Outpost GallifreyFirst DoctorSecond DoctorThird DoctorFourth DoctorFifth DoctorSixth DoctorSeventh DoctorEighth DoctorNinth DoctorTenth DoctorOutpost Gallifrey
Episode Guide
Terror of the Autons
Production Code: EEE
Season 8, Story Number 55
Written by Robert Holmes
Directed by Barry Letts

Each episode is identified with date of transmission, duration, ratings in millions, and (for 1963-1974 only) archive status.

Episode 1
02 January 1971 | 24'36" | 7.3 | PAL D3 color restoration, 16mm B&W t/r
Episode 2
09 January 1971 | 24'48" | 8.0 | PAL D3 color restoration, 16mm B&W t/r
Episode 3
16 January 1971 | 23'28" | 8.1 | PAL D3 color restoration, 16mm B&W t/r
Episode 4
23 January 1971 | 22'10" | 8.4 | PAL D3 color restoration, 16mm B&W t/r
Archive Status: All four episodes exist currently as both PAL D3/NTSC U-Matic color restorations and 16mm black & white telerecordings; an original PAL color clip of episode 1 also exists from an episode of "Nationwide". Only the black & white film telerecordings were retained in the UK as recovered from BBC Enterprises in 1978. However, syndicated NTSC versions were sent abroad prior to the wiping of the color videotapes. At the time early domestic video recorders were just starting to become more common; one such NTSC video copy (in episodic format) was returned to the BBC. B&W film recordings were then recolored using the NTSC color signal and a new master tape was created with this color print. The recolorized version was released on video (see below). The unofficial Doctor Who restoration team remastered this serial intended for transmission in 1998, though the retransmission ultimately did not come to pass (see notes).
Jon Pertwee (Doctor Who), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), John Levene (Sergeant Benton), Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates), Roger Delgado (The Master), Michael Wisher (Rex Farrel), Harry Towb (McDermott), David Garth (Time Lord), Frank Mills (Radio Telescope Director), Christopher Burgess (Professor Philips), Andrew Staines (Goodge), John Baskcomb (Rossini), Dave Carter (Museum Attendant), Stephen Jack (Farrel Senior), Barbara Leake (Mrs. Farrel), Roy Stewart (Strong Man), Dermot Tuohy (Brownrose), Norman Stanley (Telephone Mechanic), Bill McGuirk (Policeman), Terry Walsh (Auton Policeman), Pat Gorman (Auton Leader), Haydn Jones (Auton Voice)
At a circus, a horse box materialises out of thin air and the Master (Roger Delgado) emerges. He hypnotises the circus owner, Luigi Rossini, whose real name is Lew Russell (John Baskcomb), and uses him to steal a Nestene energy unit from where it is on display in a museum, on loan from UNIT HQ.

At UNIT HQ the Doctor meets his new assistant, Josephine Grant (Katy Manning), as Liz Shaw has returned to Cambridge. Despite his initial apprehensions, the Doctor cannot bring himself to tell the enthusiastic Jo that he doesn't want her help.

The Master enters the Ministry of Technology's Beacon Hill research establishment and, killing Goodge (Andrew Staines), one of the scientists, and hypnotising another, Philips (Christopher Burgess), he uses the radio dishes to send a signal into space. The energy unit starts flashing as the Nestene Consciousness once more inhabits it.

Captain Mike Yates (Richard Franklin) reports to the Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney) about the missing scientists at Beacon Hill. There, the Doctor is warned of the presence of the Master on Earth by another Time Lord (David Garth). The Time Lord also alerts the Doctor to the presence of a bomb in the control room. The Doctor manages to prevent the bomb from exploding.

Back at UNIT HQ, the Brigadier sets up a search of all plastic factories in the hope of finding the Master. Meanwhile, the Master, posing as Colonel Masters, has hypnotised Rex Farrel (Michael Wisher), owner of a plastics factory, and is arranging for the production of Nestene-controlled plastic Auton products. He kills James McDermott (Harry Towb), the factory's chief engineer, with a black plastic chair that suffocates him, but McDermott has already alerted John Farrel, Rex's father and the retired manager of the factory.

