The Claws of Axos
|Dates||Mar. 13, 1971 -
Apr. 3, 1971
With Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Nicholas Courtney,
John Levene, Richard Franklin and Roger Delgado as "The Master".
Written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin.
Script-edited by Terrance Dicks.
Directed by Michael Ferguson. Produced by Barry Letts.
|Synopsis: An alien space-craft lands on Earth and its inhabitants promise peace and prosperity... but the Doctor discovers something is hideously wrong.|
A Review by Dwain Gleason 30/5/97
The Claws of Axos is a largely forgettable story, and here's why: A Pertwee-era alien invasion, in which the Master gets involved, gets in over his head, and ends up helping the Doctor defeat the aliens. In the end, the Master slips away, but the Doctor is still on Earth. Sound familiar?
Even with a few more details, the story runs in with many others of its era. It largely takes place in a nuclear power complex. The aliens are a collective consciousness, seeking to doom the world by spreading their substance all around. The Doctor gets the TARDIS partially working again, but he still can't escape Earth. So far, I could be describing a number of stories; Claws of Axos primarily resembles Terror of the Autons, but shares plot elements with Inferno, Spearhead from Space, even The Time Monster.
On the positive side, Roger Delgado is a delight as always in this story. He does in fact serve as an ersatz UNIT Scientific Advisor in the Doctor's absence, and the similarity in the Master's and the Doctor's exasperation at human ineptness is frightening. The two of them seem to make a good team, but the Master is a little too easily fooled by the Doctor's plan to destroy Axos. Axos is an interesting alien, but is largely more of the same from the early to mid Pertwee era. Jo Grant is reduced to disobeying orders and thrashing about on a rubber-mat covered set, while UNIT is once again embroiled in the political struggles of Great Britain, a country that is seemingly incapable of hiring a competent civil servant (if you believe the storyline).
An average story with some passable effects, made enjoyable by Roger Delgado. If it hadn't been for the Master, I hate to think what would have become of this era in Doctor Who.
Pertwee at his best, but not UNIT, Jo or the Master by Martin Hudecek 3/7/98
The Claws of Axos is one of the stories that rarely bores but has little claim to being a major or noteworthy Pertwee tale -- it is simply representative of the era in which it was made.
Both Chinn and Filer cannot escape being embarrassing in some form or another although at the same time they are sort of amusing to watch. The scene where the two Filers fight is that character's most exciting moment, after which he becomes pretty useless.
If there is one aspect of the story that simply is unbearable it must be that filthy, unloved tramp -- Pigbin Josh. He simply is one of the worst 'characters' in the show ever.
At the other end of the scale, Pertwee is great here, as he is still not playing the totally dependable Time Lord of his later years. And when he feigns betrayal he is at his best. UNIT is also fine here although they are not really shown to their full potential. The action scenes in parts three and four are passable enough, and the accompanying music is suitably exciting.
The Axons are a rather odd bunch with loads of different shapes and sizes but the idea of them being a whole entity is a clever concept of the writers. Bernard Holley as the Axon Man gives an impressive performance and speaks in a voice which hides any trace of evil and is more akin to a god. Sadly the other 'representative' of Axos, the Axos Eye, is very unconvincing and is even accompanied with some cosy hummable tune at the start of one scene.
As for Katy Manning as Jo Grant, well after her impressive performances in her first two stories she slips rather noticeably into the role of a much more common screamer, darting around in suede boots and an attention-grabbing mini-skirt. At least she is not quite at her worst in this story.
It has been mentioned that the Master managed to save this story -- and others -- from obscurity, although I believe he merely enhances an already tightly-packed plot. The Master here is neither quite as cold-blooded nor coolly relaxed as previously and thus comes over as far more cartoonish. The skill of Delgado is still high enough to make him a joy to watch in any case.
Overall The Claws of Axos is worth watching and is a fun enough diversion. But it has little to make it stand out, especially in a season which features both The Mind of Evil and The Daemons. 6.5/10
More like the Clods of Axos by Michael Hickerson 4/7/98
The Claws of Axos is probably the most famous (or infamous) for several sequences in episode one and four. I'm not referring to the Doctor's apparent betrayal of humanity or the aborted missle strike as Axos comes to Earth. No, I'm referring, of course, to the sequences involving Filer's car and the UNIT jeep where they forgot to edit the background into the blue screen sequences. It's one of the more obvious bloopers in all of Who history.
It kind of makes the whole production of Claws of Axos seem like one giant blooper. Which isn't too far off really.
There's a good story here somewhere. The idea of Axos being an alien parasite that's come to suck the Earth of all it's energy is an interesting one. However, it's the execution of the tale that really drags it down from interesting to the level of a blooper. Part of the weakness is that the audience knows that Axos is not all it seems from early in episode two, but it takes the UNIT gang until the close of episode three to figure this out. Also, the editing is rather sloppy throughout the story. Characters move from place to place with startling speed and effeciency. At times, one gets the feeling that the sequences were pasted in wherever the director felt they might best fit rather than in any kind of sequential, logical order. It gives the story an amateurish feel.
However, as with most Who, there are some great moments to recommend in this story. Jon Pertwee gives a fine performances as Doctor and his betrayal of UNIT at the end is quite well done. The Doctor's plan to trick Axos into leaving Earth is quite good as well as is his attempts to break down Axonite. It also reveals a darker side to the usually good natured Pertwee Doctor that is extremely welcome.
Add to it that Roger Delgado is superb as the original (and the best) Master, rising above the rather pedestrian material he's given in the script (of course, when doesn't he?)
All in all, The Claws of Axos is a story with potential. Which makes it a shame that bad editing and faulty internal timing make it such a shambles.
Exceptional Work by Jim Hoff 15/5/00
The reviews appearing here thus far seem to have focused on the negative aspects of The Claws of Axos, trifling and nitpicking at minor points, until the potential newcomer is frightened away from an outstanding, tightly plotted story.
