Christopher H. Bidmead
What’s It About?
The TARDIS has travelled beyond the point where Time Lords are allowed to travel. Humanity is looking for a new home, and the Doctor must not get involved. Unfortunately, the TARDIS is forced to materialize on Frontios. A colony of humans is dying out due to mysterious vanishings. But the Doctor must not get involved. The colony is being bombarded by asteroids. But the Doctor must not get involved.
You Can Tell Them I Came And Went Like A Summer Cloud
Hooray for Bidmead’s return to Doctor Who! And even though there are Sawardian fingerprints on “Frontios” (lots of military and the horror is elevated), Bidmead still turns in an interesting and satisfying story. This is particularly intriguing to me because I had trouble engaging with this story in the first two episodes, but was hooked in the final two. This was based in part on Bidmead’s name being in the credits, forcing me to pay attention because I knew it had to be good even if I wasn’t enjoying it, but also because Bidmead starts from the Saward view of the universe and moves beyond it. “Frontios” starts with a military group begin preyed upon. The imagery of people being sucked through the earth is horrifying. Humans are being used as batteries to fuel machinery. Turlough spends most of the story in horrific shock as he builds up the threat of the Tractators. But in the end, the Doctor wins over the soldiers (making them thoughtful and human rather than Machiavellian) and outwits the monsters. He lets them destroy themselves. Bidmead starts with Saward view, dismantles, and refutes it.
At the same time, Bidmead always plays with mythology in fascinating ways. The planet Frontios is a new beginning for humanity, an Eden in the sense of origin, but not in a garden sense. Asteroids regularly bombard the planet, heavenly bodies falling from the sky like angels cast out of Heaven. People are consumed by the earth; they are pulled into caverns and enslaved by Tractators, the bug-like demons of the earth. This is death and burial; this is descent into hell. Only by entering hell and defeating the demons can the colonists survive. But ultimately, only a god (or a Time Lord) can defeat the devil by tricking him using his own desires to escape from hell against him, a war between creatures from a higher sphere of existence than humans. “Frontios” is Paradise Lost; it is a story of the salvation of humanity from the enslavement to death. But it is also a refutation of the Saward approach to Doctor Who. And, sadly, it is Christopher H. Bidmead’s last contribution to classic Doctor Who.