Doctor Who – The Five Doctors Review (‘A Fitting Tribute To Celebrate A Show That Deserves Recognition’)

April 18, 2013

Growing up in the 1980s and 90s, people owned far less media, whether it be games, TV shows or movies and had far less choice in terms of what they could watch and how they could watch it. I wrote a pretty extensive article on this back in 2011 and you can read it here.

How this ties in with this review is that there’s probably nothing I’ve seen more times than The Five Doctors.

With less videos at my disposal and fewer options in terms of media in general, I would revisit this Doctor Who story time and time again as a child.

And why wouldn’t I? It’s brilliant.

Indeed, beyond the fact that I’ve seen it more than anything else, it’s probably the single item I have owned the most too. What do I mean by that? Well I had the original VHS, the 1990 re-release (in part because the original one ended up with a twist in the tape at the point where they open up the box containing the Black Scrolls of Rassilon, but I’d probably have bought it again anyway), the 1995 VHS special edition that came with The King’s Demons, the 1999 DVD release and finally the 25th Anniversary DVD edition from 2008. And the chances are I’d probably buy it again if it was released on Blu Ray.

I just find that it’s a wonderful piece of television that celebrates my favourite show in a way that does it absolute justice.

As such, you can probably guess that this will be a rare complimentary review for this era of the show.

Doctor Who – The Five Doctors Review: What’s This One About?

It’s the 20th Anniversary story and all the Doctors are back. Well, almost.

It’s got one Dalek, loads of Cybermen, a Yeti, The Master, Gallifrey and a host of old companions.

A nostalgic dream.

But what’s the story about? Well it almost doesn’t matter, but The Doctor and his former selves have been brought to the Death Zone in Gallifrey by a newly villainous Borusa, who wants them to make their way to the Tomb of Rassilon so he can

It would have been nice if the Doctors got more screen time together

It would have been nice if the Doctors got more screen time together

join them there and accept Rassilon’s gift of Immortality.

Thoughts – The Story

I almost don’t know where to start.

The Five Doctors is – as I say – all about nostalgia and celebration. The idea was to find a way to bring together all the Doctors and as many companions as possible and they achieve it.

With so many pieces on the board – literally in this case – you’re never going to get the most amazing plot so in that regard the Five Doctors is thin on the ground. I mean, all it is for the most part is each of the Doctors making their way to the Dark Tower and then coming together to defeat Borusa.

And yet because there’s so much going on in terms of the characters and because it retains that level of simplicity it works so well.

You couldn’t imagine the plot working without all the other Doctors because it simply isn’t designed to, and credit must go to Terrance Dicks for that.

He says he was given the job at fairly short notice (and has a great anecdote on the DVD about how Eric Saward phoned him up at a ridiculous time in the morning while in America to ask him to take the job) and is quite self depreciating about the whole thing.

But he shouldn’t be, because it’s one of the most watchable and fun Doctor Who stories ever written. Yes, there are loads of issues you could question, and I’ll get to them in due course, but I would still say it’s a huge success. And it makes you wonder why – in the face of seeing so many crap stories broadcast over the last three years – JNT and Saward didn’t just go back to a reliable writer like him and ask for more.

It just seems bizarre that they could trust him with such an important story, but not want him to write the regular ones.

The Characters

More than any other Doctor Who story I can think of, this is about the characters, the way they are written and the performances of the actors in question.

Here’s my take on how the major players did.

The Fifth Doctor: I enjoy the writing of the Fifth Doctor in the Five Doctors. In comparison to the others, he’s the calmest and possibly the friendliest. Many Davison stories have him acting with a sort of innocence with a child like frantic

I prefer the original Black Triangle Time Scoop to the remastered version. Sometimes less is more.

I prefer the original Black Triangle Time Scoop to the remastered version. Sometimes less is more.

nature, but I find that by this point, he’s grown into the part to be more assured and comfortable. In the face of so many of his predecessors being involved, Peter Davison’s Doctor is written, performed and comes across as the lead. And that’s how it should be. Whether it was written for him or not, the best part of Davison’s performance for me is that while it’s not really written into the script and while Troughton and Pertwee ignore it completely, he acknowledges the fact that Susan is The Doctor’s granddaughter, not The First Doctor’s granddaughter. There’s just something understatedly brilliant in the look of fondness on Peter Davison’s face when he sees her for the first time in what must be – in the Doctor’s own life span – at least a hundred years.

The Third Doctor: I find the writing of the Third Doctor to be quite interesting because in the main he comes across as an aggressive prick. That’s not a bad thing, because if you watch the outtakes and listen to what people have to say about the filming of the story, that does kind of suit Jon Pertwee. And while that’s what The Third Doctor was like, it does come across slightly more like it’s Jon Pertwee playing Jon Pertwee rather than playing the Doctor. He’s got some brilliant lines in it, most notably his “What kept me?!?! Of all the confounded arrogance” retort to the First Doctor on arrival in the Tomb. I also think his introductory scene where he gets picked up by the Time Scoop is epic. It’s straight to the point; he’s driving along, sees the Black Triangle coming after him and he goes straight into “Action Doctor” mode. Other highlights include his bullying of The Master, the way he was the one written to go in through the roof, the way he had to get a kick in when the Brigadier knocked the Master out and – and this is a level of attention to detail that I love – the way he was paired against the Cybermen, since it never happened when he was the lead.

The Second Doctor: Much like in The Three Doctors, Patrick Troughton plays the part of “The Second Doctor” rather than playing the part the way he did when he was the lead. To a man and woman, everyone watches the Five Doctors and thinks Patrick Troughton steals the show, and to an extent, they are right. His performance was one of the most praised in the newspapers after it was first broadcast too. As I’ve said, I’ve watched The Five Doctors so many times – especially as a child – and before I’d seen even two of his stories, I’d made the decision that he was my favourite. There’s just so much to his performance, from his facial expressions, his boyish nature, his interaction with the Brigadier and pretty much everyone else, the way he pushes his other selves away so he can look at the stone symbols and the way he doesn’t see trouble where everyone else does. It’s just superb.

The First Doctor: I think the most underrated performance of the lot though is Richard Hurndall as the First Doctor. Here’s a guy who has never been in Doctor Who before and he’s charged with doing justice to the show’s original lead. To some degree, Hurndall doesn’t look like or play the role like William Hartnell at all, but he manages to make it both authentic to the past and put his own stamp on it as if he himself had always been a major part of Doctor Who. A stranger to the programme, he holds his own better than I think anyone could have dared to hope. As to the character, I think it’s written pretty damn well. When you think about it, it doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense that the youngest version of the Doctor is the wisest of them all, and yet it also does. The same thing happened in the Three Doctors, but because of Hartnell’s limitations it wasn’t really explored that much. Here, despite Peter Davison being the lead, it’s the First Doctor who saves the day. He’s the wisest and the most respected of the lot. In terms of great lines, Hurndall’s best are against Janet Fielding. His “Kindly refrain from addressing me as Doc” and his delivery and expression when he says “Oh, if you must. Thank you my dear” are both superb.

