torsdag den 26. marts 2009

Who Review #56 - Terror of the Autons

Picture: How Radio Times showcased the new season and a new enemy back in 1971.

Season eight starts with the introduction of three marvellous, new characters: Richard Franklin as UNIT Captain Mike Yates; Katy Manning as companion Jo Grant; and that classic of Doctor Who villains, Roger Delgado as the Master.

A TARDIS materialises at Rossini's Circus. The man who steps out is clad in black, with a dark goatie (with shades of grey at the sides) and hypnotic eyes. The figure tells Rossini that he is known as the Master and then hypnotises him. The Doctor is working on a piece of equipment when Jo Grant comes in. It goes up in smoke and Jo uses an extinguisher on it; he gets a little irritated and says he doesn't want to be interupted. She is his new assistant. Jo tells the Doctor that the Nestene Energy unit has been stolen. The Master goes to a radio telescope and shoots its operator; he then takes out the Nestene Energy Unit and connects it up to the radio telescope. It starts to pulsate. The Doctor complains to the Brigadier about Jo. The Brig relates that Liz always said what the Doctor only needs is someone to pass him test tubes and tell him how brilliant he is, something Jo can do; also, she got the job because of a family connection. The Doctor reluctantly accepts Jo. They head off for the radio telescope. (Thousands of Whovians shout: beware of the Master and Radio telescopes, Doctor!) A Time Lord warns the Doctor that the Master has arrived on Earth. The Master has set a trap - a volatiser rigged to the door. The Doctor manages to catch it before it falls and defuses it. He meets the Director and Capt. Yates. They find the body of the technician, shrunken and put in his lunchbox. The Doctor explains the Nestene threat to Jo. She investigates a plastics factory, where the Master has hypnotic control of Farrell; she is captured and hypnotised by the Master - Jo is ordered to return to UNIT with a negative report; he is also busy making Autons. A UNIT box is recovered and Jo goes to open it; the Doctor realises it is a bomb.

The Doctor manages to throw it out a window before it explodes. He realises she has been hypnotised and sets to work helping her recover. The Master has a plan of making things to destroy mankind. Farrell Sr. talks to his son and wants to stop him changing production. Sr. is not susceptible to the Master's hypnosis, he gives Sr. a troll doll, saying it is a new product. A missing radio astronmer's car is found in a field; the field is where Rossini's circus had been. The Doctor sets off to investigate the circus. In Farrell Sr.'s car, the heat makes the troll doll come alive; he opens a window and the troll collapses inert again. The Master has set a trap, using Phillips, the missing scientist. Jo follows the Doctor to Rossini's. The Doctor is tied up by Rossini and Tony, the Strong Man (Roy Stewart - the Tomb of the Cybermen) when he is seen examining the Master's TARDIS, which is disguised as a horsebox. Jo reports the situation to the Brigadier; she sees Phillips. The troll doll is put above a heater, back at Farrell Sr.'s house; it comes alive and strangles him. Jo knocks out Tony and unties the Doctor. Phillips runs in with a grenade, under the hypnotic control of the Master; the Doctor breaks the control but Phillips is killed when he tries to get rid of the grenade. The Doctor goes into the Master's TARDIS and takes the dematerialisation circuit. An angry group of circus artists starts to threaten them. A police car arrives and the policemen take Jo and the Doctor. He looks at a policeman, then grabs hold of the policeman's mask - they are left looking at the blank face of an Auton.

The Doctor and Jo rush out of the car. Yates and the Brig followed them and pick them up. The Brig, tries to hold a discussion meeting on the Master and the Autons, but the Doctor is terribly rude. After an irritated Brig walks off, the Doctor tries to use the Master's dematerialisation circuit in the TARDIS, but to no avail as the circuit is a newer model. He exits the ship in a cloud of smoke; but he smiles because the Master's TARDIS is now useless. The Master has made plastic daffodils which Auton clowns hand out. The Doctor hears of the death of Farrell Sr. and visits his widow. There he learns that a Col. Masters is a new partner at the plastics factory. Mrs. Farrell gives the Doctor the troll doll. A telephone man (the Master in disguise) wires in a new telephone at the UNIT lab; Yates boils some water and the nearby troll starts to move. The Doctor and Brig go to Farrell's factory, but find it deserted. The Doctor picks up a plastic daffodil for further examination. Jo is saved by Yates who shoots the troll. In the factory, the Doctor and the Brig narrowly escape being shot by an Auton, hidden in a safe. Back at the lab, the Doctor receives a call. It is from the Master, who sends a signal that activates the plastic chord, which tries to strangle the Doctor.

The Brigadier rips the chord out of the wall. The Doctor receives word that plastic daffodils are being handed out on a promotional tour. The coachload of Autons is in a quarry; the Brig. orders a RAF strike on the coach. Jo tries to hail the Brig via radio. The signal activates the daffodil which fires a film of plastic over her face. The Doctor manages to get it off her. The Master enters the lab and confronts the Doctor; the Doctor holds the dematerialsation circuit to stop the Master shooting. Jo enters and the Master threatens to kill Jo. She mentions the RAF strike and the Master decides to keep them alive a little while longer. They drive to the quarry, forcing the Brig to abort the strike. The Doctor is able to send a message via Bessie's breaklights. the Brig gets the message stating the daffodils are dangerous and the radio telescope must be guarded. Jo knows escapology and undoes her ropes. The coach heads for the telescope and Jo and the Doctor jump. The Autons and UNIT have a fire fight (with the usual high casualty rate for UNIT). The Master operates the dish but is persuaded by the Doctor to expell the Nestene becuse they would kill all of them. The Autons fall lifeless. They think they have killed the Master when he approaches, makes for a gun and is shot by Yates. It is Farrell though, in a plastic mask. The Master escapes in the coach. The Doctor smiles when he says the Master is trapped - he gave him his dematerialisation circuit. The Master's circuit is in the Doctor's possession. Robert Holmes is a great story. Jo Grant is simply a sweetheart from the second she enters the Doctor's lab, whilst the Master is a different league of villain altogether- cunning, ruthless and suave. (His sudden change of mind at the end of episode 4 is the major failing, storywise.)

The problem of making Terror different to Spearhead from Space was solved beautifully - rather than masses of Autons roaming about, the weapons would be everyday objects. The idea of killer dolls and daffodils or chairs that suffocate (Farrell Sr.'s partner is killed by one) is terrifying. In fact, Barry Letts recounted the complaints over the troll and the Auton policeman: one of his friend's children wouldn't take a teddy to bed in case it came alive and strangled him; and Scotland Yard were furious that police were made to look scary.

There were numerous, marvellous lines in the dialogue:

Classic Jo
Jo: [big smile and twinkling eyes] I'm your new assistant.
Doctor: [looking aghast] Oh no!....I really don't think your suitable.
Jo: I'm a fully qualified agent....
Doctor: What I need is a scientist
Jo: I took general science at A-Level

a little later,

Doctor: I thought you took an A-Level in science?
Jo: I didn't say I passed.

One of the other negative features of the story is one the characteristics of the Doctor himself. He is terribly brash and rude to Jo, the Brig and almost everyone; plus he seems remarkably chummy with "the Institution". (He mentions being at a club with a Lordship. There are other instances of this which I will mention later on.)

The introduction of Delgado's Master is a highlight of this great story - he has his own little incidental music tune, and of course his catchphrase: "You will obey me!"

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