Doctor Who: Terror of the Autons (part three)

Last night’s episode, while “super duper scary,” did not produce any nightmares. I asked our son about it today and he said “Nope! I didn’t have a bad dream. I only had one dream, and it was about ice cream.” Nevertheless, when the Auton troll doll came back to life in tonight’s episode, he was back behind the sofa like a rocket.

For a long time in the eighties, the carnival-headed Autons were the only ones we had photos of. I love the delightful garish fellows in their “Plastic Comes to Town” bus, giving out the strange plastic daffodils. Although it did mean that I pictured these big-headed guys when I read the Terrance Dicks’s novelization of their first appearance, “Spearhead from Space,” which was entitled Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion. When I saw “Spearhead” some time later, at a Terminus TARDIS meeting at Emory, I was surprised to see those Autons were shop window mannequins with normal-sized heads.

This story’s writer, Robert Holmes, is often praised for how well he created worlds and backgrounds in dialogue without resorting to clumsy exposition. Probably only Douglas Adams did it as well as Holmes. Over these three episodes, we’ve seen so much about the Farrell family with so little screen time devoted to them. I didn’t really connect all the dots until Tat Wood pointed them out in volume 3 of About Time, but isn’t it strange that John Farrell and Mr. McDermott are so set in their ways that they don’t want Colonel Masters as a customer, even though the old plastics factory is clearly failing, running at less than half capacity, and this mysterious colonel is, on the surface, going to keep them at full production? The elder Farrell retires, their son turns the dying business around, and these two idiots can only think that Rex, played by Michael Wisher, must have done something wrong. Well, it turns out that he did, and he gets both of them killed, but their first instinct when they hear “revolutionize” is “Oh, God, what has Rex done now?”

I also note that there is no indication that Rex has visited his mother in the wake of his father’s murder. They must have had a grim and unhappy life, and then the Master came and made it even worse.

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