Doctor Who Reactions: "Terror of the Autons" (SPOILERS)

Episode One:

1)"I am usually referred to as the Master." Character debut #1


2)"Ham-fisted bun vendor"?


3)"I'm your new assistant." Character debut #2


4)"Captain Yates"  Character debut #3


5)"29,000 light years"


6)"You are incorrigibly meddleome, Doctor."


7)"He's an unimaginative plodder."


8)"His degree in cosmic science was of a higher class than yours."


9)"I thought you took an A Level in science?" "I didn't say I passed."


10)Cliffhanger #1: Jo opens a bomb!


Episode Two:

11)"The Master can completely control the human mind."


12)"I think the current jargon is 'schizoid dissociation'."


13)Baby elephant!


14)"Tony don't talk much, but he's strong."  Oh, dear.


15)They got into big trouble over the doll.


16)Cliffhanger #2:  The driver is an Auton!  they got into big trouble over having a cop be a baddy, too.


Episode Three:

17)"Bullets can't stop them!"


18)"What's wrong with being childish? I like being childish!"  Shades of the Fourth Doctor.


19)Those big-headed things are creepier than the regular Autons.


20)"What was his name?" "Colonel Masters."  The first in a long line of crappy aliases. Did it  never occur to him to call himself "Pawlowski" or "Johansen"?


21)And we see prime examples of 1970's TV mask disguises, that looked 100% realistic when they were on, but turned to crap when it came time to take them off.


22)Auton in the safe!


23)Cliffhanger #3: The telephone cord strangles the Doctor!


Episode Four:

24)"I'm afraid I've cut your connection."  "Oh, very amusing."


25)"I'ts my ankle!"  Oh, dear, Jo's got Susan Foreman's Syndrome.


26)The Doctor convinces the Master fairly easily at the end.


27)"I'm rather looking forward to it."  No matter how many people die?


Interesting to see this again - It hadn't occurred to me how much of a transition this was for the show.  Kind of a pedestrian first outing for the Master.  Funny how little backstory they give him - just a Time Lord, saying: "By the way, this troublemaker you've met before has shown up, we thought we'd let you know."


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I have been looking forward to this one for a long time and watched all four episodes in a single night (which, as you know, is unusual for me). I’m happy to report that it did not disappoint. As the first appearance of both Jo Grant and the Master (not to mention Mike Yates), it immediately became my favorite Third Doctor story. Consequently, I disagree with your assessment that this is “kind of a pedestrian first outing for the Master.” It was really pretty cool seeing the Master’s TARDIS materialize as a “horsebox” so we can see what happens when the chameleon circuit works.

This is the first of five stories in a row to feature the Master (the entire eighth season), and eight of thirteen through the middle of season 10 and Roger Delgado’s untimely death. I guess that makes sense given the Master is now stuck on Earth, too. (I don’t think I realized that before.) Anthony Ainley was “my” Master, but I can certainly understand many viewers’ preference for Delgado. Ainley remained my favorite even after I had seen some of Delgado’s work, but I think his performance… no, his presence… in this one has supplanted Ainley as my favorite.

That doll was pretty creepy, but how did the BBC get into trouble over it? Too disturbing for tea time?

That doll was pretty creepy, but how did the BBC get into trouble over it? Too disturbing for tea time?


Precisely. Supposedly, there were stories - apocryphal or otherwise - of little kids who were afraid that their teddy bears would attack them in their sleep.


As far as the driver goes, apparently the production office got a complaint from the police that presenting a policeman as a faceless killer automaton was counterproductive to the police's effort to increase public trust and confidence in the police.


I suppose it is funny to call an effort to destroy humanity "pedestrian", but for some reason, I didn't get the same sense of "threat" from this story as I have from some others. 


That said, Delgado fits the part to a "T" - apparently he was the first and only actor Barry Letts considered for the part.  One item on my "Impossible Wish" list would be to see a meeting between the Delgado and Simm Masters. I have a feeling that the Delgado Master would be appalled to see what he had become.


Oh, and I certainly don't get a sense of the Delgado Master as a person constantly tormented by a drumming sound in his head - perhaps it was more subliminal at this point in his life.

Just a couple of notes to add. First, Katy Manning actually DID twist her ankle running around the quarry while being chased by Autons and they just decided to write it in at the end as part of jumping out of a moving bus and secondly, by the time that The Time Monster came out, The Doctor wouldn't have needed to create a "TARDIS sniffer-outer" because as we see while he is installing The Doctor's new phone, Mike Yates is committing The Master's ass to memory. Bwahahahaha!

