarf – not only is it about a mile long, but it disappears from his neck and then reappears mysteriously moments later. And speaking of vanishing clothing, it’s far easier to take the remaining members of the mine’s crew seriously in the second half of the story, when they ditch their needlessly flamboyant headgear.