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Doctor Who: The Claws of Axos - Special Edition

Review by: 
Black Gloves
Release Date: 
1971
Studio: 
BBC Worldwide Entertainment
Genre: 
Sci-Fi
Format: 
DVD
Region: 
2 PAL
Aspect Ratio: 
1.33:1
Directed by: 
Michael Ferguson
Cast: 
Jon Pertwee
Katy Manning
Nicholas Courtney
John Levene
Richard Franklyn
Movie: 
3
Extras: 
5
Bottom Line: 
4

 “The Claws of Axos” is one of those ‘70s stories from the classic series that one tends to feel rather ambivalent about. On the one hand, if you wanted to choose a third Doctor, Pertwee-era adventure that best summed up in four episodes the ideas that have since become dominant reference points when thinking about or discussing the tenure of the most flamboyant and frilly-shirted of the Doctor’s incarnations, then you could do no better than make this mid-season eight belter your exhibit ‘A’: this is after all the story in which many of the details of the Doctor’s confinement to Earth by the Time Lords – the defining trope of the Pertwee years -- are properly coloured in with regard, for instance, to his loss of memory about how TARDIS dematerialisation actually works; it’s the story in which the Doctor comes closest to fixing the TARDIS and escaping -- his ultimate failure to do so finally officially establishing the fact that the craft has been pre-programmed by the Time Lords to always return to Earth (thus allowing producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrence Dicks to partially circumvent the limitations imposed upon their storytelling because of a hastily sketched, cost-cutting idea foisted upon them by Derek Sherwin, by allowing the Doctor the occasional off-world excursion at the Time Lords’ behest, a situation beginning with the very next story, “The Colony in Space”). The story itself, the first effort for the writing duo Dave Martin and Bob Baker, has even been referenced in the show quite recently in Chris Chibnall’s episode “The Power of Three”: this Matt Smith story in which an alien cube is adopted by humanity as a gift from the stars but turns out really to be a harbinger of what Amy Pond describes in her voice-over as ‘the slow invasion’ is a slightly more high concept version of the Axon ploy for draining the Earth of its energy while appearing to come benignly bearing a great gift for the human race; and that phrase ‘the slow invasion’ is a clear reference to one of the many working titles Martin and Baker’s serial was given during its lengthy development, namely “The Friendly Invasion”.

All the major components that make up many of the clichés which now largely inform how we define the new look DOCTOR WHO of the first half of the 1970s while it was under Letts’ and Dicks’ stewardship, were by now in full swing for this adventure … and turned way up to 11 and beyond: aesthetically it’s the ‘Glam Rock-like’, Biba boutique-shopping, glittery Lurex jumpsuit-wearing, trippy Chromakey effects-sporting mind fuck par excellence – a psychedelic riot of lava-lamp oil-based light show effects, fuzzy-edged colour separation overlay and rampantly dizzy vision mixing, the kind of which was to become a frequent accompaniment to the era's stack-heel boot-wearing rock stars during their most glittery foot-stomping Top of the Pops appearances (after the effects had been road tested on WHO first, of course). But here they were thrown against the wall all at once by innovative director Michael Ferguson to create the closest thing to an on-screen LSD trip the series was ever to attempt. Furthermore, although they only ever appeared in this one canonical adventure, the Axons have somehow become one of the most memorable monsters in the show’s history. I was too young to remember seeing this story transmitted at the time it went out, and repeats simply never happened in those days, (except on rare occasions) but the production photos of these bright orange, tendril-festooned humanoid creatures and their impassive, golden-plated Greek god persona – a disguise adopted to make themselves seem ‘acceptable’ to us humans but which was, if anything, eve stranger than their true root-like selves  – were seared into my memory from early familiarity with books of WHO monsters and Doctor Who annuals  poured over as a youngster, so that the Axons eventually became more potent a WHO-based memory for me than many of the creations from the episodes I actually do remember seeing. 

