Short thoughts on Doctor Who disc by disc (Originally published June 2012)
Tonight’s soundtrack: Godspeed You Black Emperor!, “The Dead Flag Blues”
Frontios should be a horror story. Turlough certainly screams his head off as though he’s the second girl gonna get kilt. You’ve got a desperate band of survivors getting picked off piecemeal in a remote location. Our heroes are cut off from their escape route pretty damned effectively. Every five minutes we’re reminded that this is fundamentally wrong and we shouldn’t be here. Plus, y’know, it turns out the bad guys aren’t hiding way out in space, but are in fact, alien insects living just below your feet. (“Miss, you need to get out now. THE TRACTATORS ARE COMING FROM INSIDE THE PLANET.”) Oh! And there are human corpses decorating the mining equipment.
Frontios is built to be terrifying. On paper, it’s Aliens meets Sunshine meets The Hills Have Eyes, with a gravity fetish.
Here’s the thing: you get a vibe to do a horror story like that? That’s fantastic. Save it in your Hollywood drawer. I don’t think you should try to make it into family hour entertainment on a BBC budget.
Look at those Tractators. Aren’t the cuddly-wuddliest giant pill bug world destroyers you ever saw? And they’re so well lit! Why, it’s almost as if someone thought it might not be a good idea to punch the whole audience in the face with free nightmares for life and sabotaged your scenario.