Spearhead from Space is a classic story, and is often considered the archetypal Doctor Who adventure. The plot of the Nestene invasion of Earth doesn’t come to the fore until halfway through episode two, and we don’t even learn anything substantial about the Nestenes until episode four. This shows the strength of the Autons and the Nestenes, and the intelligence of Robert Holmes’ writing.

Holmes creates an enemy that everyone is scared and suspicious of, without actually showing them for nearly half the story. He deals excellently with The Doctor’s introduction, but the four-episode constraints don’t allow him to give a full backstory to the Nestenes.

What he gives – an explanation towards the resolution of the story – is more than adequate, but I thought it’d be rather interesting to actually explore Channing further. He is a great villain in this story, and oozes menace just with one look. He is the antagonist of the piece, and fulfils his role excellently, but we never see him communicating with anyone superior to himself. This was my starting point for my prologue.
All was quiet in the factory. The moonlight shone through a narrow slit on one wall, casting mysterious shadows across the room. A black, opaque coffin stood silent and patient, its lid open. Across from it was another prototype - a crumpled leather armchair. The test products waited in solitude, ready to play their part in the upcoming war.

Suddenly, something moved as the door to the room swung open and a man stepped through. He closed the door silently and crossed to a computer, a circular screen taking up most of the space at eye-level. Below that was a dashboard of buttons and controls. A black leather chair lay at rest in front of the computer. The man crossed to the chair and swivelled it around. Sitting in the chair was another man, wearing a blue suit and glasses. He wasn’t moving at all – not even blinking – as if in some kind of trance. The first man nodded, obviously happy with what he had found and crossed to the window.

The midnight half-light exposed his strange facial features. They were recognisably human, but there was something…artificial about them. He had an inquisitive nose and a large forehead. Small, keen eyes squinted out into the night. There was a mechanical beeping, like a telephone dialling over a long distance, and the man closed his eyes.

“Channing…” came a deep booming voice inside the man’s head.

“I’m here.” Channing replied, neither nervous nor confidently. He had a slightly dreamy and unconnected tone about his voice, as if speaking didn’t come naturally to him.

“Report on progress,” instructed the deep tones, which Channing recognised as the sound of the Nestene Consciousness.

“I have established a base here, and have acquired all the necessary resources. The plan is ready to initiate.”
“And the casket? Is the casket prepared?”

“Yes, everything is ready. The Nestene colonisation of Earth can begin.”

“The energy units have already been dispatched. The Consciousness will be received in six hours. Are the Autons prepared?”

“They are in production now. We have already created twenty, and have initiated the side-projects of duplication and mannequin supply.”

“Very good, Channing,” the Consciousness began, almost sounding pleased, “but there is still much to be done. You, as leader of this colonisation are responsible for the success of this mission. You know the consequence of failure.”

Channing nodded, his left eye twitching. “I understand.”

The exchange was clearly at an end. Channing stepped away from the window and crossed to the computer. He switched it on and an orange scanning arm began to rotate. It was picking up nothing yet, but it was only a matter of time… Channing exited the room and closed the door solidly behind him, hearing the click of the lock as he did so.

He descended the staircase to the factory floor. Here, everything was in progress. The production lines were busy and a large group of Autons - all immobile - were gathering in one corner. The automated machinery did not have any concept of rest, and this pleased Channing. At this rate, the Earth would be theirs within forty-eight hours…

He watched as the cogs turned, churning out miniature dolls and full-size mannequins. His thought process was interrupted by a tap on the shoulder, something Channing had definitely not anticipated.

He wheeled round to see Hibbert – the man in the blue suit and glasses – standing dazedly before him.

“What’s going… on?” Hibbert spluttered, words failing him. “Don’t you know it’s the middle of the night?”

“Production must be completed as soon as possible, Hibbert. You understand that.”

Hibbert, not wanting to disagree with Channing stood silently for a second, confusion etched across his weary face. “Yes, but through the night?”

“Whatever it takes, Hibbert.”

Hibbert nodded, a hand clasped to the back of his ear. He stumbled over his words, as if there was someone else making him say them. “Yes, yes… Whatever it takes…”

“Exactly. Now go back to the laboratory.”

Hibbert nodded and went back up the stairs. Channing waited a moment, scanned the room and then followed him, satisfied. More mannequins had been produced in the short time he had been on the factory floor. They stood, waiting to be dressed, at the end of the production line next to a large sliding door, ready to be sent out across the nation.

Channing entered the laboratory – now with the lights on – and crossed to the computer at which Hibbert was duly sitting, now back in his trance-like state. He twisted a dial on the machine and the scanning arm began to swing faster. He leant forward, studying the screen.

“Faster.” He demanded calmly. “Maximum speed.”

His eye throbbed again but he remained unblinking. There was a sudden bleep and thirty or forty small white dots appeared on the screen, moving in from the north-west towards the centre.

“Excellent,” Channing declared, “The colonisation can commence.”

© Copyright Dave Spilsbury, Niki Hunter & Doctor Who Online, 2013.
Page Updated: 30/3/2013

Written by:
Dave Spilsbury

Artwork by:
Niki Hunter

Doctor Who is © Copyright to the BBC. No infringement intended.