An all round more colourful and entertaining season than the year before but securing the shows success because of it, season eight saw the introduction of most of the characters that the Pertwee era is famous for. In this year he faces the combined forces of the Master and the Autons, a fear hungry mind parasite, parasitical beings offering fools gold, an amoral mining company and the devil itself!
The regulars -
Terror of the Autons written by Robert Holmes and directed by Barry Letts
This story in a nutshell: The Autons are back and this time they’ve got an ally from the Doctor’s own planet…
The Mighty Nose: There is a subtle shift in Jon Pertwee’s performance this year. After the exiled traveller of season seven he is now starting to settle down and his own laboratory in London and sings merrily as he tries to fix up the TARDIS again. There is a definite feeling that he has settled for all his insults to the Brigadier. He is so wonderfully rude I couldn’t stop laughing – telling Jo that his lab is out of bounds to everybody but the tea lady and his horrified reaction to learning that she will be his new assistant. The scene where he cannot bring himself to break Jo’s heart and tell her that she’s got to go is just lovely and the look he gives the Brigadier could poison fruit! He’s arrogance when talking about the Master until the Time Lord points out that he was academically stronger than the Doctor and then he’s all excuses and shyness! The Doctor seems to have a problem with anybody who acts in an official capacity, he wont even look at the Director and has great fun poking at pen pusher Brownrose. Boiling out the contents of the volatiser is a great moment but I cannot imagine a moment where the Doctor has sounded so full of himself (‘The weapons that you have on Earth are quite nasty enough as it is!’). Whilst Jo and Yates are spellbound by the Brigadiers council of war, the Doctor simply strolls into the TARDIS uninterested and congratulates him on his brilliant conclusion when he finally gets to it. He thinks that there is nothing wrong with being childish because he really likes it! I always thought this was one of the Doctor/Master tales that really stood out but they only meet twice in the last episode – Holmes cleverly holds off their meeting to give at the impact it deserves and the way they are both so cool around each other is very tense.
Dippy Agent: Jo Grant is an instant favourite and as she trips onto the scene with her hippy hair and clothes and ruins the Doctor’s experiment (thinking she is saving his life) it is easy to see why a generation of teenagers might have fallen in love. There are few other assistants that prove to be as feisty and resourceful and yet pretty useless and somebody you want to take under your wing and protect at the same time. It’s all down to Katy Manning’s very sweet performance and her chemistry with Jon Pertwee and there is a sense of instant rapport that never really built between fellow scientist the Doctor and Liz Shaw in season seven. One is a working relationship and the other is a friendship and it explains the difference in the two seasons styles beautifully. Jo is very excited that to tell the Doctor that she took an A Level in General Science but waits for a while to admit that she failed. There are a couple of moments of overdone hysterics (‘I’ve got to open I’ve got to!’ certainly counts but ‘I can’t remember!’ is probably the worst example!). She’s not above a stroppy childish rant when the Doctor tells her to keep out of the way and be a good girl!
Chap With Wings: The Brigadier has been around the Doctor long enough now to know that he doesn’t need a highly qualified scientist to butt heads with but a pretty girl to pass him his test tubes and tell him how brilliant he is!
Mr Satan: The Master steps from his TARDIS with that crisp black suit, piercing eyes and pointed beard and you know this guy means business. He’s simply the sharpest looking villain we have seen in the show to this point and brought to life by the incomparable Roger Delgado he brings a whole new dimension of rivalry and continuity to the show. The Doctor is well aware of the Master’s reputation (although we don’t realise yet that they were quite as close as we later find out) and he considers him to be a jackanapes (haha!) and an unimaginative plodder (hahaha!). I love the moments of viciousness that crop up in this story; when he can’t hypnotise Mr Farrell he goes to strike him instead. The more the Doctor attempts to postpone his death the greater the satisfaction for the Master. You really get the sense that this is a game for him, or rather the continuation of a long term rivalry.
Camp Captain: I don’t want to be too ingenious because his character would certainly mature over the next four seasons but Yates might be the only addition that I am not entirely satisfied with. He’s a little too effeminate to convince as an army lad, he’s not exactly my cup of tea in the looks department (although I know that is a matter of taste but considering he was introduced as a bit of male eye candy that is a definite fail for me) and the performance by Richard Franklin at this early stage is quite stiff and awkward. As early as the next story he manages to pull himself together though and The Mind of Evil sees a far more dynamic Yates motorcycling after the villains and saving the day! His flirtatious line ‘a key for every occasion’ always makes me feel slightly nauseous. What sort of rugged army Captain minces out of a laboratory saying ‘I’ll just go and fetch the gubbins!’ with regards to making some cocoa?
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You ham fisted bun vendor!’ – some people decry this line but I love it…it sounds really rude and has become a favourite insult between Simon and I over the years!
‘Such an amusing idea!’ ‘The you better think of a witty way of dealing with it.’
‘He sat down in this chair and just…slipped away.’
‘What’s your friends name?’ ‘His name’s none of your business!’ ‘Hmm…that’s a strange name.’
‘You’re quite right Jo, I’ll apologise…if I have the time.’
‘Who’s in charge of you pen pushers these days, Old Tubby Rowlings isn’t it?’ ‘Lord Rowlings is Head of our Department, yes’ ‘Yes I was saying to him in the Club only the other day “Wrong sort of lot is creeping into your lot, Tubby, I said”.’
‘Death is always more frightening when it strikes invisibly.’
