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Doctor Who: The Claws Of Axos

BBC Worldwide // Unrated // November 13, 2012
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted December 5, 2012 | E-mail the Author
The Show:
Originally released on DVD in 2003, the Restoration Team has taken a second pass at a classic Jon Pertwee story, The Claws of Axos, and the results are excellent.  A great story coupled with an improved image and some good new extras makes this a wonderful addition to any Doctor Who collection.

When a spaceship lands in England near a nuclear power plant, the government bureaucrat on site, Mr. Chin, wants to blow it up.  Luckily UNIT and The Doctor are there to stay his hand and talk some sense into the reactionary man who is trying to make a name for himself.  That's good, because Chin soon changes his tune after he, along with The Doctor, Jo, and the Brig meet the Axons.  They are gold-skinned people with bodies that resemble statues of Greek gods, and they quickly announce that they are not here to invade.  The Axons are running low on fuel and in exchange for some they'll give the Earth a quantity of Axonite, a substance that can duplicate anything. It will instantly solve the world's food problem and Chin leaps at the chance to take the substance for Britain.
It is all a ruse, of course.  The Axon ship and the Axons themselves are all made of Axonite and they don't want to trade with humanity, they want to suck the Earth dry of all of its energy.  The Axonite is the tool that's used to drain the energy, and by shipping it all over the world, Chin is actually helping the invaders.
To add another wrinkle into the plot, the Axons were led to Earth by The Master, The Doctor's foe, who was captured by the aliens and used the Earth's abundant life as a way to gain his freedom.  Only it looks like the Axons won't live up to their end of the bargain so The Master escapes from their ship, leaving his TARDIS behind.

Meanwhile The Doctor discovers just how dangerous Axonite is by accidently triggering its growth phase.  The Axons on the ship sense this, and send a team to capture the Doctor and Jo, and once they realize they have a Time Lord, they decide to extract the secrets of time travel out of him so they can feed across the whole of the cosmos, past, present and future.  If he doesn't cooperate, they promise to torture his companion.
This is an excellent story for a few reasons.  First, being only four episodes, it's nice and tight.  I've complained about some of the six-story adventures in the past because they tend to drag and feel padded, but this one starts off running and never stops.  They also have a nice premise with the Axons.  Instead of aliens launching an all-out attack the way the Daleks often do, the Axons are a bit more subtle and devious.  That's nice to see in a Doctor Who adventure.
Roger Delgado (The Master) and Jon Pertwee have a wonderful amount of chemistry on screen and they really play off each other well in this story.  When they have to work together are some of the best moments in this installment and some of the twists and double crosses, while not totally unexpected, are a lot of fun to watch.

Finally, the creatures look great.  Doctor Who is famous for its lousy monsters but that isn't the case here.  The Axons in their 'human' form make sense... they'd want to look like we do though slightly different, while their native state is wonderfully bizarre.  Yes, they're obviously men in suits, but their root-like limbs and crazy tentacles manage to look alien while making the form fit the purpose.  Even years later the special effects department would have trouble matching these monsters (I'm looking at you Invasion of the Dinosaurs.)
The DVD:

This release is a two-disc affair. The five-episode story is on disc one while the second one is reserved for the bulk of the special features.
This show comes with the original mono soundtrack that fits the show just fine.  The dynamic range is nothing to write home about, but the dialog is generally crisp and clear and there is no background noise, tape hiss, distortion or dropouts.  There are optional subtitles in English.
The full-frame color image looks very good, and is an improvement over the original release which has some problems when there was a lot of motion in the picture.  I've been pleased with all of the classic releases that I've seen, and this one is no different.  The colors are solid and the detail is good.  There aren't any common encoding errors either.  A nice looking disc. 
All of the extras from the original release are included in this set, which is very nice to see.  It's horrible when you have one extra you really like on an earlier release.  In addition there are some great new features too.
First off is a commentary track (from the original release) by Barry Letts and actors Katy Manning and Richard Franklin.  I have to admit this wasn't my favorite Who commentary track.  The trio spend a bit of time laughing at the effects and on-screen action.  I don't think the story is as goofy or campy and they seem to think it is.
As for video items, Axon Stations! is the making for featurette for this episode.  They always do a top-notch job on these, and this in no exception.  Some of the surviving cast members are recorded as well as the director and one of the writers.  It was funny listening to Katy Manning talk about how the lead Axon walked funny because he had to hide his "dangly bits" in the skin-tight leotard he had for an outfit.
There are two related extras next.  The Deleted and Extended Scenes is something of a misnomer.  The original shooting footage for the first episode still exists, so they incorporated the scenes that ended up on the editing room floor back into episode one.  If that's not enough for you, the second disc contains the entire 72-minute shoot!
Directing Who is an interview with the director Michael Ferguson that runs about 15 minutes, and Now and Then is a look at the shooting locations.
The best bonus on this disc is Living with Levene, where Toby Hadoke, who is no stranger to viewers of the Doctor Who releases, spends the weekend with John Levene who played Sgt. Benton.  Levene is an interesting character in real life and I really enjoyed this extended look at his life.
In addition there is a pop-up informational text option which is very informative as always.   It does give some dry statistics, like how many people viewed each episode, but there are also some interesting notes such as script changes that were made and background information on the supporting characters.  The extras are rounded off with storyboard comparison, a trailer for the story, a photo gallery, and the listing from the Radio Times in .pdf format.
Final Thoughts:
This is a classic adventure featuring the third Doctor and is a lot of fun.  If you've never seen a Pertwee story, this would be a good place to start.  An excellent story, great extras, and a solid presentation make this one a winner.  Highly Recommended.
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Highly Recommended

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