A new Doctor (Jon Pertwee) falls to Earth and falls in with UNIT in Spearhead From Space. Alien Autons take control of a plastics factory, aiming to dominate the planet with devious duplicates. In the sequel, Terror of the Autons, renegade Time Lord the Master attempts to bend the plastic fiends to his own ends…
At the end of the 1960s Doctor Who was dying. As ably recounted in the stylish documentary Down to Earth: Filming Spearhead From Space, the series was almost cancelled at the end of Patrick Troughton’s tenure. The show was re-commissioned—in colour and with Jon Pertwee as the lead—but only for the lack of any replacement. Derrick Sherwin maybe overstates his claim to be the driver of the reinvented show, but Terrance Dicks is good value as always. The success of the brash new Earthbound series ensured a long run, and Spearhead From Space introduced the Autons, then-new villains that have recurred in recent episodes. Other extras, alongside the remastered episodes and dual commentaries, include Regenerations about the challenges involved in the switch to making the series in colour.
Terror of the Autons saw the plastic predators return the following year, with a new ally in tow. Famously, this serial introduced the Master, a character dissected in The Doctor’s Moriarty. Life on Earth recounts the making of the serial, interestingly contrasting the process of making the show in the 1970s with how it’s made now. Additionally, Plastic Fantastic examines how Doctor Who often makes the mundane into nightmares.
Verdict: Two classic Pertwee adventures, both very important to the ongoing success of Doctor Who, packaged with some great informative extras.
Doctor Who Mannequin Mania: 8/10
Brian J. Robb
Order this through Amazon.co.uk: Doctor Who: Mannequin Mania Box Set – Spearhead from Space / Terror of the Autons [DVD]