Story written by Robert Holmes
Directed by Derek Martinus
Typically, I have tried to review stories in their entirety (especially once the individual episode titles were dropped from Doctor Who’s format). With this serial, however, it seems more conducive to break things up a bit. Part one is doing quite a few things and it can be a bit jarring.
In recent months I have been watching a lot of modern television: Fringe, Once Upon a Time, Community, to name a few. Jumping back into a 1970s style was initially difficult. This is particularly ironic since Spearhead from Space was quite a step up in production quality for Doctor Who. The show is now in color! The difficulty, for me, was the pace and editing. With the former, serialized stories unfold slower. With the latter, the jump from one scene to another could be jarring. In the decades that have passed, television editors have found effective ways to signal transitions: a shocking line of dialogue, a slow zoom as a character realizes something, a lingering shot that allows the action to wind down. In this era of Doctor Who, these transitions often don’t exist. It can feel clumsy to the modern viewer, which is a shame because Spearhead is a great production.
Spearhead part 1 is essentially a Doctor-lite story. In fact, it could almost be the pilot of a spin-off series based on the adventures of UNIT. Because of this feel, Doctor Who has taken on a different feel at the beginning of this season. It is hard to get a good read on The Doctor since he spends most of his time in a hospital bed. No, this episode belongs to The Brigadier and Liz Shaw. I enjoy both of these characters. We know The Brigadier from The Invasion and Web of Fear, and it is refreshing to see him again. It is odd to think that he is the character that has to sell the audience on The Doctor. Liz Shaw is interesting as a skeptic; she is a sarcastic, antagonistic character, very much a Scully type. Or is Scully a Liz Shaw type?
So with the bulk of the material given to UNIT and some mysterious meteors, we will have to wait for part 2 for a good look at the new Doctor.