Terror of the Autons
The Mind of Evil
The Claws of Axos
Colony in Space
A Review by Alex Keaton 14/10/00
Season eight is a season which has quite a great deal going for it, because, first of all it successfully introduces the Master, who's appearance is not only one of the most important scenes in the entire history of Doctor Who but also one of my own favourite scenes. Primarilly because of Roger Delgado, who gives an excellent performance with great panache and brilliance.
If there is one thing wrong with the Master it is that he is sorely over-used. I just think it was totally unnecessary for him to be in it again after The Mind of Evil, I mean around the time of Colony in Space both his appearance and the music that accompanied him were tiresome and even ruining his whole image.
As for the rest of the Doctor Who 'family', newcomers Jo Grant and Mike Yates show great potential from scene one and the rest of U.N.I.T are all present and correct, as is The Doctor(Jon Pertwee) who is still at best here from his frilly necked shirt to karate moves and gadgetery.
Now we move on to the stories themselves and one comment that can be justified by nearly any Doctor Who fan is that season seven was the best Pertwee season, so, naturally season eight is bound to be a little disapointing. In fact one way of describing season eight is by comparing it to a typical six-part story, it starts off well, namely Terror of the Autons and is good at the end in The Daemons but sags in the middle with The Mind of Evil, The Claws of Axos and Colony in Space, although all of these stories have some good ideas present they are often dull or too heavilly padded and lack originality in some cases, but are generally fairly enjoyable.
To round this review off I've listed a few awards for this season, listing the story and outstanding catergory.
Terror of the Autons - best acting by the regular
cast(namely, Pertwee and Delgado), best acting by a guest cast(especially
Michael Wisher) and best cliffhanger sequence(the classic scene in Part 2
where the Doctor pulls the auton policeman's mask off.)(3)
The Claws of Axos - best visual effects, best costume design, best art direction, best make up.(4)
The Daemons - best story, best direction(Chris Barry), best script by Guy Leopold(Robert Sloman and Barry Letts), best sound, best editing, best music.(6)
Good Versus Evil, but slightly less serious... by Terrence Keenan 30/1/04
The first point everyone brings up in regards to Season eight is the inclusion of a new rival for the Doctor. Yup, it's the entrance of the Master, that bearded baddie who want to ruin the earth, gain power and kill that goodie-goodie who always fouls up his plans for conquest and domination.
The second point everyone brings up is the change in style. Mighty Liz Shaw is swapped for flibbertigibbet Jo Grant. UNIT goes from interesting military organization to conventional companion figures. And the deeper themes of man being his own worst enemy and harder contemporary settings are switched for a more stylized background and simpler morals.
It's a transition season, with the new style firmly in place by the end.
But is it any good?
Well, it gets off to a rocky start with Terror of the Autons. The story in itself is pretty good, although the editing of the serial gives everything an abrupt, disjointed feel. Jo Grant is summed up by her opening scene -- definitely a throwback companion. Katy Manning does an all right job in her debut story. The biggest letdown is UNIT. This is not the same group from Season 7. The Brig yells a lot and seems to have lost a few I.Q. points. The Doctor's transformation to arrogant gasbag is completed here, with little of the charm, or humanity from the previous year. The one saving grace though, is the Master. Big Roger Delgado is the real treat of Terror, especially in managing to make his more "charming" moments have more menace than his "villainous" moments. The only two minor niggles are the Master's decision to help out the Doctor in the finale, and the very first Doctor/Master "I'm going to kill you, but you'll have time to weasel out of it first," scene.
The Mind of Evil is the high point of the season. A complex story, with very interesting human villains and a nasty alien weapon. Three separate plot lines are woven together over six episodes. UNIT gets to be a competent military organization. Jo Grant gets to be competent and resourceful, and moreso, gets treated like an adult. Jon Pertwee gives a strong performance as the Doctor, one that's a bit more nuanced. But this is Big Rog's show. Best Delgado Master Performance Ever. He's acting like a Mafia Don, and it's a joy to behold.
