Spearhead from Space

From Academic Kids

Template:Doctorwhobox Spearhead from Space is a serial in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts from January 3 to January 24, 1970. The serial opened Season 7 of the show and was the first to feature Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor. It also introduces Caroline John as Liz Shaw.



The newly regenerated Doctor has barely enough time to adjust before he gets involved in an alien invasion of Earth. Creatures of living plastic, the Autons, are here to make the planet their own, and only the Doctor and UNIT can stop them.


Missing image
The Auton invasion begins.

The Doctor, having had his regeneration forced by the Time Lords (see The War Games), has been exiled to Earth. A swarm of meteorites falls on the English countryside, and a poacher discovers a mysterious plastic polyhedron at the crash site. In the meantime, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart of UNIT is trying to recruit Dr. Elizabeth "Liz" Shaw as his scientific advisor and investigate the unusual meteorite falls.

The plastic polyhedron is actually a power unit for a non-physical alien intelligence known as the Nestene Consciousness. Normally disembodied, it has an affinity for plastic, and is able to animate humanoid facsimiles made from that material, known as Autons. The Nestene have taken over a toy factory in London, and plan to replace key government and public figures with Auton duplicates. The Auton in charge of the factory sends other, less human-looking Autons to retrieve the power units from UNIT and the poacher.

The Doctor discovers that his TARDIS has been disabled by the Time Lords and he is trapped on Earth. He convinces Lethbridge-Stewart that he is the same man who aided him before to defeat the Yeti and the Cybermen, despite his change in appearance. Together with Liz, he uncovers the Nestene plot, just as Auton mannequins are activated across London and start killing people. However, the Doctor creates an electroshock device that he believes will disable the Autons.

UNIT attacks the plastics factory, but the Autons are impervious to gunfire. The Doctor and Liz make their way inside and encounter the octopus-like plastic creature that the Nestenes have created with the power units as the perfect form for the invasion. While the Doctor struggles with the creature, Liz manages to use his machine to shut the creature down, and all the Autons "die" as well, being part of the Nestene gestalt consciousness.

The Brigadier fears the Nestenes will return and asks for the Doctor's help. The Doctor agrees to join UNIT in exchange for facilities to help repair the TARDIS, and Liz stays on as his assistant.


  1. Spearhead from Space was the first Doctor Who serial to be broadcast in color. Due to BBC staff industrial action, it was also the only story from the original 1963-89 series to be shot entirely on film, as opposed to the usual mix of electronic video cameras for studio material and film for location work.
  2. The working title of the serial was "Facsimile", and was based on a story that Robert Holmes wrote for the 1966 film Invasion, which featured an alien crashing in some woods and brought to a hospital where it is discovered he is not human.
  3. Several elements in the serial are reminiscent of Nigel Kneale's 1955 television serial Quatermass II, including such plot elements as an alien intelligence falling to Earth in the form of meteorites, invasion via impersonation, and an alien monster growing inside a tank.
  4. The serial was novelised by Terrance Dicks under the title Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion.
  5. The Doctor's exile would last until The Three Doctors, although the Time Lords would move the TARDIS through space and use the Doctor as their agent in Colony in Space, The Curse of Peladon, The Mutants and The Time Monster.
  6. The Autons would return in the 1971 serial Terror of the Autons and in Rose, the debut story of the 2005 series revival.

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