Terror of the Autons
|055 – Terror of the Autons|
|Doctor Who serial|
The Doctor and his new assistant, Jo Grant, along with new UNIT Captain Mike Yates
|Director||Barry Letts (uncredited)|
|Script editor||Terrance Dicks|
|Incidental music composer||Dudley Simpson|
|Length||4 episodes, 25 minutes each|
|Date started||2 January 1971|
|Date ended||23 January 1971|
Terror of the Autons is the first serial of the eighth season in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, broadcast in four weekly parts from 2 to 23 January 1971. It introduced three new characters: the Third Doctor's new companion, Jo Grant (played by Katy Manning); his archenemy, the Master (Roger Delgado); and Captain Mike Yates (Richard Franklin).
The Master arrives on Earth and steals the sole surviving Nestene energy unit and uses a radio telescope facility to broadcast its signal into space.
Reports of the theft of the Nestene unit and sabotage at the radio telescope facility lead the Doctor, his new assistant Jo Grant and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart to investigate. At the facility, the Doctor encounters a fellow Time Lord who warns him that his old enemy, the Master, is there on Earth and will try to kill him.
Posing as Colonel Masters, a major potential customer, The Master takes over a local plastic factory's production to build Autons. Jo, while investigating the factory, is discovered by the Master, who hypnotises her and wipes her memory of meeting him. He sends her back to UNIT with a booby-trapped container, ostensibly containing the stolen energy unit. The Doctor realises she has been hypnotised and disposes of the powerful bomb out of the window.
The Doctor visits Rossini's circus where he is captured by Rossini just as he is about to open the Master's TARDIS. He is freed by Jo, who had followed the Doctor there against orders. The Doctor removes something from the Master's TARDIS but is attacked by Rossini and his men. Seemingly rescued by two policemen, the Doctor becomes suspicious and unmasks one of the officers as an Auton.
Escaping from the vehicle, the Doctor and Jo hide as the Brigadier and Captain Mike Yates arrive. A firefight breaks out between them and the Autons from which they manage to escape. The Autons are unaffected by bullets, or even cars being driven into them at high speeds.
The Master, meanwhile, has infiltrated UNIT headquarters disguised as a telephone technician and installs a long, plastic telephone cable in the Doctor's lab. At the now empty plastics factory, the Brigadier and the Doctor discover that Farrel, the factory manager, has chartered a bus. They also find a plastic daffodil, providing the connection between the factory and the Master.
As the Doctor tries to decode the Nestene instructions imprinted in the plastic flower, a radio signal from a walkie-talkie accidentally activates it. The daffodil sprays a plastic film over Jo's face, nearly suffocating her until the Doctor removes the film with a spray.
The Master arrives at UNIT to confront the Doctor having found the dematerialization circuit missing from his TARDIS. The Master decides to take Jo and the Doctor with him to the radio telescope as hostages forcing the Brigadier to abort a planned RAF airstrike on the bus and quarry where the Autons sheltered. Farrel, regaining his mental independence at last, tries to crash the bus in a field, but the Master hits him on the back, and the Doctor and Jo escape.
UNIT troops engage the Autons while the Doctor and the Brigadier pursue the Master into the facility's control room. The Doctor convinces the Master that the Nestenes will not distinguish between ally or foe once they arrive. Together, they close the channel for the invasion, driving the Nestenes back and causing the Autons to collapse.
At the bus, the Master emerges, apparently surrendering, but when he pulls out a gun, Yates shoots him. The Doctor peels back the disguise on the corpse to reveal that it is Farrel masked to look like the Master. The real Master escapes in the bus. However, with the dematerialisation circuit in the Doctor's hands, the Master is still trapped on Earth.
The Nestene Consciousness and its Auton drones first appeared in the 1970 serial Spearhead from Space; thirty-five years later, they would appear in the Ninth Doctor's introductory story, "Rose". This serial introduces the Master's signature weapon, the Tissue Compression Eliminator – though the device itself was not named until Time-Flight.
The story is set in the fictional town of Tarminster. In the 2008 Sarah Jane Adventures story The Mark of the Berserker, Sarah Jane Smith visits a hospital in the same town. The town is also mentioned on the Harold Saxon promotional website. It states that Lucy Saxon's father was Lord Cole of Tarminster.
