Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Claws of Axos

I really didn't enjoy this the last time I watched it and I found it a little trying this time around too.

OK, so there are good bits. The Axons looks nicely weird in their evening wear and suitably spaghetti like when in day wear. The scenes in the final episode when The Doctor bluffs, double-bluffs and treble-crosses are all nicely done but...

It's pretty rubbish innit.

The Master's beginning to look silly rather than being a genuine threat. As I said in the blog I wrote about The Mind of Evil the battle between the Doctor and the Master looks less like a battle to the death than a bizarre game between two renegade Time Lords with too much time on their hands. You get the impression that they get together for tea in between adventures to award points. But this time it doesn't help that The Master arrives having been captured by the Axons, then gets captured by UNIT before the Doctor runs rings around him before letting him escape. Again. 

The survival of the UNIT regulars also stretches credulity to almost breaking point. As Captain Yates and Sargent Benton try to escape instead of being ruthlessly blown up (as several lowly UNIT Privates are in the course of this story) the Axons decided to jump on board the Land Rover for a polite punch-up. And it takes Yates's grenade to actually blow anything up.

Chinn from the MOD is too lightweight and seems to have wondered in an episode of one of those series of Ronnie Barker one-offs comedy programmes that didn't go to series. He's a pompous buffoon - even his boss seems to think he's a fool - but he survives the final battle at the end, presumably to collect a P45 after recovering from the shock. I suspect in the real world he'd have ended up dead. Probably at the hands of the Brigadier.

Then there's Pig Bin Josh. You might argue that what other television series would start off a new story with the ramblings of a tramp who stumbles over an alien spaceship. The X-Files? Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D? Monty Python? And then to kill him off. Unpleasantly. 

Which brings me to Bill Filer. Why is he there? His role seemed to be to do all the things an assistant is supposed to do - get captured, replicated, escape and reveal an important plot point - with an American accent. It's also a performance of some dullness from Paul Grist. It's like the production team thought 'let's make the search for The Master feel international, let's bring in an American agent. Then let's make him dull as ditchwater."

I'm not sure about Jo Grant in this story either. She enthusiastic, optimistic and has an absolute faith in the Doctor but there's a couple of scenes where she is a bit...OTT. But then she is accosted by claws, weird electronic effects, aged and youthed again and in that outfit must have been bloody cold at some points.

It does zip along quite nicely so the holes in the plot and dodgy performances don't drag on too long. [My unforgivable sin for a Doctor Who story: dullness. There's no excuse for it.]

Did I hate it? No. It's Doctor Who. I'll find things to entertain me: the incongruity of seeing Donald Hewlett, an actor I know best as the useless Colonel Reynolds in It Ain't Half Hot Mum playing a nuclear scientist; the appearance of an incredibly young Tim Pigott-Smith as Captain Harker; the HAVOC stuntmen whose familiar faces warn you of impending punch-ups or impressive deaths; John Levene's Benton; Captain Yates's obvious military incompetence and the Brigadier's dry as dust sarcasm. All of these things make this worth watching but really it's not a Third Doctor favourite.

Indeed, Jon Pertwee does a lot of neck rubbing in this one and I'm starting to think the more neck rubbing he does the worse the story. We'll see because next up is Colony In Space and the last time I watched that I was spectacularly unimpressed.

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