Doctor Who: Terror of the Autons (UK - DVD R2)
The Wilson Bros get autistic for their review of this terrfying Jon Pertwee story
The success of Jon Pertwee's first story, Spearhead From Space, which could have been attributed to various aspects of it, including Pertwee's charismatic performance, the great script, wonderful production values, being entirely shot on film; but ultimately, the popularity of it could have been attributed to the simple but devastatingly effective monsters, the Autons, which were simply mannequins that moved. The blank-faced adversaries captured the imagination of viewers and it would be pretty safe to bet that many kids spent several weeks after the transmission of Pertwee's debut story fearful of walking past department store windows.
A series of mysterious events is taking place - the Nestine power unit procured by UNIT at the end of the last Auton invasion is stolen; a radio-telescope has been attacked and a Colonel Masters has taken an interest in a plastics factory. The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) immediately suspects that something is very wrong and he is about to face not only another Earthly invasion by the Autons, but also a confrontation with an old adversary...
With Terror of the Autons, writer Robert Holmes returned to craft a script that took what had gone before and built upon the initial premise, fleshing it out in ways that had younger viewers fearing much more than just shop-window dummies; but Holmes' masterstroke for Terror of the Autons came with the introduction of a character that would be Moriarty to The Doctor's Holmes - The Master.
If ever there was an actor born to play the witty, suave, urbane nemesis of The Doctor, it was Roger Delgado. Delgado had been slumming it earlier in his career, appearing in several Butcher's B-pictures whenever they needed a foreign-looking "heavy" to provide international intrigue, and his vaguely Middle-Eastern looks (along with his solid performances) helped him to get numerous villainous roles in various ITC shows. From the very second he appears on the screen at the start of episode one, Delgado's charisma is magnetic, and every bit as sharp as it would be throughout his time on Doctor Who - none of that fumbling around with the character that often takes place when an actor first gets to play a particular long-running role, Delgado had The Master down pat right from the beginning. "I am usually referred to as 'The Master'" is his opening line (which one of us often quotes in a pretty good impersonation of Delgado) and from there onwards, a fully-formed adversary takes his place in the pantheon of great Doctor Who villains. Though Delgado never played The Master with his tongue in his cheek, he always seized the opportunity to inject some appropriate humorous moments, usually playing up some of the intentional humour in the scripts, and with Robert Holmes penning the first Master story, he started off on a good footing.
Robert Holmes' script takes the already intriguing premise that was used in Jon Pertwee's debut story and expands it beyond the mere realm of having killer mannequins roaming the country, showing various other ways in that extraterrestrial life-forms that inhabit living plastic vessels can help poor unsuspecting sods meet thier respective makers much sooner than they ever counted on. One could quite easily imagine Holmes (puffing on his pipe) and script editor Terrance Dicks sitting down in an office somewhere over a bottle of whiskey, gleefully thinking up the most perverse ways to kill people in this story in manners that would profoundly terrify a young audience. Deadly chairs, homicidal troll-dolls, killer policemen, murderous telephone wire, they're all there. If memory serves, the BBC was asked by the police not to make police officers an object of fear for children, but they went ahead and did it anyway, providing a memorable cliffhanger for episode two, which probably saw a decrease in kids asking coppers the time for a while, in the same way that the killer troll-doll sequence was one that would ensure that kids across the country would think twice about taking their beloved teddy bears to bed with them for a good few weeks.
The high level of violence perpetrated by all things plastic ensured that the show became the subject of close scrutiny of those who objected to such things; the concept of watching seemingly innocuous objects come to life and kill people can be seen as disturbing to younger minds and Terror of the Autons remained the high watermark for the amount of violence and subsequent governmental/watchdog scrutiny for Doctor Who until the Hinchcliffe era. Though the plot about killing off a large number of people through by having Autons in comedy outfits handing out lethal, plastic-squirting daffodils as a way of diverting public attention from a Nestine invasion force is a little convoluted, it was certainly a good way of pushing up sales of real flora; you can imagine the potential ad campaign - "when a man you've never met before suddenly gives you flowers... drop them and run screaming!"