For the start of the new season, producers Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks wanted something new. They thought about how the Brigadier was like Dr. Watson to the Doctor's Sherlock Holmes, and decided to devise a new character, the Master, to be Moriarty. The Master was meant to specifically contrast with Pertwee's Doctor; the Doctor was authoritative while the Master was charming, though he used that for an evil purpose. Terror of the Autons also introduced Katy Manning as Jo Grant and Richard Franklin as Captain Mike Yates.
The dramatic scene at the start of Episode Three, where an Auton is hit with a car and tumbles off a cliff, was quite real. Dinny Powell was driving the vehicle in place of actor Richard Franklin, and stuntman Terry Walsh, as the Auton, fell further down the slope than intended, being injured in the mishap. He nevertheless got back to his feet in the same take as planned. Letts requested that a sequence near the ending in which Yates yells to the Doctor "We've got him now!" be reshot because Franklin's performance was too forceful. Franklin was grateful for this.
On the first day of filming, Manning pulled all the ligaments in her foot jumping out of a car and running across a quarry. She also formed a fast bond with Barry Letts, as she was fond of the animals used in the serial. Nicholas Courtney was also ill on the first day and was replaced by a double in those quarry scenes.
Harry Towb, who plays the unfortunate McDermott, had previously appeared in The Seeds of Death. Michael Wisher, the young Farrel, had also done uncredited voice work for Seeds, and had previously appeared in The Ambassadors of Death and, later, Carnival of Monsters. He would go on to do various Dalek voices and become well known as the first actor to play the evil genius Davros in Genesis of the Daleks. Roy Stewart previously appeared as strong-man Toberman in The Tomb of the Cybermen. Although credited on-screen, Bill McGuirk (policeman) does not actually appear; his entire contribution was edited out prior to transmission. He had appeared in The Enemy of the World.
Broadcast and reception
|Episode||Broadcast date||Run time||Viewers
|"Episode One"||2 January 1971||24:36||7.3||PAL D3 colour restoration|
|"Episode Two"||9 January 1971||24:48||8.0||PAL D3 colour restoration|
|"Episode Three"||16 January 1971||23:28||8.1||PAL D3 colour restoration|
|"Episode Four"||23 January 1971||22:10||8.4||PAL D3 colour restoration|
Certain scenes in the serial, particularly the killer doll and the Auton policemen, caused controversy in the press as being too frightening for children. In an unconnected House of Lords debate about the effect of mass media on the public, the serial was cited as an example of a programme that might be too 'scary' for younger children.
Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping simply wrote of the serial in The Discontinuity Guide (1995), "Functional and memorably scary, but by no means an Auton story." In The Television Companion (1998), David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker called it a "strong start" to the season, though they commented that the story was not as effective as Spearhead from Space in "depicting the threat of the Autons." They praised the introduction of the Master, calling him "the most interesting character to have been introduced to the series since the Doctor himself", though they found it improbable that one comment from the Doctor would persuade him to change his plan. Howe and Walker also praised Letts' direction, though they found the over-use of CSO caused some scenes to "look false and strained". In 2009, Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times compared the serial to a comic strip, and wrote positively about Manning and Delgado. However, he noted that there were "plot holes" and "gaudy early 70s production values". Ian Berriman of SFX, reviewing the serial for its 2011 DVD release, also commented that Delgado was "note-perfect from the off" and that while the climax was "feeble", he felt "it's all such outrageous fun that it doesn't really matter". DVD Talk reviewer John Sinnott described Terror of the Autons as "a wonderful romp," although "the ending is rushed and pretty much just pulled out of nowhere". Sinnott particularly praised the Doctor and the Master, as well as the "subtle humor". Den of Geek's James Peatly wrote that Terror of the Autons was "a fantastically entertaining and incredibly confident slice of macabre fun". He was positive toward the family tone, Jo, and the Master, but did feel that it "lacks some of the narrative cohesion" of Spearhead from Space and "the Autons are reduced to playing the role of foot soldiers to the Master". In 2009, SFX named the cliffhanger to Episode Two, in which the policeman is revealed to be an Auton, as the 20th scariest moment in Doctor Who.
|Doctor Who book|
|Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons|
|Cover artist||Peter Brookes|
|Release date||15 May 1975|
A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in May 1975. The cover art depicts what is supposed to be a fully developed Nestene. The novelisation introduces Jo Grant, although the Colony in Space novelisation (as The Doomsday Weapon) had already done so, albeit in contradiction to the television programme. The Master and Doctor are revealed herein to have names that are mathematical formulae and the grenade the Master uses is identified as Sontaran. An unabridged reading of the novelisation by actor Geoffrey Beevers was released on CD on 7 July 2010 by BBC Audiobooks.
