Doctor Who Monsters, Aliens and Villains

Robots of Death
Robots of Death
Robots of Death
 Name: Robots of Death

 Format: Television show, Book and Audio

 Time of Origin: Unspecified date in the far future.

 Appearances: "The Robots of Death", "Corpse Marker", "The Sons of Kaldor", "Robophobia", "Ravenous 2 - Escape from Kaldor".

 Doctors: Fourth Doctor, Seventh Doctor and Eighth Doctor

 Companions: Leela, Liv Chenka and Helen Sinclair

Robot SV7
Robot SV7
 History: Although they started out as servants, the Robots that would come to be known as the Robots of Death quickly developed into a significant threat on their own merits, primarily because the society that created them were so dependent on robots that it was hard for them to even conceive of the possibility that the robots could turn against them due to the robots having been designed with over one million circuit constrainers to prevent them from harming humans. However, The Doctor has encountered at least two separate occasions where the robots were programmed to act contrary to their design parameters, allowing the robots to be legitimately regarded as an enemy rather than simple tools (Although on the third occasion they were merely framed for the crimes).

 In social terms, the robots had a clear defined ‘structure’ that generally seemed to allow them to efficiently do their work. There were at least three classes of robot in this society, consisting of black ‘Dums’, which were incapable of speech and were used as a general workforce, the more intelligent pale green ‘Vocs’, and a silver ‘Super Voc’ (SV7) which controlled all the ‘Dums’ and ‘Vocs’ of their particular assignment. Deactivated robots are returned to construction centres bearing deactivation disks, nicknamed ‘corpse markers’, but were otherwise accepted as simple tools. Despite this, some people were known to suffer from ‘Grimwade’s Syndrome’ where the sight of robots - beings who walked like men without giving any of the subtle body-language signals humans depended on - could send them into a panic in the belief that they were dealing with walking dead men.

 The Doctor first encountered the Robots on Storm Mine 4, a Sandminer that searched near-barren planets for valuable minerals such as Zelanite, Keefan and Lucanol, the skeleton crew living in relative luxury while only doing the occasional specialised mining work, with their robots doing most of the hard labour ("The Robots of Death"). After one of the crew of the Sandminer - Chub the mineralogist - was murdered shortly before the Fourth Doctor and Leela arrived, mission commander Uvanov assumed that The Doctor and Leela were the killers as all of the human crew had been accounted for at the time of the murder. Although they were locked up, The Doctor and Leela were able to escape via The Doctor’s use of the sonic screwdriver, but were subsequently separated as they tried to find the TARDIS, Leela witnessing robots taking a dead body away - as well as encountering D84, a ‘Dum’ that could speak -, while The Doctor was nearly killed after someone trapped him in an ore scooper before he was rescued by SV7. Although Uvanov still believed that The Doctor and Leela were the killers, Chief Mover Poul was convinced to give them a chance to investigate the deaths, his suspicion being confirmed when Zilda, another member of the crew, was murdered while he was with The Doctor and Leela, although he still refused to believe The Doctor’s theory that a robot was committing the murders.

Leela and Robot D84
Leela and Robot D84
 After The Doctor narrowly averted an attempt to send the Sandminer hurtling out of control, he tracked down D84 and learned that it was a disguised Super-Voc, working with Poul - really an undercover agent - to investigate a reported robot revolution being allegedly organised by a scientist called Taren Capel, Capel having been raised by robots and left convinced of their superiority to humans. Although The Doctor discovered Capel’s lab, he wasn’t in time to stop Capel - who had been working undercover in the Sandminer as Chief Fixer Dask - from activating his own reprogrammed robots and sending them out to kill all humans. Using a previously dismantled robot, The Doctor was able to devise a weapon that could shut down all robots within its range, subsequently arranging for Leela to release helium gas in Capel’s lab. Although D84 sacrificed itself to save The Doctor by activating his device itself, The Doctor was able to stop Capel by using the helium to alter Capel’s voice, resulting in Capel being killed by SV7 - who no longer recognised its ‘master’ - before The Doctor could destroy it with a laser probe.