If there is one area that seems out of place and whimsical for this story, it's the way that one of The Doctor's fellow Time Lords (played by David Garth) briefly appears to warn The Doctor of the arrival of The Master; a pinstripe-suited and bowler-hatted Gallifreyan is heralded by the TARDIS materialisation sound, swiftly followed by a plopping noise as he appears, floating in mid-air. It's a moment of levity that doesn't chime with the rest of the story and it is one of the rare times (in our opinion, anyway) that Bob Holmes misjudged the use of humour in his scripts.
Terror of the Autons was also notable for introducing one of the most popular companions in Doctor Who history - Jo Grant. Her predecessor, Liz Shaw (played with an arched eyebrow by Caroline John) was deemed to be too smart and made it harder for a younger audience to identify with her and she was too intelligent to use the "what is it, Doctor?" line that had become a requirement for most companions. This decision about the character of Liz Shaw (coupled with the fact that the actress was pregnant and wanted to leave anyway) meant that a new companion was needed and would very much be in the more traditional mould. From the very moment she arrives, "ham-fisted bun-vendor" Jo Grant causes chaos for The Doctor, wrecking one of his delicate experiments and proving herself to be academically light-years behind Liz Shaw (not even passing General Science at O-Level), but what endears her to The Doctor (and would also be the case with many viewers) is her unorthodox resourcefulness and her almost limitless enthusiasm; the sort of almost father-daughter relationship that would develop between the two had not been seen since the Hartnell era of Doctor Who.
Jon Pertwee is particularly good in this story, allowing him to show a more human and fallible side to his Doctor; when trying to make his discrete getaway in the TARDIS after stealing The Master's dematerialisation circuit, he emerges from his still-inoperative ship in a cloud of smoke (in much the same way as he did in Spearhead From Space) and with a sheepish look on his face - he then petulantly kicks the door of the TARDIS, hurting himself in the process and his childish behaviour is brought up by Jo. In all of Pertwee's stories as The Doctor, it is this one that shows the most number of facets to his character, from the childish (Tom Baker's Doctor would later say "there's no point in being grown-up if you can't be childish sometimes"), to the antiauthoritarian (which late producer Verity Lambert said only really existed in Hartnell's Doctor) and Pertwee was arguably never better in this story, with that twinkle in his eye never more visible.
Richard Franklin makes his Doctor Who debut in this story as the dashing Mike Yates, a Captain in UNIT who makes for a nice bridge between Nicholas Courtney's Brigadier and Jon Levene's Sergeant Benton. Franklin would remain in Doctor Who until Jon Pertwee's final story, Planet of the Spiders, but not before bowing out full-time when Yates is exposed as a traitor in Invasion of the Dinosaurs.
The rest of the UNIT family are now decked-out in their more familiar green fatigues, and all of the actors do their thing very well as usual; Nick Courtney still plays The Brig with a wry smile on his lips whenever it comes to getting up the Third Doctor's not-inconsiderable nose (though Courtney probably had to smile wryly in a careful fashion, else his fake moustache would fall off) and there is almost a sense of relish when he witnesses The Doctor's horror at being landed with a new companion that initially seems to be the personification of calamity.
Terror of the Autons also benefits from having a great guest cast, including the man-who-would-be-Davros Michael Wisher as Rex Farrell, the headstrong (and possibly unhinged) son of the boss of the plastics factory who is eager to step out of his father's considerable shadow, but like so many other Doctor Who lower-grade power-craving underlings, he realises too late just how deep he has gotten himself; Harry Towb is great as McDermott, one of the senior workers at the plastics factory, who meets a sticky end at the hands (or should that be arms?) of a plastic armchair - Towb possesses one of those fabulous Northern Irish accents that you can't help but love and was a great character actor, and even though McDermott is only in the first two episodes, he certainly makes an impression her (and presumably in the armchair).
The influence of producer Barry Letts' love-affair with Colour Separation Overlay is very much in evidence here, with numerous scenes having CSO backdrops, even some of the more mundane sequences such as the inside of a museum, showing the cast acting in front of a photograph and having inches shaved off various body parts. CSO might have been a budget-saver for the production by reducing the amount of location work (not to mention set construction), but it was still too primitive at the time and detracts from the drama in quite a big way. It's worth noting that there is no director credit on any of the episodes of Terror of the Autons - Barry Letts directed this story, but presumably didn't get credited as director because of some union or BBC rule about producers not being allowed to direct their own shows.
