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Doctor Who: Spearhead From Space (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Spearhead from Space originally aired in 1970.

Oh well, at least he won’t get very far.

You mean, before your men shoot him again?

I don’t find that funny.

– The Brigadier and Liz discuss the Doctor’s (second) escape

Looking back now, it’s hard to believe that Spearhead from Space had so much riding on it, if only because of the deft combination of Robert Holmes’ sharp script and Derek Martinus’ confident direction. Indeed, the serial served as something of a second pilot for the show, demonstrating that the survival of the series during the transition between William Hatnell and Patrick Troughton had not been a fluke, broadcasting in colour for the first time, and setting up an entirely new status quo set primarily on present-day Earth. It’s a miracle that it all works so well, let alone that fact that it remains one of the most accessible adventures featuring the character.

We need a Doctor in the TARDIS!

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