Yes, there is the infamous bluescreen blunder, but a point needs to be made: With the sledge-hammer pace of the story, one hardly notices, especially when the accompanying exterior/location filming is excellent. Another reviewer here has suggested that the editing is somehow sloppy and amteurish. 'Passable' special effects? Again, on both of these counts I disagree. The CSO and model work here are excellent for the period, and by any standard still hold up very well today. Some of the work is quite spectacular. And all of the sets and location work are well shot. The producers of Pertwee's era had a solid grasp on style, far superior to the earlier eras, and with the exception of a certain dinosaur story, most of these stories were very well shot and produced. The Claws of Axos is no exception. If anything, its production values stand out along with Carnival of Monsters and Frontier in Space for some of the series' best work to this point.
Yes, Jo screams a good deal in this story, but the plot is such a roller-coaster with so many well realised characters that there is little time for her to do much else. But does this in any way detract from an otherwise excellent story? No.
Yes, it takes place in a power complex. Again, does this in any way or form detract from the storyline? No.
And a minor character like Pigbin Josh is singled out? Is it me, or does this seem just a trifle petty?
Now Chinn and Filer -- these are altogether another story. Chinn is a buffoon, blustery and selfish, but dangerous. Shall I say that history has been chock full of just these sort of political imbeciles, or should I say that he is certainly an accurate reflection of many a modern political figure? Take your choice. Filer, on the other hand, is portrayed with much unintentional camp, unfortunately. His speech especially his near the story's end distrusting the temporary allegiance of the Master and the Doctor sounds terribly cliched, like a bad 1930's American dime-detective novel.
Axos itself is wonderfully well realised: One of the earliest of many well realised alien monsters such as the Drashigs, Ogrons, Draconians, and Sontarans (to name a few) in an era overflowing with them. The interiors, model exteriors, and violent, shape-shifting extensions all combine to provide a delightful, elaborate creation.
Similarities to Terror of the Autons? Granted, the content is similar, but tone and pace are not at all the same. Terror of the Autons serves as more of an introductory vehicle for the Master (who is wonderful, as usual, here) and Jo Grant, and still feels a bit like season seven, more mainsteam oriented, with the Nestenes hidden behind the scenes most of the time. The Claws of Axos, on the other hand, displays its aliens proudly, making the viewer immediately aware of what a lethal enemy this is. It becomes even more apparent when we discover the Master is clearly being controlled here, and not vice-versa.
Does The Claws of Axos have a significant place in the program's history? Upon close examination, yes. Consider: As is well known, the stories Spearhead from Space through to the Mind of Evil represent a mainstream, less science fiction oriented oriented approach. The Claws of Axos represents not only the Tardis's first return to space/time (think about it), but also marks a return to the more traditional, lightweight Doctor Who style, carefully integrated with the new values incorporated early on in the third Doctor's era. Terror of the Autons cannot represent this change because although lightweight and fast paced, it is in fact, an extension/reflection of season seven's style. Following The Claws of Axos story the Doctor would leave the earth 3 additional occasions, finally to be liberated in The Three Doctors, and in additon, battle the Daleks twice over the next several seasons. Despite his unsucessful attempt to escape, this story marks the beginning of the Doctor's liberation.
Hereafter, perhaps only The Green Death and perhaps The Sea Devils would resemble a season seven story.
All of this having been said, one cannot leave out Jon Pertwee's exceptional performance, laced with abrasive humor. The ending is wry, humorous delight. Worth seeing? You better believe it.
The Claws of Excess Plot by Andrew Wixon 18/6/00
There are those six-part stories that we all secretly know are just four-parters with ideas above their station. You know the ones, the ones where the plot goes off on a bit of a detour midway through episode three or four and reappears just in time for the climax. We're talking Invasion of Time, we're talking The Mutants, we're talking most of season 9 if we're honest. What don't get mentioned so much are the potential six-parters unkindly crammed into a four-episode slot, with plot twists and characters piled on top of each other and less elbow room than Pertwee's console room. And it's this category that Claws of Axos falls into (duly spraining an ankle in the process).
Baker and Martin's inspiration here was clearly the B-movie flying saucer genre of the 1950s and the inclusion of the character of Filer is presumably meant as a tip of the hat in that direction, simply because there's no other reason for him to be in the story. The character is one-dimensional even by the standards of the Pertwee era and doesn't actually contribute to the plot in the last two episodes. Even worse, his presence pushes the other UNIT semi-regulars even further into the background than usual (the Brigadier excepted, of course) leaving poor old Yates and Benton with little to do apart from some ridiculous macho land-rover driving and grenade chucking in the last episode.
Dead-wood and stereotypical characters aren't necessarily fatal (just as well for Axos, which has more than its' fair share of both - Chinn, Filer, Josh...) but a confused plotline is and here's where the story falls down. The idea of Axos wanting to spread axonite around the world to drain all energy is simple and plausible enough, but unfortunately it seems to get largely ignored in the second half of the story in favour of the subplot about gaining the power of time travel ... which it already has, according to the Doctor's explanation of how it dodged the missiles in part one. That aside, the references to the feeding cycle starting then going wrong in the final episode are jarring and not well explained. Has someone told the UN axonite is dangerous? If not, why not? And what's Axos complaining about? On top of this, why is Axos attacking the lab? (Other than to provide a thrilling climax, of course.)
One would think that adding the Master to an already overburdened plotline would be the final straw that consigned Claws of Axos to the realms of turkeyhood but this is surprisingly not the case. I'm normally the first to condemn the character as a pointless, undermotivated cartoon but I'll readily admit that he's one of the best things in this story - he acts intelligently, dynamically (hypnotising the driver of a moving lorry through the windscreen mirror while hanging onto the side is a magic Delgado moment), displays a nice sense of humour, and is in general rather more likeable than the Doctor, who throughout the story comes across as rather arrogant and cold. His motivation is logical and for once he's not out to be gratuitously evil, just save his own skin - a nice change.
The story has other saving graces too. Nick Courtney does his best with what Pertwee would have described as 'a bit of a thin script' for the Brigadier. The designs for the various manifestations of Axos are different enough from your average 70s spaceship and aliens to hold the attention. The direction, while becoming a bit frantic in the closing sequences and perhaps being a bit too fond of close-ups, is engagingly trippy in the more psychedelic sequences within Axos.
