Doctor Who Reactions: "Spearhead from Space" (SPOILERS)

1)We open a new era for Doctor Who with a new title sequence and this new-fangled thing called color filming.  Those of you who are old enough may well remember back in the day how much noise was made about TV shows being shown "in living color", when color TV was first introduced.. Ironically, we were the last people in the United States to get a color set (the Old Man thought they were radioactive or something, I guess), so I still saw most of these in black-and-white the first time I watched them. The first story of the Pertwee was written by my favorite Doctor Who writer, Robert Holmes, and introduced the Autons, who would return to be-devil the Third, Ninth and Eleventh Doctors.  The Autons are reasonably effective baddies in this - the scene where they break out of the shop windows and start slaughtering people was quite creepy, which is no sdoubt why our Russell ripped it off for "Rose"..

 

2)Pertwee does reasonably well in this, there are times when you can really feel that this is the Troughton Doctor with a new face.  Obviously we can't see "Power of the Daleks", so this is in effect the first "The Doctor is all mssed up post-regeneration" story that we can see.  This kind of story became common practice over the years, until for me at least, it became a bit wearisome. At least with "Rose", we were spared this, although the nerdboy in me is still slightly peeved that we never got to see the Eighth Doctor's regeneration into the Ninth.  We also see here the beginning of the Doctor's occasional haibt of stealing clothes form a hospital after he's regenerated.  They do contrive to keep us from seeing Pertwee's face for awhile, what with him going plop out of the TARDIS and then him covering up with a hospital blanket for most of Episode 1.

 

3)Interesting that the Tme Lords let him keep the TARDIS, considering that he stole the thing in the first place.

 

4)We get the set-up of UNIT, what with the re-introduction of the Brigadier and the introduction of Liz Shaw, "an expert on meteorites - degrees in medicine, physics and a dozen other subjects."  Always liked Liz as a character, and I thought that Caroline John had a good rapport with Pertwee - frankly, a little of Katy Manning's wackiness went a long way for me.

 

5)Episode Notes:

Episode 1:

  • In the poacher we meet one of the stock characters of 70's Doctor Who: The Great British Rural Defective Who Encounters the Superhatural. I am appalled that the new series has not re-visited this character type.
  • That's produced Derrick Sherwin as the parking lot attendant.
  • "We have drawn attention to ourselves, Miss Shaw."  Shouldn't she at least rate "Doctor Shaw"?
  • "I wonder if the brain's damaged."
  • Cliffhanger: The Doctor is shot!

Episode 2:

  • The pile of eyeless doll head sis creepy.
  • That's John Woodnutt is Hibbert, making the first of several appearances in the show.
  • We see the Doctor having a shower and note that he has apparently grown a tattoo with his regeneration.
  • "The planet Delphon, where they communicate with their eyebrows."  <jackie tyler>"I think he makes half of it up."</jackie tyler>
  • Cliffhanger: An Auton startles Ransome!

Episode 3:

  • Cliffhanger: General Scobie meets his duplicate!

Episode 4:

  • Pertwee sure makes some goofy faces while the Nesten is attacking him.
  • And we end with the Doctor having agreed to work for UNIT...

 

Overall:

Not my favorite Holmes story, but still quite good. "Introducing a new Doctor" stories are always tricky, but this one does OK.  I think that one of the strengths of the show was that its format made it uniquely able to change with the times, and it certainly did so successfully here.

 

[Part of list of Doctor Who episodes here.]

 

 

 

 

 

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  • "We have drawn attention to ourselves, Miss Shaw."  Shouldn't she at least rate "Doctor Shaw"?

Proving that no detail is too minor to escape analysis, the authors of the About Time volume for the Third Doctor actually devote some time to that question.  Apparently, "Mr./Miss" is the proper form of address in the UK for a very senior medical doctor who functions as a consultant.  So, it depends on what she did with her degree in medicine.

Aren't you glad you asked?

  • The pile of eyeless doll head sis creepy.

So is this typo, if you grew up with sisters.

The alien-invasion-by-meteorites element derives from Quatermass II. As I wrote recently, I think the bit where General Scobie opens the door and sees himself was modelled after the similar sequence in Thunderball.
 
The serial was shot all on film due to industrial action. My recollection is the cost involved was the reason the other serials from the season were so long. As I understand it, film was more expensive than video, but video cameras were heavy, so in the period British programmes used video for studio sequences and film for exterior sequences. Pardon me if the disk has a commentary track; I'm sure that'd explain all this.
 
