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The Ambassadors of Death
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Jon Pertwee
The Ambassadors of Death
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Synopsis


An Ambassador
An Ambassador
 When all communication is lost from Mars Probe 7 shortly after it leaves Mars and begins its trip back to Earth, a second craft is launched to investigate. As Recovery 7 docks in space, it too loses all communication...

 The Doctor and UNIT are given the task of investigating the mystery, as Recovery 7 returns to Earth. It appears that no one can be trusted, as the space capsule is hijacked from its UNIT convoy with military precision. What has happened to the missing astronauts? Could this be a secret invasion from Mars, or is the enemy much closer to home?

 As The Doctor plans a daring space mission of his own, his assistant Liz Shaw goes missing. Who is working against UNIT in order to bring mankind into conflict with an alien race?

Source: BBC VHS Video


General Information

Season: Seven
Production Code: CCC
Story Number: 53
Episode Numbers:265 - 271
Number of Episodes: 7
Percentage of Episodes Held:100%
Working Titles:"The Invaders from Mars", "The Carriers of Death" and "The Ambassadors"
Production Dates: January - March 1970
Broadcast Started: 21 March 1970
Broadcast Finished: 02 May 1970
Colour Status: Colour and B&W
Studio: BBC Television Centre (TC1, TC3 and TC4)
Location: Little Marlow Sewage Treatment Works, Folley's Gravel Pit and Marlow Weir (Buckinghamshire), Southall Gas Works (Middlesex), TCC Condensers (Ealing), Wycombe Air Park (High Wycombe), Blue Circle Cement Works (Northfleet, Kent), Aldershot and Beacon Hill.
Writers:David Whitaker, Malcolm Hulke (Uncredited) and Trevor Ray (Uncredited)
Director:Michael Ferguson
Producer:Barry Letts
Script Editor:Terrance Dicks
Editors:Chris Wimble and Don Goddard
Production Assistant:Nicholas John
Assistant Floor Manager:Margot Hayhoe
Designer:David Myerscough-Jones
Costume Designer:Christine Rawlins
Make-Up Designers:Marion Richards and Teresa Wright
Cameramen:A A Englander and Tony Leggo
Incidental Music:Dudley Simpson
Special Sounds (SFX Editor):Brian Hodgson
Studio Sounds:Brian Hiles and Gordon Mackie
Lighting:Dave Sydenham, Geoff Shaw and Ralph Walton
Visual Effects:Ian Scoones and Peter Day
Title Sequence:Bernard Lodge and Ben Palmer
Title Music:Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Arranged by Delia Derbyshire
Stunts/Action By: HAVOC
Number of Doctors: 1
The Doctor: Jon Pertwee (The Third Doctor)
Number of Companions: 3The Companions: Nicholas Courtney (The Brigadier), John Levene (Sergeant Benton) (Rejoins) and Caroline John (Liz Shaw) Guest Cast: Ronald Allen (Ralph Cornish) Additional Cast: Robert Cawdron (Taltalian), John Abineri (General Carrington), Ric Felgate (Van Lyden), Michael Wisher (John Wakefield), Cheryl Molineaux (Miss Rutherford), Ray Armstrong (Grey), Robert Robertson (Collinson), Dallas Cavell (Quinlan), Bernard Martin (Control Room Assistant), Joanna Ross (Control Room Assistant), Carl Conway (Control Room Assistant), Juan Moreno (Dobson), James Haswell (Corporal Champion), Derek Ware (Unit Sergeant), William Dysart (Reegan), Cyril Shaps (Lennox), Gordon Sterne (Heldorf), Steve Peters (Astronauts), Neville Simons (Astronauts), Ric Felgate (Astronauts), Max Faulkner (Unit Soldier), John Lord (Masters), Tony Harwood (Flynn), James Clayton (Private Parker), Roy Scammell (Technician), Peter Noel Cook (Alien Space Captain), Peter Halliday (Alien Voices), Steve Peters (Lefee), Neville Simons (Michaels), Geoffrey Beevers (Private Johnson)Setting: Earth and Earth Orbit (1970s) Villains:General Carrington and Reegan