The Fourth Doctor: He doesn’t appear much, but could it be that that was for the best? The Five Doctors is so loaded with characters that there’s not a moment’s rest as it is. Would adding another Doctor into the mix have spoiled it? Possibly. And with the word on the street being that had he been in it, he’d have been written as the lead, I suspect what we got did more justice to the show as it was at the time. What saves it is that there were scenes from Shada available to be used, so his lack of involvement is – to some degree – hidden.

William Hartnell: The “One Day, I Shall Come Back” scene is a perfect fit and a suitable tribute to start the show off with. Well done to whoever chose that.

The Master: I imagine it won’t come as a surprise considering Terrance Dicks was the script editor during the Pertwee years, but this is by far and away, and let me stress that again, by far and away the best the Master has been written and therefore performed since Roger Delgado’s final appearance in the Frontier in Space. What other writers just didn’t get was that The Master isn’t supposed to be a one dimensional boo-hiss villain, but rather a sort yang to the Doctor’s ying. He’s the bad guy, but to sustain a level of likeability and endurance as a character, he has to have a sympathetic side to him. Here, the Master really is trying to help the Doctors and yet none of them believe him. The Third Doctor steals the Seal from him and the Fifth Doctor leaves him to the mercy of the Cybermen, so you do end up feeling sorry for him, and empathise with him when he ends up ranting at them all saying that he was actually trying to help but that they can swivel. It’s

There's just no way that The Third Doctor and Sarah would get across to the Dark Tower with the zip line drooping in the middle like that

There’s just no way that The Third Doctor and Sarah would get across to the Dark Tower with the zip line drooping in the middle like that

Anthony Ainley’s best performance, and it’s one that you really believe that Roger Delgado would thrive in.

The Companions: Nothing much to say about the companions here other than that they all do a good job. Really, they are just there to give each of their associated Doctors someone to speak to, and the fact that they end up frozen at the end is just a convenient way to ensure they don’t play a part in what was really a scene just for the Doctors. I think it’s fair to say that the brief cameos of Mike, Liz, Jamie and Zoe are filler, and in the case of the latter two, only serve to raise a few questions about how it all makes sense. Also, it’s a little unfortunate, but in amongst everyone having so many lines, Turlough is left out a bit.

The Monsters: Well the Dalek was in because it couldn’t be a 20th Anniversary without one, The Cybermen serve little purpose other than to be killed off and the Yeti wasn’t used nearly well enough, what with the poor lighting and odd direction. These are all classic Doctor Who monsters and yet they all get completely overshadowed by a character that everyone I know loves in the same way as the love Boba Fett from Star Wars- because he’s a badass. Obviously I’m talking about the Raston Warrior Robot. It looks great, it’s a tremendous idea, the way it moves is fresh and original and it’s just as hard as nails. The way it destroys that group of Cybermen is awesome by Doctor Who standards. They didn’t know what hit them, and one of them even threw up! Bring back the Raston Warrior Robot!

The Things That Don’t Make Sense

Ok, there are plenty of little niggles with the Five Doctors. Ultimately we can forgive them, but it’s worth asking the following questions…

  • At what point is the Second Doctor supposed to be from if he remembers what happened to Jamie & Zoe at the end of the War Games? Season 6B Conspiracy Theorists, this is your meat and drink!
  • At what point is the Brigadier supposed to be from considering he looks older than the younger version of Mawdryn Undead and younger than the older version? He knows Tegan, but that doesn’t necessarily answer the question either.
  • What has Pi got to do with crossing that electrified floor, and if it’s so hazardous to get across, how come the Master knows at least three ways to get over and the First Doctor’s strategy was just to walk straight across?
  • How did the Cybermen not see the First Doctor and Tegan before they hid?
  • Why didn’t the Fifth Doctor say to the Master “Christ, I only saw you yesterday” when their paths crossed?
  • Why does Borusa feel the need to change into black clothing when wants to act villainous?
  • Why didn’t the Castellan regenerate?
  • How come Borusa has regenerated again?! And how come he never regenerates into a young man? This time he’s turned into Jim Robinson off Neighbours.
  • How can a Yeti operate in the Death Zone without the Great Intelligence there to transmit a signal to the control sphere?!
  • Where’s Kamelion? You don’t need to answer that by the way.
  • What happens to Bessie? Does it get left in the Death Zone?
  • Who decided to build a road in the Death Zone in the first place?
  • Did Borusa make those lovely figurines himself?
  • How come Susan refers to all the other Doctors apart from the First as “The Doctor”?
  • Why did they not film a scene where Susan gets taken out of time?
  • Why was there a Cyberman lying on the ground on the other side of the wall from the Brigadier. That’s the only way it could have grabbed his hand.
  • And why didn’t it follow them when they got away from it?
  • Finally, how on Earth did the Third Doctor & Sarah manage to zipline over to the tower when the rope was limp and hanging down in the middle. By the laws of physics they’d surely have both stopped half way across?

These are all minor things though, and can easily be forgiven.

Differences Between The Original and Special Edition

Overall, there’s an extra ten minutes of footage added to the Special Edition of the Five Doctors, mostly in the form of added atmosphere shots like the corridor ones to begin, while there are a few other ones like Turlough setting up at the Eye of

The Raston Warrior Robot: Not only is he a badass, but he likes to rub it in too

The Raston Warrior Robot: Not only is he a badass, but he likes to rub it in too

Orion and the Castellan sorting out the transmat beam.

On the whole these do add something to it, and it makes it more polished, but there are a few things I wish they’d left as they were.

For example, even though it looks more primitive, I preferred the black triangle as the time scoop rather than the translucent whirly thing from the Special Edition. Similarly, I preferred the way the other TARDISes depart at the end rather than have the time scoop whirly thing take them away. I know the new way makes a little bit more sense, but I think it’s less effective.

The main thing I wish they’d left untouched though was the voice of Rassilon. They’ve made him sound deeper and more booming in the Special Edition, but I thought it worked a lot better when his voice was presented as spoken. He sounded more genuine and his acting came across better that way. But you know the Restoration Team, they know best; or at least that’s how they like to present it.