Although the BBC wiped the serial's original 625-line videotapes for reuse, they kept 16mm b/w telerecording film prints (these are now more commonly referred to as Film Recordings). In 1993, these prints were combined with the colour signal from an off-air 525-line NTSC domestic videotape recording, resulting in relatively high-quality colour masters for a VHS release. A short clip from Episode One, depicting the Doctor's first meeting with Jo Grant, still survives in its original 625-line format, on a clip reel prepared for a 1973 edition of the news show Nationwide. The short Nationwide clip is presented on the DVD of The Aztecs, in a featurette discussing the VidFIRE restoration process.
As of 5 August 2008, this serial has been included for sale on iTunes. It was released on DVD in 2011 in a boxset entitled Mannequin Mania with the special edition of Spearhead from Space. The Nationwide clip is incorporated into Episode one; the rest of the serial consists of restored footage. Comparison between the remastered episodes and clips included in the behind-the-scenes material demonstrate that a great deal of restoration work has been carried out on the picture and sound quality.
- "HAROLD SAXON - Meet Lucy Saxon". BBC. 2007. Retrieved 5 November 2008.[dead link]
- Collinson, Phil, Nicholas Courtney, Terrance Dicks, Richard Franklin, Barry Letts, Katy Manning, Jon Pertwee (2011). Life on Earth (DVD). Doctor Who: Terror of the Autons: BBC.
- Pixley, Andrew, "The DWM Archive: Terror of the Autons," Doctor Who Magazine, #311, 12 December 2001, Panini Comics, p. 31.
- Mulkern, Patrick (14 October 2009). "Doctor Who: Terror of the Autons". Radio Times. Retrieved 6 August 2012.
- Pixley, Andrew, "DWM Archive: Terror of the Autons," Doctor Who Magazine, #311, 12 December 2001, Panini Comics, p. 30.
- Pixley, Andrew, "The DWM Archive: Terror of the Autons [Sidebar: 'Editing: Cut scenes']," Doctor Who Magazine, #311, 12 December 2001, Panini Comics, p. 32.
- Shaun Lyon et al. (31 March 2007). "Terror of the Autons". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 18 May 2008. Retrieved 31 August 2008.
- "Terror of the Autons". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 31 August 2008.
- Sullivan, Shannon (8 May 2008). "Terror of the Autons". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 31 August 2008.
- Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "Terror of the Autons". The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-426-20442-5.
- Howe, David J & Walker, Stephen James (1998). Doctor Who: The Television Companion (1st ed. ed.). London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-40588-7.
- Berriman, Ian (6 May 2011). "Doctor Who: Mannequin Mania – DVD Review". SFX. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
- Sinnott, John (10 May 2011). "Doctor Who: Terror of the Autons". DVD Talk. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
- Peaty, James (9 May 2011). "Doctor Who: Mannequin Mania DVD Box Set review". Den of Geek. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
- "21 Scariest Doctor Who Moments Ever". SFX. 14 November 2009. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
- "Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons (Classic Novel)". AudioGo. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
- Pixley, Andrew, "The DWM Archive: Terror of the Autons," Doctor Who Magazine, #311, 12 December 2001, Panini Comics, p.34.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Third Doctor|
- Terror of the Autons (TV story) on TARDIS Data Core, an external wiki
- Terror of the Autons at BBC Online
- Terror of the Autons at Doctor Who: A Brief History Of Time (Travel)
- Terror of the Autons at the Doctor Who Reference Guide
- Terror of the Autons reviews at Outpost Gallifrey
- Terror of the Autons reviews at The Doctor Who Ratings Guide
- Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons reviews at The Doctor Who Ratings Guide
- On Target – Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons