Doctor Who: The Claws Of Axos – Special Edition REVIEW

The Shirley Eaton look was HUGE in 1971.


Release Date: 22 October 2012
1971 | PG | 98 minutes | £19.99
Distributor: BBC Worldwide
Director: Michael Ferguson
Cast: Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Roger Delgado, Nicholas Courtney

Is “The Claws Of Axos” really worthy of a Special Edition release? It’s only been seven years since the fair-to-middling Jon Pertwee adventure came out on DVD, and it had a reasonable amount of extras back then.

This edition adds a couple more (including one that’s particularly good) and improves the picture quality, especially on episodes two and three, but you still can’t help wondering if it’s unnecessary: most fans would likely have preferred to see “The Mind Of Evil” and “Terror Of The Zygons”, the two as-yet still unreleased complete stories. Still, people don’t have to buy this stuff if they don’t want to.

In a variation on Who’s “invasion Earth” tales of the time, what appear to be friendly Axons come to the planet to offer valuable minerals, although they actually want to drain the planet of all its power. It’s tempting to point out that the Doctor’s initial inclination to not allow them to be blown out of the sky eventually proves to be wrong-headed, and would have saved a lot of trouble. It’s one of the Time Lord’s many voiced complaints – this is the third incarnation at his most sour, cynical and bitter, demonstrably unhappy with his exile on this globe of silly, ignorant mammalians.

Bob Baker and Dave Martin’s script is a choppy one, and the production visibly struggles to realise their ideas. But how deliciously modern “The Claws Of Axos” must have seemed at the time! The electronic score pulsates, grumbles and parps; the Colour Separation Overlay melds, mixes and mutates in the way The Beatles’ psychedelic Magical Mystery Tour might have liked to; and the alien paraphernalia – ping pong balls, shower curtains, bubble chairs ‘n’ all – is the sort of thing that made Halliwell’s Television Companion call Doctor Who “highly coloured”.

It’s all quite cute, fun in a watching-while-unwell-by-the-‘70s-fireside sort of way. The story has a lot of energy too (no pun intended). The final episode goes in some interesting directions, with the Doctor appearing to pal up with the Master for his own ends, and the sight of the tendrilly Axons attacking UNIT en masse is an enjoyable spectacle. We should perhaps count ourselves lucky that this wasn’t one of the era’s six- or seven-parters – that could have been a very long slog indeed.

Extras:

Carried over from the 2005 DVD are a perky commentary featuring producer Barry Letts and actors Katy Manning and Richard Franklin; a “Now And Then” featurette (seven minutes) looking at the story’s locations, “Directing Who” (15 minutes), an interview with Michael Ferguson; and studio recording footage, which is now expanded on the second disc.

A brand new addition is Making Of “Axon Stations!” (27 minutes). This features recollections from the likes of script editor Terrance Dicks, who recalls his regret of using first-time Who writers Baker and Martin because of their inability to understand, among other things, the programme’s budgetary limitations, and Katy Manning, who confesses that she thought the humanoid Axons resembled “pink giraffes” and their spacecraft reminded her of a certain part of the female anatomy…

Also new – and most welcome – is the lovely “Living With Levene” (36 minutes), in which Toby Hadoke chats candidly to Sergeant Benton himself, John Levene, back in Blighty after 20 years in LA to care for his elderly mother. “One of the most controversial people on the convention circuit” makes breakfast for his mum and Toby, talks to random old people he surmises are “sad”, cracks amusing one-liners and discusses Tom Baker’s “ego”; it’s rather delightful – but is it worth the rerelease of this story, or should it instead have been saved for “The Mind Of Evil” instead? Discuss. The usual text commentary, photo gallery and Radio Times PDFs complete the package.

Russell Lewin twitter.com/RussellLewin

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