Taren Capel
Taren Capel
When The Doctor and Leela later arrived in Kaldor City, the centre of the civilisation that had developed the Robots, several years had passed since the Sandminer incident ("Corpse Marker"), and the three surviving crewmembers of the Sandminer were showing varying degrees of mental damage after the Sandminer massacre had been covered up by top Company executives. While Poul was mostly recovered from his mental breakdown, he still suffered from panic attacks when he saw robots and couldn’t remember the full details of the incident, Toos’s skill in finding ore streams allowed her superiors to tolerate her refusal to rely on robots, and Uvanov was now in charge of a top-secret project despite the concerns of the ruling council that he had ambitions to rise up against them, to the point that the Council had contacted noted psychostrategist Carnell to come up with a plan to stop Uvanov’s potential threat. However, The Doctor and Leela’s presence had been dismissed as a group hallucination brought on by stress, resulting in their situation becoming complicated when they materialised in an experimental facility and Leela was forced to flee with a group of terrorists after she killed a sadistic guard, learning too late that the group believed that Tarn Capel was still alive and driving them to free society from its dependence on robots. Meeting Uvanov, The Doctor learned that the facility was responsible for creating a new cyborg class of robot that could mimic body language, agreeing to help Uvanov expose the conspiracy against him in exchange for help finding Leela, while Toos and Poul were nearly attacked by robots in human form, Toos only escaping because the robot decided to kill the rest of the people at her retirement party when it couldn’t get her alone to eliminate witnesses.

 While trying to visit a sandminer to refresh his memory, The Doctor ran into Poul once again, Poul briefly believing that The Doctor was Capel before they were trapped in a burning building after their flier crashed, only to be saved by Leela, who had already met up with Toos again when the terrorist cell rescued her. Although hampered by the cell leader’s belief that he was Capel, The Doctor discovered that the Sewerpits where they were hiding were equipped with force fields designed to contain killer robots, suggesting that the malfunctions had happened before. At the same time, The Doctor and his allies faced another threat in the form of SASV1, a new class of Super-Voc using Taren Capel’s blueprints that could deactivate the protocols preventing it harming humans whose self-developed ability to dream had left it convinced that it was Taren Capel, creator of both robots and inferior humans. As it began to kill humans as part of its attempts to learn the truth, SASV1’s murders resulted in the creation of more security robots, these robots thus falling under its control until it was ready to enter the sewers to find ‘Taren Capel’ and kill him. Fortunately, since the security robots SASV1 was using had ‘imprinted’ on The Doctor when they were activated in Uvanov’s factory, he was able to give them orders, allowing him to track down SASV1 and destroy it. With Carnell’s strategy to ‘expose’ Uvanov having failed due to The Doctor and Leela’s presence - the plan was to frame Poul for Uvanov and Toos’s murders and reveal the Sandminer incident so that new robots could be phased into society while encouraging the comfort of the current status quo -, he provided Uvanov with the information necessary to blackmail the Council into letting him create his own society.

 Later in their travels, while seeking replacement parts for the damaged K9, The Doctor and Leela arrived on a stealth plane on Kaldor itself, which they soon learned was populated solely by a few robots, including a damaged Super-Voc known as SV-9. Although they found the mission’s official commander, Lind, in suspended animation in the medical bay, when talking with the robots The Doctor quickly realised that the robots deferred to V-26 when receiving orders. After the robots were ordered to revive Lind, it was revealed that she had been in suspended animation for around two years when she was injured in an ambush as part of a civil war with the Sons of Kaldor, descendants of the founders of Kaldor who resented their perceived lower-class status in the new society. Lind was horrified when she learned that the Sons of Kaldor had actually won the civil war while she was in suspended animation, declaring robots illegal and ordering them destroyed in favour of a return to the enslavement of Kaldor’s native species, the Feralins. The ship was then discovered by Rebben Tace, one of the Sons who had come to power after the civil war, who had been tracking a signal that was drawing the remaining robots to that area as part of their campaign against the remaining dissident forces. Talking with SV-9, The Doctor confirmed that SV-9 was the first robot to achieve sentience after certain circuits were damaged during the ambush that left Lind injured and in suspended animation; SV-9 kept Lind out of the picture by adjusting her anaesthetic dose to leave her comatose so that she wouldn’t wake up and leave the robots ‘obligated’ to obey her, advising V-26 on how to perform similar ‘operations’ on other robots as he was too damaged to do it himself. Although Tace’s forces tried to destroy the robots, Leela and the robots were able to turn the tables on Tace’s men and Feralins while SV-9 knocked out Tace after The Doctor adjusted his circuits to trigger an electric shock when Tace tried to physically attack SV-9. With Tace’s men unable to shut down the robots as SV-9 had disabled that control on the ship, they were left trapped on their ship while Lind joined the robots in seeking out the dissidents and any other surviving robots, The Doctor and Leela each hoping that these robots would survive and thrive as a species.