This is also a story from the middle of the classic era in which the fondly remembered recurring cast who became known as the UNIT family are heavily featured, headed by Nicholas Courtney’s Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart; although, besides the Brig, they do seem to be oddly underwritten in this instance. Benton acts particularly dense in this one, and even Captain Yates fumbles with his rifle like he’s never picked one up before in his life during a Jeep-based jaunt thorough some wintery Folkestone countryside with Axons in hot pursuit. Speaking of which: the summersault-turning, action-packed theatrics of the Havoc stunt team founded by Derek Ware are given another major workout here (one of their last on the show), so there’s plenty of exploding trucks and flamboyant UNIT-soldier-and-Axon stunt deaths that involve falling backwards down embankments and so forth. Season eight is also famous for being the one where the Master, introduced two stories previously in the form of Roger Delgado to play an antagonistic Moriarty figure to Pertwee’s Holmes, appeared as the villain in every single story, establishing himself forever as an iconic figure in WHO lore. Here he initially directs the Axon menace towards Earth, but later has to join forces with the Doctor and UNIT when his own TARDIS is confiscated by his former alien allies. Blustering ‘Little Englander’ civil service types were a constant irritant to the third Doctor during Pertwee’s tenure as well, allowing him his regular bouts of pompous irascibility; and “The Claws of Axos” features one of his most narrow-minded and blustery of ‘man-from-the-ministry’ type foes yet in the guise of Peter Bathurst, who gives an often amusingly deranged ‘theatrical’ performance as a self-regarding MoD official who tries to get the Doctor thrown out of UNIT for being an illegal alien (if only he knew). 

But even though this serial is in many regards a fine example to proffer as an introduction to anyone new to Pertwee’s Doctor, as it features all these classic story elements and motifs as well as the characteristic visual excesses so familiar from an era which had just seen the introduction of colour TV, I’m not sure it’s actually all that good a place to start in the end. The combination of Dave Martin & Bob Baker’s wildly imaginative but over-ambitious story ideas and Michael Ferguson’s budget arthouse experimental approach  to directing the show sometimes comes horribly a-cropper when the two run headlong into each-other, resulting in a car crash mixture of impressive, visually stimulating outrageousness one moment and some of the daftest sights the show ever produced the next. The two modes actually seem inextricably bound up with each other, the infelicities of the second being the inescapable consequence of the first. For instance Martin and Baker specify in their script how the Axon spacecraft, which buries itself in the bleak sandy wasteland surrounding the story’s Nuton Nuclear Power Complex (actually the Dungeness  ‘A’ Nuclear Power Station on the Kent coast) is an amoeba-like organic creation -- and set designer Kenneth Sharp expands on this and comes up with an amazing spaceship interior that runs with the ‘organic’ theme to produce something that was quite unlike anything seen before, with pulsating and ‘breathing’ innards; globular honeycomb-yellow catacombs full of veiny membranous veils; and tendrils and foam-rubber claws emerging in groping, slithering abundance from every direction. Some might say that the Axon ship’s entrance was perhaps taking the ‘organic’ theme slightly too far by having it look like a huge cat’s bottom; and the eye stalk which emerges from the undulating ceiling whenever the voice of Axos communicates with the Doctor (or any of the other human envoys it invites aboard in order to offer humanity the gift of Axonite, apparently in exchange for enough nuclear energy to enable its craft to continue its peaceful interstellar journey) is one of those designs -- like the one in a later story, “The Creature from the Pit” -- that also has unfortunate phallic associations, although at least the Doctor’s attempts to communicate with it don’t look quite as rude as Tom Baker’s ‘fellatio’ technique in that other famous example, relying instead on simple mind-scrambling telepathy. 

