"The claws of Axos are already deeply embedded in the Earth's carcass!"TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Apr.3 1971.
IN THIS ONE... The Doctor puts the Axons in a time loop.
REVIEW: The episode opens with the Doctor and Jo's escape from Axos (the ship) and it's soooo heavy with overlays that the action is largely incomprehensible. If Ferguson hadn't stepped over the line in the previous episodes, he definitely has now. What's worse, the sound design covers the dialog too. Much better are the action scenes featuring UNIT versus Axon blob monsters, though there are moments when the monsters are inappropriately cute, like big kids in one-piece jammies, tumbling away from the jeep. But then there's the Axons felling a tree, and the jeep running down the hill on fire, and the Axons disappearing from sight in the power complex, and that's all very well done. My only real complaint there is that they disappear TOO soon, i.e. before they could kill Chinn. This time, the petty bureaucrat is caught with a piece of chicken in his mouth - he really is a representation of the seven deadly sins, isn't he? Instead, they kill off Sir George, a meaningless sacrifice since we didn't really know the character. Whatevs.
The big moment, of course, is the Doctor manipulating the Master and allowing him (and us?) to believe he could betray UNIT and Earth. The temptation is really there. At the very least, it looks like Doctor's plan is overcomplicated to get the secondary result of getting back control over his TARDIS. So even if we can't really believe he would ally with the Master and the Axons to wage war against the Time Lords, it looks like he's taking risks with OUR lives for selfish reasons. There's a least a hint of truth in his goodbye to UNIT, with his only kindness going to Jo. To the Master's credit, he doesn't buy the Doctor's act and tries to betray him to the Axons, running off in his generic TARDIS (it didn't turn into an Axon bubble chair?) and leaving them all to their fates.
And that fate is a time loop that's a bit of poetic justice since the Axons wanted to abuse the secret of time travel, but the way it's done leaves something to be desired. How does is the time loop maintained? I would have expected some dialog to confirm that perhaps it sapped the radiation from the Nuton complex explosion. For that matter, what's the point of the Nuton time travel experiments if not to involve it in the time loop? But it all seems incidental, like orphaned concepts from older drafts. UNIT's reaction to the impending explosion of a nuclear power complex is to crouch behind their jeeps, and this after the Master's "sticky tape" barb in the previous episode. So a clunky ending all around. At least the fact the Doctor can use the TARDIS in a limited way is chalked off to the Time Lords manipulating events from behind the scenes (though that isn't all that clear either).
VERSIONS: I am unaware of any significant differences in the Target novelization.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The Doctor and the Master play an interesting game, and the action is mostly exciting, but the finale feels like it suffered from one rewrite too many.
STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The Claws of Axos features an unusual monster and some cool action beats, but also annoying guest characters and perhaps too much special effects trickery. You can admire the effort, but the execution can sometimes seem lacking.