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Recap / Doctor Who S10 E3 "Frontier in Space"

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Frontier in Space
Roger Delgado's last outing as the Master is spent in Spandex. Credit where it's due — he makes it work.
Written by Malcolm Hulke
Directed by Paul Bernard
Production code: QQQ
Air dates: 24 February - 31 March 1973
Number of episodes: 6

"In a reminiscent mood are you, Doctor? Poor Miss Grant, you have my deepest sympathies."
The Master

The one where Roger Delgado says goodbye, albeit unintentionally.

The TARDIS arrives in the year 2540 on board an Earth freighter which comes under attack. The crew seem to think that the Doctor and Jo, along with the other attackers, are Draconians — a reptilian race who are the major rivals to Earth's empire. The Doctor and Jo, however, can see that the attackers are really Ogrons — the ape-like heavies employed by the Daleks in "Day of the Daleks".

The Ogrons overwhelm the ship and steal the cargo, including the TARDIS. The Doctor and Jo are accused of being Draconian spies. The Doctor is sent to a penal colony, while Jo is placed in the care of "the Commissioner from Sirius 4" - actually the Master. The Master rescues the Doctor from the penal colony and imprisons him and Jo aboard his stolen spacecraft, revealing he plans to spark a war between Earth and Draconia using Ogron mercenaries and a hypnotic device that makes the spaceship crews perceive them as whatever they most fear.

However, the ship is intercepted by Draconians. The Master escapes with the aid of the Ogrons but one is left behind, enabling the Doctor to convince the Draconian Emperor of the Master's plans before being recaptured by Earth forces, while Jo is recaptured by the renegade Time Lord and taken to the Ogron planet, where the TARDIS has been taken. A Draconian prince who was with the Doctor reveals an Earth General was responsible for the previous war. Wanting to make amends, the General, the Prince, and the Doctor travel to the Ogron Planet and it is revealed that the real force behind the plot is not the Master, but the Daleks, who wish to conquer the Galaxy in the aftermath of the planned war.

The Doctor escapes and manages to get the Prince and General away before being injured in the confusion. Jo helps him to the TARDIS as he sends a telepathic message to the Time Lords. The Master's fate in this predicament, meanwhile, would remain unknown, and it'll be another four seasons to the story count until we see him again... and not exactly in the most ideal state of body or mind, either.

This was, of course, never intended to the be the true finale to Delgado's Master. In fact, his actual swan song was supposed to come in the next season. The script, entitled "The Final Game", would've revealed that the Master is actually the Doctor's dark half split off into physical form (either that or his brother, depending on who you ask), and at the end the Master would've sacrificed his life to save the Doctor. These plans were derailed by Roger Delgado's untimely death in a car accident while filming for a role in Turkey, just several months after completing this story. His tragic death caused the Master as a character to be put on ice for almost four years, and Jon Pertwee cited it as one of the prevailing factors that led him to quit the series the following year. The "dark half of the Doctor" plot point would ultimately be repurposed for the Valeyard in "The Ultimate Foe", while the idea of the Master being the Doctor's sibling was ultimately voided by the Revival Series, where the Doctor openly dismisses the notion.

Incidentally, this is the time period that Bernice Summerfield, star of Doctor Who's longest-running Spinoff, comes from.