Random Observations

  • The story was written with the intention of keeping the Doctors apart until the end, for fear of a clash of egos (mainly from Pertwee it would seem). As it turned out when they filmed the scene in the tomb together they all got on well and it’s a pity there wasn’t more interaction between them all.
  • Everyone mocks the infamous “No, not the Mind Probe” line, but I actually think Paul Jerricho’s delivery is not bad. I mean, how are you supposed to say it? Have a look on the brilliant documentary on the 25th Anniversary DVD and you’ll see an outtake where he says it with more terror. If that had made the cut it would be the most ludicrously delivered line in Doctor Who history.
  • If the Second Doctor and the Brigadier hadn’t been taken by the Time Scoop, you’d have to question why he’d bothered stopping in to visit. He appeared to go for a meeting that involved chatting for less than one minute. I’d have been pissed off if I was the Brig.
  • When I was young I mistakenly thought that the fried husk of a skeleton in the cape that the Master finds and refers to as one of his predecessors was one of his earlier regenerations. It’s not of course, but if you miss the line about how other members of the High Council had been sent to the Death Zone before him, you’d be forgiven for thinking as much.
  • The Incidental Music is far superior here than it has been at any point during the Peter Davison Era. Peter Howell does a terrific job of making it understated and yet of a high standard.
  • There are three different DVD commentaries available on the Special Edition DVD set. One with Nicholas Courtney, Mark Strickson, Carol Ann Ford and Liz Sladen, another with David Tennant, Phil Collinson and Helen Raynor and a third from the original DVD with Terrance Dicks and Peter Davison. I can’t say I’ve listened to them all, but I have heard snippets of each and I have to say the first two I bring up annoy me – especially the one with Tennant & Co. To me, a DVD commentary should aim to focus on what’s happening on screen and provide some kind of insight into it. It might be difficult for three people who weren’t involved in the making of it at all to do that, but at the very least you’d like them to discuss what’s happening and say stuff like “Oh, I love this bit coming up” rather than completely ignore the show and bore us with tales of what they had for lunch the day they first watched it.
  • Not one of the DVD commentaries pick up on the great “Fancy pants”, “Scarecrow” exchange between Pertwee and Troughton, which is one of the best parts of the whole show. If you’re only going to watch one commentary, make sure it’s the one with Dicks & Davison.
  • One thing to note from the Collinson commentary though is that he talks about how he’d love to make the 50th Anniversary in the same way as this. Let’s hope Steven Moffat agrees.
  • Compared to his earlier performance, I felt David Banks was very pedestrian as the Cyber Leader.
  • You’ll notice the one scene filmed when mist had fallen upon that area of Wales.
  • In terms of the story, having Borusa be the real villain of the piece is a nice twist. After all, as recently as The Arc of Infinity he was known to be a proper good guy and for long term viewers of the show was accepted as the Doctor’s mentor.
  • I adore the special version of the end credits theme played for this one. It really adds to the occasion.
  • The last line from Peter Davison; “Why not. After all, that’s how it all started” is a very nice line to finish on. Well done Terrance Dicks.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: #38. Scandalously low.

Doctor Who – The Five Doctors Review: Final Thoughts

So I’m writing this in April 2013 at a time when the only past characters confirmed for the 50th Anniversary are David Tennant and Billie Piper.

I’m hoping that will change because something as momentous as the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who needs more returning characters than that.

The Five Doctors is the case for the defence.

This is a superb piece of nostalgia driven TV. It was done at a time when people didn’t have access to old Doctor Whos and therefore at a time when most will have forgotten about or were possibly too young to have watched or remembered the

I had a caption in mind but it would be unbecoming of what is an overwhelmingly positive review. Can you guess what is was?

I had a caption in mind but it would be unbecoming of what is an overwhelmingly positive review. Can you guess what is was?

old Doctors on display.

And that didn’t matter one bit.

Any argument that the likes of Davison, McCoy and the two Bakers are out of touch with fans of ‘New Who’ is irrelevant in my opinion. If anything, it would be good for business to grant more exposure to the show’s past. The only issue is how they look, I suppose.

And the performance of Richard Hurndall shows that it is possible to recast old Doctors effectively.

To sum up my review of the Five Doctors though, I think it’s clear to you – the reader – that I love it.

I accept the flaws with the story and I accept that by design the plot isn’t the most thrilling, but I don’t think it matters.

It was a love letter to the show which had served the BBC so well for 20 years. It’s a wonderful and fitting tribute to a TV show and it involves all the old guard bringing their ‘A’ game.

Personally one of my favourite pieces of television of all time, let alone Doctor Who and will be highly rated when I come to down my own “Mighty 241″ or whatever it’ll be by that point.


Doctor Who – The Daemons Review (or ‘Iconic Story or One Step Too Far For The Master?’)

May 7, 2012

The final story of Season Eight – or The Master Season if you prefer – is one that is probably the most iconic of the Pertwee era.

The Daemons is probably the most typical example of what people think of a Third Doctor Story as being. It’s got UNIT, the Master, Jo Grant, a homely location and a big bad monster.

There’s the love child of Graeme Garden and Edge

Judging this story has to be done on two fronts though.

  1. Does it work on its own?
  2. Does it work as part of a continuing series?

My thinking coming into this one was that as a story on its own merits it would live up to its iconic hype, but as the fifth Master story in a row, it might seem a bit stale.

Doctor Who – The Daemons Review: What’s This One About?

The Master – posing as a man of the cloth – uses the people of the village of the appropriately (and perhaps unimaginatively) named Devils End to try to summon – you guessed it – The Devil.

Well…not really. The ‘Devil’ is actually Azal, a Daemon from the planet Daemos. They are a race of creatures that have had a hand in the development of Earth for over a million

Sometimes when I take screengrabs for these reviews I randomly just stop it and see what I get.
This is the most random one ever. But that guy has nice hair.

years as part of their own experiment or something. It gets a bit confused.

But the point is that the Master has helped summon him and wants Azal to hand him his power so he can rule the Earth. And of course the Doctor and UNIT have to stop him.

The Ultimate UNIT Story

So as I say, this is the ultimate UNIT story. It has helicopter chases, a lot more Yates & Benton than we’ve previously seen, the Master being up to no good, Jo getting herself captured & nearly sacrificed and of course the Brigadier saying ‘Chap with the wings there; five rounds rapid’.

It’s the one you’ve probably seen clips of even if you haven’t seen it and the one you identify the Pertwee Era with, as I’ve said above.

And on its own merits it’s perfectly enjoyable. It has a strong cast supported ably by the likes of the booming voiced Stephen Thorn (Azal), Damaris Hayman (Olive Hawthorn) and the snivelling Don McKillop (Bert the Landlord; and yes, that’s the official name of his character).

Beyond that it’s got Bok the Gargoyle (everyone remembers him) and the famous scene where the church gets blown up and people wrote in to Points of View to complain (some people thought the production team destroyed a real church. Jesus…)

But the problem is what I thought it would be, and that is that having been the villain in the four previous stories, the Master is getting a bit tired and samey.

And would you believe it, it ends in exactly the same way as his previous stories did – he gets in over his head and can’t control the people/thing he hopes to use to conquer the Earth/Universe.

Whey-hey!!!!

So while I enjoyed it, I think I would enjoy it more if watched it in isolation rather than as part of a run through. But that’s not really how it’s supposed to work, is it?

The Ending

The one thing that ruins the Daemons – regardless of the circumstances in which you watch it– is the ending.

Over the course of the five episodes, the story has built up well. Unlike other stories in this season, the cliffhangers were all good and served to build up and advance the plot week by week until Episode Four ends with Azal finally being revealed. A quality bit of storytelling, make no mistake.

