Terror of the Autons Retcon;Doctor Who;Jo Grant;Katy Manning;Third Doctor;Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart;Jon Pertwee;Jeri Massi

Terror of the Autons

retcon additions by Jeri Massi

From a story by Terrance Dicks

A retcon is the deliberate retro-fitting of a story to make it fit the canon. The following story is from the televised canon of Doctor Who, with sections added to smooth it out and make it fit better.

NOTE: Anything that appears in indented boldface type is retcon material that I wrote as additional or changed material. The rest of the text is summary of the canonical version of the story.

While the Master is busy reducing the circus owner "Rossini" to a servile dog at heel, Jo Grant begins her career at UNIT by using a fire extinguisher to douse the Doctor's "steady state micro-welding" experiment, thus ruining his new dematerialisation circuit. The destruction of his precious work by a young girl whom he takes to be the tea lady calls forth a torrent of protest from the Doctor, including the appellation "ham-fisted bun vendor," which is extant in the BBC television production but was omitted from the Target novelisation. For the Doctor, things go from bad to worse when the girl--who looks and dresses like a teenager--tells him that she is his new assistant.

He immediately tries to send her off, but Jo Grant sticks like the bits of foam now glued to his circuit. She brings him a message from the Brigadier about the stolen Nestene consciousness egg and takes advantage of his concern over it to engage him in conversation. To his surprise, he finds her questioning why he ever allowed the Nestene consciousness "egg" to be spared.

Her dark eyes expressed sudden, honest doubt in him, and to his own surprise, the Doctor defended his judgement to her.
And to his greater surprise, he finds himself justifying his actions to her. This annoys him even more.

Abruptly, he realized that they were having a conversation. He cut it off. "I'll speak to the Brigadier directly," he said. "Good morning to you, Miss Grant."

His abrupt dismissal caught her off guard. "But I--"

"Good morning," he repeated. "And please, close the lab door."

The Master infiltrates the high radio control tower of the Deep Space Research Center No. 2, killing one of the researchers (Goodge)in the tower control room and subduing the other (Professor Phillips) to his will. He then opens a channel into deep space, sending a call out to the Nestenes so that they can connect with the egg he has stolen.

After a brief clash of egos, the Doctor and Brigadier agree on a plan to search for the Nestene consciousness egg, which houses a dormant unit of the Nestene universal mind. If the consciousness is awakened by its Nestene parent mind, it will be able to once again take control of certain inanimate materials to use and discard as it seeks to make a way for a full-scale Nestene invasion. Both men realize the imminent danger of the mind being awakened. But still the Doctor finds time to reject Jo Grant as his assistant. In his confrontation with the Brigadier about getting a "mere child" as an assistant rather than a trained scientist, the Brigadier hits him very hard with how he treated Liz Shaw. Behind the Brigadier's half mocking countenance and tone, there is a genuine disapproval of the Doctor's previous behavior toward Liz. I emphasized this in the retcon, and I emphasize that--at least in front of the Brigadier--the Doctor is somewhat ashamed of himself for how he treated Liz.

The Brigadier tells the Doctor that Jo can be relieved of her duties, but the Doctor will have to tell her. When Jo bounces in, bright eyed and enthusiastic over having tracked down some equipment for the Doctor, the austere, curmudgeonly time lord realizes that he cannot do it. In the Target novel, Dicks compares Jo to a puppy waiting for him to throw her a stick. This is a bit heavy handed, and I altered it to describe her more in a childlike way.

The alert comes in from the Deep Space Research Center, and the Brigadier, Mike Yates, the Doctor, and Jo speed down to the site to investigate. There they discover the grotesquely shrunken body of Goodge, hidden in a lunchbox, and they find the evidence that the Master has arrived and has opened a channel to the Nestenes. The Doctor closes the channel, knowing full well that he is too late. The consciousness egg has been awakened. Their only hope is to locate and destroy it before it can create a plastic weapon that will empower it to broaden the invasion.

Jo remains in the background through most of the events at the research tower, but Goodge is the first dead body she has ever seen, and the horrible means of his death (molecular compression) is incomprehensible to her. Yet she goes about her duties and at the lab she makes tea for the Doctor.

