Doctor Who
The Claws of Axos

Starring: Jon Pertwee
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: U
Available 25 April 2005

A strange alien craft crashes into the Earth, its occupants seemingly friendly. However, what initially appears to be an unthreatening alien community - its members first offer mankind unimaginable wealth - soon reveals itself to be a deadly threat to humanity that intends to drain the planet of all its energy and then steal the Doctor's knowledge of time travel...

The Claws of Axos is a good example of what can be achieved when you start the story running and maintain that breathless pace for four episodes - you can get away with murder and no one notices. At no point in the story does it occur to the writers or production staff to try and establish any internal logic - from start to finish everything on screen is in the service of the moment rather than the narrative.

The first hint of this approach appears within seconds of the start of episode one. We're given a glimpse of the Axon monsters even before they've arrived on Earth. This immediately ruins the moment when the Doctor and his companions realise that the human-like creatures that first walked from the alien craft have a secret identity - we already know that.

The tramp sequence, featuring the bizarrely named Pigbin Josh, may have been intended as a moment of comic relief but is so over the top it ruins any underlying atmosphere. In looking for a quick laugh the production loses sight of the longer-term objective of slowly building the tension to the first cliff hanger.

Before too long the whole story is a revolving door of chase sequences, military machinations and scientific gobbledegook that mask the story's single interesting element - the greed of politicians and the associated moral naivety that accompanies it when offered unimaginable power. Sadly, by making the sole representative of the UK government such a buffoon it is impossible to imagine the level of political scheming that appears to be driving his actions.

But it's not all bad. We get a goodly helping of The Master (although his appearance in the story adds little), UNIT, a great-looking alien threat, some fine action sequences, and best of all, we get the Doctor acting in what appears to be a morally ambiguous way. This all adds up to a story that is very colourful and rattling good fun but there's no chance of The Claws of Axos standing up to close inspection.

The same, thankfully, can't be said of this DVD - it withstands the closest inspection and is never found wanting. There's a great feature on the restoration of the story, a slew of outtakes and missing scenes, some excellent photographs, a very tidy set of production subtitles and a commentary track that is also pretty good. So while the story doesn't score top marks, its presentation on disc certainly does.

Anthony Clark

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