Shows - Review
Doctor Who (1963-1989)
Episode: Spearhead from Space (Part 1)
Review by: Michael Hickerson
As I was reviewing the premiere Pertwee story a few nights ago, about halfway through, a thought struck me--watching Spearhead from Space is like watching the pilot for a new TV show. A lot of the elements you will later come to know and love are there, but they just aren't there in the form you recognize yet. In four episodes, Doctor Who is trying to re-invent itself-- taking elements from the past and coupling them with some new ideas for the future.
Possibly the biggest innovation is this is the first Who story made in color. And coming away from the story this time, I observed that it really had the feel of a Troughton era story that had been colorized. And you get the feeling the production staff hadn't quite got the whole process down just yet. There are a lot of moments that where the dialogue is difficult to hear and the sound quality has an echo to it. Add to it that there are a lot of open rooms and spaces and the Auton's factory is identical the one used by Vaughn in The Invasion and you get the feeling that the crew is experimenting and seeing what not only the limitation of this new color filming is but also the new wonders.
Overall, though, the story is a rather sound one, by one of the best Who scribes, Robert Holmes. Holmes finds a balance of the Auton invasion plot and the third Doctor's introduction that works rather well. Holmes will later refine the Autons a bit and give them a bit more depth in Terror of the Autons, but they work rather well here. And they are rather horrifying. The grisly scene in the woods with the Auton stepping out in front of the UNIT truck and the scene where they come to life are two moments from Who that are burned into my memory.
And Spearhead becomes a template of sorts for other regeneration stories -- you've got the new Doctor who must go on a journey of self-discovery while he's lost his memory and must convince those who know him that this change has occurred. Holmes does a good job here of putting these elements into play.
Of course, for me, Spearhead is loaded with unintentionally funny moments, probably the best being when Monroe asks the Brigadier if they can have live ammo. My response is, "As opposed to what? Those fake bullets we'd been using until now?" Seasons seven and eight are when UNIT is at the height of being considered a serious military group and not just a comic foil for the Doctor. I like them here, even if at times they seem a bit unprofessional. (The Silurians will take care of cementing them as feeling like a military unit!)
So, overall, Spearhead frpm Space is an interesting story to view in the context of the Pertwee years overall. It's a pilot that serves to introduce to the new Doctor and tell a decent alien invasion story. All that in just four episodes. Not bad.
As an ending note...if there are some of you out there who are reluctant to take the plunge into DVD, let me say that the Spearhead DVD is simply superb. The color and sound have never been better and it really does put the old commercial VHS release to shame. There are also some nice extras and a decent commentary on the episodes. Definitely worth the price of admission!
Last Updated: 10/25/2006
Other Reviews by Michael Hickerson
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