The Claws of Axos, otherwise known as The One With The Spaghetti Men showcases The Master’s first dodgy alien alliance since escaping Earth at the end of Mind of Evil. I don’t go a bundle on viewing marathons so can’t vouch for it personally but I can imagine that by this time at least part of the audience back in 1971 were going “oh gawd, not him again!”. I’ve always said that the Doctor’s exile was a missed storytelling opportunity and having the Master in every story of Season Eight, and almost every episode, is, in hindsight, a bad idea.
The Master makes very little contribution to the story, other than to help the Doctor nobble the Axons from about the midpoint of the story. Admittedly there’s some nice interplay between them, particularly when Dr Jon looks like he’s going to leg it and abandon Earth but The Master’s presence isn’t absolutely essential to the story. The Doctor could have nobbled Axos on his own so why is The Master there at all? If Letts & Dicks had kept the Master out of both this and Colony In Space it would have had an even bigger impact when he turned up in The Daemons. Having him get his arse kicked by The Doctor in every story of Season Eight somewhat diminishes him as a character. And that way lies the land of Ainley, and we all know what happens there…
The theme of the story is greed, flagged up pretty clearly when Axos tells us that that’s what Axonite is bait for. So far, so obvious, even down to the not so subtle “all that glitters is not gold” use of colour – Axos’ yellow interior and the gold-faced humanoid versions of the Axons themselves. And when the Axons are revealed in their true form they ain’t gold but a sort of rusty orange, symbolising the corrosive nature of greed. Unless I’m reading too much into it of course.
The first thing I knew would get the chop in this Fan Edit was that stupid bloody comedy tramp, meaning his only contribution to the story is to clock Axos, get up close for a butchers and then get done in. I tried cutting him out altogether but it didn’t work so I had to settle for turning his comic relief role into a brief cameo instead!
I combined both the tramp’s Axos scenes into one and had Filer listen to “Man In A Suitcase” on his radio on the way to the landing site. Quite why he tunes in to UNIT’s radio frequency when he already knows where the alien ship has landed is beyond me but I couldn’t not have the scene in the edit as cutting from Pigbin sodding Josh getting grabbed to him being analysed by Axos was too abrupt, so it had to stay. Having done that it was then time to go to the studio reel and see what we could include from that – this Fan Edit was sourced from the original release of Axos, not the SE, and there are a couple of scenes not in the TX version for you to spot. I also took the opportunity to restore the original version of the tramp’s corpse collapsing, the one they shot on location that Ronnie Marsh, Barry Letts’ boss, vetoed as too gruesome but it’s actually quite mild and a pretty effective effect for 1971.
With all these changes and additions, we still end up with about 16m of part one in the final edit. Part Two was pretty straight forward and getting it down to about 10m posed no real problems until the cliffhanger, which featured what can only be described as a menacing orange duvet attacking the Doctor and Jo before the Axons turn up. Even less convincing than the Orange Ogron Monster of Frontier In Space, that was always going to get cut! Most of the runaround in Part Three is to do with Chinn and his politicking which isn’t nearly as interesting as blobby orange tentacle men zapping soldiers. And it doesn’t help that Dr Jon is stuck in the Axon ship for a whole episode, but we still manage to get the regulation ten minutes out of the ep before hitting Part Four at about 37m in.
It takes the Dr and Jo a lot less time to get out of Axos and then it’s straight onto the most engaging part of the final ep. And no, I don’t mean a rather dodgy attack on Yates and Benton in a Landrover that’s not only blatant padding, but a sequence that clearly didn’t get completed on location. I mean the Doctor’s attempt to both trap Axos and escape from Earth, the naughty boy. And that all in 50m!