‘Terror of the Autons’ (TV)



Please feel free to comment on my review.

Autons with the Third Doctor, Jo and U.N.I.T.


‘Terror of the Autons’ is the first story of the second season of Jon Pertwee’s era of ‘Doctor Who’. After the success of ‘Spearhead From Space’, the Autons and Nestenes returned for a second time.

This four-part adventure is by Robert Holmes, who relishes in scaring the kids and making the Autons frightening than before. This is a really colourful adventure that is funny and scary at the same time.

This story is also the first time Katy Manning makes her first appearance as Jo Grant in ‘Doctor Who’. I love Jo’s first appearance in ‘Doctor Who’. She’s a lovely, plucky and clumsy character in the series.

terror of the autons2

Jo bundles on her first day at work when she meets the Doctor. She ruins one of his experiments and nearly blows up U.N.I.T under hypnosis by the Master. The Doctor gradually grows to likes Jo in this.

This is also the first story to feature Roger Delgado as the Master in the TV series. The Master became a popular, recurring villain for the Doctor in the Jon Pertwee era as he would keep returning.

The Master is really good in this first TV appearance of his. He’s a renegade Time Lord like the Doctor, but is sinisterly evil. He works with the Autons in this and can take control of people’s minds.

terror of the autons3

I enjoyed Jon Pertwee’s Doctor in this story. Compared to the Master, the Doctor can be quite arrogant and childish, despite being elegant and heroic. I enjoyed it when the two Time Lords meet.

The Doctor and the Master are opposites to each other, as they’re both duelling foes and being very gentlemanly. The approach for the adversarial relationship was from Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty.

And if there’s a Dr. Watson in ‘Doctor Who’, it’s Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier, who I greatly enjoyed in this story. I liked it when he interacts with the Doctor and Jo and is trying to save the world.

terror of the autons4

There’s also Richard Franklin who makes his first TV appearance as Captain Mike Yates. Mike is a very friendly and dependable chap, who relays everything that happens in this story to the Doctor.

And there’s John Levene as Sergeant Benton, who is punctual and loyal as ever. I liked that moment when Benton informs the Brigadier that the Doctor and Jo are in trouble when taken by a police car.

The Autons are chillingly scary in this adventure, compared to ‘Spearhead From Space’ and ‘Rose’. They use varying and horrific methods to kill the humans as well as using plastic dummies to walk in.

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First of all, there’s a plastic chair that suffocates McDermott with the Master and Farrel watching. There’s also an ugly troll doll that come to life and kills people. And there are deadly plastic daffodils.

The cast also includes Michael Wisher (who would later play Davros in ‘Genesis of the Daleks’) as Rex Farrel. There’s also Stephen Jack as Farrel Snr, Barbara Leake as Mrs. Farrel and Harry Tob as McDermott.

terror of the autons6

The DVD special features are as follows. There’s the making-of documentary ‘Life on Earth’ with behind-the-scenes interviews, ‘The Doctor’s Moriarty’ and the ‘Plastic Fantastic’ documentaries.

There’s also a photo gallery of the story, an audio commentary with Katy Manning, Nicholas Courtney and producer/director Barry Letts and an info-text commentary option to enjoy. There are also PDF materials, including a ‘Radio Times Listing’ PDF of the story; and ‘Sugar Smacks’ and ‘Nestle’ artwork. There’s a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘Frontios’ with Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Mark Strickson.

terror of the autons7

‘Terror of the Autons’ is a great follow-up to ‘Spearhead From Space’. It is a very colourful adventure with Jon Pertwee’s Doctor as he gets to meet Jo Grant and also deal with his enemy, the evil Master.

‘Mannequin Mania’ is a great DVD box set of ‘Doctor Who’ containing the two stories from the classic series featuring the Autons. It’s easy to see why they became so popular as they were brilliant creations by Robert Holmes. The Autons would soon make their return in the new series with ‘Rose’.

‘Terror of the Autons’ rating – 9/10



Please feel free to comment on my review.

Autons and the Master But No Brownrose

Terrance Dicks does it again with another exciting ‘Doctor Who’ Target novelization!

I’ve enjoyed ‘Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons’ based on the TV story that was the season opener for Season 8. I read both the Target novelization and the audiobook at the same time. I seem to be really getting into these ‘Doctor Who’ Target novelizations/audiobooks nowadays which is fun.

I like to purchase the audiobooks for these ‘Doctor Who’ Target novelizations as downloads via Audible nowadays. There are occasions when I would purchase tangible CD sets of ‘Doctor Who’ Target audiobooks, but it’s for ones that really matter to me. These would be ones that Nyssa is in! 😀

The actual Target novelizations themselves would be purchased via Amazon.co.uk as paperbacks when one are available. I have got into the habit of purchasing ‘Doctor Who’ books via Kindle, but that is in its early stages at present. I currently have the ‘Terror of the Autons’ book as a paperback.

