Doctor Who: The Claws of Axos (s08e03, pts. 1 – 4)

3 out of 5

Directed by: Michael Ferguson

Some killer production work and a couple of great ideas and sequences never seem to gel. ‘The Claws of Axos’ may just be too familiar, something that’d been plaguing Pertwee’s second season: we have another group of aliens who’re disguising themselves as good guys, when they’re actually up to no good (this basic concept has been in almost all of the Pertwee episodes), and while I like the linearity of having The Master (Roger Delgado) as a consistent foe, it doesn’t feel this is used in any kind of lore-building sense, but more just because, like, he’s still around, so he might as well be a part of things. Director Michael Ferguson also has a rather stiff, cheap way of shooting the serial, which unfortunately renders its two main visual touchpoints – the alien’s ship, and a central scientific chamber – less interesting than they could be, with scenes stitched together and people parading into and out of frame in a workmanlike, get-through-the-episode sense, and Dudley Simpson’s synthesizer score feels somewhat detached. The whole thing is a bit of a muddle.

But the pieces are good: The Axos’ design is stellar, and the physical set piece of their ship and its entrance are super cool and appropriately “alien” looking. And while the general plot device (“We’re friendly! Help us disseminate our friendly gifts, which won’t at all assist us in taking over the world!”) is sort of cliche by this point, the political jumble in which a governmental gladhander all-too eagerly jumps on the opportunity to make England look good by being first in this Axos / Earth partnership, while The Doctor and Lethbridge-Stewart are still trying to figure things out, is amusing. The final episode team-up between Doc and Master is another bright spot – momentarily, this concluding part hits on a goofy bit of synced up energy that would’ve been nice to have perpetuate through the whole serial.

Enjoyable, yes, just ultimately a bit of a muddle of been-there-done-that.