Doctor Who #282: Terror of the Autons Part 2

"Sylvia, will you check Mr. McDermott's entitlement on termination of employment, please?"TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.9 1971.

IN THIS ONE... Man is killed by plastic chair. Other man is killed by evil plastic doll. The Doctor and Jo visit the circus.

REVIEW: In the past, I've heard/read the criticism that Terror of the Autons replaces a perfectly good monster (the Autons) with all manner of creepy, shocking or violent tricks. I have no problem with it, personally, and it seems a fine evolution of Nestene plastic possession. They skirt the status of gimmicks, but are so memorable that all is forgiven. The black plastic chair that inflates itself AND EATS YOU! The ugly troll doll realized with CSO, a baggy costume and effective body language. These are the stuff of nightmares, yours, mine and famously, Mary Whitehouse's*. The Auton policemen aren't half-creepy either. In a way, it's all so ludicrous, it's darkly funny. The black comedy of Robert Holmes' script is also in the dialog, with some incredible understatements like the line quoted above and more wit besides.

The circus might also be a creepy element, but it's the poorest of them. The Doctor gets in some nice lines while being interrogated, and it's interesting to note that he can spot the Master's TARDIS just by looking at it (AND steals the part he lost to Jo's fire extinguisher in Part 1). However, it feels a little slow, I can't quite get my head around Phillips' death via TARDIS key, and Roy Stewart's third role on Doctor Who is just as mute as the other two (ok, Tobberman wasn't mute, but he wasn't exactly eloquent either). Poor guy.

The new cast members are well used, though a bit unremarkable in the grander scheme of things. The Master orders some deaths, finds Farrell Senior able to resist his mind control, and spies on the Doctor. Standard stuff. Jo is more interesting, and there's a certain ambiguity as to whether or not she's acting on the Master's suggestion. If she isn't (and she probably isn't), she is a character that has real problem following orders. But will the Brigadier slap her down, or are her relations too important for her to ever lose her job? Of course, it's her anarchic streak that saves the Doctor from the clutches of some rather glass-headed carnies. And Captain Yates calls her "love", so off you go, 'shippers! Pages and pages of fanfic have been written about UNIT's off-screen soap opera.

THEORIES: The way the Master's hypnosis seems to work, it is surely telepathic in nature. It's mind control, pure and simple, of a type that seems to wear off the longer one is distanced from the Master's presence/influence. Are the Doctor's hypnotic feats similarly psionic? That's harder to say. Early use of hypnosis uses "mundane" techniques and may be a measure of skill. Later hypnotic tricks, in particular the fourth Doctor's, look like the Jedi mind trick, and are likely telepathic just like the Master's.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A dark comedy with memorable "monsters" and some fun dialog. The location work is slightly sluggish and confused, but it's a minor complaint.

*If you don't know Mary Whitehouse, she was a social conservative who railed against what she deemed inappropriate content on television, especially television aimed at children like Doctor Who. 1970s Doctor Who would routinely draw her ire. I'll probably mention her again.


Anonymous said...

Mary Whitehouse - also the third of Pink Floyd's "Pigs".

Matthew Turnage said...

Mary Whitehouse was also immortalized (along with contemporary Lord Longford) in Deep Purple's "Mary Long."


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