The Claws of Axos

Doctor WhoFreak weather conditions mark the arrival of an unidentified flying object which lands near a power station. The Doctor, Jo and UNIT enter the ship, with an officious bureaucrat named Chinn in tow, finding that the ship’s organic nature is closely tied to its inhabitants, the Axons. Though they can appear in humanoid form, the Axons’ true shape is an amorphous blob of tentacles – and they have a passenger on board: the Master. The Axons strike up a bargain with Chinn for Britain to serve as the worldwide distribution hub for Axonite, a miraculous substance the Axons are only too happy to provide freely as a gift of peace in all good faith. The Doctor discovers, only too late, that Axonite is a Trojan horse from space – and it will allow the Axons to feed on Earth’s resources until the planet is drained.

written by Bob Baker & Dave Martin
directed by Michael Ferguson
music by Dudley Simpson

Guest Cast: John Levene (Sergeant Benton), Richard Franklin (Captain Yates), Peter Bathurst (Chinn), Michael Walker, David G. March (Radar Operators), Paul Grist (Bill Filer), Fernanda Marlowe (Corporal Bell), Derek Ware (Pigbin Josh), Donald Hewlett (Sir George Hardiman), David Saville (Winser), Bernard Holley (Axon man / voice of Axos), Kenneth Benda (Minister), Tim Piggott-Smith (Harker), Nick Hobbs (Driver), Royston Farrell (Technician), Patricia Gordino (Axon woman), Debbie Lee London (Axon girl), Roger Minnice, Geoff Righty, Steve King, David Aldridge (Humanoid Axons), Gloria Walker (Secretary/Nurse), Clinton Morris (Corporal), Peter Holmes, Steve Smart, Marc Boyle (Axon monsters)

Original title: The Vampire From Space

Broadcast from March 13 through April 3, 1971

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: A very typical Pertwee-era story, this one is probably notable chiefly for being the first Master story whose original color recording is available (as opposed to the recently colorized version of Terror Of The Autons, the Master’s first-ever appearance). But other than that, it’s classic early 70’s Doctor Who – the Master is up to no good, Jo is tagging along right into trouble, and the Brigadier, Sergeant Benton (John Levene) and Captain Yates (Richard Franklin) are doing their best to clean up the Master’s latest evil scheme. And, as always, the third Doctor tries to warn humanity of its own mistakes, and sits back smugly and watches as human ambition and greed play right into the hands of the Master and his latest cohorts.

All of these elements are textbook ingredients of the Pertwee era, but in Claws Of Axos there really isn’t much that’s new – the Master collaborates with an isolated alien race whose organic technology can bleed the Earth’s natural resources dry at an accelerated rate. And as usual, the aliens have chosen Britain as their point of contact with the entire human race. (Though this constant feature of Doctor Who was necessitated by production, they could have at least attempted to mention the aliens landing elsewhere on Earth; though it’s a funny constant in-joke, it strained credibility tremendously.) The political avarice of a particularly nasty (and porky) British public servant allows the aliens to spread components of their organic technology around the world, spreading the potential disaster to global proportions. This time, the Doctor has to enlist the Master’s help in fighting the very aliens the Master has invited to Earth – and then turn the tables on the evil Time Lord at the last minute to save himself.

Roger Delgado, as always, is The Master. He’s rather underused in this story, but his menace is always portrayed in a believable manner. It’s hard to believe that the Master has fallen for the “oh, so the Doctor’s on my side now” ruse so many times over the years, but this being only the third Master episode in the show’s history, it was still relatively new. And the idea that the two Time Lords might slip away and leave Earth to its fate seems, at least momentarily, like a distinct possibility here. Guest star Paul Grist assumes an American accent and huge sideburns as an American agent visiting U.N.I.T. to learn more about the Master – a very reasonable idea, making U.N.I.T. seem for once like a truly international organization and not just a British one, though as humorously noted before, when has the Master ever threatened any part of the world other than the U.K.?

The then-new-to-the-BBC miracle of color television is quite a sight to behold, with the interiors of the Axos spaceship – a combination of brightly painted, cushiony “organic” setpieces, rear projection screens, and video overlays – seem downright trippy and psychedelic. Indeed, in numerous “escape” scenes, actors seem to take odd zig-zagging courses through the Axos sets, though if you concentrate on the set and not the overlaid patterns, it’s easy to imagine much quicker escape routes! Even more ludicrous is the finale, in which Jo, the Brigadier, and U.N.I.T.’s finest observe the explosive destruction of a nuclear power plant from what must be the safe distance of very nearly two or three miles away…

Dudley Simpson‘s music often sounded pretty much the same during the Pertwee era of Doctor Who, though he provides a frequently-repeated musical cue in The Claws Of Axos which is really catchy – I first saw the episode, and heard this piece of music, over ten years ago, and it’s still with me.