Sunday, 7 June 2009

Doctor Who: The Claws of Axos

Don't worry- I like this a lot more than The Mind of Evil!

Part One

"Oo arr? Oo arr? oo arr? Oo arr.."

This is reminding me a lot of the opening to Spearhead. But it looks impressive- those tentacles, the organic ship.

A couple of interesting guest characters; Chinn is the first really imbecilic civil servant we've seen- we're not all really like that, honest! Interesting once again to hear the Brigadier state that the Doctor is his personal responsibility. Then there's Bill Filer, who I assume is from the US branch of UNIT. Oddly enough I seemed to remember his accent being unconvincing, but this time it sounded fine to my British ears.

I'm enjoying this a lot- Pigbin Josh has something to do with it, but also the Doctor's abrasiveness is less alienating when directed against a true imbecile, Chinn, and his arseheaded nationalistic witterings. I can certainly see the value of that kind of character as set against this Doctor. Other nice sci-fi touches; science that's taken an organic path. This is so good I don't even mind the blatant CSO and "freak weather conditions"! a promising start from a new writing team.

Part Two

"Who leads the investigation?"

"Why, you do, of course."

The conversation between Chinn and the minister is good fun, and also signals to us that we shouldn't get too frustrated about Chinn's inane splutterings; he's there to provide comic relief, not to be a true obstacle. Which is a relief, because he's even more of a pillock here than he was last episode.

So, the Time Lords were not mentioned at all for six years and now the Axons know of them? The currency seems to be devaluing before our eyes...

Once more there are some nice touches- both UNIT and the Master are trying to achieve the same goal for very different reasons. In fact, Chinn is unwittingly doing good whilst UNIT are unwittingly sealing the world's fate. That's clever. I feel sorry for Winser though- the Doctor spends the whole episode being rude to him and then he dies!

Part Three

"Oh, I suppose you can take the usual precautions against nuclear blasts. Sticky tape on the windows and that sort of thing."

So, apparently "Axonite is simply bait for human greed." Actual subtext? Nah, probably not. Still, there's nothing wrong with not being very deep if it works as entertainment, and this does. I like Chinn's videophone, incidentally. There have been a lot of those lately. Almost enough to make you believe we're a few years in the future. Except everything on screen screams that we're not.

Bill Filer's saying urgent stuff while in a coma. We've been seeing a fair bit of that recently too...

We finally get our first sight of the TARDIS interior in colour. It's clearly the same set, and getting very tatty. And we get the first indication that the exterior is no longer a contemporary piece of street furniture as Hardiman calls it an "obsolete police box". The Master's just as scathing about the up-to-dateness of the interior too! these scenes are advancing what seems to be the season's Doctor / Master arc, mind, with the Master getting the measure of the Doctor's TARDIS. It's an interesting season to see in sequence.

Delgado is magnificent in this episode. I love both the delivery and the facial expressions at the exchange with Hardiman towards the end: "Are you trying to tell me you can absorb the total output of this complex in a police box?" "Yes."

Part Four

"Goodbye, Jo. I shall miss you."

I certainly raised an eyebrow at the Doctor slapping Jo!

A nice sense of crisis is achieved here- Hardiman going down with his ship is a nice touch. And I note that Chinn, who we haven't seen for a while, has now been relegated entirely to comic relief.

Previously I've not liked the ending to this story because the Doctor's apparent betrayal felt wrong. But this is a case of a story rising in my estimation because of the marathon; here his apparent betrayal feels exactly right. Whether intended or not, it comes across as a satisfying climax to the Doctor having been such an arse recently. There's a suspicion in the back of our mind that the increasingly nasty Doctor of recent weeks might actually be serious. Yet again Jo looks sympathetic as she refuses to believe in the Doctor's treachery.

Of course, not only was the Doctor not intending to leave his friends in the lurch (although escape from Earth, naturally, was part of the plan), he was selflessly risking eternity in a time loop. So he does care about others above himself, however much he might whinge.

In other news, we see the exterior to the Master's TARDIS- is this its undisguised form, a brown cupboard?

Overall, good fun. Not the greatest story ever told, but at least we get a script that tells us to enjoy ourselves, which makes the silliness of the setup work. And the Doctor's a lot more likeable here, partly because of the climax making it clear that he's just a big teddy bear underneath, but also because his rudeness is better targeted most of the time.

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