Recap: Doctor Who S8 E1 "Terror of the Autons"

The human body has a basic weakness. One which I shall exploit to assist in the destruction of humanity.
The Master

Although a theme that had been explored before, with the Meddling Monk ("The Time Meddler") and the War Chief ("The War Games"), the introduction of the Master as the main villain for every story of season 8 saw a true Evil Counterpart for the Doctor — a Moriarty to the Doctor's Sherlock Holmes, as the BBC Classics website puts it. Roger Delgado played his first known incarnation, yet not the first chronologically like William Hartnell, but that's a story for another time. It was also the debut of Josephine "Jo" Grant (Katy Manning), and Captain Mike Yates (Richard Franklin), both of whom would go on to have very prolific careers in the Big Finish audio range after their classic series runs.

The Master lands his TARDIS (which does have a working chameleon circuit) in a circus, and sets about his evil plan; first he steals a Nestene energy unit from a museum (see "Spearhead From Space"), then reactivates it using a radio telescope and finally takes over a small plastics firm using his powers of hypnotism. Using the firm's factory, he produces deadly chairs that engulf and kill, plastic daffodils that spray a plastic film over the mouth and nose, and deadly plastic dolls. Autons distribute the daffodils in a promotional campaign. The final phase will be to use the radio telescope to summon the Nestene Consciousness and activate the daffodils.

Meanwhile, the Doctor is investigating the mysterious deaths caused by the chairs and dolls with the help of Jo Grant, a young UNIT assistant who has been given her position thanks to a uniquely persistent relative. Jo falls under the Master's hypnotic influence and nearly blows up UNIT HQ with a bomb. Later, the Master installs a new telephone in UNIT HQ and the cord nearly strangles the Doctor.

Eventually, though, the Doctor persuades the Master that the Nestene Consciousness will have no use for him once they arrive, and they work together to repel the Consciousness into space.

After the Master pulls off a last-minute escape from UNIT troops, the Doctor notes that they are unlikely to have heard the last of him, and that actually he's quite looking forward to matching wits with him again.


  • Arm Cannon: The Autons.
  • Artistic License Multiple Sciences: The plastic film that's used to smother people is dissolved by carbon dioxide, even in the low concentration of normal breath. Even ignoring just how carbon dioxide could dissolve plastic, it should dissolve while people are choking, as all of the oxygen in their lungs is being converted into carbon dioxide. That way, the film would release its victims before it could kill them. Possibly excusable if there's a time-delay between the film's release and its becoming vulnerable to breath.
    • Ironically, if you think about it, it might prove Liz Shaw's point from Spearhead From Space - that despite it being like plastic, it isn't.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: The Master dons a suit with an orange tie to disguise himself as a businessman, and arguably spends more time in disguise than in his Nehru jacket attire in his debut. If you can't already tell, the Master of Disguise act will become his trademark. He is a "Master", after all.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: An Auton hands a daffodil directly to the camera.
  • Decoy Getaway: The Master hypnotises Rex Farrel, dresses Farrel in his clothing and a Latex Perfection Roger Delgado mask, and sends him out to do a Suicide By UNIT. While the Doctor and UNIT are distracted, the real Master slips away.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • Jo karate-chopping Benton — her character was originally envisioned as an Emma Peel-Expy.
    • The Time Lord represantive wearing a bowler and three piece suit, when we'll later see Time Lords traditionally dress in ornate robes with odd hats. But this one could just be trying to blend in with Earth culture or possibly an eccentric dresser like the Doctor. However, the ability to effortlessly float in mid-air under his own power he demonstrates is something no other Time Lord does, except the Tenth Doctor under very unique circumstances. note 
  • Gonk: That troll doll.
  • Latex Perfection: the Master's disguise masks. Possibly justified as Auton tech.
  • Long Bus Trip: Liz Shaw has departed between seasons, and is said to have returned to Cambridge after telling the Brigadier that the Doctor didn't need a lab assistant, he just needed someone to pass him his test tubes and tell him how brilliant he was.
  • The Master: For the very first time.
  • Moral Guardians: this story caused one of the biggest violence/horror controversies in the show's history. In particular, it was claimed that the ep 2 cliffhanger with the Auton policemen would make children fear and distrust the police, and that the murderous troll doll had left children scared that their cuddly toys would strangle them in their sleep. Barry Letts has said that the reaction did convince him that they'd gone overboard, and to self-censor more in later seasons.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: The Doctor pronounced the word Cephalopod "Kephalopod."
  • Not Himself
  • Not My Driver: The cliffhanger to Part 3 has the Dramatic Unmask of an Auton posing as the Doctor and Jo's cab driver just long enough to kidnap them and lead them to an Auton ambush.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Played with. The Doctor instinctively treats Brownrose as one, even though he's actually being quite helpful.
  • Reverse Polarity: The Doctor does this in order to make the thingamajig do somethingsomething so that the Nestene will return to space.
  • Rogue Agent: The Master is a rogue Time Lord, so it makes sense for the Time Lords to use another rogue Time Lord, the Doctor, to stop him.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: a rare sympathetic example: Jo gets into a position she really isn't qualified for thanks to a connected relative.
  • Shout-Out: The Time Lord's appearance hovering in mid-air is a Shout Out to Rene Magritte's painting Golconda, showing similarly-dressed men falling like rain.
  • Somebody Else's Problem: The Time Lords know how dangerous the Master is, so they just let the Doctor know he's in the area and proceed not to give him any help at all.
  • Tied Up on the Phone: a telephone cord is actually an agent for the Autons and tangles up the Doctor.
  • Villain Exit Stage Left: The Master
  • Worthy Opponent: The Master calls The Doctor and previous adversaries this in part four.
  • The X of Y
  • You Look Familiar: Tony the Circus strongman was Toberman back in Tomb Of The Cybermen.