8.3 – “The Claws Of Axos”
A UFO lands on Earth and the golden humanoid alien crew promise peace and the chance for increased food production in return for allowing them to recharge their organic vessel. The Doctor and UNIT arrive at the scene and attempt to stop greedy political power play from turning the gift of Axonite into a major threat to Earth’s safety. All goes awry when the aliens aren’t as peaceful and golden as they first appeared and The Master has been captured by them and led them to Earth. The Doctor must defeat the Axons and prevent them stealing his knowledge of time travel for their own ends.
The mid-way point of Season 8 is considered a bit of a classic, a well paced four parter with a lot going on. The Axons are a genuinely credible alien invader, seemingly peace loving and extending a gift to help and further humanity, the amorphous entity turns out to be rather different in both look and intent. The villainous inclinations of the Axons are matched by the greed of the Man From The Ministry, Mr Chinn, who is determined to place himself at the heart of the action as power broker and keep the gift of Axonite for Britain rather than allow it to be shared worldwide for free.
The Master is in and about it again, getting out of his depth and causing chaos. Delgado is in his element in his third story in a row, so it doesn’t feel like we’ve seen too much of him. There is lots to explore between the two Time Lords and with The Master being stranded on Earth on their last encounter, The Doctor uses him to try and fix his own out of action TARDIS. UNIT are in good form too, albeit it being kept at bay by Mr Chinn and their regular army equivalents for much of the story.
Memorable guest actors include Peter Bathurst as the detestable Mr Chinn, Tim Pigott-Smith as a regular army Captain, Paul Grist as US Agent Bill Filer who has responsibility for keeping tabs on The Master and Bernard Holley, who seems fairly ethereal as the head Axon.
In order to defeat Axos, The Doctor has to team up with The Master and work together with him. There feels like there is genuine unease at the climax as we are not entirely sure how much/who The Doctor is willing to sacrifice in order to regain his freedom and control of his TARDIS. In the end, after creating a time loop and ensuring that all trace of Axos leaves the Earth, The Doctor tries to flee himself in his recently Master-repaired TARDIS, but discovers that the Time Lords have locked it so that it will always return back to Earth.
Some of the CGI is a bit hairy in retrospect and the interior of the Axon ship is a bit of a riot of psychedelic bubbles and tendrils. The organic ship is a great science fiction conceit, but hard to pull off on a budget, although that doesn’t take away from the story. The ‘good’ Axon humanoid costumes are a bit on the basic side, as if Lycra catsuits were on a deal and came with free mad eyes, but the natural state Axon look is a great juxtaposition to that.
“The Claws Of Axos” is classic Third Doctor. Nice and tight timing and pace-wise, great story from Bob Baker and Dave Martin. Good direction from Michael Ferguson and the usual high level of production team skills from Letts and Dicks. Even slightly wonky amorphous organic tendril heavy alien costumery can’t tarnish it. A solid gold 8/10.
Written and edited by Gavin Dunbar