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Doctor Who: Mannequin Mania: Terror Of The Autons by Robert Holmes (DVD review).

I bought and reviewed ‘Spearhead From Space’ a couple years back and wasn’t aware that it was supposed to be part of a boxset and why it’s taken so long to get to ‘Terror Of The Autons’, even if I had to buy the first one again to get this story.


There is a new Time Lord on Earth but his name isn’t the Doctor but the Master (actor Roger Delgado) making his first appearance and is busy taking control of the head of a circus, the theft of an empty Auton container and a little matter of bringing down the Nestene down to Earth through a radio telescope. While all this is going on, the Doctor (actor Jon Pertwee) finds the Brigadier (actor Nicholas Courtney) has given him a new assistant, Jo Grant (actress Katy Manning) after Liz Shaw had gone back to Cambridge. A rare instance of not seeing a companion actually leaving the Doctor.


News of the stolen Auton container has the Doctor worried, more so when two scientists at the radio telescope have vanished. With the Brigadier and Jo, the Doctor goes there and leaves them talking to the officials while he goes up to the actual control room, only to be intercepted by another Time Lord (actor David Garth) who warns him that the Master is on Earth and the room is boobytrapped and the discovery of the dead shrunken body of one of the scientists. Sorting that out, the Brigadier orders a check on all the plastic factories. Jo goes off on her own and at one factory encounters the Master, who is already creating Autons after sorting out the management, and is hypnotised to forget them before being sent back to UNIT HQ where Sergeant Levene has just returned with the box the Auton container was in. Jo offers to lockpick it and as smoke comes out, the Doctor shouts out it’s a bomb.

Fortunately, an available window saves a major catastrophe and the Doctor breaks the Master’s hold on Jo. As she can’t remember where she’s been, it is another day before Benton points out there was a circus near where the Auton box was found and the Doctor goes there. Although told to stay behind, Jo hides in the back of the Doctor’s car and comes to his rescue when he is captured. The missing scientist appears with a bomb but the Doctor persuades him to go and although it costs him his life, they are saved. Not for long as the Doctor and Jo are facing a lynch mob from the circus but rescued by the police, with the Brigadier’s team following. A bit too late as the two police officers are Autons.

Escaping them in a quarry, the Doctor and Jo are rescued by UNIT and return to HQ to later learn of multiple deaths in the local population but no real clue to what is causing them. However, two deaths don’t fit the pattern and raises the Doctor’s interest as one of them is Farrell, former owner of a plastic factory. Talking to Farrell’s widow, the Doctor and Jo are given the ugly doll from the factory. The Doctor and the Brigadier visit the deserted factory and find a few clues of a hired bus, a plastic daffodil and…the rest is classified. Time to buy the boxset.

The first half an hour extra, ‘Life On Earth’, starts off looking at this story and Jon Pertwee’s tenure and then becomes a comparison of it with the return of the Autons in Russell T. Davis’ tenure with producer Phil Collinson comparing budgets. Producer Barry Letts and scriptwriter Terrance Dicks also say things are bound to be different after forty years, this was recorded in 2010 after all. There was also some discussion from Katy Manning on how she got the part of Jo Grant and a brief interview with Jon Pertwee.

‘The Doctor’s Moriarty’ was often more about the Doctor than the Master which is a shame considering it tried to cover all the latter’s regenerations. Mind you, considering we know less about the Master’s history on Gallifrey than that of the Doctor, that shouldn’t be surprising. The story indicates that the Master was ahead of the Doctor in some subjects but I’m not sure if that makes them contemporaries or even in the same yer at school.

The ‘Plastic Fantastic’ piece examines the use of plastic in the 70s. As most of them weren’t born then, I think they over-estimated its use, especially as it started in the 60s. New show producer Phil Collinson couldn’t have a good memory neither as gonks were never made of plastic but were stuffed fabric dolls and he was confusing them with trolls.

It’s a shame that the Autons are used so sparingly over the years. It would have been interesting seeing the Nestene taking over another world as a demonstration as to what could really happen to the Earth.

GF Willmetts

March 2015

(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC BBCDVD3135. 2 DVDs 191 minutes 2 stories 8 * 25 minute episodes with extras. Price: about £ 9.50 (UK) if you know where to look)

check out website:

Doctor Who: Terror Of The Autons by Robert Holmes

(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC BBCDVD3135B. 1 DVDs 95 minutes 4 * 25 minute episodes with extras. Price: £ (UK) if you know where to look)

cast: Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Nicholas Courtney, Roger Delgado, Richard Franklin, John Levene and Michael Wisher


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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