But on the whole, while remaining never less than watchable, The Claws of Axos isn't the best example of the UNIT family in its prime. Two more episodes or one less subplot and this might have been a minor classic - but, alas, it wasn't to be.
I must have this story by Mike Jenkins 5/3/02
The greatest Jon Pertwee story second only to Carnival of Monsters. What makes it for me is it's one of the rare forays into comedy for the Pertwee era. The characters, lines, and villians are all comical. It might even have the former story beat. Chin is fall down funny as is the minister. Filer, Windsor and the other bloke are right up there. The Axons themselves are fairly comical as well. Jo's screaming might be unintentionally comical but this is a mere quible. The dialouge is fast paced and tells us something new with each line. The inside of Axos is psycadelically fun. The Axon's voices make them sound stoned, or something. "Begin reabsorbtion, man!!". They're the closest thing we'll get to druggie villians. Hilarious stuff. The humans all play well off each other. This is probably Nicholas Courtney's best performance in the show. The Master plays well off the Doctor, the Axons, and pretty much everyone else. The plot itself is intriguing and keeps you guessing right up to the end. Why didn't they make more Pertwee stories like this? That Filer accent will keep you laughing days after viewing. I don't know what's funnier, the way we think Americans sound or the way Americans think we sound.
Oh dear by Tim Roll-Pickering 20/3/02
The Claws of Axos is one of the best or worst examples of how poor ideas can be dragged down even further by atrocious production values, resulting in a story that is highly tedious and at times almost painful to watch. Jon Pertwee's period in Doctor Who has come in for a lot of criticism for being formulaic and over-reliant on the same basic ideas and this story is the key evidence for the prosecution. Although it doesn't last more than four episodes, it is set on Earth, involves aliens trying to conquer the planet, features the Master, has a government representative who is so ridiculous as to be unbelievable, involves action with UNIT, shows scientists who are quickly out of their depth and is resolved in a quick and technical way. Every single one of these elements is carried out far better in other stories, leaving this one as one of the weakest stories in the entire series.
Even the handful of fresh ideas that appear are poorly executed, such as Bill Filer, a CIA agent sent to discuss the Master who comes across as about as bumbling as any of the other human characters in the story. The Master's presence is utterly unnecessary and even Roger Delgado seems at times to be bored. The other regular cast members similarly make far less impact than normal and there is not one of the guest cast who stands out in any way.
On the production side there is a lot to criticise, ranging from some unimaginative camera work in the fight scenes in the reactor, to the scene where Yates and Benton are attacked by Axons in their jeep and several shots show them against a blue background which is lacking the CSO additions. As both humanoids and in their various monster forms the Axons are utterly unimpressive. Although their face makeup in human form is interesting, their bodies are poorly designed yellow jump suits, whilst their monster forms are comprised of a bunch of tentacles that don't always work. And the less said about their intermediate forms the better. Axos itself suffers from the same obsession with rubber and so looks tacky and cheap. The location work is rather run of the mill and makes little impression. The camera work and lighting often makes these problems worse by exposing the design flaws and the general direction is at times dull and unimaginative.
At the end of the day The Claws of Axos is an utterly forgettable story with very little to mark it out in its own right. It is a classic example of how formulaic elements can be taken too far, with the result that the script is already poor and the realisation makes it even worse. 1/10
The intergalactic yoyo! by Joe Ford 8/10/02
Last night I sat down with my boyfriend to watch The Claws of Axos, a story I never used to have much feeling for. I was actually a little apprehensive to show him the story expecting laughter and digs for weeks (he STILL does impressions of Sarah Jane falling down the hill in The Five Doctors!) but quite surprisingly it turned out to be a very thoughtful experience.
Something strange happened halfway through the first episode. As the mad old tramp Pigbin Josh explored the exterior of Axos I was dying of humiliation, trying to explain this was made in the seventies, that the effects were good for their time, that they thought the bleep, bleep music was adding drama to the serial, that the spaceship design was supposed to be ALIEN and that was why it looked a bit rude.... Simon cut me off quickly and said "Why are you being so critical, it's actually really good!" I froze. I couldn't answer him. I was so convinced he (and everybody outside of fandom) hated the show and I had justify every embarassing mistake as though it were MY show I had worked myself into quite a paddy. "What do you mean?" I asked. "Why don't you turn off your critical brain and just watch it?" he replied.
He was right. I am so aware of Doctor Who's faults these days that I am always trying to explain them away. Whatever happened to just being entertained? Not looking at the larger picture? Just planting yourself into a tight little four parter and letting it gosh wow you?
Of course I couldn't completely stop picking holes in the thing as opinions are half the fun of watching a programme but I suddenly saw the story in a whole new light. The dialogue was perfect, the psychadelia effects in Axos actually were pretty alien, the plot leapt from one important twist to another. The Master makes another excellent re-appearance. There are so many GOOD things about this show and I had let my blind fanboy prejudices stop me from seeing them. Watching with somebody else allowed me to see the story through their eyes and it was fresh, fun and exciting. (I am going to try the same now with Nightmare of Eden and The Three Doctors, two futher stories I couldn't bare to watch with anybody else).
The Claws of Axos demonstrates everything that is great about the Pertwee era and everything that made it suck. Simon and I had a very interesting conversation about the greed of humanity afterwards. This story had prompted that intelligent conversation. A lot of the stories in this time dealt with issues, often to the detriment of humanity (greed, it's polluting of the planet...) and this one of the more fascinating ones. We see humanity's hunger to have it's cake and eat it close up through the eyes of Chinn, the pathetic no hoper who uses his job for power. Although he may appear to be an annoying superflous character he is actually the very crux of the story. Britain for the British. Axonite for the British. Scary thinking indeed and a very brave attempt by Bob Baker and Dave Martin to paint the world a little more interesting than just black and white.