In spite of her best efforts to carry herself with the composure of the Brigadier, Yates, and the Doctor himself, her eyes were big and her hand betrayed her with one impulsive shake as she handed him a cup of tea.

"Thank you, Jo," he said quietly, using her given name for the first time.

He walked away toward the workbench, but his shoulders were relaxed. "Devilish business," he said. "This is the sort of thing we sometimes see."

It was the first bit of conversation he had yet offered her. Emboldened by his understanding, she asked a question:

Jo then asks him about the Master and the Nestenes, and he explains some things to her. The Master himself, meanwhile, has taken over a plastics factory by the expedient of putting the spineless, youthful president and son of the founder under his thumb. He switches production to the manufacture of the manikin-like creations favored by the Nestenes. Rex Farrell does not so much as notify his father of the changes.

The Brig, meanwhile, maps out surveillance and questioning of all the plastics factories in the area, and Jo is assigned to check several of them, much to the Doctor's annoyance and amusement. He is sure that she is useless as an agent. But Jo, who visits Rex Farrell in the course of her duties, immediately senses that the young man seems blank at times, as though he had been brain washed. In the novelisation Dicks depicts Jo as undertaking a secret inspection of the plant as a thoughtless spree. I retconned the lines to show her awareness that her suspicions would quickly be over ridden back at HQ, and so she decides to look for something verifiable that she can tell the Brigadier.

The Master catches Jo. I depict that she actually succeeds in resisting his mind control far better than Rex did. In fact, after the Master assumes that he has subdued her, he gives her the orders on what she is to do. But as some part of her mind realizes that he is telling her to kill the Doctor, she struggles again to break free of his hypnotic spell. Her efforts to break away from the Master's eyes and control wring pity even from the controlled and servile Rex. The Master holds her eye to eye and forces her to repeat again and again that he is the Master, until she is unable to resist him and capitulates her will to his. She goes to carry out her orders. He laughs at her as she leaves Rex's office, but part of him is relieved that the bomb that she is carrying to the Doctor will kill her as well.

The Master and Rex Farrell have other problems, as McDermott, the production manager for the plant, objects to the changes that Rex has made. McDermott, a beefy, no-nonsense Ulsterman, is ready to call in Rex's father, but the Master intercedes. He convinces McDermott to try out a black plastic chair that he has designed. The chair swallows McDermott and smothers him to death. (In spite of the poor special effects in Doctor Who, it is one of the creepiest scenes I have ever watched.) In the lab, the Doctor, Mike Yates, and the Brigadier wrest the locked box away from Jo and pitch it out the window, where the bomb inside explodes harmlessly. They put Jo into a chair, but as soon as the bomb has exploded, she withdraws into a type of post hypnotic shock, the after-effect, the Doctor notes, of having been forced to do something she found morally reprehensible. The Doctor gently tries to help her come out of the Master's domination, and he realizes--with some surprise--that her post-hypnotic trauma and shock are so deep because she resisted far more than he would have thought her capable of doing. He looks into her eyes, attempting a sort of counter hypnosis. I added items to this scene to make it more clear that it is not time or assurance or the fact that nobody was killed that brings Jo back, but the Doctor himself.

As her preoccupation with the box seemed to subside under his assurance, he asked her a direct question, "Who gave you the box? Who told you to open it? Was it the Master?"

Eyes still not seeign him, she nearly jumped up, but he caught her and helped her back into the chair. "You're with me now, Jo. Where is he? Where did you see him?"

Her slight body became rigid with terror and she tried to turn away from him. "I can't. I must obey him. But it's . . . Said to obey him. I must obey him."

The Doctor hooked a finger under her chin and gently turned her face towards his. "Look at me. I'm safe. Nobody hurt me. The box is gone. You're safe with me now, and the Master cannot get to you here."

But her eyes still did not see him. "I can't do that!" she exclaimed. "I have to, but it's . . . Said to obey . . . "

His voice became slightly more authoritative. "Jo, listen to me!" She fell silent and the eyes became more vacant. "You will disregard any orders that he has given you. You will assert your will against his."

Jo nodded briefly. Her staring expression took on a hint of confidence.

