EPISODE: The Ambassadors of Death: Episode Seven
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 271
STORY NUMBER: 053
TRANSMITTED: 02 May 1970
WRITER: David Whitaker (and Malcolm Hulke - Uncredited)
DIRECTOR: Michael Ferguson
SCRIPT EDITOR: Terrance Dicks
PRODUCER: Barry Letts
FORMAT: VHS: Doctor Who-Ambassadors of Death
Episode Format: 16mm b&w film recording partially recoloured using 525 off air video
The Doctor bargains for his life agreeing to build a better communications device for Carrington. Carrington takes one of the aliens to Space Headquarters and prepares to make a live television broadcast revealing their existence to the world and calling for an attack on their Spacecraft. He has the Unit troops replaced with his own and the Brigadier arrested, but the Brigadier escapes. The Doctor has used the communication device to signal for help and his transmissions have been picked up by Unit's radio operator. Unit raids the bunker freeing the Doctor & Liz. The now captive Reegan suggests they use the remaining two aliens to get back into space control where they arrest Carrington just before he is able to broadcast live to the world. The alien ship is signalled that their Ambassadors are safe and arrangements are made to return them, finally allowing the Astronauts to come home.
If anything this episode is Unit & the Brigadier's episode. He gets a nice little action sequence breaking out of the Space Centre, raids the bunker, gets back into the Space Centre and arrests the villain. Unfortunately it is spoilt in the middle by the Unit troops riding into battle, to attack the Bunker, in Bessie accompanied by the same music used as they raid the warehouse in the first episode!
Ambassadors of Death is a bit of an odd beast. It's individual parts might feel like they're padded somewhat but put them all together it feels bigger than the sum of it's parts. We've labelled Carrington as the Villain of the piece but in as way his just misguided having taken the accidental death of his co-pilot Jim Danials the wrong way and been greatly affected by the experience. He gets very little condemnation from the Doctor at the end of the story. In all respects Ralph Cornish's analysis that the General is "quite mad" would seem to be accurate. The Alien Ambassadors are reduced to pawns in his hands and he ends up provoking the very conflict he believed was coming. Only the Doctor & the Brigadier's action prevents it.
Joining the cast for this episode only playing Private Johnson, Unit's Radio Operator, is Geoffrey Beevers, the husband of companion Caroline John. He'll be back in The Keeper of Traken playing the Master.
This episode has the Doctor's first close brush with television, just failing to appear on it. We'd seen a news broadcast concerning activities the Doctor is involved in all the way back in The War Machines (also directed by Michael Ferguson). In the following years the Third Doctor will gatecrash a live broadcast of an archaeological dig and interrupt a news broadcast of a peace conference. I think the next time we see a television set after that is during a little end joke in Remembrance of the Daleks.
Fact Philip couldn't squeeze in anywhere else: Ambassadors of Death is Doctor Who & TV Historian Andrew Pixley's favourite Doctor Who story.
For one of the earlier broadcast Jon Pertwee serials it's ended up being one of the last released on two formats already. For many years it was one of three Pertwee stories not adapted by Target Books - the following story Inferno was another. It eventually ended up being the last Pertwee story released in the process turning Pertwee into the first Doctor to have all his stories adapted and creating a run of books from The War Games to The Ribos Operation. The Video meanwhile was released on 20th May 2002 and was one of the last Pertwee releases. I know Invasion Of The Dinosaurs was the last story released on 20/10/2003 and can't think of a Pertwee story released in between. The Soundtrack of The Ambassadors of Death has a CD Audiobook with narration by Caroline John. A DVD was due to be released earlier this month but due to some issues with the colour restoration it's dropped off the schedules.