Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space (part two)

Another first appearance in this Doctor Who serial: John Woodnutt, who will appear in at least two more Who serials in the years ahead, joins the cast as Hibbert, the manager of a plastics factory that’s been taken over by Channing and his as-yet-unnamed Autons. We meet the mannequins for the first time in this episode: a small group of bald and eyeless shop dummies that dress in dark blue denim suits. The cliffhanger, in which an ex-employee of the factory makes his way into his old lab to find it full of strange equipment and motionless Autons, is one that’s much loved by fans. When one of the Autons slowly reacts and walks toward the intruder, our son was up like a rocket. “What’s going to happen?!” he shouted.

But he was quite clear that the ending was one of only two parts that he enjoyed. “This is not too exciting,” he explained, although he really did love the bit where the Doctor has a quick bath and leaves the cottage hospital after stealing some other peoples’ clothes, and a big fancy red car. Otherwise, it’s not engaging him quite as much so far.

Speaking of mannequins, I do want to recommend that everybody buy the upgraded Special Edition DVD of this story, even if you have the original R1 release already. I’ve never felt like I had the disposable income to purchase all the many Special Editions that they’ve released, but early last year I decided to finish my DVD collection and was first annoyed to see that I’d waited too long and missed the R1 edition of “Terror of the Autons,” and, out of print, it was then going for $100 on Amazon, and secondly annoyed that in the UK, “Terror” was issued in a box set with the Special Edition of “Spearhead” called Mannequin Mania. You can’t get one without the other.

But the annoyance was short-lived, because they did an amazing job restoring a serial that had always looked perfectly good, I thought. But now the colors just pop out and it looks amazingly vibrant. It honestly looks like it was shot on 35mm film instead of 16mm, and the only annoyance left afterward was realizing that the rest of the series is going to be on that blasted British videotape instead of looking as fabulous as this every week.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space (part two)

  1. Andrew Brown

    There’s also a Blu-Ray edition, which looks even better – worth it even if, like I had, you’ve already bought this story 3 times…

  2. It’s funny, I’ve always felt what your son does about this episode being somewhat uninspiring. Elsewhere John Pertwee is wonderful as the odd figure (such as when he takes his 500 year diary out of his pocket or recites the alien lullaby about closing three of your eyes). I have always guessed that the hospital setting didn’t leave him enough scope to be, well, Doctor Who, and his contrariness is too reminiscent of a carry on film. I’d be interested to hear what you think.

    • Oh, I think it’s huge fun. I love the way he dismisses some of the clothes and hats that he pilfers, and figures out how to control the car that he steals. I think you’re right and that he’s not quite the Doctor yet, but his furtive, frantic lunacy before he settles down is the template for several other actors’ first Doctor Who story.

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