  • Adaptation Title Change: Novelized as Doctor Who & the Space War.
  • All There in the Script: The prison governor is named Stevens.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The fake charges on Sirius 4 that the Doctor is extradited for include defrauding a bank, assaulting an official, stealing a spacecraft and flying it without payment of tax and insurance.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Early in the story, Jo suggests that the Ogrons might be working for the Daleks, but the Doctor points out that they hire themselves out to anyone for the right price, and sure enough they actually seem to be working for the Master. However, it turns out at the end that the Ogrons really are working for the Daleks, and apparently just on loan to the Master.
  • Batman Grabs a Gun: Alongside the Draconian prince, the Doctor shoots at an attacking Ogron party.
  • BBC Quarry: Of course the Ogron planet is another rock quarry.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Jo tunnels out of her cell and emerges without a speck of dirt on her.
  • Big Bad: The Master is The Heavy of the story, as well as being The Starscream to the Daleks. The Gold Dalek leads the group who confront the Doctor.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • The Master claims nobody wants peace more than he does. And after saving the Doctor's life from the fake prison escape he quips, "I'd hate you to come to any harm, you know."
    • The Doctor's version of his trial by the Time Lords is rather different from what was shown.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: The Doctor borrows the Master's "Oh no, you don't!" when the latter tries to get his gun back.
  • Call-Back:
    • The Master, after capturing the Doctor, mentions the Doctor visiting him when he was imprisoned by UNIT. A bit later in this same scene, the Doctor masks his attempt to escape by droning on about everything that happened to him since his exile.
    • When the Doctor and Jo start rambling to distract the Master during an escape attempt, the Doctor starts by recounting his trial at the end of "The War Games".
    • Jo refers to Solos and the Earth empire.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: The Master is helping the Daleks for now, but makes it clear he intends to betray them later on.
  • Cliffhanger Copout: Played With. The ending of Part 5 has the Master (after failing to the normal way) turn on the hypnosound as a means of taking over Jo's mind (again). Episode 6 has Jo struggling not to succumb, and ultimately holds out long enough for the Master to just turn it off and order her taken away.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Justified; one of the Ogrons gets left behind while rescuing the Master, endangering his Evil Plan because the Ogron's true form will be revealed once the effects of the hypnosound wear off.
  • Continuity Cavalcade: When the Master subjects Jo to the fear inducing machine, she sees him as a Drashig, a Solonian and a Sea Devil.
  • Continuous Decompression: The door of a spaceship is open, and the crew still have time to slowly come from another room and close the door before they run out of air.
  • Could Say It, But...: The Draconians get around ordering anything illegal like this.
    Aide: Prisoners have been known to escape, your Highness.
    Prince: Not without help. And that would be a grave act of hostility. I could not possibly countenance such a plan.
    Aide: But should two escaping prisoners seek sanctuary in this Embassy, it would be uncivilised to turn them away.
    Prince: (pause) I must not detain you longer. No doubt you have duties demanding your attention?
  • Covers Always Lie: The VHS release prominently features a Dalek, even though the Daleks only appear for about two minutes in the final episode. Worse still, "Planet of the Daleks", where the cliffhanger is resolved, wasn't released until over four years later (in a box set with "Revelation of the Daleks").
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • A crewman captures the Doctor and Jo just as they are breaking out of their cell. When he orders them to Get Out! (because he wants them as hostages) Jo quips that "Out" was where they were going.
    • After the Master tries to convince the Draconians he's peaceful, the Doctor asks him whether he feels sick.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Between the humans and Draconians. Draconians don't allow females to speak publicly, humans have a female president. Humans are quick to accuse, Draconians — at least the elders — are more reserved and reasonable.
  • Enemy Mine: The Master and Daleks try to cause a war between Earth and Draconia after which they would invade the Galaxy. The humans and Draconians are told by the Doctor to form an alliance against the Daleks.
