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Closer Look: Frontios

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Frontios (2)Frontios. Mother shitting Frontios. That crap is LAME, yo.

I really want Doctor Who Thing to be a beacon of positive Who joy, celebrate rather than tear down, but what the hell, this sucker’s got it coming…

Up until recently I had never seen this Peter Davison story, and I have to say it was a bit of a struggle to get through. I mean, just take a look at these big-eared goons right here:

Trac 3

Look at the face on this prime prick:

Trac face

Tractators. GUH.

People designed these things. People who knew the limitations of their resources designed, fashioned and then handed them in-  and then the show only bloody went and used them. I sometimes think the old monster designers had the memory of a goldfish, so often did they decide to tackle designs clearly way beyond the shows obvious limitations. I mean, applaud them for their ambition, but a little common sense every now and again, chaps! I hate it when people bag on a classic era story because of the effects or the dodgy costumes, for the time most of it was pretty darn good and I can usually see past all that, it’s just part of the shows charm – but really? These fart knockers right here:

Tractators

Okay, so I’m a hypocrite (with great hair and a sweet smile) I get annoyed at others for slating shonky classic Who monsters and now here I am doing the same thing. But it’s not just the way they look (and they look, as we now all agree, like pure arse-gravy), but the way they move. They’re almost completely inflexible, with their tiny T-Rex arms flailing hysterically. They employed dancers to play the creatures, then plonked rigid costumes over them; because they be smart and clever and interdepartmental communication was clearly working well. To say they drag down an already shaky story, as they shuffle arthritically around, is an understatement. They certainly can’t be the mythical, terrifying creatures that Turlough is losing his damn, freaking, spittle-flecked  mind over.

And the way they’re revealed on-screen for the first time, oh boy; it really is beautiful. Ron Jones, the stories director, was really on his game here. No, I’m yanking your plank, it’s mystifying. They just turn around and shuffle stage-right. I’m sure it’s supposed to be a shocking reveal; that these things just emerged as if from nowhere! But it’s executed with heroic, awe-inspiring, stand and salute ineptitude

These shuffling turds live underground and bore the tunnels using a machine that needs a humanoid placed in it Zombie-like to work. Why? You may well ask. Damned if I know. Seems a bit of an odd requirement to build in.

frontios2.jpg turlough T-t-t-t-Tractator’s!!!

Alright, enough of them, what else? Oh yes: The TARDIS blows up. Rather than end the universe, as in the Matt Smith era, it just sort of disappears in a puff of smoke, as though some low rent magician just turned it into a bunny. Now you would think this might be something of a big deal to The Doctor and his companions, and they certainly sell the poop out of it. Well, Davison reacts as though he’s just been told lunch has been put back an hour. This should be a huge thing, but our three regulars don’t seem all that fussed to be honest. Doesn’t matter. We’ll just stay here forever, no biggie.

Everyone seems to more or less forget about the explodey-wodey (I’m so sorry) TARDIS, until they stumble across a piece underground, which for some reason has become part of the wall. But all is not lost for the errant Time and Space Machine, for an arse-faced creature with the power to very, very, ve-e-e-e-ery slowly pull a man downwards through loose soil is now able to pull together all the disparate pieces of the TARDIS and put the thing back together again with the power of its mind (and tiny waggling T-Rex arms), good as new.

And OH GOD, I almost forgot the scenes in the lab, with people killing time attempting to get to it to retrieve something or other (it doesn’t matter what), or walking back and forth across it.

So, positive’s… well, the idea of being physically pulled into the Earth is a nice, scary notion; and one that the modern series would toy with in ‘The Hungry Earth’. The human characters thinking the danger is above, when it’s really below, that’s kind of neat, but that’s just about where the plus points start and end for me with this one. Not since a recent re-watch of ‘Planet of The Spiders’ did I so desperately fight the urge to eject the DVD half-way through.

A brief glance around and about at other reactions to this story seems to suggest I’m missing something when it comes to Frontios. Perhaps the script itself is decent, I dunno, let’s give it the benefit of the doubt, but it’s been put on screen with all the skill and artistry inherent in a sack full of week old whale bile.

Frontios? It can Fronti-fuck-off.

@DoctorWhoThing

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Author: Matthew Stott

Writer. http://mrmatthewstott.com/

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