Spearhead From Space Part 4 and wrap-up

Source: screen capture from the Spearhead from Space DVD. Copyright 1970 British Broadcasting Corporation.

Is this the template for the Pertwee years? If so, it isn’t a bad start: Good introduction, good villain, new dynamics, and just the right length.

The Nestenes are an interesting concept. Following on from creatures such as The Animus and The Yeti, The Nestenes are a disembodied consciousness. Their ultimate goal is to colonize Earth by manipulating plastics. The meteors that fell to Earth in part one were fragments of the colonizing consciousness. Once reunited, they were able to create a form and begin the invasion. Unfortunately, for their cause, The Doctor was able to find a way to stop them before they could succeed. I like this idea, an invasion based on infiltration and destabilization. It almost worked, too, if not for that pesky UNIT and their Doctor.

So, what do we have in this new era?

  • Spearhead was a fairly high-concept story, masquerading as a simple alien invasion. Granted, it didn’t have enough time to really explore the concepts, but it does ease us in to the new season.
  • The dynamic between The Doctor, Liz, and The Brigadier works quite well. We have the scientists and the military. They goad one another, but they will have to work together to confront threats. My biggest concern is how long this dynamic can last. The premise may start to wear thin as the writers attempt to find new ways to bring threats to Earth. RTD had a bit of difficulty with this in his series finales, with each series escalating in scope. Doctor Who of the 1970s doesn’t have the budget for this.
  • As an aside, I can’t help but think of the spirit of the Pertwee era existing in Fringe. While I am a few seasons behind on Fringe, I am loving the format of an FBI/science division that investigates supernatural phenomena which may actually be science gone out of control. If Doctor Who did another era set on Earth, it would probably look a bit like Fringe. End digression.

My biggest concern at this point, as mentioned in an earlier post, is the editing. When a scene shifts mid-word, I think there is a problem. Granted, many of the Pertwee episodes were recovered from fan recordings. Perfection is not guaranteed. But for reasons I don’t quite understand, I can overlook shoddy special effects (especially in black and white), but abrupt editing bothers me.

And on that bombshell, we bid farewell to Spearhead from Space and eagerly await Doctor Who and The Silurians. This will be a first-time viewing for me, and I’m quite excited.

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2 thoughts on “Spearhead From Space Part 4 and wrap-up

  1. Sadly, Pertwee’s first season was not to prove a template for the years to come.

    The first year – which is to say, the first four serials – are very much self contained. This season was a concept for Doctor Who that was based strongly on ‘Quatermass’. The shows were hard-hitting, realistic, science-based stories. This was very much the vision for the show of out-going producer Derek Sherwin. It was very strongly influenced by the best elements of the BBC’s contemporary Seventies series, ‘Doomwatch’.

    Sherwin, however, was badly needed elsewhere in the BBC’s drama dept. The ‘Paul Temple’ series had run into major problems, and needed a producer of his experience. But he left behind at Dr Who the scripts for the first year’s serials.

    This was not the vision of new producer Barry Letts. Barry, bless him, an inexperienced producer at this point, made a valiant stab at the same style on his first serial, ‘Terror of the Autons’, giving his best writer, Bob Holmes (who also wrote ‘Spearhead from Space’), a free hand – and found himself embroiled in a firestorm of unimaginable scope, complete with questions asked in Parliament about the appearance of killer policemen and killer teddy-bears in the show.

    Barry therefore quickly toned-down the show, aiming for a less realistic and more cuddly atmosphere; and it gradually became a rather twee show, Hence the nickname of the star became Mr Per-twee.

    Some excellent serials still forced their way onto the air – ‘The Daemons’, ‘The Sea Devils’, ‘Day of the Daleks’, ‘The Time Monster’, ‘Planet of the Spiders’. But the show no longer aspired to being Professor Quatermass for the 1970s.

    Barry booted-out companion Liz Shaw, a research scientist from Cambridge University with a degree-level intellect; and ushered in Josephine Grant, who had failed all her A-levels, but had an O-level in screaming and in saying, ‘Why did you do that, Doctor?’

    The difference between the two companions became a metaphor for the difference in approach of Derek Sherwin and Barry Letts to the show.

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