The Good: You know I don’t think I’ve ever realised it before (but then I have always been a little slow on the uptake…in this case by about 40 years) but the Pertwee title sequence is just an explosion of colour, isn’t it? It’s certainly the most colourful of all the title sequences, a bold statement that we have stepped out of the monochrome era. As would be exemplified by The Greatest Show in the Galaxy a circus is a great location for Doctor Who and he seems to fit in very well with a crowd of oddities (and I love the casual shot of the clown with great big shoes plodding past the camera!). Just where does that staircase lead in the Doctor’s laboratory? People have a right old moan about the synthesised Dudley Simpson music this season but I rather like it and there are some great moments of tension created by the music in this story (the Master’s theme, the volatiser trap, the terrifying sting that plays over McDermott’s death, the Autons stalking the Doctor and Jo through the quarry, ). The only story I can think of in season eight where the music is primitive is Colony in Space (I mean where would be without Pigbin Josh’s theme?). David Garth gives a very charming performance as the Time Lord and in his eccentric get up I could see him making quite a fine Doctor himself. Where CSO really comes into its own isn’t as backdrops to scenes but in effects masterpieces like Gooch in the lunchbox – something that could otherwise never have been achieved and it looks great. Michael Wisher is always good value for money and whilst this might not be the most demanding part he plays watch how he adds lots of little moments of depth especially in all the scenes talking about his father. You know exactly the sort of domineering parenting Rex has suffered and he is trying desperately to make his way in the world and make himself out as something different from the old man. That hideous black plastic chair (otherwise known as the black pudding) that consumes Mr McDermott is really embarrassing, blackly comical and utterly terrifying and that is not an easy combination to pull off. What an embarrassing way to go…but to be asphyxiated by horrible clammy plastic fills me with dread (plus the camera lingers on him until we can recognise that he is no longer breathing…). Holmes is having great fun taking the piss out of the mass consumerism of cheap tat in the early seventies. The troll doll is one of the most hideous things I have ever seen and yet oddly I think it loses its effectiveness when it starts moving (and is surrounded by blurry CSO). And yet I could imagine that the BBC might have received all manner of complaints about little childwen refusing to take their teddy bears to bed in case they come to life and try to kill them! Strangely enough the moving CSO of McDermott’s car is far more effective than the stationary attempts of his house. Talk about destabilising the kids! First they can’t take their toys to bed with them and now they can’t even turn to a policeman for help! In both cases – death! The blank faced Auton in the policeman’s uniform is pretty scary and the stunt where one is knocked over the edge of a precipice by a car and simply gets up and starts climbing after such an incredible fall really suggests how invulnerable these guys are. Those identical grinning carnival masks are almost more frightening than the Autons because of the big fake grins slapped on their faces. I love the Auton in the safe in McDermott’s office, what a brilliant sudden shock! Wow - the daffodil spraying plastic over the camera and the prolonged scene of Jo asphyxiated as it covers her mouth is pretty nasty for Doctor Who. Its one of the few times where I think if kids tried to re-enact the scene it could be very dangerous. The pitch battle between the UNIT soldiers and the Autons in grinning carnival masks is one of the quirkiest action sequences ever in Doctor Who and I heartily approve. There is also a fantastic stunt where a scientist is knocked off the radio telescope – I don’t think the stunts during this era are given the credit they are due.
The Bad: Why does that location work all look so grainy and ugly at this period in the shows history. Actually no that’s not fair – The Mind of Evil’s location is crisp and gorgeous but shows like Terror of the Autons, Colony in Space and The Sea Devils have some of the gaudiest location in the shows run. CSO has quite a lot to answer for during its early stages and whilst this story doesn’t feature the worst examples (head over to The Green Death for that), it does perhaps rely on it far too much to achieve its ambition. Where did all the money saved on building new sets go? Spare characters like Gooch (and his rotten boiled eggs!) are cast without much care and distinctly dull (although the idea of him winding up next one of his boiled eggs in his lunchbox is Holmes’ at his blackest best). Um…why doesn’t the Doctor simply climb through the window and unhook the volatiser? Jo finds the right plastics factory awfully quickly and then returns to UNIT HQ with the bomb in what feels like seconds – this is one of the manufactured cliff-hangers we have ever seen. Plus how does the Doctor figure there is a bomb in the box? Jo is hardly acting strangely by opening a box! Talking Autons are no where near as scary as the silent warriors of Spearhead from Space. Performing an autopsy on a troll doll might be one of the daftest things I have ever seen! The doll coming alive in the Doctor’s lab is highly unconvincing…they don’t have the effects techniques to make it work and so it is sort of wobbled in front of the camera as if it is walking! The Doctor gurning as he is strangled by the telephone flex on a string is just as rubbish as when he was gurning on rubber tentacles last year. What on Earth is that giant rubbery fish hanging from the Doctor’s lab ceiling as seen just after the Brigadier saves him from the telephone flex of death. Unfortunately after two episodes of being an amusing stooge Farrell has outlived his usefulness and is wasted on dull scenes with the talking Auton and is casually murdered just to get him out of the way. Flashing the break lights in morse code! Don’t make me laugh! Much has been said about the Master’s miraculous turn around at the climax and it is weak but what baffles me is why we didn’t just have the Doctor overpower him and let the climax play out as it does with only the Doctor defeating their invasion. It would make far more sense. What on Earth is that white blob coalescing in the radio telescope?