But once Azal arrived he didn’t really do much other than have a chat; a chat in a wonderful booming voice right enough, but still just a chat.

And then what kills him is the notion that Jo would rather lay down her life to save the Doctor rather than let Azal kill him. That’s it. How pathetic is that? It was an absolutely

Christ…they’re all at it!!

nonsensical cop-out that negated everything that had come before it. To me it seemed as though they had to finish the story and couldn’t think of a good and concise way to do it. Sloppy stuff from the writers.

The Modern Approach in Episode One

But to get back onto a positive train of thought, I particularly enjoyed the way Episode One told the story through the medium of a live TV show. It’s the sort of thing you would expect to see in a 2012 episode of Dr Who rather than a 1970s story. Good progressive storytelling and another example of foresight on the part of the writing staff by having the show being on BBC3. Of course, what makes me feel old is that the first few times I watched this story, BBC3 still seemed like a futuristic concept.

Random Observations

  • Maybe it’s just me, but I hate it when there are one or two ‘paid’ extras in among rabbles. While everyone else gets to rhubarb (and no, that’s not an auto-correct error) to their heart’s content, the paid ones – i.e. the ones who actually get given lines to speak – just stick out like a sore thumb. For anyone who has seen The Ark, you’ll know the ‘That’s No Argument’ woman who tried to steal every scene she was in; well in this case it’s the tall skinny guy who looks like a mixture of comedian Graeme Garden and WWE wrestler Edge. You’ll know exactly who I’m on about.
  • And speaking of him, I recently watched an episode of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads and actually managed to recognise him purely from seeing the back of his head. A proud moment in my “Spotting random ZZZ list celebrities in old TV shows” career.
  • I know the Doctor has seen many terrible things in his time, but surely Adolf Hitler has done enough to deserve being called something worse than a ‘Bounder’?
  • The way the boy with the beard stands in a ‘fearful’ position while Bok shoots him might well be a necessary evil for the special effect to work, but it doesn’t half look shit, does it?
  • Mr Quill is in this! Bill Burridge who played one half of legendary double act Mr. Oak and Mr. Quill appears as an extra in this story. Sadly we don’t see him opening his mouth really wide (what a party piece that is) as we only see the back of his head.
  • Benton is a helluva shot is he not?
  • Three times was one too many for the ‘Bessie has a remote control’ set-piece if you ask me.
  • In all fairness, the special effects in this one are quite good. I’m not exactly sure how they did the fire effects at the heat barrier, but while I’m sure it must have been something quite simple, it was effective.  Similarly the way Bok

    Even the Master! But he looks like he wasn’t expecting it.

    gets destroyed and comes back together is also impressive for the time.

  • The only thing that lets Bok down at all is when he moves and is clearly just a small bloke in a grey unitard and mask.
  • People can be very rude sometimes can they not? What right did those guys in the pub have to take the piss out of the Doctor’s clothes? The cheeky bastards deserved what they eventually got.

Doctor Who – The Daemons Review: Final Thoughts

You’ll probably be able to guess my final thoughts since I summed them up earlier in the review.

In isolation this is an iconic and enjoyable story, but as part of a run through, it suffers from the Master’s over-exposure. Yes, he’ll be back three more times and in each case it’ll be almost exactly the same storyline again, but at least there will be breaks in between.

For now though, the Doctor needs new opposition…or old opposition as the case becomes.


Doctor Who – Colony in Space Review (or ‘Big Business Is Bad, Kids’)

April 28, 2012

Next up in the run through is Colony In Space, which means that after a run of thirty-nine consecutive episodes set on modern-day Earth, the Doctor is back on his travels.

But is he not supposed to be exiled to Earth? Well the production team have decided to let that slide by having him go on occasional ‘missions for the Time Lords’.

Crap or Magnificent? You decide.

So what’s the mission? Well it won’t be a surprise to you that involves that old rogue, The Master.

Doctor Who – Colony in Space Review: What’s This One About?

Well what it’s supposed to be about and what it is about are two separate things. The reason the Doctor is sent to the Earth colony planet Uxarieus in the year 2472 is to stop the Master from getting hold of ‘The Doomsday Weapon’ held within the ruins of an ancient civilisation that live beneath the planet.

But what it’s really about is the feud between the colonists who are on the planet, and the mining company who want to take advantage of the rich mineral deposits there. The mining company want to bully the colonists off the planet and try everything from using a comedy robot with giant claws to kill them, sending in Roy Skelton to infiltrate the colony and then just saying ‘Piss off or we’ll kill you’.

Thoughts – An Obvious Political Statement

I was born in 1982 so the era this was broadcast in was well before my time, but I’d be very surprised if this isn’t meant to be a political statement based around what was happening in the UK around 1971 regarding big business and the effects of pollution. Later on in 1971 there was of course the Pollution episode of The Goodies, so that would tie in.

Here the ‘Back To Nature’  types are portrayed as the innocent good guys, while – with the exception of Bernard Kay’s Caldwell – the members of the IMC are portrayed as ruthless, money-hungry bastards. So it’s quite clear who Barry Letts & Co side with in reality.

Thankfully, this obvious statement doesn’t really get in the way of a good story. My issue with it though is that – as I say above – what it’s meant to be about (i.e. the reason for why the Doctor is there) is largely ignored, but for two quick and inconsequential visits to the primitive

The Doctor – as charming as ever

city.

Should The Master Be In This One?

Related to the issue I raise above, there doesn’t seem to be any point in the Master being in this one, and how they handle him being there is a bit odd too.

In my previous review of the Claws of Axos, I talked about how they had the Master leaving Earth only for him to be back a week later. That was bad enough, but here what they do is have some Time Lord characters basically say ‘The Master is in this one’, thus ruining the surprise of him being the adjudicator when he turns up half way through, which is even worse in my opinion.

Admit it, you want that hairdo too.

This is one story where the Master could have been rested, just like UNIT were. Yes, he’s good in it – Roger Delgado is always fantastic – but he’s additional to the plot rather than crucial to it. In this story, the real villains are Captain Dent (with his wonderful head of hair) and Tony ‘Roy Evans’ Caunter’s Morgan; the Master just isn’t needed.

And I know you might say that he was needed for the Doctor to be able to get to Uxarieus in the first place, but there are obviously ways around it.

Random Observations

  • “Don’t worry, Jim’ll Fix It”says Helen Worth with a broad knowing grin on her face as if she’s telling a joke, in reference to getting a guy called Jim to fix something. And yet this was four years before Jim’ll Fix It started on

    The Doctor stands around awkwardly while the Master breaks the Fourth Wall with a Lovejoy-esque aside

    TV. It’s weird, isn’t it?