What is really special about The Mind of Evil is the final confrontation between the Doctor and Master. The Doctor is ready to kill off the Master once and for all, with no hesitation. Such a shame that this confrontation didn't end the season, because it's one of the best Doctor/Master face-offs ever. And it's obvious that Big Rog and Pertwee are having a criminal amount of fun in their scenes together.
The Claws of Axos roars with the new style. It's also very silly. Jo reverts to a mere screamer role. The Doctor is annoying and well, even the Master doesn't shine as much in the previous stories. However, the script has loads of ideas, a trademark of Bob Baker and Dave Martin. Nic Courtney gives a strong performance as the Brigadier. And Big Rog has his moment in the sun is ep three where he's checking out the Doctor's TARDIS. Cracks me up every time. Unfortunately, the Bill Filer role is painful, Pertwee fails to convince he's turned heel in the last episode and the ending is a bit of a cop out.
Colony in Space is boring. Sorry. Not to say that Mac Hulke isn't trying. The struggle between the colonists and IMC can cure insomnia. And the whole Doomsday Weapon/Master plot feels tacked on. I mean this is supposed to be the first TARDIS trip in nearly two years, but I almost wish they stayed back on Earth. The performances are lame, and even Big Rog can't save the story. Such a shame.
The last serial in our battle between good and evil is The Daemons. I'm going to sound like a broken record, but it's still complete bollocks with a stupendously dumb ending, yet watchable and enjoyable on a so bad it's good/Twin Dilemma sort of way. Any sense of the Doctor/Master rivalry being interesting is destroyed by that final moment when Big Rog is driven off and is booed by the folks of Devil's End. The Master becomes another boo-hiss villain.
So, by The Claws of Axos, the transition from interesting and challenging stories to formula runarounds is complete. The Daemons is the low point of the season, and one of the low points of all of Who. Season Eight is a disappointment, on numerous levels. Even with the introduction of an arch-rival for the Doctor to do battle with.
"I am the Master and you will obey me!" by Joe Ford 21/8/05
Depending on what you want from Doctor Who this was either where the rot started to set in for the Pertwee era or a return to form after the incomprehensibly fun-less season seven. Whilst it would be easy to suggest that Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks were the only two people in the world who agree with the latter of that opening statement, I think you have to take a look at the viewing figures of the time to fully understand that turning Doctor Who into a more colourful, less sophisticated version of what it was, was perhaps the best thing they ever did to secure the shows longevity. I know season seven is massively popular (and rightly so; it is, after all, one of the golden years of the show's entire history and unique in its individual qualities) but during the early seventies nobody wanted to devote two months of their lives to one Doctor Who story, even if it was sheer class. Shorter stories with a quicker pace and more thrills were what was required to keep the audience hooked and that was precisely what they got. As a result we hop from 5 million viewers for Inferno (the climax of season seven) to 8 million for Terror of the Autons. Whilst you could pin this to the fact that Terror features the return of a terrifying foe that made such an impression in Spearhead from Space, the evidence of ratings strength continues throughout season eight peaking at 9.5 for episode three of Colony in Space and not showing any signs of dropping at the season's close (The Daemons episode one reached 9.2 million). Clearly entertainment is far more important than adult drama and rightly so, most people turn on the telly to be amused and thrilled, not depressed. The changes the mighty Letts/Dicks machine made were a success and Doctor Who continued to thrive for many, many years.
Which kind of bugs me in a way because season eight is such an oddly inconsistent season, both brilliant and dire in equal measures and it is quite insulting to think that audiences could not tell the difference in quality between stories like The Ambassadors of Death and Colony in Space. The show became institutionalised far too easily for my liking and before the season is out we can cosily expect several things from each story:
And what of the stories? You've got The Mind of Evil and The Daemons of course; doing their best to remind you that Doctor Who is still the greatest thing ever. The former is a throwback to season seven in all the best ways, gritty, dramatic and very scary in places with a complicated plot and high action content. The latter is the epitome of great UNIT family Doctor Who, gorgeous to look at, marvellously acted and mixing domestic Britain and the supernatural with effortless ease. Unfortunately you have to put up with Terror of the Autons (a pale shadow of the earlier Auton story with a garish production, a penchant for silly set pieces over coherent plot and some deeply embarrassing effects), The Claws of Axos (thanks to a recent DVD release I have now formed the final decision on this story... it's pants. Some decent ideas squandered on a horrifically bad production, featuring appalling performances, rubbishy lines and a painful musical score) and Colony in Space (six episodes of mind-numbing tedium which even the Master cannot liven up).