"You are here, with me---the Doctor---here at UNIT."

"We should take her to sickbay," the Brigadier said.

"Leave her alone," the Doctor said severely. "She needs to hear our voices. When her psyche senses that she's safe, she'll break free. I want her to stay with me now."

He glanced at Jo, who sat rigid in the chair, eyes still fixed. "Remember Jo, you're with me. The Master has failed. We're all safe."

Mike and the Brig want to get her off to sick bay, and he refuses to let her be separated from him, telling them that sleep and being alone are what she will fear most. He talks to her while she is in the post hypnotic shock, explaining their progress in the case, and every now and then reminding her that nobody was killed, that he is all right, and that she can come back. As the afternoon wanes, she does come back.

"Hello, Jo, welcome back," the Doctor said as Jo Grant's large dark eyes focused on him.

"Doctor!" she exclaimed, alarmed. And then, "Oh! The Master! The box!--"

He put his hands on her shoulders to prevent her from rising. "Now, now," he said lightly. "It's all right now. Take a moment to get your feet under you before you go dashing around."

"Why I-I nearly killed you! I nearly killed us all!" She cut herself off and looked up at the Doctor in speechless horror at what she had almost done. She realized in an instant that he could dismiss her, and that he should dismiss her. Or at least reprimand her. But to her surprise, he smiled at her. "Now that you're back, we ought to get you into the infirmary. You need a good sleep to recover."

Tears stung her eyes. "I am sorry, Doctor."

The Doctor somewhat breezily accepts her apology and assures her that the blame lies with the Master, who has snared older and more experienced people than Jo.

The Brigadier and Captain Yates enter on this, bringing the news that Professor Phillips' car has been found at the site where a circus had been set up. The circus has moved on, but they think that Phillips may be among the troupe. The Doctor orders Jo to the infirmary, rebuffs the Brig's offer to go along, and leaves for the circus alone to investigate.

Jo pretends to obey orders and then goes off after him, determined to win his respect and redeem herself after her first blunder.

Meanwhile, at the plastics factory, Rex Farrell's father, learning that McDermott has died at the office and been taken to the morgue, makes an appearance. He and the Master clash immediately, and Farell Senior, an even more decisive man than McDermott, storms out, ready to go to the police and launch a full investigation into the character of this "Colonel Masters."

The Master urges him to accept a gift of a hideous plastic doll, and at Farrell's refusal, he tosses it on the back seat of the car as Farrell drives away. Farrell arrives home and brings the doll inside to show his wife. They are both puzzled at Rex's behaviour and confused at the death of McDermott and Rex's bland acceptance of it. Farrell Senior leaves the doll on the radiator and settles down with his paper while his wife prepares dinner.

The doll slowly comes to life on the radiator and attacks Farrell, strangling him from behind. As he struggles and falls away from the heat source of the radiator, it scuttles away and then becomes dormant again. At Rossini's circus, the Doctor adopts the most direct method to find Phillips: He goes around to the regular circus employees with Phillip's photograph. The people he talks to are curt and even hostile, and he does not realize that a ragtag mob gradually forms in his wake, seeking to follow him to some quiet area where they can do what they want without witnesses.

The Doctor is distracted by the definite hum of a TARDIS, and he quickly locates the Master's TARDIS in the disguise of an elegant and gleaming horsebox. Before he can pick the lock and get inside, the circus ruffians, under the direction of Rossini himself, overpower him.

He is dragged into Rossini's trailer, a somewhat luxurious sanctum stocked with whiskey, cigars, and an easy chair. Once inside, he is bound in a straight backed chair by Rossini's strong man: an African incongruously named "Tony." Rossini questions the Doctor, and Tony helps by applying various wrist twistings. But by the end of the interview, Rossini is actually intimidated by the Doctor's quiet authority. Even as Rossini keeps demanding the Doctor's identity, the Doctor keeps demanding to know where the Master is and warns Rossini of the dangerous crime he is committing in the kidnapping of a government scientist.

Rossini finally leaves the Doctor under Tony's watch, and the Doctor attempts to question Tony, but the big man makes straight for the expensive whiskey. Meanwhile, Jo has tracked the Doctor to the trailer and notified the Brigadier. She returns to attempt a rescue.

