Spearhead From Space
Spearhead From Space was the first story of Season 7 of Doctor Who and was the first to feature Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor. The story introduced a new companion, Caroline John’s Liz Shaw. Continuing on from the last part of The War Games, it marked a significant change to the premise of Doctor Who. The Doctor would now serve out his Time Lord-imposed sentence of exile on Earth. In a sense, it also continued on from The Web of Fear and The Invasion, in that it continued the story of UNIT, and furthered the Doctor’s relationship with Nicholas Courtney’s Brigadier. Both would become regular components of this era of the program.
The story also introduced the Doctor’s binary vascular system, which would become an oft-repeated feature of Time Lord physiology thereafter. Moreover, it premiered the Nestene and the Autons, who would reappear in future stories. Russell T Davies would later use this story as a template as he wrote the first episode of the 2005 series. It also had some commonality with Steven Moffat’s first story as producer, in that both this story and The Eleventh Hour would introduce a new Doctor and new companion after the departure of those from the previous story, effectively making a “clean break” from the previous era of the show.
It was also the first Doctor Who story to be broadcast in color. Behind the scenes, it was the last contribution of Derrick Sherwin and Peter Bryant to Doctor Who, as the BBC transferred them both to another program in the middle of principal photography. The latter stages of the story were actually produced, uncredited, by Barry Letts. On top of this complication, the BBC employees who operated video cameras decided to strike between the time of location filming and studio recording, since they believed they should get more money for operating the technically more sophisticated color cameras. This required Sherwin to commit the story to 16mm film, since the film cameramen were in a different union, and therefore not on strike. Spearhead from Space thus became not only the first color Doctor Who story, but also the only story to ever be shot entirely on 16mm film. Over forty years later, Sherwin’s decision to switch to film made it possible for Spearhead to easily adapt to new media. It is the first and currently only Doctor Who story of the classic era to be released in the Blu-ray format.
It is the late 20th century on Earth. At a tracking station, a radar technicianis scanning the screen and calls for the duty officer. She comes in, and he shows her what looks like a meteor storm – but the meteors appear to be flying in formation, and heading toward Epping, Essex.
There, in Oxley Woods, a local poacher, Sam Seeley, sees the meteors falling to the ground and runs for shelter. As he comes out, he finds one of the meteorites pulsing with energy. The TARDIS also materializes in Oxley Woods, and the newly regenerated Doctor emerges and collapses to the ground.
Meanwhile at UNIT, a car arrives. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart interviews Doctor Elizabeth Shaw of Cambridge University for the position of UNIT scientific adviser. She is rather dubious at the prospect and openly derisive of the Brigadier’s claim that Earth has interacted with alien races. The Brigadier mentions a mysterious man known only as “the Doctor” who aided UNIT in the past, but is now nowhere to be found. Captain Munro telephones the Brigadier from Ashbridge Cottage Hospital. Munro informs him that one of his patrols found a man collapsed in the wood next to a police box and brought him to the hospital. The Brigadier tells Munro that he wants the police box to be guarded and that the police are not to be notified on any account.
At the hospital, Dr Henderson looks over his patient’s x-ray films and is incensed that someone in the radiography department played a joke by making him appear to have two hearts. En route to voice his anger, he receives a page from Dr. Lomax in the pathology lab. Lomax is similarly furious with Henderson for sending him non-human blood. Henderson assures Lomax that he took the blood sample himself and even if the patient’s blood is different, he still has to look after him. Mullins, a porter who overheard Dr. Henderson’s end of the conversation, telephones the press in search of a reward, and tells them about the “man from space” in the hospital.
Meanwhile in Oxley Woods, Sam Seeley has returned for the meteorite, with a shovel and a burlap sack for poaching. He digs up the meteorite, uncovering an object that is not a clump of rock, but a pulsing, beeping orb. He hoists the orb from its earthy resting place and pockets it in his poaching sack. Suddenly, Seeley hears voices and looks through the trees to see three soldiers.