The visualization of the Master's preferred method of killing (shrinking) was portrayed better here than it wold be in later serials. I've noticed the same thing with other SFX and make-up. For example, the Sontarans looked much more believable in "The Time Warrior" than they did in later episodes.

I'd taken such a liking to Liz Shaw that the first time I saw Jo Grant, my reaction was identical to The Doctor's.


"I'm your new assistant." "Oh, NO!"


However, I did get to like her... oh, by the time DAY OF THE DALEKS rolled around. But then Pertwee also loosened up a lot about that time. Here he was so often irritable, with an angry chip on his shoulder from being stuck on Earth. What amazed me watching these stories the first time was, The Master came across as MUCH MORE LIKABLE than The Doctor! It's no wonder my favorite character was The Brigadier.


I just wish that Barry Letts had been able to "finish" The Master's story the way he envisioned it... everything we learned about him later on just totally contradicted the original plan.

“I am The Master”     ********

The 7th season probably got as far away from "classic" WHO as possible. Season 8 began moving back the other way. "TERROR OF THE AUTONS" was a bit of a shock the first time I saw it. FAST-paced, much more light in tone, and with a definite effort made to make The Doctor more likable again (though still as arrogant and egotistical as he'd been the year before).

Jo Grant, I must admit, took a while to grow on me. I'd gotten to like Liz Shaw, and this "new assistant" was a bit jarring. I suppose my taste in women has evolved over the years, for while I was initially as put off as The Doctor ("I'm your new assistant." "Oh, NO!") I eventually came to feel very warmly toward her (even as he did). While accused of being a clumsy half-wit, what I see even in her first episode is a real go-getter, someone smart (in her own way) who is determined to be useful and helpful any way she can, in spite of what other people mistakenly think of her. How can anyone not admire that? After the rather adversarial relationship The Doctor had with The Brigadier for most of Season 7, they seem to have gotten a lot more relaxed around each other here. It's funny how when Jo's "relative in high places" managed to push her onto the Brig, HE in turned foisted her onto The Doctor-- then shamed The Doctor into either telling her she wasn't wanted himself, or accepting her! A rather warm-hearted, caring side of him showed itself there-- albeit reluctantly, at this stage.

Not seeing "SPEARHEAD" back in the 70's probably made it a bit more difficult to appreciate some of the finer points of this sequel. It's probably just as well that so much of this story did not focus on them, as watching both stories back-to-back, the "plastics factory" angle becomes repetitive in this one.

THE high point of the entire story, of course, is the introduction of The Master. Until now, Jon Pertwee's villains consisted of entire alien races, or political or military types gone wrong. Here we have a very "pulp magazine" type bad guy, whose motivations are never quite clear, and who often seems to be doing rotten things simply because it's his nature.

In a twisted sort of a way, actor Roger Delgado became one of my heroes watching this series. Although he starts out VERY serious, at one point, when failing to hypnotize the elder owner of the factory, he suddenly becomes much more charming. In many ways, for most of this season, he was far MORE charming and likable than the show's hero-- except for all those uncalled-for murders. (It always makes me want to beat the guy with a baseball bat, while yelling, "What's WRONG with you???")

No less than 3 "Time Lords" are on display in this story, and what a contrast they are. With The Doctor, you have a guy who's time machine is disabled, trapping him on Earth. When The Master arrives, it's clear HIS time machine is not only working, but the "chameleon circuit" is as well, allowing it to be perfectly camouflaged. And then there's the guy from "The Tribunal", presumably one of the ones who put The Doctor on trial and exiled him to Earth. This guy arrives WITHOUT any visible time machine, floating in mid-air, and dressed as a London businessman. ("We prefer to be inconspicuous-- well, SOME of us do.", he says sarcastically.) He's like one of those annoying MI-6 agents who would occasionally stop Simon Templar at an airport and interrupt a planned vacation by telling him, "Your country needs you." It's interesting to compare these 3 characters, to see how the one at the bottom of the totem pole (so to speak), the one with the most going against him, is the one who has to SAVE everybody from whatever menace is on the loose this week.

As a minor aside, it's fun, in retrospect, to see The Master lording it over "Farrell", played by actor Michael Wisher, who, 4 years later, would portray perhaps the SICKEST, and most EVIL villains in the show's entire long history-- "Davros", creator of The Daleks.

When the Pertwee era turned up for the 2nd time in America, in the 80's, on PBS, initially, they only ran stories they had color copies of. "TERROR OF THE AUTONS" and "THE MIND OF EVIL" were only available by then as B&W film prints, returned from overseas rentals. Trust me, "THE CLAWS OF AXOS" is NO place to come in on The Master's "story". Fortunately, a year or so later, they decided to add the B&W stories to the syndication package. I've been watching this ever since. Of course, when I saw it in the 70's, it WAS in color.

