Doctor Who – Season 8

Season 8 Cast. (Source: Den of Geek website. Copyright 2012 by BBC.)

I may not be writing longer reviews of each story or episode at the moment, but I’m doing my best to keep making my way through the classic series. My goal is to finish the classic series before the 50th anniversary. That sounds like something I could reasonably achieve.

A few days ago I finished Season 8, which marked Jon Pertwee’s second year as The Doctor. I’ve already reviewed some of the stories elsewhere. What I wish to do here is give a brief impression of each story, then a rating out of five.

  1. Terror of the Autons by Robert Holmes
    The Autons return, but this time they are being aided by a renegade Time Lord who calls himself “The Master.”
    Apart from the introduction of The Master, this story is basically a rehash of what we saw in season 7’s Spearhead from Space. The Autons just don’t seem that interesting, especially when paired with The Master, superbly played by Roger Delgado. Assistant Liz Shaw is abruptly replaced by Jo Grant. The Brigadier seems a bit thicker than when we last saw him. The UNIT cast is also rounded out by the addition of Captain Mike Yates. Overall, a decent beginning, but—apart from The Master—nothing terribly intriguing. Well, apart from the man who is smothered by a chair.
    My Rating: 2.5/5
  2. The Mind of Evil by Don Houghton
    During the World Peace Conference, The Master is plotting to spark a war with the aid of an alien creature that feeds on evil and fear.
    Unfortunately, I didn’t have an opportunity to watch this story, but I was able to listen to the audio recordings from AudioGo. I found the story to be intriguing and complex. While The Brigadier seemed again to be dumbed down, I found the alien in the prison to be an interesting idea, and the idea of a machine that would remedy “anti-social” behavior reminded me of A Clockwork Orange and certain episodes of Babylon 5. While I can’t speak for how this story looked, I did enjoy the audio.
    My Rating (of the audio): 3.5/5
  3. The Claws of Axos by Bob Baker and Dave Martin
    A group of aliens makes contact with UNIT. They want to trade technology for fuel. However, The Doctor remains suspicious.
    I found this story to be quite a bit of fun, from the irritating MP Chinn to the exploration of an organic ship (yes, I know it has been done in other sci-fi shows and books, but I loved seeing Doctor Who explore it). It was interesting to see The Master return (yet again), but still remained just plausible enough that he would be involved.
    My Rating: 4/5
  4. Colony in Space by Malcolm Hulke
    The Time Lords send The Doctor and Jo to the planet Uxarieus to foil a plot by The Master. While there, he must attempt to broker a peace between a colony of farmers and a mining corporation.
    Off world at last! I was so thrilled to be off Earth for this story; I loved every minute of it. I soaked it up! It is possible that I wouldn’t enjoy this story as if watching Doctor Who out of sequence, but in this broadcast order, I found this story quite satisfying. I also appreciate Hulke’s subtext about European colonization/Imperialism and the Native American population.
    My Rating: 4/5
  5. The Daemons by Guy Leopold
    The Master, posing as a vicar in the village of Devil’s End, seeks to summon an ancient alien who was the basis for demon mythologies.
    This story was a mixed-bag for me. I liked the idea of The Doctor, Jo, Mike, and Benton being separated from the rest of UNIT. I liked the idea of pagan ideas and images of demons being based on an ancient race. The first episode of this story had some good scares as well. Unfortunately, I didn’t care much for the resolution, and by this point I felt The Master truly was growing old.
    My Rating: 3.5/5

So there we go. It got off to a rough start, but the season soon picked up. Characterization issues (and the lack of Liz Shaw) aside, I think it was a good follow-up to season seven. However, I still prefer the previous batch of stories. I think UNIT was treated better and I prefer Liz Shaw to Jo Grant.

I’m well in to season nine at the moment. I’ll update again when I finish.

Doctor Who Story 055 – Terror of the Autons

Story Recounted by Robert Holmes

There have been many stories involving a figure known as “The Master”. He tends to be a personal nemesis to The Doctor, setting himself apart from races such as The Daleks and The Cybermen. Terror of the Autons is one of the earliest incarnations of the rivalry between The Master and The Doctor. It is certainly the oldest in existence despite the claims of other stories to tell earlier tales of The Master, some positing a familial connection between the two men, others a life-long rivalry taken up after a broken friendship.

Some scholars debate the existence of the historical Master, believing The Master to be an evolving archetype in the mythology of The Doctor. They cite—in particular—the recurring elements of The Master from tales that occurred chronologically earlier. The figure of The Meddling Monk was a trickster of The Doctor’s race. A Master also appeared in The Land of Fiction. The War Chief was also a Time Lord who seemed to hire himself out to an alien race, in his case to help them develop better war strategies and technologies. Scholars who defend the historical Master tend to dismiss these theories of a developing archetype, insisting these other figures were separate individuals rather than evolving mythology.

It is, however, possible that the creation of The Master was inevitable. A strong hero tends to come with a specific, incarnational nemesis: Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty; Batman and The Joker; Coriolanus and Aufidius. These nemeses embody opposite concepts and philosophies, but in themselves are responses to the hero. The hero and villain are only separated by a thin line. They are opposite sides of the same coin, so to speak. Into this duality step The Doctor and The Master.

What is fascinating in this earliest story is how dismissive The Doctor is of his nemesis. There is the impression that the two have not yet met, although are aware of one another. In some ways, the Time Lords can’t be bothered to deal with each other. The other merely presents an interesting challenge, albeit an inconsequential one. They enjoy hunting one another. The attacks, however, do seem to grow more personal as the story progresses. This escalation may show in future stories.

As for the story itself, it continues from Spearhead from Space, yet lacks the emotional punch of that story. The loss of Liz Shaw is a disappointment and Jo Grant has yet to prove an interesting replacement. The Brigadier seems to have lost a bit of fire that was present in the previous stories. He doesn’t seem as interested in challenging The Doctor as he once did, and when he does, it  is usually due to sheer bone-headedness.

In sum, Terror of the Autons fails to live up to the high standard set by Spearhead from Space, The Silurians, The Ambassadors of Death, and Inferno. While an enjoyable story (and quite short), it lacks the depth of previous ones.