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Recap / Doctor Who S10 E3 "Frontier in Space"

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Roger Delgado's last outing as the Master is spent in Spandex. Credit where it's due - he makes it work.
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 is able 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, and at the end the Master would've sacrified 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, meanwhile, would ultimately be repurposed for the Valeyard in "The Ultimate Foe".

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


  • All There in the Script: The prison governor is named Stevens.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The Doctor is accused of assault and battery, taking a spaceship without permission, and flying without 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.
  • BBC Quarry: Of course the Ogron planet is another rock quarry.
  • Blatant Lies: The Master claims nobody wants peace more than he does.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: The Doctor borrows the Master's "Oh no, you don't" when the latter tries to get his gun back.
  • Call-Back:
  • Character Outlives Actor: Roger Delgado was to make one last appearance after this serial as the Master in a story where he ultimately gives his life to save the Doctor and the universe. However, after completing this serial, Delgado was killed in a car crash in Turkey. The last we see of the Master is his dastardly escape after shooting the Doctor. The character would not be seen again until "The Deadly Assassin", when he would be an unrecognizably desiccated husk some four years later.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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").
  • 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?
  • Cutlery Escape Aid: Jo uses the spoon provided by the Ogrons with her meal to tunnel under the bars of her cell.
  • Deadpan Snarker: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 as a statue before we get any explanation.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The screen in Madam President's office first shows a news message.
    Reports are coming in of Anti-Draconian riots in Tokio. No loss of life but property extensively damaged. In several other cities-
    • Later on, it shows a list of the Doctor and Jo's crimes.
  • 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 down 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.
  • Holding the Floor: To distract the Master from the Doctor's escape, Jo relates about her entire life to the camera.
  • 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 a creature from a past adventure.
  • 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.
  • 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 Noodle Incident where he was captured by the Medusoids and broke the 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.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: During Eisode 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.
  • Prison Colony: The Doctor is incarcerated in a prison colony on the Moon,, which is mostly filled with political prisoners.
  • Prison Episode: The Doctor spends several episodes incarcerated in a lunar Prison Colony.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Shipper on Deck: Jo ships the Doctor and the Master:
    "But if we do get back, I really do think you ought to be a bit more reasonable with the Master. I mean, he keeps offering you a share in the galaxy, or whatever's going on, and you keep refusing him and playing dirty tricks on him. But, you see, the trouble is with you is, well, you're so stiff-necked. I mean, you've got to realise that this time..."
  • Shout-Out: The Master is reading The War of the Worlds.
  • 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 Clothes: Both Earth-men and Draconians have clothes with big shoulder pieces and collars.
  • Space Cold War
  • 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.
  • The Starscream: The Master.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: The Ogrons mess up, the Master rants at them, rinse, repeat.
  • Title Drop: "The treaty between our two empires established a frontier in space. We have never violated that frontier."
  • 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.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: The last we see of Delgado's Master is him making a hasty retreat after shooting the Doctor.
  • V-Sign: The standard greeting among Peace Party members.
  • 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.
  • What Are You in For?: But the prisoner asking it already knows everybody is a political prisoner.
  • Whip It Good: The Doctor chasing the Master around a spaceship with a belt. Yes.
  • Wire Fu: The 'weightless' scenes on the outside of the spaceships are done with (quite visible) 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 Hurt 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 carrying out grunt work rather than looking flashy and comfortable.


How well does it match the trope?

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