Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Terror of the Autons

The Autons return in another four-part Robert Holmes story. It’s fair to say that so far his two Jon Pertwee
Roger Delgado as the Master.
stories have been much better than his Patrick Troughton stories – although that wouldn’t be hard! This time we are treated to a brand new character, and arch-villain, ‘The Master’, deftly played and perfectly cast, Roger Delgado has a wonderful stillness and arrests the viewer’s attention straight away. I too have an arch-foe, perhaps you know of him? His name is Peter O’Feild, and he is always up to some mischief. He even stole my body print and for a time was walking around looking just like my first incarnation! The cheek of him! In fact, I believe a visualised retelling of the adventure will soon be available to watch on Youtube... but I digress!
Harry Towb about to pull a chair over himself!
‘Terror of the Autons’ has some wonderful characters, fast becoming Robert Holmes’ forte. Michael Wisher, who appeared as a TV presenter in ‘Ambassadors of Death’, plays Rex Farrel with aplomb. Slowly being hypnotised by the Master, but regaining a sense of self by the end of the story. There are several notable smaller parts well played too such as Harry Towb as McDermott, partner to Farrel who has a wonderful scene pulling a black plastic chair over himself in one of the strangest death scenes in Doctor Who thus far. Interesting cameos also from David Garth as a Time Lord with a bowler-hat, and Stephen Jack as Farrel Snr.
UNIT gets a new Captain, Mike Yates, portrayed by Richard Franklin. Andrew has met Richard apparently and says he is a splendid chap! Not only that, but we have a new companion in Jo Grant – played by Katy Manning. I’m not sure what to make of her – she is the very opposite of Liz Shaw, who I really liked. Jo Grant is rather ditzy, a young woman recently out of High School it seems. Quite headstrong, but not the smartest cookie in the jar. She starts by ruing the Doctor’s work on his dematerialisation circuit, then getting hypnotised by the Master and trying to set off a bomb to destroy the Doctor’s lab, the Doctor and Yates and Benton. All in Episode One – not the perfect start!
The Master arrives at Rossini’s Circus, his TARDIS disguised as a horse float. I have to confess to thinking this is all a bit of a red herring, as the plastics factory is again where the Master’s operations are based. I like the circus as a setting, but it seemed to be irrelevant to the actual plot. I would love to see a story fully set in the circus – a great location for a Doctor Who story. I’m it will happen in the next few seasons or so.
Autons dressed to sell flowers.
The Autons are used less than in ‘Spearhead from Space’, but when they are used they are quite effective and scary. Particularly distributing the lethal plastic daffodils, central to the Master’s plans. The story cleverly uses plastic as a weapon by animating it. The use of the telephone wire to strangle the Doctor is well done, less well done is the use of the black plastic blow-up chair to suffocate McDermott. It is so obviously the actor pulling the chair down on himself sadly that no-one could be convinced.
Mike Yates (Richard Franklin) wonders if the 'dafs are dangerous'.
Then there is the abrupt and frankly strange ending, the weakest element of the story in my opinion. Stuck with the story needing to end pretty quickly, Holmes decided the Master would suddenly change his mind about the Autons and send the Nestene back into the farthest reaches of space. The only impetuous for this change of heart is the Doctor suggesting the Nestene wouldn’t be up for sharing the power with the Master. He is opening up the gateway via satellite dish, and just changes his mind. Personally I would have been more convinced by a fight sequence involving the Brigadier and the Doctor turning everything around. But this is what Holmes and presumably Dicks went with. It was an odd choice.

Katy Manning is the new assistant, Jo Grant.

But we can’t complain too much, it’s an exciting adventure, like the previous two it has a offering of action and stunts. Wonderful shot of an Auton falling down a cliff, getting up and continuing on at the bottom, perhaps my favourite moment in the story. A very enjoyable story.


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