THE ANDROIDS OF TARA
November – December 1978
“I shall have to go alone of course. It’s funny. They always want you to go alone when you’re walking into a trap.”
The Doctor to Zadek, episode 3
Tom as the Doctor prepares for the sword fight with Grendel in The Androids of Tara.
Picture © BBC
The Doctor knows the planet Tara is a peaceful and pleasant world, so he goes fishing while Romana searches alone for the next piece of the Key to Time. Segment four is quickly found, disguised as part of a castle estate’s garden statue, but holding onto it proves harder when the castle’s owner, Count Grendel (Petter Jeffrey), takes her prisoner.
At first he believes Romana is an escaped android because she resembles the Princess Strella. Grendel intends seizing the throne of Tara before it can pass to its rightful heir, Prince Reynart (Neville Jason). He will achieve this by disposing of Reynart before he is crowned. Already Grendel has kidnapped and imprisoned Princess Strella, and now that he has Romana, his technician can create a perfect android duplicate of her that will bypass the guards and assassinate Reynart next day during his coronation.
Meanwhile the Doctor has fallen in with Reynart’s own courtiers. Sword-master, Zadek, already suspects Grendel and has made an android copy of the Prince in order to divert Grendel’s attention before the coronation. But the android is damaged and it takes all of the Doctor’s skill to patch it up.
The repaired android stands in for the Prince at the coronation, and the Doctor foils the assassination attempt by the fake Princess Strella. In retaliation, the Count spearheads a raid on the Prince’s summer lodge, capturing the real Prince in the process.
Later the Doctor learns that if the real Reynart cannot be found quickly to take up his full duties, Grendel will claim the Taran throne anyway through marriage to the next in line, Princess Strella. In fact, his aim is to marry Romana who, due to her perfect resemblance to the Princess, will be forced into a sham marriage under penalty of Grendel executing the real Strella and Reynart.
Unwilling to risk Grendel carrying out his threat, Zadek, with a few loyal men at arms, and the Doctor carry out an assault on Grendel’s mighty castle. K-9’s futuristic weaponry helps even the odds, but victory only comes after Grendel and the Doctor have engaged in a furious sword-fight, waged up on the castle’s highest battlements.