Robots of Death is a classic with only a few minor flaws, an undeniable 9 out of 10 adventure that does that Hinchcliffe-Holmes thing of taking two genres and smashing them together like story particles in a narrative acclerator and creating something entirely new from the juxtaposition.
In this instance, it’s “Agatha Christie Murder Mystery” meets “Isaac Asimov Robotics” and instead of a mansion house in the middle of nowhere with party guests getting bumped off one by one, we’re on a Sandminer in the middle of a desert with the crew getting bumped off one by one. And then the Doctor and Leela arrive, assume the roles of Poirot and Hastings and solve the mystery – and dash it all, if it ain’t the blessed robots wot done it . Blimey!
And if the story’s Poirot roots were in any doubt, just check out the gorgeous Art Deco styling of the whole damn thing – David Suchet would fit right in there as an alternate Uvanov.
In fact, the story is so good that I wasn’t going to bother Editing it at all, but, after improving a whole succession of clunkers, some of which had required more work than others, I wondered what it would be like to tackle a “good” story for once. The result was that from start to finish this Fan Edit took just under three hours to complete, making it one of the quickest to edit yet. And that there was so little to cut shows you how good it is !
Yes, it`s rightly regarded as a classic but there`s still some material we can do without, though not that much. For instance, the cliffhanger to part two is a Loop so we can get rid of that easily. The Doctor getting trapped in the hopper at the end of part one we don`t need either. Zilda is a graduate of the Adric Academy of Performing Arts so her totally unconvincing reaction to what she finds in Uvanov`s cabin gets cut.
The direction on the whole is excellent although it becomes rather obvious that the baddie is Dask just a bit too early in the show so I`ve cut those scenes out so we only know it`s him when we see him with his robot make-up on. The only other flaw is the way Uvanov disappears from the show for most of episode three only to somehow escape from detention with no explanation and pop up in time for the cliffhanger. But there`s nothing I can do about that and it`s only a minor quibble of plotting.
An overall great cast, a classic variant on the old Base Under Siege plot, and an easy Fan Edit to do of a story that only really loses about 15 minutes of material. If it`s score was 9 out of 10 before, now it gets full marks. It`s just a pity that Chris Boucher never brought those wonderful robots back during his time script-editing Blake`s Seven, they would have fitted nicely into Mission To Destiny and totally misdirected the audience that the killer was one of them and not one of the humans. What a missed opportunity for a great cross-over years before the Kaldor City series!