With all the interesting ideas for Earth under attack already used up, season eight clutches at straws to get the Doctor involved with the latest UNIT crisis. Terror is merely a rehash of Spearhead, which the Doctor feels he must tidy up. The Mind of Evil barely features any SF elements at all, far more interested in violent human themes. The Claws of Axos features the best invasion idea of the season, the aliens preying on humanity's greed, exploiting it to get their claws into the planet (unfortunately you have to watch the thing to get to these ideas and I wouldn't recommend that). Colony in Space is the first offworld story since The War Games and if this is the standard you can keep them. It is one of the drabbest planets ever and when given the opportunity to explore something alien, the writer instead chooses to construct his script around colonialism. The Daemons attempts to explain mankind's evolution which is quite fun idea but once again the story is far too engrossed in pretty English countryside and UNIT shenanigans to explore this idea to its full potential. There just isn't the attention to detail there once was with a general feeling of action over intelligence.
Season Eight is a curious beast and one that is both a huge success and a massive failure. Personally I think it is one of the weakest years of Doctor Who but unfortunately it isn't the worst of the Pertwee era. That's season nine. But that's another story...
The Master Memoirs by Joe Briggs-Ritchie 17/6/08
Season Eight is the real start of the Pertwee years in many ways. It establishes the UNIT "family" and it introduces the master. This is really Roger Delgado's season. He establishes the character of the Master right away and his is the portrayal that all others are measured by. Season Eight is very colourful. Literally. Terror of the Autons establishes that right away with daffodils, brightly disguised Autons and circus tents. The Claws of Axos is positively psychadelic. Season Seven, although superior to this one, is more dour, more serious. Season Eight by comparison is slightly more light-hearted and I don't mean that in a derogatory way. Katy Manning makes an immediate impression and while she's never been my favourite companion, she certainly brings something to the role. Jon Pertwee is well and truly into his stride by this point, all flowing cloaks and arrogant, dismissive putdowns. I love it!
Terror of the Autons must have seemed really quite horrific back in 1971. It's full of novel means of killing people including plastic daffodils and a killer plastic chair. Actually that chair scene has really stuck in my grandmother's head. Every time she sees one of those inflatable plastic chairs she goes into a cold sweat. The ending is a bit rushed as the Doctor convinces the Master about the Nestenes a little too easy but it's a minor niggle.
The Mind of Evil now exists solely in black and white bar a few clips from episode six. This is actually no bad thing. The Mind of Evil is a grim, gritty thriller that really strives for a sense of realism. The monochrome visuals add to that sense of dourness. All things considered, "dour" might be an understatement. It's deadly serious. It's also very expensive. That whacking great missile certainly looks a treat. It expands nicely on the Doctor/Master relationship and Delgado is superb in this one.
The Claws of Axos is a personal favourite of mine. Just look at that organic technology! A tale of human greed and killer spaghetti monsters with some great incidental music. Actually the music seems to come for a fair bit of flack and I've never been able to understand why. The Dungeness location filming is superb and it really lends a bleak, barren quality to the proceedings.
Colony In Space has grown on me considerably in the last six and a half years. On first viewing I found it extremely boring, grey and dull. Now I find it to be a very rewarding acquired taste. Ok, so it does look quite dull and grey but that St Austell quarry really does evoke a barren, dead planet. There are also some very strong ideas in this one and it really should be allowed to grow on you. As I say, it's an acquired taste. It's not really a story that wins you over on first viewing but over time it really does begin to work its charm.
The Daemons is something of a favourite in the Pertwee era. I've haven't really seen it enough times to be able to give a serious opinion of it. I've only seen it in its entirety twice: once in 1992 and then again in 2007. So with fifteen years between the two, these two individual viewings aren't really enough for accuracy. However, many people are very fond of this story and it's one of those "doomsday in a sleepy English village"-type set ups.
