Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death is one of the longer serials in the franchise. Running seven episodes, this tale originally aired from March through May in 1970, serving as the third story in season seven. It has recently been released as a two disc DVD set.
The Ambassadors of Death is a tale on bigotry and the clash of cultures. Three astronauts return from space, but are taken captive by General Carrington (John Abineri). When the Doctor (Jon Pertwee), Liz (Caroline John), Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), and the rest of UNIT investigate, it is discovered that there is more going on than meets the eye, and the whole thing is really tied into a negotiation between some aliens and the UN.
It’s very hard to talk about the plot of The Ambassadors of Death without giving too much away. There are so many twists and turns in this story that what viewers think is happening is frequently turned on its head. The serial keeps one guessing for quite some time as to what is actually going on, and it’s only when the truth comes out that the Doctor and his friends can do something about it.
A story like this may be exactly what some fans are looking for, but the writing proves uneven. This can likely be chalked up to the fact that it was originally written for the Second Doctor, and then the writer had to try to adapt it to the Third, a feat he had quite a bit of trouble with. After a number of failed drafts, others stepped in to quickly refine the script, which resulted in a story that has a lot of promise at first, but doesn’t play out as interconnected and solid as one might hope. As such, the result is a bit convoluted, and sometimes one may wonder if there aren’t too many twists, changing perception over and over again.
That being said, there are a lot of good elements to The Ambassadors of Death. Most of the episodes end with an engaging cliffhanger that will make you want to keep watching. Pertwee and the other performers are amazing, as usual, doing their very best to sell the material. The initial concept is also interesting, looking at something our own country’s history has had to deal with, forgiving past, sometimes tragic and accidental wrongs, and overcoming preconceived notions, as well as a look at the human soul. Overall, it is not a bad effort.
The Ambassadors of Death had almost as much trouble getting to this DVD release as the writers did delivering an acceptable shooting script. Much of the story was not preserved in color, and the ultimate release is put together from a variety of sources, with much restoration. Considering all this, the look is pretty decent and consistent throughout, the team behind these new Doctor Who DVDs proving once more just how much talent they have.
Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death has plenty of special features. The audio commentary features actors John, Courtney, Peter Halliday, and Geoffrey Beevers, as well as Terrance Dicks, Roy Scammell, Derek Martin, and Michael Ferguson. It is once again moderated by Toby Hadoke. The photo gallery and PDF materials are included, as usual.
The set also includes a trailer, and a featurette that looks at the Third Doctor. Best of all, though, is “Mars Probe 7: Making the Ambassadors of Death” with Dicks, Scammell, Ferguson, Derek Ware, and Margot Hayhoe. It delves into the story behind this serial, and thankfully gives more insight into what went into the finished product. It certainly helps with the overal enjoyment and appreciate of the story to watch this.
Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death may not be the best Doctor Who release to come out this year, but once you look into all of the challenges associated with this particular serial, the efforts behind what has been delivered deserve a lot of respect and praise.
Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death is available now on DVD.