The Robots Volume 3 takes the stories we’ve heard so far up a gear and unfolds deeper mysteries than hitherto imagined
Nicola Walker and Clair Rushbrook are back as sisters Liv and Tula Chenka and they are increasingly caught in the middle between the Company and it’s desire to sell robots (and particularly the advanced designs) for every purpose, and the Sons of Kaldor, determined to fight for their beliefs. There’s also a welcome return for Pamela Salem and David Collings as Lish Toos and Anders Poul, as previously heard in volume 2. Salem and Collings also appeared in the Fourth Doctor story The Robots of Death, and Louise Jameson (who played Leela in the same story) takes some of the director duties in this boxset, but there’s no return for Leela in a compelling set of stories.
Robert Whitelock’s The Mystery of Sector 13 is very much in the style we’ve so far come to enjoy in this spin-off series (Liv Chenka is on a break from travelling with the Eighth Doctor). Liv finds a mysterious warehouse in her hunt for clues about the Sons of Kaldor (daughters never mentioned, as someone points out in this set), while Tula finds her own challenges inside the Company. The story also introduces the enigmatic Vash Sorkov (Jon Culshaw).
Life in the wrong side of Kaldor City
Like the previous boxset, the second story switches to the activities of Lish Toos and Anders Poul. Guy Adams has written one of his strongest stories for some years with Circuit Breaker. His take on the relationship between Toos and Poul (aided by superb chemistry between Salem and Collings) is a joy, leaving us wishing they too could have their own spin-off series. Sadly David Collings passed away after these stories were recorded.
Circuit Breaker is very much a study of the underside of Kaldor City. Poul has moved back but lives in a cheap apartment in a seedy suburb, near a hotel that rents rooms by the hour. Running the hotel is Ullmann (one of Carlolyn Seymour’s most memorable performances) and we learn (from investigation of various attacks on robots and people) it caters to clientele who want to indulge their fantasies. This is not an android brothel, but a place to act out other dreams, no matter how bizarre or violent.
As investigations proceed, we realise Poul is descending (or even has descended) into his own personal hell, and never truly recovered from the events onboard the sandminer in The Robots of Death. The story reaches some very dark places Doctor Who would never go. A special mention must go as well to Susan Penhaligon (Bouquet of Barbed Wire, A Fine Romance) as Dorka.
Joining the dots
The final story, A Matter of Conscience by Lisa McMullin starts with the Sons of Kaldor centre stage as new recruit Shala (Holly Jackson Walters) tries to demonstrate her value to the group. We get a lot of background bringing out comparisons to our own society. Robots have displaced people in jobs (much as has happened in our world repeatedly in a line stretching at least back to the spinning jenny, via production lines, computers and automation, through to AI) and the drive for efficiency and profit leaves people with no apparent purpose as capitalism doesn’t see the need for social planning. Political exposition aside, we learn more about life in Kaldor.
Liv and Tula are back and trying to find Toos and Poul, and in so doing get the trail of a mysterious edutech. As they close in on their goal, the Sons of Kaldor up the stakes in their campaign and an encounter with Vash Sorkov explains much but leads to new mysteries, and further connections back to the Robots of Death.
The Robots is fast becoming one of our favourite spin-offs from Big Finish (and perhaps the best for some years) and is building very well for June 2021 when we get Volume 4. The plotting is careful and the production (and post-production, including Joe Kraemer’s music and sound design by Lee Adams and Toby Hrycek-Robinson) is top notch.
The Robots Volume 3 is available to buy now on CD or audio from the Big Finish website, here.
Each episode of The Robots Volume 3 comes with behind the scenes interviews