A Guest Blog by Hevy782
After being exiled to Earth at the end of his Second incarnation this new Doctor played by Jon Pertwee brings more than a few changes with him. The programme is now broadcast in colour, UNIT play a much more vital role, the Doctor becomes more of a man of action and that’s just a few of the many changes which came along when the show entered the seventies. The Claws of Axos is the story I choose to represent this era of the show as it comes from the second year of Jon Pertwee’s time as the Doctor and is thus from a time when the show had decided what it wanted to be after a rather experimental first year. Alongside Jon Pertwee’s Doctor the serial also features Katy Manning, Richard Franklin, John Levene, Nicholas Courtney and Roger Delgado as Jo Grant, Mike Yates, Sergeant Benton, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and the Master respectively. Now that is a rather large regular cast based upon Doctor Who’s standards but it made sense to have this set up with the involvement of UNIT as they wouldn’t change their key staff every story and it gave an almost family feel to the whole thing. In fact this group of regulars is often described as the UNIT family. Another interesting thing to note about this story is that it is the first to feature TARDIS interior scenes since Patrick Troughton’s swan-song, The War Games. It is the first of many stories to be written by the dynamic duo of Bob Baker and Dave Martin who would later to go on to create everyone’s favourite robot dog K9. The director meanwhile is Michael Ferguson who also directed our previous story, The Seeds of Death. Now before we look at the synopsis let’s talk about why I choose this story as opposed to any of the other fan favourites from this era. Simply put it’s because there is a lot going on and it rattles along at a similar pace to the new series and so I felt that it’s probably a good place to start for newer fans who want to look back at the classic series. Now then, I think now is the right time to move on to the synopsis for this story so let’s take a look at that.
Unlike most stories this one doesn’t start with the TARDIS landing on Earth but instead with a strange spaceship doing so and UNIT heading off to investigate. The beings within, the Axon’s, claim to be peaceful and have landed to refuel their ship. They also offer a gift, Axonite, which has the power to duplicate any molecule. However, they are really all part of the same entity as their ship, Axos, and it has been lured to Earth by the Master so that it can destroy drain all the energy from Earth to feed itself with. The Doctor grows suspicious of the Axon’s seemingly benign intentions and goes to investigate. Meanwhile, Chinn, an official from the ministry of defence, has his own men take over the affair and arrest those from UNIT so that he can keep all the advantages of Axonite for Britain rather than the whole world. However, Chinn’s plan is foiled and distribution of Axonite goes ahead as originally planned. Unfortunately this means that Axos can now feed on the energy of the entire planet which means the Doctor, who now knows the truth, has to race against time to stop it. He tricks both the Master and Axos and uses his TARDIS to trap them in a time-loop but while he is able to escape it the Master is too which mean he survives to fight another day. So while the Earth may be safe from Axos the Master is still at large and dangerous.
Now then, if I had to choose just one word to describe this story then it would probably have to be psychedelic. Now you should not be put off by this description as there’s a lot more to the story than just that but the scenes within Axos are very much dominated by strange effects and colours which gives them a very psychedelic feel. Luckily for those who don’t like that sort of thing (I myself don’t mind it) those scenes are few and far between. The story itself has lots of twists and turns and a lot of scenes are crucial to the overall story which is good unless you’re writing up the synopsis for it, so what you read above is a very basic outline of quite a complex story. It really does feel like writers Bob Baker and Dave Martin gave their all for this story and while some ideas don’t end up being executed so well you just have to admire the sheer ambition of them. In fact ambition is one of the key things this story has going for it, it has it in abundance. But what about the characters who inhabit this complex story that Bob Baker and Dave Martin have created. Well I think it’s on fit and proper to start of with the main character, the Doctor, who is wonderfully played by Jon Pertwee. Now while his action hero side is shown off all to much in this story his intelligence is. He has his standard outrage at the actions of a political figure which can sometimes get a bit annoying but in this story they are totally justified and Chinn is quite an irritating character anyway so he definitely deserved to be shouted at by the Doctor. That’s to say I dislike Chinn’s presence in the story, far from it in fact as his annoying nationalist views allow many of the other characters to shine. One of these characters is FBI agent Bill Filer who strikes up a nice friendship with Jo and overall I find him to be quite likeable. Now I’m not from the US so I can’t really judge his accent but I’ve heard quite a few say that it’s rather bad. It’s going to be different from person to person as to whether it puts you off his character or not, some may even find it offensive. But to me it’s not all that bad and I actually quite like the character.
The UNIT regulars however, mainly Captain Yates and Sergeant Benton, are very much pushed into the background for a lot of this story. Even Jo suffers a bit but to a much lesser extent. The Brigadier on the other hand gets a great scene where he has to make a deal with the devil and work alongside the Master to save the world. Not only that but he also has to make the choice between saving the Doctor and Jo or the world. It’s a lot of heavy stuff and Nicholas Courtney of course performs it brilliantly. Beyond this however he doesn’t get to do a whole lot but these moments are so amazing that they basically make up for it. Our final character of note is of course the Master who is superbly played by Roger Delgado, the first and (in my honest opinion) the best. Admittedly the story would probably have functioned just as well without him but it’s nice to have him there anyway, mainly because of Roger Delgado’s sublime performance who brings out the best in every actor he acts opposite. One last thing I’d like to discuss before I conclude this review is the Axon’s. They’re a very solid idea for a monster and it’s rather a surprise that they haven’t returned at all. But Peter Capaldi has said he’d like to face off against them at some point (even though Steven Moffat doesn’t seem too keen on the idea) so you never know what might happen.
In conclusion, The Claws of Axos isn’t perfect but a lot of merits and a pace similar to that of the new series. It was a tough call but I’m afraid it’s only a seven-out-of-ten from me but it’s a very strong seven and is still most definitely recommended by me, especially for those who are fairly new to the classic series. Up next is The Masque of Mandragora where the Fourth Doctor and Sarah take a trip to renaissance Italy but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the story in the comments below.