Starring Jon Pertwee as the Doctor with Katy Manning as Jo Grant, Roger Delgado as the Master and Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, this is the first Doctor Who serial by “The Bristol Boys”, Dave Martin and Bob Baker, who together would go on to script some of the show’s most memorable stories and of course create K9.
Back in 1971, however, they were given their first chance by script editor Terrance Dicks, and the result is a wildly visual and psychedelic experience, some of which wouldn’t be out of place in an early Pink Floyd promo film.
The Claws of Axos
One of the early titles for this story is The Vampire from Space, and this should give you a clue as to the intentions of the evil Axons. When a spacecraft approaches Earth – avoiding attempts to attack it – it buries itself on a beach in the south west of England, where it causes wild weather conditions and kills a local bumpkin, Pigbin Josh. With UNIT forces, the Doctor, scientists, a CIA agent on the trail of the Master and a meddling politician called Chinn all arriving to investigate and make contact, the Axons kickstart their plan.
Using a simple bait and switch manoeuvre, perpetual motion is offered in exchange for residency. In actual fact, of course, the offered Axonite won’t help to feed the starving of Earth – instead it will be positioned around the globe in order for Axos (a single spacefaring entity) to siphon life and energy into itself. This huge space vampire has been led to Earth by none other than the Master, and it is only with his help that the Doctor can defeat Axos and the Brigadier overcome the career-based meddling of Mr Chinn.
What’s New in the Special Edition
If you already own a copy of The Claws of Axos on DVD, you might be thinking “why do I need another?” (although of course being a Doctor Who fan, this thought probably hasn’t crossed your mind.) The point of this release is that previously some of the episodes (two and three) were of lower quality, having existed only in NTSC format. With this release, the picture quality has been improved throughout (on a quality TV you will notice that it is almost as good as standard definition gets) and this is due to the Restoration Team combining colour from the Reverse Standards Conversion with information from remastered black and white film recordings. With the addition of VidFIRE restoration to smooth things out and re-present the footage with a video “look”, the end result is something that you’re really going to have to see for yourself!
Commentary – entertaining as always is Katy Manning (Jo Grant) with Richard Franklin (Captain Yates) and producer Barry Letts. This is the commentary from the original release.
Axon Stations! The cast and crew look back at the making of the story. Heavily features Bernard Holley who played the main, male Axon in the serial.
Now & Then – narrated by Katy Manning, this is a slow-paced, interesting look at the locations used in The Claws of Axos, contrasting how they appeared in 1971 with how they are now.
Directing Who – Director Michael Ferguson recalls his work on The Claws of Axos. Anyone interested in visual effects and how they were achieved in the 1970s should spend some time with this featurette; Ferguson speaks with authority and conviction about the psychedelic effects in this serial.
Studio Recording – a new feature to this special edition, this is the earliest surviving Doctor Who studio recording (complete with studio chatter, recording breaks and VT run-ups) presented here in its entirety!
Living with Levene – in spending a weekend with actor John Levene, Toby Hadoke hopes to find out more about the Sgt Benton actor. Levene is a fascinating character, recently returned to the UK after years in the United States to look after his elderly mum. What occurs here is certainly memorable, revealing John to be a warm and naturally eccentric character.
Easter Egg – hidden away on Disc One is an extra from the 2005 release, Reverse Standards Conversion: The Axon Legacy. Explaining the origins of the process (a requirement by the BBC to show NTSC footage of the 1968 Olympic Games from Mexico) this is a nice bonus that remains fascinating despite not being in the published list of extras. To find it, click left from Audio Options with your remote control.
In addition the discs include Deleted and Extended Scenes, Radio Times Listings (viewable on a computer equipped with a DVD-ROM), Programme Subtitles, Production Information Subtitles, the all-important Photo Gallery, a Coming Soon Trailer for The Legacy Collection and of course digitally remastered picture and sound quality, as described above.
We’ve had so many great Doctor Who DVDs in 2012. Until now my favourite had been the new version of Day of the Daleks, but with this special edition of The Claws of Axos I’m now conflicted… All I can really do is say to the guys in the Restoration Team: keep up the outstanding work!
If you haven’t already got your copy of The Claws of Axos Special Edition it can be ordered new for £13.36 on Amazon.