Riding high on the success of season seven, is this where the Pertwee era went wrong? To answer that question depends on what your personal view of Doctor Who is and whether you watch it for simple entertainment or what to look into it a bit more deeper than that. Is this story actually inferior to the four produced the year before? Yes and no, certainly it lacks the intelligence and feeling of realism generated by Pertwee's initial year being in itself a comic book copy of his debut story Spearhead from Space but I genuinely feel if Doctor Who had continued in this seven part, crushingly real format the show would have died in a few years. I do very much enjoy the early Pertwee stuff (Inferno and The Silurians are two of my favourite stories) and shake my head with despair when I compare it to later 'romps' such as The Time Monster and Monster of Peladon but I am not blind to the fact that season eight received about a third more viewing figures than the year before and that the audiences were dwindling when asked to follow such gritty epics with little in the way of light relief. Inferno plummeted to roughly five million per episode and although it may be a stellar story it wasn’t entirely suited to its time slot and audience. The Three Doctors might have a travesty of a production and flaunt a general dumbing down of the scripts but the story was watched by about ten million per episode. The numbers speak for themselves really. You could perhaps argue that Terror of the Autons and story of this ilk were responsible for the shows survival way into the future. Gearing the show towards entertainment rather than character drama might just have been the smartest move Letts and Dicks made.
Result: An easy story to enjoy because it skips from one twisted set piece to another as the Doctor and the Master play their game of cat and mouse, Terror of the Autons is a colourful affair with lots going on and no time to get bored. With CSO being used ad nauseum and its crazy imagery it is literally like watching a comic strip coming to life and whilst it might be a little gaudy in places the show is none fully exploiting the fun and visual splendour that it can have with colour. I have always thought that Terror of the Autons was in no way as scary as Spearhead from Space but there were quite a few moments where I felt a little chill of disquiet (the Clingfilm spitting daffodils and unstoppable policemen especially) despite the lighter mood and wittier script. Jo Grant and the Master are both very enjoyable new additions and the Doctor is more wonderfully rude than ever before, insulting everybody in his own charming (and very funny) way. There is definitely a shift from political and scientific dramas to something far more shallow and quirky but I genuinely believe had this move not been made Doctor Who might have died a death had it continued in season sevens dry vein. Terror of the Autons is occasionally embarrassing but more often addictive and it skips along so entertainingly I cannot bring myself to be too harsh on its weaker effects moments. Joyously anarchic: 8/10
The Mind of Evil written by Don Houghton and directed by Tim Coombe
The Mighty Nose: In his two stories Don Houghton managed to capture the third Doctor beautifully by taking him to extremes of emotion and seeing how he copes. The usual unruffled Pertwee was facing Armageddon in Inferno and here he is tortured beyond reason and it is great to be able to see the weaker side of this bullish character. It makes him far more grounded. All this is odd because the first episode probably features the worst characterisation of the third Doctor ever and suddenly after his first attack by the Keller Machine he suddenly whips into shape. In the first episode the Doctor behaves like a playground bully, acting like a total prat in front of the CCTV, insulting the press (okay, I’ll give him that one) and officiously and insulting interrupts Kettering’s demonstration and gives a really bitchy look to Jo when he is admonished. He takes the suggestion that he is not a scientist very personally. Frankly he is so rude and tormenting you want him to be wrong about the Keller machine so they can shove it back in his face. It is lovely to see a reminder about his previous adventures and he is still haunted by his experiences in the alternative universe. Pertwee plays his fear with hypnotic conviction. I started to really warm to him about the time where he attacked Mike Yates. He only helps out the Brigadier once his own demands are met. He thinks his Hokien is pretty rusty but his Cantonese is good. I love his powerful arrogance when confronted by Mailer with a shotgun and he screams ‘don’t point that thing at me man, it might go off!’ as though he isn’t in deep ¤¤¤¤ and then he dismisses the gun anyway when he realises he is! The tension between the Doctor and the Master is really edgy at this point, about as far from the cuddly chums they would become in later seasons as you can get. The Doctor is so scared when subjected to the machine that one of his hearts stops. He looks in a really bad way, sweaty, tired and close to death. And then he's beaten up by Mailer! Watch Pertwee as he is telling Jo about the Keller Machine...he is just dying to snap that pencil! Guns make him nervous. How rubbish is his counter offer to Mailer? Now is not the time for honesty, Doc! He admits that he is physically and mentally tired. In one scene he pretty much tells the Master to piss off and stop causing trouble. He always has a better plan. There are strong stirrings of the Doctor/Jo chemistry that is to come when he comforts her in their cell and strokes her hair when Barnham dies. His parting riposte, 'I'm stuck here on Earth...with you Brigadier!' makes me heave with laughter!
Groovy Chick: I can't reconcile this Jo with the dappy idiot from Terror of Autons and the faceless screamer in Claws of Axos. I can only think that she has been on an intensive training course because suddenly Jo is intelligent, loyal, level headed, resourceful and a woman of action! Pretty much the perfect UNIT operative. Perhaps Don Houghton didn't read the memo that the assistant was supposed to be a dippy audience indentification figure? I really like her gentle relationship with Barnham and it is only down to his protection of her that they manage to subdue the machine. Hark at Jo disarming a prisoner with a pistol! Whilst being an excellent and comforting nurse maid Jo does almost murder the Doctor with an aspirin. I love the little kiss that Mailer blows Jo in the cell, very creepy. Jo manages to save the day by stating the obvious!
