View Poll Results: How would you rate Spearhead From Space?

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12. You may not vote on this poll
  • 10: Thunderballs I calls 'em

    4 33.33%
  • 9: We deal with the odd... the unexplained. Anything on Earth... or beyond

    5 41.67%
  • 8: We've drawn attention to ourselves

    0 0%
  • 7: Be very useful on the planet Delphon

    2 16.67%
  • 6: I suppose they must have been meteorites... mustn't they?

    0 0%
  • 5: Channing is your enemy

    0 0%
  • 4: Smith, Doctor John Smith

    1 8.33%
  • 3: Shoes!

    0 0%
  • 2: Little blue men with three heads

    0 0%
  • 1: If there's a story you'll be given it later

    0 0%
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  1. #1
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    Default Rate and Discuss: Spearhead From Space



    We're straight down to Earth with a new Doctor, a new format and some terrifying new enemies, the Autons.

    Plastic fantastic or a cheap dummy? You decide!

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

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    Some things about "Spearhead":

    - This is a very scary story. The bit where the Auton is rampaging through the woods and COMING TO GET POOR MRS SEELEY is one of the most terrifying things in Doctor Who ever. Another is the bit where poor, dribbling Mr Ransom leaves the factory and the Auton RUNS AFTER HIM. RUNS LIKE A MAN BUT ISN'T.

    - People say all Doctor Who should have been on film. They are wrong. Yes, it doesn't look cheap but the filmed interior locations have an utterly charmless, documentary type feel to them. The voices echo, and there's no atmosphere at all. It's all a bit "too real".

    - The ending is lamentable. A rubber Octopus and a doubrey to plug in and kill the Nestenes. It's beginning to look like all style over substance isn't it?

    - But let's be positive. The concept of the Nestenes is great. The scene where they jerk into life and break through shop windows is the sort of thing I'd have wanted to see in a script at the time - it's a bit of Robert Holmes fantasy that the rest of the season could have done with; if only he'd written two stories this year? It's the combination of expensive looking visuals and genuinely great fantasy ideas that makes this a great adventure. There are brilliant concepts like the Doctor and Liz hiding among waxworks and the Plastic Scoby coming to kill "himself". It doesn't dwell too long on research centres or science, and that's good.

    - The William Hartnell cameo is a lovely gift

    - At the time, you'd think that from now on Doctor Who was always going to look like a hard-hitting documentary style drama series wouldn't you? You'd have got a real shock when the rubber monsters arrived in "Doctor Who and the Silurians".

    - How different does John Woodnut look here from all his other roles? He's unrecognisable

    - Freeze frame is required to determine what outfit the Doctor is wearing as he tumbles from the TARDIS. Does he, as per Tenth Planet, regenerate his costume? Perhaps he does and this new "lost" outfit is forever unseen, as the next time we see him the hospital has changed him into nightclothes. Or is he wearing Troughton's rig-out?

    - "Spearhead" is a great, great script with some well realised monsters, given a glossy but charmless "sheen" by its film recording. It looks well buff, but you wouldn't want every Doctor Who to look this clinical.

    Si.

  3. #3
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    Yes, it doesn't look cheap but the filmed interior locations have an utterly charmless, documentary type feel to them
    Spearhead" is a great, great script with some well realised monsters, given a glossy but charmless "sheen" by its film recording. It looks well buff, but you wouldn't want every Doctor Who to look this clinical.
    I've often wondered if this is a Derek Martinus thing, as I find all his stories- Tenth Planet, Ice Warriors in particular have that feel to them- like your watching them but it's hard to get involved in the story. he has a very documenatray feel to his direction, which i think works in this story really well. It makes it feel very different to the Doctor Who that's gone before (and as you say Si, to the Doctor Who that's about to follow it). He's not one of my favourite DW directors.

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

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    - The William Hartnell cameo is a lovely gift
    At the risk of putting my foot in it... you do know it's not him don't you Si?

    I haven't seen Spearhead in ages, but can remember the first time me & bruv watched the video back in... was it 1988 this one came out? I often wonder what viewers thought at the time, as it seems like a totally different show almost (which, to be fair, is how every Doctor's first story SHOULD make you feel IMHO) in a more radical way than ever before or since. Pertwee in season 7 is so different to his other seasons, and there's such a freshness and joy to him here - the bit about the planet Delphon, "Did I really? How terribly exciting" - as well as still being clearly the brilliant man he always was. I love the bit where he assesses the plastic, apparently by sniffing it, and the very serious way he talks to John Woodnutt's character in the waxworks.

