Who Review – The Claws of Axos

Posted by Richo On January 4, 2013 2 COMMENTS

Welcome to the thirty-first instalment of Who Review, my ongoing quest to review all available episodes of TV’s longest running SF series, Doctor Who. This week, seemingly benevolent aliens offer the Earth a gift too good to be true in The Claws of Axos.


The Claws of Axos (4 Episodes)


13 March – 3 April 1971


Jon Pertwee


Jo Grant


At UNIT HQ, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is meeting with Bill Filer, an American secret service agent sent to the UK to discuss the threat the Master poses to the world.  Chinn, a conservative MP is also present, involved in a security inspection of the facility. During the meeting, monitoring equipment at the HQ detects an approaching alien spaceship.

The spaceship lands in England and UNIT troops surround the craft. They are joined by The Doctor, the Brigadier, and Sir George Hardiman and Professor Winser from the nearby Nuton Power Complex. Entering the craft, the UNIT team and their companions encounter the Axons, a race of beautiful golden-skinned humanoids. The Axons reveal that they are in desperate need of fuel and propose to exchange the miraculous substance they call Axonite for the energy they require. The Axons claim that Axomite is a “thinking” molecule that can replicate any substance. The Doctor is naturally suspicious, but his words fall on deaf ears: the Axonite could provide the UK with unlimited food and power.

Unknown to them, Bill Filer also enters the ship and is captured. He is imprisoned alongside The Master, who has been captured by the Axons. The Master has used his knowledge of Earth as a bargaining chip to ensure his survival.

Meanwhile, Jo Grant makes her way into the ship, searching for the missing Bill Filer. She encounters a hideous monster. Her screams draw the attention of the Doctor, UNIT and the Nuton team. The scientists declare that she hallucinated the monster, but Jo is adamant. Believing the allure of Axomite is blinding them to the possible dangers posed by the aliens, the Doctor suggests the Axomite be scientifically examined.

Chinn has already made arrangements for such an examination, and believing the Doctor and UNIT may prove a hindrance, he has them placed under house arrest. However, he is forced to reluctantly acquiesce to allowing the doctor to participate in the examination.

Meanwhile, the clearly malevolent Axons strike a deal with the captive Master, offering him freedom in return for his efforts in facilitating the global distribution of Axomite. They also create a duplicate of Bill Filer and send him to kill the Doctor, but the assassination is thwarted when the real Filer escapes and kills the clone.

The Doctor soon determines that the Axons are all part of a single parasitic entity called Axos that plans to feed on Earth’s energy through the Axomite once it is distributed globally. Before he can act on this knowledge, the Axons, in their true form, take him, Filer and Jo prisoner.

Back in the Axomite star craft, the Doctor is interrogated. Axos reveals that it knows the Doctor is a time traveler and offers to restore the gaps in his memory caused by his exile in return for the knowledge of time travel.

Meanwhile, the Master chooses to renege on his pledge to aid Axos, and attempts instead to steal the Doctor’s TARDIS from the nearby power station, as his own time machine is held by the alien parasite. Unfortunately, he cannot get the Doctor’s TARDIS to work, but hatches a plan to boost the TARDIS’ power by connecting it to the power station. He is captured by UNIT troops before he can enact his plan, but makes a deal with the Brigadier to aid in the destruction of Axos in return for his freedom. The Brigadier reluctantly agrees.

The Doctor and Jo manage to escape from Axos and make their way to the power station. Realising that Axos wants to travel through time to increase its feeding base, the Doctor hatches a plan to trick Axos and lock the creature in a perpetual time loop. He manipulates the Master into completing repairs on the TARDIS, then materialises the TARDIS in the centre of Axos with both himself and the Master aboard.

Inside the star craft, The Doctor offers to link his and the Master’s TARDIS’ together to create one giant time machine, conditional on The Master and Axos aiding him in getting revenge on the Time Lords for exiling him to Earth.  They accept, but the Doctor tricks them. Every part of Axos de-materialises from Earth, including the Axos automatons and the Axomite. They materialise within the Doctor’s TARDIS and attempt to trap him with them in the time loop, but the Doctor simply boosts a flight circuit and frees himself from the loop. The Master also manages to escape, fleeing in his own TARDIS.

With Axos defeated and his time machine repaired, the Doctor bids farewell to his earth companions and prepares to once again travel through space and time. The TARDIS dematerialises only to appear in the same place seconds later, and the Doctor realises that the Time Lords have programmed the TARDIS to always return to Earth. His exile continues.


