Tuesday, July 04, 2006

My Review of Doctor Who's: "The Claws Of Axos"

Written by Bob Baker And Dave Martin
Directed by Michael Ferguson

Axons: “We must have the secret of time travel.”
The Doctor: “Must you. Why?”

This is probably one of the trippiest stories of Doctor Who I’ve ever watched and I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. It’s just I did find it a little confusing to begin with and thankfully some repeated viewing has made me see things a little more clearly.

The story opens up with yet another spacecraft coming to Earth but while UNIT and The Doctor are curious to find out about its purposes, the annoying Mr Chinn seems happier to blow it to pieces. It’s moments like this that nicely explain why The Doctor exhibits a reasonable level of distrust around governmental types.

Chinn is a character that is annoying throughout the entire story but manages to both survive and not redeem himself. When he’s not bellowing orders or stealing rank from The Brigadier, he’s the source of blame and ridicule from his Ministry and even allows his very human greed get in the way of things.

It’s his flippancy at the start of proceedings that has Bill Filer banished and then captured by the Axons and their psychedelic looking ship. Seriously, 1970’s designs alone, that bloody ship is one of the best looking vessels this show has shown, more so on the inside than the outer exterior.

Filer’s an immediately likeable character who’s primarily goal involves arresting The Master. Given that Roger Delgado was practically a regular in the eighth season of the show, it makes sense to have him factor in this episode. The Master might not entirely dominate proceedings here like he did in both “Terror Of The Autons” and “The Mind Of Evil” but he’s certainly put to good use.

It’s him that forged a deal with the Axons to invade Earth and unleash their Axonite in a bid for his own freedom. Filer isn’t particularly impressed with having to work with The Master in order to bid for his freedom and it also doesn’t help matters that a duplicate of him is sent to capture The Doctor before he actually escapes himself.

The Doctor on the other hand is also not in the best of positions. Being bound to UNIT is one thing, at least he actually like the Brigadier, Sergeant Benton, Captain Mike Yates and Jo Grant but having to deal with Chinn and his horde of idiotic advisors is something of tedium for him.

Then there’s the meeting of the Axons themselves. The Doctor might have not wanted them dead but he’s naturally suspicious of their motives to give Chinn free rein to distribute the use of Axonite on a worldwide basis and when Jo discloses her own encounters with a hideous creature in the ship, he’s got more reason to doubt their intent.

The old fable about something being too good to be true is nicely put in place with this story. Chinn’s greed for acclaim of the Axonite is a good example of The Doctor’s fears of such a thing falling into the wrong hands being justified. Even The Master was able to point out how stupid humans are capable of being.

The Axonite itself is interesting. It recreates, absorbs and seemingly grows anything but is also sucks many things dry including a modest array of bodies throughout this entire episode. When The Master is forced into admitting that The Doctor is also a Time Lord, the Axons soon realise they could dominate many other places and times aside from the Earth.

Because of this, there’s a good few attacks on the Nuton Power Complex also throughout the story. The Doctor’s experiments with the Axonite under the Light Accelerator causes many of the creatures to come and attack. Surprisingly enough, all Filer gets is briefly comatose but The Doctor and Jo face much worse.

While torture scenes in the series and the new series are never going to be on the level of gory, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t effective. The Doctor certainly got tortured effectively enough in order to be forced to aid the Axons determination to venture into time and space. Then again, the threat of ageing Jo until she was at the stage of decay could’ve been a good incentive for The Doctor to unwilling help them.

Of course when things really got bad and the power plant was on the verge of collapse, it was The Master of all people who had to help the Brigadier and company out of it (thankfully after Chinn’s reign of terror came to a blessed end). The Master throughout parts of this story was fantastic with his escape from the Axos ship and his acquisition of the TARDIS.

However the interesting part was The Doctor seemingly abandoning UNIT at the worst possible moment. He lulled The Master into a false sense of security in a bid to stop the Axos. It seems that even the Axos’ greed and lust for time travel was capable of making them stupid.

The Doctor seemingly couldn’t physically defeat them so having them stuck in a time loop was the only thing that he could do. As for The Master, while he was disappointed that he couldn’t get The Doctor, he did manage to escape from both Filer’s clutches and the fate of a time loop.

I absolutely adore the Doctor/Master dynamic and this serial is a reason why. Even with the opportunity of killing him, The Master seemed more into the idea of The Doctor leaving Earth with him. The Master even expressed the right amount of surprise when it did appear The Doctor was coming with him and seemed disappointed when his former friend chose to save the Earth instead.

While both Mike Yates and Sergeant Benton aren’t well served by this story – they barely get any proper dialogue; I liked how the ending capped on The Doctor’s attachment to both Jo and UNIT, even if he couldn’t actually bring himself to admit it. There’s a reason why this was one of the best eras from the series.

Also in “The Claws Of Axos”

Some of the original titles for this were interesting. “The Vampire From Space” would’ve been fitting and I’m actually glad this wasn’t a seven parter as originally planned.

The Doctor: “My dear Mr. Chinn, if I could leave I would. If only to get away from people like you-”
The Brigadier: “Doctor-”
The Doctor: “And your petty obsessions!”

At one point in this episode, The Doctor actually slapped Jo. Although I do like the character, she was quite annoying during that scene.

Chinn: “Perfect sitting target.”
The Doctor: “Hardly seems sporting, does it?”

The Master: “That won’t help you, Filer.”
Bill: “Go to hell.”

I can’t believe that Benton didn’t cop on at one point that he was being duped by The Master. I know there was that mask but, come on.

Winser: “It depends on who leads the investigation.”
The Doctor: “Why you do of course.”

Axons: “We have done well, Time Lord.”
The Master: “Of course. Humans are fools.”

There was a good mention to this race from both The Doctor and The Master at different points in “Last Of The Time Lords”, which I re-watched recently. I’m surprised the Axons never came back after this story.

The Master (re The Doctor/TARDIS): “Oh no. What was he thinking? What a botch up.”

Axons: “Data confirms space/time travel possible using additional power from complex. You see, Doctor, we can call upon the additional power of the complex whenever we need it.”
The Doctor: “How? You can't just walk in there and take it!”
Axons: “On the contrary, Doctor. We can.”

Why do the Axons need the Doctor to divulge the secret of time travel? Surely the Master is just as smart and working for them to boot? I’m betting that no-one would’ve felt sorry if The Master had been tortured for this piece of information.

The Doctor: “We can either escape together or we die together.”
The Master: “Oh, very generous. Why don’t you just escape yourself?”

The Master: “Very neat, Doctor. I must say, I never thought you’d go through with it.”
The Doctor: “If we’re going, let’s go.”

This serial was released on DVD in 2005 with a good commentary from Katy Manning, Richard Franklin and Barry Letts. The Behind The Scenes footage with the former is a good feature.

Like I said, this was certainly a very trippy serial but I really did enjoy “The Claws Of Axos”, mainly because it had four of my favourites used very well and the Axos themselves are in a series of underrated but excellent aliens this series has given us.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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