But not only is it an intelligent discussion on current affairs but also a acid trip of whacky alien ideas. Axos is a fascinating idea. One element that can split itself into seperate beings according to the perception of whoever meets it and suck dry a planet. The Axons look gorgeous, the faces are one of the best designs to escape from the Pertwee era. I love the eyes. And those red veiny monsters menacing the power complex must have been enough to put the wind up any child watching this on its original transmition. Even simpler moments like the Axon lady's face melting proves frightening. For once you get a genuine impression that these aliens are ALIEN.
Pertwee is excellent, his best performance of the season. The Daemons may have be more entertaining overall but it doesn't explore the Doctor/Master relationship half as well as they do here. In particular it is great to finally get some scope of the threat of the Master and Bill Filer's appearance suggests the international powers are growing concerned. Nothing can approach the shock of the Doctor's sudden lack of interest in the last episode where he decides to leave Earth to the Axons and use the Master to repair the TARDIS and escape. I couldn't believe it! Of course it's a scam but for a few utterly perfect minutes we genuinely believe he has finally turned rogue. The Master's reactions are wonderful "You mean you're actually going to leave your beloved Earth to the Axons?" and the moment the Doctor tells the Brigadier and Jo he is leaving is just great.
However not everything about The Claws of Axos is great. Chinn for all his greed does come across as a little guillable and stupid. His willingness to arrest the Brigadier seems an extreme reaction indeed. And as I mentioned earlier there are some production mistakes that could have been ironed out (Bill Filer's double is hardly convincing and the guy in an orange sheet monster should have been scrapped). Between episodes two and three the story meanders a little, not sure whether it wants to be disccussing the issues it has raised or concentrate more on the action.
There are too many brilliant touches to criticize the story on the whole. The Master jumping from the bridge onto the back of a UNIT truck, his infiltration into the base, the Doctor's sudden discovery of the true nature of Axos, watching Jo age to death, the repeated threats on Chinn's job by the Ministry... it's all very involving.
Simon taught ME how to enjoy a Doctor Who story yesterday. And that was something I never dreamed could he could do. As a result I give The Claws of Axos (great title too) a deserved thumbs up and suggest you give it watch any time you want to explore the more intelligent side of the show.
A Review by Terrence Keenan 7/2/03
We Who fans are continuously ready to take up arms and issue Fatwah against non fans who declare this thing of our called Doctor Who "silly". I won't even insult your intelligence and say I'm above it; diss City of Death and it's on, Chump!
However, if you ever wanted to make an argument about how silly Doctor Who can be, just pop in a copy of The Claws of Axos.
This is one of the few times I was legitimately laughing at, rather than with a DW serial. Between the overacting, the colorful designs for Axos (there's a friggin' understatement), and some ripe dialogue, I couldn't stop howling like a loon.
You know it's bad when Big Roger Delgado can't save the story. Not to say he's bad, but he's not his normal stellar self, either. Katy Manning regresses from the scream-free performance of The Mind of Evil and is in full bimbo mode. She also has the worst sounding scream out of any DW companion, ever. Nic Courtney acquits himself well, if only because everyone else around hams it up badly. Which is a good place to bring up Jon Pertwee's performance. He's really cringeworthy in this one. Even when he "betrays" UNIT and the Earth, it's as believable performance as my unlaundered socks playing MacBeth. The guests are just annoying, with Paul Grist the chief offender as Bill-I-swear-I'm-American-listen-to-my-accent-Filer.
The story in itself isn't all that bad. The first offering of the Bristol Boys, Bob Baker and Dave Martin, is filled with ideas, as usual for them. Though, how the Doctor escapes the Time Loop at then end was wishful thinking. And some of the dialogue is painful.
Yes, even Doctor Who can be silly. Claws is exhibit one in the case for DW being harebrained. Best seen after having a few pints, or any other altered state through recreational chemical consumption.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 20/8/03
The Claws Of Axos is very much a mixed bag. There are things to applaud such as the humanoid Axons, and the performance of Roger Delgado`s Master, who bears striking similarities to the Doctor when dealing with Earth`s military. The idea behind Axonite is also an interesting concept. Unfortunately there is little else really to praise, Jo is reduced to a screamer, the Doctor merely seems to be going through the motions (although the sequence featuring the Axons "analysing" him is effective). The worst offenders are Chinn and Bill Filer however both of whom are painful to watch.
In summary,watch for the first episode (it's the best), the ideas behind the story; (it's not just an aliens destroy humanity tale, but an aliens absorb the Earth tale), but don`t watch it for the deep characterisation or the great acting.
A Review by Will Berridge 8/9/03
What do an orange bag, a yellow chair and a man wearing an interesting leotard and some gold face paint have in common?
They're all parts of Axos, of course! One huge parasite which stalks the galaxy in a ship which looks like it belongs in a fish and chip shop. It's so silly, I have to love it. And the betentacled bag-monsters are actually rather well designed.
That said, Claws has more than its fair share of cock-ups on the effects front. I have a rather cynical theory that a cheapskate DW producer though he could get away with not bothering to substitute proper backgrounds for the blue CSO screen in the hope the audience might just assume the sky was that tint of blue on that particular day. Unfortunately the non-CSO-ed sequences show it not to be. And are we really supposed to believe an axon is 're-energising' just because we see an empty costume being poked inwards? Maybe in 1972.
So I'll laughingly forgive it and get on with enjoying the rest of the adventure, which has a good deal of merit, and in particular a great deal more humour than most Pertwee tale. Chinn and 'the minister' at times seem to be trying to turn the story into a 'Yes, Minister' episode. Chinn is one of the most hilariously unashamed caricature on DW, and his constant self-satisfaction whenever he's ordering distribution of axonite, or cover-ups, or nuclear strikes is very amusing. The he clashes with the Brigadier quite a bit, who seems to be at his best when dealing with pompous, self-opinionated idiots (Professer Stahlman in Inferno being a good example.) There's: 'I'm treating this as an emergency situation' 'Yes, yes, so am I.' and 'Where have you been, Mr Chinn? The canteen?'. It's one of the Brigadier's last great episodes from the Pertwee era, and Courtney acts it magnificently as he has to bottle his pride and accept the Master's help.