Pompous Military Idiot: How dashing does Nick Courtney look in this story? Its before his hair and waist line lost control, he looks gorgeous in his uniform. The Brig finds the suggestion that his men take bribes insulting. I love the scene where he scolds Benton ('You're too delicate for intelligence work Benton you better go an lie down!'). You can't help but sympathise with him when he escorts the Doctor to the Chinese delegates room, he is trying so hard to be the professional investigator and he is ignored and insulted (and treated like a maitre'd!). Bless him, he's such a busy bloke he is sleeping at his desk (at least he has Corporal Bell to lay on some coffee). This is one of the few times we get to see the Brigadier as a proper soldier rather than a deskbound strategist. He thinks through his ambush on the prison, goes undercover very effectively and fights his way viciously through to the Doctor. His embarrassed reaction to Barnham is priceless. The Brig could never resist a big bang so he tries to blow up the missile from the ground and take the Master with it.
Sparkling Dialogue: 'Tonight you will kill the American delegate.'
'You'll do nothing or I'll put a bullet through both your hearts.'
'I really would like to stop and watch your nightmares.'
'Inside is a creature that feeds on the evil of the mind.'
'Everything is a question of money these days, my dear Captain.'
'Thank you very much Brigadier! But do you think for once in your life you could arrive before the nick of time?'
The Good Stuff: The prison sets and atmosphere is really authentic (that defeaning door clashing!). Michael Sheard is always a welcome sight and he plays Dr Summers with real pathos. The Keller Machine is an intruiging idea but surely they were asking for trouble? The Process Room is so sterile and clinical and the process itself looks frightening like the electric chair - this really is adult stuff. Is it just me or is there something really creepy about Chin Lee burning those papers in a playground full of children? This is the first push of politics into contemporary Who and whilst the peace conference might be a little unsubtle it does make the show feel very current and hard hitting. Kettering's drowning is very simply and effectively rendered with a rippling overlay of the sea and the pulsing machine - I always gasp for air during that scene! The process leaves Barnham with the mind of a child, which is probably a worse punishment than death row. The machine uses your nightmares to attack you - eek! Trenchcoat Benton getting attack feels like we are back in The Invasion territory. I love the leafy, autumnal locations. The cigar puffing, chauffer driven master is the epitome of cool, he would never quite capture that feeling of awesomeness again. Mailer has buckets of charisma and I cannot believe this is the same actor who plays that dullard in Revenge of the Cybermen. The lighting when Chin Lee prepares the US delegate is very atmospheric (with a fabulous Dudley Simpson sting). Bombs, guns, gas masks, prison gaurds being shot dead, murder and politics...what on Earth would Mary Whitehouse make of all this? 'Show our patient to the chair' - the end of episode three is terrifying, the organ of death kicks in and the Doctor is strapped into a torture device. I love the sequence where the Master has the nerve to think he can beat the machine and it pays him in kind by torturing him with a phantom of the Doctor laughing at all of his insecurities. There's everything you need to know about the Master in that one scene. To aim the missile at the peace conference has got to be the most vainglorious plan the Master has ever had...I really wished he had succeeded as it would be great to see the consequences! You've got to give Yates some credit, after being shot in the hand he grabs a motorbike and chases armed criminals and the missile (although Franklin even manages to pose whist riding his motorbike!). The missile and the hangar make this feel like an epic, grim Bond thriller. The Keller machine is the least threatening device imaginable and yet somehow the director really sells the threat when it starts to teleport and fry people with the horrid grainy negatice effect. The attack on the prison is really gritty, we have never seen Doctor Who this lavishly shot before. People are shot at point blank range in the gut, fall down stairs, scale walls, hand to hand combat, its a huge set piece, littered with corpses. The Master stands proud before the missile, finally achieving his status as a Bond villain. Wow, I love the destructive chaos, explosions and disorienting camera work as the machine breaks free of its bonds and screams with frustration. Barnham calms the machine down because he has no negative impulses, so simple but it works. Ugh, how gross is the blobby, writhing mind of evil (althought I might have cut the comical eye)? 'Acting Governor Benton here' 'Who?' - Delgado's look of bafflement is hilarious! Barnham's death might seem gratuitous but it just goes to show what an utter bastard the Master is, running down the one man who tried to save him. The Master is such a smug git even when all of his plans are foiled because he has managed to escape the Earth whilst the Doctor is still trapped.
The Bad Stuff: The Doctor has to suggest to Dr Summers that he performs a post mortem! Dudley Simpson's chinese themed music isn't exactly subtle. 'Pity she's quite a dolly!' - Mike Yates is the least convincing army geezer slobbering over girls I have ever seen! The two storylines are rather strenuously linked by a 'rather attractive Chinese girl.' Is there only one chinese girl in Britain? The Master's mask and boiler suit disguise are really lame...he's just not trying any more! Come on...who is afraid of ancient chinese myths (especially ones that look that unconvincing!)? Hahaha...is that the flattest missile known to mankind or a backdrop? The Doctor's greatest foes are...flying Zarbi's and War Machines?
The Shallow Bit: Jo wears a flattering, tight fitting roll neck. She makes odd orgasmic noises as the machine attacks her (she does! go and look!).