However, there are also moments when Ferguson and the production team’s efforts to visualise Martin & Baker’s epic story ideas are less than successfully achieved. At the end of episode three for instance, the Doctor and Jo Grant (Katy Manning) get caught inside Axos (the ship and its golden-skinned Axon occupants are actually all different facets of one chameleon-like organic entity, we soon learn) while the Master attempts to help the MoD authorities and UNIT destroy it by feeding it with a sudden surge of energy from the nuclear power station. Unfortunately, the Axon ship’s resultant spasms of pain merely end in a sequence in which it looks like Pertwee and Manning are trapped inside a giant vibrating bouncy castle, having been first fed on a cocktail of hallucinogenic substances. 

Another unsuccessful effect sees the Doctor’s attempts to analyse the lump of Axonite the British authorities have been given by the Axons using the power plant’s particle accelerator (research scientist Winser (David Savile) just happens to be conducting primitive particle time travel experiments with it on the premises) resulting in the substance revealing itself to be merely a dormant version of the Axon entity itself and about to start its nutrition cycle, which culminates in the comical sight of the Doctor, Jo and others being menaced by what appears to be a man trapped inside a collapsed tent. The lumpy tendril-like Axons themselves, so iconic in their publicity shots, are slightly less convincing when stuntmen such as Stewart Fell are required to lumber about inside the sweltering chamois-leather costumes made by a freelance costumer who normally provided suits for “It’s a Knockout”. The same costume painted green was to be used again in the Tom Baker story “The Seeds of Doom”, where it became a vegetable matter Krynoid creature.

The story also sees the introduction of an American agent from UNIT’s Washington HQ, played by Paul Grist. This was presumably Bob Baker and Dave Martin assuming that sci-fi had not only to be epic in scope and scale but ‘international’ as well. Bill Filer is introduced as another potential love interest for Jo Grant to compete with the other non-love interest for her that was supposedly being provided by Captain Yates; but the character is so thinly drawn and clichéd that the ‘relationship’ is never believable and there is no real chemistry between the two. Filer’s role in the story is contrived and largely unnecessary, with the writers resorting to a feeble doppelganger plot that ends up fizzling out after the Axon entity programmes a chunk of itself to transmogrify into the agent’s double in order to infiltrate the power complex. Perhaps the most infamous supporting role was played by non-other than stunt man Derek Ware, who was cast in the role of the Axon’s first victim – the sort of insulting rustic country bumpkin yokel the Pertwee years soon became almost synonymous with. ‘Pigbin Josh’ as he’s known, is one of the most peculiar creations to emerge from this era of the show: talking in a ridiculous vocabulary made up simply of the repeated phrase ‘oo-ar’ spoken in a variety of gruff intonations, Ware was required to waddle around a scrapheap and ride a bike into an icy stream in the middle of January, before being absorbed by the Axons and crumbling into dust after he gets dragged into the Axon ship by a tendril to be processed, whereupon he is found to be of substandard intelligence by his alien captors … you don’t say! 

The rest of the guest cast is composed of good actors who either are not given very much of note to do – Donald Hewlett as station director Hardiman and Tim Piggot-Smith as Captain just-following-orders Harker are two cases in point – or those who manage to make the most out of a thankless role, such as Peter Bathurst, who’s ludicrous theatricality as the hopeless MoD official Chinn is actually placed at the crux of the narrative and drives each stage of it forward. He’s at loggerheads with the Doctor at every critical juncture in the story: first he’s dubious about UNIT having jurisdiction on British soil at all, and even more so when it comes to its employment of ‘Doctor Whatshisname’ as an adviser; secondly, his first reaction to the sighting of the UFO that turns out to be the Axon spacecraft is to fire missiles at it, much to the Doctor’s disgust; but when the golden-haired family of serene beings inside it offer Axonite as a wonder molecule that can take on any form and could possibly help feed the world, Chinn is willing to believe anything they say in order to promote British interests by secretly hoarding the alien molecule instead of distributing it fairly around the world as requested. Chinn also fulfils the role of bumbling nincompoop who’s to be made the fall guy when his duplicity on behalf of his superiors is exposed with the Master’s revelation to the UN of the existence of Axonite -- which then demands that it be distributed evenly around the world as originally intended. “Z Cars” actor Bernard Holley acquits himself wonderfully as both the voice of Axos and the leader of the golden family of Axon humanoids who come bearing gifts, given that he is completely covered in gold paint for the duration, is wearing a gold wig, has gold ping pong balls glued across his eyes and is clad in a potentially revealing tie-dyed patterned yellow leotard! 