Jo, investigating on her own, is caught and hypnotised by the Master, and made to open a box back at UNIT HQ found in Philips' car. The box contains a bomb and the Doctor realises the danger in time and throws it out of the window where it explodes harmlessly. The Doctor manages to break Jo's trance but she cannot remember where the Master was based.

John Farrel (Stephen Jack) arrives to see Rex. The Master gives him an ugly plastic troll (Tommy Reynolds) as a present. Activated by heat, it comes alive in his house and strangles Farrel to death.

Yates reports that a circus had recently been at the place where Philips' car was found and it has now moved to Tarminster. The Doctor goes there to see if anyone has seen Philips and Jo stows away in Bessie. The Doctor is seen investigating the Master's horse box - his TARDIS - and Rossini takes him prisoner with the help of Tony the Strongman (Roy Stewart). Jo sees Philips go into the horse box and alerts UNIT before rescuing the Doctor. Philips confronts them clutching a grenade and the Doctor tries to break through the Master's hypnotic conditioning. Philips rushes outside where he is killed as the grenade explodes. The Doctor takes a key from Philips' hand and steals the dematerialisation circuit from the Master's TARDIS.

A mob of circus folk, led by Rossini, attack the Doctor and Jo. They are saved by two policemen (Terry Walsh, Dinny Powell) who bundle them into their car and speed off, just as the Brigadier and Yates arrive. The policemen drive the Doctor and Jo to a quarry where they are revealed as Auton dummies. Following the police car, the Brigadier rescues the Doctor and Jo from the Autons. Back at UNIT HQ, the Doctor discovers that the Master's dematerialisation circuit does not work in his TARDIS and realises that the Master is now trapped on Earth as well.

Brownrose (Dermot Tuohy) arrives from the Ministry with a report of sudden and unexplained deaths occurring all over the home counties. The first two were McDermott and Farrel from the same plastic factory. While the Doctor is out seeing Farrel's widow (Barbara Leake), the Master, disguised as a telephone engineer (Norman Stanley), fits an extra-long cord to the telephone in the Doctor's lab. Back at the lab, the Doctor, Jo and Yates discover that the doll given to them by Mrs Farrel comes alive when heated, and the Doctor and the Brigadier decide to visit the plastics factory. It is deserted barring a plastic daffodil on the floor and an Auton in the safe.

Back at UNIT HQ, the Doctor is nearly strangled by the new telephone cord when the Master activates it. The Brigadier arrives and saves the Doctor. UNIT have located the bus being used by the factory to distribute the daffodils as part of a plastic promotion - it is parked in a quarry. He orders an air-strike to destroy it.

The Doctor discovers that the daffodils are activated by short wave radio signals and that they spray a fast-hardening plastic over the nose and mouth of anyone close enough, causing death by asphyxiation. The plastic seal dissolves with the victim's final breath. The Master arrives and takes the Doctor and Jo hostage to prevent the Brigadier from destroying the bus. The Master intends to activate the daffodils by radio impulses from the Beacon Hill centre.

The Doctor and Jo escape from the bus and the Doctor chases after the Master while UNIT battles with the Autons. The Doctor manages to convince the Master that the Nestenes will never recognise him as their leader. The Master, realising that the Doctor is right, helps him repel the Consciousness back into space.

As the Autons all collapse, the Master runs for the bus. He emerges minutes later and Yates guns him down as he pulls a gun from his jacket. They discover that the body is that of Rex Farrel - he was wearing a rubber mask of the Master's face. The Master escapes in the bus.

Synopsis from Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Handbook by David J. Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker, reprinted with permission; further reproduction is not permitted.

