Wednesday 7 September 2011

289 The Claws of Axos: Episode One

EPISODE: The Claws of Axos: Episode One
TRANSMITTED: 13 March 1971
WRITER: Bob Baker & Dave Martin
DIRECTOR: Michael Ferguson
SCRIPT EDITOR: Terrance Dicks
PRODUCER: Barry Letts
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - the Claws of Axos
Episode Format: 625 video

Unit has been joined by Horatio Chinn, MP, who is conducting an enquiry into the organisation, and Bill Filer, an American agent pursuing the Master. A spacecraft is sighted entering Earth's atmosphere, which Chinn orders destroyed. The Spacecraft teleports itself out of harm's way and buries itself in a beach close to the Nuton power complex. A local tramp is passing by the ship and investigates, being seized by it and drawn in. Chinn takes charge of the situation, sending Filer away. However he drives to Nuton and investigates, being captured by the ship and imprisoned with the Master. Unit arrives, and joined by Sir George Hardiman and Professor Winser from Nuton they investigate entering the ship and encountering the gold skinned Axons who wish to trade their miracle replicating Axonite for fuel. The Doctor is suspicious that they didn't use the Axonite to make more fuel. Benton & Yates find the rapidly decomposing body of the tramp near the spaceship. Jo, who has entered the ship by herself, is confronted by a tentacled alien emerging from a wall.

Oh look, it's the Master, what a surprise! Now I've got some previous history with Claws of Axos: I never liked the book and was never grabbed by watching it on video and DVD. But watching this first episode there's a lot to like. Both aliens, the gold skinned Axons and tentacled monsters look fab, and there's some great design work inside Axos, the Axon ship, combining studio set and CSO. No my problems with this story mainly spring from the inclusion of the most annoying character in Doctor Who - Horatio Chinn played by Peter Bathurst. Chinn's the sort of annoying and officious character that belongs more in a sitcom than in Doctor Who, I look at him and think "how did you get to such a position of power?" As a throw away character like the tramp, and I'll get onto him in a second, he might have been OK but Chinn's visible right the way through the story. I didn't realise it but I'd seen Peter Bathurst before: he was Governor Hensell in The Power of the Daleks and he's completely different here which proves he could act (he also shows up as the Director General in Barry Letts & Terrance Dicks' Moonbase 3) In fact discovering that Bathurst was Chinn too put me right off Hensell in power for a bit! Then there's the tramp, Pigbin Josh, played but stunt man Derek Ware. Exhibit A in any "Doctor Who does bad Yokel characters" enquiry. Fortunately he's swiftly dispatched, though the initial version of his body decaying was a little longer and more graphic before a white out was used to excise the end of the effect. I'm pretty certain the sequence of the missiles launching is the same footage used ad nauseum in the Invasion.

Claws of Axos is the Doctor who writing debut for Bob Baker & Dave Martin, known as the Bristol Boys. They came to script editor Terrance Dick's notice when a script they'd written landed on his desk by accident instead of it's intended recipient. They were commissioned to produce a script at the start of May 1969 and over the next few years it evolved under various titles as "The Gift", "The Friendly Invasion" & "The Vampire from Space", the last of which it was still being called when it was filmed. Indeed there were even title slides for the story under that name produced. Baker & Martin, along with Robert Holmes, would form the backbone of the Doctor Who writing team for the rest of the seventies before their partnership broke up in 1978. Bob Baker would later script the Wallace & Gromit series. Dave Martin died in 2007.

1 comment:

  1. Nice serial with the Master in. I found it took a while to perk up a bit