At the hospital, the Doctor wakes up and leans over the side of his bed, looking for his shoes, but his nurse puts him back into his bed just as Dr Henderson comes in. The nurse tells him the patient tried to get out of bed, but he has fallen asleep again.
A car pulls up outside the hospital, and the Brigadier and Liz Shaw step out of it. Inside the hospital, the lobby is overrun with the press who are asking Captain Munro about the hospital’s mysterious patient and what UNIT is doing there. The Brigadier offers them only the cliché explanation, “training exercise,” which the press do not believe. Among the press is a mysterious gentleman named Channing. The Brigadier and Liz Shaw enter, and the press ask the Brigadier about the “man from space.” He tells them he knows nothing about a “man from space”. They also ask him about the meteorites, but the Brigadier tells them he is busy and will talk to them later. The Brigadier and Liz enter the room and introduce themselves to Doctor Henderson. He tells the Brigadier and Liz that his patient has dual hearts and blood that can’t be identified.
Liz asks the Brigadier if he knows the patient, but, owing to Doctor’s changed appearance, the Brigadier doesn’t recognise him and asserts that he has never seen the man before in his life. The Doctor awakens and recognises the Brigadier, however. He borrows a little mirror from Liz and examines his new visage before falling asleep again. The Brigadier tells Munro that he wants the Doctor taken to UNIT HQ as soon as he is ambulatory, although Dr Henderson is not sure when that will be. The Brigadier further directs Munro to look for the meteorites.
Dr Henderson directs the Brigadier to the rear exit in order to avoid the press. Journalist Michael Wagstaffe sees Lethbridge-Stewart leaving and tells his colleague Jimmy that the Brigadier must have left from the back door. Jimmy asks Mullins when he and the press can be let in, but Mullins tells them they will have to wait. Wagstaffe goes to telephone the office, but then discovers Channing in a telephone box. He asks which newspaper he is on, but Jimmy says he does not know. Mullins comes over and says Channing must have come in with them. Wagstaffe kindly asks Channing if he could use the telephone box so Channing crossly leaves.
Meanwhile, Sam Seeley is leaving Oxley Woods, but he is stopped by Corporal Forbes. Forbes tells him the woods are restricted and expresses his displeasure with Sam’s poaching activities. Forbes asks Seeley if he saw the patrols; Seeley responds that they didn’t see him. Forbes declines Seeley’s attempt to sell him fresh rabbit, instead telling him to leave and not to come back into the woods until they are de-restricted. Seeley asks Forbes about the “thunderballs” (the meteorites) and asks if there is a reward for finding one of them. Forbes demands to know if Seeley knew where one landed, but Seeley replies that he was just asking. Forbes tells him to push off, and Seeley does so.
At the hospital, the Doctor wakes up and leans over the side of his bed again looking for his shoes, but the nurse tells him he’s not going anywhere. Dr Henderson enters again, and the nurse tells him the Doctor’s pulse has settled down – to a mere ten beats per minute. Dr Henderson asks the Doctor how he’s feeling but the Doctor says only, “Shoes.” The nurse tells Dr Henderson that he is worrying about his shoes and presumably thinks someone has stolen them. Dr. Henderson asks where they might be, and the nurse tells him they are probably in his locker. Dr Henderson takes them out and gives them to the Doctor who snatches them out of his hands and hugs them, pretending to be unbalanced but harmless. The nurse remarks that the Doctor has been behaving very oddly, so Dr Henderson tells he will take the Doctor’s blood pressure again.
