Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) and The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) - Doctor Who - Spearhead From Space (c) BBC
Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) and The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) – Doctor Who – Spearhead From Space (c) BBC

Spearhead from Space: Episode 2

Broadcast on January 10th 1970 @ 5.15pm (8.1m viewers)

Jon Pertwee is the Doctor! Doctor Who Magazine was a few years away sadly but that was the cover that never was. It is during this episode Jon Pertwee cements himself as the Doctor, the third incarnation of the mysterious Time Lord. In Episode 1 the new Doctor is left delirious in the aftermath of his forced regeneration, hospitalised until some unknown individuals attempt to kidnap him and so it is only in Episode 2 that we finally see the new Doctor in full flow.

Jon Pertwee - Doctor Who - Spearhead From Space (c) BBC
Jon Pertwee – Doctor Who – Spearhead From Space (c) BBC

Pertwee was more widely recognised as a comedy actor, notably  in the radio show ‘The Navy Lark’, but made a definite decision not to be comedic and delivers possibly the most serious interpretation of the character. However, he still retains the skill to deliver humorous lines, with a glint in his eye as he teases the Brigadier that he doesn’t know if he’s an imposter or not. The way in which the Doctor acquires his new attire in the hospital is a lovely sequence which has since been replicated in the 1996 TV Movie and ‘The Eleventh Hour’ (2010) assisted by the location filming.

Due to a strike at the BBC producer Derrick Sherwin made the decision to make the whole story out on location with 16mm film. As a result it is the first complete story from Doctor Who’s history to be shot on film and therefore the only story from the classic era released in the High Definition BluRay format. ‘Spearhead from Space’ is also the first Doctor Who story broadcast in colour and the combination with the 16mm location filming delivers beautiful results. However, footage shot in the plastics factory of dolls being made is strangely disturbing and this unease would only get worse.

Memorable Moment (Spoiler warning)

Jon Pertwee - Doctor Who - Spearhead From Space (c) BBC
Jon Pertwee – Doctor Who – Spearhead From Space (c) BBC

Episode cliffhangers are by design intended to be memorable in order to entice viewers to tune in again next week. This episode delivers a real corker. Ransome sneaks back into the plastics factory, unsatisfied with how his previous meeting had concluded and curious to visit his old workshop. A row of mannequins stands in a row on the far side of the room. He examines but quickly dismisses them and moves across the room to look at another piece of equipment. Suddenly, one of the mannequins twitches into life and steps down, moving towards Ransome. To a young audience member that simple act of unexpected  movement was truly terrifying and still sends chills up the spine of older viewers, even when they know it is coming. That horror makes the Autons a popular creature to revisit, most notably for ‘Rose’ in 2005 which relaunched Doctor Who to the British public and is a classic example of how the show can make the normal and mundane really scary.

Watch as The Doctor arrives at UNIT to be reunited with the TARDIS.

Also first aired On This Day…

  • The Brain of Morbius: Episode 2 (1976)
  • Warriors Gate: Episode 2 (1981)

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