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    Dr Who - Claws Of Axos
    BBC/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 98 mins . PG . PAL

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    Beware of geeks bearing gifts.

    It's England of the swinging 60s. And you'll never guess, but a strange UFO has just landed on a desolate Dungerness moorscape right next to a nuclear reactor.

    The UFO is quickly identified as an FO. A spaceship. It bears aliens with it -- handsome, golden-glowing aliens who kindly want to give the Earth a special gift, of a miracle green gooey substance called Axonite, which can do just about anything.

    Luckily for us Doctor Who is on the scene, along with his charming but stupidly ineffective companion Jo (Katy Manning) and the unflappable Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney). They'll sort out those Axons -- or will they? The aliens have a special 'guest', or rather, prisoner, the Doctor's chief time-travelling foe, The Master (Roger Delgado). Will the combination of Axons and The Master prove too powerful for our Doctor? Is this the end of Planet Earth?

    The Claws of Axon was originally titled The Vampire from Space, but the title was changed and the story and effects watered down somewhat in a bid to make the series more family-friendly than previous episodes.

    But despite this self-censorship, the story rocks along in a very jolly way. Peter Bathurst is effective as a blustering, interfering politician or civil-servant who is hell-bent on seeing our planet doomed, the Brigadier is at his charmingly superior best, and Jon Pertwee seems to enjoy the over-the-top atmosphere of it all.

    The Axons are amongst the series' most splendid creations -- alien humanoids of shimmering golden hue, with a real unearthly character. Pity that when they are glimpsed in their other form, as tentacled monsters, they look like fat men wearing rubber-tendrilled suits. But then, a lot of aliens probably look like that.

    Four snappy episodes of around 25 minutes each makes this a fairly short excursion into Doctor Who fantasy-land. It's a pleasant excursion, and worth preserving on DVD this way.

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    The extras don't stack up as richly as on some other fully-featured Doctor Who discs.

    There's the now-obligatory audio commentary, from Katy Manning, Richard Franklin (an actor introduced as her love interest, though that didn't pan out) and producer Barry Letts. They have fun, though information is pretty scant.

    There are three short features. Behind the Scenes runs for almost 27 minutes, and is a surviving long unedited take, boasting the original 'Vampire' chapter heading, with fluffs, director-interventions, apologies from Jon Pertwee for coming in too early with a key line, and so forth. Nice informal stuff; a good insight to the mood and style of the production.

    Then there's a totally useless Then and Now look at film locations then and now (!), narrated by Katy Manning, and telling us that really, Dungeness still looks exactly the same now as then. Really....

    Directing Who is a 14-minute featurette presenting director Michael Ferguson talking about his experiences. He was one of the best directors; his appearance here is however very very boring indeed, except for his inadvertently humorous explanation of just why there could not be a new Doctor Who series made today.

    The most interesting featurette, though running only 10 minutes, comes from Jack Pizzey. It is about Reverse Standards Conversion, and tells how the BBC, faced with the problem that some Doctor Who episodes survive only in NTSC format, were able to reconvert that footage back to PAL without major loss in picture quality. It's more interesting than it sounds -- and reveals a major secret at the end worthy of the X-Files.

    Episodes One and Four survived in PAL format, while the middle episodes have been reverse-engineered from NTSC. The image is soft at times, but the salvage job has been very well handled, and we only know of the conversion because we've been told. Sound is very solid, though of course only mono.


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  •   And I quote...
    "Is it Worzel Gummidge? No, it's Jon Pertwee in his other great television role, as the good Doctor battling all kinds of evil on our behalf."
    - Anthony Clarke
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