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Thoughts on “Spearhead from Space”

In my quest to view all of the episodes of at Doctor Who, I decided to visit the era of Jon Pertwee, the third Doctor (who also happens to be my favorite Doctor).  I watched “Spearhead from Space,” the third Doctor’s first adventure.

“Spearhead” is the first episode of the seventh season, and the first episode in color.  It also introduces a new companion for the Doctor: Liz Shaw.  Liz is a scientist recruited by the Brigadier to work as a scientific consultant for UNIT.  At first she does not believe that there is any need to protect the earth against an alien invasion.  A good section of the first episode involves a discussion between Liz and the Brigadier that is very similar in dynamics to The X-Files. Liz, the scientist, is skeptical that aliens exist, while the Brigadier, who has firsthand experience, attempts to make her see the threat.  Since this is Doctor Who, her skepticism does not last long.  Liz has firsthand experience of her own before the end of this story.

The story begins with a mysterious “meteor” shower heading towards earth.  However, these objects appear to be flying in a formation and when they land in the woods, we, the viewers, know that these are no meteors.  They look like they have been created by someone (or something) and they emit a strange pulsating glow.

At the same time, the TARDIS has materialized in the same woods, but the Doctor has just regenerated and collapses on the ground right outside the TARDIS.  He is found by UNIT and taken to the hospital.  His face is not clearly seen until well in to the episode.

At the hospital, the doctor assigned to treat him is baffled by his patient’s nonhuman blood and two hearts (the first time this is mentioned in the series).  News gets out of the man from space at the hospital, and the hospital is soon overrun by the press (and a more sinister force, as we will soon discover).  The Brigadier comes with Liz, expecting to find the Doctor he knows, but the man he finds in the hospital bed confuses him.  Although he looks like a different man, he was found with the TARDIS and recognizes the Brigadier.  The Brigadier is not quite ready to trust this new Doctor.

After this, an attempt is made to kidnap the Doctor, but he comes out of his self-induced coma in time to escape, in a comical wheelchair chase.  He heads to the TARDIS in his weakened condition, but is mistakenly shot by one of the guards the Brigadier positioned near the TARDIS.

The following episodes reveal that the mysterious “meteors” brought the Nestene Consciousness to earth.  They plan to colonize the earth.  They take over a plastics factory, so that they can manufacture autons.  They plan to replace powerful figures with auton duplicates to aid their colonization.  By the second episode of this story, the Doctor is much stronger, and it is up to him, with the help of Liz and the Brigadier to stop this takeover.

The new personality of the Doctor is clearly established in this story.  He goes into the doctor’s changing room at the hospital to change out of his hospital gown.  He finds a black jacket and hat with a black cape with a red lining.  Thus, the “dandy” is born (although those must be some flamboyantly dressing doctors at that hospital).  He also steals a car from a doctor at the hospital, of which he becomes quite fond.  He requires UNIT to provide him with a similar car in return for his services.  Even immediately after is regeneration, the Doctor shows his love of gadgets and vehicles.  The third doctor is also very active.  He is involved in a lot of running and chases, which sets him apart from his predecessors.

This episode is also the beginning of the Doctor’s banishment on earth.  The time lords have changed the dematerialization code on the TARDIS, preventing him from leaving the planet.  This banishment lasts for most of Pertwee’s time as the Doctor.

I felt that this episode was very influential of the new series of Doctor Who.  There are connections between the ninth, tenth, and eleventh Doctor’s first episodes and this one.

Spearhead from Space

Autons in "Spearhead from Space." Image via Wikipedia

The connection between the ninth Doctors first episode, “Rose,” and the third Doctor’s is the most obvious: they both fight the Nestene Consciousness and the autons in their first adventure.  The scenes in which the shop window dummies come to life are visually very similar.

The tenth Doctor appears to respond similarly to regeneration.  Both he and the third Doctor enter self-induced comas.  Unlike, for example, the fifth Doctor, they seem aware of what is going on and are able to wake themselves up for short times, if it becomes neccessary.  The connection with the eleventh Doctor is in the place from which they get their new clothing.  Both Doctors get their clothing from the doctor’s changing room in a hospital (and both are seen shirtless).

Overall, “Spearhead from Space” is a fun, engaging episode. It’s not one of the great episodes of Doctor Who, but it’s a great introduction to the new Doctor.  It moves along at a fast pace and allows you to really get to know the new personality of the new Doctor.

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