Season Eight is a natural progression from Season Seven, though at the same time, very different to it. It's not quite as good as its predecessor, but then anything after Season Seven was going to be a comedown. Still, it's very enjoyable season and well worth anyone's time.
The season of the Master by James Neiro 11/2/10
Doctor Who would return for its eighth season with yet again no Dalek stories and the revelation that the Cybermen would not be appearing for the immediate future. A new enemy would be needed and thus the Master was introduced: an evil Time Lord and the Doctor's arch-rival. The Master was stylish, evil and completely mad.
His introduction in the season opener The Terror of the Autons also saw the introduction of Jo Grant as the Doctor's new assistant and the return, of course, of the deadly Autons. The Master would appear throughout the entire season, in The Mind of Evil, The Claws of Axos and Colony in Space, where, for the first time in many episodes, the Doctor would set foot on an alien world.
The season finale was the atmospheric, moody and dark-themed episode The Daemons that would become a cult hit. Fans loved it and it would end the season on a high note.
The Open University by Stephen Maslin 11/6/18
"Time Lords don't care to be conspicuous"
Terror of the Autons (Robert Holmes)
Montage clips: the Open University opens in the United Kingdom.
Montage music: 'I Hear You Knocking' by Dave Edmunds, UK number one single for 6 weeks in November and December, 1970.
Time Lord Chic, 101. Version 1a (The War Games): austere, god-like, monochrome, upright. Version 1b (Colony in Space, The Three Doctors): similar to version 1a, but in colour and (mostly) sitting down. Version 1c (Genesis of the Daleks): cold (and standing up again). Version 2 (The Deadly Assassin, The Invasion of Time): the postmodern Robert Holmes re-imagining. With ceremonial collars. Version 3 (Arc of Infinity): also with collars, but bland as hell (and sitting down... with the Celestial Toymaker as one of their number). Then there's Terror of the Autons. Visually, the Time Lord messenger who turns up in episode one is as close as we get to the "galactic ticket-inspectors" mentioned later in The Time Warrior: a bowler-hatted, English city gent (albeit one that makes a popping sound when reappearing or disappearing); tonally, very much in keeping with Robert Holmes' revisionist vision of Gallifrey that would come to full flower in The Deadly Assassin. We never see that Time Lord or that one-off Time-Lord-as-Civil-Servant chic, ever again. The rest of Terror of the Autons is pretty good (Robert Holmes' scripts almost always are), though it is cartoonish and chromatically glaring. Perhaps it's the contrast with the Autons' previous outing in the washed-out colours of Spearhead from Space. Or perhaps it's fringing caused by all that CSO. Or perhaps it's just an accident: a retina-mangling manifesto of a brave new colour future that had not quite yet been mastered.
What we learned: sometimes watching TV requires sunglasses.
"We've got real trouble this time..."
The Mind of Evil (Don Houghton; directed by Timothy Combe)
Montage clips: Rolls-Royce goes bankrupt; Decimalization Day; the British postal workers' strike.
Montage music: 'My Sweet Lord' by George Harrison, UK number one single for 5 weeks in January and February, 1971.
For the entirety of The Mind of Evil's run on TV, British postal workers, led by the impressive handlebar moustache of UPW General Secretary Tom Jackson, were out on strike. This might not seem like a big deal to us, but back then it really must have been. (It was part of a tapestry of years of industrial unrest and economic shocks that would culminate in the 'Three Day Week' in early Season 11, and the fall of the Heath government during Death to the Daleks). It was a time for belt-tightening all round, not least at the BBC. Unless you were director Timothy Combe. Due to a massive overspend on The Mind of Evil, Combe was told he would never be allowed to direct Doctor Who ever again, and all because of his boyish insistence on having a helicopter. Ask someone alive and info-processing in 1971 just how exotic helicopters were in those days, and one would imagine that then, as now, "not much" might well be the answer. I know nothing of Mr Combe and certainly would not wish to tarnish his character in any way, but surely he must have realised that he would get into some sort of hot water were he to throw the BBC's money around too freely (and that the lasting memory of The Mind of Evil would not be "Wow! Helicopter!" That memory would more likely be along the lines of "Wow! Grittiness!" or "Wow! Dover Castle pretending to be a prison!" or "Wow! Season Seven's Back!").
