Saturday, 2 July 2011

Why Spearhead from Space is so much better than Terror of the Autons

Terror of the Autons is one of those stories than I wished I had got on VHS. So I was pleased when it was released as part of the Mannequin Mania box set., as Terror was the first story to feature the Master.

There are some set pieces which I think work wonderfully well, such as Jo being hypnotised the Master. Though it was obvious what had happened to her from the moment she walked through the door, after being caught by the Master.

The plastic film over Jo’s face was quite terrifying, as was the chair enveloping poor Mr. McDermott.

But the story is quite slow, it just plods along, and has a very rushed ending. This is common with many of the stories from this era.

Whereas Spearhead has much in common with modern Doctor Who. It is very well paced and visually looks fantastic. Not just because of the fact it was shot on film (due to a strike at the BBC). All the effects are in camera, so there are no clunky video effects, no obvious CSO unlike Terror. Only the rubber octopus and Jon’s comical facial expressions let it down.

Pertwee gets into the role properly by episode two, after the now familiar post regeneration instability in the hospital. But Pertwee makes this scene comical. He takes a very laid back but serious stance in his new role as the Third Doctor which makes this particular adventure shine.

Nicholas Courtney and Caroline John provide very good support in this story. It is a good strong story which stands up well today, and apart from the dodgy octopus, it is without a doubt the better Auton story.

The scenes of the Autons rampaging the streets are so iconic and very scary. That's also why it's the better story, the later Autons in Terror just doesn't have the same menace.

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