Terror of the Autons

Doctor Who Big Finish Terror Autons

Uploads to this site usually take place on a Fan Edit Friday but, with the recent return of the Master in Series Eight, this time looking like Michelle Gomez, instead it’s time for our first Master Monday! And what could be more appropriate than to go right back to his/her very first appearance, back in 1971. Terror of the Autons is a curious story, one that isn’t as good as the Target novelisation would have you remember it.

And it’s not an Auton story, it’s a Master story, which is a great shame, but Roger Delgado is great as The Master and far superior to any of his successors, with possibly the singular exception of Derek Jacobi. Given that the Master would be retconned during the RTD era as completely bonkers due the constant drumming in his head, thanks for that Rassilon, that might help to explain why the Master suddenly decides to switch sides at the end and help the Doctor repel the Nestene Consciousness. And all because the Doctor says they’ll kill him too – can it really be that the Master hadn’t thought of that?

dr who 8.1 terror autons covers

Be that as it may, the other flaw in the story is the over-reliance on CSO backgrounds instead of proper sets. You get the feeling that somebody thought this lovely new toy would be a real money-saver but of course it looks like what it is, actors in front of a photo, and it destroys the on screen “reality” of the story, which is why the Target version lives on in your head instead. Comic strip-style visuals might work for something like Dick Barton, but an approach like that doesn’t work for TV Who, as the Cartmel Years testify. That said, you probably didn’t notice if you were watching in Black & White, as most of the audience probably were at that time.

On the plus side we get Katy Manning’s first story as Jo Grant and Camp Dickie Franklin as Yates, marking the start of The UNIT Gang. And one other thing of note is that the hue of the title sequence is purple rather than red. It’s incredibly Early Seventies and just screams IN COLOUR! No wonder they never used it again…

We start with the Doctor meeting Jo for the first time instead of the Master’s arrival, which means his first scene is when he shrinks Goodge. That makes for an altogether more intriguing opening and helps maintain the mystery of the character so we find out who he is when The Doctor does. Altogether there’s just under twenty minutes of part one in the final edit, mainly due to the sheer amount of setting up that needs to be done, as well as introducing both Jo and the Master to the audience. Having edited Part One, the next thing to do was to compile the rest of the episodes together, giving a total running time of roughly one hour 25 minutes.

I started editing with the final episode and worked my way forward, with the Doctor getting strangled by the telephone cable being the first thing to go – not only should the Doctor be wiser than to sit down in that chair, but Jon’s at the gurning again, and whenever he starts that I just can’t take him seriously. 

There are a few cuts to the circus sequences to keep things moving and we don’t need to see Farrell’s old dad getting done in by the devil doll, we can save that for the lab scene with Jo, where someone we care about is in danger instead of some unsympathetic toffy-nosed old duffer. 

Having made all the cuts I could, the next thing was to see if I could add in some extra music cues to those places in the story where I felt there should have been some. Locating Dudley-esque tracks wasn’t easy as he’s still in his Twiddly Synthesiser phase, the years when his music was a bit rubbish compared to what he will come up with in his far superior Mini Orchestra phase come Season Eleven. But I did manage to find a few tracks from the Creepshow soundtrack by John Harrison which I used for the sequence where the Doctor & Jo get attacked by the Auton Policemen. It’s the only bit of additional music in the edit but it is quite similar to Dudley’s stuff and helps make a rather musically sparse sequence that bit more dramatic.

terror of the autons dwm

With the hue of the end credits adjusted to match that of the opening ones, the final thing to do was to see if I could improve on the manifestation of yer actual Nestene Consciousness, which here looks suspiciously like nothing more than a hand in a white glove, slightly de-focussed. It’s completely rubbish, a real-let down, and not a patch on Allan Willow’s illustration for the Target book. Was it really beyond them to have some sort of Quatermass-type monster model? The solution to negating this rubbish effect was to locate some octopus footage and green screen that over the top of the original so that the spangly fuzzy white glove thing looks like some sort of energy glow instead of a spangly fuzzy white glove thing…


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5 thoughts on “Terror of the Autons

  1. It’s amazing that today someone can manage to make a better effect on their home computer for free than what the BBC’s special effects department could do 40 or so years ago.

    1. haha! I thenk yaw, glad you liked it. I always wanted to do something a bit more like the novelisation, can’t believe Baz Letraset settled for a fuzzy glove!

  2. I think that the trouble with multi-cam filming is that it often doesn’t lend itself to visual creativity. If you look at stories such as the Caves Of Androzani or just the location shooting on film, you tend to see a lot more creativity in the camera work.

  3. great work although I think you should have left the telephone cord strangling the Doctor and the troll doll killing farrel in

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