Wednesday 31 August 2011

282 Terror of the Autons: Episode Four

EPISODE: Terror of the Autons: Episode Four
TRANSMITTED: 23 January 1971
WRITER: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: Barry Letts
SCRIPT EDITOR: Terrance Dicks
PRODUCER: Barry Letts
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: Mannequin Mania Box Set - Spearhead from Space / Terror of the Autons
Episode Format: 16mm b&w film recording recoloured using 525 off air video

The Brigadier saves the Doctor from the phone cable. Unit finds the tour coach and lays on an RAF strike against it. Jo accidentally sets off the daffodil the Doctor found by using a radio to contact the Brigadier near it. The Daffodil spits a layer of plastic over her nose and mouth but the Doctor sprays solvent over it dissolving it. The Master arrives and takes them prisoner, escorting them to the coach which causes the Brigadier to cancel the air strike. The Master drives to the radio telescope to summon the Nestenes to Earth, but as he's doing so the Doctor & Jo escape. The Doctor & Brigadier confront the Master causing him to abandon his plan which breaks the Nestene's link to the Autons which are battling Unit troops. The Master escapes to the coach, but emerges and is shot. However it's revealed to be a disguised Rex Farrel while the Master drives the coach away. The Doctor looks forward to his next encounter with the Master.

An all action finale including an RAF jet attack and pitch battle between Unit troops & Autons while the Doctor tries to get the Master to stop what he's doing..... and succeeds by pointing out a gaping flaw in the Master's plan that just hasn't occurred to him. Of the three new characters introduced in this story, the Master does the best being unveiled as an old school, moustache twirling villain... Jo doesn't get a lot to do but still gets hypnotised, captured, ask for explanations and do things by accident meaning she has effectively ticked every box that Terrance Dicks & Barry Letts asked her to. Captain Yates fares worst of the three, effectively being just another "interchangeable Jimmy". He'll get more to do as time goes on, but his real glory days are 3 years in the future. If anything here he hogs screen time that Benton could have filled just as usefully. And the story itself? A nice little romp with some interesting little set pieces. Most of the time that would do us fine especially as nobody really puts a foot wrong during it. The problem effectively comes from how I'm watching these stories for the blog: I've literally seen it straight after Inferno, which is in a different class entirely dramatically. Inferno is decent, adult, intelligent and tense. Terror of the Autons is a little bit of light fluff by comparison. Now I feel bad for condemning it for coming having the misfortune to come directly after one of the greatest Doctor Who stories of all time, because by most other standards it's not that bad at all.

The Terror of the Autons Target book was the first to bear the logo used from Season 11 onwards, albeit without the famous diamond background, when it was released in 1974. A colour restored video release arrived in 1993, by which time I'd already seen it in black & white thanks to a friend recording it off UK Gold for me. A new recolourisation was released on DVD on May 9th 2011 as part of the Doctor Who: Mannequin Mania Box Set, where it appeared with a new special edition of Spearhead from Space, it's predecessor. Still think this set should have been called Auton Invasions in homage` to the Target Book!

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