His caregivers’ backs turned, the Doctor looks in his shoes and finds the TARDIS key which he conceals in his fist. Channing’s associates appear, knocking out Dr Henderson and putting tape over the Doctor’s mouth before sitting the latter into a wheelchair and kidnapping him. Dr. Henderson wakes up and discovers the Doctor has gone. As Dr. Henderson chases after him, he is intercepted by Captain Munro whom he alerts to the situation. Outside the hospital, Channing’s associates move the Doctor and his wheelchair into the ambulance, but the Doctor escapes in his wheelchair. The ambulance drives off with Channing at the wheel. Munro orders a soldier to shoot the tyres but they escape. The Doctor meanwhile leaves his wheelchair and returns to the TARDIS on foot. Captain Munro and a soldier find the Doctor’s wheelchair and start searching for him. The Doctor reaches Oxley Woods but as he crashes through the trees, he is shot down by a UNIT soldier guarding the TARDIS, and collapses once again. Corporal Forbes is incensed by the soldier’s actions.
Captain Munro, Corporal Forbes, and the private who fired the shot all converge over the unconscious Doctor. The Doctor is returned to the hospital, and the Brigadier questions Dr. Henderson about the Doctor’s condition. The bullet only grazed the scalp, but the Doctor is in a deeper coma than Dr Henderson has ever seen – which Henderson speculates is self-induced. Before the Brigadier leaves the hospital, Dr Henderson shows him the TARDIS key, and says the unconscious Doctor’s hand had to be pried open in order to get it. The Brigadier tells Captain Munro that he can double the guard at the hospital, as the police box is now en route to UNIT Headquarters. Munro shows him the broken up meteorite and says it was destroyed when it hit the ground; then orders Private Hawkins to carry the case to the Brigadier’s car, and shows the Brigadier a picture of Channing.
At Auto Plastics’ nearby factory, John Ransome visits the manager, George Hibbert, tailed by Channing. Ransome argues with Hibbert over his sudden termination and the cancellation of the production of the new doll which Ransome had designed and sold an American company on financing. Ransome also demands to know why everything has changed in the factory and what was going on inside his old workshop. Hibbert tells him they have developed a new process and to stay away; they’ll send Ransome his things. Just then, Channing appears in the room and watches Ransome leave the factory, before refreshing Hibbert’s hypnosis.
Meanwhile, Sam Seeley removes the meteorite from an old trunk in the garden shed and is taking a look at it; out of the trunk, its energy alerts an Auton in the woods. Seeley’s wife Meg comes into the garden, and Sam hurriedly pushes the meteorite out of sight into the shed. Meg inspects the trunk to make sure Sam isn’t hiding stolen goods in it. After seeing that it contains only an old blanket, she tells Sam she won’t have the dirty old trunk in the house. After she goes back in the house, Sam again hides the meteorite in the trunk.
At UNIT, Liz Shaw tells the Brigadier that he will be able to open the police box with the key. The Brigadier welcomes Major General Scobie and introduces him to Liz. Scobie asks what the police box is doing inside the lab, and with an ironic look, Liz tells him it is a spaceship.
Back at the hospital, Forbes is guarding Dr Beavis’ car at his request. Captain Munro orders him into a jeep; they’re off to join Section 3 who have turned up a meteorite. The Doctor sneaks into the doctors’ locker room in search of clothes. When Drs. Henderson and Beavis enter, the Doctor takes the opportunity to shower, thus hiding his face from them and avoiding a conversation. The Doctor’s new body has come complete with a tattoo on the lower right arm: a snake coiled into the shape of a question mark. On his way out, the Doctor steals a suit and Dr. Beavis’ hat and cape, escaping from the hospital in Dr Beavis’ car.
At UNIT, the Brigadier tries to open the TARDIS again, but fails; Liz suggests that he has the wrong key. Meanwhile, Captain Munro’s soldiers dig up another meteorite; freed from the ground, its signal alerts the Auton in the woods, who sets off toward them. Munro orders Corporal Forbes to deliver it to UNIT HQ. On his way, Forbes swerves to avoid the Auton and crashes the jeep into a tree, killing himself. The Auton takes the meteor. In Ransome’s old workshop, now full of Autons, Hibbert tells Channing that General Scobie will soon arrive.
