Sue: Isn’t this the same location as last week?
The Doctor strolls into this week’s high-tech installation.
Sue: Hang on a minute… Isn’t this the same story as last week, too? And the one before that?
But something isn’t quite right at this high-tech installation, and as a poor man is about to have his skull split open with 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 it Douglas Camfield? Am I right? Am I a ming-mong now?
Nicol: You can’t use that word, Mam.
Sue: So what I am supposed to be turning into, then?
Me: A specialist. And it’s nice of you to admit it.
Sue: I am not a specialist! I can barely remember the title of the last story.
Sir Keith gets the audience up to speed with the drilling project, but Sue has other things on her mind.
Sue: Is that his real nose?
I gently ease her back towards the plot.
Sue: I guess this was pretty topical when it first went out. Wasn’t Britain obsessed with North Sea gas in the 1970s?
I tell her that Petra is played by Camfield’s wife, Sheila Dunn.
Sue: She’s a looker. She reminds me of a young Anneka Rice. I’m even more impressed with Douglas now. Good for him.
The Doctor engages in some bitchy banter with Professor Stahlman.
Sue: There are some great lines in this story, and some very good acting, too. I feel like we’re watching a gritty Play for Today or something.
Nicol: Why is the Doctor dressed as Count Dracula?
Sue: Yeah, why does he look like he’s always on his way to a graduation ceremony?
Me: You’d better get used to it because he’s dressing down at the moment. He looks like a ****ing bank manager next to Colin Baker’s Doctor.
Sue: I like his workshop. It’s very cosy. I love the carpentry on those bookshelves, too. Yes, it’s very nice.
A mutating technician breaks into the power reactor.
Sue: It’s not bloody mind control again, is it? Every story seems to involve people being taken over by something or other. It’s a bit repetitive.
When the Doctor conducts an experiment on the TARDIS console, the result is seriously strange (even by Doctor Who’s standards).
Sue: I pity any epileptics who saw this. It looks like a bad acid trip.
Nicol: It looks 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 conversation quickly returns to drill bits.
Sue: Now that they’re talking about boreholes, I’m beginning to get into this. It’s a subject that’s very close to my heart.
Me: You’re in for a treat with this story, then.
Sue: Well, it’s certainly off to a good start.
This episode begins with a sound effect that drives Nicol out of the room.
Sue: Just answer the ****ing phone!
Sue is aghast when the Doctor almost bites the Brigadier’s head off.
Sue: This Doctor is very rude. When does he mellow out?
But she falls for Greg Sutton’s charms almost immediately.
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 (sic). They’d probably end up arm-wrestling.
This story’s location reminds Sue of something else.
Sue: It’s a level from the latest Call of Duty game. They should make a special UNIT level where you have to shoot all the zombie technicians. I bet you’d play it, Neil.
Right on cue, an infected UNIT soldier attacks the Doctor, swinging his rifle like a club.
Sue: So it really is a zombie movie this week? This is definitely not for kids.
As the infected soldier plummets to his death, he lets out a blood-curdling scream.
Sue: What’s that terrible noise? It sounds like somebody just stood on one of Buffy’s stuffed toys.
Back at the drill head, green ooze is beginning to seep into the base.
Sue: That’s Swarfega.
Me: I knew you’d spot that.
Sue: I love the smell of Swarfega.
Sue begins to feel sorry for the background characters who have to deal with this crap.
Sue: That noise would drive you crazy if you had to work there. It sounds like an amusement arcade.
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 advice and picks up a flask, which contains the green ooze.
Sue: They’ll have to chop Stahlman’s hand off now. It’s the only way to be sure.
The Doctor uses his fingers to incapacitate Stahlman instead.
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 so much better than stupid psychic paper.
And then the Doctor vanishes into thin air.
Sue: Why did the TARDIS take Bessie with it? And why did it leave those nice bookcases behind? That’s a bit arbitrary.
Me: It’s around this point that Douglas Camfield had a massive heart attack.
Sue: What? Was he okay?
Me: Yes, he recovered eventually, but the stress and anguish it caused is etched in the faces of the cast, which, perversely, helps to sell this story. Barry Letts, the show’s producer, took over, using Douglas’ camera scripts.
Sue: Is that a disco glitter ball?
Sue figures it out as soon as she notices the garage’s wooden bookcases have been replaced by nondescript metal shelves.
Sue: So is this like Fringe? We’re in a parallel reality?
The mysterious signage on the wall confirms her theory.
Sue: So, instead of UNIT, it’s UNITY? Clever, eh?