The Master, curiously enough, is only a part time villain in this story. Although he is ostensibly responsible for all the trouble in bringing Axos to Earth in the first place, he spends most the first couple of episodes trying to get free of it, then allying with UNIT (to save his own skin, of course) and fighting against it, and then even forming an uneasy alliance with the Doctor. In fact, the Doctor turns out to be the duplicitous partner here, which again makes you feel a bit to sorry for the 'bad guy' especially since he was nice enough to lend him his gun. It's nice to see the Master fighting for his own survival for once, however, foreshadowing later Ainley stories like Planet of Fire and, naturally, Survival, where the Master was at his most effective. He's also charmingly wittily acted again by Delgado ('Oh, I suppose you could take the usual precautions again nuclear blast. Stickytape on the windows, that sort of stuff.'), and has more great rapport with Pertwee during the 'agreement' between the two Timelords. The embarrassment with which the Doctor admits to him he's had his memory of dematerialisation theory removed is wonderful, as is the Master's amused reaction.
The serial features a number of well shot action sequences (the bag-monsters' exploding tentacles being one of the more convincing forms of alien attack in the Pertwee era), most of them around the particle accelerator where people get, for want of a more scientific term, 'frizzled' and become foam. Funky. There are notably two superb cliffhangers there, the last being particularly tensely acted by Courtney and Delgado. (The other is unfortunately rather ruined by Jo's unbearable scream.)
The plot is a good one, twisting and turning throughout with everyone starting to realise the Doctor has been proved right about not shooting down the Axons lest they have an amicable disposition towards man, at which point only the Doctor starts to realise the Axons are not as benevolent as they seem. The Master aids either side as it suits him, ditto Chinn as it suits the British government, leading to most of the parties wanting one thing (Axonite distribution), then all of them being horrified by the prospect. One annoyingly convenient element is that there only seems to be one 'Earth scientist' character operating in the plot at one time. Winser gets frizzled, then is replaced by Hardiman, who performs similar plot functions and departs in a similar fashion, who is replaced by some random and non-descript technician who no-one bothers to give a name. Why kill off characters is you still need them? OK, for a spectacular death scene then, Hardiman's being notably so as he is catapulted half way across the laboratory.
This story may be a bit too light-hearted in parts to may it thoroughly involving, but nevertheless it passed 1 hour 30 minutes very nicely thank you. 7/10
A Review by Brian May 13/11/03
The Claws of Axos was never a favourite Pertwee story of mine for a long time. From my initial viewings of the third Doctor's adventures (twenty years ago) and a few repeats, it failed to grab me. After my most recent watching of the tale, I wonder why I didn't appreciate it - it is extremely good!
Set in the middle of Season 8, The Claws of Axos is probably the best example of the direction that Doctor Who had taken during this period - the Earth-based alien invasion stories. But it successfully avoids most of the clichés that prevailed in the "alien invasion" genre. It's the most different of the invasion stories, in the fact that the aliens have already landed and ingratiated themselves with the powers that be. The invasion is effectively one by stealth, with the Doctor and UNIT obstructed by the authorities (Chinn) unwittingly helping the aliens.
The concept of Axos itself is fascinating - one of the most ingeniously designed and realised enemies the Doctor has had to face. A single entity, taking on a variety of forms, had never been encountered in the programme before. Its organic design is creepy (a similar pattern would be used in the Tom Baker tale Terror of the Zygons) and, yes, that eye is rather phallic! The revelation that the Axons, the ship and Axonite are one and the same is nice and dramatic.
The story is also one of the best representations of what fans love to call the "UNIT family" - in particular the Doctor, the Brigadier and the Master. UNIT is still a believable, professional and resourceful organisation - its relationship with the regular army is further explored (also detailed in Spearhead From Space), revealing some of the limitations and bureaucracy the Brigadier has to face - and his skill at overcoming them, especially when he reassumes command from Captain Harker. Another one of Lethbridge-Stewart's best moments is when he and his men capture the Master (if this were made a few seasons later the probable scenario would be the soldiers all falling down Keystone Kops style and allowing the Master to escape, but thankfully not here). Also when he allows the Master to try and destroy Axos, knowing the Doctor and Jo will perish as well. At this point in the programme the Brigadier is still the strong leader, who often has to make difficult decisions.
The Master is given his first elements of real depth. His first two appearances portrayed him purely as a villain with either ill-conceived plans (Terror of the Autons) or extremely convoluted ones (The Mind of Evil). Despite the superb performances of Roger Delgado, the character remained a somewhat one-dimensional one. However in this story, the first we see of him is as a prisoner aboard Axos. It seems as though, once again, his plot has backfired, but we're introduced to the situation after the fact. The Master's moral ambiguity is revealed in full here - he first moves to spread the distribution of Axonite, but when captured by UNIT, in a wonderful display of double crossing and self-preservation, he helps to try and destroy Axos (but I'm sure he wouldn't have minded the Doctor dying as well). This story finally shows the Master as more than a scheming villain - he will change his plans at the drop of a hat and throw his lot in with anyone in order to survive.
The story also reinforces the ambiguous nature of the exiled, desperate to escape third Doctor. Twice before we've seen him attempt to leave Earth in the TARDIS, seemingly not caring about the current invasion threats (Spearhead From Space, Terror of the Autons). It's in this story that the viewer first sees how far the Doctor will go in order to escape his exile. At one point it seems like he is prepared to consign Earth to its fate, although it's not long before we realise it's a ruse. But what is most fascinating is the way the Doctor tricks and manipulates the Master - it is only thanks to his arch-enemy's help that the TARDIS is once again able to dematerialise! The Doctor is just as much a double crosser as the Master. And although he deals with Axos, he makes it clear, after the TARDIS returns him to Earth, that his intention WAS to leave the planet permanently.
The other members of the "UNIT family" are not as well utilised in this story. Jo Grant is once again consigned to helpless companion, a pity after her last story, The Mind of Evil. Captain Yates and Sergeant Benton don't have much to do either - however they are given a few action scenes and certainly don't disgrace UNIT.