Meanwhile, the Doctor drives into UNIT’s vehicle entrance. Before the commissionaire can even ask to see his documents, the Doctor berates him, declares that he hasn’t a pass, and demands to see Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart at once. The commissionaire telephones the Brigadier and is told to send the Doctor up. The Doctor enters the lab and shows the Brigadier his wristwatch which doubles as a TARDIS magnet. The Doctor says that he will try testing on the TARDIS. The Brigadier tells him to stay where he is, as he has a lot of questions to ask the Doctor, but the Doctor tells him he has lost his memory. The Brigadier asks the Doctor hows he is he to know the Doctor is not an impostor, but the Doctor tells him that only he himself knows that. The Doctor looks at himself in a mirror and thinks he looks very smart, and opines that his new face would be quite useful on Delphon, whose inhabitants communicate with their eyebrows. The Brigadier introduces the Doctor to Liz Shaw, to whom the Doctor expresses “How do you do,” with his eyebrows.
The Brigadier notes that Doctor arrived concurrently with the meteor storm, in the same wood, and is not certain that the two are not connected. The Doctor investigates the broken bits of the meteorite, and finds them rather exciting; given the shape of the fragments, he deduces that they were hollow spheres, carrying something to Earth. The Brigadier asks the Doctor if was going to assist UNIT. The Doctor asks him if he will give him the key to the TARDIS, to which the Brigadier replies, “Possibly”. The Doctor then asks him how many meteorites came down and the Brigadier says there were fifty of them. The Doctor then asks him if there were any fragments, and the Brigadier says there was one which caused an accident and disappeared. The answer to the Brigadier’s question obvious to the Doctor: the meteorites had been collected and taken somewhere by the time the soldiers arrived to to look for them, The real question is “Where?”
Ransome returns to the Auto Plastics factory and climbs over a high wall to enter the factory grounds. In Hibbert’s office, Channing and Hibbert are showing General Scobie a plastic dummy before leading him out of the office. Ransome enters the factory, climbs up the staircase and breaks into his old workshop to find it full of new modern electronic equipment and a line of blue suited Autons. As he inspects a strange computer-like device, he hears a noise from behind him. He turns around and is horrified to see an Auton step down from a plinth and stop in front of him.
The Auton takes the cover off its hand, showing a small nozzle. It tries to shoot Ransome with an energy bolt, but he gets out of the way. He escapes from his workshop and runs down the fire escape next to the factory with the Auton chasing him. Outside the factory, the Auton prepares to shoot Ransome again, but it sees Channing coming and re-enters the building. General Scobie bids goodbye to Channing and Hibbert. Channing tells Scobie that he can take a look at at the model once before it is shipped out. Meanwhile, Ransome climbs over the factory wall and runs out into Oxley Woods where he collapses and is rescued by UNIT. Channing discovers that the Auton lost Ransome. Channing intends to send an Auton to kill Ransome.
In a UNIT tent, Captain Munro telephones headquarters and is confident that his cordon will keep whoever took the meteor from getting far. Sam Seeley insists on knowing the reward for a “thunderball” and Munro demands to know where he found one. Hibbert is concerned that the “swarm leader” meteor is still missing, but – like Munro – Channing is confident that it will be found.
Ransome reports what he has seen at the factory to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Meanwhile, the Doctor tricks Liz into retrieving the TARDIS key from the Brigadier’s office. His attempt to escape, however, is fruitless, as the Time Lords have changed the dematerialization codes.
At Brook Cottage, Meg Seeley opens a trunk in the shed and discovers the meteorite – the swarm leader. Suddenly, she hears a strange noise coming from inside the house. She enters the house and encounters an Auton that has broken in and is knocking things over in its search for the swarm leader. Meg runs outside into the garden and gets Sam’s shotgun out of the shed. When the creature emerges into the garden, Meg loads the gun, aims it and warns the Auton that if it doesn’t leave, “I’ll blow a hole in you!” The Auton ignores the warning, and keeps advancing. Meg opens fire, but the blast has no effect on the Auton. The creature knocks Meg aside and goes into the shed.
