Sue: Isn’t this the same location as last week?
The Doctor strolls into this week’s high-tech installation.
Sue: Hang on, isn’t this the same story as last week as well? And the one before that?
But something isn’t quite right at this high-tech installation, and, just as a poor man is about to have his skull caved in by a wrench, we cut to Sergeant Benton hammering a nail into a wall.
Sue: The direction is great, though. I’ll give it that.
Sue: Is this a Camfield? Am I right? Am I a ming-mong?
Nicol: You’re not allowed to use that word any more.
Me: Thanks, Nicol. Yes, there’s currently a moratorium on the term. Ricky Gervais has ruined it for everyone.
Sue: So what I am supposed to be turning into now?
Me: A specialist. And it’s good of you to admit it.
Sue: I am not a specialist! I can barely remember the title of the last story.
As Christopher Benjamin’s Sir Keith gets the audience up to speed with the drilling project, Sue has other concerns.
Sue: Is that his real nose?
I gently ease her back towards the plot.
Sue: I guess this would have been very topical when it first went out. Wasn’t Britain obsessed with North Sea Gas in the 1970s?
I point out that Sheila Dunn, who is playing Petra, is Douglas Camfield’s wife.
Sue: She’s a looker. She reminds me of a young Anneka Rice. I’m even more impressed with Douglas now. Good for him.
As the Doctor engages in some bitchy sparring with Professor Stahlman, Sue appears to be lapping it up.
Sue: There is some great banter in this story and some very good acting, too. It’s like we’re watching a gritty Play for Today or something.
Nicol: Why is the Doctor dressed as Dracula?
Sue: Yeah, why does he look like he’s always on his way to a graduation ceremony?
Me: Look, he’s the Doctor. You’d better get used to it because he’s actually dressing down at the moment. In fact, he looks like a bank manager compared to Colin Baker’s Doctor.
Sue: I do like his workshop. Very cozy. Some nice carpentry on those bookshelves, too. Yes, very nice.
Meanwhile, a mutating technician breaks into the power reactor.
Sue: It’s not bloody mind control again, is it? Every story has people being taken over by someone or something; it’s getting a bit old now. And does he have bloodstains all over him? That’s a bit much, isn’t it?
In his shed, the Doctor conducts an experiment on the TARDIS console. The result is seriously strange (even for this show).
Sue: Pity any epileptics who happen to be in the audience this week. This is like a really bad acid trip.
Nicol: It’s like a really bad special effect.
Liz cuts the power and the Doctor returns to Earth with a bump.
Sue: Oooh, I bet he hurt his back doing that.
The topic of conversation quickly returns to drill bits.
Sue: Given that everyone is talking about boreholes, I’m actually getting into this story. I’ve got magazines about borehole technology; it’s a subject that is very close to my heart.
I only wish I were making this up.
Me: You are in for a treat with this story, then.
Sue: Well, it’s certainly off to a good start.
This episode begins as it will continue, with drip-drip tension delivered via the medium of sound; the very same sound effects that have successfully driven Nicol out of the living room.
Sue: Just answer the ****ing phone, will you!
When Pertwee bites the Brigadier’s head off, Sue is aghast.
Sue: The Doctor can be very rude. When does he mellow out a bit?
When Greg Sutton (“That’s Derek Newark. He was in the very first story”/”Why should that interest me?”) sticks his oar in, Sue immediately warms to him.
Sue: Greg is a solid 1970s name. You know where you are with a Greg. You could imagine this Greg going for a pint with the Greg from The Survivors. They’d probably end up arm-wrestling each other.
The story’s location reminds Sue of something else.
Sue: This is like a level from the latest Call of Duty game. They should do a special UNIT level where you have to shoot all the zombie technicians. I bet you’d play it.
Suddenly, as if on cue, an infected UNIT soldier attacks the Doctor, swinging his rifle like a club.
Sue: So, this really is a zombie movie this week? This is pretty scary stuff and, yet again, definitely not for kids.
As the infected soldier plummets to his death, he lets out a blood-curdling scream.
Sue: What the hell was that terrible noise? It sounded like someone accidentally standing on one of Buffy’s stuffed toys.
Back at the drill head, green ooze starts to seep into the base.
Sue: That’s Swarfega.
Me: I knew you’d spot that.
Sue: I love the smell of Swarfega.
As the tension rises, Sue starts to feel sorry for all the background characters who are dealing with this crap.
Sue: The background noise in this place would drive you mad if you had to work there. It sounds like an amusement arcade.
But at least she’s warming to Liz.
Sue: She’s lovely. She’s a lot less severe than when we first met her. She’s settling in very nicely.
Stahlman ignores the Doctor’s warnings and picks up a flask containing the green ooze.
Sue: They’ll have to chop Stahlman’s hand off now. It’s the only way to be sure.
