Spearhead From Space

When it came to editing this story, the first thing I knew I wanted to do was to have a  transition from Black and White to Colour at the opening. It felt right to acknowledge this major onscreen change in the show and to do so meant including the closing moments of the previous story The War Games. When I edited War Games I`d included the opening moments of Spearhead at the end of that edit so I knew the crossover from one to the other would both work and be easy to accomplish. But when I watched it back the sequence felt like it was lacking something and the answer was a brief greyscale clip of Gallifrey from a certain David Tennant story at the very start. So in that one sequence you get both versions of Old Who [Colour and Black & White] and New Who all in the one sequence.

I then beefed up the sequence with some stock music tracks – Spine Chillers and Space Time Music Part Two if you`re interested – to complete the transition from Sixties B&W Who to Seventies Who in COLOUR!

spearhead from space covers

As a final nod to the outgoing Era, I decided to use my colour version of the Pat Troughton Titles instead of the Pertwee one. For one thing, I think it’s a fundamental mistake on the part of the production team to have us see the New Doctor`s face in the Title Sequence when he hasn`t yet been seen properly in the show [they did the same thing with Tom Baker in Robot] and for another thing, it`s been sat on my hard drive doing nothing since it was uploaded to YouTube years ago. I really like it and it was nice to be able to give it an airing at last. Stylistically, it also helps to cement the notion that “this is the same show, only now it`s in COLOUR!”. And the original title is rubbish so this Fan Edit version has been retitled The Auton Invasion, in line with the Target Novelisation.

It’s strange to think that a classic like this was written by the same bloke who, only months earlier, had written the clunker that was The Space Pirates!

Yes, Spearhead is a classic but it’s a flawed classic and one that diverges quite significantly from all that has gone before, to the point where it’s almost a reboot of the series. For instance, where do the Doctor’s two hearts come from? He’s only had one up to this point when he looked like Pat and Bill, but now he looks like Jon he’s got another… was that as a result of the Timelords’ enforced regeneration? Or was it just a way for Robert Holmes to have the Doctor’s arrival get UNIT’s attention by having him so obviously biologically alien?

And while we’re talking about UNIT Dating, which we weren’t really but what the hell, where does all this bollocks about The Pertwee Era/UNIT being set further ahead than when it was made come from? Leaving aside Sarah’s Pyramids line about 1980, from a completely different production team, I don’t see anything in the Letts-Dicks Era that could give you that idea. Not that it really matters anymore, as we can put the whole Dating Controversy down to The Time War [Ah, Sir Russell Tea Gayness, Gawd Bless Ya Guv`nor!]. Anyway, it’s clearly 1969/1970 throughout Season Seven not 1979/1980 or even 1974/1975.

complete-history-24On to the story proper and there`s about 10 minutes of Episode One that made the final cut. I decided to concentrate as much as possible on the Brigadier until he meets the Doctor properly in Episode Two. So the focus of the Edit is the Brig early on.

In terms of memorable characters that aren’t the Doctor himself, it’s interesting to note that, of the others – Davros, Sarah Jane & the Brigadier – two of them come from the Pertwee Era. It’s become very fashionable in fandom of late to knock the Third Doctor’s Era, but just look at the sheer number of characters from that time in the show’s history that subsequent production teams have reintroduced. Then compare that with JNT’s time in charge…

The Brigadier certainly comes close to being the other most memorable character in the show, and here Courtney plays him with the same self-confidence that he had in The Invasion, and it’s a shame that later scripts would reduce the Brigadier to a Nigel Bruce style bumbler.

And speaking of Nigel Bruce, it’s interesting that, although the Brig would become the Watson to Pertwee’s Holmes, he starts out as a sort of John Steed figure, all twinkly eyes and knowing looks. At least that’s the vibe I get in the Brig’s early scenes with Liz Shaw, to which there are a few trims here and there as some of her reactions are a bit naff. Sorry if you’re a fan of hers but Caroline John is one of the few actresses to play a companion to leave me completely cold.

The whole point of the story for me is not Quatermass-like creepy goings on in a factory or shop window dummies coming to life but how the Brig deals with this New Doctor that isn’t Patrick Troughton; as such you want the two of them to meet up as quickly as possible. One of the consequences of that decision was the loss of the attempted kidnap that climaxed Episode One and the need to have a better reveal of the Autons themselves.

The first glimpse we get of an Auton in the TX version is a baldy bloke with a plastic face, wearing a boiler suit and clumping about in the woods. Creepy though those sequences are, I felt it would make them even more effective if we saw the Auton behind Ransome coming to life first before we see the Auton in the woods. When you think about it, it`s a pretty poor reveal, so the climax of the episode gets brought forward to improve things. The natural place to do it was at the jump cut in the middle of the first scene between Liz and the Brig in the UNIT lab.

spearhead from space dwm

The Autons themselves are nice and creepy, putting you in mind, if you’d seen them, of the Cybernauts from The Avengers, so it’s a shame they became mere cyphers alongside the Master the following year in the follow up Terror of the Autons, which it wasn’t. That said, you could argue that Channing is merely a proto-Master but either way this is a far superior story to the sequel. And the reason for that is that the Autons play to all those childhod fears of the inanimate becoming animate, the opposite of the Toy Story cuteness of our toys coming to life when we’re not looking! They’re zombie-ish with their blank, expressionless faces and derive their scare factor not from the fact that they look like Kojak in a boiler suit, but that, unlike The Walking Dead, these buggers can’t half shift!

There`s about 14 minutes of footage from Episode Two and after the Doctor`s line “Question is… where?” we`re into the stuff from Episode Three. There`s 18 minutes of this in the final edit. That`s quite a lot, mainly due to one thing leading to another; that`s a sign of good writing and makes a lot of this episode the sort of thing you can`t get rid of even if you don`t like it. By comparison, the attempted abduction of the Doctor at the end of Episode One has no real consequences or impact on the story so you can easily lose it.

The only real knock-on effect of dropping it was losing that nice little exchange between Liz and the Brig after the Doctor legs it in the stolen motor, which was a shame but the cost in terms of extra footage was too high. The general rule is that if it advances the story it stays, if it doesn`t it goes. That said, we don`t really need the scene where the Doctor tries to sneak off in the Tardis but it`s a nice character scene in its own right, plus it ties into the very start with Pat`s demise – so it stays in.

We`re at 42 minutes in when we hit Episode Four, which is almost unchanged bar a few trims here and there, with the exception of the finale. I know it was Jon`s first story and his Doctor is slightly comic in places, but his gurning with all those foam tentacles at the climax has to be one of the worst realised sequences ever in the show`s history. So in this version the Doctor`s gizmo works first time and Channing simply melts instead of changing his appearance at the turn of a knob! When you watch it you might think it`s a bit abrupt but remember it`s what would have happened had the Doctor been plugged in from the start…

To end with I`ve used the colour version of the closing titles I`ve used on all my Pat Troughton Fan Edits but with the proper Pertwee font. I don`t normally do a full set of closing credits for anyone except Bill & Pat but here I`ve made an exception just this once. Doing the titles this way reinforces the fact that it`s the end of an Era; let`s just pretend that Sherwin decided to use a colourised version of the title sequence they`d always used and left the decision on a new one to his successor.

This was a fairly straightforward Edit, completed over one weekend, that I reckon makes an already good story just that little bit better.




3 thoughts on “Spearhead From Space

  1. Since this one was filmed on actual proper film, there is an HD version out there. Is this fan edit based on the HD release?

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