Whovember: Spearhead from Space


A new Doctor, a complete new look, new logo, more Earth-bound stories, starting with the Autons…

It could have been the start of the new Who in 2005, but in fact the start of the Third Doctor’s time in the TARDIS was very similar in all of those ways, and can also be seen as something of a soft-reboot.

The Pertwee era is where the mythology started to come together. The Time Lords, and the Doctor’s relationship to them, were introduced at the very end of Two’s time, but regeneration isn’t given a name until Three becomes Four; that Time Lords have two hearts is discovered in Spearhead From Space. Many characters who would go on to be important parts of the Whoniverse show up in the Pertwee years – the Master and Sarah Jane first appeared with the Third Doctor, while the Brigadier was a regular cast member of this period and went on to be a recurring character, as did UNIT. Also, the logo of this period is still used on classic Who DVDs, and the incorporation of the face of the Doctor into the title sequence (which recently came back with Matt Smith’s image) started here.

Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow!

The Pertwee era – and Doctor Who in full colour – started with Spearhead from Space (although I’m still not sure why; it’s about those aforementioned autons, who don’t throw spears but look rather fetching in 1970’s latest fashions).

It being a post-regeneration serial, the Doctor is a little discombobulated for part of the time, some of the Second Doctor’s comedy showing through before number Three’s rather more serious personality settles in.

Other than that, there’s meteorites, UNIT, autons, the proto-Scully Liz Shaw, and more autons. They probably gave a generation of kids department store-based nightmares for weeks – or at least until the delightful looking Silurians turned up. What’s giving me nightmares is that scene with the Doctor hiding by taking a shower. Scarier than a whole fleet of Daleks, that.

ThreeAlthough Spearhead from Space is decent enough Who (and the Doctor emerging from a smoke-filled TARDIS having failed to get it moving is a good comic moment) it was the start of a long UNIT-based monster of the week phase, which, combined with a very serious Doctor, made for one of the less enjoyable periods of Who history in this blogger’s opinion.

So, watch it for the introduction to a new era of Doctor Who, for Miss Shaw’s induction into the X-Files, and of course the autons looting the department store from the inside. Don’t watch it for an exceptional alien invasion story, because that isn’t really what it’s about.

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