The rest of the cast are a mixed bag, which is all down to performances. They range from the competent but uninspiring (Peter Bathurst as Chinn, Donald Hewlett as Hardiman), to the bland and forgettable (David Savile as Winser, and that skivvy is shocking, even for 1970s standards!). Then there is the plain awful, with Paul Grist as Bill Filer. He is painful to watch, from the dreadful American accent to his dreadful delivery of lines. Fortunately there are a couple of excellent performances - Tim Piggot-Smith as Captain Harker, although he is hardly used at all. But it is Bernard Holley who steals every scene he is in, as both the main Axon man and as the haunting, disembodied but almost omnipotent voice of Axos. He is absolutely superb.
The Claws of Axos benefits from a tight script, the first effort by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, who would become regular contributors for the next few years. There are some wonderful pieces of dialogue, with the best going to the Master - there is of course the wonderful "second hand gas stove" line, but also his nuclear blast precautionary "sticky tape on the windows" joke.
Designwise, the story comes off well. I have already referred to the realisation of Axos - this includes the ship, the golden people and the tentacled creatures. Axos is given an eerie, all-powerful aura throughout (helped by the aforementioned voice of Holley). Other examples of this includes the scene when the Axon man informs the captured Doctor and Jo of Axos's plans - the way the image of his head dissolves as it turns from one prisoner to another. Also during the Doctor and Jo's attempts to escape at the beginning of part four, the floating Axon heads and tentacled creatures give a real tension to the proceedings, reinforcing that escape is difficult.
Finally, the direction is confident and strong, thanks to the assured effort of Who veteran Michael Ferguson. There are some terrific scenes, including the tentacled Axon entering the nuclear reactor (its killing of the UNIT guards is quite graphic). Yates and Benton being ambushed by the creatures in the land rover seems to be an action scene included for the sake of having an action scene, but it's quite good, although the missing CSO backdrop (there's just a wall of blue) is a glaring mistake. The climax is also exciting - the final siege as the Axons converge on UNIT and company is quite gripping, as are the Doctor's attempts to escape the time loop.
The Claws of Axos also benefits from being four episodes long. There's just enough plot and action to justify this length, which unfortunately wasn't the case with many Pertwee tales. I'm glad I have warmed to this story, as it certainly has a lot to offer. The alien invasion template is given some originality. The main faults of the story lie mostly in some bad performances, but overall it is worthwhile. 7.5/10
A Review by Lance Bayliss 16/8/05
I hadn't seen The Claws of Axos in four whole years, until I finally got around to watching the DVD release a while back. I have to say, I was very dubious about it being chosen for release on shiny disc, which is why it took me so long to commit to buying it, and even longer to get around to watching the thing. I wasn't looking forward to a deathly dull plod through six episodes of endless padding and intollerable tedium, intersped with moments of letting it run in the background while I did something else.
Luckily, that's not at all what I got. For one thing, I'd completely forgotten that this is one of the very few Pertwee era stories that is only four episodes long, a length that definitely benefits it. I'm left to wonder if it shouldn't have been more common, as it was later in the shows run. So, what did I think of it in detail?
This era is one of my least favourite, largely because I feel that the UNIT personel were more and more poorly used as time went on. The Brigadier, a character who in his first appearance way back in The Web of Fear believed the Doctor's tales of the TARDIS being bigger on the inside without question, was by The Three Doctors seemingly stunned by the idea that it's larger on the inside, and blaming the Doctor for "wasting UNIT funds" on it.
There are many examples of this kind of lax writing in the later Pertwee era (perhaps even worthy of a top ten?), and I can't help feeling that Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks were just doing it for the paycheck by that point. Not so here. Axos still has that zing of a series that has been given a fresh lick of paint by a new producer. Far from being staid, one could argue this is in fact one of the first genuinely new Pertwee story, rather than being a Troughton hand-me-down like those in season seven.
This is a well-told tale about many subjects, and a good start for writers Bob Baker and Dave Martin. The subjects covered include the ongoing subject of tolerence for others, with the Doctor and the Brigadier wonderfully at loggerheads as to what to do about the alien menace (rather than the chummy right-wing pals of later). There are thinly veiled comments on the hypocricy of government, themes which are as relevent now as they were back in 1972. And there's some wonderful direction by Michael Ferguson, with some monsters that genuinely convince.
Good old bignose is quite good in this, still riding on the highs of his season seven debut. He certainly hasn't yet got to the point of phoning in his performance (as he would by the following season), even going so far as to actually appear frightened at one point. I also counted only one neck/nose rub, at the end of the story, which must surely stand as restrained by his standards.
Season eight was very much the Master season, with every single story featuring the Master as the protagonist (regardless of whether it makes sense for him to be there or not). I think as a character the Master is, was, and always will be, very one-dimensional. This is one of the reasons why I think it would be better to create a new villain to replace him in the new series rather than just recast the role. But I found - again, against expectations - that the Master was quite enjoyable here.
Delgado is just as brilliant as many people remember him to be. Nobody else can ever fill those shoes, and I really do hope they never try. Let's face it, nobody will ever live up to those expectations. The scenes with him and Pertwee together are, as ever, a delight.
The only character I really can complain about is Miss Jo Grant who, perhaps as a side effect of this being her first season, really doesn't seem to do much at all. Then again, maybe I'm just so used to Billie Piper in the new series that the original series now seems lacking in this department? Even Leela might seem underdeveloped to me these days.
The Brigadier is still the military man, eager to blow up the oncoming spaceship and to hell with contact. This benefits the Doctor / Brigadier interplay much better than just having them both work together peacefully, because it creates tension: When the lead characters can't see eye to eye on something it generally makes things more dramatic for the viewer. First rule of script writing, create conflict between characters. Very ably done here.
The other characters all fulfill their roles with the minimum of fuss. The minister character is shown to be wonderfully shortsighted and greedy, and even Captain Yates and Sergeant Benton don't seem as annoying this time around.