Instead, the Doctor incapacitates Stahlman with just his fingers.
Sue: That’s very Spock! Hang on a minute, can all the Doctors do that? It’s a brilliant skill to have, so why don’t all the Doctors use it? It’s much better than stupid psychic paper.
When Nicol returns (“Has it finished yet?”), Sue drops a bombshell.
Sue: Nicol, doesn’t Jon Pertwee remind you of your nana?
Nicol: Yeah, a bit. It’s the hair.
And then the Doctor vanishes into thin air.
Sue: Hang on a minute, why did it the TARDIS take his car with it? And why did it leave the nice bookcases behind? That seems a bit arbitrary.
Me: It’s around here that Douglas Camfield has a heart attack.
Sue: What? Was he okay?
Me: Yes, he did recover eventually, but the stress and anguish it caused can be seen in the faces of the cast, which, perversely, helps to sell the story. Barry Letts, the show’s producer, took over, using Douglas’ camera scripts.
Sue: Is that a disco glitter ball?
Sue correctly works out what has happened as soon as she notices that the bookcases have been replaced by nondescript metal shelves.
Sue: So is this like Fringe? We’re in a parallel reality now?
The mysterious signage on the wall simply confirms her theory.
Sue: So, instead of UNIT it’s UNITY? With an extra ‘Y’. Clever.
There then follows a spectacular car chase, as the evil version of HAVOC try to take down the Doctor.
Me: Pertwee really did just run that stuntman over.
Sue: Ouch. Was he okay?
Me: The mudguard sliced through his leg and he needed 18 stitches, I think.
Sue: I’m surprised they didn’t cut away to show all the blood. But I have to admit, this is a great chase sequence. At least it adds to the plot and it doesn’t feel like endless padding. It’s brilliantly directed, too.
Me: Camfield would have been around for the location filming (which was shot before the studio sessions), so this is still him.
Sue: You can tell.
As the Doctor climbs a gantry, Sue decides to fixate on a very small detail.
Sue: K19. That’s a shame.
Sue: K19 is written on the side of that fuel tank. Just think, if it was K9, fans would have puzzled over that for years.
Me: Blimey, I don’t think even a specialist would draw a conclusion like that.
Cornered by a zombie, the Doctor takes him down with the help of a handy fire extinguisher.
Sue: If that was me, I’d have to read the instructions on the side first.
And then the Doctor stumbles into the parallel-Liz.
Sue: Oh, I like Liz’s hair in this universe. It really suits her. I’m not sure about the Nazi uniform, though.
And then we reach that scene, and as the Brigade Leader’s chair spins round.
Sue: Oh my god!
When she has recovered from the shock, I trot out the familiar story.
Me: …and they were all wearing eyepatches!
Sue: That’s very sweet. It’s like the last episode of the latest Matt Smith series where they were all wearing eyepatches. I get it now. Clever.
The Doctor finally realises that he is in a parallel reality.
Sue: It took him far too long to figure that out. I worked it out in half the time.
Me: Maybe the Third Doctor hasn’t seen Fringe.
Sue: So many similarities, he says. Yes, that pretty much sums up the Pertwee era so far.
When Director Stahlman arrives, Sue can’t help but admire the fascists’ fashion sense.
Sue: Everyone looks so much cooler in the parallel universe. Stahlman looks like a bloody rock star.
Sheila Dunn’s alternative hairstyle draws the most attention, most of it nostalgic.
Sue: When I was a bridesmaid in 1970, I had my hair styled exactly like that. I would have looked like Petra’s little sister from the evil universe.
When the Brigade Leader suggests that the Doctor won’t feel the bullets when he’s shot because he doesn’t belong in their universe, Sue laughs on cue.
Sue: That’s a great line. The script is excellent.
When the Doctor uses his new special power on Benton, she is impressed once again.
Sue: I’ll say it again – that’s brilliant. He should use that power more often.
We are joined, for this episode only, by Sue’s brother, Gary. It took a little persuading given that he is still recovering from The Krotons (and the subsequent death threats), but given that this story is about meeting evil, heartless characters, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Sue: Gary, don’t you think Jon Pertwee looked like our mam?
Gary: Yeah, our mam crossed with Bea Arthur from The Golden Girls.
Sue: Yes, with a bit of Rod Stewart thrown in.
Me: Sue, please don’t encourage him.
Sue spends far too much time banging on about the colour of Jon Pertwee’s jacket.
Sue: Is it blue? Or black? Or maybe it’s charcoal grey? It’s driving me mad. It’s a different colour in every scene.
As the Doctor begs Liz to believe his tale, Sue begins to feel increasingly sorry for him.
Sue: He really should stop saying, “Elizabeth”. It’s not doing his lisp any favours.
But Liz doesn’t believe him and instead the Doctor is brutally interrogated.