Pertwee had had a career as a comic actor. He can be seen in Helter Skelter (1949), a would-be zany comedy, playing a head waiter and as King Charles I in a flashback sequence. The latter is the best bit of that movie, which isn't saying much. (Incidentally, David Tomlinson's character was probably a spoof of the popularity of the Dick Barton radio show, and the silent movie the psychiatrist plays for Carol Marsh is a Walter Forde silent comedy that spoofs Fritz Lang's Spione. The officer who gets Tomlinson to do the broadcast is probably supposed to sound like General Montgomery.) My recollection is Pertwee was used as a double for Danny Kaye in scenes shot in London for Knock on Wood. He did a radio voice for Inferno that (if I recall correctly) was cut from the British cut of the show but appeared elsewhere.

Channel 17 in Philly did not run this story when DOCTOR WHO aired in the early 70's. the idiots started with "THE SILURIANS"... then stopped with "DAY OF THE DALEKS".  Go figure. So, the "fun" side of Pertwee was almost completely missing. No wonder I found Roger Delgado more charming.

This immediately became a fave of mine when I finally got to see it in the 80's (thd 2nd year they ran his stuff, it wasn't part of the 1st PBS run, either, which started with "INFERNO"!!). It's funny to see Pertwee "doing" Troughton for almost the whole story, before settling in with his 2nd story (by which time, the realization and frustration that he is, indeed, trapped on Earth, must have finally sunk in).  I note how he hit it off with Liz immeidately. Watching this again a couple months back, I noted she doesn't really get to shine too much in this one, but I skipped the other stories because I only wanted to re-watch the ones I really liked. It's fun to watch this one back-to-back with the sequel, "TERROR OF THE AUTONS".

Oddly enough, the "double" bit in THUNDERBALL was one of the things Ian Fleming decided not to use in the novelization, and he was right. It was just one of too damn many things that needlessly over-complicated the movie, to the point where at times it's almost impossible to remember what the hell the plot is. (And naturally, that was the movie everyone who wanted to do take-offs on Bond used as a template.)

Amazing that both the Paul McGann & Christopher Eccleston debuts paid tribute to this one.

Post-Doctor Who Pertwee hosted a British game show called Whodunnit! (succeeding Edward Woodward, apparently) which would open with a mini-movie culminating in a murder, and then challenge a panel of guests to solve the crime. The mysteries were constructed as fair-play mysteries. I remember this as a fun show.

 

As Henry has noted elsewhere, Pertwee also appeared in the anthology horror film The House that Dripped Blood (1971), in comedy-horror segment co-starring Ingrid Pitt.

Pertwee had cameos in several CARRY ON films, including CARRY ON CLEO where he played a sooth-sayer, and CARRY ON COWBOY, where he played a sheriff (who gets gunned down in the first 5 minutes). He also appeared in a color Mrs. Peel episode of THE AVENGERS, "FROM VENUS WITH LOVE", where I believe he played some kind of astronomer. He was mostly known for comedy, and apparently was cast for DOCTOR WHO because the humor of the Patrick Troughton era went over so well. Note that Derrick Sherwin, who cast him, had a lot of humor in the mix in 'SPEARHEAD". But all that went out the door when Barry Letts & Terrence Dicks took over with the next story, "THE SILURIANS". If anything, Pertwee's Doctor, for most of Seasons 7-8, was even less likeable than the early William Hartnell (and a lot more snooty). Isn't it bizarre for a departing team to cast & set up the format for the NEW team to be stuck with? Perhaps as payback, Letts & Dicks cast Tom Baker and did "ROBOT" before leaving. (Had JNT & Saward left after making "THE TWIN DILEMMA" it would have happened again.)

Pertwee did "DRIPPED BLOOD" in between Seasons 7-8, and apparently wore the same outfit from Season 7 in the film. (He supplied his own clothes.) One of my favorite bits is when he encounters Geoffrey Bayldon in a curio shop. Bayldon later co-starred with Pertwee, but earlier had turned down the role of The Doctor back in 1963. At the time, he said he was tired of always playing "much-older roles". (Note, in HORROR OF DRACULA, he has a scene with Peter Cushing, and looks much older than Cushing, even though he was in fact much younger.) Also in HOUSE is John Bennett, who later played Lee Tsien-Chang in "THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG".