In the trailer, while Tony is helping himself from the array of bottles, the Doctor is distracted by a movement at the window:

Jo Grant's face, solemn as a child's in a church, appeared at the lower corner of the window. She was behind Tony as the strong man drank a shot straight from the upended bottle, but her large dark eyes got even larger as she stared at his leopard skin and bulging muscles. She shot a glance at the room, spied the Doctor, and her face lighted up with delight and exultation. He scowled at her and jerked his head to indicate that she should vanish. Her face whisked out of sight.

It was the worst possible moment for such a thing, but he felt a sudden urge to laugh. The sense of comedy quickly faded as Tony turned towards him and Jo silently pushed the front door open a crack. Her eyes, huge with suspense, fixed on the back of Tony's head. She needed a distraction, and the Doctor gave her one.

As the Doctor starts calling for help, Tony attempts to silence him, and Jo smashes a discarded bottle over the strong man's head. She frees the Doctor, and he leads her out in a determined second attempt to get into the Master's TARDIS, which Jo takes to be an ordinary horse box.

The Doctor succeeds in picking the lock and gets inside to steal the Master's dematerialisation circuit while Jo keeps watch. But he comes out to find that Phillips, dressed now as a clown, is approaching with an explosive device in his hand. The Doctor tries to free Phillips from the Master's control as he freed Jo, but Phillips has been under control for too long. As the Doctor rapidly talks for their lives, Phillips detonates the bomb in his hand without throwing it, killing himself.

The explosion draws the circus workers again, and before the Doctor and Jo can escape, they are dragged down by the mob. The Doctor tries to protect Jo as stout posts and chains are brought into play, but things do not go well. Unexpectedly, they are rescued when a police car pulls right into the middle of the melee. Two beefy officers thrust them inside the car and drive off.

It takes several minutes for Jo and the Doctor to realize that they have been rescued, not by police officers, but by Autons, the living dummies manufactured by the Master and Rex Farrell. The Doctor jerks the steering wheel hard to the right, sending the car into a ditch, and he and Jo try to escape through the surrounding forest/rock quarry (depending on whether you are reading the novelisation (forest) or watching the TV show (rock quarry)). The Autons pursue and shoot at them from the energy blasters hidden in their hands.

But just then the UNIT people show up, and a full scale battle ensues, with the UNIT people barely rescuing the Doctor and Jo and escaping. The Autons are just as deadly as they proved in their first attack on earth (Spearhead from Space, which featured the Third Doctor and Liz Shaw), and just as hard to destroy.

Back at UNIT, the Brigadier tries to hold a briefing in the lab, but the Doctor is impatient to try out the dematerialisation circuit that he stole from the Master. He finally is irritating and rude enough in his speech to offend the Brigadier and send him away with Yates and Benton. Jo gently reproaches the Doctor, reminding him that the Brigadier has just saved their lives.

The gentle rebuke startled him. Neither Susan nor Zoe, nor his other young companions, had ever rebuked him or expressed doubt in some of his judgements as Jo did. Liz Shaw, of course, had often done so. But Liz had been very direct with him all the time and ready to cross swords if she thought him mistaken.

Jo Grant's child-like and gentle awe of him, combined with her honesty, put him at a disadvantage. He could not spar with her as he had done with Liz, and she would not blithely accept his actions as impeccable. But he had no inclination to come to terms with her.

The Doctor promises to apologise if he should ever get the chance, and then goes straight to the TARDIS with the new circuit. He waves farewell to Jo and then steps inside, much to her confusion.

The only result of this escape attempt is a puff of smoke and a small explosion in the console. The new circuit is of a different model then the old one, and it will not work without being adapted.

The Doctor emerges from the TARDIS, his eyebrows singed, and confesses this to Jo. She again gently rebukes him for running out on them, and he countermands by saying it would have just been a test flight. But this now raises her curiosity about him and the Master:

The Brigadier had already acquainted Jo with the idea that the TARDIS had once been able to travel, though she had no idea how. But the Doctor's remarks startled her.

"I don't understand," she said. "The Master's trapped? Trapped where? He's running around free right now, isn't he?"