If SF has taught me anything, it’s never trust seemingly benevolent aliens offering the solution to all of the Earth’s ills…

After a lengthy run of solid to excellent stories, the Pertwee era has finally suffered its first misstep. The elements are certainly all there; seemingly benevolent aliens secretly plotting Earth’s destruction, another confrontation with The Master, the Doctor forced to make difficult decisions. Unfortunately, the parts are greater than the sum of the whole, and The Claws of Axos suffers from poor execution.

My first issue with this story was the appearance of the Master. After two excellent stories highlighting the Master’s manipulative and malevolent ways, his presence in Claws is poorly handled and seemingly random. He is no longer the scheming mastermind of Terror of the Autons and The Mind of Evil. He seems to have been added to the story merely to ensure his presence in the series continues unabated, and his presence here is damaging to the excellent work of the past stories.

Secondly, The Claws of Axos is remarkably light in actual plot. Even though it is only 4 episodes, it still feels as though the story meanders and falters at times, especially in the middle episodes.

Fortunately, the final confrontation between Axos, the Master and the Doctor goes a long way towards saving this story. The Doctor’s plan is ingenious, and the way he manages to manipulate both the Master and Axos is inspired. It’s a shame that the earlier episodes cannot match the excellence of episode 4.

The Claws of Axos was apparently a far more ambitious script originally. Intended as a 6-parter called The Vampire From Space, it called for the Axions to land in Hyde Park in a skull-shaped craft. Unfortunately, impracticalities and budget constraints saw the production scaled down substantially. I’m glad the story title was changed, as The Vampire From Space would have given away the major plot twist before the story even begins.


For the first time, the Doctor manages to outwit the Master and gain the upper hand. It’s an important and necessary victory, reminding us of the incredible intelligence and wisdom the Doctor possesses and showing that he can outwit the Master at times. Before The Claws of Axos, the Master was seemingly always two steps ahead of the Doctor.

The Claws of Axos also shows the lengths the Time Lords have gone to keep the Doctor exiled on Earth. Not only did they disable the TARDIS, but they programmed it to return to Earth should the Doctor ever find a way to repair it. More telling, though, is the damage they have inflicted on the Doctor’s mind. Not only have they wiped part of his memory, but they’ve removed his knowledge of de-materialisation theory to hinder his efforts.


After The Mind of Evil, Jo Grant was beginning to grow on me, developing a rebellious, independent streak and a strong connection with the Doctor. Unfortunately, her characterisation takes a step backwards in The Claws of Axos, as her presence in the story seems to be something of an afterthought. I certainly hope she can get back on track as she has little to do in this story and her shortcomings as a character become apparent.


Personally, I love parasitic vampire aliens that disguise themselves as benevolent saviors of humanity. Unfortunately, as visually interesting as Axos is, there’s something lacking in its character to really make it stand out as a great villain. The seeds are all there, but like much of the episode, the depiction of Axos fails in its execution. It’s a shame, as I feel there was a wasted opportunity here. A stronger story could have made Axos a real standout villain.

As discussed above, the Master also suffers in The Claws of Axos, primarily due to his lack of drive and purpose in the story. Unlike his previous appearances, he seems to stumble through this storyline rather than being the mastermind we’ve come to know and love. Hopefully his subsequent appearances will be more impressive.


While there are many compelling elements and an excellent final episode to The Claws of Axos, the overall story is flawed and unsatisfying.

2.5 Lukes


The Doctor finally returns to space, with Jo in tow, to explore the mystery of The Colony in Space.

2 Responses so far.

  1. Melthoid Serendipity says:

    There aren’t many episodes during the Pertwee/Baker/Davison years which were obviously weak when first viewed (unlike virtually the entire C.Baker/McCoy era!!!)…Claws was easily the weakest of this particular season and arguably the second weakest story in the entire Pertwee era (trust me…you’ll know when you’ve hit numero uno!)…it’s wedged between two of the best Pertwee stories and agreed, the writers have created a story in which the Master isn’t the central villain and therefore clearly shouldn’t be in it at all…as for Jo she gets better, much better with each episode. The production team just hadn’t quite worked out what to do with her yet!

    • Richo says:

      “the writers have created a story in which the Master isn’t the central villain and therefore clearly shouldn’t be in it at all” – Yep. That sums it up perfectly. A villain as great as The Master shouldn’t be wasted like he is in Claws.

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