  • Escape Artist: The Doctor does the Reverse Polarity trick on his sonic screwdriver to turn it into an electromagnet and open a door, and later uses a steel file hidden on his person to get out of the prisoner cage the Master puts him in. Jo uses the spoon provided by the Ogrons with her meal to tunnel under the bars of her cell. Averted when the Doctor tries using the sonic screwdriver on the simple electronic lock that Earth Security lock him behind, only to set off an alarm.
  • False Flag Operation: Ships from the Earth Empire are apparently being raided by the Draconian Empire, and vice versa; the attacks are actually being staged by a third alien power that hopes to provoke a war that will weaken both Empires and leave them vulnerable to invasion.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The Master's chest badge hints at the nature of his employers; it's a stylised Dalek.
    • The monster that scares the Ogrons away in the last episode also appears on a mural before we get any explanation.
    • The Ogrons were first introduced as minions of the Daleks, hinting at The Reveal of their involvement. This is also indicated in the alarm the Ogrons show when the Master informs that "they" are coming.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The screen in Madam President's office first shows a news message.
    Reports are coming in of Anti-Draconian riots in Tokyo. No loss of life but property extensively damaged. In several other cities—
    • Later on, it shows a list of the Doctor and Jo's alleged crimes.
  • Friendly Fire: While on the way to the Ogrons planet, the Earth ship is attacked by Draconians. The Draconian Prince says the Officer will be punished, but the Doctor points out they are infringing on Draconian space.
  • General Ripper: The crazy and paranoid General Williams is one of these, as contrasted to the more reasonable Earth President. Subverted later on in the story however, as it turns out that the incident that led to his hatred of the Draconians actually came about from a misunderstanding, and from then on he acts far more reasonably towards them.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Daleks. Even when their role in the plot is revealed the Master still remains the most pressing threat. The Daleks themselves do not step up to Big Bad status until the next serial.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: Done twice. The Ogrons are quickly revealed to be working for the Master, who turns out in the final episode to have been working for the Daleks.
    • Then again the Daleks leave shortly after arriving to leave the Master still in the role of main antagonist.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: Unfortunately for the Master, Jo has learnt how to resist this, by filling her mind with nursery rhymes — the Master gives up out of sheer annoyance.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: After repeatedly refusing to let the Doctor be killed before his plan comes to fruition, the Master seems to accidentally shoot the Doctor just because he had his finger on the trigger while the Ogrons are panicking, and looks rather shocked at what he did.
  • I Know What You Fear: The Master's hypnosound causes this. Humans and Draconians see each other. Jo sees creatures she's encountered in past adventures. The Doctor gets hold of it and turns it on, causing the Master's Ogron mooks to flee as they see the monster.
  • Interrogated for Nothing: General Williams has the Doctor Strapped to an Operating Table and uses the Mind Probe as a Lie Detector. Even thought it reveals the Doctor is telling the truth, he refuses to believe it, convinced the Doctor has just been brainwashed to think this. Fortunately the probe—as predicted—blows up before he can burn the Doctor's brain out.
  • Kangaroo Court: The Doctor doesn't even get this; he's just detained under the Special Security Act and shipped off to the Lunar Penal Colony for life.
  • Karma Houdini: The Prison Governor and Cross, both of whom conspired to assassinate the Doctor and make it look like an escape attempt gone bad.
  • Letting the Air out of the Band: The Master's theme peters out when Jo overcomes his attempts at using the hypnosound against her.
  • The Man Behind the Man: The Master is revealed as the Ogrons' employer. He is, in turn, working for the Daleks.
  • The Master
  • Meaningful Name: The Draconians are Lizard Folk and also obsessed with enacting just but disproportionate retribution for violating their laws.
  • Mind Probe: When one is used on the Doctor it ends up being destroyed when General Williams refuses to accept it as truth. The Doctor talks of a similar Noodle Incident where he was captured by the Medusoids and broke their own mind probe. He was freed when the Medusoids ran out of mind probes.
  • Noodle Incident: Two are quite prominently mentioned by the Doctor. While on the way to the third intergalactic peace conference he was captured by the Medusoids, hairy one-eyed jellyfish, and under the Mind Probe truthfully told them he was on his way to meeting a giant rabbit, a pink elephant and a purple horse with yellow spots. The machine self-destructed from this, and he was freed when the Medusoids ran out of mind probes. Later he reveals he was made a nobleman of Draconica by the 15th Emperor who ruled 500 years ago, when he saved the Draconians from a plague from space.