The Havoc stunt team are front-and-centre in this story, especially in episode three where there is some great action by Havoc (couldn't resist that!), including a cool sequence that puts Captain Yates literally in the driver's seat when he drives a car at speed into an Auton and sends it rolling down into a quarry (well, it IS Doctor Who...), and when it reaches the bottom, it immediately gets up and starts to climb back up after our heroes - it's a great sequence that shows the unstoppable nature of the Autons.
Terror of the Autons builds to a satisfying climax, strongly reflecting the antiestablishment nature of both The Doctor and writer Robert Holmes; Pertwee is on top form, with newcomer Katy Manning starting as she means to go on, along with solid support from the UNIT family. Roger Delgado makes a magnificent debut as The Doctor's opposite number, cementing The Master as one of the quintessential Doctor Who adversaries - though he was over-used during the Pertwee era and the actor's tragic demise meant that he was robbed of a proper exit from Doctor Who, Delgado's Master is always a delight to watch, especially in a story as good as this one.
Terror of the Autons was one of those Jon Pertwee serials that suffered the indignity of having it's master-tape wiped; whilst it survived in colour through NTSC exports, the PAL master was lost forever. This story was one of several that were effectively re-coloured in the early 90s by the Doctor Who Restoration Team and whilst it was commendable to see the story restored into colour, the results were somewhat frustrating. The art of film and video restoration has moved on considerably and what is presented here on DVD is a considerable leap forward...
Terror of the Autons looks as good as it possibly can on DVD without the benefit of the original PAL master; the colours and strong, but have a little of the "smearing" effect that is often present with PAL-NTSC conversions. The colours are also remarkably stable (apart from a couple of VERY minor wobbles near the start of episode four) and there is a fair amount of textural detail on faces in close-up. One of us stll has an off-air copy of Terror of the Autons from a UK Gold broadcast several years ago and leap from that to this DVD release could quite comfortably be called a quantum leap. To show how good the restoration work is on Terror of the Autons, just take a look at the screen-grabs with this review - they speak for themselves...
Nothing to complain about here - it all sounds good to us. The monoaural soundtrack delivers the goods and you can never fail to miss-hear any of Roger Delgado's pithy quips.
Audio Commentary: There is a depressing trend forming with commentaries from Doctor Who of a certain era, and this is hearing the voices of those who have died without the luxury of being able to regenerate. Here we have those of Barry Letts and Nick Courtney, who are joined by Katy Manning in the recording booth. All have long, strong and diverse associations with Doctor Who, Letts behind the scenes, Manning as the archetypal assistant, Courtney serving with numerous Doctors and both thespians appearing in The Sarah Jane Adventures, but most importantly, all three are held in high esteem by the fans.
Letts opens the proceedings by explaining the personal importance of Terror of the Autons, not only due it being directed by him, but how it was the first project entirely his own, free from the baggage he inherited when he became producer. This is quickly followed by extolling the turning-point in the Pertwee era, that of introducing The Master, and the revelation that Roger Delgado’s face was so prominently plastered over the cover of the Radio Times that many thought he had taken of as the title character. Naturally, Pertwee was furious!
Nothing hammers home how great a loss the death of Nick Courtney was than listening to him here, as a man of such dry wit and genuine warmth are so few in number these days. In one scene, he points out where he raises an eyebrow when talking to Pertwee, noting that: “…I can’t do it to order, but it happens without me knowing,” From most others, this would have been just a blank statement, but Courtney puts an almost mischievous quality to it, with no hint of ego.
With Katy Manning in the proceedings, you know that things will never stray into the category of “dull”. She points out that the rings on her fingers were not some form of fashion statement carefully eked-out by the costume designer, but a way she came up with in an attempt to stop he biting her nails. Manning is very open about pointing out shots where you can see her scars, those attained from the nasty car-crash during her younger years. Killing her career as a dancer, she is very grateful to lighting teams on Doctor Who for being “so sweet” when getting her lit. Manning notes that “…most people say they don’t notice it because your face is busy all the time“, be it screaming or Jo ceaselessly yammering on.