"He's trapped on Earth, Jo," the Doctor told her. "Like I am."

The reply startled her further. He met her wide eyes with a calm look, as though he were discussing perfectly ordinary things.

"Well, who are you then?" she asked. "What are you? Are you and the Master---similar?

"In some ways," he told her. His eyes became pensive as he regarded her, and for a moment he nearly did answer her questions. But he stopped himself as he recalled her uncomprehending eyes during their desperate escape from the Autons.

Jo Grant was no Susan, and no Zoe: Young, yes, idealistic, yes. But she was perfectly earthbound and ordinary. She did not comprehend the vastness represented by their enemies. To her, space was something that people looked at on moonlit nights.

"I am a scientist, Jo," he told her at last. He turned away. He intended that his contact with her would be brief anyway.

"You've got to be more than that," she said as he went to the workbench with the circuit.

"Yes, but the rest doesn't matter right now, my dear." He pulled up a lab stool, sat down, and reached for a pencil and some graph paper. "And speaking of the Brigadier, he'll want a report of our activities and findings at the circus. You'd better see to it."

While the UNIT people desperately try to track down the Master and begin the painstaking process of re-investigating all the factories that Jo had checked (because one effect of the Master's spell is that she cannot recall where she found him), other events are occurring: A travel coach full of figures dressed in white flannels, masked by grinning carnival heads, is making a tour of England. These persons are giving away free plastic daffodils, canvassing crowded thoroughfares and gladly giving away as many as people want.

A week passes. The Doctor becomes more tolerant of Jo, and she is openly in awe of him. He approves of this. A second mystery crowds the first: a rash of inexplicable deaths: asphyxiation, heart failure, shock, has swept through the nation. It's not a full scale epidemic, but far more than the normal rate to be accountable as natural causes. The Doctor sidesteps the matter until he can sort out the Master and the Autons.

At last, the Brigadier tracks down one plant, which Jo visited, that has closed down. Further checking shows that the production manager and former president died within a day of each other. The UNIT team go out to investigate, stopping first to see the bereaved Mrs. Farrell.

In my retcon, Jo is more able than the Brigadier or the Doctor to get Mrs. Farrell to re-think the events of her husband's death, and through Jo's gentle questioning and encouragement, Mrs. Farrell reluctantly retrieves the devil doll from the basement, though she is half ashamed of her own fancy that it is evil.

The UNIT investigators are intrigued and interested by the doll. They rush back to the lab, but are interrupted by the initial reports of the deserted plastics factory. The Doctor and Brigadier decide to go out personally and investigate, leaving the lab under the watch of Jo, with Mike Yates as officer of the day. While they are gone, Mike consoles Jo by making hot cocoa in the lab, using the Doctor's Bunsen burner setup. The heat activates the doll, and it attacks Jo but is ripped apart when Yates enters and fires his gun at it several times.

The Doctor and the Brigadier discover a discarded plastic daffodil at the factory and also find an Auton waiting for them. They are able to destroy it, but their investigation is now cinched. The daffodil provides a link with the coach of carnival figures, and a search is immediately begun.

Back at the lab, the Doctor analyzes what is left of the doll and realizes that heat triggered it. He makes an analogy to the daffodils. Something will trigger them to make some type of attack, but he doesn't know what. The Brigadier finds this attack idea ludicrous. He cannot imagine how a daffodil, either singly or in bunches, could hurt anybody.

But this analogy of signal activation is further borne out when the Master personally telephones the Doctor and uses a sonic signal to activate the new flex cord of the Doctor's telephone. It tries to strangle him. The Brigadier enters in time to save him.

The Doctor sets the daffodil up in a metal stand and clamps it in place, as though afraid it might wander off somewhere. While he tries to analyze the plastic daffodil, the Brigadier's agents at last turn in photos of a coach hidden in a rock quarry. Their pictures show the rigid, stiff forms of Autons inside. The Brigadier makes an instant decision to have the quarry bombed. The Doctor opposes this solution, but the Brigadier over rules him. All their enemies are huddled together away from innocent people, and such a chance may never arise again. With an hour left before the bombs are dropped, the Doctor drives himself to find the solution to his puzzle.