  • One thing that annoys me about the designers in Doctor Who sometimes is that they take leaps with certain technologies and in other cases assume that current technology will exist in the future. So while two-way video-phones and robots exist in 2472, cassette tapes and type-writer printers are also still kicking about. Fair enough, you can’t expect people to accurately predict all advancements in technology, but type-writer printers? Come on.
  • Once again, the cliffhangers aren’t all that good and are used more as a way to suddenly end a 23 minute episode with a life-threatening scenario. We have episode one & two finishing with the Doctor being confronted by the same robot and episodes four & five finishing with the Master threatening to kill the Doctor or Jo. We know that neither is really in any danger of being killed off so it’s not something that I find to be a good cliffhanger at all.
  • But I have to give credit to Episode 3’s cliffhanger where Jo is away to be taken down to the primitive city. Had I watched it at the time I would have thought ‘Wow, I look forward to seeing what happens next week’, because it actually advances the plot.
  • In this story Jo continually gets referred to as ‘Jo Grant’. Yes, that’s her full name, but it just seems forced and incongruous. I don’t know why, but it’s always bothered me when watching this one.
  • In general, the primitives are rubbish. The exception is the wonderfully well spoken Guardian. He has this oddness about him in that he’s clearly a rather sloppily put together Papier-mâché puppet slumped into a chair, and yet despite that, is oddly convincing. Work that one out.
  • Sadly there aren’t any budding Columbos living within the Colony considering they don’t work out that there was just something not quite right about Norton (Roy Skelton)
  • Why is Jo so surprised about the TARDIS? She’s seen it de-materialise in the Claws of Axos and therefore must know that it is what it’s always been purported to be. Could this be another sign that it makes more sense for this story to have taken place before Claws of Axos? Or am I reading too much into it?
  • Watch the scenes with the primitives and tell me you don’t think of the Sand Creatures from Star Wars?
  • What I love about Jon Pertwee’s Doctor is how much of a grumpy and rude bastard he can be at times. One of the best examples of that is in Episode 2 of this story where he meets Morgan for the first time. “Who the blazes are you, and why was this door locked” he shouts at a man he’s meeting for the first time. Classic Pertwee.
  • There are plenty of actors who have appeared on the show before. Bernard Kaye (Daleks Invasion of Earth, The Crusade & The Faceless Ones), John Ringham (The Aztecs & The Smugglers) and John Herrington (Daleks Master Plan) make their final Doctor Who appearances. Meanwhile I *think* this is legendary extra Pat Gorman’s first ever speaking role in the show.

Doctor Who – Colony in Space Review: Final Thoughts

Colony in Space is an enjoyable story and one that holds its own in a strong season of the show.

But it didn’t need the Master and it could probably have worked better as a four-parter. What they probably should have done was expanded more on the storyline with the primitive city and how it affected the colonists ability to grow crops (a storyline which was pretty much dropped the moment the IMC turned up) in place of the stuff with the Master.

But that’s not a huge issue, and I’m still satisfied with what Colony in Space turned out to be.


Doctor Who – The Claws of Axos Review (or ‘I Have Almost Nothing Good To Say About This Story’)

April 20, 2012

Up until this point of my run-through of Doctor Who, I haven’t come across a story that I didn’t particularly want to watch. Yes, it’s true that I’ve criticised some of the stories I’ve reviewed quite heavily, but I was still happy to watch them.

Not The Claws of Axos though. The Claws of Axos is shit.

It’s the first story in the run where I think ‘I wish I could skip this’. It’ll happen more and more as the series progresses (it pains me that in the near future I’ll have to watch turgid dross like Underworld, Warriors Gate – ooooh controversial – Time Flight and Terminus) but in a sound era of the show like the Pertwee era,  it’s like a blackout curtain in amongst a palace of light.

But a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

Doctor Who – The Claws of Axos Review: What’s This One About

In principle it’s actually not that bad a story. An alien space ship lands in Southern England near a massive power station. Representatives of the British Government meet with the aliens – The Axons – who offer a precious mineral -

The Doctor wakes up after a particularly raucous night out

Axonite – that apparently can make things grow and thus solve world food shortages etc. In return all they ask is to be able to refuel before they leave.

In truth though, the Axons are parasites who want to use Axonite to rape the world of its energy and minerals before leaving.

Oh, and the Master is helping them.

And there’s a representative of the American government there who wants to arrest him.

Thoughts – Let’s Start With The Characters

So in theory it doesn’t sound that bad, but in execution…

For a start you have Chinn, the Civil Servant who wants to claim Axonite for the British. Now, the guy who played Chinn – Peter Bathurst – was probably good in stuff like Father, Dear Father and Doctor at Large, and had he not died in 1973 you could have imagined him being a decent enough addition to shows like Terry & June and Rentaghost, but he’s absolutely not suited for Doctor Who.

There have been more comedic actors who have done a great turn in the show, like Derek Francis as Nero in The Romans, but you wouldn’t put Francis smack bang in the middle of the Caves of Androzani, would you?

In context he’s just all wrong. When people are being electrocuted trying to stop a nuclear power station from blowing up, and UNIT soldiers are being murdered in battle, he’s going about eating sandwiches and saying he was in catering. It’s just awful.

And so is Paul Grist, who plays ‘The All American Hero’, Bill Filer.

A great example of how the realisation doesn’t match the idea. That’s clearly the Master in a rubber mask – how is that supposed to fool anyone?

If you load up Grist on IMDB the ‘Trivia’ for him is that he is a ‘Welsh Actor Based in the UK in the sixties and the seventies’. So he’s not American? Never?!!?

My understanding is that an American character was put into it to make it easier to sell the show in foreign countries like…erm…America. But he was neither convincing, nor likeable. And also, he was just…there. Like we’re supposed to know who he is and feel some deep level of empathy towards him. Well we don’t.

And then there is David Savile, who you’ll remember from his well acted and well written role as Lt. Carstairs in the War Games. Here he’s terrible. His acting seems so forced and clumsy as he tries to be a combination of arrogant and angry. It doesn’t work. You just cheer when he’s killed.

And What About The Story?

The story is also poorly written.

Bob Baker & Dave Martin make their Doctor Who debuts here. None of the stories they are responsible for are particularly good. Granted they aren’t all bad, but they are responsible for writing the worst story of every Doctor Who series they write for, with one exception (I quite like the Invisible Enemy).

The problem is that it just jumps straight in without any sort of introduction. Some people might think that’s quite good, but I don’t. I’ve read someone say that it’s written like a comic strip, and that’s actually a very good comparison.

There are too many characters who we’re supposed to care about but we don’t. And we don’t because we aren’t given reason to.

And the use of the Master is stupid as well. At the end of the Mind of Evil we have the whole ‘Oh no, the Master has his dimensional circuit back, and he’s leaving Earth to terrorise other planets’ deal and then they don’t even give the character one single week off the screen. He’s just back again. In fairness, that’s a problem that lies at the doorstep of Dicks & Letts though.

And as for Pigbin Josh. Just…I’m not sure if I can come up with the words. I don’t know if I even need to.