When UNIT arrive at the cottage, they enter the living room looking for Meg. They run out into the garden and find the Auton standing over Meg’s unconscious body. The soldiers and the Brigadier shoot at the Auton; it escapes, but is forced to leave the swarm leader behind. Liz puts a blanket over Meg Seeley while the Brigadier goes to telephone for an ambulance. The Doctor investigates the meteorite and tells Liz the signal for it must have been muffled by the metal from the trunk it was in. Liz tells him to be careful with it as it might explode, but the Doctor tells her it will be alright as long as they treat it gently. Liz is worried that the swarm leader will return for it.
In Channing’s workshop, Channing tells Hibbert the swarm leader has been taken by some UNIT soldiers. Hibbert asks why the Auton didn’t kill the soldiers and Channing tells him he recalled it because it is too early for a major confrontation. He then tells Hibbert that UNIT must be delayed.
The Auton discovers Ransome in the UNIT tent; Channing orders total destruction, “Destroy! Total destruction!” There is a flash of light as the Auton obliterates Ransome’s body without a trace remaining. The Brigadier is infuriated with the the sergeant whom he had left in charge. The sergeant had posted a guard at the front of the tent, but left the back exposed, allowing what appears to have been Ransome’s abduction. The Doctor presumes Ransome has been taken to the plastics factory, and off they go to investigate.
The Doctor, Brigadier, and Liz meet Hibbert in his office. The Brigadier tells him about Ransome’s story, omitting that they too had encountered the Auton. Hibbert denies everything and insists that Ransome was making up stories to discredit Auto Plastics after being let go for his supposedly impractical ideas to produce electronic dolls.
At UNIT HQ, the Doctor uses an electroencephalogram and finds the the Nestene sphere is emitting brain waves. The Brigadier telephones Major General Scobie to ask for authority to raid the factory. Scobie agrees to meet the Brigadier and hangs up to attend to the knock at his front door. He opens the door to reveal an exact replica of himself, which enters and advances towards Scobie.
At UNIT, the Doctor and Liz are investigating the meteorite. The Doctor says that inside it is a brain. Just then the buzzer sounds and the Brigadier picks up the telephone. It is General Scobie’s replica. He tells the Brigadier the factory is locked and that he has some important work to do at the moment. Before the Brigadier can argue with him, he hangs up. The Brigadier crossly puts the phone down. He tells the Doctor the replica of General Scobie must have been made by Madame Tussauds, a waxworks in London. The next morning, the Doctor and Liz visit Madame Tussauds, and discover hundreds of dummy replicas of important people. The Doctor discovers that all the replicas are made of plastic. He investigates a model of General Scobie and discovers a watch on his wrist. He realizes it is the real General Scobie, whom the Autons have immobilized. The Doctor telephones the Brigadier, but Captain Munro tells him he is not in.
The Doctor then tells Munro he will call him later. In the factory workshop, Channing shows Hibbert a tank containing a body of an alien called the Nestene Consciousness. He tells Hibbert that the meteorites have created a body for the creature. Hibbert says the swarm leader has vanished, but Channing tells him they have the help of General Scobie’s replica. He also says that tonight, the Autons will be activated. In the Doctor’s lab, General Scobie’s replica is with Captain Munro and orders him to give him the last meteorite. Meanwhile at the waxworks, Hibbert turns off the lights and leaves the room. The Doctor enters the dark room with a torch. Liz is frightened, but the Doctor tells her there is nothing to be scared of.
Just then, the Doctor and Liz hide behind a curtain, and Channing and Hibbert enter the room. From behind the curtain, the Doctor and Liz watch as the dummies leave the room. The Doctor meets Hibbert and tells him about the Auton that killed Ransome. Hibbert tells the Doctor he had to kill Ransome because Channing told him to, but the Doctor hypnotises him to believe that Channing is controlling his mind and that he is Hibbert’s enemy. Hibbert says that Channing is his partner. The Doctor tells Hibbert he has to escape from Channing and asks him to come to UNIT so he can help him. But just then, Channing enters the room again and finds Hibbert standing around, so Hibbert leaves the room.
