Doctor Who #257: Spearhead from Space Part 2

"What are you a doctor of, anyway?" "Practically everything, my dear."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.10 1970.

The Doctor gets into costume, and the Autons (and briefly, the Nestene Consciousness) make their first true appearance.

REVIEW: The third Doctor is finally realized in this episode, in look and personality. For the first of now three times, he uses a hospital to get himself dressed, and his choices are, as you might expect, the opposite of his former self's. With the short cape, ruffles and stylish hat, he's rather dapper, and shows a taste for the finer things in life, not just in attire, but in his choice of vehicles, getting behind the wheel of a vintage roadster (admittedly, the only one he could get into). To be fair, everything he takes is from a space labeled "Doctors only", so... Looks like he stole the consulting physician's shtick entirely. Despite having the look of the establishment about him, the Doctor is rather impish. He puts himself in a coma (to recover from a bullet wound with his remaining regeneration energy?), in part to give his nurses the slip. He sings loudly in the shower. He steals. He tries to find the TARDIS and leave instead of looking into whatever threat Earth is facing (using a special watch, an early sign of the show's incoming Bondism). He communicates with his eyebrows like the people of Delphon, just to add a little whimsy to the proceedings. And he immediately bonds with Liz, looking for a school yard friend to chuckle at the Brigadier with.

And Liz is perfect for it too. Before the Doctor walks in, she's already taking the piss, laughing at how preposterous the premise of the program is, and rolling her eyes at General Scobie's sexist remark about her being a "pretty face". She obviously takes delight in getting the Brig in trouble with the General too. She and the Doctor are incredibly like-minded. If the Doctor and his allies are coming together nicely, so are their enemies. The Autons make their first appearance, plastic dummies in blue jumpsuits and outrageous scarves, but some of them look like real people with waxen complexions. Creepy, but at this point, not overly so. We also catch a glimpse of the Nestene Consciousness controlling them, but there's really no way to know that's what it is. And it seems that the facsimiles also have controlled humans at their beck and call. One level of henchman too many?

One thing that makes the episode stand out its variety of locations, a by-product of having to film everything. There's a naturally creepy doll factory, a makeshift lab, a country hospital, woodland, and more. And the film means the show can have more clever editing - cutting between a waxen humanoid and a doll, for example - and more dynamic shooting, like the car accident where our point of view spins into the sky. The redness of the blood on the windshield is striking and is a testament to how color has changed the world of Who completely.

Jon Pertwee's tattoo. We've never seen the Doctor in such a state of undress before, but we can be pretty sure no other iteration of the Doctor had the large tattoo Pertwee got while he was in the service on his arm. Being in exile on Earth at this point, some have surmised that the Time Lords gave him a sort of prison tat (most notably in the novel Christmas on a Rational Planet). The Time Lords wouldn't need to mark him in this way just for identification purposes, but perhaps there's something in the ink to help keep tabs on him. What's interesting is that is looks vaguely like a question mark. Personally, I've got bigger questions about where he got those tan lines.

- The third Doctor stands revealed as a finished product and that's exciting. The rest of the episode ain't bad either.


d said...

I saw Pertwee at a con once talking about his tattoo, what branch of the service he was in & why he got it. Must be close to 25 years ago now and I can't remember any of the details!

Siskoid said...

The tattoo is a cobra he got on a drunken night while he was in the Royal Navy (naval intelligence during WWII). He served on the USS Hood.

Anonymous said...

Folks here probably know this already, but just in case you didn't: Worzel Gummidge.

It's impossible to watch "Family of Blood" and not wish for a Jon Pertwee cameo with all the scarecrows. "Hang on a mo', Aunt Sally, while I put on me murderin' head!"

Anonymous said...

Oh might as well get this out of my system while I'm at it. Here's Jon Pertwee advising and confusing young pedestrians:


Siskoid said...

Thanks. I suppose being a Brit makes watching Doctor Who a somewhat different experience from my Canadian POV.

LiamKav said...

Doctor Who was apparently the first time Pertween had ever played a role "straight". In fact, as a primarily comic actor who was originally going to play the role funny but decided after a time that a serious take would work better, he's surprisingly similar to McCoy.

"Personally, I've got bigger questions about where he got those tan lines."

I'm not sure if that's more or less ridiculous than Doctor Ten getting hair gel as part of his regeneration.


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