Jo enters the lab and in my retcon I point out that he does not send her out again. In fact, he tells her to radio the Brigadier and check the time of the drop. As she tunes the radio, the daffodil suddenly activates and rotates in its clamp, its bell acting almost as a sensor. Jo, fascinated by this, leans too close. The daffocil shoots a plastic seal at her. The liquid plastic hardens instantly over her nose and mouth. The Doctor fails to pry the seal away and quickly uses a solvent to dissolve it. He helps her to a chair, once again protective of her and gentle. But this solves the mystery. The daffodils will be activated by a radio signal and will home in on the breathing of any creatures near them. Well over a million of the deadly flowers have been distributed. The nation is in danger. Jo is shaken by what happened but is keenly aware of the public menace. As she stands, he attempts to be sympathetic.

"I'm afraid you're first assignment here at UNIT has been a bit brutal on you," he said hesitantly. "Very hard circumstances for such a young girl."

For the first time, the spark of enthusiasm and awe of him completely left Jo Grant's face. She glanced away. "It's nothing I can't handle."

She went to the door, not looking at him. "I've got to find another radio to contact the Brigadier.

"Tell him we've got all the evidence we need that those flowers are deadly," he said. "They must be collected at once."

She stopped and looked back at him. "Yes, Doctor."

He hesitated. "Sure you're all right?"

Her eyes met his with resolve. "Perfectly. Thank you, Doctor." She walked out. He suddenly regretted his earliest remarks to her.

The Master interrupts their work at the lab and takes both of them prisoner, after first collecting the stolen dematerialisation circuit from the Doctor.

He takes them to the hidden coach, thus forcing the Brigadier to abort the bombing run at the very last moment. Inside the coach, I retconned the scene to show that the Doctor realizes how much Jo hates and fears the very sight of the Master after the way he dominated her will. She trembles every time he looks at her. But she refuses to give up, and after they are bound and put in the back of bus, the Doctor sees her struggling with her will to find the strength to be optimistic and make a plan with him to escape. She goes back and forth between abject fear--brought on by an upbringing that did not allow for such unearthly and horrific events--to fierce determination to subdue her fear. He begins to respect her, and his respect is strengthened--at least for the moment--when she scrapes most of the skin off her forearms to get out of the ropes in which she is bound. Relying on his two hostages as a guarantee of safety, the Master drives out of the quarry and makes for the radio tower. Jo frees the Doctor, and they escape when Rex Farrell, still a servant of the Master, makes his one futile attempt to get away.

UNIT changes tactics to get to the radio tower in time to prevent the Master from opening the channel that will bring the entire Nestene consciousness across the gulf of space. At the radio towers, Jo--unarmed--has to crawl under a jeep for cover in the hail of gunfire. The Doctor automatically forgets about her in the urgency of the battle to repel the Nestenes. While UNIT engages in a ferocious gun and grenade battle against the grinning Autons, the Doctor and the Brigadier force the Master to reverse the signal, throwing the Nestenes back into space.

But the Master escapes from them and uses Rex as a duplicate decoy, allowing him to be shot. The Master escapes, but the Doctor has had something of the last laugh on him. Earlier, he had given the Master the wrong dematerialisation circuit, thus keeping him trapped on Earth.

Later, after the cleanup, Jo questions the Doctor about the dematerialisation circuit, but he is vague in his replies.

She shifted restlessly, realizing that he was once again determined to get on with his work alone. She made one last attempt to act as some sort of assistant to him.

"Would you like tea, Doctor?"

"No I---" He glanced up at her, saw her absently rubbing her raw wrists, and he suddenly said, "Why, yes, I could do with a break. Milk and sugar, please."

Happily, she hurried out to go find the tea lady, and he called out, "You'll have a cup, too, Jo?"

She stopped and smiled, pleased at his momentary consideration. "Yes, of course!"

"Right! And then it's back to work," he added.

She became serious. "Yes sir." And she went out to get the tea.

Read Two of a Kind, which is my own story that follows this one
Read the retcon of Mind of Evil, which is next in the original, televised series.
Back to Jeri's Dr. Who Fiction page!

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