Doctor Who – The Ambassadors of Death, Part 3

Some impossible astronauts. (Source: “Doctor Who The Ambassadors of Death.” Say: Hello Spaceman. Copyright 1970 by the BBC.)

According to various sources on the internet, episode 3 was the final episode of the serial that David Whitaker contributed to. In fact, I’m rather curious how much of the final product is Whitaker’s and how much can be attributed to Malcolm Hulke, Trevor Ray, and Terrance Dicks. According to A Brief History of Time (Travel), Derrick Sherwin (the producer who commissioned Whitaker to write this story) wasn’t happy with the approach of Ambassadors. I haven’t yet, however, found any information of what the original approach was. Many of the changes that Hulke made(according to above sources) seem trivial: renaming characters, renaming the fake businesses on the side of a cargo truck, changing one character’s nationality. I would love to see a more detailed list of the changes. If anyone is aware of one, let me know.

As for the episode itself, things are growing quite grim. The body count in this one is high, and two thugs are dumped in a quarry. I’m still not quite sure what is happening, but it seems UNIT (an international organization) is at odds with the British military, which is trying to keep this entire incident as quiet as possible. The astronauts, if they truly are the astronauts that were sent in the original shuttle, seem to be infected with a type of radiation that is incredibly deadly, and seems to need more radiation to sustain itself.

This is a darker story than I expected. Even though I think the pace needs tightening, there is enough mystery and suspense to keep me interested.

2 thoughts on “Doctor Who – The Ambassadors of Death, Part 3

  1. You need to bear in mind that throughout all the changes during 1969 and 1970, the one constant factor in the show’s production was script editor Terrance Dicks, who had been in that job in the final Troughton season, and would remain in the post for the following 5 years.

    His feeling seems to be that Whittaker had no idea what to do with the storyline, that having introduced the alien ambassadors he did not know where to go with the story. It was Terrance as script editor who re-wrote large parts of the scripts, making General Carrington the focus of the threat. He realised that Whittaker was simply too ill to finish the job.

    As you realised, Malcolm Hulke contributed very little to this serial, being fully occupied developing the 7 scripts for the previous story, ‘The Silurians’. This is borne out by the title credits – if Mac Hulke had significantly contributed to the scripts for ‘Ambassadors’ he would have received an on-screen credit as co-author, as in ‘The War Games’, but he didn’t.

  2. I have recently been upbraided, elsewhere, for making the bold – and incorrect – statement that the final 4 episodes of serial CCC, ‘The Ambassadors of Death’, were written by Terrance Dicks, the then-current script editor for ‘Who’.

    While it’s true that the contracted writer, David Whittaker, never delivered a script for any but the first
    3 episodes of the serial, Dicks evidently commissioned Malcolm Hulke to write episodes 4 to 7.

    These were written from scratch by Hulke from his own storyline, which was delivered to the Dr Who
    production office on Monday 9th June 1969 – at which point this was still being treated as Serial BBB.

    The confusion – which was not mine alone – arose because Hulke was also commissioned to write the 7-part story which ultimately became Serial BBB, namely ‘The Silurians’. It was not realised – certainly I did not realise – that ‘Ambassadors of Death’ had been known as Serial BBB at one stage, before being moved in the production order to ultimately become serial CCC instead,

    To add to the confusion, the serial has a different title on many of the BBC documents of the time – being usually identified by the working title ‘The Carriers of Death’.

    For reasons which are not entirely clear, all 7 episodes have an on-screen credit to David Whittaker, leading most reference sources to attribute the serial to Whittaker alone.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s