The Episodes

No. Episodes Broadcast
(UK)
Duration Viewers
(Millions)
In Archive
265Episode 121 March 197024'33"7.1PAL 2" colour videotape and 16mm B&W telerecording
266Episode 228 March 197024'39"7.616mm B&W telerecording
267Episode 304 April 197024'38"8.016mm B&W telerecording
268Episode 411 April 197024'37"9.316mm B&W telerecording
269Episode 518 April 197024'17"7.1PAL D3 colour restoration and 16mm B&W telerecording
270Episode 625 April 197024'31"6.9PAL D3 colour restoration and 16mm B&W telerecording
271Episode 702 May 197024'32"6.416mm B&W telerecording

Total Duration 2 Hours 52 Minutes


Audience Appreciation

Average Viewers (Millions) 7.5
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (1998)69.33%  (Position = 73 out of 159)
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (2003)414 Points (Position = 39 out of 159)
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (2009)71.64% Higher (Position = 90 out of 200)
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (2014)72.81% Higher (Position = 96 out of 241)


Archives


 All seven episodes exist as 16mm Black and White telerecordings. Episode one also exists on PAL 2" colour videotape. PAL D3 colour restorations also exist of episodes 5 and 6 (due to colour faults episodes 2-4 and 7 could not be restored and episode 6 is not considered broadcastable).



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Notes


"The Ambassadors of Death" is a much maligned story, by many fans of the show, where the aliens aren't the villains.

This story is similar to The Quatermass Experiment, where a returning astronaut was also replaced by an alien.

It is the earliest story originally made in colour for which much of the colour footage is lost; only the first episode was retained in its original colour format – making it the earliest episode that survives in the show's original videotaped format, either in colour or black and white.

The working title for this story included: "The Invaders from Mars". This became the title of a Big Finish Productions audio story.

This story was initially developed to feature the Second Doctor and his last companions, Jamie McCrimmon and Zoe Heriot. As such, it was set well into the future, and did not include UNIT. When all three actors left the programme at the end of Season Six, it was rewritten to fit the consequential revamp of the show.

Though David Whitaker is credited as the writer he only penned draft scripts through to episode 3. Trevor Ray penned the final version of the first episode and Malcolm Hulke finalized the scripts for the remaining six episodes. This story was David Whitaker's last, and least favourite, Doctor Who story. It was also the last Doctor Who story with his name on it and is amongst his final BBC work.

Unlike "Doctor Who and the Silurians", in which new producer Barry Letts had experimented with the recording pattern, "The Ambassadors of Death" employed the traditional studio schedule of completing one episode every seven days.

The opening title sequences of this story are unique for the show. The opening titles of this story start with the normal music and graphics, yet immediately they fade after the Doctor Who title caption. There is then a short "teaser" for episode one, and episodes 2-7 feature a reprise of the previous episode's cliffhanger before resuming to display the story title, writer and episode number captions. For the story title the words ‘The Ambassadors’, appear first on screen followed by ‘of Death’ zooming into view accompanied by a musical "sting". This experiment was not repeated after this story.

For episode five the production team decided to replace the role of the scripted sergeant (whose surname was apparently West) with John Levene as Sergeant Benton. This was to be his first regular appearance as Sergeant Benton. The character had been introduced as a Corporal in the previous season's "The Invasion", the story which had introduced the UNIT concept, and had already been invited back for "Inferno", the next story in production.

Caroline John's husband, Geoffrey Beevers played the part of Private Johnson. This story also features a guest appearance by Ronald Allen.

Actor Michael Wisher also appears in the role of John Wakefield, a television reporter. Michael Wisher later became best known for playing Davros in the Season Twelve story "Genesis of the Daleks" and made numerous other appearances in the show.

During this story it is revealed that The Doctor’s yellow roadster, Bessie, is fitted with an 'anti-theft device' which sticks the villain to the car.

This story is another example of the UNIT dating controversy. In this story, the UK is already engaging in manned space missions to Mars and Jupiter, yet this would seem to contradict "The Christmas Invasion", where it is revealed that the UK has only just sent out its first unmanned probe to Mars in search of life.

The Brigadier is arrested by a superior for the second time in three stories. Also there is a different UNIT lab - indicating that UNIT has more than one HQ.

