Frontier in Space (1973) starring Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Roger Delgado
Frontier in Space – In the year 2450 the Doctor is arrested as a spy as the fragile peace between Earth and Draconia is threatened. But someone … or something … is behind the scene, manipulating both sides.
Frontier in Space is an excellent Doctor Who story arc. It shows The Master at his best. Brilliant, manipulative, and delightful to watch. And Jon Pertwee’s Doctor is a joy to watch as well. As is Katy Manning’s Jo Grant. She’s not a Time Lord, or a scientist. She is resourceful, intelligent, and someone who never just gives up.
The basic story is excellent, as someone is pitting two stellar empires at each others’ throats. So that they can pick up the pieces.
First, the Doctor and Jo land on a spaceship in the far future as it is attacked by Ogrons. But the human crew see the attackers as Draconians. The Doctor and Jo are taken to Earth as spies …
[as the Doctor is telling about when he was exiled to Earth]
The Master: In reminescent mood, are you, Doctor? Poor Miss Grant, you have my deepest sympathy.
Neither the humans nor the Draconians are willing to believe the Doctor and Jo’s story. They’re warning them both that someone is deliberately attempting to provoke a war between Earth and Draconia.
Accused of being a spy, the Doctor is sentenced to imprisonment on the Moon. Meanwhile, Jo is taken into the custody of an old enemy.
The Master: [Sees Jo deep in thought] Penny for them, Miss Grant.
Jo Grant: You. What are YOU doing here?
The Master: To coin a phrase, I’ve come to take you away from all this.
Jo Grant: What are you talking about?
The Master: Surely you don’t want to spend the rest of your life in here, do you?
Jo Grant: Well I’m not going anywhere with you, that’s for sure.
The Master: Oh, but you are, you know. Believe it or not, I am a fully accredited commissioner from the planet Sirius IV, and you and The Doctor are two dangerous criminals being handed over into my custody.
Jo Grant: So it was you. YOU ordered those Ogrons to attack the ships and pretend they were Draconians.
The Master: But of course. Those lumbering idiots could never have thought up such a brilliant scheme by themselves.
Now, The Doctor and Jo are the Master’s prisoners. In a bid to escape, the Doctor makes a dangerous spacewalk.
On Draconia, the Doctor reveals the Master’s plan to provoke war to the Draconian Emperor. But the Master escapes, taking Joe as a hostage.
Then, The Doctor leads a mission to the Organ homeward to apprehend the Master and rescue Jo. But the Master is in league with some of the Doctor’s old enemies.
Dalek Voice: [over the radio] We are about to enter hyperdrive and return to our base. Do not fail the Daleks. [the transmission ends]
The Master: Right, we’ll see who rules the galaxy when this is over. “Do not fail the Daleks”, indeed. You stupid tin boxes.
- Jon Pertwee (Planet of the Daleks) … Dr. Who.
- Roger Delgado (The Mummy’s Shroud) … The Master
- Katy Manning (Doctor Who – The Three Doctors) … Jo Grant
- Vera Fusek … President of Earth
- Michael Hawkins … General Williams
- Peter Birrel … Draconian Prince
- Ramsay Williams … Congressman Brook
- Bill Mitchell … Newscaster
- Stanley Price … Pilot of Space Ship
In the 26th century, the Doctor and Jo strive to preserve the fragile peace which exists between the great intergalactic empires of Earth and Draconia.
Opening with the Doctor, John Pertwee, materializing the Tardis in a starship to avoid collision, “Frontier in Space” is the first half of a space opera that ends on a cliffhanger leading into “The Planet of the Daleks” (1973). It is the 26th century and the Ogrons, previously seen in “Day of the Daleks” (1972), are raiding spaceships from both the Earth and Draconian empires, intent on provoking interstellar war.
Ranging from deep space to Earth and Draconia, from a lunar penal colony to the Ogron home world, the Doctor discovers that the Master (Roger Delgado in his final performance in the role) is set to plunge the galaxy into chaos. Fans expecting Dalek action should be aware that the psychotic pepperpots only appear at the end, although Katy Manning proves heroine Jo Grant’s resilience, and thanks to especially strong make-up and costuming, the Draconians are an impressive addition to the show’s gallery of aliens.
The inevitable cheap special effects and some flaky continuity aside, this is Doctor Who near its ambitious best, even if splitting six episodes onto two tapes does seem highly unnecessary. Sci-fi aficionados will not need much convincing that this story provided inspiration for Babylon 5‘s Earth-Minbari war. –Gary S. Dalkin
- Last appearance of Roger Delgado as The Master.
- Jon Pertwee said that the Draconians were his favourite monsters in Doctor Who.
- Reviewers have observed that the precipitating incident of the first Earth-Draconia war, as depicted in this story, is very similar to the beginning of the Earth-Minbari War in Babylon 5 (1993). Both space wars begin because an Earth vessel misunderstands the significance of an alien ship’s open gunports, and fires on the ship based on this misunderstanding.