Doctor Who: The Claws of Axos
Directors - Michael Ferguson
Cast - Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Roger Delgado
Country of Origin - U.K.
Distributor - BBC Worldwide
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
Date - 12/17/12
The Serial (3.5/5)
And so the Revisitations continue this time with The Claws of Axos special edition. This is a classic Jon Pertwee Doctor Who episode from the early 70's. The Claws of Axos was originally released back in 2005, and was seen fit to be revisited due to being one of the few classic Doctor Who episodes not to go through a more modern restoration process that would bring the serial in line with the more recent DVD releases as far as A/V quality is concerned.
The episode is considered a classic in certain fan circles, while in others it gets a decidedly mixed reception. My opinion falls into the latter camp, for while it does feel like a brisk, fun sci-fi adventure at the best of times, it takes a few episodes to get to that point. Also, having watched most of the Pertwee-Who episodes out of order in recent years (and having not seen Axos prior to this point) I had been unaware that the Master had been in this episode, as he is probably in a a good majority of Pertwee-era episodes this should have come as no surprise, but the singular use of this villain does offer a tad bit of monotony between the serials of this era.
The performances as is common for serials of this era are excellent across the board. By this point Jon Pertwee had truly come into his own as the Doctor, and the UNIT environment had truly started to take on that family dynamic they would become famous for. While Caroline John's Liz Shaw offered up an excellent intellectual companion to Pertwee's Doctor, the inclusion of Katy Manning's Jo Grant proved an even better fit for this Doctor, and their dynamic in this serial is quite excellent having only had 3 serials prior to warm to each other. Finally, while I do find some of the Pertwee episodes a bit redundant for their consistent use of the Master, the late Roger Delgago always turned an excellent performance as the villain, and that is the case here.
For a show that has had a good amount of written deriding it's Special FX, the Claws of Axos has particular good effects considering the era and budget. The Axons in both forms are quite impressive, and make a truly unique and memorable alien foe. Their humanoid form has a very strange and beautiful quality to it, while the tentacled mass hidden underneath really works well for a giant monster on a BBC budget.
The Claws of Axos finds The Doctor, Jo Grant, and UNIT following up the crash of a foreign object from outer space. Upon arrival the Doctor meets up with the aliens inside who refer to themselves as Axons. The Axons have allegedly crash landed on Earth due to running out of fuel, which coincidentally the Earth is plentiful of. The Axons arrange a bargain with global representatives from Earth, they will trade their planet's primary commodity Axonite, which has the ability to replicate any substance in order for the necessary fuel.
Unfortunately, things are not quite what they seem and Axonite is actually a substance that has the ability to feed their spaceship by (actually a living organism referred to as Axos) draining all the energy from Earth and destroying the planet due to it's absolute lack of resources. In the midst of all this is the Master who ended up becoming a captive of the Axons, and is now working as a double agent between the aliens and the Doctor/UNIT to free his TARDIS and escape the Earth. The Axons, of course, see the potential in the 2 Time Lords, and want to exploit the Doctor's knowledge of time travel to expand their ability to feed off both time and space. It is up to the combined effort of The Doctor, Master, and the UNIT gang to put a stop to the Axons before they can destroy the Earth.
The Doctor Who Restoration Team in conjunction with BBC Worldwide have released Doctor Who - The Claws of Axos in an absolutely splendid 1:33:1 full frame transfer preserving the aspect ratio of the serials original broadcast. As this is a special edition I would expect this to look better than the original release, however, I did not have to compare this to. I can state that this looks as good as many of the recent Doctor Who releases the picture for the most part is clean and sharp, colors and fine detail are excellent, black levels are solid, and flesh tones are accurate. There is some minor softness at spots throughout most notably in exterior sequences.
BBC Worldwide have presented Doctor Who - The Claws of Axos with a very good Dolby Digital Mono track in English. The track can be played with Optional English subtitles. The dialogue comes through nice and clear, as does the score, and effects which are well balanced on the track. I did not detect any audio anomalies such as pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
BBC Worldwide and the Doctor Who Restoration Team have put the special in special edition with their release of Claws of Axos. The disc ports over all the content from the original release and adds more to the mix. The disc kicks off with a commentary from former Who producer, the late Barry Letts, he is accompanied by actors Richard Franklin and Katy Manning. We then get a trivia track, and deleted and extended scenes before getting to the extras on disc 2.
The 2nd disc kicks off with Axon Stations! This is a wonderful behind the scenes documentary on the making of the Claws of Axos that details the production from inception to completion, and interviews as many living cast members as possible. We then get a Now and Then featurette narrated by Katy Manning that details the locations, well, now and then. WE then come to a pretty massive extra simply titled Studio Recording, this runs 74 minutes long and contains raw footage and unused takes from the Claws of Axos sessions. This is followed up with a 15 minute interview with Axos director Michael Ferguson called Directing Who. We then have a very interesting documentary called Living with Levene which sees Doctor Who-centric comedian, and frequent DVD commentator Toby Hadoke visiting John Levene (Sgt. Benton) for a few days. This is a very amusing look into the life of one of the actors who made 70's Who what it was. The disc is rounded off with a photo gallery, coming soon trailers, and PDF bonus material.
A classic of 70's Who, but by no means a perfect serial. The Claws of Axos is still quite a fun time. The A/V restoration courtesy of the Doctor Who Restoration Team is quite excellent, and the extras really push this release over the top. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.