THE BOTTOM LINE
All up, despite my original memories of it, as well as my general dislike of this period of the programme, rewatching this after so long has seemed almost like a guilty pleasure. Almost everything that the Pertwee era could get right is present, and it makes it all the more infuriating to me that the quality of this particular era dipped somewhat after this. Well worth rewatching, for both old fans and new.
Four stars out of five.
Galactic Yo-Yo by Jason A. Miller <19/3/06
The lesson to be learned here is that, if a Doctor Who story is subpar, a well-made DVD release is not going to improve the story. It will, however, spotlight what parts of the story didn't work, and why.
For years I didn't have much enthusiasm for The Claws of Axos, for a couple of reasons. One, I thought the portrayal of the aliens was a little cheezy. Second, I always thought the story seemed rushed and choppy, especially in the opening minutes of Episode One, and thus couldn't sustain much interest. The Restoration Team DVD release actually explains both my problems with the story: producer Barry Letts (who contributes to the audio commentary) and director Michael Ferguson (who's interviewed in the bonus features) wanted a fast-pace story with cutting-edge special effects. Both efforts foreshadowed the elements of successful present-day sci-fi series, but unfortunately fell flat here -- a case of the production team trying to give us too much, too soon. The state of the art in 1971 just couldn't realize their aspirations. Also, episode writers Bob Baker (the same Baker who co-wrote this year's Oscar-winning Wallace & Gromit feature) & Dave Martin were writing their first DW script, and the final product is the result of probably a dozen rewrites from script editor Terrance Dicks. As Dicks said on another DVD, rewriting a story too many times is just death on a script.
The commentary track is an informative one: Letts and co-star Katy Manning have now appeared as a team on several DW DVDs, and have a good rapport going. Manning's bizarre shtick of talking like a 9 year-old boy is only used once here. Also along for the ride is actor Richard Franklin. Every three-person DVD commentary track has one third wheel, and that's Franklin here, unfortunately.
The 25-minute compilation of raw studio footage from the recording of Episode One is an interesting addition, with a lively text commentary to explain exactly what's going on for those of us who don't make a living behind the camera. This material explains why some necessary introductory scenes got deleted; shows Jon Pertwee and the Master, Roger Delgado, preparing their work between takes; and shows hammy guest actor Paul Bathurst ramping up his performance to even more blustery lengths than he achieved in the finished product.
The best part of the story, as always in this 8th season of Doctor Who, is Roger Delgado. In Episode Two he plays a scene against the Axos brain with his typical aplomb and determination. However, he's not playing off another actor -- he's sharing the set only with a phallic-shaped prop dangling from the ceiling. It takes a great actor to give a great performance against a prop like that.
A Haiku by Finn Clark Updated 3/5/20
It's a bit stupid
But funny and has a theme.
A Review by Jose Sentmanat 13/7/08
This episode is not among the finest from the Pertwee era, but it certainly is not one of the worst. As a four-part serial, the story largely works. The Doctor and UNIT go up against not only an alien being that appears to be an organic spacecraft piloted by beings called Axons. In the course of the story, the Master also pops up, but far from being a fiendish mastermind in charge of some fearful scheme, he is a helpless prisoner of Axos trying desperately to buy his freedom by helping the alien entity achieve its designs on Earth.
Pertwee does a fine job, and the scenes where the Doctor displays his impatience with human paranoia, nationalism, possessiveness, and our species' penchant for "shooting first and asking questions afterwards" are powerful and convincing. This episode occurs during an era in the show when the Doctor was despairing of escaping his exile on Earth, and Pertwee conveys this sense of desperation perfectly. Pertwee's excellent performance makes the Doctor's profession of an alliance with the Master - aimed ostensibly at escaping from Earth - seem genuine, and one briefly believes that the Doctor perhaps really does intend to desert UNIT and abandon humanity to its fate at the hands (or tentacles) of Axos.
As other reviewers have noted, many of the scenes take place in a particle accelerator laboratory (or an early-70s BBC facsimile of such). Far from constricting the action or squelching the flow of the plot, the lab scenes provide the Doctor with the opportunity to do some science (okay, techno-babble science, but still). I am one of those fans who always enjoys watching the Doctor (of any era) in the role of the inquisitive scientist, and we get plenty of this in The Claws of Axos. The Doctor's disagreements and arguments with the chief scientist leading the investigation into Axonite (the material the Axons provide to humanity as part of their evil plot) help accentuate our favorite Timelord's growing impatience with his terrestrial banishment.
Roger Delgado's performance as the Master is truly marvelous. The scene where he tries to persuade Axos to set him free to help in its plot to destroy Earth is excellent (Delgado is arguing/pleading with a plastic prop hanging from the ceiling!) and must have taken a superb amount of talent to perform convincingly. The look on Delgado's face when Axos denies him the use of his TARDIS is truly memorable. As a special treat, at one point in Episode 3 the Master finds himself serving as UNIT's de facto science advisor during the Doctor's captivity on Axos; as another reviewer has noted, the uncanny parallel between the Master's performance of this duty and the Doctor's (right down to the occasional snide joke and sharp words with the Brigadier) is enough to make one uneasy. The Master's hatred of captivity and duress equals the Doctor's; maybe these two enemies are cut from a similar cloth?
The supporting cast does a good enough job, although Katy Manning's Jo Grant is not used very well at all. She spends most of the story screaming at Axon monsters while running around in a purple miniskirt and matching boots. (Episode 3 features the famous - or infamous -purple knickers' scene.) The misuse, or under-use, of Jo is definitely one of the major weaknesses in the story. Peter Bathurst does a good job as Mr. Chinn, the epitome of the bloated career bureaucrat too blinded by ideology, power and suspicion to see beyond his fingertips. (Sadly, the Chinns of the world seem to have gotten the last laugh on all of us, if recent history is any indication, especially here in the U.S. In that regard, The Claws of Axos is downright prescient indeed.) Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier is his usual stolid self. Paul Grist plays American agent Bill Filer with a laughable accent (do we Americans really sound like that?), but the character is likeable enough, and after pushing the plot along in Episodes 1-3, does not get in the way too much after that.
