THE CLAWS OF AXOS
Struggled to get through this one as well - started last night, watched a bit more before going out to work, another bit on my lunch break and finally finished it this evening! Not the most riveting of adventures, which although it clearly had a clever plot was undermined by some of the visuals. I know that pointing out Doctor Who sometmes had its scripting overreach its budgetary constraints is pretty much redundant criticism, but I still found the well-realised, freakily bug-eyed, golden alien Axons contrasted rather too much with their nondescript 'tentacled lump' monster forms - even if the physical variance is undouubtedly part of the point of the story, i.e. don't always go on friendly first appearances. Talking of which, it's nice to see the ever-watchable Master again, and while it rehashes the same plot of him collaborating with this month's alien menace to overthrow the human race, it comes with the nice twist that they've already turned on him before we even get into the story!
There are numererous good points to flag up, I must say; it's just that once more the whole thing didn't hang together enough to command my attention (and wakefulness) for more than an episode or so at a time. The Axons are clearly powerful, with their ability to shape-shift, clone Filer and drain the Earth of its resources, and with the firepower they possess in the running battle with UNIT troops. These action scenes are well-done, particularly where (despite the risible blue backgrounds that look nothing like the sky in alternate shots) Yates and Benton manage to outfox their adveraries by detonating a Land Rover!! The external views of Axos are good, with the pod half buried and surrounded by its own localised snowstorm, although the interior is a little too hallucinogenic for my liking. The support is variable - forgettable except for the self-important Chinn, whose head is so far up his own backside he could watch his stomach working but whose desire to contain the axonite turns out to be right for the wrong reasons, and the likeably loose-cannon Filer, uber-'70s hair and all, who gets to run around like a regular and have a superbly-shot fight with his own double, the existence of whom seems to be entirely pointless except to allow said punch-up to occur...
And then there's the Master. Compulsive viewing whenever he's on screen, the black-tunic-wearing, ruthless yet charming Time Lord is a joy. Seeing the Master and the Doctor again working together, to trick the Axons (or Axos, given that 'they' are a gestalt entity) and escape Earth, is marvellous for the second story in a row, and coupled with the fact that the latter has been more and more irritable, rude and arrogant these last few stories, reinforces the view of them as alike, contemporaries and equals. It is here that this adventure suddenly becomes great as the Doctor turns his back on his friends - the gap between Doctor and Master visibly shrinks while that between the pair and the humans seems to grow, as the Doctor points out that after all "we are both Time Lords". I genuinely couldn't see how he was going to resolve things at that point. Even though it was only a front, I love that the Doctor admits at the end that if he had had the chance to follow the escape route he would have taken it!
Episodes watched: 184
Episodes still to watch: 538
A monstrous 26 episodes behind schedule now, what with one thing and another. Days off coming up, though, so will have to see I can start to bridge the gap...