What we learned: spectacle is always tempered by economics.
"The whole question of Axonite's distribution must be shelved..."
The Claws of Axos (Bob Baker and Dave Martin)
Montage clips: in southern Quebec, 16 and a half inches of snow fall in one day in La Tempete du Siecle; Joe Frazier defeats Muhammad Ali in 'The Fight of the Century'.
Montage music: 'Hot Love' by T. Rex, UK number one single for 6 weeks in March and April, 1971.
A week or so before The Claws of Axos episode one, the weather was going nuts in Canada: a lot of snow, even by Canadian standards, in not a lot of time; a big transatlantic hello for a story that had been saved by similarly barmy climatic conditions during production. Well, not quite saved, but the story as it exists on the printed page really did need a leg up. It got it, courtesy of the weather gods, plus some top-notch design work and memorable music (and Pigbin Josh). Take all these saviours away, and you are left with some wretched dialogue and the kind of plot that might impress when you're eight years old but has already started to pale by the time you reach double figures. The seeming inability of the production team to secure better writers could be explained by just needing to get things done, but we end up with lines like "Britain's entire power supply is menaced" and "I've just got this feeling that something's going on."
What we learned: sometimes serendipity is all you need.
"May I say I'm overjoyed that justice prevails..."
Colony in Space (Malcolm Hulke)
Montage clips: half a million people in Washington D C and a quarter of a million in San Francisco march in protest against the Vietnam War; anti-war militants attempt to disrupt government business, with as many as 12,000 arrested, most of whom are later released.
Montage music: 'Double Barrel' by Dave and Ansel Collins, UK number one single for 2 weeks in May, 1971.
And this is why the Third Doctor's exile to Earth was such a good idea.
What we learned: war is bad.
"She's had a nasty knock on the head. She'll be all right. You'd better load her into Bessie and take her down to the pub..."
The Daemons (Robert Sloman and Barry Letts)
Montage clips: Mars 2 is launched by the Soviet Union; Christies auctions a yellow diamond known as Deepdene (later found to be artificially coloured); Richard Nixon declares the U.S. War on Drugs.
Montage music: 'Knock Three Times' by Tony Orlando and Dawn, UK number one single for 5 weeks in May and June, 1971.
'The Devil Rides Out' was a 1968 horror film, based on the 1934 novel by Dennis Wheatley. According to Professor Darryl Jones (no relation to Clifford) in 'It Came From The 1950s!': "For Wheatley... Satan was the ultimate Cold Warrior... Wheatley understood Communism as a gigantic Satanic plot to control the world - Stalin himself was merely a tool or agent of the Devil." One doubts if the representation of "The Horned Beast" in The Daemons has a similar political slant. Given the notorious bolshiness of BBC of the 1970s, it was quite possibly the exact opposite. (Azal does seem much more an embodiment of rampant individualism than of any threat of communism.) What, if anything, was the intended allegorical underpinning of The Daemons? Sorry folks, but there isn't one. Dennis Wheatley may have had delusions of depth about his work (or just delusions full stop), but The Daemons is just good old family fun. (Once upon a time, The Doctor consorted with teachers...)
What we learned: lifelong learning is not for everyone.
What we also learned: reciting nursery rhymes backwards does not come without consequences.
Season 8 overall
Most seasons of Doctor Who prior to the mid 80s at least attempted some kind of education: scientific, historical, speculative. Season 8 is strange in that there is nothing to learn from it. Though it is not lightweight or morally vacuous, this is for the most part meant as pure entertainment: Terror of the Autons does not ponder the nature of the self; The Mind of Evil does not muse on the nature of punishment; Claws of Axos is visually impressive but without a scintilla of depth; Colony in Space is too dull to give us any memorable moral lessons; the closest The Daemons gets to theological speculation is blowing up a church. Yet when the numbers are totted up, it has worn better than say, Seasons 9 and 11, which frequently attempt to mentally engage us.
What we learned: Doctor Who has its blissful highs and its dispiriting lows, but Season 8 has neither.