The Axon is a parasite that can take on any organic form, and spreads itself by draining energy from the planets it colonises until they are destroyed. The Master agrees to help it destroy Earth in return for the use of his captured TARDIS, but the Axon organism wants to learn the secret of time travel itself in order to not only take over the Universe but to actually become the Universe, by inhabiting every moment and position in space-time. Thus the story sees the Doctor and the Master manoeuvred into forming an uneasy alliance when the Axon menace becomes too much for even the Master to control. Martin and Baker can be given credit here for providing both Pertwee and Roger Delgado with some splendid moments during the course of these episodes. The Master’s dismay when he attempts, at one point, to make off with the Doctor’s TARDIS, only to discover the control console has been gutted and has been left with its internal wiring strewn all over it as a result of the Doctor’s vulgar attempts at ‘repair’, is particularly amusing (‘what does he think he’s playing at? … what a botch-up!’); and there’s a spirited attempt by Pertwee to make the viewer believe that the Doctor might turn traitor and abandon the Brigadier, Jo and the human race to their fates for the chance of escaping with the Master in the TARDIS, if his former enemy might see his way towards using the knowledge the Time Lords have removed from the Doctor’s memory (but which the Master still possesses) to help him fix the dematerialisation circuit. 

But altogether “The Claws of Axos” is still something of a mixed bag: not only were Bob Baker and Dave Martin, or ‘The Bristol Boys’ as Terrence Dicks liked to call them, fairly inexperienced at this stage in their DOCTOR WHO career (although they were to become its most prolific and most frequently returning writers during the course of the ‘70s) with no real concept of what they might expect realistically to achieve on a BBC budget (one of the reasons the story had to be painfully guided by Dicks through umpteen redrafts before it reached the form it eventually took), but even Letts and Dicks were still to some extent finding their way in their new roles, since this was the first season where they had complete control of the series content -- the form of the previous season having largely been determined in advance by their departed predecessor. Ferguson’s direction, so spirited in “The Ambassadors of Death”, here ranges from bizarrely but successfully experimental to oddly choppy and disjointed, giving some of the content a disconcertingly amateurish hue. He manages to cram in everything many of us love about Jon Pertwee era WHO and the energy and fizz in all the psychedelic effects employed certainly give this adventure plenty of oomph. Yet it remains too often clumsy-looking and poorly thought out. There’s one point when the Master makes a barbed but amused comment to the Brigadier about what to do if his plan to defeat the Axons doesn’t work out, in which he ‘consoles’ the besieged UNIT and power station personnel that if all else fails they can ‘take the normal precautions against nuclear blast [like] sticky tape on the windows and all that sort of thing!’ And yet this wry comment about how the convenience of cheap, affordable nuclear power is accompanied by potentially huge dangers is ignored in the final episode when the entire nuclear facility is blown to smithereens in what should have been a blast that would have made Chernobyl look like a firecracker and resulted in at least half the UK becoming a no-go zone for hundreds of years ... yet the Doctor and the rest of the UNIT regulars merely drive half-a-mile down the road and then stop and watch the explosion through binoculars! Great visual inventiveness is matched by equally lazy reliance on outmoded sci-fi conventions more redolent of 1950s science fiction, and the supporting characters struggle to make much impression at all. The serial’s wild pendulum swings in quality encompass the exceptional and the mediocre in haphazard oscillations, making it a flawed yet oddly still somewhat huggable example of the Letts and Dicks era – the design work and effects of Kenneth Sharp and John Horton being the prime saving grace here, in what could have been a lot less enjoyable an experience without the trippy madness of their work combined with Ferguson’s more inspired moments of directorship. 