I once dug this story out to show to someone who'd never seen DOCTOR WHO. Part of the reason was that the friend I ran it for somewhat reminded me of Roger Delgado (although I'm not sure he picked up on that while we were watching). The one thing he noted was how Jo Grant seemed a "typical helpless female". (I suppose HE would have preferred Liz Shaw, too.) In any case, along than "SPEARHEAD", I feel this would be a good place to introduce the Pertwee era to anyone who's only familiar with later, and younger, Doctors. With it being a 4-parter, the pacing really does put it on more of an even level with the more widely-known Tom Baker stories.

More from the blog.  Enjoy!
Philip Sandifer:
"It's astonishing how many Robert Holmes scripts make sense if you hypothesize them as deliberate insults."

Fascinating comment.

"This is a brilliant turn - take the character Terrance Dicks designed to be a useless bimbo and make her into yet another subversion of the entire structure of the show."

I admit, I didn't like her at first... she finally grew on me by "DAY OF THE DALEKS". But in retrospect, as I got to like her so much later, re-watching her early stories, I enjoy her more than I did originally. And she really gets some great scenes in the next one.

This is probably a good place to note the differences between The Doctor's first meeting with Liz, Jo & Sarah. Liz & he hit it off right away, got to be good friends. Sarah HE took to immediately, perhaps seeing her deviousness & contrariness as a mirror of himself. With Jo, it was "I'm your new assistant." "OH NO!" I know how he felt. But she really was so nice, she grew on him-- and me.

On the other hand, I once ran this story for a friend who had never seen the show (partly because HE reminded me a bit of Roger Delgado!!). His main comment was how "Of course their sexism is showing, the woman is kidnapped, hypnotized, trips when she's running..."

"Barry Letts, as director, is working at cross purposes with Holmes as a writer. Letts wants the Master to be all sneering menace. Holmes wants the Master to be hilarious."

Not sure I ever noticed that, though I've seen this many times since taping it in the 80's. (Though I haven't seen it in color since the eartly 70's. Honest, Philly's PBS station did not get these-- the independant UHF channel 17 did.)

"The fact that he manages to give the strong impression that Yates is gay approximately once every three lines does nothing to improve matters."

This is strange, as I never noticed that at all.

"You can imagine Troughton delivering the line, visibly pausing to try to remember the name he wants to throw around, changing his demeanor slightly to stress the fakery of it, etc. Except Pertwee just delivers the line like he means it - as if the Doctor really does hang about bridge clubs talking to the nobility and joshingly calling them things like Tubby Rolands."

Another excellent observation. Pertwee's delivery was so convincing, it did seem to fly in the face of WHO his character was supposed to be. I tend to put much of this down to the Time Lords having tried to mold him more into their own image.

"And in episode four, he finally hits his stride for the first time when he gets his first big face to face meeting with the Doctor. And he nails it."

This I DID notice! Maybe the best scene in the whole story, the one you feel you've been waiting for the whole time.
"It's not entirely clear that this is a healthy position for the series to be in. It's suddenly flipped to where the major engine of interest and excitement in the show is the villain, while the Doctor is, absent the villain, kind of a pompous bore. The villain makes everything a lush, thrilling carnival of scares. The hero plays bridge with rich people and yells at the tea lady. It works. It's even very very good. But as Doctor Who, it seems to be stretching the concept to its breaking point."

As I said earlier, after "THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD", Jon Pertwee was not my idea of a charismatic leading mad. Too egotistical to be likable. Fortunately The Brig was there to pick up the slack. But when The Master arrived... well... HE was more likable than the "hero"! Suave, cool, sophisticated, intelligent, well-spoken... so why the HELL is he KILLING all those people????? It's sick, that's what it is-- sick.

I was so impressed by Roger Delgado that back in 1975 I wound up basing one of my own characters on him. (Although he didn't travel thru time, he was the hero in my stories.)

"Because Manning has a remarkable ability to project wide-eyed innocence in all circumstances, even when karate-chopping a guard into unconsciousness."

Hmm. That reminds me of "Melody Valentine" (Tara Reid) in the movie "JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS". (another character I adore.)

Wm Keith:
"On a different tack, I watched "The War Games" fairly recently and it struck me very forcefully that Troughton's strident impersonation of the War Office prison examiner was almost an impersonation of the Third Doctor. (It can't have been, because Troughton can't have known how Pertwee was going to play the role, even if he'd been cast. But Pertwee could have seen it)."

Seeing as "THE WAR MACHINES" feels like a prototype for the UNIT era, I often wonder how The Doctor ever did get acquainted with that government type he spent most of the story dealing with? They almost seemed old friends.

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