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Everyone has their childhood stories, and for many, including me, Spearhead from Space is among them.
It’s one of the best Doctor Who stories of all time, full stop. It has everything, a great villain, a great Doctor, a great companion, a great everything. I honestly can’t praise it enough.
It’s also extremely refreshing. As much as I love the Troughton era, I think we needed a change, and this story perfectly provides that.
This story is very simple, an alien intelligence that can control plastic wants to take over Earth and destroy the human race. There’s no big twist, no shock value, its simple, yet terrifying. The Autons have to be one of the creepiest Doctor Who monsters ever, just a mannequin wearing a boiler suit. The way they walk and run stiffly, the way they show no body language, it just gets to me. The sequence of the Autons going rampage in the city is amazing, and is one of the trademark moments in Classic Who. The Nestene’s puppet, Channing, is played incredibly by Hugh Burden. Channing goes down in my books as one of the most amazing villains, along with Mavic Chen, Tobias Vaughn and Harrison Chase.
We also get to see the new Doctor for the first time, Jon Pertwee. From the word go, he plays the role expertly, sliding into the Second Doctor’s shoes instantly (and literally!). He has some great moments in this story, such as when he meets the Brigadier for the first time, and the battle at the end.
This story also properly introduces us to the UNIT Family who we follow for the rest of the Jon Pertwee era. The Brigadier is an excellent character, and it is no wonder that he’s considered one of the greatest characters in Doctor Who. The new companion, Liz Shaw, played by the late Caroline John, is on top form and is one of my favourite companions. The UNIT headquarters looks great here, and it gives off a real sense of command and military.
I never usually comment on this, but I love the sets used for this story. The steaming factory, the English forests, the grasslands, the tents, Madam Tussauds, the offices. It just all works together and creates an amazing atmosphere.
And the direction...I love the way this is shot. The camera angles are expertly done, my favourite shot being when the Brigadier looks through the glass and sees the twisted face of Channing. That shot is incredible.
I won’t go much into the script, as I would be going on for hours, but Robert Holmes is the best Doctor Who writer. No one has ever come close to writing scripts as expertly as he has done. This narrative flows smoothly, is fast-paced and well-written. Everything works well together.
I literally have no criticisms. This story is perfect.
In conclusion, Spearhead from Space is one of the best Doctor Who stories ever produced. It is no wonder that Bob Holmes was asked back next series to write another Auton story.