Sue: This is a bit like The Prisoner, I suppose. But when are they going to bring out the waterboard? I mean, what are they actually doing to him that’s so bad? It’s just an anglepoise lamp. Where are the pliers?
The Doctor makes Director Stahlman take off his rock-star gloves so he can prove he has been infected by the evil Swarfega.
Sue: Green gunge is seeping out of his bandage and they still don’t believe him! That’s just stupid.
Gary: What is George from George and Mildred doing on the wall?
I try to ignore that and instead I ask Sue what she makes of Sergeant Benton so far.
Sue: He isn’t really doing anything for me. He’s a bit hammy. Keen. But hammy.
Sue spends the rest of the episode trying (in vain) to explain the plot to a visibly bored Gary.
Sue: And this is a glitter ball that takes us between the universes, and she’s the nice version of the woman we just met, and he’s the nice version of the man we just met. And this man is bloody horrible in both universes.
Gary: It’s all talk and no action.
Sue: We’re watching the worst episode. The others were action-packed. Maybe the stuntmen are visiting that injured stuntman in hospital and they couldn’t put anything on this week.
Gary tries to have the last word by putting down the mutated Bromley.
Gary: It’s like Doddy and the Diddymen.
Sue: Not impressed then, Gary?
Gary: It was marginally better than the last one we saw.
It’s at this point that I finally snap.
Me: Marginally? Marginally! The last five minutes were brilliant!
Sue: The last two minutes, perhaps. Don’t oversell it, love. The rest of it was just going over old ground. It’s a typical middle episode.
Gary: It’s was purgatory.
Me: Is that supposed to be a reference to Dante?
Gary: Dan who?
Sue: That’s a nice model shot. They really are trying hard this week.
The Doctor, decked out in a fire suit, attempts to cap the bore but he is attacked by Stahlman (also in a fire suit).
Sue: Is that Pertwee spinning through the air like that? He’ll do his back in. Although I’m guessing this must be a pair of stuntman, given that you can’t see their faces. It’s quite clever, really. Unless it is Pertwee spinning around like that, in which case it’s really, really stupid.
The Doctor manages to escape and Stahlman is left to convert the other technicians into horrible monsters.
Sue: He’s rubbing that poor man’s face into the goo like you’d rub a kitten’s face into its own wee.
The mutated Bromley arrives on the scene and the Doctor puts him down with his fire extinguisher.
Sue: It’s rare to see the Doctor kill a living being and not show any emotion about it. It doesn’t feel right to me.
Something else that’s not quite right, is the Brigadier.
Sue: Nicholas Courtney must have enjoyed making this story – it’s a great opportunity for him to show off his acting range. He’s very, very good in this.
When Stahlman reveals his new form, Sue is horrified (for all the wrong reasons).
Sue: So they are werewolves now? How the hell does that work? Are there zombies in the real universe and werewolves in this one? Is that how it works? Does this mean there might be another universe where the Swarfega turns you into a vampires, or a ghost? This is silly. It’s like Planet of the Apes meets Night of the Living Dead. I’m not sure how I feel about these monsters. What’s the point of them?
Me: I think they’re for the kids.
Sue: The kids? The KIDS! Are you serious?
It’s at this point that Benton crashes in like a bull in a china shop, only to be converted for his troubles. As he begins his transformation, I turn to Sue.
Me: Does this remind you of anything else?
Sue: Yes, it’s An American Werewolf in London. A very cheap version. The false teeth are terrible. They look like the sort of teeth you’d find in a tacky joke shop. I’m sure I had a pair once.
Sue: The Brigadier is a cowardly bully in this universe. A right dick. I bet he’ll come good at the end, though. He’ll redeem himself, just you wait and see.
As Greg holds back the advancing primords with some corrugated pipe, Sue believes she has spotted a flaw.
Sue: Greg’s hands should be frozen to that pipe by now. He really should be wearing some gloves. That’s just basic health and safety.
Back in the other universe, Greg calls on Liz, who is still hanging around the Doctor’s shed.
Sue: It’s hard to believe there was a time when an automatic garage door was seen as something magical and awe-inspiring.
Back in the totally screwed universe, things are spiralling out of control.
Sue: Petra looks like she’s having a nervous breakdown. She’s probably thinking about poor old Douglas, bless her.
As the Doctor makes the final preparations for his escape, Sue isn’t convinced.
Sue: How will the Doctor be able to pinpoint the exact same universe on his way back? You know what his track record is like. He’ll probably end up in a completely different parallel universe where the drilling turns everyone into giant squids. Or pandas.
As the Earth tears itself apart, Sue finally gets something spot-on.
Sue: I can tell that you really like this one.
Me: How can you tell?
Sue: You aren’t saying very much and you’re biting your nails. Although, to be fair, this is very intense.
