Tuesday 26 October 2010

The Claws of Axos

The Third Doctor and Jo help UNIT deal with alien invaders, but the Master gets involved (again..).

As I have said before, I hold a generally low opinion of the Pertwee era after Season 7. I hate Pertwee's interpretation of the Doctor. I hate Jo Grant with a passion. I hate the way that the Brigadier and UNIT became really lame and I think the Master is a silly villain. However, despite my dislike of this period of Doctor Who, I very much enjoy Claws of Axos, even though fans with a higher regard for the Pertwee era have harsh things to say about it.

There is plenty of silly science in Claws of Axos. UNIT are starting to decline. The Master turns up yet again, a sign that the writers were running out of ideas. Jo is as irritating as ever and she is paired up with a bloke with an appalling American accent. Yet despite the tendency to slip into silliness, the Claws of Axos avoids much of the gimmickery of this era. Terror of the Autons oversold the idea of everyday objects being alien weapons; Invasion of the Dinosaurs thought it was clever to stick Dinosaurs in London and Green Death gave us horrible maggots in a Welsh coal mine. Claws of Axos just gives us a straight and simple alien invasion (with some infiltration tactics). Surprisingly very few of the UNIT era stories actually concerned alien invasions.

The Axons are a pretty inspired alien menace. I love the way they appear to be golden, angelic beings, yet are really evil, tentacled spaghetti monsters. They have a slightly Lovecraftian feel about them. As a Christian I also believe in angelic beings that are evil, Satan and the heavenly powers that follow him.

The Axon spaceship is an incredible creation. It is fascinating to look at. It looks so unusual in its organic structure. It is arguably one of the best sets ever used in Doctor Who. Some of the CSO used in the Axon spaceship is also very effective. Sometimes the Pertwee era production team went a bit too town on CSO, but in this colourful story it works rather well.

Although the overuse of the Master in Season 8 is an irritation, Roger Delgado puts in a great performance. His role in getting the TARDIS working is interesting. The Brigadier has not yet morphed into a complete buffoon, and although he is more chummy with the Doctor, he still manages a certain tension with the Doctor through his shoot-first methods.

Pertwee's performance is uneven in this. He manages some very convincing suspicion when dealing with the Axons, but he lacks conviction when pretending to abandon the earth and Jo.

As with every UNIT story, there is a dreadful civil servant type, this time in the shape of Chin. He is wonderful creation, gobbling a chicken leg and scared witless by the merciless minister he serves under. I love the bit where the minister pulls out Chin's pre-written letter of resignation, just awaiting his signature.

In short, Claws of Axos is a textbook Pertwee era story with lots of silliness, but its a visual feast with an excellent alien monster. You could do a lot worse and watch the appallingly boring Colony in Space.

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