Season 8 begins with a strong story that brings the UNIT family into being and introduces one of the Doctor’s greatest villains, the Master.
I was worried about Jo. I had grown fond of Liz and had heard some bad things about Jo. I didn’t want to dislike her since she is going to be the companion for three seasons. Luckily, I think Jo is a great companion. Sure, she isn’t as intelligent as Liz but she isn’t some dumb young woman who is there to hand things to the Doctor liked I feared.
She has a lot of pluck and nerve. When she is ordered to stay behind while the Doctor goes to check out the circus she sneaks into Bessie and then rescues him. She also points out when the Doctor is being too arrogant. She helps keep him level headed and I think that is something this Doctor needs.
Captain Mike Yates is also introduced. I think he is another good addition, and not only because he is rather cute. He isn’t as severe as the Brigadier. He has a nice, charming personality. It is also nice for the Brig to have a permanent second-in-command unlike in the previous season. He seems to get along well with the other characters.
Then there is the Master. I was excited to see the original Master and he didn’t disappoint. He was a great villain and had good chemistry with Pertwee’s Doctor. The scenes featuring both of them really popped. He is such a deliciously evil presence. He is a pretty terrible villain but Roger Delgado imbues him with a lot of charm and wit so you hate him but like him at the same time.
My one complaint is story related. The Doctor is stuck on Earth because the Time Lords exiled him there because he was interfering too much. Here comes the Master, an evil renegade Time Lord who is on Earth to interfere and kill a lot of people. The Time Lords do absolutely nothing to stop him aside from warning the Doctor. Why exile the Doctor and let the Master roam free?
Pertwee has settled into the role of the Doctor quite nicely. This story showcases all the facets of his personality. His hubris is on full display, arrogantly telling off whomever he wants. His intellect is also put to great use as he tries to outwit the Master and find out the plans of the Autons. He also shows compassion when he refuses to fire Jo and keeps her around. His sly humor is also present.
The Autons were great here. I think this story showed just how pervasive an evil they can really be with the evil doll, the plastic chair, the flowers, the phone, and then the Autons themselves being brought to life by the Nestene.
The plan by the Master and the Autons is quite insidious. Giving away free flowers which, when activated, will smother people and kill a person within ten minutes is quite frightening. I also thought that the carnival masks the Autons wore were quite creepy.
There are some nice action scenes, especially at the end between the Autons and UNIT.
The scene where Mike is going to use the Doctor’s burner to make cocoa, followed by the Doctor’s reaction were quite priceless. I think adding Jo and Mike to the UNIT cast alongside the Brig and Benton was a genius move. They all work well together and bounce off one another in a good way.
One thing I didn’t like was the Master’s about take at the end simply because the Doctor said that the Nestene might not be able to tell the difference between the Master and humans. I feel that the Master gave in far too quickly considering how much time and energy he put into this plan.
I was hoping that Farrel would get a happy ending. I mean, the Master hypnotizes him and forces him to do terrible things. His father is killed by the Master. He finally breaks free of the Master’s control only to be shoved into a Master mask and shot dead. Poor bloke.
I understand that trapping the Master on Earth means he has to stay around and continue to give the Doctor hell, but I do wish he still had access to his TARDIS. It would give him a good advantage over the Doctor. Still, the Doctor shows just how smart he is by sabotaging the Master’s TARDIS.
All in all, this was a great way to begin the Third Doctor’s second season. The introduction of Jo, Mike, and the Master gives the story a nice little pep and spices things up. The story moves at a brisk pace being only four episodes long. I never once felt bored.