Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 289: Terror of the Autons, Episode Four
Just what is the Master's plan in this story? The Master seems pretty chuffed with himself today when he declares that because he's helped the Nestenes invade, they won't kill him… but he's only on this planet to help them invade. If he wasn't trying to help them, there wouldn't be any risk of them killing him anyway! The only thing that I can think of is that they've (somehow) got him under the thumb, and are forcing him to come to Earth and help with their invasion plans. Haven't a clue how they might manage that, but it makes more sense than him helping them out simply for the hell of it.
It's not the greatest of starts for the character, really, but I suppose it is the perfect example of starting as you mean to go on. While I've not been all that impressed with his plan, the Master has been a fun villain to watch, and I'm glad we're finally at the point where he starts cropping up. It's nice that the Doctor has someone to battle against as a new arch enemy - and his reaction at the end of this story would seem to suggest that he agrees. My only problem with it is that I know the Master will be back in the very next story. Wouldn't it be more effective if he didn't show up again until the end of the season?
Still, I'm very impressed by the master's escape attempt. In the 1980s (the period of the Master that I'm most familiar with), he dresses up in elaborate disguises simply because… well… it means that they can reveal him as the surprise villain for a cliffhanger. In The Mark of the Rani, he seems to dress as a scarecrow simply because he gets a kick out of it. Here, though, it's being used really well, actively disposing of a puppet he no longer needs by dressing him up and sending him out for UNIT to shoot. Mike doesn't waste any time, though, does he? The second he gets a chance… bang!
As if you couldn't tell, I'm still not all that impressed by Terror of the Autons. It feels like it's actively trying to be a stumbling block for me, as though it's a punishment for enjoying Season Seven as much as I did. There's bits of today's story which makes UNIT look like Dad's Army, but even they couldn't help to get me interested. As I've said before, I think it's the effect of having loved Spearhead From Space so much, that this just doesn't seem to hold up to it.
I'm hoping that the next story will be able to knock me out of this funk and get me back to enjoying the series again. Terror of the Autons has reminded me much more of the Third Doctor's era I have in my head - one that I don't much care for. The Mind of Evil is a return for Don Houghton (writer of Inferno, which rated very well with me), so I'm crossing lots of fingers that he'll be able to get things back on track…