Production Team
HAVOC (Action / Stuntwork), Bruce Best (Assistant Floor Manager), Ken Trew (Costumes), Ian Watson (Designer), John Baker (Film Cameraman), Geoffrey Botterill (Film Editor), Dudley Simpson (Incidental Music), Jan Harrison (Make-Up), Barry Letts (Producer), Nicholas John (Production Assistant), Robert Brothers (Provision of Circus Sequences), Terrance Dicks (Script Editor), Brian Hodgson (Special Sounds), Eric Monk (Studio Lighting), Colin Dixon (Studio Sound), Delia Derbyshire (Theme Arrangement), Ron Grainer (Title Music), Michealjohn Harris (Visual Effects)
Story Notes
In addition to being a direct sequel to the Jon Pertwee debut story "Spearhead from Space," bringing back the Nestene Consciousness and its plastic servants, the Autons, "Terror of the Autons" is memorable as being the debut story of the Master, the Time Lord villain and nemesis of the Doctor, portrayed by Roger Delgado, who would go on to appear in every story of the season and sporadically in the next two seasons. It also featured the debut of Katy Manning as new companion Josephine (Jo) Grant, an intelligence trainee whose wiles and charm brought the show into the 1970's. Recurring cast members Nicholas Courtney (the Brigadier) and John Levene (Benton) were further joined by Richard Franklin as Captain Mike Yates, ostensibly brought in as a possible love interest for Jo (which never materialized) and as a go-between for the Brigadier and the field personnel. Producer Barry Letts directed the story, but due to contractual reasons he was unable to take a director's credit. Jon Pertwee was credited as "Dr. Who" rather than "Doctor Who" on episodes 3 and 4. The working title for the story was "The Spray of Death". In 1999, the Restoration Team completed work on this story one day before the BBC decided to skip directly to Tom Baker for the rerun season (ultimately canceled). The episode was recolored using recordings from American television after the color masters in the UK were wiped (see Archives). The Nestene and the Autons were to return in an ultimately canceled story, "Yellow Fever and How To Cure It" during season 23; the production was canceled in the 1985 hiatus as Robert Holmes died before beginning work. (They later did return in the BBC novel "Business Unusual" by Gary Russell and "SynthespiansTM" by Craig Hinton.)
For more in-depth information about the contents of this story, a complete episode-by-episode detailed breakdown can be found at the Doctor Who Reference Guide.
Additional, more detailed information about the production of this story can be found at Shannon Patrick Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel).
Video release
Released as "Terror of the Autons" in the UK [April 1993] and Australia/New Zealand [June 1993] (BBC catalog #4957), US/Canada [June 1995] (WHV catalog #E1276); episodic format, cover illustration by Alister Pearson. Recolored using original black & white negative and color source material; see "Archives".
In Print
Novelised as "Doctor Who -- Terror of the Autons" by Terrance Dicks (Target #63), hardcover and paperback, first released in 1975 with cover art by Peter Brookes and interior illustration by Alan Willow. Rereleased in 1979 with cover art by Alun Hood.
For more details on the various novelizations of this story, with additional background material, artwork and details of both UK and foreign releases, visit On Target.
Links and Additional Info
Restoration Team:More detailed information on technical matters concerning color restoration and remastering of "Terror of the Autons" can be found at the Doctor Who Restoration Team website under the headings "VHS Releases," then "ColourRestorations".
Screencap Descriptions
Descriptions of each story screen capture above right, top to bottom:
  • The Master (Roger Delgado) has come to Earth
  • new UNIT recruit Josephine Jo Grant (Katy Manning)
  • the Autons disguised as carnival dummies
  • the Masters handiwork with the Tissue Compression Eliminator
  • the Time Lord (David Garth) that comes to warn the Doctor, though he gets the coordinates slightly wrong
  • Rossini (John Baskcomb) interrogates the Doctor (Jon Pertwee)
  • Yates (Richard Franklin) watches as the Nestene materializes on Earth
  • the plastic chair envelopes McDermott (Harry Towb)