  • No Seat Belts: Averted in the cargo ship, though the design isn't that appropriate for a space ship.
  • No-Sell:
    • Unlike in "Terror of the Autons", Jo is now able to resist hypnosis, much to the Master's irritation. The hypnosound is also less effective once she knows it's just an illusion.
    • The Doctor says the Mind Probe won't work on a captured Ogron as they don't have a mind to probe.
  • Obscured Special Effects: The monster the Ogrons fear and worship is kept to just a few seconds of a long shot to hide that it looks like a invokedgiant orange scrotum.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: During Episode Two when the Doctor rolls back on his chair to escape his Draconian captors, it is quite obvious that he isn't Jon Pertwee, but a stunt double in a wig.
  • Oh, Crap!: The Doctor and Jo immediately know something is wrong when the Master becomes agreeable during their meeting with the Draconian Emperor.
  • Once an Episode: The Doctor, Jo or either one is imprisoned by one of the various factions who appear in this serial.
  • Painting the Medium: The scenes where the Doctor climbs around the outside of the Master's spacecraft are shot on film, both to blend in with the model effects shots and to give the impression of the ship being a real place (exploiting the show's affinity for Video Inside, Film Outside).
  • Population Control: As worldbuilding, a newsreader announces that the Bureau of Population Control has announced that any family willing to move into the enclosed cities that have just been built in the Arctic will be allowed to have two children. This is in a galactic empire with Casual Interstellar Travel, so one wonders what the total human population is by now.
  • Prison Colony: The Doctor is incarcerated in a prison colony on the Moon for several episodes. All the inmates are political prisoners on lifetime sentences.
  • Psychic Static: How Jo resists the Master's initial mind control attempt.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Both the emperor and the president, who are doing their best avoid a war that their underlings are desperately pushing for, because neither believes the other side would be so stupid as to start one.
  • The Reveal: The revelation in the final episode that the Master is working with the Daleks. Their involvement was hinted at way back in the first episode by the appearance of the Ogrons, who had previously been seen as Dumb Muscle for the Daleks in "Day of the Daleks", but at the time the Doctor brushed it off by saying that the Ogrons could have been hired by anyone.
  • Right Makes Might: The Master claims that he's not afraid at one point due to this trope. Since he's very much in the wrong, it's really the tracking signal on him that his minions are following that reassures him.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Master is reading The War of the Worlds while holding the Doctor and Jo prisoner on his police ship.
    • During Jo's ramblings in the police ship (while buying time for the Doctor to escape), she namedrops James Bond when describing the kinds of adventures that she expected her position at UNIT to entail.
  • Snake Talk: The Draconians have a somewhat subdued version of snake talk, mostly hissing if a word ends on an 's' sound only.
  • So Last Season: The Master's hypnotic powers no longer work on Jo, thanks to her improved mental discipline.
  • Space Brasília: Earth is portrayed via a Stock Footage establishing shot of the Congresso Nacional do Brasil, in Brasilia. Location shots were filmed amid the bland concrete architecture of the Hayward Gallery.
  • Space Clothes: Both Earth-men and Draconians have clothes with big shoulder pieces and High Collar of Doom.
  • Space Cold War: The tensions between the Earth Empire and the Draconian Empire are a deliberate parallel for the situation between the United States and Soviet Union.
  • Spare a Messenger: The Ogrons seal up the airlock they burned through so the crew will be alive to testify that Draconians attacked them. When the Doctor points this out, it's simply assumed that he and Jo are spies and they did this to make sure their agents survived.
  • Spoiler Cover: The Reveal of the Daleks was meant to be a surprise, but the VHS cover features them prominently (technically the DVD cover does as well, but it's less of an issue there seeing how it was actually packaged with "Planet of the Daleks" this time).
  • Stage Whisper: The professor and Cross discuss an escape plan standing barely a few feet away from a guard. But then again, Cross wasn't really trying to get the professor free, so the guard could have known it was a trap.
