Getting to know Who: Spearhead from Space

A new decade, a new Doctor and now in thrilling colour! Our celebration of key Doctor Who adventures reaches 1970’s scare-fest Spearhead from Space.


A newly regenerated Third.


Cambridge scientist Liz Shaw and UNIT commander Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.


A new Doctor crash-lands on Earth during a shower of meteorites. As the Doctor recovers, something nasty is collecting the meteors at a local plastics factory, where the future of mankind is being formed…

The story so far…

  • Previously, the Second Doctor was forced to summon his own people, the Time Lords, to help end The War Games. Judged to be guilty of interference, the Time Lords exile the Doctor to Earth and forcibly change his face. This is why the Third Doctor collapses at the start of the adventure.
  • The Brigadier commands UNIT – a taskforce set up to investigate alien activity on Earth. He has previously met the Second Doctor – helping repel both the Great Intelligence’s Yeti (The Web of Fear) and the Cybermen (The Invasion). He is unaware of the concept of regeneration, but knows the Doctor is an alien who travels space and time in a Police Box.
  • We’re also introduced to the Nestene Consciousness – and its control over plastic items, including its killer foot-soldiers, the Autons. They would return in Terror of the Autons (1971), 2005’s Rose, and in the season finale of series five (2010). If you’ve seen Rose, watch out for a familiar scene in episode four of Spearhead!
  • The newly-regenerated Doctor steals clothes from a member of hospital staff. He does this again in the TV Movie (1996) and The Eleventh Hour (2010).

Best bit

An Auton goes about its horrific business:


Key quote

Liz: What are you a doctor of, by the way?
The Doctor: Practically everything, my dear.

Why it's worth a watch:

Despite being over forty years old, it features one of Doctor Who’s scariest sequences – when the hollow-eyed, unstoppable Autons slaughter members of the public in broad daylight. Being shot all on location film rather than a mixture of film and studio video (due to a BBC studio strike), makes it feel more like a serious movie than a family TV show, and it’s helped by some of the uncompromising shots used (a bloodied windscreen in a crashed jeep, for example). Finally, it’s a fantastic vehicle for Jon Pertwee – cementing his relationship with the Brigadier and making his mark on the role for the next five years.


Read more about Spearhead from Space at the BBC Doctor Who website, or get to know more Doctor Who adventures.

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