Doctor Who: The Claws of Axos Review

DW Claws of Axos

Fancied watching this last week, and if I don’t do the odd Who review outside of new releases and marathons I’ll never fill out the review pages! So, Claws of Axos comes to us straight from Season 8, a.k.a. the Master season, as Roger Delgado’s first (that we see) incarnation of the rogue Time Lord was in every story. Also featured are the regular UNIT crew, the titular Axos, an American UNIT agent and a comedic tramp! So let’s have a deeper look to see if this all works together or not…

Official Synopsis:

A group of gold-skinned aliens land on Earth and offer wondrous technology in exchange for fuel. The Doctor, however, isn’t fooled, uncovering the Axons’ true nature and once again facing his arch enemy, the Master…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

DW Claws of Axos 4

Under attack from an Axon tentacle-monster! A.k.a. regular UNIT Tuesday.

The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) – The Doctor, still stranded on Earth, is finding himself glad he’s been pulled away to help with the UNIT UK-US meeting about The Master, at least it gives him something to do…

Jo Grant (Katy Manning) – Jo is also pulled along to the UNIT meeting, but only finds herself trying to stay out of the way of the arguing men…

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) – The head of the UK UNIT branch, and damn good at his job too. Well, apart from apprehending The Master, though that soon becomes the least of his worries…

Captain Mike Yates (Richard Franklin) – Captain Yates is still getting used to his increase in rank and his constant involvement with alien threats… and then a new alien threat arrives!

Sgt. Benton (John Levene) – Benton has been with UNIT and the Brigadier since its inception, but he never takes anything for granted, even distress calls from humble aliens…

The Master (Roger Delgado) – The Master is a rouge Time Lord, and wishes to see his old friend-turned-enemy The Doctor suffer, and, if possible, gain control over the Universe. Right now? He’ll settle for just hurting The Doctor.

Bill Filer (Paul Girst) – A UNIT agent from the US branch, Bill is in town to have a meeting about The Master and the possible threats he could cause. He soon gets more than he bargained for…

Chinn (Peter Bathurst) – Mr. Chinn works for the Ministry of Security and wishes to degrade and defame UNIT so it can be absorbed with the other intelligence agencies.

Axos (Bernard Holley) – Axos is a sentient, ship-sized being who feeds off the life force of planets. It has chosen Earth as its next target, and it knows the best way to spread across the planet with little fuss…

Plus many more!

The Good:

DW Claws of Axos 2

I’d trust him, I don’t know about you. Something about the… golden eyes? (unintentional Bond reference, sorry.)

There’s a lot to like about Claws of Axos. Axos itself is a pretty unique foe for The Doctor, first appearing as an alien ship full of golden humanoid figures who just want help repairing their ship, in exchange for “Axonite”. They claim it will change the way humanity uses energy, but it’s actually to speed up the Axos feeding process by spreading across the globe. Of course it doesn’t take too long for their true colours to be revealed, and soon large, slow-moving blobs are chasing people around (why they didn’t stick to the gold humans I don’t know) and Axos is revealed as a single, sentient lifeform. It’s all good stuff, and I love the set design for inside Axos, full of orange and red tentacles and, yes, claws. The Doctor eventually traps Axos in a time loop, which is fun, and handy for bringing Axos back many decades later…

The main cast is of course all on fine form. The Doctor, Jo, The Brigadier, and The Master, who is still the best incarnation of the foe, in my opinion, are all given plenty to do. This is another case of The Master getting another race involved and ending up having to team with The Doctor to destroy it. It leads to a great scene where The Doctor pretends to side with The Master, finally admitting to his enemy that he can’t pilot his TARDIS any more due to the Time Lords’ punishment and using that as an excuse as to why he would want to leave the Earth with him. It’s all a ruse of course, and soon he returns in time to save everyone from Axos, but he also steals the component that was stolen from his TARDIS from The Master’s craft in hopes of leaving… it doesn’t work of course, but it was a nice reminder that no matter how much The Doctor is enjoying the company of UNIT, escaping Earth to travel again is never far from his mind.

The story overall doesn’t slow down, which is a testament to the four-parter, even if I do have a soft spot for some of the Pertwee seven or six part stories.

Welshman Paul Grist’s American accent isn’t the most convincing, which takes away from quite a few of his scenes as US agent Bill Filer, but he is otherwise harmless, and I do like the show finally showing that the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce is actually global, and not just the Brigadier and his men!

There is a weird bit at the start of the serial where we cut back and forth to a tramp who comically stumbles around making amusing grunting noises to the sound of weird pre-school children’s show music… It’s… just so out of place. Eventually though the tramp comes across Axos, is scanned, then his body is drained of all life and dumped outside for the UNIT soldiers to find later! Jesus, it’s like putting in a fun children’s character for the purpose of it turning up as a corpse later for shock value… I couldn’t bring myself to put it in the bad because it’s just so weird that I kind of like it.

The Bad:

DW Claws of Axos 1

“I say good sir, who’s idea was it to include all this political nonsense?”

There is a few political bits that don’t work for me in this, all involving thankfully one-time character Mr. Chinn. He constantly acts like an idiot, is given more and more power by the ministry of defence despite clearly being incompetent, and when it comes to distributing Axonite across the globe he has a very “England only” attitude. The Doctor even says he has an “England for the English” viewpoint, which, you know, person in high power being an idiot and extremely nationalistic is unpleasantly hitting home in 2018…

The Continuity:

DW Claws of Axos 3

Now THIS Axon I wouldn’t trust so much…

Axos would later reappear in the Eleventh Doctor comic “The Golden Ones”, and the Sixth Doctor audio story “The Feast of Axos”. Both stories, which were released only a few months apart, feature Axos breaking from a time loop, but due to Feast ending with Axos being recaptured in another Time Loop, they don’t contradict each other! Hooray!

Other than that, the reappearance of The Master in the next story (of course!) and a few on-screen (and off) mentions of Axos and Axons over the course of the show’s long history, there isn’t anything explicitly connecting this story to any others.

Overall Thoughts:

The Claws of Axos is great fun. It has all of the Pertwee beats you want: Earth invasion, the full UNIT group, The Master, soldiers being killed in weird ways by slow moving, vaguely humanoid creatures… It’s a Third Doctor greatest hits, with a unique spin on the central alien. If it weren’t for a few awkwardly annoying scenes with Mr. Chinn I’d give it a 5, but I have to draw the line somewhere, otherwise I’d just reward nearly all Third Doctor stories top marks due to loving the atmosphere of the era…

4 Star Watch

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