This really is a commentary track for the fans, one which represents three of the favourite persons from the era just sitting down to reminisce about the good times and have a giggle together. The atmosphere is both infectious and as enveloping as an electric blanket, being a pleasure to watch from beginning to end. It‘s often the trio will break out into laughter, with Manning‘s verdict of one of her line deliveries - “Too cute. Slap her!” - as a prime example of such a catalyst. It’s sobering to think that two of the three participants on the track are now dead, but to sit down and listen to them all having such a good time, their loss doesn’t seem quite so final.
In contrast to such sobriety, near the end, the three talk of the vital importance of having half an hour in the bar once shooting was finished, and what a wonderful experience it was for all concerned, so it is fitting that a glass of Lett’s beloved Guinness is raised honour of the fallen comrades.
Life on Earth: Whilst searching for suitable hook for Pertwee’s second season, Barry Letts noted that the relationship between The Doctor and The Brigadier was akin to that of Sherlock Holmes and Watson. A light bulb appeared over Terrence Dicks’ noggin, figuring that the natural extension would be the creation of The Master, rounding out the analogy as The Doctor’s Moriarty. There was no messing with the choice of actor, and Roger Delgardo was instantly chosen, and this hasty, overnight creation gave new dimension to a show which was still struggling to recover the ratings it once had. Life on Earth takes a look at Terror of the Autons, the show which gave the Pertwee era a rudder.
Terrance Dicks describes being “stuck with” the decision to ground The Doctor on Earth, and how sticking him with the boys at UNIT solved a lot of the practical problems as to how The Doctor would sustain himself in such a situation, whilst at the same time providing him with a surrogate family-cum-support network. Some thrive when given awkward situations to work in, and the Doctor Who team managed to turn Pertwee’s exile on Earth in to one of the most beloved periods in the history of the show.
And how could they examine the Doctor’s time on Earth and those around him without taking a look at Jo Grant, that clumsy, screaming, intellectually-shifty girl whom typified the role of the companion? Well, this documentary doesn’t disappoint, and the casting of the character is handled with aplomb, including more of the last lengthy interview conducted Jon Pertwee, who has high praise for Katy Manning, going through all the bad points his co-star always trotted out about herself before calling her “an astonishingly attractively woman”. Manning is on sparkling form when interviewed here, to the point where she walks away with the documentary on charm alone, but comes out with some cracking nuggets from her time as Jo Grant that she wins it fairly.
With a pretty young thing brought in for the male viewers, it was only fair that a little romance was on the cards for oestrogen-based life-forms, and thus was born the character of Mike Yates. Richard Franklin is on hand to detail his part in The Master’s downfall, including how he was initially pipped at the posted by Ian Marter when auditioning for getting the role, who didn’t realise that it was for a recurring character, but some might argue that Harry Sullivan just wouldn’t have worked with another actor - let’s hear it for prior commitments!
With all the stories you’ve heard over the years about Pertwee’s cantankerous nature, it’s a surprise to hear a number of people speak so fondly of working with him. This documentary treats us to tales of the atmosphere he constructed around the actors, fuelled by Pertwee’s insistence that welcoming the guest artists and providing a friendly environment led to greater productivity. When off the set, Manning fondly recalls going for burn-ups on Pertwee’s motorbike, along with other actors who also possessed a set of wheels.
The Master’s importance to the show as a whole is covered, including contributions from Nu-Who producer Phil Collinson, who notes that the same relationship between the two characters was carefully preserved in the current show, proving how they got it right from the outset. Collinson also rather likes The Master’s goatee, which makes you wonder why it got ditched when they brought in John Simm. Still, both Collinson and Russell T Davies were enamoured of the Letts/Dicks era of the original show that they chose to open with the Autons, paving the way for a new generation of Earth-based Doctor Who, a sentiment Letts found very touching.
