After the brilliant first series of The Robots, this second volume was always high on my most-anticipated releases list for 2020. Completely by chance, I happened to be watching The Robots of Death (released as part of the Doctor Who: The Collection- Season 14 boxset that came out a few months back) when the notification that The Robots 2 was now available popped up on my phone.
As such, I’m doubly excited to get stuck into these three new adventures for Liv and the Robots on Kaldor… read on for my thoughts on each episode!
And check out our review of the first series here.
1. “Robots of War” by Roland Moore
We open with Robots of War, written by Roland Moore, which sees Liv (Nicola Walker) and Tula (Claire Rushbrook) visit a military base run by Tula’s old friend Garlon Rosh (Silas Carson). As stated in the extras, this story returns to the idea of the Robots going round killing people, though it puts an intriguing new twist on the concept which means that it doesn’t seem like a retread at all.
Instead of the Robots being controlled by some malevolent force, willing them to commit murder, they are instead forced to kill due to their programming. When the military base is threatened, the Robots’ programming forces them to keep Rosh alive at all costs, even if it means harming other people in the process.
This is an interesting rumination on the cold, hard logic of AI, leading to some commentary that is also pertinent to our world. That’s what I love about this series: although it’s set on a faraway fantasy planet, the situations are always comparable to our own society, and the technological advancements we see on a day to day basis.
Overall, I think this is probably the weakest instalment in The Robots so far, but it’s still a strong story, giving further development to the world of Kaldor and continuing Liv’s journey.
2. “Toos and Poul” by Andrew Smith
This next story moves away from Kaldor City to focus on two characters from the original Robots of Death story: Toos and Poul. I listened to this story literally five minutes after finishing part four of The Robots of Death, and I immediately felt like I was back in the same world with the same characters, which is a testament both to Andrew Smith‘s writing, and the performances of Pamela Salem and the late David Collings, who effortlessly slip back into their roles.
Toos and Poul sees the titular characters reunite in an isolated outpost, where a Prospector has been murdered. Toos arrives to investigate, and drags Poul into proceedings, forcing him to confront the Robophobia he developed on the Sandminer. It’s a fairly straightforward whodunnit, but the great dialogue and fantastic performances really elevate it.
The guest cast here are all very strong, from Indra Ové‘s matriarchal nomad Tayna Vandermoy and Satnam Bhogal‘s hardened village headman Jabel Tyrus, to Ian Conningham‘s turn as Voc Robot V11 and ill-fated Kaden Olsen.
All in all, this is a great story that expertly reintroduces two iconic characters to the fray while being a compelling tale in its own right. After this, I’m excited to hear more from Toos and Poul in the future.
3. “Do No Harm” by Sarah Grochala
When a robot is put on trial for killing hundreds of people, Liv becomes its lawyer in an attempt to clear its name. What follows, in Sarah Grochala‘s Do No Harm, is a thrilling courtroom drama full of twists and turns, which is a nice change of pace for the series and a great way to frame the story.
Tracy Wiles stars as Ren, the lawyer opposing Liv in the trial, putting in a suitably powerful performance that stands in stark contrast with the monotonous, calm robots who she also voices in this story. Rachel Atkins also features, playing Zarda, a scientist who is caught up in proceedings. With this character being an immigrant to Kaldor, we also get some commentary on the treatment of foreign nationals, which makes for a thought-provoking and pertinent listen.
The story ends on an incredibly powerful note, with SV66, the robot on trial, making a rousing speech, damning humanity for the way they run Kaldor, and calling on the other robots to rise up and take back their planet. This, in combination with the threat of the Sons of Kaldor that has been looming, leaves me incredibly excited for the third boxset, which can’t come soon enough!
Overall, this is another strong story with a great central premise and a fantastic way to end a great set.
All in all, The Robots 2 is another strong installment in the series, furthering the development of Liv and Tula, while introducing Toos and Poul to the fray and setting up the next boxsets with flair. Along with great performances from all the cast and Joe Kraemer‘s sound design and music, these three scripts combine to form an immensely satisfying collection of stories. Highly recommended.
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