    Liz is great too, as is the Brig who is clearly a proper lead character in this season (on a par with Ian Chesterton, in terms of his role I'd say). Yes, the ending is a bit arbitrary (there's really no more sense to the Doctor's device than to the "antiplastic" years later) but we can probably overlook that. No, it doesn't have severed Auton limbs that still move like the book, nor do we actually see any shop windows broken (a bit of a surprise that, in 1988) but it's a heck of a striking debut for a new Doctor in a new era. And of course, I like the bit with the hats!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Si Hunt View Post

    - The William Hartnell cameo is a lovely gift

    I can't recall what this is a reference to - can somebody remind me please?

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    Apparently during the Auton Massacre scenes, there's a guy in a shed having a cup of tea with a policeman. And this guy has long white hair and looks to be in his early 60's. Could it be Hartnell? Perhaps he was just in that shed for the morning of recording.
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  7. #7
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    Spearhead from Space is absolutely superb. A brilliant introduction to Pertwee's Doctor and his Earthbound adventures. Setting up the Brigadier and UNIT in the previous season really pays off now, because we're straight into the new setup without any fuss. The story continues at pace even though the Doctor is asleep for the better part of two episodes, with the Brigadier and his men carrying the action.

    For anyone who missed the previous adventure we've got Liz Shaw, who gets to have UNIT and the threat of alien invasion explained to her. It really is brilliantly put together, yet feels totally natural.

    Then there's the new Doctor himself, who I think is a little Troughton-esque in this story. The commanding side of Pertwee's Doctor is still there, but there's an impish element to it that becomes subdued in later adventures. It's not too hard to imagine Troughton in this story, never mind the fact that the ending is EXACTLY the same as The Invasion.

    The filming is so unusual. Suddenly it's all taking place in real factories, real offices and real car parks. It's like a documentary! You'd be hard pushed to compare it with The Krotons or The Space Pirates, which were only broadcast the year before. Only The Invasion comes close, obviously.

    As has been mentioned, the Autons are brilliant and the Nestenes aren't bad either. One of Doctor Who's greatest monsters, it's amazing that we haven't seen them more often!
    Pity. I have no understanding of the word. It is not registered in my vocabulary bank. EXTERMINATE!

  8. #8
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    I've never really liked Spearhead, or this entire season to be honest.
    Iím being extremely clever up here and thereís no one to stand around looking impressed! Whatís the point in having you all?

  9. #9
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    I've never really liked Spearhead, or this entire season to be honest.
    !!!!

    What's wrong with Spearhead?! I enjoy it a great deal, but I'd be really interested to hear the case against it!
    Pity. I have no understanding of the word. It is not registered in my vocabulary bank. EXTERMINATE!

  10. #10
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    There's something truly amazing about Spearhead. There really is. I've always loved this story, and was devastated in 1996 when my grandfather accidentally taped over my off-air copy from UK Gold!

    As many of you here know, my wife and I are watching all of Doctor Who in order at the moment. In doing so, I gained a new type of appreciation of this story. When one thinks about Season 6, its stories often dragged, and were padded monstrosities. Certainly, The War Games is a fine story, but it really could've been cut down by between 2 and 4 episodes. Likewise with The Invasion. Even the six-parters seem to drag. Watching everything in order, it's no wonder that Doctor Who was under threat of cancellation by the time that Patrick Troughton left.

    So, what do we get? We get a modern, pacey story set on contemporary Earth. A new Doctor, who initially shows some likeness in personality to his predecessor, but is more similar to Hartnell than Troughton, ultimately - slightly grumpy and rather tetchy. Yet, this new Doctor is a man of action. Once he gets going, he's ready to spring up and save the day.

    This story is Robert Holmes' first truly fantastic script. He crafts the threat of the Autons along with introducing the new Doctor, the new companion and the new set-up. There's a huge amount crammed into these four episodes. They move along at a tremendous pace, and I can imagine that they would've been fairly unrelenting at the time. It really pulls the viewer in - this is one of only a few stories that Whitney has been able to watch in just one setting.

    And what of the Autons? Well, they're truly terrifying - ordinary shop mannequins, ready to spring to life and kill you. This is the sort of Doctor Who that Mary Whitehouse hated - ordinary things made dangerous. They're unrelenting, just like the story's pace. As Si Hunt said, the scene where it goes running off after Mr Ransom is just terrifying. It's rare that we see a monster that runs quite like that.

    Some have criticised the direction. I disagree - this story looks fantastic, even today, thanks to the decisions made by the director. Do any of the other early Pertwees look this fantastic? No. The picture is crisp, the colours clear. It may have a "clinical" look to it, but that's a stark contrast to the stories that came before. Imagine tuning in in 1970 to this, in glorious colour (if you were lucky enough to own a colour TV!). It must have been magnificent!

