Whenever I watch The Androids of Tara, the 1978 Doctor Who serial, I wonder what would’ve happened if the king had been publicly revealed to be an android.
In the aesthetically mediaeval but technologically futuristic society, the Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana (Mary Tamm) get mixed up in political intrigue partly because Romana happens to look exactly like a certain princess being held in a dungeon by the villainous Count Grendel (Peter Jeffrey).
And then there’s another Romana lookalike, an android, who steps up to murder the king at the end of Part II, not knowing the “king” is in fact an android himself fixed up by the Doctor because Grendel has kidnapped the real one (Neville Jason). Life’s complicated, isn’t it? Everyone is shocked when the Doctor apparently bludgeons the princess with the king’s sceptre and I admire the makers of the show for making this the cliffhanger of Part II. That means viewers had to wait a whole week to find out what really happened though I doubt anyone truly suspected the Doctor of murdering someone.
And then everyone in the courtroom is shocked by the idea that a royal could’ve been replaced by a counterfeit android—meaning the princess, of course—and the Doctor joins in in the general disgust at the idea of such a tactic being employed. But in doing the same, of course, he’s only doing what he must because of Grendel’s machinations. There are always reasons.
But just as obviously as the Doctor didn’t murder someone, we know that the like methods being employed by both sides don’t mean there can never be a real right side to be on. But you can certainly see how it would be tricky.
There’s so much velvet in this serial. The Doctor’s coat, the king’s cherry red velvet coat at the end, and Romana’s purple velvet attire. It’s kind of a subtle joke that she puts it on in the beginning saying it’s what everyone on Tara is wearing and we see absolutely no-one else wearing it. Well, except an android.
And I’ve written about it twice before already but it’s worth saying again—what a great sword fight this serial has.