This isn’t the first time I’ve read/listened to a ‘Doctor Who’ Target novelization/audiobook featuring Autons in it. Oh no! The first time was when I read/heard the Target novelization/audiobook of ‘Rose’ in 2018. It’s interesting I’m reading the Target novelizations of Autons stories backwards here.

‘Terror of the Autons’ as a novelization was first published in the year 1975. That’s four years after the story was transmitted on TV in 1971. I received the 1979 paperback edition of the ‘Terror of the Autons’ novelization in the post. This has a pretty horrifying image compared to the 1975 paperback.

The audiobook itself was originally released as a 4-disc set in 2010, though I purchased it as a download from Audible of course. The audiobook is read by Geoffrey Beevers, who played the Master in ‘The Keeper of Traken’. How come he reads these ‘Doctor Who’ novelization/audiobooks?

I get that he played a really good interpretation for the Master in ‘The Keeper of Traken’ as well as in the Big Finish audios. But aside from that and being the wife of Caroline John, Geoffrey Beevers doesn’t have much of a connection to ‘Terror of the Autons’. He does read the tale very well though.

He provides very good voices for the Doctor, Jo, the Brigadier, Mike Yates and Benton in the story as well as the Master of course. I’m convinced that Geoffrey Beever is doing his version of the Master, not Roger Delgado’s here. I think the Auton voices by Geoffrey should have been electronic though.

For the most part, Terrance Dicks has done a very good novelization of the TV story, based on the original scripts by Robert Holmes. Terrance also enhances the story with some additional scenes as well as improving some of the weaker aspects of the tale that were clearly evident on the TV screen.

The story was divided into 12 chapters through the book. That’s a typical Terrance Dicks chapter listing here. However, not each set of three chapters to make one episode out of the four in the original TV story matches exactly to that. The first two sets of three chapters achieve that really fine.

But when we get to the end of Chapter 9 for the ‘Part Three’ cliff-hanger moments, it’s not the Doctor being strangled by a plastic telephone wire for that. The cliff-hanger moment for the end of Chapter 9 is when Jo is being attacked by the plastic daffodil and she is beginning to suffocate here.

It’s interesting that Terrance Dicks decided not to end the ‘Part Three’ segment of the story with the Doctor getting strangled by the plastic telephone wire at the Master’s control in the novelization. This might have to do with Terrance omitting Brownrose from the novelization, but we’ll get to that.

Also Chapter 11 feels a long chapter in the book compared to Chapter 12 which is just three pages and the last scene in the Doctor’s laboratory. Chapter 11 has a lot of the U.N.I.T. battle with the Autons going on before the Doctor and the Master trying to stop the Master at that radio telescope.

Here’s an intriguing note regarding the publication of this story! Apparently, ‘Terror of the Autons’ was published after ‘Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon’, the Target novelization of ‘Colony In Space’ was published in 1974. That’s a year before ‘Terror of the Autons’ became published in 1975.

Now you might think me strange to say that considering ‘Terror of the Autons’ was transmitted before ‘Colony In Space’ in the TV series. But it gets even stranger as it turns out Jo Grant and the Master were introduced first in ‘The Doomsday Weapon’ book before the ‘Terror of the Autons’ book.

The point I’m trying to make here is that Terrance Dicks completely ignored Malcolm Hulke introducing Jo Grant and the Master first in ‘The Doomsday Weapon’ before he introduced them again in ‘Terror of the Autons’. What’s with the ‘Doctor Who’ Target novelizations getting confused?

First there was the mix-up of the Master doing things in ‘The King’s Demons’ before ‘Black Orchid’ in the ‘Black Orchid’ novelization. Then it was a mix-up of the Master using Ogrons and Sea Devils in both ‘The Sea-Devils’ and ‘The Space War’ novelizations. Now there’s this mix-up of introductions! 😀

Incidentally, the book illustrations by Alan Willow are pretty good in the Target novelization. I especially like it when seeing scenes recreated from the TV story such as the Doctor and Jo being inside a police car driven by Auton policemen as well as the Nestene creature appearing at the end.

In the book, there is more background given to Luigi Rossini, the owner of the circus featured in the story. There’s also a change of name for Rossini’s circus as it gets changed from International Circus as in the TV story to Circus Rossini. Rossini’s real name’s revealed as Lew Ross instead of Lew Russell.

When the Doctor meets the Time Lord Messenger who warns him about the Master on Earth, it gets revealed that the messenger was present at the Doctor’s trial during ‘The War Games’. This was interesting to see and it explains why there is tension between the two characters during the scene.