Result: Houghton clearly doesn't realise that his hard hitting thriller is being nestled into cuddly season eight because really it is the last grasp of season seven. Nightmarish and adult imagery makes this one of the most grown up Doctor Who adventures and gorgeously trapped in black and white it looks like a down and dirty thriller of the most gripping kind. Because of its duel plotlines it never flags (especially for a six parter) and expensive action sequences and impressive performances suggest that Tim Coombe forgot he was making Doctor Who and not a lavish movie! Its Roger Delgado's finest hour as the Master as well, he oozes charm and menace and feels dangerous throughout, allying himself with some really unsavoury criminals. A totally unique step into a more mature world which I found gripped me throughout: 9/10
The Claws of Axos written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin and directed by Michael Ferguson
The Mighty Nose: You’ve got to love how the MOD are trying to pin down the Doctor and have an official file on him. He rightly fights officious figures like Chinn and reminds them they should be fighting for the world and not for England. The writers do something very interesting with the Doctor in this story, turning him into a villain for the first time since the very first Hartnell stories (I don’t think we ever believed the second Doctor was against Jamie in Evil of the Daleks). Because he was so anti establishment in season seven, butting heads with the Brigadier and fighting against his role as scientific advisor to UNIT and so his decision to defect here and run off with the Master feels entirely reasonable. His comment of ‘We either escape together or die together’ is delightfully to the point. And the Doctor being such an old ham he really plays up the role and enjoys the smugness of finally telling the Brigadier to get off and waving his hanky at Jo. Of course it’s all a load of nonsense but the fact that you believe it for even a few minutes is a testament to the strength of the third Doctor’s early characterisation.
Groovy Chick: Its odd that Jo should be portrayed so ineffectually here because she has otherwise had a very strong start. Aside from trying to blow up UNIT HQ in Terror of the Autons she is otherwise extremely cute in her opening story. Mind of Evil sets her up as an adept UNIT agent and a resourceful foil for the Doctor but in this story she is more useless than Susan, Victoria and Mel put together! She spends most of the story standing about in the Axon spaceship screaming ineffectually (its odd but Katy Manning seems to have real difficulty screaming convincingly – perhaps she went to the Sylvester McCoy school of acting) and generally spazzing out. This might very well be her very worst story – the scene where she is screaming ‘I can’t! I can’t! I can’t!’ nonsensically could be the nadir for her character. Frankly Katy Manning is far more enjoyable in the Now and Then feature on the special features.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I have a duty to my country!’ ‘ Not to the world?’
‘I doubt even Axonite could control the growth of human common sense.’
‘Axonite is simply bait for human greed.’
‘I suppose you could take the usual sort of precautions for a nuclear blast like sticky tape on the windows, that sort of thing.’
‘The Claws of Axos are already deeply embedded in the Earth’s carcass!’
The Good Stuff: Real effort has gone into making Axos as psychedelic and alien as possible from the word go and although the spaceship itself looks oddly like a mutated, pulsing penis the general design, direction and music all work together to make this as eerie as possible. The dissolving head is really very nasty (and apparently was even worse before it faded to white). The interior of the Axon ship is fantastic; pulsing backgrounds, webbing, tendrils, eyes shooting open in the walls, excitable claws and foaming bubbles. The Axons themselves look very creepy and slightly beautiful, I love the blank golden eyes. The tendril strewn Axon creatures are genuinely monstrous. Eww…the reabsorbtion process where the Axon lady’s face grows distorted and cancerous is horrible. The direction continues to impress with Bill Filer being duplicated with a very simple process of one version walking away from another. I can’t imagine anything much more horrific than forcing the Doctor to watch Jo age to death, very nicely done.Washington is finally dealing with the Master after UNIT’s failure to do so. It took me years to realise that Windsor was played by the same guy who played Carstairs in The War Games, as it is a world away from the officious character he plays here. The organic science is a lovely idea and the Axonite absorbs, observes, transmits and programmes and could end humanity’s struggle with famine. The idea of preying on humanity’s greed is really tasty as we effectively almost destroy ourselves. This is the most surreal and out there story since The Web Planet if we are talking about a menagerie of aliens and monsters. The Master bitching about the Doctor’s TARDIS is priceless (‘What a botch up!’). You’ve got to love the Doctor’s reaction to the discovery that the TARDIS is programmed to always return to Earth – everybody looks happy about it except him!
The Bad Stuff: Whilst I love the deathly scream music whenever the mutants appear there were a few moments where Dudley Simpson attacked his equipment with a bit too much gusto and caused my eardrums to bleed! There is some really lazy characterisation of some of the central characters; Chinn is just there to get in the way and the writers make him look deliberately stupid to do so, Filer is possibly the least convincing CIA agent I have ever seen (although I am guaranteed that the accent is real!) and Windsor is deliberately obstinate for the sake of it. All three characters are never allowed to suggest they have lives outside of this story and frankly I can’t imagine them existing away from Axos. The crawling sheet of lasagne pasta is so clearly a man in a blanket – I definitely would have scrapped that for the sake of the production. Hilariously Filer screams out plot points whilst he is comatose! Even for the Master his General disguise (which Benton totally falls for – prat!) is pretty awful. I agree with the Master, the Doctor’s TARDIS looks more knackered than ever and is desperately in need of the Colony in Space redesign. You have to question the Master’s ability as an arch criminal when he doesn’t even realise that he is surrounded by an entire platoon of UNIT soldiers! Hardiman rather impressively gets electrocuted and does a complete somersault over the edge of the precipice. The location work during the Benton/Yates car siege is really impressive (especially the explosion as the trundles down the hill) but sabotaged by that terrible backdrop during the close ups in the studio. Would you really drive back to the debris after a nuclear power plant has just blown up?