Overall, this episode is worth viewing, if only for Delgado's amazing performance and the closing scene - in my humble opinion, a classic moment in Doctor Who - where Pertwee delivers his famous "galactic yo-yo" line.
Doctor Who and the Spaghetti Bolognese of Death on Dungeness Beach by Joe Briggs-Ritchie 22/9/09
The Claws of Axos seems to be one of those mid-range stories that receives criticism and praise in equal measure. I have nothing but praise for it, barring one or two minor niggles. I think it's generally well written, designed, acted and directed. Bob Baker and Dave Martin have never been the most consistent of the show's writers when it comes to quality. The Three Doctors is irritating, Underworld is dull, The Mutants is so boring and atrociously acted it would try the patience of a saint and the less said about The Invisible Enemy the better. Yet, on the flipside, The Sontaran Experiment and The Hand of Fear are both very enjoyable, well-written stories and, despite some dodgy acting and shoddy production values, The Armageddon Factor and Nightmare of Eden are consistently entertaining.
In my opinion, The Claws of Axos is by far their best story. The message seems to be that our own human greed will bring about the destruction of us all. It has a certain sense of doomsday about it, aided by the bleak, grey setting and Dudley Simpson's grim incidental music. In fact, this seems as good a time as any to say that I really, really like Dudley Simpson's score to this story. It's the only score in Season Eight that actually stands out for me. Across all five stories, it's wall-to-wall EMS Synthi-100 and it does get fairly monotonous. In this story, however, the music adds a hell of a lot of dramatic tension and, for me, it's one of the highlights of the production. It seems to have come in for quite a bit of flack. It's even been referred to as the worst score in the programme's history. What, even worse than The Time Monster? Even worse than the irritatingly atonal noise of The Mutants? Even worse than any of the scores by Keff McCulloch? Surely not? I think the opening shot of Axos travelling across space accompanied by Simpson's grave-sounding music really sets the tone for the rest of it. If this score was released on CD I'd certainly buy it.
Axos is a superbly realised creation. Visually, it is beautifully repulsive, a mass of eyeballs, claws, tentacles and membranes. The idea of organic technology is nothing new these days but back in 1971 it must have been nothing short of revolutionary. It makes such a change from boring silver spaceships. Some of the interior shots of Axos are colourfully psychedelic. Actually, there are times when watching this story is like being on hallucinogens. The golden leotards and perms are not really to my liking but the killer spaghetti monsters are great, especially when they're using their tentacles. Speaking of which, note one of the soldiers who gets zapped in episode three; it's Derek Martin. He later gets killed by the Fendahleen in Image of the Fendahl. He's obviously cornered the market in cannon fodder. These days, he drives a cab in EastEnders. Anyway, Axos is written as an incredibly powerful organism:
AXOS: You see Doctor, we can call on the power of the complex whenever we need it.When the Master tries to channel the power into Axos in one go, it simply redirects the energy back at the complex, causing Sir George to do a hilarious somersault out of the foam machine. Sorry, I mean the particle accelerator. It always seems to be one step ahead and when the Doctor makes it clear that it will consume every living thing on Earth you genuinely believe it can do it. It's by far one of the best adversaries of the Pertwee era. I especially like that scene in episode four when the whole ship emerges from the ground. This is immediately followed by another excellent scene in which Yates and Benton are ambushed by the Axons, culminating in their jeep exploding and careening down a hill. I feel I must almost mention Finn Clark's observation that "episode three's cliffhanger needs a disco music soundtrack as the Doctor and Jo boogie down the funky Axon corridor". Priceless!
THE DOCTOR: How? You can't just walk in there and take it!
AXOS: On the contrary Doctor. We can.
Character-wise, it's a bit of a mixed bag. Bill Filer is serviceable but that's about as far as it goes. He's trying too hard to be a convincing American and it's a tad annoying. The accent certainly is. Chinn is one of the Insufferable Gits from the Ministry. That says it all. He's basically a pompous oaf, constantly trying to crawl up the Minister's arse and have Axonite distributed across the globe. Peter Bathurst plays the character to perfection, making him fairly unlikeable. There's a nice little exchange between him and the Minister over the phone:
CHINN: Minister? Will you scramble or shall I?Winser is a complete shit but thankfully he doesn't live long. Pigbin Josh is one of the oddest characters in the history of the show. Quite what nonsensical gibberish he's spouting, I don't know, but I like the sea shanty-type theme which accompanies his scenes. He eventually turns grey and crumbles to dust which just goes to show that being a stereotypical yokel is deleterious to one's health. Pertwee is once again on top form. Seasons Seven and Eight are the peak of his Doctorship. Roger Delgado is just as good and it's always a joy to watch their onscreen chemistry. Jo is something of a disappointment. She was quite good in Terror of the Autons and The Mind of Evil, a skilled, resourceful escapologist and handy with a gun. She doesn't do anything particularly useful here, she's just being a bit of an airhead. The Brigadier is on good form but Benton and Yates aren't given enough screentime to be worthy of note.
MINISTER: Just your report please Chinn, I'm sure that'll be quite garbled enough.
The Dungeness location filming is far and away one of the best things about this story. Bleak, grey, barren and beautiful, it is the perfect visual accompaniment to Dudley Simpson's music. It's one of the most unique landscapes in England and whenever I see it on TV it always captures my imagination. The power plant is reminiscent of the refinery in Inferno. Unfortunately, when it explodes at the climax, there is a sudden profusion of extreme stupidity. Firstly, the atomic explosion seems fairly small. Considering the Brigadier watches it through binoculars then surely he should have his eyes boiled out of his skull? Secondly, they've merely driven just a short distance down the road. They'd still be vapourised. A similarly ridiculous scene occurs in Baker & Martin's later work, The Hand of Fear. Thirdly, they all return to the plant shortly thereafter and have a meeting in a burnt-out room. Regardless of the fact that the whole building would probably still be hot enough to fry eggs in, it would also be soaked in radiation. It's a silly ending to an otherwise excellent story but I suppose you can't have everything.