Monday, 31 March 2014

Review: Doctor Who Classic: Terror of the Autons

For Josh's article on this story, see here.
"The more he avoids the moment, the greater my ultimate
satisfaction." From nerdculturepodcast
Doctor Who - Season 8, Story One - Terror of the Autons
Written 14/9/13

"I am known as The Master. Universally." And so Season Eight begins, the season in which the villain is always The Master in disguise and in which he continually hooks up with alien intelligences just to piss The Doctor off and then saves the day at the last second due to their sudden but inevitable betrayal. Terror of the Autons follows this pattern with very little fuss, allowing Roger Delgado to shine in his premier as the ruthless, inventive and somewhat understated Master, while the villains from last year's premier hitch the ride for a series of sometimes hilarious and always disturbing murders, obviously concocted from the mind of a serial-killer left inside a Toys R Us.
     The Master shows up and steals a Nestene power device from under UNIT's nose, hypnotising his way into a Plastics Factory and assisting the Nestenes in creating a preliminary force to distract Earth's forces prior to a full-on invasion. The Time Lords send a strangely dressed man to warn The Doctor about his old enemy (appropriate, as The Doctor is at the top of a radio telescope at the time) and he follows The Master's evil schemes as much as he can. Bumbling new assistant Jo Grant (replacing Liz Shaw) gets hypnotised along the way, even though she comes good along the way and together Jo and The Doctor follow The Master's scheme to the point where The Doctor is able to convince him that the Nestenes will probably kill him too (cos he looks human and all) and to stop their scheme.
     Whereas the previous lot of Nestenes were all about freaky plastic dupicates and shop-window dummies, these guys are more sadistic and inventive, with serial-killing plastic dwarves, film-spewing daffodils and the stretching-credibility-for-a-cliffhanger telephone wire. While being in the presence of The Master is immediately a constant buzzkill for their presence, they are certainly more intimidating and it's much more believable when we're told that they can control all plastic when they literally do just that. In hindsight one could argue that they were trying to scrape the barrel a little bit on the concept, and a few of the executions do bring this to the light, but all things considered there's enough frightening stuff here to justify their frightening reptuation - the reputation that led to their placement as the villain of the revival's pilot.
I apparently get a starring role in this story...
From docoho

     Ainley was my Master, but the original is rather superb in his way. The character is at this absolute best here, where the execution is at its most fresh. The character outline of being the Moriarty to The Doctor's Holmes works perfectly, and it's especially satisfying to see the dozens of little plots and plans get played off one after the other and to see The Master himself enjoying performing them. He's also fantastically quote-worthy;  "Now, come, come, Doctor. Death is always more frightening when it strikes invisibly."
     The days of gritty realism and visiting a different high-tech research facility every week are definitely over, and Doctor Who begins to stray away from the sci-fi and crime drama influences of the previous season and into something that, while not as painstakingly brilliant as its predecessors, is far more distinctive. Whether I'll still enjoy The Master and his plots another 21 episodes down the I'm not sure, but at this early point in the season it looks as though I'd have a fair chance of enjoying myself.



Even though my original plan was to carry on and finish Colourised Who, I tried watching Mind of Evil and the slog that is the Pertwee Era and the general vibe of early 70s stopped me dead in my tracks. It's been fun watching Classic Who, but for the meantime, I'm dropping out. Thanks for reading my Classic Who reviews over these past few years, and I'll see you next time.

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