Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 288: Terror of the Autons, Episode Three
I think Terror of the Autons is stuck in one of those awkward situations where it doesn't matter what it does - I'm just not going to like it. I commented a few days ago that I was being put off by the bright colours and the way that I worried the series would dumb down by replacing Liz with Jo, and it feels like I'm constantly waiting to be proven right. I think that I need to have one really brilliant story to knock me back on track, but this just isn't it.
I was trying to explain the problem to Ellie earlier (I don't think she really cares, but she listens, and that's the next best thing), and I said part of the problem is that I'm three quarters of the way through the story and nothing has happened yet. Well that's clearly not true - the Master has arrived on Earth, he's taken control of a plastics factory by hypnotising the right people, and killing anyone else, the Autons are on the move, the Doctor's dodging attempts on his life… there's loads going on, I just feel a bit detached from it.
While I still don't think the Autons here look quite as good as they did during Spearhead From Space, today's episode has at least given me two chances to really enjoy them. The first - of course - has to be the way the Doctor opens a safe to find one waiting inside, gun at the ready. It seemed so obvious after the fact, but I didn't see it coming, which made it a nice surprise. The other occasion is the 'daffodil men', for want of a better word.
I've always had a real issue with these costumes. For years, I've assumed that they're fully plastic, and just what the Autons looked like in this story. It bothered me because they looked like such obvious costumes! A few weeks ago, while I was finishing up on the Troughton era, one of the original masks from these costumes surfaced on eBay. I was really put off by how noticeable the eyeholes were on it - not a good design at all. Except… they're supposed to be costumes! I'd never realised before! There's one particular shot of an Auton lowering the mask over its own blank face, and it's the first time that this version has really made an impact on me. Still not as good as the previous design (I think it's telling that they sell action figures of the Autons from Spearhead, Rose, and The Pandorica Opens, but not this story…), but I'm warming to it!
Of course, the real stand out for today's episode has to be 'first contact' between the Doctor and the Master. I love that it occurs on a telephone, as this is how they first meet in the 21st century version of the programme, too, and suddenly that scene has a whole new layer to it that I've never know about before. It's all so well played between the two men, and I can't wait for the pair to meet in person - I'm assuming it's going to come in the next episode, so I'm crossing my fingers that it could be the saving grace for this story - I feel like I really should like it, but there's just something holding me back…