Time to review Jon Pertwee’s second season as the Third Doctor (the next season may take a while, as it requires Netflixing DVDs instead of streaming).
This is a landmark season for introducing The Master in Terror of the Autons. Roger Delgado’s (top center in the image—all rights to which reside with current holder) arrogant, icy, sneering performance as the rogue Time Lord established the character as one of the great adversaries (I don’t think the current series has ever brought him to the same level). The same serial also brought us Katy Manning as Jo Grant, a perky companion whose character keeps rising above the ninny we keep being told she is (not a huge rise, but I think it’s there).
Terror was also ultra-controversial when it was broadcast. As part of his alliance with the Autons (returning from the previous season) the Master takes over a plastics factory (among his other talents, he’s a hypnotist of considerable power) and manufacture plastic bodies for the aliens that include artificial flowers, children’s toys, plastic-covered chairs and policemen. The deaths were too violent! The show would make kids scared of cops! Showing everyday objects as monsters would scare kids about everything! These battles would continue through the 1970s, but as an adult, I think it’s an excellent serial.
Mind of Evil has the Master siphoning off evil from convicts to control them, and to feed an alien mind-parasite. It’s a very lively one but almost too stuffed, like two threats (the parasite and the Master’s convict slaves) squeezed into one. The Brigadier does get some good scenes—in fact this season really establishes that he’s a capable soldier, not just a stuffy commander. Overall, Mind is excellent.
The Claws of Axos has kindly aliens land in England to share their advanced technology; hmm, is it possible they have a hidden agenda? The Master has another alliance going here, but in a nice twist it’s gone sour and he turns up as a captive of the Axos. This one’s watchable, but doesn’t stand out.
When the Master heads into space looking for a lost super-weapon, the Time Lords reactivate the TARDIS just enough to send the Doctor and Jo to The Colony in Space. Here they find a struggling Earth colony threatened by the agents of a corrupt mining firm that intends to boot them off-world and loot the planet’s mineral wealth (and yes, the Master turns up too). On the one hand, this has some really good performances; on the other, it’s a very talky show. And on the third hand, the planet’s native population conveniently blows itself up, leaving everything free for the colonists, and that left a very sour taste.
The season-ending serial, The Daemons has been acclaimed as one of the very best, and one of the worst. It combines the then-trendy of view of the occult as some sort of parapsychological phenomena with the “Gods from Outer Space” concept: an apparently supernatural manifestation in a small English village is the result of the Master awakening Azal, an alien Daemon who arranged human evolution as a science experiment (and as in Jack Kirby’s Eternals at Marvel a couple of years later, it will be very bad if the experiment fails). This works well overall and has one of the Brigadier’s classic lines when ordering an attack (“Chap with wings—five rounds, rapid.”), but the effects are painfully clunky and the resolution is weak (I’d remembered it differently). However I did like that the local white witch is portrayed as the most sensible person among the guest cast (for more discussion of writing witches, see this old post).
Overall, a solid season.
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