They really wanted Vincent Price to play the arrogant, conceited horror-movie star in HOUSE, and Price read the script and loved it. But his bosses at AIP refused to "loan him out" to Amicus, which pissed Price off quite a bit. So Pertwee was a last-minite replacement. I find it hard to picture Price doing the role any better than Pertwee did. My favorite line is when he talks about "the classics! Frankenstein-- Phantom of the Opera-- Dracula!  The one with Lugosi, not this new fella."  (Chris Lee was also in the film, just before Pertwee's part.)

According to the IMDB (scroll down to "Trivia") "Spearhead from Space" reused elements from the film Invasion (1965), for which Robert Holmes wrote the story.

 

I think this post displaced the thread What Comic Books Have You Read Today? from the home page.

I'm currently watching episodes of the TV series My Favourite Martian starring Ray Walston. Like Pertwee's Doctor in his earlier seasons he's stuck on Earth and constantly works at repairing his craft. This makes me wonder if the sitcom influenced the exile-of-the-Doctor-to-Earth concept, but against the suggestion the new format could have been suggested by "The War Machines" in Hartnell's third season, as this is basically a prototype UNIT story.

 

A running gag in MFM is the Martian's name dropping of famous historical figures. I can't remember when the Doctor first did this, although I think it must have been in the Hartnell era. Walston's character certainly did it first - the two shows started the same year, and MFM a couple of months earlier - but I have no way of knowing how quickly MFM reached the UK, or if it reached it at all.

 

Incidentally, I've seen it suggested that the look of Pertwee's doctor was influenced by that of the hero of an ITV show called Adam Adamant Lives, about an Edwardian man revived in the present.

My Favorite Martian was the first of the "one of the characters has unearthly/magical powers which have to be kept secret" sitcoms and soon begat My Living Doll and Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie.  However, for me, MFM was the only one that I genuinely enjoyed.

 

That was completely attibutable to the chemistry between Bill Bixby and Ray Walston.  There was such a sincerity in their interaction that I could accept the fact that Tim O'Hara, a reporter, would deliberately sit on the biggest news story in history---living proof that extraterrestrials exist---something that would gain him fame and fortune in order to help the Martian.

 

Early in the show's first season---episode twenty-one, "Hitchhike to Mars", airing on 01 March 1964---the Martian has the opportunity to stow away on an unmanned rocket N.A.S.A. plans to launch to Mars.  Bixby, as Tim O'Hara, watching the successful launch, gets a small monologue that's intended to be mildly funny, but actually comes across quite poignently.  Especially when he says "Good-bye, Uncle Martin . . . ," and then, very softly, " . . . Bon voyage."

 

It was this same chemistry that carried the show as it got more and more outlandish, in its second and third seasons.  Most of the "supernatural" sitcoms tended to do this---the first season or two would stay much nearer to playing its core situation with a certain amount of grounding in reality; but then, later, as the writers got stuck for fresh ideas, they would go more and more outlandish.  MFM, too, fell into this trap, but the genuine warmth and friendship between Tim and his "Uncle Martin" made the later, loonier stuff endurable.

I used to watch the show in after-school slot reruns when I was a kid. I really can't imagine how it would have played without Ray Walston as the Martian. He was perfect for the part, projecting alienness and intelligence. You're right about the chemistry between the two leads.

I made a mistake above: Adam Adamant Lives was a BBC show.

Aw. Another one of my favorites.  After the 2 movies, she was my first "TV" companion. I never saw her debut story until the mid-80's (thank you, Channel 17) but I really liked her in the 3 over-long 7-parters. She reminded me very much of an AVENGERS girl (only without the fighting). I was initially very annoyed when she disappeared and was replaced by a girl who-- if only at first glance-- seemed to be some kind of an airhead. (Obviously, not true.)

She had a brief appearance opposite Tom Baker in the Barry Letts-Terrence Dicks HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, as Laura Lyons, when Sherlock Holmes tells her she "had a very narrow escape" (referring to her "friendship" with Stapleton). Although the 2nd half is TERRIBLY rushed (should have been 3 hours, not 2), I consider Baker's HOUND to be the most "authentic" adaptation of the story ever done.  (It totally blows Jeremy Brett's version out of the water on every single level.)

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