This is a special edition DVD release, revisiting the previous 2003 disc and adding a second disc’s worth of brand new extras to the mix. The original release’s audio commentary track has been preserved intact but it takes a much different form from the kind we’ve become used to in recent years, which employ a revolving door cast of actors and crew members who come and go across the appropriate episodes, all usually held together through able moderation by Toby Hadoke or sometimes Mark Ayres. Instead, all four episodes here feature the serial’s producer, the late Barry Letts (who by default takes on a sort of authoritative moderator role) and actors Katy Manning (Jo Grant) and Richard Franklin (Captain Yates), recorded back in 2003. 

This is a relaxed and jolly affair which nevertheless still manages to be informative, thanks largely to Barry Letts’ sensible, methodical approach, which is still able to accommodate a sense of humour, though, such as when he points out the incongruity of the fact that Bill Filer and Captain Yates appear to have rather long hair considering their Establishment positions. This being the seventies, Letts points out, it was hard to find any actors to play soldiers who didn’t have cascading locks or were willing to cut them! Paul Grist actually looks more like a member of The Monkeys than a special agent, although the bountiful hair comes in handy for disguising his stunt double during the fight sequence which later takes place between Filer and his Axon double. Letts also points out how the continuity lapses created by the hugely changeable weather conditions encountered by the crew during the location shooting (which took place on Dungeness beach and in areas around the power station) were covered by Terrence Dicks hastily having UNIT’s Corporal Bell (Fernanda Marlowe) inform the Brigadier of ‘a report in from the Met office’. There are freak weather conditions over the whole area [meaning the landing site of the UFO] … sudden snowstorms, sir. Dense fog.’ This was a handy way of accounting for the fact that the snow and the fog comes and then just as quickly goes away again from scene to scene throughout the finished show!  

Letts comments that it was a mark of his inexperience as a producer that he authorised a location shoot in the depths of January when limited daylight hours made trying to get all the shots needed into a frantic rush against time, with no possibility of working around the adverse weather one should expect at that time of year. It was even more of a bad idea from Katy Manning’s perspective: she found herself freezing to death in the wintery conditions, clad in a flimsy top and a micro-mini skirt! Make-up had to be applied to her legs because they were turning blue from cold, and most of her dialogue was cut because her teeth were chattering on the soundtrack. All three are keen to praise Michael Ferguson’s contribution and his eagerness to experiment with in-camera effects, especially when combining models with live action sets, for instance. Letts points out that the third Doctor could often be extremely irascible in the company of officialdom but that he wasn’t necessarily always in the right, a detail that added to the drama of the show. 

One of the less successful elements of “The Claws of Axos” is Dudley Simpson’s synthesizer score, which unfortunately often just sounds like someone noodling around on a keyboard and making it up as they go along. It’s interesting to be reminded by Letts, then, that Simpson’s score, which was performed by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in Maida Vale on early 1970s electronic instruments, took an age to record on banks of computers that took up a whole wall of a room, and often resulted in the staff having to stay up all night to get it finished in time. Letts is impressed by Ferguson’s film-like cutting but cringes at the wobbly TARDIS time rotor, manually operated by stage hands; while Richard Franklyn  indelicately remarks how Katy Manning, who is aged to decrepitude by the Axons in one scene in order to force the Doctor to co-operate with them, ought to be looking like that now, but doesn’t! 