In the ‘Terror of the Autons’ novelization, we have the name of the Nestene planet given to us by Terrance Dicks! Wow! And it turns out to be called Polymos! I’m surprised this name for the Autons’ planet hasn’t come up again in the TV series. How come the Autons’ planet isn’t mentioned on TV?!

In the book, the Brigadier accompanies the Doctor and Jo to see Mrs. Farrel about her dead husband as well as getting ‘the killer doll’ as Terrance described it. Very nice to have the Brig come along for the ride, but it does reduce Jo’s role in terms of most of her lines being given to the Brigader instead.

There’s a weapon that the scientist George Philips uses against the Doctor in the story and that happens to be a Sontaran fragmentation grenade. Now considering ‘Terror of the Autons’ was made before ‘The Time Warrior’, it is interesting Terrance has a Sontaran weapon used in this novelization.

Also in the Target novelization, Philips dresses up as a crown whilst he’s at the circus at the Master’s command. A bit odd to read in the novelization, considering Philips didn’t dress up as a clown in the TV version. It’s very intriguing how Terrance uses that approach in the novelization compared to TV.

There’s a statement made by the Doctor in the novelization that if the Time Lords ever caught the Master, they would reverse his timeline so that he would never have existed. This is quite disturbing to think of, as it reflects on the Time Lords in ‘The War Games’ before changing in ‘The Five Doctors’.

I like how Jo gets caught by the Master when investigating Rex Farrel’s plastic factory in the novelization. In the TV story, she accidentally knocks things over and sheepishly comes out for the Master to hypnotise her. In the novelization, Jo actually tries to run away after making her accident.

Just as Jo runs away; the Master calls out to stop. She then turns round at his hypnotic command. That is pretty effective and terrifying to read in the novelization compared to the TV story. Jo’s attempts to run away and ultimately fail could’ve been so effective to watch in the TV version of this.

At the end of Chapter 3 of the story, Jo brings in the bomb in the ammunition box herself for the Doctor to open it in his lab rather than have it be found in Philip’s car as in the TV story. The reveal that it is a bomb before Jo frantically trying to open it under the Master’s control is effective in book.

Apparently it’s the Brigadier and Yates who enter to stop Jo setting off the bomb in the novelization rather than Yates and Benton entering in the TV story. Apparently the Doctor identifies the bomb as a Saturnian Solar Bomb. I supposed Terrance decided to name it in the novelization to make alien. 😀

I enjoyed the stuff in the novelization where Albert Goodge is thinking about his lunch and how he reacts to having boiled eggs during his working day. 😀 It was also interesting to read Rex Farrel’s father as a character, since he seems fiercely firm in his doubts about his son in charge of his factory.

It turns out McDermott founded Farrel Plastics with Rex Farrel’s father. There’s also a change when Rex Farrel forgets McDermott was murdered by a plastic sofa. He tells his father that McDermott is away on business. This was because the Master removed the murder incidental from Rex’s memory.

In the book, it is several circus men who try to capture the Doctor at the circus when he’s trying to get into the Master’s TARDIS disguised as a horsebox. In the TV version, it is just Tony the strongman who knocks him out. Rossini also persuades them circus men that the Doctor is stealing their takings.

A significant omission from the TV story into the novelization is the removal of Brownrose, the civil servant in the British Ministry under Lord Rowland. Quite frankly, I’m glad Brownrose wasn’t included in the novelization. He didn’t serve the tale at all as his role is given to the Brigadier instead.

There are small additions given in the novelization by Terrance Dicks compared to the TV version. These include the Doctor riding a roundabout whilst at the circus looking for Professor Philips. There’s also more detail given regarding the distribution of the daffodils by the Autons to the public.

In the novelization, the Brigadier makes the suggestion of mass producing the machine the Doctor used to destroy the Autons in their first invasion of Earth. The Doctor points out to the Brigadier that the Autons may have evolved a defence since then. I did like how the Doctor explains it in the book.

During the U.N.I.T. and Auton battle, it takes place in a field near the research centre in the novelization rather than on the research centre grounds in the TV story. The Master also disguises himself as an Auton when getting to the research. His killing a technician at the end is omitted here.

Like I said, the Nestene creature arrives on Earth and appears in the form of a tentacle creature similar to the one in ‘Spearhead From Space’ as illustrated by Alan Willow. This is different in the TV story as it never appeared in corporal form due to the special effect deemed as unconvincing to see.

There’s a change in the climax of the story where the Master helps the Doctor and the Brigadier to stop the Autons. Instead of changing sides and being persuaded by the Doctor very quickly, it’s revealed that the Master is afraid of both the Auton High Council for causing a failure in their plans.

