Lost Stories – The Masters of Luxor
Written by Anthony Coburn (adapted by Nigel Robinson), directed by Lisa Bowerman
Released August 2012
A dark and silent planet. A magnificent crystal edifice, perched on a mountainside. A legion of dormant robots, waiting for the signal to bring them back to life. The Doctor and his granddaughter Susan, and their reluctant companions, Ian and Barbara, are about to unleash forces which will threaten their very survival.
The story that should have followed An Unearthly Child, The Masters of Luxor (sometimes called The Robots), is a breathtaking epic tale that would have taken the program in an entirely different direction. The script was written by Anthony Coburn who also penned An Unearthly Child and went through a few changes during production- this was back when the story that later became Planet of the Giants was to be the premier adventure- such as a change in setting from a future Earth to an alien planet. There are many ‘lost stories’ in the long history of Doctor Who, but this is the first and for that reason alone the most important.
Keep in mind that because The Masters of Luxor was dropped, The Daleks went into production in its place.
It’s difficult to remember that back in the day Doctor Who was the pinnacle of science fiction and fantasy on TV. The Masters of Luxor takes the concept of technologically creating a perfect race as well as telling a spiritually-infused statement and an exciting adventure. In adapting the story for a modern audience, the excellent Nigel Robinson toned down some of the Judeo-Christian references and in its place is a strong connection between father and son, albeit an artificial one.
The Doctor and his friends are pulled out of transit to a strange planet. Hovering over a bizarre and beautiful crystalline structure, all of the travelers sense a strong feeling of dread. Once inside, they find the benign setting of a dinner banquet left out for guests. Robotic servants populate the building with rudimentary communication skills. Lording over them is a creature only referred to as ‘The Perfect One,’ a being that is only fueled by the presence of human beings.
A perfect robot built by robots based on the dreams of their creator, the Perfect One is of course insane. The planet Luxor has been sending shipments of criminals to be used for experimentation in furthering the perfection of the Perfect One. The Doctor and his friends become entangled in a mad quest for the power to create an ideal form of life… with the threat of nuclear annihilation as the alternative. To avoid any reprisals, the Perfect One is directly linked to a nuclear bomb in the bowels of the building. If he is interfered with in any way, it will explode, taking the entire facility with him.
Outside of the citadel, the Doctor and Ian find that the Perfect One’s creator Tabon in a form of suspended animation. Using his skills as a philosopher and scientist, the Doctor wrangles with Tabon to reconcile with his offspring The Perfect One and prevent devastation.
In bringing this story to life, William Russell takes on the voices of both Ian Chesterton and the Doctor with Carole Ann Ford playing the parts of Susan and Barbara Wright. Voicing all of the robots (called Derivatrons), the Perfect One and Tabon is Joseph Kloska who takes the challenge with incredible aplomb. The story is so very moving and impressive, making one wonder how different Doctor Who would have been had The Masters of Luxor gone into production in place of The Daleks. There are some similarities between the two tales, but in some ways The Masters of Luxor has more heart and intelligence. Of course the downside is that the pacing is very slow and I can guess that the robots would have been far from impressive on screen, so perhaps it is best that it remains unseen.
Even so, it is exciting to revisit a time when Doctor Who was so madly inventive and far-reaching.
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