Special TV Recommend: Horror Channel – Dr Who this week

Whether you’re a fan of SF or the good Doctor specifically or a more casual viewer of the age to remember the classic Tom Baker era there’s an absolute treat this week from Tuesday to Friday on the Horror Channel.

Horror shows double episodes of the classic series daily but the two this week are amongst the best stories ever written, and genre mash-ups of (naturally) science fiction and the detective story. Both star the inimitable Tom Baker, to many of us – it hardly needs repeating – THE Doctor, regardless of whether or not we’re old enough to have seen it first time round; but also the dad’s favourite Louise Jameson as Leela: hot, scantily clad (initially at least), barbarian savage, Leela was anything but the bumbling, squealing companion. The Doctor & Leela

And the scripts of both are lauded by Paul Cornell (Writer of comics and Doctor Who amongst others) and co in the Dr Doctor Who Discontinuity Guide as “one of the best ever” and “peerless” respectively – and they’re not wrong.

 

The Robots of Death To begin with we have the Robots of Death¬†– and don’t let the simplistic title persuade you it lacks anything. It’s a murder mystery set in a giant, isolated sand-mining vehicle on a remote planet. It plays against human characteristics of ambition, greed, fear, suspicion and concealed (outright) insanity amongst the characters – but we can’t specify how without giving stuff away. Aside from anything else the design of the titular robots is wonderfully memorable (to this Tom Baker era viewer at the very least!).

Mind with a title like that you wouldn’t have a particularly long game of Cluedo with the options of ‘Robots’ with ‘Robot hands’ in ‘The Sandminer’ – but there are more than enough twists and turns to keep you entertained from start to finish.

 

From the notion of fear and the uncanny valley we move closer to the Valley of Fear in the wonderful Victorian London-based The Talons of Weng Chiang in which Tom Baker (who would actually play the role post-Who) as the Doctor more or less becomes Sherlock Holmes, putting aside his favourite scarf for period costume including a deerstalker hat.

It’s an atmospheric mystery romp which mashes Holmes with the Phantom of the Opera, Jack the Ripper and Chinese myth, all disguising the steampunk / time-travel SF drama which emerges as the Doctor detects the truth of the macabre murders. There’s ‘supernatural’ Chinese underlings, a fantastically freakish ‘wooden dwarf’ and an accident-mutilated ‘god’-villain. It doesn’t get much better than this. The Doctor & Leela ToWC

 

Mind this is Tuesday to Friday – On Sunday / Monday there’s the legendary Terry Nation’s Pertwee-era Death to the Daleks, which (while it seems to have been on rather a lot) is certainly worth a watch if you haven’t caught it already. But while nothing more than the appearance of a Dalek is enough to please the crowds, The Robots of Death and The Talons of Weng Chiang stand amongst the most solid and entertaining stand-alone stories in the show’s history.

 

Rush home from work in good time and / or set your box to ‘Record’ and look forward to a an hour or so a night of SF-mystery goodness on the sofa.

Or behind it.

 

Dr Who - Tom Baker

[You can read our guide to more of this weeks TV highlights here]