  • Styrofoam Rocks: The Ogrons use their great strength to smash through a solid door...except you can clearly hear the wooden splinters bouncing off the floor.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: The Ogrons mess up, the Master rants at them; rinse, repeat.
    The Master: So where's the Doctor?
    Ogron: The monster came!
    The Master: The monster? And I suppose you all ran like rabbits?
    Ogron: We fear the monster!
    The Master: You stupid, cowardly idiots! You will answer to your masters for this!
    Ogron: What?! They are coming?
    The Master: Yes, they are coming! Which means that I can dispense with your doubtful assistance! Out of my way!
  • Temporary Substitute: The Ogrons' role was originally going to be filled by the Cybermen, in what would have been their only proper appearance in this era.
  • Time-Travellers Are Spies: Played for longer than usual given that the humans think our heroes are Draconian agents while the Draconians think they're part of a plot to frame them by General Williams. Then the Master shows up with faked records showing the Doctor and Jo are known criminals, further muddying the waters.
  • Title Drop: "The treaty between our two empires established a frontier in space. We have never violated that frontier."
  • Tricked into Escaping:
    • The prison governor tries to kill the Doctor and another prisoner by having a supposedly friendly guard help them escape, only the spacesuits he provided them with have empty tanks and they are locked in a decompressing airlock for the obligatory Cliffhanger. Ironically it's The Master who saves them, having turned up with fake extradition papers. When the Governor gives the escapees a year in solitary confinement, the Master forces him to hand over the Doctor under threat of an official inquiry into the incident.
    • Jo escapes and transmits a radio signal revealing the Master's location and Evil Plan. The Master then appears and reveals that she's only helped lure the Doctor into a trap, as the radio is not a Subspace Ansible so only the Doctor's ship is close enough to pick up the signal.
  • A Taste of the Lash: The Doctor chasing the Master around a spaceship with a belt. invokedYes.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: When the Doctor explains to Jo how they will escape from their cell, all he says is: "So this is what we're going to do..." Cut to execution of the plan.
  • V-Sign: The standard greeting among Peace Party members.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: The last we see of Delgado's Master is him making a hasty retreat after shooting the Doctor.
  • War for Fun and Profit: A classic example of the trope, as the Master uses a whole bunch of False Flag Operations to try to provoke war between Earth and Draconia, hoping to benefit from the Daleks' plan to invade both planets when they exhaust their resources fighting each other.
  • We Need a Distraction: The Master throws the Doctor and Jo into a cell on his spaceship, watched by closed circuit cameras. First the Doctor rambles on about how he got exiled to Earth until the Master gets bored listening to him, then when he breaks through the cage, Jo stands in a position to block the camera view and starts her own monologue.
  • What Are You in For?: But the prisoner asking it already knows everybody is a political prisoner.
  • What Could Have Been: Originally, the Cybermen were working with the Master, not the Ogrons.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The Doctor's new friends in the Moon prison apparently remain there. In the novelisation, he does ask the President to have them released.
  • Wire Fu: The 'weightless' scenes on the outside of the spaceships are done with (quite visible)invoked wires.
  • Women Are Wiser: Of all humans, Madam President is at least somewhat willing to listen to the Doctor's explanation of things, unlike the men who surround her.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Williams wants Jo subjected to the mind probe, but the President demurs.
  • Wutai: Draconia is basically feudal Japan in space with reptile people.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: The efforts of the Doctor and Jo to convince people are hampered by the fact that the Tardis has been stolen by the Ogrons as well, so they've no plausible explanation of how they got on the spaceship. The crew on the other hand accuse them of being spies because it's the easiest explanation for what happened.
  • Zeerust: The spaceships' cockpits don't exactly look modern, but the designs do contribute to the appearance of rugged space cruisers designed to carry out grunt work rather than looking flashy and comfortable.


Video Example(s):


The Master hypnotizes Jo

The Master attempts to hypnotize Jo again, but this time she knows how to deal with him.

How well does it match the trope?

4.89 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / NoSell

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