More in-depth info on the drafting and revision process which Baker and Martin were guided through by Terrence Dicks is included with the production note subtitles. The first version started off as a seven-part story called “The Gift” and ended up as “The Vampire from Space”, before contemporary concerns about the ‘horror’ content of DOCTOR WHO (concerns apparently shared by first Doctor William Hartnell, who was not a fan of the current direction the show had taken) led to it being retitled at the last minute. In any case the previous title gave away the fact of the Axons’ malign intent behind their pose of friendliness. The text notes tell us that the real-life Ministry of Defence was happy to supply both men and vehicles from a nearby barracks in Folkestone in order to lend the UNIT forces scenes authenticity, and a BBC outside broadcast van doubled as a mobile UNIT HQ. Behind the scenes info relates how an industrial dispute flared up over whose job it was to operate the devices that made the walls of the Axon ship throb and pulse organically, since they ran off the mains electricity and both the BBC electricians and the special effects department felt their union members should be responsible for flipping the switches! The gathering concerns in the media about new levels of scariness of the show also led to an act of censorship regarding the disintegration of the Axon victims, who originally were seen to deflate and crumple like a balloon. In the programme as broadcast the screen simply whites out as the effect begins. We also learn that Bernard Holley played a joke on set by walking on during camera rehearsals with his “Z Cars” police man’s cap perched on top of his golden Axon makeup, a ‘joke’ that apparently didn’t find favour with Jon Pertwee.

Disc one also includes a 25 minute selection of studio material from the BBC’s videotape library which includes all the unedited studio sessions recorded in studio 3 at BBC Television Centre. This early edit still has the serial’s original title – “The Vampire from Space” – and includes longer versions of scenes later cut down for time reasons or technical issues such as sound drop-outs. It also includes the uncensored version of the disintegration effects and affords a fascinating glimpse into the process of multi-camera studio filming, with the director seated in the gallery, relaying his instructions through a production assistant on the studio floor. This also features contextualising and explanatory optional text production notes which explain exactly what was going on during some of the technical hiccups or fluffed scenes captured for posterity here.

Also on disc one, hidden away as an easter egg, is a ten minute featurette entitled “Reverse Standards Conversion: The Axon Legacy”. This was included on the original 2003 DVD release as a demonstration piece showcasing the innovative restoration work that went into enhancing the NTSC colour videotapes of episodes 2 and 3 in such a way as to overcome the conflict in compatibility between NTSC and PAL standards which resulted in stuttering, poor quality images during the reconversion process. But this little documentary turns out to be much more than just a side-by-side, before and after comparison, as it delves into the history of the problem, which was originally researched at the BBC’s facility at Kingswald Warren. “The Claws of Axos” became the first benefactor of a process which was first investigated when it became necessary for the BBC to obtain broadcast quality images from an NTSC live signal for Olympics broadcasts, but even more extraordinary is the fact that the researcher whose work was critical in developing the methods later expanded upon by James Insell, went by the name of Dr Peter Axon!

Disc two includes several newly commissioned extras alongside a couple of shorter featurettes which were also included with the original release. “Axon Stations!” is the standard ‘making of’ documentary, now an expected part of the extras haul on any DOCTOR WHO DVD but not really seen in the early days of the range. Producer Chris Chapman sets the context from the very beginning – a faux Glam rock stomp provides the title music and the background for the collection of ‘talking heads’ assembled here to recount there memories and anecdotes about the making of the story consists of the serial’s most swirly psychedelic lava-lamp patterns. Script editor Terrence Dicks and surviving member of the writing team behind this adventure Bob Baker, talk about its long gestation in a torturous development process which originally began when Baker and Dave Martin sent in a spec script to BBC Centre about the war-time experiences of one of their pals, Keith Floyd – who would later become extremely famous in the UK as one of its more eccentric celebrity TV chefs. After being summoned by Dicks and assistant script editor Trevor Ray to BBC Centre, Baker and Martin were surprised to discover that they were wanted for DOCTOR WHO. The Bristol Boys duly sent in a whole script-length bundle of potential ideas but had not factored in the limited budget that the show was made on. ‘We’re not MGM!’ an exasperated Dicks is reported to have told the two in response. But this talent for ideas meant the duo was kept on, and after several years of development, the first of what became many stories by Baker and Martin finally made it to the screen. 

