The Claws of AxosBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 31 December 2003 - Reviewed by Paul Clarke

In a season containing two stories often described as classic (‘Terror of the Autons’ and ‘The Daemons’), one story only slightly less well regarded (‘The Mind of Evil’) and one story generally regarded as a turkey (‘Colony in Space’), ‘The Claws of Axos’ seems generally forgotten. This is shame, since it is a neat little script and showcases the staple ingredients of the Pertwee era rather well.

The great strength of ‘The Claws of Axos’ is Axos itself. The means by which Axos attempts to invade Earth is novel for the era, the Axons instigating apparently peaceful contact and using a “Trojan Horse” in the form of axonite in order to gain a foothold on Earth. Visually, Axos works surprisingly well, benefiting from being what could have been a CSO nightmare; the gaudy appearance of the inside of Axos however enhances its alien nature. In terms of the story, Axos is extremely powerful, and the Axons make for impressive monsters. Apart from the mercifully brief attack of the duvet at the end of episode two, the Axon monsters are highly effective, not only proving to be almost indestructible, but also packing considerable punch, as demonstrated when one of them shoots out a tentacle at a UNIT soldier, who explodes in a ball of flame. The Master is vital to the depiction of Axos’s power; whereas he was attempting to use both the Nestenes and the Mind Parasite for his own ends and only later realized that he had underestimated them, he is clearly extremely wary of Axos from the start, to the extent that he is prepared to abandon his own TARDIS and steal the Doctor’s in order to escape. Considering that he compares it to a second hand gas stove, this nicely emphasizes his desperation. Special mention must go to Bernard Holley for his impressive performance as the impassive but sinister Axon Man and the voice of Axos. 

As in ‘The Mind of Evil’, the Doctor’s relationship with the Master proves a highlight. As in the previous story, the Master seems to rather relish working with the Doctor, whereas the Doctor himself just seems pissed off by the need to do so. Roger Delgado is on his usual fine form, ruthless one moment and charming the next. His brief stint as UNIT’s emergency scientific advisor is rather interesting, and is revisited to even greater effect in David McIntee’s ‘The Face of the Enemy’. Pertwee himself is also excellent here, and his performance in episode four is especially worthy of note. Increasingly foul tempered due to his exile, the Doctor is most convincing when he apparently abandons his friends, and his callous dismissal of Jo especially (presumably done to convince the Master of his sincerity) is all too believable. I also like the fact that he is so desperate to regain his freedom that he really does try and escape once he has defeated Axos. 

The UNIT regulars and Jo are well used here, even Yates who is happily relegated to an action role with Benton. Despite the seemingly missing CSO background during the land rover battle, the action sequences are, well, action packed, and work very well. Katy Manning succeeds in looking suitably devastated when the Doctor leaves with the Master, but Jo’s increasingly touching faith in her mentor nonetheless remains, as she suddenly realizes that he might return to the power station just as the light reactor is about to explode. 

The guest cast, or to be more accurate, the supporting characters, are rather more variable. Peter Bathurst is a fine actor, but Chinn is such a ridiculous stereotype that even he struggles with the pompous character. Paul Grist’s Filer is rather likeable, although his hair has to be seen to be believed, and during the scene in which Filer moans about Axos whilst semi-conscious in hospital, Grist delivers a truly terrible performance. Donald Hewlett’s dignified Hardiman is rather better, as is David Savile’s Winser, although the latter’s cry of “Oh, you stupid quack!” is horribly OTT. And Pigbin Josh is best not mentioned. No, really. 

My only real criticism of ‘The Claws of Axos’ is that the threat of Axos is made clear too early. The Doctor’s suspicions as the Axon leader explains the properties of Axonite, followed by Jo’s meeting with an Axon monster at the end of episode one, would have been sufficient, but unfortunately we also get Pigbin Josh’s death (look, he really wasn’t necessary at all, OK?) and a brief glimpse of the Axon monsters as Axos first approaches Earth. I also have doubts about the explosion in episode four, which doesn’t seem to be anywhere near as serious as an explosion at a nuclear power station should have been, and the Doctor’s explanation of the time loop, which is pure technobabble. Nevertheless, ‘The Claws of Axos’ is an enjoyable story, and considering the wealth of behind-the-scenes footage available, it is crying out for a DVD release.