Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 287: Terror of the Autons, Episode Two
With Toberman to guard the Doctor, there's nothing to fear! I rather like the idea that a cast member from The Tomb of the Cybermen might turn up in every one of Petwee's seasons - we had Cyril Shaps in for The Ambassadors of Death, and today we've got Roy Stewart making the second of his two appearances in the programme, playing the strong silent type once again!
I spent a bit of time yesterday complaining that Jo Grant hand't really gotten off to the best start at UNIT. Thankfully, she's won me over completely today. Things started to turn around when even she started to point out how rubbish she'd been ('I find the man that everyone's looking for, forget where he is, and finish up by trying to blow you all sky-high!'), and you can't help but feel a bit sorry for her. She's got that same quality that made Jamie such a good companion, in that she's terribly loyal, and is desperate to do the best she can. It doesn't show the Doctor in the best of lights, though, when she saves him from imprisonment, and he immediately snaps at her for being there in the first place. I wasn't expecting an instant overnight change to a softer character between seasons, but he's just downright rude now!
I'm also finding myself drawn to the Master. He really is very sinister, isn't he? It's another one of those times where I'm surprised that they've taken this long to introduce a character like this (a Moriarty to the Doctor's Holmes, as Barry Letts' puts it several times in the special features on this DVD), although I suppose they did try a similar trick before in the form of the Meddling Monk. The Master is already outstripping the Monk in my estimations, though, and he's making a real impact after only two episodes. I'm loving all the little traps he keeps setting for the Doctor (although the man is keen on trying to blow his fellow Time Lord up, isn't he? That's three bombs in the first 50 minutes!), and the description of this being 'the eve of war' for the pair.
His introduction - and the knowledge that he'll be turning up in every single one of the stories this season - is all helping to make this feel like much more of an ensemble cast. The Doctor and Jo may be the Doctor and his companion, but you've also got the Brigadier, Benton, Mike, and the Master on hand to share some of the action. I think I quite like having so many of them around - it gives us a chance to see Jo being comforted by someone other than the Doctor, and it makes UNIT feel larger than it might otherwise.
Despite all these little things that I'm enjoying, I can't say I'm all that taken with Terror of the Autons. It just doesn't feel like a patch on their first story, and I think the look of the titular creatures isn't doing them any favours. It's a great cliffhanger when the Doctor pulls away the policeman's face to reveal the auto head underneath, but it just doesn't look as scary or effective as they did in Spearhead. I'm also not sure how I feel about the use of other plastics to inject some threat. On the one hand, the idea that the Nestenes can take control of any plastic item is a great one, and very in keeping with what we've seen established, but the scene with the chair just didn't do it for me (there's too much obvious 'grabbing' of the prop) and the troll doll just isn't as effective as I'd like (the design is hideous, although hI suppose that's the point).
If I'm lucky, the last half of the tale will pick things up for me, but if not then at least it's serving as a good introduction for our new regulars…