Next director Michael Ferguson relates how excited he was by the potential of the upcoming technology for new special effects, which resulted in the show’s throw-everything-available-at-the-screen approach. The director was also inspired by the psychedelic music of The Beatles to create the trippy visuals which are such an essential part of what makes this fairly insane story still work at all. The terrible weather conditions the actors and crew had to face while filming on location in Dungeness is one of the major points of anecdote throughout the documentary: Ferguson relates how he came to the project full of grand ideas inspired by a reconnaissance trip to the site of the power station they would be filming at, about how he was going to arrange certain scenes to incorporate the architecture of the station into his shots, only to turn up on the first day of filming and find the whole of Dungeness beach encased in thick fog. Overnight, it snowed heavily and then the next day it rained, washing all the snow away and leaving the show’s threadbare continuity in ruins!  

Katy Manning’s experiences and memories revolve more around the freezing cold temperatures everyone was working in, but which were particularly brutal for her since she was dressed in a miniskirt throughout! Dicks tells an amusing tale about how he and Barry Letts visited the location for a few hours one day to see how things were going, but left ‘feeling like those Generals you read about from the First World War, who drive down in their staff car from their Châteaux on the hill every now and then to visit the troops on the front line’ -- so bad were the conditions the stressed cast and crew were having to work under, and to such an incredibly tight schedule as well. Actor Paul Grist remembers how skilful Michael Ferguson was in keeping the whole thing together at all when the experience ‘was far from easy’. He also recounts how he later watched the finished show with his five-year-old son as it was broadcast, who became disturbed by his fight with his double in episode two. Bernard Holley talks about how hard it was to get the gold paint off his skin afterwards, and how he is still recognised and sent fan mail regarding his role as head of the Axon family even today. Katy Manning talks about the delight of getting to be around Holley when he was in his Axon getup – ‘a handsome man with a nice bum in a tight body-stocking!’ Finally, Stunt man and actor Derek Ware also talks about the creation of everybody’s favourite character from this story -- Pigbin Josh, of course!

A featurette from the original DVD release sees Michael Ferguson again discussing in more detail his work on DOCTOR WHO and the shooting conditions encountered during the making of Axos, in “Directing Who”; “Now and Then”, another feature from the old release, has Katy Manning narrating a look back at the shooting locations and revisiting them today, only to discover that absolutely nothing has seemingly changed at all. It’s as though the whole place had been caught up in some sort of time loop or something …. Hmm?!

This disc also includes the entire fascinating unedited record of the studio recording session for this story, lasting seventy-two minutes in total. We also get the usual PDF Radio Times listings, a ten minute gallery of  publicity stills and production photos and a coming soon trailer for the January 2013 release of the three-disc Legacy Box Set: a tribute to one of the great lost stories in DOCTOR WHO history – Douglas Adams’ “Shada”. 

And finally, perhaps the most unique and individual extra to ever find its way onto any of the classic DOCTOR WHO releases is the thirty-six minute documentary included here -- “Living with Levene”, in which comedian and commentary moderator Toby Hadoke gets to spend a weekend with one of the show’s most unusual and sometimes controversial figures: John ‘Sergeant Benton’ Levene, in a Louis Theroux-esque documentary that tries to uncover what makes the man tick. A tough life trying to win approval from his ‘difficult’ father seems to have driven the man to embrace every moment of fame he’s since painstakingly eked out for himself down the years, and there are some amusing moments here in which Levene walks with Toby around the streets of the small town in which he now lives to look after his elderly mother, collaring anyone he can find and telling them he used to be Sergeant Benton in DOCTOR WHO. Touchingly, most of the little old ladies he does this to seem to be perfectly happy to listen to him (despite his bad jokes) even if they don’t really have any idea what on earth he’s talking about. These are somewhat comical moments but in the end this is quite a touching tribute to one of the stars of one of the most distinctive eras in DOCTOR WHO history, and Levene was a major player in making it as loved and revered as it continues to be. “The Claws of Axos” isn’t the best illustration of that era, but it has more than enough memorable elements to make this a great purchase for the WHO fan, and the extras are now very comprehensive too. 

 
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