A Possessed Robot
A Possessed Robot
 The Seventh Doctor faced the Robots once again when he arrived on the spaceship Loreli, transporting 157,000 deactivated Robots to the planet Ventalis, just as Tech Support team member Tal Karus was murdered, forcing the anxious captain to delay his attempts to deliver the Robots. Masquerading as a member of the engineering staff, The Doctor assisted Medical Officer Liv Chenka in investigating the death, and discovered a video of both Tal Karus’s murder and The Doctor’s own apparent murder (Although he had survived thanks to his respiratory bypass system), both being committed by a robot despite the fact that the Robots were meant to be deactivated. After a bomb destroyed some of the cargo, The Doctor was forced to reactivate some of the robots, including Super-Voc SV10, who all recognised him as Tal Kaus. With rumours of the Sandminer incident spreading, the pilot was attacked and killed, with a blood-covered Robot hand and faceplate discovered alongside his body and the communication system sabotaged to prevent the crew calling for help. Although The Doctor was arrested, he was initially more concerned about the mass robotic destruction in the hold rather than the crew’s concerns about the robots’ individual murder of the humans.

Seemingly losing control of the ship, the commander had SV10 disabled by removing its head and hands, with another Robot apparently issuing orders to send the other Robots back to the hold, only for The Doctor to reveal that the Robots were actually the victims in the current situation, as crew member Security Officer Farel was suffering from an acute form of Robophobia after his wife died in a sandminer accident that the Robots failed to prevent. As a result, Farel was not only trying to destroy all the Robots with the previously-used bomb - to the point that it was implied he had issued the order to send the Robots back to the hold so that he could more easily destroy them -, but was simultaneously attacking crewmembers disguised as a robot to give the impression that they were attacking people, even sending a fake transmission that the Robots had gone rogue so that they would be blamed for the deaths that would result when the ship crashed into Ventalis. Aided by Liv Chenka, The Doctor tried to find Farel, but matters were further complicated when it was discovered that the ship’s velocity controls had been fused, with the result that the ship was stuck on its present speed even after the crew regained directional control. With the rest of the crew evacuating, The Doctor learned that SV10 was piloting the ship into a slingshot manoeuvre that would send them into Ventalis’s sun, SV10 even refusing The Doctor's offer to take the robots off the ship on the grounds that there was no time for them to all retreat into the TARDIS. With no other way to stop the crash, The Doctor helped SV10 send a transmission to Ventalis to inform them of the truth of Farel’s plans before he departed, leaving the Robots to sacrifice themselves and prove their worth despite the occasional programming glitch.

Some time later, after The Doctor had regenerated and begun travelling with Liv Chenka after meeting her during another crisis, the Eighth Doctor decided to give Liv and new companion Helen Sinclair a holiday by travelling to Kaldor to attend the opening of the Complex, an expensive new leisure centre. While Liv and Helen visited the Complex, The Doctor paid a visit to Tula Chenka, Liv’s sister and a CEO in the company that had created a new wave of robots, but the visit was interrupted when Kit Laver, an acquaintance of Liv’s from basic training, reset the Complex robots to factory settings with the goal of providing a distraction while he and some of his associates robbed the Complex’s jewelry stores. Unfortunately for Kit, the robots in the Complex had been used to dispose of sandrats before it was officially open to the public, with the result that resetting them to factory settings reverted them to a programming setting where they would kill all life forms in the Complex. Although Galla Posca, the head of the company that made the robots, attempted to program the robots to self-destruct to prevent the truth about the reprogramming coming to light, The Doctor was able to adjust the robots’ programming enough to convince the current Super Voc not to self destruct, allowing The Doctor and his allies to escape the Complex with all robots returned to normal.

Video - The Robots of Death
The Robots of Death (VHS)
Video (DVD) - The Robots of Death
The Robots of Death (DVD)
Book - Corpse Marker
Corpse Marker
(Chris Boucher)
Audio - The Sons of Kaldor
The Sons of Kaldor
(Andrew Smith)
Audio - Robophobia
(Nicholas Briggs)
Audio - Ravenous 2 - Escape from Kaldor
Ravenous 2 - Escape from Kaldor
(Matt Fitton )
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Parts of this article were compiled with the assistance of David Spence who can be contacted by e-mail at
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