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Recap / Doctor Who S8 E3 "The Claws of Axos"

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"Overweight, underpowered museum piece... Might as well try to fly a second hand gas stove."
The Master appraises the Doctor's TARDIS

Production code: GGG

The One With… killer entrails.

Written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin. This four-episode serial first aired March 13 to April 3, 1971.

A spaceship arrives on Earth and golden-skinned humanoids say that their ship is damaged and that, in exchange for time to lay over and make repairs, they will offer humanity a substance called Axonite, which can cause animals to grow to huge sizes, ending world hunger.

However, the Doctor is sceptical and discovers the true form of the Axons — hideous tentacled monsters who have been invited to Earth by the Master to drain the Earth's energy. They, their ship and the Axonite are all in fact one single parasitic entity.

The Master is captured, but offered his freedom in exchange for helping UNIT and the Doctor defeat the Axons. The Master's plan is to use the TARDIS to absorb energy from a nearby nuclear power station, then release it all at once into Axos — but this is an inherently dangerous plan and the Doctor has a better one. He and the Master travel with the TARDIS into the centre of Axos, where the Doctor traps the ship and Axons in a time-loop from which it can never escape — but unfortunately, the Master does.


  • All There in the Script: Winser's first name is Malcolm.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Subverted. The Axons can look pretty and offer their technology to Earth, but it's all part of a Wounded Gazelle Gambit.
  • Big Bad: Axos.
  • Bowdlerize: Shots depicting Pigbin Josh's and Winser's heads crumbling into dust after their life energy is absorbed by Axos were filmed, but edited out and replaced by fades to white after the footage was deemed too horrific for a family show.
    • Later in the story, there is a similar effect with the Axon Woman melting into her true self, edited with a green slow strobe.
  • Creepy Monotone: Bernard Holley uses next to no inflection when voicing the Eye of Axos which makes it all the more sinister sounding.
  • Combat Tentacles: The fully transformed Axons use combat tentacles to attack UNIT soldiers.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Roger Delgado seems to be having a great time with some of the lines The Master gets in this serial. Check the page quote.
    The Master: [advising the Brigadier how to survive a nuclear blast] You could take the usual precautions...sticky tape on the windows, that sort of thing.
  • Disposable Vagrant: Poor Pigbin Josh is the Axons' first victim.
  • Fat Bastard: When Axons are partially transformed into their real selves, they are very much on the chubby side and of course, trying to drain Earth of all it's energy.
  • Fake Defector: The Doctor pretends to side with Axos and The Master, only to con the Axons into putting them into a time loop, forever..
  • Fate Worse than Death: The Doctor puts himself and Axos in a time loop, thereby dooming them to relive the same few seconds in time for all eternity. The Doctor is able to escape by breaking the TARDIS out of the loop before its first iteration can complete, but Axos, lacking the ability to time-travel by itself, isn't so lucky.
  • Glam Rock: The aesthetics of glam rock had a very big influence on the look of the Axons, so much so that when David Bowie and his backing band stopped by the set of "Planet of the Daleks" two seasons later, a passerby jokingly asked them if they were playing a group of aliens on the show. It was the early Seventies, after all.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: This is one of the few Doctor Who stories aired before the end of the BBC's wiping policy in 1978 for which material from the original studio recording exists, so mistakes such as the Doctor missing his cue, as well as extra scenes cut from the final programme, can be seen on the DVD.
  • Hive Mind: Axos, Axons and Axonite are one and the same.
  • Ironic Echo Cut: The Doctor says he's happy that the Axonite will be kept in Great Britain only. Cut to Chinn being forced by the UN to distribute the Axonite over the entire world....
  • Jerkass: Chinn.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: The Doctor reveals (to the Master, no less) that the Time Lords have blocked his knowledge about time travel to prevent him from repairing the TARDIS and escaping his exile on Earth.
  • Light Is Not Good: Gold and orange are the Axons' primary colour palette, and they turn out to be evil.
  • Magical Particle Accelerator: Providing enough energy for time travel? Check!
  • The Master: The man himself shows up as a prisoner of Axos at the end of Part one.
  • Obscured Special Effects: The effect of Pigbin Josh's face deflating is obscured with a white flash to avoid terrifying younger viewer.
    • The Axon woman's melting face is partially obscured with a slow flashing green strobe.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Right-wing politician Chinn.
  • Oh, Crap!: The Doctor when his trusty Venusian Akido has no effect on the Axos!Filer
  • Organic Technology: The spaceship they arrive to Earth in. Considering that even the ship is part of the Axos hive mind, this makes sense.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: During location filming, the weather proved highly variable, ranging from snow at the start of the week, through fog and finally to sunshine on the final day. To explain the inconsistency, Terrance Dicks assigned a new line of dialogue to Corporal Bell which noted that Axos' arrival had prompted “freak weather conditions”.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Chinn is right about not wanting the Axonite to be distributed over the entire world, though it's because he's greedy, rather than because the Axonite is dangerous.
  • Sadistic Choice: At the end of the third episode, the Master says that his plan to destroy Axos will also kill the Doctor and Jo, who are trapped inside it. The Brigadier naturally objects, but the Master points out that their choices boil down to either destroying Axos, or letting Axos destroy the world. Played with in that, for once, the Master didn't set this scenario up just to torture the Brigadier, and the Doctor and Jo's deaths would just be an unfortunate side-effect of his plan.
  • Shaped Like Itself: "Well, it's perfectly simple, Brigadier. A time loop is, er. Well, it's a time loop." The Doctor then pauses before trying again to explain it.
  • Spot the Imposter: One of the Axons takes on the form of Bill Filer. The imposter gets in a struggle with the real Filer and the Doctor is unsure of which one to help, until the real Filer calls him "Doc".
  • Title Drop: Subverted by Chinn, as while he's ranting about the Doctor's lack of clearance and dossier calls him "Doctor...(Beat)...whatever his name is...."
    • The Doctor drops the title of the serial in the last episode, though.
  • Trojan Horse: The Axons provide the human race with an alien fuel called Axonite, seemingly to help us with our energy crisis but actually to destroy us.
  • The Unintelligible: Pigbin Josh.
  • The X of Y
  • Yo Yo Plot Point: Invoked at the very end of the story. The Doctor gets to use his TARDIS without any issues just long enough to make sure that the Axos are banished from Earth. Then, the TARDIS goes back to being inert, and a very ticked off Doctor sums it up with an iconic and frosty one-liner:
    The Doctor: It seems that I am some kind of a galactic yo-yo!