The Shallow Bit: Why is everybody in the 70’s so darn ugly? Yates, Chinn, Windsor, Filer…ugh. Even my lovely Jo (who is usually a real cutie pie) looks dull and over feathered about the bouffant. Filer’s hair is really something – it slips about as though it has a life of its own. Some of those Axon blokes fill out their stockings very nicely. Tim Piggott-Smith looks rather dapper in a uniform.
Funny Stuff: Pigbin Josh is just adorable…the poor fella has an argument with a bicycle; it tosses him in a lake, copes with the freak weather conditions, gets eaten up by Axos and is disintegrated.
Result: I have always had an on/off relationship with The Claws of Axos – I remember watching this when it came out on video and I loathed it, then Simon fell in love with Pertwee’s Doctor and wanted to watch it with me and I spent the whole four episodes criticising and cringing and he told me to stop analysing and start enjoying the thing. I went back again when the DVD went out and found it far more pleasurable to watch, loaded with imagination and some really great set pieces. The story struggles to balance the adult nature of season seven with the more colourful and light elements of season eight and the result is a mixed adventure. It juggles far too many ideas for four episodes but as a result of this there is always something fun around the corner and it is so fast paced the story simply flies by. Trippy direction and some genuinely alien environments papers over some truly dodgy characterisation. It’s a fun story written by two enthusiastic writers but perhaps it could have done with another rewrite to smooth out some rough edges: 7/10
Colony in Space written by Malcolm Hulke and directed by Michael E. Briant
TO BE REVIEWED...
The Daemons written by Guy Leopold (Barry Letts & Robert Sloman) and directed by Christopher Barry
This story in a nutshell: Devil worshipping in deepest mummerset…
The Mighty Nose: ‘Everything that happens in life must have a scientific explanation’ is the Doctor’s creed from this point on and he often goes out of his way to prove it. It was always the case with William Hartnell’s Doctor that science was a very important foundation to his adventures whilst Troughton’s jubilant second Doctor exploited science but he was never a slave to it. More than all the others the third Doctor says it how it is and he blatantly dismisses the very foundation of Miss Hawthorne’s life and tells her the supernatural is merely science that has been misconstrued. He seems frightened by the very name of Devil’s End and I see a missing adventure featuring one of the earlier Doctors conjuring before me – the first Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan land in 17th Century Britain to discover a coven of devil worshippers in the cavern beneath the church in Devil’s End and set about breaking the curse. When you hear stories from Katy Manning and Lis Sladen about Jon Pertwee driving them to location I always imagine the scenes in this story with the two of them losing their way, fighting over the map and defying obstacles such as trees falling on the road! He is no sort of chap! The Doctor’s deadpan reaction to being told that he must be on television because he wears a costume and a wig made me howl with laughter. You know when you let your freezer ice up for too long and find one sad forgotten little ice pop at the bottom covered in wintry frost, that’s what the Doctor looks like after he has been attacked by the hump. Given his penchant for Venusian Akido and lullabies it does seem remiss that we never got to visit the planet on TV but imagining the realisation perhaps that might have been a smart move avoiding it. The award for most arrogant Time Lord goes to the Doctor with his ‘Jo the Brigadier is doing his best to cope with an almost impossible situation and since he is your superior officer you might show him a little respect.’ If I were Jo I would have cuffed him on the nose and told him he wipe the frost off his own brow next time. Pertwee looks fantastic riding a motorbike through the countryside with the wind whipping at his hair…if there was ever an image that summed up his Doctor it was this one. He falls off it in great Terry Walsh style too! The Doctor pretending to be the Great Wizard QuiQueQuod are some of my favourite moments for his Doctor because they are clever and witty (and wonderfully silly) and show him at his improvisational best. You have to admire his faith in humanity in risking telling them the truth about tricking them into thinking he is a wizard and on this occasion that faith is rewarded. The look on his face when he tells the Master he better watch out because he has nothing to lose knowing he is a dead man is enough to chill the blood. We needed some kind of climax to the Doctor/Master rivalry for now and the Doctor being offered what the Master most seeks (dominion of the over) is a great humbling moment for the villain.
Dippy Agent: You can absolutely imagine Jo falling for the dawning of the age of Aquarius, the occult and all that magic bit, can’t you? She always has been a bit of a dreamer and a hippy! Its amazing to see how far Jo has come in just one season though, she has walked a fine line between being a hysterical dormouse frightened of her own shadow (The Claws of Axos had some great grab-your-head-in-horror acting) and a spunky, resourceful friend (she pretty much gets herself out of a prison riot in The Mind of Evil) and by its climax she emerges as a fun, slightly kooky companion. At this stage its clear that no matter how rude Jon Pertwee’s Doctor is to her (and he has a good go at pushing her to the limit in this story) Jo will still give him moon eyes and sacrifice her life for him because she is so desperately in love with the man. Jo shows the Doctor how you should ask for help rather than his bull in a china shop approach. After she has stayed by his bedside and wept for him to wake up the Doctor graciously wakes up and insults her for failing Latin as well as science. Jo has these moments of inspiration where she stares straight at the camera and exclaims where she has to be that was unique to her character and her ‘I must get to the cavern!’ is a great example in episode four.
