Monday, March 22, 2010

Serial 57: The Claws of Axos

The Doctor: Jon Pertwee (3rd Doctor) Companions: Jo Grant

Written by: Bob Baker & Dave Martin
Directed by: Michael Ferguson

Background and significance: With the departure of Patrick Troughton after just three seasons, Doctor Who saw yet another dramatic shift in content. For one thing, starting here the show is recorded and broadcast in color. The writers/producers also sought to reduce the show's content by trapping The Doctor on Earth. As a fallout to Troughton's final serial, "The War Games" (which I will blog about and I know when that's happening, so stay tuned...), The Time Lords force a regeneration upon Troughton's Doctor (regenerating him into Jon Pertwee, the third incarnation) and send him back to Earth, with his not-functioning TARDIS. They strip him of the complex mathematics necessary to fly the TARDIS again and place blocks on his memory (more on that later) to keep him from taking to the skies.

With no other options, The Doctor turns to UNIT and they bring him on board as their scientific advisor while he tries to fix his TARDIS. What we're left with is The Doctor stuck on Earth working for UNIT. Which is awesome (if you ask me, anyways...).

Oh. And The Master shows up.

Pertwee's second season saw the birth of a new arch-nemesis foe for The Doctor: The Master. Extremely famous, he was designed to be the Professor Moriarty to The Doctor's Sherlock Holmes. The writers brought him on with a hard push in season two, giving him a role in every serial. The Claws of Axos is the third serial of the season consisting of four episodes. By this point, The Master has appeared twice and is now considered a threat. And that's where we start.

So let's get to it!

Commentary!: We start with an ominous tube-shaped alien ship (oh look, it's probably evil) that comes with maw and is on a collision course with Earth. It looks a lot like that planet killer from that one episode of Star Trek.

Star Trek

Doctor Who

Anyways, so it's heading towards Earth. Meanwhile, UNIT is being investigated by Mr. Chinn (one "n" for each of his chins). They even gave him this folder with some documents inside. Wonder what they say?

Oh. I guess we're not supposed to know.

So he's hanging out with the Brigadier and they're arguing about UNIT being in England and how England doesn't get to control UNIT and blah blah blah. And they're talking about The Master and oh what a threat he is, but he's gone and won't probably ever come back but they need to be prepared and then The Doctor walks in and it's incredibly awkward and he's dressed like this.

And here's the first in what will be a regular segment during Pertwee serials: The Doctor's Fashion sense.

Most Doctors have a very standard dress and costume. Tom Baker, Davison, Troughton, Colin Baker, McCoy, Eccleston, Tennant... Pertwee has a bit of a more... shall we say extravagant look, frock with frills and jackets and sleeves and capes (gotta love the capes).

So what we have here is this delightful looking ensemble, perhaps more of a dress wear for The Doctor, with a nice jacket and that ruffled shirt (which looks a bit like the pirate shirt from Seinfeld). He also has some nice ruffled sleeves and some slacks with a delightful short cape that gives him this air of mystery. It's got some good red flair on the underside as well.

Anyways. They talk about The Master for a bit, his companion Jo walks in (not such a huge fan of Jo, but I'd blame it on not seeing enough of her, although she does have a great moment coming up a little later...) and then they realize that that spaceship is coming in! Oh no!

Luckily, Mr. Chinn has decided that the best course of action is to blow the alien menace out of the sky! The Doctor and UNIT both think this is a really bad idea (it is) and the spaceship lands anyways and the missile has to be aborted and because the spaceship landed. UNIT, The Doctor, and Chinn go out to investigate.

Also, there's some really bizarre comedic interludes all through this of some homeless bloke on a bike riding through the countryside and walking through trash. He also crashes into a small stream (because he is homeless it is funny) and then right in front of the space ship. The space ship sends out it claws (episode title) and brings him in.

He's brought inside, examined, and discarded (because he is homeless).

Meanwhile, Bill "Muttonchops" Filer (an American agent sent to discuss the threat of The Master) heads for Axos and beats UNIT there. Unfortunately for him, he too is abducted by Axos and pulled inside and restrained, where he meets The Master, who has also been captured by Axos.

No, really. Those claws don't just flail aimlessly. They confine too.

UNIT arrives and The Doctor, Mr. Chinn, and some UNIT personnel go inside (Jo is left behind because she is a woman, and after the treatment of Zoe and Isobel in Troughton's "The Invasion" and now Jo here in this serial, I really think UNIT is not so much an equal opportunity employer. Someone should file a class action lawsuit against them; but she doesn't do that (sigh. We could have had some thrilling Doctor Who civil law courtroom drama. Judge Judy style... But I guess that kinda happens later, doesn't it?) and Jo goes into the ship instead) where they meet these weird looking gold dudes.

The Doctor and UNIT go into the ship and are greeted by its inhabitants (and this is where it gets all manner of confusing...). The ship is called "Axos" and they are "Axons" (and they have freakish eyes) and they cart around a molecule called "Axonite," which has duplication powers.The Axons offer the Axonite freely (because they're evil) The Doctor is wary (because he's smart), but Chinn and the British want to take the Axonite for themselves to make Britain powerful again (because they're stupid).

