Time Lord nemesis the Master has arrived on Earth to challenge the Doctor to stop him and steals a nestene energy cell from UNIT so he can revive the autons. He takes over a factory for this purpose bringing Rex Farrel under his control. The Time Lords warn the Doctor of the Master's intention and while the Doctor is also dealing with his independent but unqualified new assistant Jo Grant.
UNIT tracks a scientist kidnapped by the Master to a circus and the Doctor and Jo are lured into a trap narrowly escaping death at the hands of two Autons disguised as policemen. Under the alias of Colonel Masters the Master uses Auton products such as a couch and a troll doll to eliminate obstructions to his plan including Farrell's father and production manager McDermott.
The Doctor is trying to discover the reason why people are suddenly dying all over England, the answer lies in plastic daffodils being handed out to the public by Autons disguised in promotional outfits. Failing to kill the Doctor with a phone flex the Master takes Jo and the Doctor hostage until he can summon the Nestenes via radio telescope and allow the second auton invasion of Earth unless UNIT can find the Master in time.
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Viewership (In Millions)
Jon Pertwee (Third Doctor)
Katy Manning (Jo Grant)
Nicholas Courtney — Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart
Richard Franklin — Captain Mike Yates
John Levene — Sergeant Benton
Roger Delgado — The Master
David Garth — Time Lord
Michael Wisher — Rex Farrel
Stephen Jack — Farrel Snr.
Barbara Leake — Mrs. Farrel
Harry Towb — McDermott
Christopher Burgess — Professor Phillips
Frank Mills — Radio Telescope Director
Andrew Staines — Goodge
Dermot Tuohy — Brownrose
John Baskcomb — Rossini
Roy Stewart — Strong Man
Dave Carter — Museum Attendant
Bill McGuirk — Policeman
Pat Gorman — Auton Leader
Terry Walsh — Auton Policeman
Hayden Jones — Auton Voice
Production Staff for Serial EEE:
Writer - Robert Holmes
Director - Barry Letts
Script editor - Terrance Dicks
Producer - Barry Letts
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Yes we're into the Unit family years, but thanks to Robert Holmes script, there are vestiges of creepiness and grittiness left from the previous series, but only vestiges. The Master is best here in his introductory story, probably the best character invented for the series in the 70's and at that time would've been nice to finally see one bloke who could match wits with the Doctor and the entire UNIT organisation. If not for him the Earth wouldn't have been invaded an additional 3 times and series 8 would've been very boring.
Yeah Terror of the Autons is a re-hash of Spearhead, with the Master setting up a challenge for the Doctor "try saving the world from these things again". The Autons aren't used very well in this one and your right Grob lack the creepiness despite the faceless look this time round. Jo is not immediately likable here either coming across as a brainless brat and the dodgy CSO doesn't help. Still there's some scary bits in this that Barry never let happen again. Namely having plastic daffodils, toy dolls and even phone flexs that could kill. Now that really would have scared the kiddo's back then, everyday items in a home. Not to mention that friggin' couch. Imagine flopping down to watch the cricket with a coldie and the next thing you know the couch is battling you for the remote...
Anyhow there were some nice set pieces like running away from the policemen autons in the quarry, love that bit where one gets knocked down a cliff and then immediately gets back up and starts climbing, and the final battle with UNIT but Terror of the autons didn't have the atmosphere of Spearhead 7.5/10
Welcome to The Unit Family. We have Paternal Doctor with the young / old face (see countless Terry Dicks novelizations!), strict-military-yet-with-a-soft-underside Brigadier, dull-as-cardboard Captain Mike Yates, silly-old-dependable Benton, village idiot Jo Grant and moustache-twirling Master. This is the UNIT family kind old uncle Barry wants you to tune into every week. Meh.
Sadly, cos Liz Shaw was to intelligent for the average Dr Who viewer (Ironic really, cos most of the time she is spouting made up scientific gibberish), she was sent packing back to Cambridge and got replaced with someone we can all relate to; scatterbrained, mini-skirt wearing, thick-as-an-Asian-student's-glasses Jo Grant. Backing up Jo is what Barry laughingly called a "love interest" for Jo; the dreadful Mike Yates. He has about as much sex appeal as an evening with Edna Bartlett. The wooden-ness in this man's performance is just amazing as it is appalling. And finally; The Master. Roger Delgado gives the Master a lot of charm, humour, sinister-ness and smooth-as-silk evil in his opening story that makes the farce that the character becomes later on - in all incarnations - a tragedy in itself.
So we;'ve had the introductions; what about the rest of Terror of the Autons? Firstly, the baddies here are still called Autons. Strange really, cos they were called that in Spearhead from Space too - only cos they were named after Auto plastics from whence they came (Channing obviously had a sense of humour!) but since they are now being manufactured on the premises of Rex Farrell shouldn't they we called "Farrells?" or "Farreltons?" Sadly, the Autons (or whatever) have lost a lot of their menace from the earlier story. They have boring smooth faces as opposed to the super-creepy smiley manequin ones from Spearhead, and they don't have that weird buzzy noise too. So they have just become typical boring henchmen for the Master.
Later on they regain some of their creepiness as they start dressing up in carnival masks and - even better - cops. That scene must have really scared the kiddies witless back in the seventies but one thing really lets that scene down - and its the same thing that lets the majority of scenes down; CSO. Filming everything against a CSO backdrop; outdoors, a living room, the Farrell's kitchen, the factory workshop, just makes the whole thing look one dimensional and flat. And incredibly fake. In some ways its like watching a live action comic strip. The living armchair is dead creepy though; imagine being smothered to death in PVC - Tim no doubt does. Oh, and we get the first of many Master in a mask scenes.
So this is the world of Barry and Terry; its nice and dependable but lacks the gritty realism of the previous season. Imagine terror of the autons with a ruthless Brigadier and directed by Doug Camfield and played for real. That would be cool. 6/10 Sequels rarely work so don't tamper with success.
It is a pity that terror of the autons kind of reeks of "they were awesome, quick lets make a sequel"... but I don't think it's that bad. For one we get more examples of scary plastic stuff... the chair, the doll and the fairground things are still very creepy - but as a kid, they're things that scared the crap out of me! I've always said that Dr Who is at it's scariest when everyday things go bad... and while this is just extending on the ideas from Spearhead, it still works.
Secondly, we also get the Master. Like him or hate him, you can't deny that The Master is an integral part in the history, and possibly longevity, of Dr Who. If you were reviewing this episode without having seen the rest of series 8, his scheming and plotting against the Doctor would be more intriguing and threatening - rather than being a foreshadow of what we were going to get for the next 26 weeks!
And then the whole UNIT family thing... well I'll be the odd one out... I like it! We were given the bulk of it in series 7 but with Adult stories... from now on, sure we get it a bit more kidded down, but it still gives Dr Who that extra dimension... something extra that makes you watch each week, rather than just to see what this week's monster is. I think only 2 shows have done that with great success - Buffy, and Dr Who (twice!).
Anyway, terror of the autons, while not as intense and gripping as Spearhead, still works for me.