    I love this story. It truly marks the dawning of a new era of Doctor Who, in every single way. It's glorious, and gets a full 10/10 from me.

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  11. #11
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    I think DWM, reviewing the release of the old VHS, hailed it as the most adult Doctor Who story ever, in terms of its seriousness and its look I guess.

  12. #12
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    We will see if I have time and inclination to keep this review/comments on the stories going.

    Episode 1 - random thoughts:

    • There's something about the old way of telling stories on TV that's hard to get into. Who are these people and should I care about them? And why does the farmer touch the 'meteorites' once they've landed? And why are they now under undisturbed earth?
    • Yay, the TARDIS materialises and out falls Pertwee.
    • Oh look, here's the woman about town (just listen to the music!).
    • Oh, something sounds sinister here.
    • "Not a syllable" - most people would say "Not a word"
    • Oh, the Brigadier thinks he's found the Doctor.
    • Why does that cleaner look shifty?
    • And the best thing to do with a random object from space it to pick it up and take it home with you (although I suppose this is a kids program).
    • Who is that strange man hanging around the reporters?
    • Hang on - who are those guys, what do they want with the doctor and what's up with their faces?
    • Pertwee finds yet another unusual mode of transport
    • And did they just shoot the Doctor???
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  13. #13
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    And the best thing to do with a random object from space it to pick it up and take it home with you (although I suppose this is a kids program).
    Might be worth a bit, I reckons! [/VeraJundrey]

    Pertwee finds yet another unusual mode of transport
    What do you mean?! It's his very first one!
    Pity. I have no understanding of the word. It is not registered in my vocabulary bank. EXTERMINATE!

  14. #14
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    Unless you count the stretcher.

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

  15. #15

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    And what about the Brigadier's changing voice? In the first scene with Liz. There's a shot of Liz and the Brig's voice sounds like Chris Barrie doing an impression of him! And then it's back to the normal Brig voice.
    It doesn't take anything away from the story though.

  16. #16
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    Episode2

    • What the devil is going on here - a factory full of dolls (plastic, dolls for kids )
    • Something really creepy/odd is going on at the factory. That tickles me as the audience.
    • Who is that silent guy - he has some power or control over things.
    • Oh shucks - we don't see what they've done to his old workshop - although if we had, I expect he wouldn't be around for much longer
    • The Brigadier is quite talkative; compare his sentences to the short answers from Liz (although some of what the Brigadier says is to establish the scene)
    • He finally speaks!
    • So unhiding an energy unit/metorite activates a plastic shop doll to go and search for it. (That's odd, but not scary as it was lacking a suitable sound effect).
    • Ah yes, this is the best bit of the story! - where Pertwee becomes Pertwee with his clothes/get-up and Bessie! I chuckled when drove it forward, and then quickly put it into reverse.
    • If you had watched the Troughton stories they you might have got the Brigadiers line about needing the TARDIS to leave Earth and why Pertwee now couldn't. As it was, I hadn't got a clue when I first watched this.
    • And the Doctor's back - and showing his charm with the ladies! !
    • Confirmation that his workshop now contains shop-floor dolls.
    • OMG! One of them just moved (creepy sound effect!)
    • And he's seen it move!
    • Did it kill him just by sight???
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  17. #17
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    I do like the 1999 broadcast trailer.

    Spearhead From Space has always been a favourite of mine. The pacing works out very well, with enough attention given during the first two episodes to introducing the new Doctor without losing focus on the strange alien presence, so once we're familiar with him and his ways we're happy to see him take on this menace.

    The "not quite human" appearance of the Autons is excellent, and the idea of having lifesize plastic dummies as an alien threat is a brilliant one in my eyes. As has been mentioned, the scenes with them hunting Ransome, raiding the poacher's home, and of course the iconic high street rampage are both terrifying and awesome in how close to plausible reality they feel.

    Personally, I like the way the story was recorded entirely on film - I find it gives the story a very "movie-like" feel, and would happily take the whole story if given as a single part 90min introductory film to the series.

    I liked Liz as a companion - I'll accept that she wasn't the sort of "inquisitive student to the know-all mentor" that a companion should ideally serve to the Doctor, but it was nice to see someone who was happy to challenge the Doctor's scientific knowledge and (Arguably) have the credentials to do so. It's a shame she didn't get the chance to properly join him in the TARDIS, as it would have been nice to see how she coped with alien worlds.

