It’s been said by more than one person that Peter Davison didn’t “find” the Fifth Doctor until his final story, “The Caves of Androzani.” That is, of course, utter codswallop, but to those who do believe it, I point you in the direction of “Frontios,” which shows Davison giving one of the strongest performances of his tenure.
The TARDIS has drifted into the far, far future and come upon the planet Frontios, where the last remnants of the human race have taken up residence (it possibly takes place after the new series episode, “The End of the World”). They’ve been there for over 50 years, barely hanging on, and seemingly in the midst of a long-term war with invisible invaders from the stars. During a meteor bombardment of the planet’s surface, the TARDIS is forced to make a landing. Because the colony is so fresh and their situation so precipitous, the Doctor (Davison) must be careful in his interference, and he makes the point time and again that should anyone ask, “We were never here.” Exactly who’s attacking Frontios, why is Turlough (Mark Strickson) raving like a madman, and how come Tegan’s (Janet Fielding) ass never looked like that before?
Obviously, that last remark was meant to provoke a laugh, but it’s true: Fielding’s black leather ‘80s mini-skirt looks mighty tight in “Frontios.” Tegan’s a companion that never really gets her “sexy due,” but between a story like this and the recently released Mara double feature, maybe it’s time to do a little retro-salivation. Look past her bitchiness and behold the bitch. Turlough also gets some good screen time, as yet another piece of his character puzzle is put into place, and, as previously stated, Davison is in prime form taking charge and cracking wise. One of the tale’s best jokes comes from the Doctor trying to pass Tegan off as a somewhat defective android: “I got this one cheap because the walk’s not quite right.” It doesn’t hurt that he’s working from an ambitious script by Chris Bidmead, as demonstrated by the fact that, perhaps more than anything else, this is the story known as “the one where the TARDIS blows up.” (This was years before Steven Moffat blew it up again.)
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