01/03/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
region 2 DVD: pub: BBC 1354. 1 DVD 96 minutes 4 * 24 minute episodes and extras. Price: about £ 5.00 (UK) if you know where to look) stars: Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Nicholas Courtney, Roger Delgado and Bernard Holley
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How can aliens be both beautiful and ugly in appearance at the same time? Easy. Appear on 'Doctor Who'. An alien vehicle is sighted as it approaches the Earth, easily evading missiles and landing in Great Britain. The Brigadier (actor Nicholas Courtney) brings his UNIT section, along with the Doctor (actor Jon Pertwee) and Jo Grant (actress Katy Manning) to investigate while a Government official is given full power to do what he likes. The golden-skinned aliens (led by actor Bernard Holley) offer axomite as a power source that can give most things they promise. The Doctor is suspicious but offers scientific aid to get to the bottom of what it is, even to the point of arranging for his TARDIS to be brought to the Nuton Nuclear Plant, where the Axos spaceship burrowed most of itself, to aid analysis. What none of them know is that Axos had captured the Master (actor Roger Delgado) and his TARDIS and it was his guidance that brought them to Earth. They won't let the Master have his TARDIS but will let him loose on the Earth to ensure that the axomite is spread throughout the nations to ensure it can feed and destroy the planet within seventy-two hours. The Doctor is captured by Axos who wants the secret of time travel which he provides rather than see it kill Jo. The Doctor ends up conniving with the Master to escape but has another plan to defeat Axos.
The extras are a real find, especially the original discovery of the tramp's body with his head disintegrating that was considered too gruesome to be shown at the time. The episode of takes also gives an insight into why actors must have the patience of Jove when it gets to getting the pace and timing of their performance for the camera.
In the audio commentary with Barry Letts, Katy Manning and Richard Franklin there was a query as to how the Axos spaceship could have variable mass. Radar tends to give a cross-section of any large object so if you pick up a narrow bit and then a much broader bit you will get a variable mass which should immediately tell you it probably isn't a meteorite and some sort of spaceship. A nice note from that probably explains why flying saucers would probably appear like meteorites which is the only reason for that shape.
A point is also made concerning the lack of technicians at the power station but forgets that where they are testing the axomite is actually a nuclear laboratory so not quite the same thing. Interestingly, both Barry Letts - who had a voice very similar to Geoffrey Palmer - and Katy Manning point out how public knowledge of science has grow in the past thirty years so some things are less mysterious.
The interview with director Michael Ferguson also shows much insight and how experimental things were back then. Considering how new colour was to television at the time, everything was being tested. With the BBC, 'Doctor Who' allowed far more opportunity to this compared to other shows around at the time.
Remember the lesson from this story is a reminder of not to trust Greeks or aliens bearing gifts and if something is too good to be true then don't be surprised if it turns into a plant creature. A worthy edition to your 'Doctor Who' collection.
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