Overreaching Sets

As I’ve said before, when people talk dismissively about ‘classic’ Dr Who, they talk about the poor quality of the sets and the costumes, and 90% of the time they are dead wrong in my opinion. But this is one of the 10% examples. The

The Doctor is horrified when the Axons show him what an aged Jo Grant looks like. I agree. Can you imagine The Jo Grant Adventures? It would scare kids shitless.

problem is that they try to create a properly alien entity like Axos on a very limited budget. It might have worked in black and white – like it did to an extent in the Web Planet – but in colour it becomes harder to achieve.

And so while the raw state Axon costume is good, the Humanoid Axons are people wearing cheap looking unitards and Axos itself is a horribly cheap looking set with foam things painted a sort of browny-orange. And that eye…my god, it’s like something out of a school play.

But Worst of All…

Worst of all here is the direction.

There’s an argument to be made that direction is like art – the beauty of it is in the eye of the beholder.

Well as far as this beholder is concerned, I have never seen direction uglier than in the Claws of Axos. It’s actually unpleasant to watch.

There’s a scene in Episode 1 where Chinn introduces George Hardiman & Winser to the UNIT people and it has the clumsiest and most unnecessary camera switches in history. This director seems to think here that it’s all about rapid close-up shots of people’s’ faces.

Just horrible.

Then he cuts in and out of scenes for absolutely no good reason. We’ll be watching a conversation between a couple of characters in a lab and then suddenly cut to a 2 second shot of Jo Grant standing outside looking straight into the

This guy becomes a super-villain in a Doctor Who Past Doctor Book (that I can’t remember the name of). He’s also Charlie Slater off Eastenders, Yay.

camera, and then back to the lab where the conversation continues. It doesn’t work. It’s like extremely sloppy subliminal messaging.

It ruins further what is already a poor production.

Horrendous and Hideous.

And the thing is, Michael Ferguson was responsible for directing some good stories like The War Machines, The Seeds of Death and The Ambassadors of Death. How could he suddenly become quite so bad?

But In Fairness…

But in fairness it’s not ALL bad. Once again,  Roger Delgado is fantastic as the Master. I really enjoy his scenes helping the UNIT soldiers and working with the Doctor.

The story itself does seem to calm down and become somewhat easier to follow midway through the third episode as well.

And unlike the stories that have come before it, the cliffhangers are actually quite good.

But still, the bad vastly outweigh the good.

Random Observations

  • In one Doctor Who Past Doctor Adventure book, the enemy turns out to be the soldier who is attacked outside the Power Station and becomes embittered against the Doctor. And I can’t remember what book this is? Can anyone help?
  • It would make a lot more sense if this story came after the Colony in Space, don’t you think?

Doctor Who – The Claws of Axos Review: Final Thoughts

It’s rubbish. If it wasn’t for Roger Delgado’s performance it would be a contender for my least favourite story ever.

Nothing seems to go right. The characters are either poorly played or poorly cast, the concept is too ambitious for the budget, the direction is poor and the story itself is mediocre at best.

Even though the cliffhangers are alright and it becomes a bit more easy to follow towards the end, that’s not enough to even come close to saving it.

The Claws of Axos is without question one to avoid.


Doctor Who – The Mind of Evil Review (or ‘A Very British Prison Break’)

April 13, 2012

Just when you thought we were done with the Black & White era of Doctor Who, one last story turns up.

No, The Mind of Evil wasn’t originally broadcast in Black & White, but any and all colour copies of the story are missing and so this is what we’re left with. But to be honest I think Black & White suits this story very well. It would seem

The Doctor meets The Keller Machine at the end of Episode 1.

wrong to have it available in colour.

As for the story itself, my brother seems to have a passionate dislike for it, and I’m not sure why. To quote him, when he saw I was watching it he said “Oh, the Mind of Evil…wank, wank, wank”. If that’s not Scottish Disdain then I don’t know what is.

Doctor Who – The Mind of Evil Review: What’s This One About?

The Master – posing as the Swiss Scientist Emile Keller – has donated a machine to a British Prison that removes the evil impulses of the prisoners’ minds. Well…I say removes, but the truth is it feeds on them. And it’s quite a handy machine, capable of tuning in on a person’s greatest fears and using that to kill them. So for example, someone who is afraid of water would drown in a dry room thanks to the machine, or someone with a fear of rats would die from being attacked by imaginary rats that actually leave claw marks on the person’s body.

The Doctor meets the Kellar Machine at the end of Episode 3.

No, that doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense.

Also, the machine is capable of teleportation.

Anyway, apart from that, in a seemingly unrelated and yet convenient turn of events, the Master helps the prisoners take over the prison and uses them to hijack a nuclear missile which is being transported to its destruction by UNIT while there just so happens to be a World Peace Conference going on at the same time.

Thoughts – What’s The Point of The Keller Machine?

As you can see from what I’ve just written, there are a few different strands going on here, and they don’t really link up all that well. The machine is at the prison and the prison is where the Master plans on operating his Missile Grab from, but the machine and missile story-lines are unrelated. If anything, the Kellar Machine is a hindrance to the Master more than a help.

What he plans on doing with the machine is never really explained and even if he did have a plan it was pretty quickly ruined by the fact that the machine was out of control from

The Doctor & Joe meet the Kellar Machine at the End of Episode 4

about midway through Episode 2.

So that whole thing was a bit weird.

Really, this story was about the Master helping organise a Prison takeover. The Keller Machine only comes into play whenever there is a cliffhanger, and I would consider that to be a problem. As the story develops the Keller Machine is just the proverbial elephant in the (other) room that doesn’t in any way contribute to the development of the plot, and yet because Doctor Who has to have a cliffhanger every 23 minutes, the Doctor would incongruously just waltz back into the room where it is to nearly be killed again.

In fact, the breakdown of cliffhangers is

  1. The Doctor gets confronted by the Keller Machine
  2. A Chinese Guy gets confronted by the Keller Machine – remotely
  3. The Doctor gets confronted by the Keller Machine again
  4. The Doctor and Jo get confronted by the Keller Machine
  5. The Doctor gets a gun pulled on him (yay!)

And don’t think that’s all. In the absence of a Keller Machine cliffhanger in Episode 5, they have scenes with it either side of the conclusion.

That’s pretty lazy writing. Still, the Kellar Machine music is iconic, so that’s something.

A Very British Prison Break

The Doctor tries to stop the Kellar Machine in Episode 5 (have you spotted the recurring theme yet?)

As for the Prison Break storyline…well it’s all very British. If you’re a reader of my other blog posts you’ll know I’m currently watching Prison Break, and to say there’s a difference in the way the Prisoners act is an understatement. Not that that’s a bad thing. I actually think William Marlowe is superb as Mailer.

You can tell he’s a villain – a ruthless rogue – but he plays it with that wonderful Britishness that you could only get from a pre-80s BBC show. I think he’s supposed to be a bit common, but he’s still better spoken than most of the people on TV these days. He plays his part very well against both Delago and Pertwee and best of all, he plays his sense of underlying fear against the Keller process and Barnham superbly.

But just for a moment, I want you to imagine his part replaced by Robert Knepper’s Theodore ‘T-Bag’ Bagwell. Wouldn’t that just be amazing?

The Regular Cast and the Way They Play Off Each Other

So far I’ve written mainly negative stuff about the Mind of Evil as a story, but despite those flaws I like it very much. The reason for that is down to the way the regular cast play off each other.

Everything works. The Doctor has varied and deep relationships with Jo, The Brigadier and the Master, The Brigadier works brilliantly alongside Yates & Benton and the Master

And no, this isn’t the same as the picture from the end of Episode 4; this is Jo & the Doctor meeting the Keller Machine in Episode 6.

seems to work well with everyone.

My favourite of those relationships is definitely the Doctor & The Master. They play off each other as mortal enemies and yet they are just as easily able to work together, like when they join forces to try to harness the Keller Machine.

Just like in Terror of the Autons, they seem to not mind too much when the other is winning their proverbial game of chess and you can believe that there’s a long backstory between them. Certainly you can appreciate that they probably used to be good friends.

The writers have to take credit for it as well, but mostly it’s down to the chemistry between Pertwee and Delgado. Already you can tell that it would have been a far better conclusion to the Master had he been killed off saving the Doctor at the end of Pertwee’s reign, as was the plan before Delgado’s unfortunate and untimely death. At the very least we’d have been saved from a load of crap JNT Era stories as well as John Sim’s ‘Wackyness’. But then we wouldn’t have got that 90 seconds worth of Derek Jacobi…

Random Observations

  • The first thing to ask is how much time has passed between the Terror of the Autons and this story? Based on the fact the Master hasn’t been able to travel in his TARDIS, it has to be at least a couple of years to allow time for him to have set everything up with the Keller process. If that is the case I like that, because sometimes you get the feeling the passing of time in Doctor Who is too rapid. As I’ve said before, if you actually time it, the Fifth Doctor only lasted about two-and-a-half weeks in real-time before regenerating.
  • You knew I was going to say this…why is the Doctor afraid of Koquillian? And a Sensorite? And a Zarbi too? But most of all Koquillian and a Sensorite!
  • And why was his initial ‘greatest fear’ Fire before changing to a variety of inoffensive monsters?
  • I actually wish the story did exist in Colour now to see if they used colour photos of those old monsters (Writers Note in 2014: They didn’t. I was gutted)
  • And I see at this point they haven’t completely forgotten how to do a Dalek voice.
  • Barnham is a wonderfully unnerving simpleton. I’ve already mentioned the way Mailer reacts to him, but Benton also reacts amusingly. Best of all though is the Brigadier’s reaction. He just stares at him with a mixture of confusion and contempt before turning back to the Doctor and asking who the hell he is. That bit cracks me up every time.
  • Speaking of Barnham, I didn’t like the way they killed him off. For one thing it seemed like it was for the sake of it and for another thing, that he died from the Master lightly bumping him while starting up his van made no sense.

    And just for a change, here’s Nicholas Courtney providing the definite facial expression for a combination of confusion and contempt.

  • Also, there’s a great line in Episode Six where – before the cut away from Jo looking after Barnham – she asks him “What’s your other name”. Totally random.
  • I also love the Brigadier’s ‘Common Man’ act.
  • One other thing – and it’s another one of these issues that bugs me in all of TV. There’s a scene where Barnham has to stay with the Keller Machine to nullify its threat, and Doctor Summers comes in to get take him away. Rather than calmly and concisely explain why Barnham has to be there, Jo just starts shouting ‘No, you can’t’ at him. If she had done the former, there would be no problem. But that sort of thing happens an awful lot in TV generally.

Doctor Who: The Mind of Evil Review: Final Thoughts

So my brother doesn’t like this story, but I do. I can see the issues with it and I can appreciate them, but I think the quality of the performances from the ensemble cast more than make up for it.

But from a plot point of view, it does leave a bit to be desired.

Still…it’s worth a couple of hours of your time.


Doctor Who – Terror of the Autons Review (or ‘Barry Letts Has a New Toy’)

April 7, 2012

Sometimes a story surprises me. When I started my run-through there was no way – for example – that I thought I would be so critical of Fury from the Deep, or that I would rate the Underwater Menace so highly. So it’s nice to have my perceptions challenged while watching a show I thought I had completely sussed.

Well this next story – The Terror of the Autons – is another example of that.

Before I get to my review, I’ll expand on what I thought I was going to say about this story going into it…

“This story is nothing more than a hollow vehicle to introduce all the UNIT characters and the Master, complete with bad special effects and a far poorer use of the Autons”

But what do I think now that I’ve watched it with my ‘Reviewers Hat’ on?

Doctor Who – Terror of the Autons Review: What’s This One About

Well it is the one that is a vehicle to introduce the new UNIT characters (Jo Grant and Captain Yates) and The Master, but it’s not hollow.

Random Screen Cap Alert. Oooooh, I say.

The Master arrives on Earth and looks to use the Nestene to help him take over. And while he’s at it, he wants to kill the Doctor too.

Thoughts – How it Looks

First and foremost, the quality of the recording is poor. I couldn’t find my DVD of it (thanks to my brother and his ultra-efficient DVD filing system of ‘Putting Any Disk In Any Box’) so I had to watch AVI file versions through my PC, but what I watched was poor quality. In fact, with it being re-colourised and made at a time when the standard of transmissions probably weren’t the best anyway, this story – along with the Daemons – is probably the worst quality Dr Who story around from a visual standpoint.

I know that that’s not got anything really to do with how good it is as a story, but it could be seen by some as being off-putting. I don’t know if any of you have seen the Cary Grant film Charade? Well I’ve only seen the first 15 minutes of it because the film print on the DVD I watched was so bad that it was simply unwatchable. So to some people in 2012, the quality of Terror of the Autons may be considered a turn-off.

Barry Letts’s New Toy

The other major issue of how this story looks is down to Producer and Director Barry Letts’s new toy – CSO (Colour Seperation Overlay – more commonly known as ‘Green Screen’).

Compare this screencap to the one from the Factory in the Spearhead from Space. The quality is wildly different…unfortunately.

Now, I’m not going to insult your intelligence. You know what ‘Green Screen’ is. These days it’s ‘Blue Screen’, but you get the idea. Well anyway, we can look at a film that primarily uses this sort of technology – The Phantom Menace for example – and see that it has dated considerably. So it’s natural to assume that something made in 1971 when the technology was in its infancy would look even worse.

Well this is where I was first surprised.

Undoubtedly some of it looks bad, and is actually completely unnecessary (Letts decided to use CSO in place of any set he couldn’t be arsed paying for, it would seem, so we have CSO workshops, phone boxes, museums, scenery from a car and most ridiculously of all, a CSO kitchen) and it’s because of that that people generally look at this story as being an abomination when it comes to the use of CSO.

But…

Credit must be given where credit is due. Some of the CSO stuff works brilliantly, and far better than you could possibly expect it to in 1971. The effect of having Goodge being miniaturised and left in a lunchbox is great. More than 10 years later, Dr Who would do the ‘miniaturised’ effect by using Barbie dolls, so that just shows you how ahead of its time this is.

And then there’s the troll doll, which  is an absolute triumph. To get the effect of this 15″ high troll doll moving about, they put an actor in a full size suit and had him wander about

And yet this is a really nice special effect. That doesn’t look like a man in a suit standing in front of a green-screen,

over good looking CSO backgrounds. And it works. These days everything would be done with CGI, but to do what they did back then was pretty awesome.

The Use of the Autons

An area where my perceptions weren’t challenged so much was with the Autons themselves. I don’t think they look anywhere near as good as they did in Spearhead from Space, and I also didn’t like that they spoke. It just didn’t seem right.

Certainly the Autons here are less scary than they were in the earlier story.

To give Letts credit again though, he does manage to overcome some of the issues through his use incidental music, but then that goes back to my long-standing problem with creating ‘scare factor’ by playing short, sharp loud music for effect. The ones in Spearhead from Space didn’t need any of that.

But while it might well fall down there, at least the story explores the use of plastic in general being deadly under Nestene control far better than the other story. Rather than it just

This is slightly more obvious but still pretty damn impressive.

being about Autons we have killer flowers, armchairs, telephone cords and of course the aforementioned Troll doll. It’s Steven Moffat-esque in its thinking.

The New Cast

As I’ve said above, this story launches the new cast. Liz Shaw is gone to be replaced by the far more ‘Doctor-Who-Girl-like’ Jo Grant, The Brigadier now has a regular Captain in Mike Yates and the Doctor has his own Moriarty in the form of the Master.

Katy Manning and Roger Delgado are both very good – Delgado is excellent in fact and is without question one of the very best actors to play a villainous role in the show’s history. He’s just so smooth, and his face is wonderful for the part.

But this is a CSO Kitchen. I mean…FFS.

Unquestionably, he’s the best Master. But then that wouldn’t be too hard considering the second best Master is Derek Jacobi, and he played the part for about 90 seconds. Still…the fact that Delgado is better than Jacobi says it all.

And to give her credit, Manning is probably one of the best companions. People often shower praise on Elisabeth Sladen (Gawd Rest ‘Er Soul) as being the definitive Dr Who Girl, but I actually prefer Manning, who I think works better as both an audience identification figure and as an actress working with Jon Pertwee. Mind you, when you consider the difference in the relationship Pertwee allegedly had with both women in real life, that’s not a surprise. Look it up…

Still, neither companion are a patch on Ian & Barbara.

As for Captain Yates…well it’s not that he’s bad, because he’s not. It’s just that…well…he’s a little bit effete. He doesn’t suit the role. Why they would hire Richard Franklin to play the part of a man who was supposed to be a romantic male lead opposed to Manning is a little bit confusing. But hey-ho…

The Ending

The only issue in terms of storyline I have with Terror of the Autons is most of what goes on in the final episode. Up to this point things have been cooking along nicely, but events seem to skip a few pages and all of a sudden the entire plan to take over the world (assuming that’s what it was) rests within a bus parked in a quarry.

There appears to be some level of tension about whether or not Farrell wants to abandon the Master because he seems to have gone AWOL, and then there’s the famously bad conclusion to the whole thing.

All it takes for the Master to abandon the Nestene is for the Doctor to say ‘They probably won’t distinguish between you and the rest of the humans’. Talk about a cop-out.

Random Observations

  • Jon Pertwee is excellent in this story as the Doctor. The whole notion that he goes to Gentlemen’s Clubs (no, not in that sense) and mixes with the upper echelons of society is fantastic. And really, it’s only the Third Doctor who could pull that off.
  • In terms of the guest cast, one actor I thought was terrific was Stephen Jack as Farrell Senior. As regular readers of my blog will know, I like when actors do the little things right. Jack’s acting while confronting the Master and nearly being hypnotised couldn’t be better.
  • From a storyline point of view though, the Master seems to lose his cool very quickly when he realises Farrell Senior can’t be hypnotised.
  • I don’t really understand how the plastic daffodils work. Well…I do, they work by spraying quick set plastic over the victim’s mouth and suffocating them, but what I didn’t understand was how that plastic was dissolved. It seems to dissolve when it comes into contact with carbon dioxide. But wouldn’t that mean if the person who is being suffocated simply tries to exhale then it’ll dissolve? Or am I being obtuse?
  • You have to wonder what The Master wants his relationship with the Doctor to be. On the one hand, it seems as though he is simply playing a metaphorical game of chess with him and is doing what he’s doing to get the Doctor’s attention, and yet on the other hand, had the Time Lord not warned the Doctor about the bomb, it would have been game over immediately.
  • And the Doctor says he’s quite looking forward to crossing swords with the Master in the future, which is actually quite mean of him considering Round One of their feud has seen numerous innocent fatalities.
  • I never really understood – from a storyline point of view – why the Master bothered to capture that other scientist, since nothing really came of it until it was time for him to be killed off.
  • Also, it’s good to see that Roy Stewart was still making a living playing against pre-1980s British Stereotypes of Strong Black Men,
  • One area where this story excels is the cliffhangers. All of them are good, which is in direct contract to most of the ones seen in Series Seven. Episode Two especially is a good one from a shock point of view, although if we assume

    Holy Shit! Holy Shit! Holy Shit!

    the masks of the Autons are meant to be a little bit more realistic than the make-up department have managed to convey, how did the Doctor come to the conclusion that the Policeman was an Auton, and had it not been, would he not have seemed a bit foolish trying to peel the guy’s face off?

  • From later on in that sequence, there is one of my favourite stunt-man falls of all time. When the Auton gets hit by a car and falls down the cliff it looks absolutely brilliant. For years I thought it was a dummy, but apparently it was a stuntman. Man….that must have hurt. And the best thing about it is the way the Auton seamlessly gets back up again. Terrific stuff.
  • Finally, one thing that always gets criticism is the scene with Harry Tawb and the Killer Chair. People point to him pulling the chair down over his own face, but I don’t think it’s that bad. If you excuse that little bit it’s a very nicely done effect.

Doctor Who – Terror of the Autons Review: Final Thoughts

Terror of the Autons might well be a vehicle to introduce the new regular characters, but it also works well in its own right.

Episode Four is a disappointment, some aspects of the CSO are poor and the Autons aren’t are scary as they were in Spearhead from Space.

But on the other hand, the writers do a far better job of exploring the concept of plastic as a deadly weapon, the new characters are introduced very well and some of the CSO works tremendously. The story is well acted by everyone concerned and it’s one that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend, though I would make allowances for the poor picture quality.


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