    As for Pertwee... funnily enough, I tend not to think of Jon as "The Third Doctor", but more often as "CPO Pertwee of HMS Troutbridge". As such, I find myself more enduring of his more comedic scens (such as his escape from the hospital), but I've never been keen on how he always feels overly aggresive when confronting both enemies and allies - although given how he's now "stuck" with UNIT and coping with Lethbridge-Stewart's military ways (even when he tries to co-operate with The Doctor), this is possibly the more suitable way for him to act.


    I think the only major fault I have with the story is that episode 4 always feels a little rushed... but I'll hold comments as Phil's apparently still working his way to that episode!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dino View Post
    And what about the Brigadier's changing voice? In the first scene with Liz. There's a shot of Liz and the Brig's voice sounds like Chris Barrie doing an impression of him! And then it's back to the normal Brig voice.
    It doesn't take anything away from the story though.
    "Since UNIT was formed there have been two attempts to invade this planet" - Papa Smurf - Spearhead From Space

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob McCow View Post
    !!!!

    What's wrong with Spearhead?! I enjoy it a great deal, but I'd be really interested to hear the case against it!
    I have never been able to get into it. In fact the entire season is one of my least favourites in the entire classic series. I have never liked Liz Shaw as a companion and the location filming made most scenes echoey which puts me off a bit too.

    I know I will be on my own here, but this is not a story I rank very well at all.
    Iím being extremely clever up here and thereís no one to stand around looking impressed! Whatís the point in having you all?

  20. #20
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    I think I understand where you're coming from - It's one of those things, the whole of Season 7 has a 'tone' to it and if you can't tune into the mood of a show then you're never going to like it.

    And that can come out of loads of little things, like the echoey-ness as you say, or the lighting, or even the colours on the screen! Vile 70's brown is a huge turn-off for a lot of people!
    Pity. I have no understanding of the word. It is not registered in my vocabulary bank. EXTERMINATE!

  21. #21
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    I'm not going to mention Sil then...

    The Auton masks should look silly, but somehow they look creepy. Is it the clown factor? or a brilliant piece of design? (Both?) The gun in the hand is inspired - again, it should look silly, but on the other hand it's the ultimate concealed weapon.

    The filmic look makes it look very much of its time, but then, given the plastic dolly bird secretary, the clothes on the "showroom dummies" and Liz's getup that's just as well.

    This is where Robert Holmes really gets going - third time lucky! and again, just as well. Liz's interview is what most people might expect a job interview with the military to be, and when the Doctor turns up, this is where the fun really starts. From a Troughtonesque Pertwee who should have been seen more, to the sinister Channing, to the marvellous plot and the original concept of plastic monsters, a wonderful story perhaps only let down by the Doctor's being grabbed by the tentacles at the end. (And yes Tim, you read it right first time!)

    9/10

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob McCow View Post
    I think I understand where you're coming from - It's one of those things, the whole of Season 7 has a 'tone' to it and if you can't tune into the mood of a show then you're never going to like it.
    Absolutely, and I think that's why I don't like Matt Smith's first series very much either.
    Iím being extremely clever up here and thereís no one to stand around looking impressed! Whatís the point in having you all?

  23. #23

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    A lot of people say that Spearhead from Space is better than Terror of the Autons. However, I think the other way as the Doctor isn't involved much in Spearhead until towards the end as he spends most of the adventure recovering from his regeneration but is more involved in TOTA. (A bit like I prefer the Thunderbirds episode Operation Crash-Dive to Trapped in the Sky, as IR don't really get involved in Trapped until towards the end but are more prepared in Operation.)

    Nevertheless, I think it's a good start to the season for a new Doctor and the seventies with the Autons bursting out of the shop windows an iconic scene. 7/10

  24. #24
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    the Autons bursting out of the shop windows an iconic scene.
    The sheer genius of that scene is the way we never actually see the Autons breaking any glass whatsoever, yet you still believe it's happened! The glass-smashing was rectified on 'More Than 30 Years In The TARDIS' and 'Rose', many years later. Somehow it was never as good when you actually saw it.

    I adore the extras in those Auton attack scenes. They are some of the most 'real' seeming people to ever appear in Doctor Who, they're genuine shoppers on the street. Even documentaries at the time don't capture the social realism of these 60's / 70's extras.

    It's a long, long way from The Krotons and The Space Pirates.
    Pity. I have no understanding of the word. It is not registered in my vocabulary bank. EXTERMINATE!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob McCow View Post
    Even documentaries at the time don't capture the social realism of these 60's / 70's extras.
    Well everyone knows Harold Wilson was an out-of-work extra...

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