Doctor Who #292: The Claws of Axos Part 2

"Just your report, Chinn. I'm sure that will be quite garbled enough."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.20 1971.

Chinn confines UNIT to an office, the Master escapes the Axons, Filer is duplicated, and the Doctor realizes Axony things about Axonite.

REVIEW: Oh, Chinn really is an odious little man, isn't he? He was first to call for the destruction of the aliens, and now he's first to make a pact with them, blinded with the promise of priceless Axonite. Fear and greed. Even the Minister, at the other end of the phone, doesn't seem to hold him in high esteem, and to show he really has no imagination, he uses his superior's own words to threaten the Doctor. It's all gone to his head, and he's making rash - and if I believe the Brigadier and I do - illegal decisions. I can't help but think the character is a reaction to the new format's constraints. UNIT has become a full-access pass, and so long as the stories remain Earth-bound, there's no place they can go where they won't be able to exercise their authority. Chinn is a bone-headed, one-dimensional obstacle because that's the only thing that can nerf UNIT at this point. It's an institutionalized version of Stahlman from Inferno. Of course, the Doctor also gets a dollop of Stahlmanism from guest scientist Winser, just another selfish man more concerned with credit than the good of mankind. I'm not saying that unrealistic, but it is annoying. I like how the Doctor sarcastically tells him he can be in charge of the investigation into Axonite, having figured out how petty the man is already. And I'm sure the only reason the Doctor's even entertaining sharing information on time travel with him is because it might help him restore the TARDIS.

Another problem with the new format, Season 8's specifically, is the Master. Not that I dislike the character, but that I want him to do so much better. You've got a villain designed to be the Doctor's equal, a genius and nihilist, and one that looks and sounds like Roger Delgado (i.e. credible), so why is he always getting chumped by random aliens? I want him to be always one step ahead. I want him to be manipulating these aliens, not become their victim. I want him to play coy, not hang his head in shame as he must when Axos' rude eyeball tells him he can't have his TARDIS back because he didn't make a good enough deal. Once he's set free, he does get to shoot and hypnotize some UNIT personnel, and cripes, is that Delgado himself riding atop a military lorry like some HAVOC crazyman? So maybe there's hope yet.

Otherwise, it's a lot about the guest cast, this time around. Jo comes to the right conclusions, and there's some grandstanding from the Brig, but ultimately, only the Doctor really gets in the game with verbal sparring and scientific experiments. Bill Filer's duplication scene is a well handled video effects sequence, and his fight with his Axon copy is mostly well doubled until evil Filer is turned into soap suds. Good Filer also gets a pretty heroic head-first jump out of the alien ship's maw. It is revealed (if the Doctor's right) that everything Axon is part of the same creature - the ship, the people, even the Axonite - but it's played like he just realized they all came from the same root word (the audience actually has more evidence than he does). Cue a spaghetti and meatballs monster, and a guy crawling under a brown tarp, and we're in the cliffhanger.

- The action beats work, and the Doctor's watchable, but for me, characters who's only function is to stubbornly block anything the protagonist wants to do is one of the most annoying tropes on television.



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