Doctor Who

Doctor Who: The Claws of Axos – More Background Needed

Written by Bob Baker, Dave Martin, and Sydney Newman
Directed by Michael Ferguson

Doctor Who is a British science fiction television series which has been around off and on since 1963. The main character is just known as “The Doctor” and is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. This means he travels through time to various places. One of his favorite places to visit is Earth. Typically, he has a companion traveling with him, usually female, sometimes male, sometimes one of each. He travels in a time machine known as a “Tardis” which is disguised as a British Police booth.

A Time Lord can regenerate if fatally wounded, which has accounted for all the different actors who have played The Doctor throughout the years. In this episode, he is portrayed by Jon Pertwee. Pertwee is the third incarnation of the Doctor. I hadn’t seen Pertwee in the role of the Doctor before this episode and I thought he did a fairly good job, much to my surprise. The problems I had with The Claws of Axos lie largely with the script.

The Doctor is already on Earth, working with British scientists on some sort of projects when they track an unidentified flying object headed for the planet. It lands somewhere and while they are attempting to figure out exactly where and why it’s here, it grabs a couple of men wandering nearby.

The Doctor and several of the scientists go inside the space vehicle while the military patrols the area. The military finds the body of one man, but by this time the scientists are swooning from the prospect of the Axons delivering axonite which will give Earth an unlimited source of energy. Little do they know that the Axons are not really these humanoid beings of gold and white standing before them. Nor do they know that they have captured another renegade Time Lord known as The Master (portrayed by Roger Delgado) whom they are using for their own purpose.

When I first watched this, I hadn’t viewed the episodes in order, I had no idea what the Doctor was doing on Earth working with these scientists in the first place. I was a child of the Tom Baker era and I’m seeing some of the earlier episodes for the first time. I had no idea who “The Master” was until I went and researched the background information. One of the things that has always appealed to me as a fan of the show is that each arc stands pretty much on its own. You might not know why Leela is traveling with the Doctor, but it really doesn’t matter as her role in the show doesn’t hinge on knowing her history. That’s not the case here. I also didn’t have difficulty with viewing the season long Key to Time story arc out of order, so while I give kudos to the producers for being ambitious enough to have ongoing story arcs back in 1971, this doesn’t help viewers now.

The story is pretty good and builds on a lot of the fears those of us had during the Cold War era. It also dangles a carrot in front of the British government with the unlimited energy ploy, something that officials would be clamoring for to gain an advantage over the communist counterparts.

I thought Pertwee and Delgado played off of each other quite well once the arc had the two of them interacting. This was a high point and I look forward to more of the stories I am reading that exist featuring the two of them. Delgado is an excellent villain and brings a lot to the role. As with many villains, it seems that sometimes they get the best lines and I have heard that actors enjoy them more. Delgado certainly does here, delivering his lines to the Doctor with a certain zest. Pertwee is a good version of the Doctor. There are hints of an acerbic edge to his performance and I am continually amazed at how each actor seems to make the character their own while at the same time bringing in hints of personality from other depictions.

I would guess that Jo (portrayed by Katy Manning) is the traveling companion here, yet she seems to have little to do and is relegated to the background. The role doesn’t seem to be written terribly strong and I’m curious to see if she’s portrayed better in other story arcs.

The aliens look pretty cool. The initial beings are humanoid (of course) with gold hair and gold complexions – even gold where their eyes should be. The effect was pretty good. Once the actual Axons are seen, (besides the giveaway in the prologue) they are also well thought out and executed, especially for thirty five years ago.

The effects aren’t half-bad either, especially considering the time. The morphing in and out of the Axon creature is really good at a time way before we had computers generating it all.

I would like to revisit this story again when I have seen more of the tales in this arc. It’s not something you can really get a feel for plopped just in the middle. There are plenty of reasons to like The Claws of Axos and fans of the series most definitely will. However, it’s not something I would recommend to people who are just starting to view Doctor Who. I would also recommend viewing the episodes before this to get a better idea of the background.


• Commentary by producer Barry Letts, Katy Manning and Richard Franklin
• Deleted & Extended Scenes
• Now and Then Featurette
• Reverse Standards Conversion
• Information Text
• Directing Who
• Photo Galley