Recap: In the far, far, far future, the TARDIS lands on a colony planet with one of the last groups of humanity. In a meteorite storm, the TARDIS is apparently destroyed. Overcoming suspicions (more or less), The Doctor and his companions end up going underground and encountering creatures that Turlough has some recollection of – insectoids called Tractators.

spoiler warning

Episode 3:

Seeing The Doctor in danger, Tegan throws down one of the chemical lamps, causing a bright flash, scaring off the Tractators! Tegan and Norna run off, while The Doctor lingers to hold off the bugs.

Brazen and the guards with him finally break out of the medical center. Brazen gives a rousing speech, saying retrograde behavior is in full swing. Seeing the looters, he gives them a minute to clear out.

Tegan and Norna reunite with Range and Turlough; Tegan goes back for The Doctor, and Range follows, leaving Norna to stay with the nearly comatose Turlough.

The Doctor encounters two Tractators; he hides behind a big bumpy ball (egg?) and they move it with their purple nimbus power, but he uses the momentum to take them out. He runs off and sees Tegan, but is caught in the purple nimbus again, saying it’s a form of gravity beam.

When Range shows up, The Doctor yells at him to get everyone back to the research center. The Doctor and Tegan are dragged off by the beam.

Range returns to Norna and Turlough, where the boy has started ranting about the Tractators once infected his home world – Range suspects it’s an ancestral memory.

Brazen and crew enter the ship. He catches Cockerill looting, who says it’s all over, that Frontios is doomed, that Plantagenet was eaten by the earth.

The Doctor throws their other lamp as they are dragged close to the Tractators; again, the explosion helps them escape.

Brazen has Cockerill arrested.

As they head back to the research room, Norna finds a map with Revere’s writing. Range and Norna start debating about Revere’s secrecy and the unaccountable deaths.

Surprisingly, Brazen releases Cockerill with a few days’ food, saying he doesn’t have what it takes to survive. To prove his point, Retrogrades attack Cockerill for his food; Brazen and his men refuse to help.

Turlough seems to be recollecting his ancestral memory, but there’s a block of some sort. Range and Norna encourage him to break through the block, but it’s too much for him and he collapses again.

Brazen is awaiting Range, Norna and Turlough at the research room, arresting them for Range’s seditious files.

Cockerill calls out to the retrogrades as the earth grabs him, starts pulling him in.

The Doctor says Turlough should be able to help fill them in about the creatures. He and Tegan come across several Tractators using their gravity beam to pull someone (Cockerill) down. The creature sees The Doctor and Tegan and is distracted when they run off. As a result, Cockerill is freed and the retrogrades think he is special for “outliving the hunger of the earth”.

Range is questioned by a woman we’ve not seen before, who seems to be a judge. When he starts to justify his records, the deputy (woman) dismisses knowing about the myths.

Brazen accuses him of collecting the records to breed sedition. When Range asks if Plantagenet accuses him of this, the deputy says it is so, but Range demands to know where he is. When she says nothing, he tells them Tegan told him what happened to Plantagenet.

Turlough responds to the phrase “eaten by the earth”, and starts rambling about the Tractators pulling them down in their times of weakness. Brazen questions him, wanting to hear all about it.

The Doctor and Tegan wander the tunnels. The Doctor says the Tractators are highly intelligent and are carving out a warren of tunnels.

We see a group of Tractators; one speaks, saying they must bring The Doctor to them and orders for “the machine” to be sent out. There’s a man (Revere? Plantagenet? Sitting in a cage shaped like a sphere.

Brazen demands to know what the Tractators are up to, what their goals are. He argues with Range and Norna whose fault it is that things have gone so poorly.

Brazen admits he has seen someone pulled into the earth and leads them elsewhere to show them something.

Tegan says she wants to be back in the TARDIS, but The Doctor says it’s probably scattered in pieces.

Brazen shows Range and Norna (and Turlough, but he’s still mostly out of it) where Revere had been sucked into the earth. He tells them the body in the state funeral wasn’t Revere’s (and apparently the face was obscured.)

Turlough, suddenly coherent, says that Revere may still be alive – the Tractators need living bodies and minds.

In the gathering place, the talking Tractator talks to the man in the sphere cage. It says, “The work of excavation is our task. Beneath the soil we can expand and populate all of Frontios.” It asks Plantagenet if he understands; the young man says they will not reach their goals.

The Tractator (leader?) says that is not their goal, only a first step. It tells Plantagenet that this is not a war, but a “cooperation”. That seems ominous.

When Plantagenet says they will never cooperate with them, the Tractator says they already do. They use a human mind to drive their excavation machine, but that mind is soon to be burnt out – and Plantagenet will replace it.

The Doctor and Tegan hear the sound of the excavation machine, getting closer. They turn back, trying to avoid it.

Brazen’s men head down into the tunnels. Brazen wants to take Turlough, but Range insists he go instead, as the boy isn’t ready. Brazen reluctantly agrees.

The Doctor pulls Tegan aside, trying to avoid Tractators. But they hear the machine approaching from behind.

Turlough goes down into the tunnels after the rest of the party, leaving Norna behind to man the research room/center. After he’s gone, we see Retrogrades sneaking up on her.

The Doctor and Tegan choose to face the Tractators rather than the excavation machine; they head forward, finding the large number amassed in the chamber with Plantagenet. They try to turn back, but find their way barred by the approaching excavation machine – a huge machine that has the body of Revere in it… and the credits roll.

Not a smashing cliffhanger, because it was obvious that was what the Tractator was talking about when taunting Plantagenet, but well, there you have it.

Episode 4:

The Tractator leader speaks to them, saying it is rare that two specimens have come from the surface undamaged. It seems they know of The Doctor, “at least by reputation”. The leader introduces itself as “The Gravis”.

The retrogrades approach Norna; she struggles with one, who overpowers her.

The Gravis says The Doctor will never leave Frontios, never return to Gallifrey; Tegan says that’s likely, “considering the state of the TARDIS”. The Gravis is alarmed/excited at hearing they have a TARDIS – you know, companions need to learn to shut the hell up sometimes.

The Doctor tries to play off Tegan, realising he can use the promise of a TARDIS, of travel, as a negotiating chip. The Gravis says it would like to see the TARDIS.

A guard enters the research room and grabs some food, but doesn’t seen Norna and the retrograde.

The Doctor assures the Gravis that he was not sent by Gallifrey, as they have a policy of non-intervention. Tegan complains, saying he’s telling the Gravis to “carry on, as is,” and The Doctor says the Tractators were there first – obviously, he’s playing for time, but Tegan can’t seem to realise that (they never do.)

Cockerill rescues Norna from the retrograde, assisted by another retrograde. When she questions what he’s doing with the retrogrades when he’s an Orderly, he says he’s retired.

The Doctor seems to be playing Tegan off as a “serving machine”, saying they’re perfectly reliable on Gallifrey, but perhaps the humidity here is affecting her. She’s encased in the purple nimbus. Gravis says she will be kept there, while he and The Doctor wander off.

The retrogrades take weapons and food in the research room. Norna argues, saying this isn’t the way to do it. The other retrogrades says the earth returned him, he’s the man to save the planet.

Revere is removed from the excavation machine, and The Doctor says he seems to be dead enough. The Gravis shows him the replacement – Plantagenet.

Range, Brazen and party hide as Turlough staggers through, catching up. Range chastises him, saying he was supposed to be with Norna, and goes back to be with his daughter. Brazen has Turlough show him the way. (Not sure why he knows the way…)

The Doctor plays for time before Plantagenet is placed in the machine. It comes about that the bombardments are caused by the Tractators – it also is revealed that they were the cause for the colony ship to crash in the first place!

Range is captured by a Tractator.

Plantagenet is being wired in to the machine. The Doctor gets a chance and whispers to Plantagenet saying he’s still a friend and when the time comes be ready to act.

Turlough is spotted by a Tractator and is nimbused and pulled to it. Brazen tries to hold on, but cannot.

Range is seen escaping his captor.

Tegan, freed when the Tractator grabbed Turlough starts bitching. Because that’s what she does. (I had a serious crush on her when I was a teenager; now she’s still nice to look at but DAMN is she annoying most of the time.) Brazen’s men attack the Tractator while Tegan harps for them to come help The Doctor.

The Gravis wants to show The Doctor how they make the walls smooth. He’s just showing off for the Time Lord, apparently. The Doctor confesses why they needed such a fine polish, but guesses it is more of the gravitational engineering – they’re wave guides, to focus their forces.

Gravis begins spouting off the plan, but just then Brazen and the others show up. The Doctor moves to free Plantagenet, and when the Gravis moves to stop him, The Doctor causes a jolt of energy to leap from the excavation machine, hitting the Gravis. He staggers and falls, and the others seem incapable of doing anything while he’s stunned.

The Doctor frees Plantagenet, but the machine’s coils keep reaching for someone. Turlough seems as if he’s going to willingly place himself in it, but when The Doctor and Brazen struggle with him, Brazen ends up falling into the machine.

The Gravis is recovering and Brazen orders them to go without him before it’s too late.

Back at the research room, Cockerill and his retrogrades have taken guards prisoner (Brazen’s? I’m not sure) – he gives them a speech, saying he never wanted to be a “second Plantagenet”, but he has no choice. This is a new Frontios, he says. Norna says that Plantagenet is still alive. She tells them the guards when down to save him. (Ok, apparently not Brazen’s men – at least not the ones he took into the tunnels.)

Just then, Range arrives, saying Frontios is doomed.

In the caverns, Turlough says he remembers everything. The Doctor blows him off, “All in good time, Turlough.” Um, no, it seems to me that this is a good time.

Turlough says he knows what they are; Plantagenet says he knows what they’re up to. They rush off, hearing the excavation machine seemingly gone mad.

At seeing the wrecked excavation machine, the Gravis swears vengeance against The Doctor for disrupting his plans.

Finding non-Tractator tunnels, The Doctor and party rest. Turlough and Plantagenet explain that the Tractators turn planets into ‘ships’, driving them through the universe. (Hey, like Mondas!) The Doctor says that will allow them to spread their infestation, that “nowhere in the Universe will be safe from them”.

It comes out that there’s a second excavation machine, all they need is a driver. Suddenly, the guard (orderly) posted watch screams as he is grabbed and dragged off. Everyone dashes off, except Tegan, who had gone to help the orderly before being called back by The Doctor.

She finds parts of the TARDIS all about in the caverns. When she calls out to The Doctor, she finds the Gravis and his Tractators have caught up with her. He says he’s found his new driver.

Tegan backs up against a wall that has part of the TARDIS wall and, at the last moment, opens it and slips in, finding The Doctor, Turlough and Plantagenet waiting.

Turlough has revealed that the Gravis is the true threat – without him, the others are simple animals. They have to find a way to isolate the Gravis from the other Tractators.

The Doctor fiddles about with parts, even though he says the TARDIS is not operational. Then he tells them to hide. When they have, he slips out to speak to the Gravis, pretending to offer a deal – he’ll leave everything for the Gravis and take his TARDIS and leave.

The Gravis is again excited and wants to see the TARDIS. The Doctor hems and haws, saying it’s not all there, it’s been dispersed to maximize “the packing efficiency of, er… the real time envelope.” Yep, he’s making it up as he goes along.

The Gravis goes inside, praising the power of travel. The Doctor tricks the Gravis into reassembling the TARDIS, getting the Tractator to use his gravity powers to do so. When the TARDIS is completed, however, the Gravis and the Tractators are cut off from each other, and the Gravis has collapsed.

The Doctor says he’s harmless now, so long as they keep him isolated from the other Tractators, and they’ll find an uninhabited planet to drop him off on.

A bit later, Plantagenet and Range walk, discussing The Doctor taking the Gravis on board. Range says it’s quite harmless. They meet up with Norna and Turlough, the latter of whom is still carrying the hat rack.

The TARDIS appears, and The Doctor and Tegan depart, saying the Gravis is safely deposited on the uninhabited planet of Kolkrokron. (Okay, anyone else wanting a nuWho serial set on that planet now?)

The Doctor gives them the hat rack as a farewell token. Plantagenet accepts and asks them to stay for a while. The Doctor says he cannot, he’s already overstepped many Time Lord rules and tells them not to mention it. Tegan assures them he means it, literally.

Turlough confirms this and he and Tegan enter the TARDIS to depart. Inside, The Doctor reminds them that if the Time Lords ever find out, there will be hell to pay.

Tegan and Turlough say that the engines are moving too fast, and The Doctor says something is pulling them to the middle of the universe. When Tegan asks what, the Time Lord says, “I don’t know, but I think we’re about to find out,”… and the final credits roll.

Ooooh, a cliffhanger ending for the serial, that’s fun!

A neat story. Lots of clumsy bits in the writing, but that’s indicative of the original show. All in all, a decent serial all around.

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