Sunday, 2 May 2010

A Matter of Time: The Ambassadors of Death


Forty years ago today, the third Doctor, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Liz Shaw were investigating the strange happenings that had occurred onboard Mars Probe Seven, after its two astronauts had lost contact with Earth eight months earlier. This story starred Jon Pertwee as the Doctor, in the years when he was exiled to Earth.

This story is another example of the controversy surrounding when the UNIT stories were set. In ‘The Ambassadors of Death’, the UK is already engaging in manned space missions to Mars and Jupiter, although this would contradict ‘The Christmas Invasion’, where it is revealed that the UK has only just sent out its first unmanned probe to Mars in search of life.

The script was initially developed to feature the second Doctor and his last companions, Jamie McCrimmon and Zoe Heriot. It was also intended to be set far into the future, and did not include the organisation UNIT. When all three actors left the programme at the end of the sixth series, it was rewritten to fit the new format. However, David Whitaker proved incapable of writing for the new format and cast, so Trevor Ray, Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke rewrote many aspects of the story.

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