Sexism comes under the microscope, in the form of how companions have changed between then and now, and Letts makes the intriguing assertion that the simple reason why the companions had little in the way of back-story was purely through financial constraints, rather than just wanting to keep them as shallow ciphers to ask questions on behalf of the audience. This is also brought up regarding the changing roles of women in general, with a housewife in Terror of the Autons dutifully preparing lunch for her husband to take to work, but it’s merely how times have changed. Letts level-headedly says that you have to expect such shifts in society, and is unreasonable to think otherwise.
As a natural extension to this, we come to the thorny - and horny - question of sex in the world of Doctor Who, which uses more from the extensive Jon Pertwee interview as an opening volley, where the former Mr Gummidge firmly denies that there was anything going on between the character and any of his assistants. He points out that The Doctor is “extremely elderly”, and that the possibility of any bedroom activity would lead to a double heart-attack. Naturally, we then cut to Kay Manning suggesting that there was something going on, which Letts then denies, followed immediately by Dicks and Collinson pointing out that Jo Grant’s departure saw The Doctor a little too cut-up about it for things to have been strictly platonic. Sure enough, Pertwee chimes in that said scene was one of paternal loss when the young leave the nest. The polarised nature of crosscutting the interviews is almost as though the editor has been watching too many episodes of Come Dine With Me…
One thing which we have a real bugbear about Nu-Who is that death is distinctly less than permanent, and what is trumpeted as the end of a life is nothing just a cheat. Dying takes many strange forms in Terror of the Autons, and the story involves the destruction of all life on Earth, without the convenient method of just destroying the planets with some form of artillery, about which Collinson is antsy, preferring not to kill characters during his time on the show. He answers calls that Nu-Who offers a few too many easy solutions to wrap up stories, but we really don’t buy his assertion that it doesn’t matter “…as long as you’ve enjoyed yourself along the way”. Many would point out that the end of The Doctor Dances is a the perfect fusion of the criticisms in this paragraph.
Things end on the practical differences between this era of Doctor Who and Nu-Who, and the usual suspects of time, money, technology are brought to the fore, not to mention the rather patronising way that earlier Doctor Who was hamstrung at the writing stage because of multi-camera, studio-bound format, causing a limitation of ideas which kept it away from the cinematic ideals attained by the show in its present format. We would rather that limitations of a format encourage better work to get around such constraints. It’s like saying that any and all stage-plays are inherently inferior to - for current example - Fast and Furious 5, which has no limits on what it can show, but certainly doesn’t mean that it’s instantly better than a production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof playing in a theatre down the road. In the end, it all hinges on the quality of the work done with the material to hand. Collinson is refreshingly open about the gap between then and now, noting that technology moves on, and how back in the 70s, the effects were pretty good, despite being ridiculed today. Oh, and it’s heartening that he employed the classic J Lee Thompson method for inferring greater numbers during a battle scene, doing so when filming Sontaran shootouts.
The real ace with this documentary is that through the clever deployment of appropriate footage, Jon Pertwee is successfully kept alive for another half an hour, where he almost directly responds to comments made by others, and is used as a launching-point for debate in other areas. This is a hell of an achievement, and will have a lot of people wondering: “Jesus, has it really been 15 years…?” The same is true of watching Barry Letts, where you almost forget that he’s no longer with us, and we have nothing but praise for all involved in putting Life on Earth together. Sure, there is a bit of overlapping information between this, the commentary and the trivia-track, but each is a different experience, so it’s no problem, and is the only form of gripe to be found. Another excellent look at a Doctor loved by many in an era fully appreciated by surprisingly few.
The Doctor’s Moriarty: This terrific documentary starts as it means to go on, with an explosive burst of Two Little Boys by Splodgenessabounds sending it into the stratosphere, as we take a look at the natural predator of the exiled Time Lord, The Master, with both adoration and constructive criticism on hand.
Barry Letts is among the somewhat dismissive voices about the mortal enemy of everyone’s favorite Time Lord, describing how the villain always turned out to be The Master as “..rather daft”, and that it was rather silly to have him continually defeated, admitting that they forgot the rule of variation when writing. He also points out that the answer to the eternal question of “why doesn’t The Master just killer The Doctor?” is a perfectly easy one, that being “…if The Master had won, we’d have all been out of a job”.