Apart from The Brigadier, who retained his regular uniform, all UNIT ranks wore new futuristic-looking uniforms which only ever feature in this story. The usual velcro-fastened jacket, shirt and tie were replaced on this occasion with a zip-up jacket without lapels worn over a polo-neck sweater.

The Doctor it seems is still nursing a grudge against The Brigadier for blowing up the Silurian hibernation chambers in the previous story "Doctor Who and the Silurians".

One interesting scene is where The Doctor is fixing the TARDIS's time vector generator, which sends Liz Shaw 10 seconds into the future.

Unusually, to save on costs, the Recovery 7 set was a co-financed venture between the Doctor Who production office and the BBC drama series Doomwatch, for which it served as Sunfire One in the episode "Re-Entry Forbidden".

The Mars Probe space program appeared in two of Virgin Books' Doctor Who novels. "Who Killed Kennedy" revealed that the shuttles were developed from technology taken from International Electromatics. While in the Virgin Books' The New Adventures story "The Dying Days" it was revealed that the program was abandoned when Mars Probe 13 accidentally encountered the Ice Warriors and it was agreed that Earth would stay away from their territory. The Tenth Doctor story, "The Christmas Invasion", also involves aliens attacking Earth after they intercept a probe sent to Mars and the Big Finish Productions audio story "Red Dawn" also features a manned mission to Mars.

This story includes some excellent model sequences of Mars Probe 7, Recovery 7 and the alien spaceship, accompanied by some unusual and highly effective incidental music courtesy of Dudley Simpson.

This was the first story to credit on-screen the Havoc stunt organisation, though this group (managed by Derek Ware) had been employed on the show since the 1966 First Doctor story "The Smugglers".

A trailer created specially for this story exists on the master tape of episode 7 of the previous story, "Doctor Who and the Silurians".

All seven episodes exist as 16mm Black & White telerecordings, and episode one also exists on PAL 2" colour videotape. Syndicated NTSC versions were sent abroad prior to the wiping of the original colour videotapes but these could not be found. An early domestic video recording, made from a US transmission in the 1970s, was later found to exist (in episodic form) and made available to the BBC in hopes of a re-colourisation. However, faults in the colour signal (a rainbow-coloured pattern of interference) were deemed to great to allow re-colourisation of episodes 2-4 and 7. PAL D3 colour restorations of episodes 5 and 6 have been made even though episode 6 still has many of these colour faults and so is not considered broadcastable.

In May 2002, a restoration project for the story's VHS release combined the usable colour information from the domestic recordings with the black and white picture from the film prints, creating a high-quality colour picture. Over half of the story's running time is presented in colour, including all of episodes 1 and 5, and sections from episodes 2, 3, 6 and 7. The remaining footage, including all of episode 4, was deemed unsuitable for restoration, and so remains in black-and-white.

A novelisation of this story, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in May 1987 and was the final Third Doctor story to be adapted. The Third Doctor's era was, as a result, the first to be completely adapted by Target Books, to be followed over the next few years by the eras for the First Doctor, Seventh Doctor, and Second Doctor, plus the single televised Eighth Doctor story, in that order.



First and Last

The Firsts:

 John Levene's first full story as official companion, Sergeant Benton.

 The first story to include an on-screen credit for the Havoc stunt organisation

 The first Doctor Who story to be written by Trevor Ray.


The Lasts (Subject to Future Stories):

 Writer David Whitaker's last involvement in the show.

 The last Third Doctor story to be novelised by Target Books.


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The Plot

WARNING: May Contain SpoilersHide Text
An Ambassador
An Ambassador

The United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT) is tasked in providing security for a British space programme during a time when a recovery capsule, Recovery 7, has been sent to rendezvous with Mars Probe 7, with which radio contact has been lost while orbiting Mars. The Doctor and Liz Shaw are watching this recovery mission, via a live television broadcast, just as Recovery 7 links up with the Mars Probe. Suddenly there is a loud burst of noise which The Doctor recognises as being a message. This prompts The Doctor and Liz to head for the Space Centre.

