Doctor Who: The Claws of Axos (1971)
By: J.R. McNamara on March 30, 2011  | 
Roadshow | Region 4, PAL | 4:3 | English DD 2.0 | 97 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Michael Ferguson
Starring: Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Roger Delgado, Nicholas Courtney, Richard Franklin
Screenplay: Bob Baker, Dave Martin
Country: UK
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Having been on TV, on and off, for over 40 years, Doctor Who is a science fiction program that has introduced us to an absolute truckload of monsters and robots that have become a part of pop culture. Few could find a person who doesn't know what a 'Dalek' is. The show owes this longevity to a simple plot device that actually works: when they change an actor in a Batman or James Bond film, we, the viewers just have to accept that Val Kilmer is Michael Keaton. The writers and producers of Doctor Who on the other hand came up with the brilliant device of the Doctor, a time travelling alien from the planet Gallifrey, being able to 'regenerate' whenever a body becomes ill, or injured, or old. Therefore, the ability to change the lead actor was reasonable.

Of the 'Classic' Doctor Who Doctors, Jon Pertwee, the third Doctor has maintained a fairly level line of popularity. This is possibly due to how different he was from the previous two Doctors. Pertwee's Doctor was all action, compared the cantankerous ingenuity of the First, played by William Hartnell, and the impish genius of Troughton's second. Pertwee's adventures of Doctor Who were also mainly Earth based rather than throughout time and space, due to the character being imprisoned here for crimes against time (its a long story).

Originally broadcast between 13th March and 3rd April 1971 The Claws of Axos is a four part story from Doctor Who's eighth season that tells of an alien ship that has crash landed on Earth. Its occupants seeks help from humanity to get the fuels they need to leave, and in exchange for the assistance Earth will be rewarded with an element called Axonite, whose adaptable properties are both miraculous and potentially worth a fortune to the country that can claim it. Of course, seeing as how aliens are involved, the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (aka UNIT) are called in to negotiate, even with extreme prejudice, with the aliens. With UNIT, the Doctor becomes involved, and is suspicious of the gold skinned, beautiful Axons from the start, and his suspicions become greater when he discovers his arch enemy, and fellow Time Lord, The Master (Roger Delgado) is aboard the Axon's ship. But is he a prisoner, or an accomplice to a plan not yet revealed? Only Part 4 will tell!

This story has always been a favourite of mine, perhaps due to the fact that as a youngster it was one of the first Doctor Who novels I ever read. The story always fascinated me, as the alien's ship wasn't a metallic construct, but instead it seemed organic, an idea that at age 9 blew my mind.

The filmic exploration of aliens here for help, with potential invasive agendas behind their false plight, is an old one that can probably be traced back to several issues of 20th century magazines like The Argosy or Weird Tales. Here it becomes a fun rollicking, overacted, chromakey barrel of fun. This is certainly a must have Classic Who.
The Claws of Axos is presented in 4:3 and looks pretty good. Occasional grain, artefacts and stretch marks are forgivable due to the age.
For its age, it is presented with a fairly neat Dolby 2.0 track.
Extra Features
As with a lot of the more recent classic Who releases, this has some excellent extras.

There is a series of deleted and extended scenes which are a surprising revelation, but ultimately not necessary.

Now and Then Featurette is a great look at the locations used in this story. It is hosted by former foxy companion and current trout pouter Katy Manning and looks at the locations in the town of Dungeness where the exteriors for this show were filmed. The disturbing thing is, 40 years later, nothing in this town has changed!!!

Reverse Standards Conversion is a totally geeky look at the way tape is converted from one format to another, and how it can then be turned into its former format for release on DVD. It is really only for those who are interested in the mechanics of this sort of stuff. It does, however, explain the difference between NTSC and PAL. This is relevant to this tale as two of the episodes were NTSC, and had to be reversed for this release.

Information Text is a 'text commentary' both on the TV show and the extended and deleted scenes. Like a commentary, this is really only to those who enjoy finding out HOW shows are made.

Directing Who is a monologue from the director of The Claws of Axos, Michael Ferguson who discusses all elements of the making of the show, including sets, technology and ego.

As ever, there is a totally useless Photo Gallery... which would be great, if this were a book and not a fucking DVD!!!!
The Verdict
Gooey monsters, the Master, UNIT, Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning's short skirt all make for a cracking, Twilight Zone-like tale of man's greed, and how aliens could take advantage of it. Top shelf classic Who!
Movie Score
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