The Autons and the Nestene are back in the season 8 opening story for Pertwee’s Doctor, which sees a new companion at his side in the form of Jo Grant (Katy Manning). The four episode story was written by Robert Holmes and ran from 2 January to 23 January, 1973.
And minutes into the story we are introduced to another character who will cause the Doctor plenty of grief, The Master (Roger Delgado).
Liz (Caroline John) has gone back to Cambridge and the Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney) has assigned Jo as the Doctor’s new assistant. This is the first time that I can recall, that the Doctor hasn’t chosen his companion, that she/he was simply foisted upon him, and I think the Brigadier likes having a bit of power over his Scientific Consultant, as their relationship isn’t always as smooth as I expected, but is obviously based on respect.
This week, they have to dig into a case of a missing meteorite that contains part of the Nestene. It’s been stolen by the Master, who hypnotizes poor folks to follow his orders, and he intends to use the Nestene and resulting Autons.
The Doctor is warned of the Master’s arrival by a representative from the Time Lord Council. It’s an amusing scene. However, when the Doctor tracks down the Master’s TARDIS (rather easily) and steals a piece from it, marooning the Time Lord on Earth, it seems to suggest that the Doctor’s arch-nemesis may be around for a while.
In this one he allies himself with the Nestene and takes over a plastic factory, allowing the Nestene to inhabit it and create Autons, of various shapes and sizes, including a phone cable that almost strangles the Doctor. There is also a blow-up chair that does away with one of the executives, and a rather disturbing looking doll, that knows to wait patiently before making its move, and a collection of plastic-headed flower delivery men, who are the key to the Master’s plan.
The Master starts racking up his body count in this episode as he and the Doctor are already at the stage where they seem to try to constantly one-up one another. I also quite like the way he’s played by Delgado, there’s a calm, centered evil to him, and knowing the regenerations that will follow him, he definitely sets the tone.
I’m not sure how I feel about Jo yet, but it’s early days for her character so we’ll see, her hair bothers me for starters, and at the moment, she just doesn’t seem like a strong female character, but does allow Pertwee’s Doctor to be a little more paternal with her than he could with Liz. And Pertwee seems to be having a wonderful time being charming, glib and occasionally condescending to those that deserve it.
Next time around the Doctor, Jo and those able lads at UNIT, take on The Mind of Evil!