The Brigade Leader starts to fall apart, as his subordinates line-up to belittle him.
Sue: I don’t like them talking to the Brig like this.
Me: It’s not the Brig.
Sue: I know. But it still doesn’t feel right. He’s got a pet-lip on him now. Oh, and now they’ve shot him. But Liz came good in the end. That was nice.
The episode concludes with the Doctor preparing to abandon everyone to a painful, lingering death, as the lava advances inexorably towards them.
Me: And that’s it. They’re all dead. An entire world. Toast.
Sue: As if. I don’t believe you.
Me: I’m not joking.
Sue: I hope Petra and Greg get it together before the lava reaches them.
Me: That’s a lovely image to end on. Thanks.
Sue: Shall we watch the next one now?
Me: No, that’s a cliffhanger you have to sleep on.
Me: It’s Doctor Who‘s 48th birthday today.
Sue: How is it you can remember that but you can’t remember the date of our wedding anniversary?
It’s true. I’m always one day out. It’s as if I’ve accidentally memorised the wrong date and I can’t remove it from the compartment in my head marked ‘anniversary’.
Sue: So how are we going to celebrate this ‘special occasion’?
Yes, she actually did the quotation marks thing with her fingers.
Sue: We don’t have to watch the first episode again, do we?
Me: No, but, funnily enough, Derek Newark, who plays Greg in this episode, was, if you remember, in the very first story.
Sue: But not the very first episode?
Me: No. But Douglas Camfield was the Production Assistant.
Sue: That’s better. But isn’t he in hospital during this one?
Me: Okay, the writer, Don Houghton, plays the policeman in the first episode!
Me: Yes. Can I press ‘play’ now?
Me: Oh, and this is the final episode of season seven.
Sue: That was quick!
Me: The seasons are a lot shorter now.
Sue: You’ll be able to dump me quicker than you thought!
Me: So, have you recovered from last night’s episode when the Doctor lost and everyone died?
Sue: Are they really all dead?
Me: Yes. Burnt to a crisp, probably. Unless Liz shoots them all first.
Sue: But the Doctor can still go back and save them.
Me: What? The whole planet?
Sue: No, silly, just the ones we care about.
Me: He can’t.
Sue: That’s very sad. That’s quite a large body-count for a children’s television show. Oh well, at least we have some spares in the real universe.
Back in ‘our’ universe (you know, the one with the British Space Programme, but let’s not get into that just now), events are leading to the very same disaster that we’ve just seen destroy an entire planet.
Sue: Oh no! The flange is going to blow at any moment!
Me: What’s a flange?
Sue: And you call yourself a fan? It’s a method used to connect pipes, valves, pumps and other equipment. Trust me, it won’t be good news if it blows.
When the Doctor mumbles in his coma something about blown output pipes, I tease Sue.
Me: That’s you talking in your sleep, that is.
Sue: Are you sure you don’t mean it’s –
Me: Please, don’t even go there.
Sue: Shhh! Listen to that!
Me: Listen to what? I can’t hear anything.
Sue: Exactly. Beautiful, isn’t it?
It doesn’t last, of course. After the Doctor has ruminated on the illusion of freewill, it’s back to throbbing machinery and ear-splitting sirens for the rest of the story.
The Doctor rushes into the complex to stop the drilling. He does this by raving like a lunatic.
Sue: He isn’t going about this the right way, is he?
The Doctor angrily pushes the Brigadier out of his way.
Me: Did Pertwee just say, “Get out of my light?” to Nicholas Courtney? I’d never noticed that before. What an actorly thing to say.
The Doctor is restrained and led away from the complex by two UNIT soldiers. But it isn’t long before he’s free again.
Sue: Oh, nice double Spock action! I’m telling you, all the Doctors should use that power.
Back in the complex, Sir Keith still doesn’t believe that Professor Stahlman has lost his marbles. He demands proof before he can take action, and then, right on cue, Stahlman emerges from the drill head.
Sue: There’s your proof! He’s a ****ing werewolf!
With Stahlman down, the Doctor manages to stop the drill from penetrating the Earth’s crust with 35 seconds to spare.
Sue: I thought they’d take that to the wire. I suppose it’s more realistic that way but they could have squeezed even more tension out of that scene.
Sue loves the banter between the Brigadier and the Doctor that closes out the episode and the story concludes with a smile.
Sue: That was a great final episode. Lovely.
Sue: It was too long. Again. I didn’t like the werewolves or the zombies at all. The story didn’t need them. Without them it could have been four or five parts. But the premise was good, the acting was great and the alternative reality was fascinating. I really liked Liz in this one as well. She’s turning out to be one of my favourite companions. And there was a lot of Brigadier action, too, which was nice. I’ll give it –
Sue: Pertwee is turning out to be a walk in the park.