There’s also the Master being threatened at gunpoint by the Brigadier in the scene. The Master becomes convinced by both the Auton High Council’s disposal of him and the Brigadier pointing him at gunpoint to change his mind. I think this works better in the novelization compared to the TV tale.

The novelization closes with the Doctor tinkering with the Master’s dematerialisation circuit with the Brigadier and eventually Jo leaving him in his lab. The final scene doesn’t have the Doctor say he’s looking forward to seeing the Master again. In fact, the Doctor states that he ‘can’t stand the fellow’.

‘Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons’ is a pretty good novelization by Terrance Dicks. There are considerable changes made in the story from TV into novelization. But these are changes made to improve upon the weaker aspects of the story, including Brownrose as well as the tale’s conclusion.

I enjoyed reading and listening to this Target novelization of ‘Doctor Who’, especially with Geoffrey Beevers reading the story in the background. Terrance Dicks does well novelizing these ‘Doctor Who’ stories into book form and does remains true to the spirit of Robert Holmes’ scriptwriting in this one.

‘Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons’ rating – 8/10

The previous story

For the Third Doctor was

  • ‘Taken For Granted’ (ST/Audio)

For Jo was

  • ‘Taken For Granted’ (ST/Audio)

For the Brigadier was

  • ‘The Devil Goblins From Neptune’ (Book)

For Mike Yates was

  • ‘The Devil Goblins From Neptune’ (Book)

For Benton was

  • ‘Taken For Granted’ (ST/Audio)
The next story

For the Third Doctor is

For Jo is

For the Brigadier is

For Mike Yates is

  • ‘Deadly Reunion’ (Book)

For Benton is

  • ‘Deadly Reunion’ (Book)
Return to The Third Doctor’s Timeline
Return to Jo’s Timeline
Return to The Brigadier’s Timeline
Return to Mike Yates’ Timeline
Return to Benton’s Timeline
Return to The Doctors’ Timelines Index
Return to The Companions’ Timelines Index
Return to Doctor Who Timelines
Return to Doctor Who
Return to Sci-Fi

4 thoughts on “‘Terror of the Autons’ (TV)

  1. Timelord 007

    One of my all time favourite stories, Robert Holmes has written a tense, terrifying, scary Auton sequel plus the Master’s debut played magnificently by the late great Roger Delgado.

    Yeah the CSO is overused & dodgy in certain shots but when Doctor Who is this much fun it don’t matter.

    Another detailed, helpful informative review, you write these reviews way better than me mate, there a credit to you & always a enjoyable read.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tim Bradley Post author

    I guessed this would be one of your favourites, and rightly so. It is a very enjoyable colourful sequel to ‘Spearhead From Space’ and a great introduction to Roger Delgado as the Master.

    Yes the dodgy CSO effects were hard to avoid being seen in this story. But that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story as it was fairly new and Barry Letts was good in experimenting with new ways of handling special effects when he directed this story.

    Glad you enjoyed my reviews on the ‘Mannequin Mania’ DVD box set, Simon. They have been a joy to review for me. Tim. 🙂


  3. Timelord 007

    Excellent review of the Target novel Tim & i completely agree with your review that some of the changes worked well while others didn’t, i didn’t like that line “i can’t stand the fellow” because it loses the Doctor/Master dynamic, you get the sense especially in Sea Devils when the Doctor visits him in prison he wishes his old friend could change his ways & the Tenth Doctor broke his hearts when the Master died in Last Of The Timelords & the Master saved the Doctor in The End Of Time so saying he can’t stand the Master i just don’t believe for one minute.

    Enjoyed Geoffrey Beevers narration he keeps up the drama & intensity throughout, overall 8/10 is about right nice one Bradders.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Simon.

      Very pleased you enjoyed my review on the ‘Terror of the Autons’ novelization/audiobook. Glad you agree with the points I’ve made in the review. Yeah some changes worked and didn’t work whilst reading/hearing the novelization/audiobook.

      Those are very good points you’ve made about the “I can’t stand the fellow” line by the Doctor on the Master. It doesn’t make sense, especially when you see their friendship witnessed and referenced to in the series both classic and new. I don’t understand why Terrance Dicks added that into the novelization. The original line of him looking forward to seeing the Master again at the end of the story is much better. I liked you referring to the Tenth Doctor and the Master’s relationship in ‘Last of the Time Lords’ and ‘The End of Time’.

      Yeah Geoffrey Beevers is very good as a narrator and for a change I enjoyed his narration on the ‘Terror of the Autons’ story compared to ‘The Sea Devils’. Glad you agreed with my rating on this novelization/audiobook, Simon.

      Tim. 🙂



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