Production Code: 4R
1 - 29/01/1977 18:20
2 - 05/02/1977 18:20
3 - 12/02/1977 18:20
4 - 19/02/1977 18:20
The TARDIS materialises on board a massive sandminer vehicle combing an alien world for precious minerals. The miner is run by a small human crew with the aid of numerous robots split into three classes: Dums, Vocs and a single controlling Super Voc. The crew are being picked off one by one by an unseen killer.
The Doctor and Leela immediately come under suspicion but are able to convince two undercover government agents - Poul and his robot associate D84, a Super Voc posing as a Dum - that they are innocent. The real culprit is one of the human crew, Dask, who is in truth the scientist Taren Capel. Raised by robots, Capel regards them as superior to humans and has been reprogramming those on board with orders to kill the other members of the crew.
He is tricked by the Doctor into outlining his plans for conquest while a helium canister discharges itself into the room, and is consequently killed by one of the robots as it can no longer recognise his voice.
The Doctor is trapped in a storage unit within the sandminer as it rapidly fills with sand.
The sandminer's engines run out of control, threatening it with destruction. The Doctor opens an inspection hatch, intending to fight sabotage with sabotage, but is restrained by Dask. As the power builds to a near critical eighty-five percent, Toos desperately shouts: 'She's going!'
A robot with orders to kill the Doctor seizes him about the neck with its hands.
The Doctor and Leela return to the TARDIS, which dematerialises from the sandminer.
Isaac Asimov's I, Robot (et al).
Frank Herbert's Dune (the sandminer).
Arthur C Clarke's A Fall of Moondust (the sinking sandminer).
Murder on the Orient Express.
Ten Little Indians.
The Naked Sun.
Superman comics (Kaldor city).
Poul's name is derived from SF author Poul Anderson.
Taren Capel comes from Karel Capek, whose play R.U.R. introduced the word Robot.
The story's thematic basis in body language was influenced by Desmond Morris' Manwatching.
Chub : "There was a Voc therapist in Kaldor City once. Specially programmed, equipped with vibro-digits, subcutaneous stimulators, the lot. You know what happened, Borg? Its first client wanted treatment for a stiff elbow. The Voc therapist felt carefully all round the joint, and then suddenly just twisted his arm off at the shoulder. Shoompf. All over in two seconds."
D84 : [Speaking of a tool used on board the sandminer] "It is a Laserson probe. It can punch a fist-sized hole through six-inch armour plate, or take the crystals from a snowflake one by one."
D84 : "Please do not throw hands at me."
The Doctor : "You know, you're a classic example of the inverse ratio between the size of the mouth and the size of the brain."
Leela : [Drops out of character completely when her knife does not harm a robot] "Now you're showing off."
The Doctor tries to explain the TARDIS' dimensional transcendence to Leela. However, his demonstration using two differently sized blocks at varying distances isn't very helpful, indicating more of the nature of optics than physical space. Helium doesn't affect the Doctor's voice. Mention is again made of his two hearts and respiratory bypass system (Spearhead from Space, Terror of the Zygons). The Doctor's pockets contain a [telescopic] breathing tube.
The planet, with its 100 million miles of uncharted desert, isn't named, although it seems that there are many such worlds with advanced robot 'slaves'. Voc class robots have over one million circuit constrainers to prevent them from harming humans. Deactivated robots are returned to construction centres bearing deactivation disks (nicknamed corpse markers).
Robots are very common on the sandminers, and less common on the planet's cities (the only one named is Kaldor City). Irrational fear of them is known as Grimwade's Syndrome, or, more commonly, robophobia.
The sandminers travel across the shifting deserts, extracting minerals such as Zelanite, Keefan and (most importantly) Lucanol. Most humans show an unusual respect for descendents of the Twenty, the founding families of the civilisation (cf. The Caves of Androzani).
Storm Mine 4.
The Doctor claims to have seen similar 'moving mines' on Korlano Beta.
Russell Hunter, well known for his role as Lonely in the counterespionage series Callan, plays Commander Uvanov.
Brian Croucher, now renowned for his portrayal of Travis in Blake's 7, plays Borg.
Robophobia, an irrational fear of robots, is at one point referred to as 'Grimwade's syndrome'. This was an in-joke reference to production assistant Peter Grimwade (later to become a director and writer on the series) who had bemoaned the fact that the stories on which he was assigned to work almost always involved robots.
Peter Grimwade directed, uncredited, all the film insert sequences for this story.
When Leela throws her knife at the attacking robot it makes a cartoony 'shhhh doinkk!' noise.
The corpse markers are bicycle reflectors.
The Doctor's scarf vanishes while he's detained in the crew's quarters.
In the second episode it's possible to tell who the villain is as his feet, lower trousers and (slightly distorted) face are shown.
When Leela bandages Toos' arm someone is visible on the edge of the set.
V35 to V40 are said to have searched the ore hoppers, but V35 spends the entire story in the 'morgue'.
The robot listening outside the crew's quarters was presumably meant to be D84, but it's actually a Voc.
Cast & Crew
The Doctor - Tom Baker
Leela - Louise Jameson
Borg - Brian Croucher
Cass - Tariq Yunis
Chub - Rob Edwards
D84 - Gregory de Polnay
Dask - David Bailie
Poul - David Collings
Robot - Mark Blackwell Baker
Robot - John Bleasedale
Robot - Mark Cooper
Robot - Peter Langtry
Robot - Jeremy Ranchev
Robot - Richard Seager
SV7 - Miles Fothergill
Toos - Pamela Salem
Uvanov - Russell Hunter
Zilda - Tania Rogers
Director - Michael E Briant