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Doctor Who:
The Ambassadors Of Death

cast: Jon Pertwee, Caroline John, Nicholas Courtney, and Ronald Allen

director: Michael Ferguson

171 minutes (U) 1970
BBC VHS retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Ian Shutter
One of the early stories from Jon Pertwee's four-year reign as many TV fans Time Lord of choice, this seven-parter scripted by David Whitaker (with uncredited re-writes by Malcolm Hulke), continues the then-current Doctor Who scenario with the Doctor stranded on Earth, helping paramilitary o rganisation UNIT sort out threats to UK and world security, and investigate bizarre happenings of the sort now commonly dealt with on The X-Files.
   The Ambassadors Of Death is about a manned mission to Mars, and what goes wrong after the spacecraft makes contact with weird aliens. A rescue capsule returns safely to Earth (fulfilling the British Interplanetary Society's ambitiously optimistic dream of a UK-based space programme!), but its three-man crew have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The Doctor becomes suspicious on hearing reports that space-suited figures were seen committing a robbery, and he learns of a criminal conspiracy to use radioactive 'astronauts' for crimes, while a warmonger, General Carrington (John Abineri), campaigns for a nuclear first strike against the visiting aliens.
   At mission control, console chief Ralph Cornish (Ronald Allen, from the old version of soap opera, Crossroads) detects coded messages between orbit and London that, after much subterfuge, turns out to be communications from the bad-guys and the ET space travellers. There's an amusing mix here of Quatermass SF and hi-tech gangsters, as the London-based villains have flat caps and handguns, while a more uncanny menace is provided by the walking spacesuits (what's inside them?), unfazed by bullets, emitting high energy bursts to kill humans.
   In addition to UNIT boss, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), the Doctor's assistant is Liz Shaw (Caroline John), still quite fetching in her white boots and miniskirt, on the run from kidnappers, getting into a car chase in old Bessie (the Doctor's temperamental car), and generally making herself useful as one of the smartest Who companions ever. Eventually, of course, the Doctor has to ride a rocket into orbit to solve the mystery of the missing astronauts and get the aliens to reconsider plans for destroying the world.
   This nearly three-hour video release is partly in black and white, due to BBC's loss of their original broadcast tapes. However, some colour material was found on NTSC domestic cassettes in America, making this worthwhile viewing despite the intrusive and irritating background sounds.