Saturday, 18 July 2009

Doctor Who: Terror of the Zygons

Part One

“My family have served this country for seven centuries, but that seems not to count these days, does it?”

This was my first ever BBC video and the first ever “old” story I ever saw. I’ve seen this many, many times but never before in episodic format. And it’s good to see the short clip from Disney Time as well as the BBC globe.

This is great from the beginning, with an oil rig being destroyed to the sound of some fantastic incidental music. It’s great to see the Brig (in a kilt!) and Benton again. I can’t help thinking though- was there really enough time to install a space-time telegraph at the end of Robot?

The Doctor’s attitude is interesting- in this incarnation he feels much less attached to UNIT and 20th century Earth, and has a bit of a go at the Brigadier for recalling him only to change his mind suddenly when reminded of the loss of life. This Doctor is fascinating- more individualistic and Bohemian than his predecessor, but with the same underlying principles. And there’s something very charismatic about his changes of mood. I love the oil speech.

It’s great to see Angus Lennie, of off of of The Great Escape, as the very Hammeresque pub landlord. And this is just so well directed by Douglas Camfield- the moor sets a real mood, and our first shot of the Zygons hands and eyes is great. Suddenly we have a story of tightly edited scenes and a very nice moment where the injured Harry cries “No… no…” as the Zygon advances on him, and we then cut to the Doctor on the phone calmly saying “No… no…”. This is top stuff.

Part Two

“Asleep? Impossible, I was on duty!"

The whole organic look of the Zygon ship is great- original and a triumph of both design and lighting. And there’s more great directing on show as we dissolve between the faces of Sarah and the Doctor as he hypnotises her to avoid asphyxiation. This is so well directed it almost distracts from the fact the Doctor seems to have acquired yet another superpower, one he’s never bothered to use before in similar circumstances for some reason.

We get lots of atmosphere with the fog and the great music, a bit of actual journalisting from Sarah, and generally enough excellence on show that I’ve decided to completely ignore the fact that the Skarasen looks crap.

Part Three

“Aliens! With wireless sets?”

The Doctor is saved by Harry! Yay! This man is great. And Sarah shows how great she is, too, in discovering the Duke’s secret passage to the Zygon ship, swiftly rescuing Harry and returning in time for tea. Unlike the Doctor, who attempts the same thing and promptly gets captured.

I love the Doctor’s line “Sounds like the Brigadier” as UNIT merrily lob bombs into the loch. It’s sad that this is the last ever “regular” UNIT story, but at least they’re going out on a high.

Part Four

“Was that bang big enough for you, Brigadier?”

There’s some great modelwork on show with the Zygon ship, especially the landing scene. And it’s good to get a reason for the fact that, as the Doctor points out, there are only about six Zygons. It seems their home planet was “destroyed in a recent catastrophe” and that Broton wants to terraform the Earth for the benefit of other Zygons who are to arrive in “many centuries”.

The prime minister is apparently a woman (Thatcher was already Tory leader at the time) so it seems Jeremy must have lost an election. 

The Doctor nearly loses his life by underestimating the power of organic crystallography- a common error, to be fair. I’ve almost lost count of the number of times I’ve done the same thing myself. Still, he manages eventually to escape, gleefully vandalise the Zygon ship, and release all the Zygons’ prisoners, although the bit with him operating the Zygons’, er, interestingly shaped controls certainly caused me to raise an eyebrow.

Fittingly for his last regular story, the Brig at last gets to shoot an alien baddie dead with an ordinary bullet. We finish with the Doctor claiming he’ll be able to make the short hop to London in the TARDIS an d offering a lift to both Sarah and Harry. Of course, it’s understood by everyone that the TARDIS will be doing nothing of the sort. Harry stays behind in an understated leaving scene, a little disappointing but probably in keeping with the stiff-upper-lip nature of the man, but Sarah, being fab, signs up for some further adventures in time and space.

Brilliant. Not only an easy 5/5, but the third best so far. Great story, great performances, awesomely well directed. This is Doctor Who at its very finest.

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