Soon after they arrive the message is repeated followed by a further burst of noise which The Doctor deduces is a reply. The Doctor is curious as to what was in the message and who sent the reply. The Doctor tries to decode the message but this proves not to be possible when it is discovered that someone has sabotaged the computers. Meanwhile Recovery 7 has returned to Earth and while it is being transported by UNIT it is ambushed and stolen. The Doctor though is able to retrieve the capsule and so bring it finally to the Space Centre. However, after a security alert at the Space Centre, the capsule is opened. But it is found that the astronauts have already been removed. Liz also discovers that the interior of the capsule is highly radioactive.

The Doctor voices his concerns to The Brigadier that he is certain that someone on Earth has interfered with the recovery mission by kidnapping the astronauts. They manage to meet Sir James Quinlan, the Minister for Technology, who explains that he is head of the newly formed Space Security Department, and that the astronauts have been infected with contagious radiation. Because they did not want the public to become panic-stricken he authorised General Carrington, a former astronaut on Mars Probe 6, to capture the astronauts so that they can be cared for.

The TARDIS Console
The TARDIS Console

The Doctor does not believe this and so demands to see the astronauts. General Carrington reluctantly agrees to take them to the lab where they are being held. But before The Doctor arrives a thug called Reegan removes the three astronauts from the lab. When The Doctor realises, from the very high radiation readings, that the astronauts who returned from space are alien and that the human pilots must therefore still be in space.

The alien astronauts have now collapsed while being looked after by a Doctor Lennox. Under orders from General Carrington he reluctantly 'feeds' them more radiation and to his disbelief they start to recover. General Carrington then orders Reegan to deal with The Doctor and Liz and the latter is kidnapped and taken to work with Doctor Lennox. Liz tries to escape but before she can get very far she is caught by General Carrington who is on his way, in his car, to check on the condition of the aliens.

The Brigadier
The Brigadier

Despite the obstruction of the authorities, the director of the British space programme, Professor Ralph Cornish, is determined to organise another space flight to Mars to investigate the situation. However, there is insufficient standard rocket fuel to make the trip but a more powerful M3 variant is available but using it would create more G-force than a human astronaut could stand. The Doctor therefore offers to pilot the ship himself.

As he prepares to blast off Reegan tries to sabotage the probe by increasing the feed of M3 variant, but The Doctor survives the attempt on his life and succeeds in piloting the probe and docking it with Mars Probe 7 still orbiting Mars. However, the three human astronauts are not aboard. Then Mars Probe 7 is intercepted by a huge alien spaceship and The Doctor finds himself taken onboard. Inside The Doctor discovers the three original astronauts are unharmed but mentally deluded into believing they are in quarantine. An alien being now reveals itself to The Doctor and explains the humans are being held captive pending the safe return of their Ambassadors. They had been sent to Earth following a treaty between the race and mankind, but the terms of this agreement have now been broken because of the detention of the Ambassadors. The Doctor offers his personal guarantee to help return the Ambassadors to their mother ship and resolve the conflict before a state of war is declared, and is permitted to leave the alien craft and return to Earth.

However, when The Doctor returns to Earth, Reegan sabotages the decontamination tank gassing The Doctor. The Doctor is then taken to the secret base where Liz and the three Ambassadors are being kept. The Doctor discovers that Liz has been forced to assist a scientist called Lennox to build a device to communicate with, and control the aliens, who are then sent on a killer rampage at the Space Centre.

The Doctor is Attacked
The Doctor is Attacked

It is then that it is revealed that General Carrington is the person responsible for the current situation, and that his actions have been prompted by xenophobia driven by his own encounter with the alien beings when he piloted Mars Probe 6 some years earlier. When his co-pilot, Jim Daniels, was killed by the aliens the General signed a treaty with the aliens to lure three of their number to Earth, where he planned to unveil their real agenda of an alien invasion – despite this not being the case.

The General then reveals that the next phase of his plan is to force the Ambassadors to confess their plot on public television. Leaving The Doctor and Liz working on a new and improved communication device to communicate with the aliens, Carrington departs for the Space Centre, where he aims to unmask the alien Ambassador before the eyes of the world – and then call on the powers of the Earth to unite and blast the spaceship from the skies.