Satan’s Little Helper: ‘You rule? Why you’re all less than dust beneath my feet!’ Not watching the show in order but with my own unique scatterbrained approach I have not experienced the season eight sequentially and experienced what those in the medical profession call ‘Master fatigue’ so its fabulous to see Roger Delgado’s Master in such fine form for the last story of the season. After being sidelined in The Claws of Axos and making a cameo in Colony in Space he needed to really make his mark again and dolled up in vicars garb with his devil worshipping cult he succeeds. He’s still my favourite Master despite some stiff competition and when he was at his best (The Mind of Evil, The Daemons, The Sea Devils) he was practically untouchable. Its not surprising that Pertwee felt as though Delgado was usurping his position as the shows lead at this stage because he is giving terrific, scene stealing performances that would go down in history. He fancies himself as a politician methinks with his fabulous rant about bringing strength, power and decision to the village (I had images of David Horton from The Vicar of Dibley!) but then he blows it with his first speech to the people by spilling their dirty little secrets telling them to either obey him or suffer the consequences. If he didn’t have a homicidal gargoyle to back him up I fear his brief foray into politics may have been over. The Master is such a charismatic presence in the show now that he can even be the subject of a cliffhanger and the end of episode three deserves kudos for being brave enough to put the villain in a position of jeopardy. If he isn’t safe what the hell does that mean for the rest of us? Given he has been the principal villain for the entire season there needed to be some kind of conclusion to his meddling in the affairs of the Earth and the image of him being carted off in a UNIT jeep under arrest is very satisfying after all the chaos he has caused.
Chap With Wings: Doesn’t Nick Courtney looks resplendent in his dress uniform although the Brig clearly isn’t looking forward to whatever official function he is off to by the way Yates is ribbing him. It’s the only time we ever get to see the Brig in bed and its shame there wasn’t a pretty lady beside him (well there might have been the camera isn’t revealing that much to us). He’s got the mind of an account apparently but then the Doctor never thinks about cost when causing the mass destruction of UNIT property.
Camp Captain: There are few things in life that are funnier than private school educated, camp as Christmas Mike Yates watching rugged rugby and crying ‘that’ll learn ‘em!’ as though he is a firm supporter of the game and that is the kind of thing men say whilst gripping their pints down the pub watching the game. At the beginning of part two look at the brilliant fella strutting his stuff behind Yates as he takes his payment from Benton (ahem) and tries to look like one of the lads. With no Doctor and no Brigadier it is time for Yates and Benton to finally step into the limelight, acting on their own instincts and get into civvies. Sometimes he even wishes he worked in a bank. He has a gift for the overstatement when he tells Jo that ‘the place is alive with booby traps – spells, elementals, the Doctor’s force fields!’ Especially the last one where I don’t have a clue what he is talking about.
The Sarge: Aren’t the scenes between Benton and Miss Hawthorne a joy? They have their own chemistry whilst the story ploughs on around them and her description of him as a gentle knight saving a long in the tooth damsel always makes me grin. Benton gets a great fight with the verger until he is walloped by the sacred stone. I love it when Yates says that Benton knows where they are and will rescue them and we cut to him and Miss Hawthorne about to have a tea party! Benton grasps his gun during the QueQuiQuod sequence as though it is his very manhood and watch it fall limp as he is outsmarted by the Doctor.
White Witch: So strong a character she deserves her own section in this review, Miss Hawthorne plays the part of a female Doctor in the early part of this story by arrogantly barging in where she isn’t wanted and trying to prevent a calamity. Damaris Hayman is one of those wonderful old school character actresses that has turned up in everything and you know must have turned up in Doctor Who at some point. I’m just pleased that she was saved for a story worthy of her talents. She knocks out a BBC Three worker with her brolley (‘I’ve come here to protest and protest I shall!’), locks horns with Professor Horner (‘Death and disaster awaits you!’) and has no modesty about admitting that she is a witch (‘White, of course’). Miss Hawthorne is powerful enough to calm an elemental storm but not smart enough to ask why Mr Groom is cradling a rock the size of a baby. Miss Hawthorne gets a double whammy of great moments when she smacks an evil Morris dancer over the head with her crystal ball and then heads out to convince the others that they have kidnapped a Great wizard in the shape of the Doctor.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I see Yates; the Doctor was frozen stiff at the Barrow and then revived by a freak heat wave, Benton was beaten up by invisible forces and the local white witch claims she’s seen the Devil’ – Only Nicholas Courtney could say that line without a hint of sarcasm!
‘I see so all we’ve got to deal with is something that is too small to see or thirty feet tall, can incinerate you or freeze you to death, turn stone images into homicidal monsters and looks like the Devil?’
‘My race destroys its failures…remember Atlantis?’
‘Chap with the wings there, five rounds rapid!’
‘Thanks to you man can now blow up the world and he probably will! He can poison the water and the very air he breathes!’
