Doctor Who: Terror of the Autons (Plastic and Pertwee)

Hey, guess what?  My episode of TARDIS Tavern is now available!  Please take a listen and hear me wax (un)poetic about the Pertwee episodes I’m also covering here.  Speaking of, I might as well jump right in with Terror of the Autons.

I have to admit, I had rather high hopes for this story.  I’d heard good things about it, it features plastic people and the Master, and it was written by Robert Holmes.  Sounds great!  Perhaps I’d built my expectations up too high, because I really wasn’t taken with this one.  I found my mind wandering continually, and while there were bits of it that I enjoyed, I was rather bored overall.

Terror of the Autons is the first time we see both Jo Grant and the Master.  It’s pretty clear that this is Jo’s first story, but the Master is introduced with such little fanfare that I didn’t realize it was his introductory story at first.  The only reason I even suspected he was new to the scene was because a random Time Lord traveled to Earth to warn the Doctor about him.  That scene is quite amusing—definitely a solid example of why I love Robert Holmes.  The entire exchange is brilliantly written.  When the Time Lord tells the Doctor that he’s “incorrigibly meddlesome…but we’ve always felt that your hearts are in the right places,” I giggled out loud.  Though when the Doctor says the Time Lord looks “quite ridiculous in those clothes,” I wanted to say “look who’s talking.”

As for Jo’s introduction, she was about what I expected.  There’s really not a lot I can say about her in this story—or in general.  She’s not one of my favorite companions, but I don’t find much to dislike about her.  I definitely feel bad for her at times, having to deal with the Doctor’s mood swings.  He’s downright mean to her occasionally.  (Yes, I admit, she bungles things terribly, but I find his tendency to explode at her very off-putting.)  At one point, he calls her a “ham-fisted bun vendor!”  I don’t know what that means, but it certainly doesn’t sound very nice.

This story was a strange mix of things that made me smile and things I found downright boring.  There was a circus!  With elephants!  Elephants with bracelets!  But somehow I didn’t really care.  There was nothing particularly circus-ey about what was going on, and it seemed a bit of a waste of a location.  Though I must say, the Doctor did fit right in there with his cape and all.

I enjoyed much of the dialogue, as I mentioned earlier, but the story itself didn’t draw me in.  For every line that made me smile (Jo: “Where are they taking us?  It’s some sort of a quarry!”), there was an entire scene where I didn’t particularly care what was happening.  Some of the directorial choices left me baffled and bored too.  When the Doctor is “poking around” in the plastic doll, we see a close up on the Doctor’s face the whole time so we see nothing that’s actually happening.  And UGH, that creepy doll itself!?  Why?  Why?!

Then there’s the Master.  I enjoy Delgado as the Master quite a lot, and he didn’t disappoint here—until we reached the end of the story.  To be fair, it’s not Delgado that disappoints, it’s Holmes.  The Master’s sudden change of heart at the end very nearly pissed me off, it seemed so out of character.  (Though to be fair, this was the Master’s first story, so the character that I’m used to may not have been fully developed yet.)  I like that the Master is a diabolical genius.  I hated that he didn’t bother to think his plan through well enough to even consider the possibility that the Nestenes would cast him aside once they’d reached the planet.  I think the Master is better than that—or he really should be.

I have to give this story credit for some nice eye candy.  Michael Wisher, who played Rex Farrel very much reminded me of Guy Pierce.  Can’t complain there.  And I’m certainly a fan of Mike Yates—especially when he tells Jo she’s acting like a child.  Her tantrum made me roll my eyes so far it gave me a headache.  Incidentally, this is Mike Yates’ first story too, though I had no idea until I heard that at the Tavern.  Sadly, the story also provided whatever the opposite of “ear candy” is.  I did NOT like the incidental music.  It wasn’t quite as harsh as that of The Sea Devils, but it grated on my nerves more than just a little.

So overall, Terror of the Autons was not a winner for me.  I really wish I hadn’t started off my Pertwee-watching with The Curse of Peladon ‘cause maybe I’d’ve enjoyed this more if I hadn’t gone into it right off the heels of a story I liked so much.  Oh well, I didn’t know.  If you’d like to hear some fine folks talk about how much they liked this story, then I encourage you to download the latest TARDIS Tavern!

Now, a quick mention of Gally!  My first time at the world’s oldest and largest Doctor Who convention is mere days away.  I can’t even begin to convey how excited I am!  My bags are pretty much packed already.  All I have to do is make it through the intervening hours…somehow.  As I said before, if you’re at Gally this coming weekend, please track me down and say hi!

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