Because The Invasion is split across two DVDs, the menu screen leads Sue down the garden path.
Sue: Four episodes. Excellent.
I know that I’ll pay for it later, but I decide not to correct her mistake. That would be the same as slapping an innocent, smiling baby in the face. And that would be wrong.
Sue: Does it move?
Sue: What the hell is this? I thought you said it moved?
Me: It is moving! Look – you can see their mouths open and close and everything!
Sue: You made me do our real episode dance under false pretences. I’ll never be able to trust you again.
When the initial shock has subsided, Sue starts to appreciate the animated episode on its own terms.
Sue: This is pretty good, actually. It’s very moody. Why couldn’t they have done this for all the missing episodes?
Me: Well, they are doing a William Hartnell story as we speak.
Sue: And how is that supposed to help me?
The TARDIS is shot at by a mysterious spaceship. When it lands on Earth its visual stabiliser is on the blink, rendering it completely invisible.
Sue: So the TARDIS has a cloaking device now? Since when? Actually, if the TARDIS did what it was supposed to do and it blended in with its surroundings, it wouldn’t need a bloody cloaking device. He really needs to get it fixed.
The Doctor decides to take Sue’s advice and he sets out to fix his dodgy circuits. They grab a lift to London from a strange man in a van.
Sue: The van driver looks like Whitney’s brother, Ryan.
Me: Not everyone in Doctor Who has to have a double in EastEnders, you know. Although, now that you mention it… Hang on, what I am doing, he’s a ****ing cartoon!
Sue: I really like the music in this story.
Me: Sadly, this is Don Harper’s one and only score for the programme. Dudley Simpson was the de facto composer at this time but the director fell out with him over a misunderstanding that involved a bottle of champagne, I think, and he refused to work with him.
Sue: I wish that all the directors had fallen out with Dudley Simpson. This is a great soundtrack. You can almost hum along to it.
The Doctor and his companions eventually arrive at Professor Travers’ house.
Sue: So is Professor Travers the Doctor’s bessie-mate or something?
Me: Yes, he was the James Corden of his time. The Doctor is always popping in for a chat.
Our heroes discover that Professor Travers and Anne are in America and the house has been taken over by a dolly bird taking photos of herself.
Sue: She’s doing a Scarlett Johansson.
Leaving Zoe behind to be a supermodel, the Doctor and Jamie head off to International Electromatics to search for Isobel’s scientist father. They come up against a computerised receptionist that manages to flummox even the Doctor.
Sue: This answering service is well ahead of its time. This is exactly what it’s like when you talk to BT today. When is this episode supposed to be set?
Luckily, before we can broach that thorny subject, Tobias Vaughn distracts Sue with his suave charm.
Sue: He’s such a Bond villain. But where is his cat? And why does his office sound like we’re standing in a lift? What’s with all the muzak all of a sudden? And is it just me or has he ‘whited-up’?
Me: That’s a new one.
Sue: He’s like Steve Jobs! Look at him giving out iPods like they were candy. I bet IE have really sexy packaging as well.
The episode concludes with the revelation that Vaughn is working with – gasp – aliens.
Sue: I like the way the music blended into the end credits, there. That was very clever. I really enjoyed that. I wish all the recons could have been like that.
Sue: This is very gritty. It’s a bit like Get Carter.
Me: But with slightly less pornography.
Sue: You can almost see Isobel’s knickers!
Sue: Is Packer looking through a hole in the door?
Me: No, that’s early video conferencing.
Sue: Round Face Time?
Now that we are watching a real episode again, it doesn’t take long for Sue to comment on its direction.
Sue: Douglas Camfield is great, isn’t he?
Me: Wow! You did it again! That is amaz-
Sue: I saw his name on the credits of the last episode, you idiot. But seriously, you know you are in safe hands with a Camfield. He’s the best Doctor Who director by a mile.
The Doctor and Jamie are abducted by two men (“No, I didn’t know that one of them played a Yeti”), and they are taken to meet – wait for it – the Brigadier.
