Contact is lost with the British space capsule Mars Probe
Seven and with the recovery capsule sent to rescue it. When
three astronauts are finally brought down to Earth, their
touch proves fatal, and they are swiftly kidnapped and put
to deadly use. The Doctor suspects that the astronauts are
not human at all...
This seven-part tale is a real mixed bag, in more ways than
obviously, due to the lack of available colour recordings
of certain portions of this story, the video alternates between
colour and black and white footage. Episode 1, the only instalment
known to exist in its original 625-line format, is in vivid
colour. Episodes 2, 3, 6 and 7 are a combination of monochrome
telecine and colour-converted telecine material incorporating
colour information from American off-air recordings. The fourth
episode is entirely black and white, while the fifth is completely
BBC's Restoration Team have done their best to give us the
best quality viewing possible. They have also applied their
VidFIRE process to restore smoother "video-like" motion to
the telecine film prints. There's an impressive demonstration
at the end of the tape of the efforts that have been made.
Ambassadors of Death is also a bit of a patchwork quilt
from a script-writing point of view. Although David Whitaker
is credited on screen as the writer, it was Malcolm Hulke
who put a final polish on the scripts and practically finished
off the serial when Whitaker ran into difficulties. As a result,
we end up with a few minor plot inconsistencies. Why, for
instance, does General Carrington (John Abineri) need the
Doctor to build him a two-way translator, when the General
was provided with plans for such a device by the aliens in
an earlier episode? He chose to issue his lackey Reegan
(William Dysart) with only a one-way device. I suppose it's
possible that Carrington's staff were unable to perfect a
two-way translator by themselves, but this point could have
been made clearer.
also a certain inconsistency of tone. In conflict with the
trademark grittier edge of the seventh season, Whitaker gives
the Doctor an inexplicable ability to make large tape spools
vanish into thin air. Bessie's anti-theft device is only slightly
less silly. Fortunately, such factors are more than balanced
out by the tense atmosphere of the mission control room scenes,
which are given an added sense of realism by the presence
of TV reporter John Wakefield (Michael Wisher) who addresses
the camera as though bringing us a genuine news report.
serial may be over-long, but it's full of intriguing twists
and turns. As in the preceding story, Doctor Who and the
Silurians, Hulke ensures that the aliens do not fall into
the typical definition of "monster", and he blurs the usually
comfortable distinction between good and evil.
gimmick (sadly only ever used during this adventure) of dramatically
cueing in the story title, writer and episode number with
the cliffhanger "sting" is also extremely cool.
£12.99 for seven episodes, this tape is a bargain. Ambassadors,
you are spoiling us!
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