The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood scribe Joseph Lidster was impressed by the character from the outset, uttering “…so suave, he’s so cool” when recalling that first scene at the circus, when the man in the natty suit arrived on Earth. He also floats the rather intriguing - if controversial - notion that there are occasions where The Doctor would rather be more like The Master, able to be so debonair and confident about things.
Terrance Dicks agrees with Letts, saying that the element of surprise was completely missing during this period, as it’s always The Master running things from behind the scenes. Enough water had gone under the bridge by the 80s, and Christopher H Bidmead points out that care was needed when John Nathan-Turner wanted to bring back the character, as they wanted to avoid him being there in a negligible, predictable capacity. Bidmead explains that he was of the mindset that “…if you are going to wheel on The Master… he’s the main story, and he’d better be there for a damn good reason”. It’s a shame that this precedent was tossed aside later on, with The Master serving as an associate for other villains.
Robert Shearman highlights that the typical models of good and evil are reversed in Terror of the Autons, with The Master being so very polite despite murdering people on a whim, whilst The Doctor comes across as “a bully”, being a bit of a bastard to many people, regardless of him wearing the metaphorical white-hat.
For our money, the funniest thing among many tailored quips has to be when Kay Manning explains the deliciously polarizing nature of the dark Time Lord, illustrating with an impression of Marlon Brando in the name of comparing The Master to Vito Corleone, pointing out that someone so charming can become murderously cold at the drop of a hat.
Appearances in The Deadly Assassin and Nu-Who are also explored, but it’s mainly the work of Delgado which is the subject of this thoroughly entertaining piece, utilising cartoonised images from episodes to illustrate various points without resorting to too many clip, and is truly unique whilst being a joy to watch. Make time to watch this one, as it’s more than merely CliffsNotes of the subject. Oh, and it closes with another burst of Two Little Boys, followed by Anthony Ainley’s distinctive laugh…
Plastic Fantastic: From the same stable as the above, this is a short but riotously enjoyable look at that dreaded enemy of modern life: plastic. Be it Bakerlite or vinyl, you know that this devilish mixture of chemicals is just waiting to kill us all, regardless of either if it’s the Nestene or just the sheer amount of crap that making the stuff pumps into the atmosphere.
We are treated to the wise words of Francesca Gavin, art writer and critic, who’s theory that during 60s/70s, horror transferred to the domestic environment, with plastic being an extension of Gothic literature’s fear of all things synthetic and ungodly. Couple this with a few words from her about the Freudian reason for the faceless, not-quite-human Autons striking such a chord in viewers and you have the kind of learned reasoning which Doctor Who needs to break free of the “behind-the-sofa” stereotype it is saddled with in the public arena.
Making good on the efforts of Ms Gavin, we have the ever-reliable Robert Shearman, being a man of just the right age to remember the era and passionate enough to wax philosophical about the themes running through Terror of the Autons. He expounds that the central theme is that even the most fundamental things in the house can become dangerous, taking audiences out their comfort-zones (even though the expression didn’t really exist at the time) and highlighting that that the world is being invaded by the cheap and the commercial, waiting to spread toxic doom at any moment, a sentiment Nu-Who designer Mathew Savage agrees with, praising the show for doing what Doctor Who does best: to take an everyday object or situation and turn it into your worst nightmare.
From those involved at the time, Terrance Dicks is one of the contributors whom reveals that a few rivals utilised plastic as the enemy in their fantasy tales, with both Doomwatch and Adam Adamant Lives featuring plots concerning synthetic elements becoming instruments of death. Naturally, he writes his rivals off as being rather serious and po-faced in how they went about it.
Plastic Fantastic is another compulsive watch, being every bit as bright and gaudy as the synthetic creations it showcases. With its short running time, is akin to a delicious light snack rather than a full-on banquet, and leaves you happily wanting more afterwards.
Info Track: Once again, if it relates to the story, it’s in there! Yep, the experience of the Nestene’s second shot at taking over the world is enriched by the accompanying fact-track, providing both relevance and irreverence when needed. Anyone who delves into it will come away knowing more than they did before, and will feel like taking on TV’s Eggheads in the category of “Doctor Who Serial EEE”.