Oh, and Jo sees one of those weird creatures come out of the wall and screams and the men arrive and insist that she was hallucinating (because she's a woman).

Over UNIT protests, Chinn detains all of UNIT and orders the Axonite studied and (with some prodding from The Doctor himself) grants The Doctor permission to study the Axonite along with a character I'll call "Nebbish British Scientist Dude" (don't worry. He probably dies or something. I just don't remember because he was kinda useless a lot).

The Doctor sometimes does his experiments in "Casual-Wear" (which is basically what he was wearing before but without the cape)

Meanwhile, on Axos, the Axons give The Master permission to go expedite the institution of Axonite around the world (see how they just milk the hell out of the "Axo-" prefix? True story) and they make a copy of Muttonchops (for some reason or another) and send him back to UNIT (for... some reason or another).

Also, the thing that The Master talks to, The Eye of Axos, looks phallic. A lot.

The Doctor (though his experiments) realizes that there are no Axons or Axonite, there is only Axos and it's trying to take over the world! It will use the Axonite to bond with the planet and suck it dry.

But Fake-Muttonchops shows up and starts trying to abduct The Doctor for some reason, but The Doctor simply will not go to strange alien places unless there is the promise of sweets. Lucky for us! Real Muttonchops arrives just in time. That's right! He somehow managed to escape and somehow managed to make it all the way back to UNIT HQ and somehow managed to do this all at just the right minute.

And then there's a battle. A Battle of the Muttonchops which includes the introduction of The Doctor's "Time Lord Death Grip." It's like the Vulcan Death Grip, but not nearly as effective (or maybe that's just because Fake-Muttonchops is made of Axoplant).

I love that, right there. The Doctor making a point to say "There's no time to explain!" and Jo does it in... what? Five words? And then he all but tells her to shut up. Seriously, she gets no respect on this show...

Muttonchops *and* a crazy unbuttoned pajama shirt? This guy rules.

So then some more things happen. Bill is sapped into a coma (and has some SHOCKINGLY good grammar and loquaciousness for having minimal brain activity) and The Doctor and Jo are captured and taken to Axos. Axos interrogates him, knowing he's a Time Lord (The Master told them) and claiming they can lift the blocks the Time Lords placed on his memory so that he can give them the secrets of time travel and can go and devour everything ever.

Meanwhile, The Master breaks into the TARDIS and talks bout how much of a mess it is. Then UNIT catches him (he was trying to be sneaky, but apparently he's not so much) and he explains that he wants to overload Axos with too much energy even though The Doctor and Jo are still inside.

But don't just listen to me talk about it.... Let's watch The Doctor and Jo escape amidst The Master's plans. Take a look out for the comfy Axos-armchair The Doctor was sitting in, and watch how The Doctor uses mental math to keep Jo grounded amidst the LSD.

Oh and The Doctor slaps Jo in the face at around 2:50.

And then The Doctor and The Master meet up to try and stop Axos and The Doctor starts acting like a dick (talking about leaving the Earth to die and getting cold, cold revenge on the Time Lords), and everyone is all confused. But really, it's a trick to get Axos into a time loop, which he does and the world is saved.

The Doctor tries to explain time loops, and makes funny hand gestures. He also says that now his TARDIS can fly places (it couldn't before this) but that all roads lead back to Earth, making him a Galactic Yo-Yo.


What about The Doctor?: Jon Pertwee gave a fresh take on The Doctor who was neither Old Racist Grandpa (more on that on Thursday) nor was he the Cosmic Hobo of Troughton. He didn't have the base energy of Troughton nor the... characterization of Hartnell (or Troughton, for that matter). He played someone I'd classify as more... "Vanilla." He's not crazy energy or crazy quirky (apart from his clothes and "Bessie"), but he has his moments and he's... charming in his own way.

I think my issue with it is that Pertwee plays his Doctor very, very dry. The humour that comes is understated and just below the surface, which is fine and well and good, but it's not so much what I'm looking for with The Doctor. Part of what I love about Tennant and Troughton (as compared to Pertwee and Hartnell) are their exuberant, energetic performances. Pertwee didn't have so much of that (in this one anyways).

That's not to say I don't think he's a good Doctor. I actually do like him, but he seems to be an acquired taste, which should work well in the long run. After all, he is the most "prolific Doctor" with five seasons of stories under his belt (second only to the legendary Tom Baker run of seven). As such, I wouldn't mind seeing more of him, maybe something with him against the Daleks or when it requires more energy and high excitement. For now, he's known to me as "Classic" Doctor, which is to say good, but hardly the memorable that Troughton or Tennant are.

Coming Soon!: Another Jon Pertwee serial! And Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell are coming along for the ride! "The Three Doctors"! Next week!

But first!: A special edition blog! Hartnell! More Daleks! A Special Christmas Message! And the epic fall of the President of the Solar System! "The Daleks' Master Plan"! Coming later this week!

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