Back at the secret base The Doctor is able to construct a signalling device to alert UNIT. It is not long before The Brigadier and a number of UNIT troops manage to liberate them, killing Reegan in the process. On learning of what The Doctor discovered while in space and General Carrington’s plans they race back to the Space Centre and manage to apprehend General Carrington before he can make his broadcast. He is taken away, protesting he was only following his moral duty. The Doctor then arranges for the Ambassadors to be returned to their own people knowing that this will result in the three human astronauts being returned.

 
The Brigadier, The Doctor and Liz
The Brigadier, The Doctor and Liz
Ambassadors on Guard
Ambassadors on Guard
An Ambassador
An Ambassador
Liz Shaw
Liz Shaw
 
Liz Shaw and The Doctor
Liz Shaw and The Doctor
Liz is Threatened
Liz is Threatened
Recovery 7 Capsule
Recovery 7 Capsule
General Carrington
General Carrington




Quote of the Story


 'I don't know what came down in Recovery 7, but it certainly wasn't human!'

The Doctor



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Release Information

FormatTitleRelease Date (UK)Code NumberCover ArtRemarks
Video
VHS
The Ambassadors of DeathMay 2002BBCV 7265Photo-montageEpisodes 1 and 5 are in colour, with the other episodes altering between colour and black & white footage depending on availability of source material (nearly 90 total minutes in colour)
Audio
CD
The Ambassadors of DeathAugust 2009Photo-montageNarrated by Caroline John (Liz Shaw) Double CD Release Includes a bonus interview with Caroline John
Video
DVD
The Ambassadors of DeathOctober 2012BBCDVD 3484Photo-montage
Audio
CD
Classic TV Adventures - Collection TwoOctober 2017Photo-montagePart of the "Classic TV Adventures Collection Two" Box Set Narrated by Caroline John (Liz Shaw)


In Print

FormatTitleRelease Date (UK)PublisherAuthorCover ArtRemarks
Novel
Novel
The Ambassadors of DeathOctober 1987Target No. 121Terrance DicksTony MaseroISBN: 0-426-20305-4
Novel
Novel
The Ambassadors of DeathMarch 1991Target No. 121Terrance DicksAlister PearsonVirgin new cover reprint.
ISBN: 0-426-20305-4
CD
CD
The Ambassadors of DeathJanuary 2018Target No. 121Terrance DicksTony MaseroAudio version of the Target Novel read by Geoffrey Beevers (The Master).
Doctor Who CMS Magazine (An Adventure in Space and Time)Issue 53
Doctor Who Monthly - Article/FeatureIssue 45 (Released: October 1980)
Doctor Who Magazine - ArchiveIssue 252 (Released: June 1997)
Doctor Who Magazine - Time TeamIssue 323 (Released: November 2002)
Doctor Who Magazine - Time TeamIssue 324 (Released: December 2002)

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Photo Gallery


The Doctor and Companions

 
Jon Pertwee
The Third Doctor

   

Nicholas Courtney
The Brigadier
John Levene
Sergeant Benton
Caroline John
Liz Shaw
   




On Release

VHS Video Cover
VHS Video Cover

BBC
VIDEO
Soundtrack CD Cover
Soundtrack CD Cover

BBC
AUDIO
DVD Cover
DVD Cover

BBC
VIDEO
Classic TV Adventures Collection Two CD Cover
Classic TV Adventures Collection Two CD Cover

BBC
AUDIO
   



In Print

Original Target Book Cover
Original Target Book Cover

Target
NOVEL
Reprinted Virgin Book Cover
Reprinted Virgin Book Cover

Virgin
NOVEL
Target Audio CD Cover
Target Audio CD Cover

BBC
CD
   


Magazines

Doctor Who CMS Magazine (An Adventure in Space and Time): Issue 53
Doctor Who CMS Magazine (An Adventure in Space and Time): Issue 53

CMS
Doctor Who Monthly - Article/Feature: Issue 45
Doctor Who Monthly - Article/Feature: Issue 45

Marvel Comics
Doctor Who Magazine - Archive: Issue 252
Doctor Who Magazine - Archive: Issue 252

Marvel Comics
Doctor Who Magazine - Time Team: Issue 323
Doctor Who Magazine - Time Team: Issue 323

Marvel Comics
   
Doctor Who Magazine - Time Team: Issue 324
Doctor Who Magazine - Time Team: Issue 324

Marvel Comics


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