Having been on the blunt end of a stunt which didn’t quite go to plan, it was with professional interest we eagerly read the tale of how one of the Daffodil-men was blown up with a grenade, but too much smoke ruined the shot. The solution? Less smoke, more explosive. Whilst the end results look great, it nearly went rather badly from the poor sod inside the suit, as the blast ripped a large hole in his hat! Havoc indeed…
Just in case you thought that Nick Courtney was pretty impressive at scrambling over rocks in a quarry, the illusion is shattered when the track points out that “The Brig” is wearing a pair of white socks, clearly on display, and cementing that Havoc member Marc Boyle was doubling for him that day, as the real McCoy was too ill to make the filming.
The rationale behind choosing plastic flowers as a way of distributing the deadly energy is revealed here, and makes for a very logical decision. Sent out around the world, the Nestine power was strictly limited in the original script, so using a million daffodils stretched around the globe would be enough to evenly distribute it at a very low level, making it more effective. It certainly helps to explain a few things.
The various changes are catalogued with the studiousness of a good historian and reiterated with the skill of a seasoned raconteur, but steady readers will know that this is just another example of how good the guys who put these together are once they are on the case. The various drafts, rejected concepts, spur-of-the-moment improvs and - most enticingly - the notes passed between the creative staff are all bagged and tagged, allowing Whovians of all coloured belts to know more. The guy repairing the phone at UNIT was a drunk in Carry on Cowboy??? It would have slipped by us without this little gem!
Our favourite has to be the confirmation of what we always suspected, and that is the appearance of a rather familiar piece of scenery. When Mrs Farrell takes a look at the troll doll, take a look at the window within the domestic environment. Specifically the round window! Yep, it certainly is the same one from Playschool, which might explain why it looks so out of place when trying to pass itself off as part of a genuine house.
Photo Gallery: If you love Roger Delgado (and who doesn’t?) then you’ll love a load of the pictures here, as they took plenty to make sure their new villain was introduced correctly. There are also a load of photos of Pertwee arsing around with the lab equipment at UNIT, both seriously and chuckling on occasion. Combing the two varieties of previously mention images, there are numerous shots of Katy Manning at the very same lab set-up, as introducing new companions wasn’t an exact science by that time, but with Jo Grant being in the frame, you expect one image to be her staring intently down the business-end of a Bunsen Burner whilst wondering why her eye is getting hot. Some great action shots, excellent group pictures and terrific candid photos make for a damn good gallery, and it’s always cool, to see Jon Pertwee in his big 70s sunglasses.
PDF Materials: This is excellent, as we not only get the controversial Radio Times cover which - as mentioned above - had Roger Delgado’s face plastered so prominently that Pertwee went ballistic, and all of the listings, we are also treated the “Doctor Vs The Master” article from within the pages. Oh, and an accompanying photo for the listing. You’ve got to love Delgado’s anecdote about the “Algerian poof”.
Coming Soon: Yep, as you already know, it’s Frontios, with the Tractators and crafty theft of Federation helmets. The trailer is a good one, and makes you want to give it another go.
Terror of the Autons is one of the very best stories of the Pertwee era; it has it's leading man giving his what is almost certainly his best performance, along with the introduction of The Master (played to perfection by Roger Delgado), and a witty and amusing script by the Doctor Who's best writer.
The Doctor Who Restoration Team have worked wonders for this DVD release, taking something that existed in a fairly poor state and remastering it (using technology worthy of The Doctor himself - couldn't resist that, either...) and the results are far better than most Doctor Who fans expected, restoring it into something special.
One more thing - with "Colonel Masters"' plan to distribute lethal plastic yellow flowers throughout the country, "Masters"' possibly asked the timid plastics factory manager Rex Farrell if he had seen people die, to which Farrell might have invoked the spirit of Hattie Jacques in Carry On Nurse and replied...
"Yes, Colonel, many times - but never with a daffodil!"
We're really sorry for that last bit...
Review by Wilson Bros
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 9th May 2011
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Extras: Audio Commentary, Life on Earth, The Doctor's Moriarty, Plastic Fantasic, Info-Text, Photo Gallery, PDF Materials, Coming Soon Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Barry Letts
Cast: Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Roger Delgado, Nicholas Courtney
Length: 98 minutes
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