Sue: It’s UNIT! And about time, too! See! I feel safer already! All I need now is for the Master to turn up and I’m all set.
Meanwhile, Vaughn is having a chat with the alien machine that has been hiding in his cupboard.
Sue: Oh great, another shit robot with an impossible to understand voice. Why did they have to ruin this story with that? I can’t see that invading the foyer, let alone an entire planet. What a shame.
Zoe and Isobel decide to follow in the Doctor’s footsteps and they end up in front of the same automated reception computer.
Sue: That computer isn’t what you’d call ‘user-friendly’. Where’s the button that says ‘Press Here to Start’? No wonder they don’t get many visitors. That’s not very Apple, is it?
Zoe bamboozles the computer with an unsolvable equation and it blows itself up. Sue loves every single minute.
Sue: She’s clearly cleverer than the Doctor. That’s interesting.
Vaughn is told by the alien machine that the Doctor is an alien and so he instructs Packer to capture Zoe and Isobel so he can use them as bait.
Sue: These two make a great double act. I could watch these two all day. How long do you think Packer and Vaughn have been lovers?
I can do a pretty good impression of Tobias Vaughn, even if I do say so myself, and I’ll end up tickling Sue with it throughout the week. Sometimes this experiment brings me so much joy.
The episode concludes with Jamie making a pigs-ear of escaping from the henchman you love to hate.
Sue: I’m getting a little tired of Jamie. He’s like a bull in a china shop. Surely he should be getting wiser as he travels with the Doctor, not stupider?
Sue: You gotta love the Camfield. That moment where Jamie walked through the car – I bet that wasn’t in the script – but it’s such a great character moment. Everyone seems to be pulling out all the stops for this one. You know, I wouldn’t be ashamed to show this to a normal person. It feels like proper telly. It really is rather good.
Me: Do you like the way they’ve managed to save money by using the same set in two different locations?
Sue: Yes, but since all Apple Stores look exactly the same, it makes perfect sense. Seriously, this story is years ahead of its time.
We both enjoy watching Packer descend into madness (his nail-biting is a particularly nice touch), and even though the Doctor’s escape becomes almost farcical at times, Sue seems to be lapping it up.
Sue: I’m surprised that Jamie didn’t go up the ladder first so the Doctor could take a peek up his skirt. He missed a trick, there.
As they ascend a lift shaft (“This reminds me of a Star Wars film”), Sue is distracted by some graffiti.
Sue: Whatever happened to Kilroy? You never see him around any more. Or Chad. Whatever happened to Chad?
And then Vaughn completely loses his cool and it’s ****ing terrifying.
Sue: He’s a brilliant actor. He was great in that Dalek story but he’s even better in this. You can’t take your eyes off him.
The Doctor and Jamie find themselves on the run from IE’s goons and they take refuge in a nearby railway siding. In an IE train they find a number of crates and Jamie is forced to crawl inside one. But he is not alone.
Sue: It’s obviously Zoe in that trunk. Here’s your chance, son.
Sue: I love four-parters – they zing along at just the right pace. No flab. No holidays for the Doctor. Just a nice adventure that doesn’t outstay its welcome. Every story should be four parts.
I am so dead.
Sue: Damn, it’s animated again.
Me: I thought you said you liked the animation?
Sue: I do but I was really enjoying the real-life performances. It’s a shame that the last episode of this story doesn’t exist any more. Still, this is the next best thing, I suppose.
Dead, I tell you.
Sue: They are talking up the alien something rotten but it isn’t very convincing, is it? I mean, it’s just a climbing frame made of plastic cups and bits of wheel trim sitting in a cupboard.
It pains me to admit this, but Sue failed to pick up on any of the clues bandied around by Vaughn that point to the identity of the real enemy in this story. She doesn’t react to the anti-emotions reference or the conversion threat, and while I’m vaguely disappointed, I’m simultaneously thrilled by the thought that the cliffhanger will probably freak her out (and I’ll need a distraction when we reach the end of this episode, let me tell you).