The Doctor and Liz tell the Brigadier that Channing and Hibbert have left the waxworks, and tell him he has to move against the factory quickly. In Channing’s workshop, General Scobie’s replica tells Channing that if the Doctor and UNIT move against him, he will stop them. Channing takes the meteorite and puts it under a pipe. It sucks the meteorite into the Nestene’s body. Channing tells Scobie’s replica that in the morning, the Autons will be activated. In the lab, the Doctor is building a device to destroy the Autons.
At dawn the Autons are activated. They break out of a shopping centre and kill many people. Back in the lab, the Brigadier tells the Doctor that the invasion of the Autons has started. The Doctor shows him the weapon that will destroy the Autons. The Brigadier tells the Doctor his headquarter staff can help the Doctor destroy the Autons. In Channing’s workshop, Hibbert, who is now free of Channing’s control, uses a metal pipe to open the tank containing the Nestene, but breaks a small button on the tank. Channing enters and stops Hibbert and tells him he should not have left the factory grounds but Hibbert tells him that he has been controlling his mind. Channing tells him that he is part of the Nestenes.
The Nestenes have been colonizing other planets for a thousand million years, and now they will colonise Earth. Meanwhile, the Doctor and the soldiers leave UNIT and head for the factory. Channing tells Hibbert there is nothing he can do. Hibbert attempts to kill Channing and the Autons by hitting the tank with the pipe, but an Auton sees what he is doing so it shoots him with an energy bolt and he dies. Channing gives his orders to the Auton: “Destroy! Total destruction!” and Hibbert explodes.
The Doctor and the soldiers reach the plastics factory. The Doctor opens the door, and everyone enters the factory grounds. Just then, General Scobie’s replica arrives with his men, and tells the Brigadier that he and his men are under arrest. The Doctor points his device at General Scobie’s replica and the replica falls. A soldier accuses the Doctor of having killed General Scobie, but the Doctor tells him he was never really alive.
Meanwhile, the real General Scobie awakes and finds himself in the waxworks. The Doctor and Liz enter the factory and the Doctor uses his device on a passing Auton. An army of Autons enter the grounds. The soldiers attack them but they discover the creatures can not be destroyed by gunfire. The Doctor and Liz enter Channing’s workshop. The Doctor discovers the Nestene’s body and tells Channing that with his device, he can destroy him and the Autons, but Channing says that “No one can destroy the Nestenes!” and turns up the tank to full power.
The Doctor discovers that the Nestene Consciousness has created a monstrous tentacled body for itself. He tries to destroy it with his weapon, but discovers it is not working. The creature roars in anger, and wraps its tentacles around his mouth. As the Doctor struggles with the creature’s tentacles, Liz finds the trouble: a loose connection. She repairs it and uses the Doctor’s machine to shut the Nestene Consciousness down and send it back into space. Without the motive power of the Consciousness, the Autons have no more power and they collapse. Liz is glad to see the Doctor is alright, but then she discovers Channing. He has been revealed to be nothing more than a sophisticated Auton, and has likewise been deactivated.
At UNIT HQ, the Doctor remembers that he has to return the hat and coat, as he “borrowed” them from the hospital. Similarly, he must return the car as well… although he has taken quite a liking to it. The Brigadier floats the offer to the Doctor to let him work on a means to repair the TARDIS, while also helping UNIT stop future alien invasions. The Doctor, with misgivings, agrees – once the Brigadier agrees to help him find a car similar to the one he likes so much. Liz also agrees to become his new assistant. The Brigadier goes to prepare the paperwork, but stops, realizing that he doesn’t know the Doctor’s name. “Smith”, says the Doctor, with a smile. “Doctor John Smith”.