The Good: You can’t get much more stereotypically British than opening on a stormy night in a village with the lightning lighting up the church and a man leaving the pub with his dog at closing time! Things are stereotypical because they have been overused and they are overused because they work and so does this. Especially well since the bloke in question dies horribly and the atmospherics are so good (I love the little mouse that scurries from a grave and throws a huge shadow across it!). The little bit of nonsense with Bessie driving around the car park on her own is very amusing (although it has to be said the UNIT car park is of particularly inferior stock with only a weak iron fence stopping people climbing over and having it off with a jeep!). The Alistair Fergus/BBC Three (how prescient!) element of reporting the cataclysmic events at Devil’s End is a wonderful way of giving this story a contemporary feel and some urgency. It helps that we see behind the scenes and Fergus himself is a complete nob jockey (he’s so vain he has his massive seventies sideburns touched up before he goes on air) as we imagine all aspiring reporters to be and professor Horner takes every opportunity to take the piss out of everybody (‘Righto lad I’ll do my best to be absolutely super!’). It really gives the first episode (which lacks the Doctor’s presence as he braves the elements to reach them in time) some personality. The Master’s devil worshipping cult summoning up the Beast himself is told through some pretty strong imagery that must have terrified the kids watching at the time and the end of episode one with wind and snow effects going mad, people screaming and being blown off their feet is by far the most climactic moment of the entire year (although the climax of episode four almost topples it). Clearly the production team know that they cannot pull off a giant devil walking across the British countryside (shame they didn’t remember that when it came to Robot but hey ho) and they pull of the trick imaginatively with camera shakes, shadows and the clever shot of the hoof prints pressed into the fields from the air. That is then imaginatively followed up by the POV shot of the beast shrinking down onto the stone. All of the effect, none of the embarrassment. They can’t afford a life size spaceship either so they go for the ingenious solution of having it be the size of a Dapol model. It goes without saying the location work in Aldbourne is absolutely gorgeous and manages to sum up the beauty of a picturesque English village better than practically any other programme I have seen. Some people seem to have a real problem with Bok but I think he genuinely does look like a statue that has come to life and the director wisely focused on him in his inanimate state for long enough in episode one to make this work. He’s the Weeping Angels before their time. Perhaps he is sending them back in time just as they do. Letts and Sloman allow for two episodes of frightening incident and wisely choose the third episode when things might flag a little to offer the explanations about the Daemons. Its exposition for sure but there is nothing clunky about it because there are plenty of interruptions and opinions to keep the dialogue bouncy and interesting rather than dictatorial. The Doctor cites the Greek civilisation, the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution as all being inspired by the Daemons…does that mean without alien intervention we would come to nowt? What with the Jagaroth and the Racnoss sticking their noses in too and the Doctor being responsible for every other historical event there’s very little we’ve accomplished on our own! A helicopter diving at Bessie with Mike Yates riding a motorbike and shooting at its engine before it dives into the energy barrier and explodes – this really was the action fans dream period of Doctor Who. Playing the Devil is no small task and given the amount of build up to his appearance it is astonishing that Stephen Thorne doesn’t disappoint – he is absolutely terrifying. Evil Morris dancers is an idea so brilliant they deserved to make a return appearance in the new series – its absolutely loopy but great fun to watch as the Doctor is tied up in ribbons and threatened with bell sticks. There is an uncomfortable moment similar to the witch trials where the Doctor is tied up and a whiskers singe away from being burnt at the stake. It bothers me that some people will dismiss this story simply on the illogical moment where Azal cannot understand why Jo would sacrifice herself for the Master. There have been far worse reasons for a villain to be defeated and if we were condemn every Doctor Who story that has a moment of illogic there wouldn’t be a single story we could recommend. It’s a bit silly but its hardly the worst sin considering the entertainment this story provides. The Doctor and Jo are dancing around the maypole, Benton has pulled the local white witch and the Brig and Yates are heading to the pub for a pint – I can’t tell you how snugly that makes me feel inside. Its all kinds of Pertwee era sunniness and the perfect way to end the season.
The Bad: My only major complaint about this story are the barrier sequences because they go on for far too long and remove the Brigadier from the action for the length of a bible. When everybody is having great fun fighting alien Devils, animated statues, satanic Time Lords and mad Morris dancers the Brig is stuck on the periphery waiting to be let in on the action. There is a very odd moment when Jo is attacked by plant creepers which isn’t explained at all. An early Krynoid scout party? You can’t help but laugh when Bert tells the villagers thou shalt not suffer a witch to live and one of the crowd hilariously says ‘that’s what they say…’
The Shallow Bit: I’ve known a few horned beasts in my time not to mention the queer goings on! When Benton exclaimed ‘Well I’ll be blowed!’ I nearly spat out my drink. I’ve always said that the seventies bred the least attractive looking men which is a little unfair because it is all about the styling rather than looks but I have to admit that John Levene raised an eyebrow or two throughout the story in his civvies. And Azal has the best hairy chest of any Doctor Who character!
Result: I fell in love with The Daemons through its premise alone – an alien being posing as the Devil pushing humanities progress forward and ready to bring its experiment to a grand conclusion. Its such a brilliant idea for a Doctor Who story that when you factor in the glorious location work, wonderful characters brought to life by British stalwarts, great lines, action, stunts, grand cliffhangers and scares you have what can definitively be called a Pertwee classic. You could watch this story for its atmosphere alone. It has become hip to knock The Daemons of late such is the way of things that are considered popular but by any standards this is a superior action adventure tale with some real love injected into it. Christopher Barry has done a grand job of bringing the script to life and milks it for every drop of tension and excitement and the whole story moves at an incredible pace. All the regulars get a moment to shine (Yates and Benton get out of their uniforms and get a great fight scene each) and the story is headed by two charismatic performances by Jon Pertwee (with his arrogance turned up to eleven) and Roger Delgado (who is the very essence of smooth villainy). With Dicks script editing and Letts writing the backbone of the adventure is an intelligent one and it all leads to an impressive climax with a church going up in flames and a lovable closing scene of the dance around the maypole which always leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy inside. As you can tell I really enjoy The Daemons, it is seventies Who at its most confident and it looks bloody impressive too: 9/10