Sue: There’s a lot of up-skirt action in this story. Camfield really has a pervy side. And these guards are terrible shots. But at least they admit it. Blind elephants, indeed. However, I bet this would have looked great. They must have spent a bit of cash on this one.
The Brigadier confidently announces that the crisis has been averted and Sue thinks it’s all over. She even starts to mark the story out of ten.
Sue: The ending was a bit rushed and the alien was rubbish but I enjoyed everything else about it.
But instead of wrapping up, the episode keeps on going. Vaughn doesn’t look like he’s going to throw in the towel any time soon.
Sue: Vaughn has given Packer loads of second chances. He must really love him.
And then the action shifts to an IE warehouse where something is waking up.
Sue: They are trying to cram an awful lot into these last few minutes.
And then the cliffhanger hits her.
Sue: A Cyberman! EH?
I will carry a bruise for the rest of the week. But it was worth it.
Sue: Actually, I’m really enjoying this one so I’m not bothered, really. In fact, I’m glad that this one is six parts.
Sue: Are you sure there are only eight episodes?
Me: Yes, look at the menu – eight episodes.
Sue: I don’t trust you any more. There could be another four episodes on another disc that you’re not telling me about. Is this the ten part story I’ve heard about?
Sue: There’s no muzak in Vaughn’s office any more. It’s been replaced by some scary spy music instead. That implies that Vaughn is actually playing scary spy music in his office. Which is a bit weird, even for him.
Before we can get into an argument about non-diegetic sound, we are distracted by scenes of Cybermen stomping about.
Sue: I’m really glad that the Cybermen keep updating themselves. If they were iPhones, they’d be iPhone 5s. I also love the way Vaughn assumes that the Cybermen will betray him so he decides to get in there first. It would be a cliché if he was shocked when that time inevitably arrives. I like the way he plans ahead. He’s a brilliant villain.
Meanwhile, Isobel introduces feminism to the programme with the unforgettable battle cry of “You man!”
Sue: I bloody love this episode.
Isobel decides to show the misogynist UNIT captain that she can look after herself, and she ends up leading Jamie and Zoe into the sewers. As Zoe climbs down the ladder, Sue spits out her tea.
Sue: I can see what Zoe had for breakfast!
A police officer tries to intervene.
Sue: They are like the Scooby Gang, these damn pesky kids.
And then they find themselves confronting an insane Cyberman that has been driven mad by Vaughn’s emotion-inducing machine.
Sue: Seeing Cybermen in the sewers is actually very, very scary. This one keeps getting better and better.
Sue: The mad Cyberman sound is really starting to freak me out. Actually, the Cybermen in this story sound a lot like the Cybermen in the new series. In fact, didn’t RTD do this story once? I’m sure the Cybermen did a similar thing when they took over John Paul via his mobile phone. Does that make me a ming mong?
UNIT swoop-in to save these pesky kids and they lose a man in the process.
Sue: Isobel is very cheerful considering that some poor solider just got himself killed because of her blasé ineptitude. Still, why worry about dead soldiers when you can flirt shamelessly with live ones.
There then follows a dramatic stand-off between Vaughn and poor Professor Watkins. You could hear a pin drop, right up until the moment Vaughn made Watkins shoot his cybernetic chest.
Sue: It’s a good job he didn’t shoot Vaughn in the head. That would have been funny.
Sue is bitterly disappointed when we don’t see UNIT rescue Watkins – the build-up sounded so impressive – but she’s intrigued by Vaughn’s ultimate plans for the Cybermen.
Sue: It’s a nice idea to kill the Cybermen with emotions. It’s a bit like when those Cybermen were killed by The Power of Love a couple of weeks ago.
Me: I’ve told you never to mention that in my presence ever again. You know how I feel about that.
Sue: I don’t see what your problem is. It’s entirely consistent with this story.
Me: SHUT UP!
And then we reach that epic, iconic moment that still sends a shiver down my spine.
Sue: Well, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Sue: Why do I recognise this scene? Did I see it when I was a kid? Have I seen it on a documentary? Have you made me watch it before? This scene feels so familiar to me.
