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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Doctor and the Autons, 8 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Doctor Who: Mannequin Mania- Spearhead from Space / Terror of the Autons [DVD] (DVD)
Spearhead from Space
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1970's Spearhead From Space has always been one of the truly great moments in Doctor Who, and for me this is one of my top 10 favorites. From the start of 1970 to the end of 1979 Doctor Who reached its zenith and became the classic show we all love today. Patrick Troughton's last serial "The War Games" is no doubt a timeless classic but recorded very low viewing figures for the time, so the producers had quite a rough time getting the 900 year old chap on his feet again. I agree with Terrance Dicks in that Doctor Who was granted a stay of execution because the BBC were starting to broadcast in colour for the first time and the money that was coming in from the television licenses was clouding their evil judgement on possible cancellation. Thankfully, the BBC did not cancel the show and its still going strong over 48 years later.

Jon Pertwee gets a great first story here and probably the best debut ever for a Doctor. Firstly, the colour really helps, I know some people love black & white but you must admit that colour is luxurious. Furthermore, the location filming is fantastic, basically the whole 100 minute feature was filmed on location because of some BBC strikes that were going on. The filmic look really adds to the atmosphere of the serial and sells it better than videotape ever could. Furthermore, Dudley Simpson's incidental music for Spearhead from Space is some of his greatest, the atmosphere he induces from the score is impressive to say the least and really adds to the overall enjoyment of the story.

Nicholas Courtney's first appearance since 1968's "Invasion" is brilliant, I always loved the Third Doctor / UNIT era of the programme and Nick is one of the main parts of that fantastic nostalgic time. His performance here is truly something special and he and Jon bounce off one another superbly. Nick would go on to star in Doctor Who intermittently for the next 20 years and so what we have here is the proper beginning to the whole concept of the Doctor's UNIT family. Caroline John's first "Who" is very high standard stuff, I have always loved Liz and thought she was always one of the Doctor's best 70's companions. Although she was to only appear in one series on Who, she will always be fondly remembered, {mostly for the short skirts though};)

The Autons provide a chilling monster for the newly regenerated Doctor, their faceless-ness was always going to be quite chilling and so they make a very effective debut here. The quest cast are all on top form with special praise going to Hugh Burden's Channing.

This has been a truly gratifying review of what I think is one of the greatest serials Doctor Who ever made. The introduction of the Autons and UNIT was a masterstroke, this story for me stands out as Robert Holmes best work on the series. A wonderful start to a fantastic era of the show.

Terror of the Autons
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Robert Holmes, by now a familiar figure on the writing side of Doctor Who pulls "Terror of the Autons" out the bag, a story that is considered his greatest work on Who. I will say though that I much prefer Robert's earlier script "Spearhead from Space" to Terror of the Autons as noted above. Still, Terror of the Autons is a terrific story, we have the return of the Autons, the introduction of the Doctor's new assistant Jo Grant and more importantly, the introduction of one of the best remembered villains from classic Who, Roger Delgado's Master. Roger Delgado steals the show as the suave and insanely evil "Master". His performance here is electrifying and can only be matched by Jon Pertwee's Doctor. Both actors have such fantastic scenes together over the next few years that it makes me wonder why these two never won BAFTA's.

Jo Grant, as played brilliantly by Katy Manning makes her debut here also. I always felt that Jo Grant was the best companion of the 70's, she just worked so well with Jon, much the same as Liz Sladen's Sarah Jane Smith gelled with Tom Baker's 4th Doctor. Here, little dolly bird Jo gets the most action packed start for a companion ever, blowing up UNIT buildings, hanging around on telescopes and trying to keep up with the Doctor and the Master. This story also marks the first appearance of Captain Mike Yates, meant as a sort of potential love interest for Jo. I always liked Mike and thought that near the end of his reign, he got such a brilliant storyline.

Also, this story marks the first time we have the complete UNIT family together, consisting of The Doctor, Jo, The Brig, The Master, Yates and Benton. The start of a fantastic on-screen and off-screen batch of relationships. The Autons also put in an appearance as the story's monsters, although much more of a limited appearance than in "Spearhead". I always liked the Autons and thought that they were genuinely a scary creation. The faceless automatons were a clever concept and one that was more believable to a bright teenager or adult figure. Robert Holmes must of had no idea that the Autons and the Master would become such fantastic and well remembered creations, Strictly speaking though, the Master was the creation of Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks.

Overall, a highly enjoyable adventure with the Master making his Doctor Who debut and Jo Grant becoming one of the most fondly remembered and popular companions of Doctor Who. Highly recommended. 10/10

The BBC DVD release is beautiful, no better words come to mind really. The Doctor Who Restoration Team have recoloured and restored these two icons of television brilliantly. The special praise has to go the the recolouring of Terror of the Autons, it looks simply fantastic. The re-release of Spearhead from space was much needed, its woeful lack of any documentaries was criminal for such a landmark serial. However, for this release, "Spearhead" and "Terror" have been re-remastered and both have a couple of fascinating and highly entertaining doc's on them. Highly recommended release and a vital part of the Doctor Who range on BBC DVD. 10/10.

Many thanks for your time, it's greatly appreciated.

M.B.
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