The Ambassadors of Death (1970)

The Ambassadors of Death is the final story to be written by David Whittaker. It’s a story is quite original for Doctor Who at the time because it deals with conspiracy and the feeling that the good guys are battling against something that’s more powerful than they are i.e The Government. There aren’t too many stories in Doctor Who that deal with this topic. This story is an unusual one in that it was made in colour but large chunks are in black and white. What is also unusual is that a bit of the theme turn then the recap before the titles hurl themselves at the viewer before returning to the main action. This is the only time that this is done and its very odd.

There are three astronauts that have been kept hostage but some people who want to start a war with an alien race that have come from Mars. This is because General Carrington lost a friend on a previous space mission and he believes the aliens/martians to be dangerous. There is a message that comes with this part of the story and its that you shouldn’t judge something by its cover. The ambassadors didn’t realise that their touch can kill and at the very last moment the ambassadors are returned to their ship and war is prevented. Despite this being a seven part story it doesn’t drag like most six parters from the Troughton era. The thing about this story is that it doesn’t drag at any stage of the seven parts. I think that credit must go to Whittaker who at times hasn’t been known for memorable stories, not rubbish stuff but nothing that could be classed as a classic.

Jon Pertwee is on fine form as he tries to get the upper hand on whats going on and once he tries to get the ambassadors back. He had gotten a hold on the character from the very first story and this story confirms why he is so good. Caroline John suffers in this story and is ultimatley the weakest thing about this story. She is pushed to one side and spends the majority of this story held hostage which I think is a shame because she deserves better. John does the best with what she is given. Nicholas Courtney gets some good stuff to do including escaping from the base and trying to get back to his UNIT base. The supporting cast is very strong. John Abineri is the best as General Carrington its down to him that the view to attack the aliens comes from. He was on a previous Mars mission and it’s his misunderstanding that nearly plunges the world into war. Abineri plays the role brilliantly because he starts off as an unlikeable military figure and then turns into someone who is riddled with fear and were meant to feel sorry for him. Ronald Allen is another strong supporting cast member as Ralph Cornish. As the leader of the space mission he is one of the few characters that we can trust from the very beginning.

Season 7 is my favourite season of all Doctor Who stories and this story is one of those reasons why. I think that the story is solid throughout the seven episodes and there are intresting characters as well as several dramatic moments. The mystery is held up for the right amount of time and the fresh impulse that the story needed comes at just the right time. It’s David Whittaker’s final story and its his strongest and despite the uncredited contributions from Trevor Ray, Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks its his name on the screen and he should receive all the praise.


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