Sue: Oh yes, that definitely rings a bell.
Me: Bradley is such an amateur. I can’t believe he didn’t get Stacey to sit down and watch The Edge of Destruction with him. Pah!
As IE goon’s attempt to recapture Watkins, Jamie is brutally gunned down.
Sue: They just shot Jamie! Is he okay?
Me: No, he’s dead.
Sue: I don’t believe you. You lie too much.
Meanwhile, Vaughn continues to plot against his so-called allies.
Sue: I find it hard to believe that the Cyber-brain thing can’t hear Vaughn plotting against it while it’s sitting in the cupboard behind him. Can’t it eavesdrop on him? Seriously?
As UNIT prepare to tackle the Cybermen, Sue’s affection for the soundtrack takes a sudden downturn.
Sue: The UNIT theme tune is a bit rubbish. It sounds like something from Trumpton. A Greek version of Trumpton.
Incredibly, Packer and Vaughn decide to plough on with their increasingly unlikely invasion plans.
Sue: These two can’t even run a small office. How do they expect to rule the entire world? And who would want that kind of responsibility anyway? The hours must be terrible.
As the Cyberfleet approaches Earth, Zoe searches for a formula that will allow a limited number of missiles to destroy the whole damn lot of them.
Sue: Hang on a minute, that bloke so checked out Zoe’s arse back there. He didn’t even try to hide it! The world is about to end and he’s ogling her arse. Unbelievable.
Me: You can hardly blame him though – look at her!
Sue: She’s a child! You worry me sometimes, Neil.
And then, just when you think it’s all over, the Cybermen pull a megaton bomb out of their back pockets in a fit of pique.
Sue: Everyone has a Plan B in this story. George Osborne should watch this.
Sue: I really hope they don’t **** up the ending. It’s going so well. It’ll be really disappointing if they drop the ball at the last moment. Even the extras are giving it their all in this episode. Just look at the way the soldiers react to news of the bomb. It’s completely believable and quite tense.
When Vaughn calls for Packer on his video screen, I actually jump out of my skin when the face of a Cyberman looms into view instead. I think I may have screamed a bit. Sue laughs her head off.
Sue: You’ve seen this before and you still wet yourself. That’s sweet.
And then a Cybermen kills Packer.
Sue: No! You can’t kill Packer! PACKER!
The Doctor retaliates by blasting the Cyberman with Vaughn’s machine.
Sue: The Doctor just used a gun! That can’t be right.
Me: It was self-defence.
Sue: I suppose so, but it still doesn’t feel right.
The Doctor and Vaughn join forces to defeat the Cybermen and the Brigadier sends in his troops to aid them.
Sue: You know, the Brig was a very handsome man back in the day.
Me: Okay, steady on.
Sue: I can’t wait for him to become a regular character.
And then, just when you think Vaughn will achieve redemption by successfully disabling the Cybermens’ homing beacon, he is shot down by his former allies.
Sue: Is that it?
Me: That’s it. Vaughn is dead.
Sue: That was a bit of an anti-climax. Am I supposed to feel bad about him dying? Because I do.
But wait! It’s still not over. Now we have to wait for a Russian rocket to take out the Cyberman mothership.
Sue: They are certainly getting their money’s worth out of this stock footage.
After all the action and excitement of the Cybermen V UNIT firefight, the ending feels a little flat.
Sue: Damn, this is turning into a bit of a let-down.
Me: It is a very clinical ending.
The episode concludes with Isobel and Captain Jimmy seeing off the Doctor and his companions, which now miraculously includes Jamie again.
Me: Did you miss Jamie at all?
Sue: Not at all. In fact, I’m annoyed that he’s back. Can you imagine how dramatic it would have been if they’d have killed him. A bit of a wasted opportunity, if you ask me. And why isn’t Isobel taking any photos of the TARDIS? She says she wants to be a photo-journalist but she’s rubbish!
Sue: That was probably the most enjoyable story so far. It was heading for a 10/10 at one point but it’s probably at least one episode too long and the ending was vaguely disappointing. It was still very, very good, though.