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Video Review by Edwin Patterson

It is heartening to know - unlike the dull universe Virgin is currently exploring, an old setting can lead to such an entertaining story!

Auton is the latest offerings from the production house BBV which brought us the somewhat disappointing (some may say boring) Probe series and the initially intriguing Stranger saga. However unlike these building blocks, 's premise is based around a classic Who setting rather than featuring weak facsimiles of familiar characters.

The Autons return with some pyrotechnics but certainly not the explosion we all could wish for. Nevertheless this Spearhead tribute reminds me much more of classic Who than any of its predecessors, even if it does borrow elements of the plot, setting and characters from other much loved TV serials (ironically The X-Files to which this story seems too similar, does this with excellent results).

Michael Wade puts in a marvellous performance as Lockwood (Head of the UNIT containment team) as does Byronie Prichard as the naive Scientist (who sets the events in motion with yet another example of typically seventies techno-meddling). Both share the role one would expect the Doctor to fill and within the context of the story they add the believability needed from any lead character(s). Not many of the other characters are as rounded as these or even need mentioning.

The setting is instantly recognisable as a UNIT facility (the markings are a dead giveaway) and the appearance of the Third Doctor's Auton Killer machine (it's on the back cover, so comes as no surprise) gave me warm fuzzies. The Autons are almost exactly like the ones seen in Spearhead, though here undergo a 'cyber-weakening' (tut, tut Bill Baggs) when some are stopped by mere bullets. However, even though a massacre never occurred on screen they have all the menace I experienced as a child behind the sofa. My only real complaint is that there are a few too many dialogue scenes between characters informing others of what previously occurred, slowing down the action (and perhaps taking away quality Auton-versus-UNIT time).

I won't reveal too much of the plot as this would spoil what little there is, except there is a happy ending (hate those). Go on and buy the thing. It's much better than Downtime and all profits go towards recouping production costs of this video and the next story, apparently featuring the Cybermen. Can't wait!

This item appeared in TSV 52 (November 1997).