There then follows a spectacular car chase as HAVOC’s evil doppelgängers attempt to capture the Doctor.
Me: Jon Pertwee ran that stuntman over for real.
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 show any blood. But I must admit, this is a great chase. 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, so this is still him.
Sue: You can tell.
The Doctor turns a fire extinguisher into a weapon against the zombies.
Sue: If that was me, I’d have to read the instructions first.
And then the Doctor runs straight into parallel-Liz.
Sue: Oh, I like her hair in this universe. It really suits her. I’m not sure about her Nazi uniform, though.
The Brigade Leader’s chair spins round…
Sue: Oh my God!
When she recovers from the shock, I trot out the familiar story:
Me: …and they were all wearing eye patches!
Sue: It’s like that episode of the latest Matt Smith series where they all wore eye patches, as well. I actually get it now.
Sue admires Director Stahlman’s fascistic fashion sense.
Sue: Everyone looks cooler in the parallel universe. Stahlman looks like a bloody rock star.
But Sheila Dunn’s alternative hairstyle draws the most attention.
Sue: When I was a bridesmaid in 1970, I had my hair styled exactly like hers. I would have looked like Petra’s little sister from the evil universe.
The Brigade Leader suggests the Doctor won’t feel the bullets when he’s shot, because he doesn’t belong in their universe.
Sue: (Laughing) What a great line. The script is excellent.
The Doctor uses his super-powered fingers on Benton.
Sue: I’ll say it again – that’s brilliant. He should do that more often.
We are joined by Sue’s brother, Gary. He took a bit of persuading after The Krotons, but since Inferno is about spending quality time with evil, heartless bastards, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Sue: (To Gary) Don’t you think Jon Pertwee looked like our mam?
Gary: Yeah, our mam crossed with Bea Arthur from The Golden Girls.
Sue is obsessed with the colour of Jon Pertwee’s jacket.
Sue: Is it blue? Or is it 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 feels increasingly sorry for him.
Sue: He should stop saying “Elizabeth”. It’s not doing his lisp any favours.
But Liz doesn’t believe him and the Doctor is brutally interrogated instead.
Sue: This is a bit like The Prisoner. But when are they going to bring out the water board? I mean, what are they actually doing to him that’s so bad? It’s just an angle poise lamp. Where are the pliers?
The Doctor makes Director Stahlman take off his gloves so he can prove to everyone he’s been infected by the evil Swarfega.
Sue: Green gunge is seeping out of his bandages, and they still don’t believe him! That’s stupid.
Gary: (Pointing at a propaganda poster that features the face of visual effects designer Jack Kine) What’s George from George & Mildred doing on that wall?
Me: (Changing the subject) What do you think of Benton, Sue?
Sue: He isn’t 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 thoroughly bored Gary.
Sue: And this is a glitter ball that takes us between 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, Gary. All the others were action-packed. Maybe the stuntmen are visiting their injured colleague in hospital, and they couldn’t put anything on this week.
Gary: The monsters look like Doddy and the Diddymen.
Sue: Not impressed then?
Gary: It was marginally better than the last one we saw.
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 was purgatory.
Me: Is that supposed to be a reference to Dante?
Gary: Dan who?
Sue: That’s a nice model shot. They’re trying really hard this week.
The Doctor, decked out in a fire suit, attempts to cap the bore before it’s too late, but Stahlman (also wearing a fire suit) decides to intervene.
Sue: Is Jon Pertwee really spinning through the air like that? He’ll do his back in if he’s not careful. Actually, on second thought, they must be stuntmen, because you can’t see their faces. It’s rather clever, really. Unless it really is Jon Pertwee spinning through the air like that, in which case it’s really stupid.
The Doctor escapes and Stahlman is left to convert the technicians into horrific 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.
When a mutated Bromley arrives on the scene, the Doctor has to put him in his place with a fire extinguisher.
Sue: It’s rare to see the Doctor kill another living being and not show any emotion about it. It doesn’t feel right to me.
As Stahlman reveals his new form, Sue is horrified (for all the wrong reasons).
Sue: So they’re werewolves all of a sudden? How the hell does that work, exactly? Are there zombies in the real universe and werewolves in this one? Is that how it works? Does this mean there could be another universe where the Swarfega turns you into a vampire, or a ghost? This is stupid. 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 there for the kids.
Sue: The kids? The KIDS?! Are you serious?
Nasty-Benton tries to be heroic – and fails – before paying the ultimate price.
Me: Does this remind you of anything?
Sue: Yes, it’s An American Werewolf in London. A cheap version, mind. His false teeth are terrible. They look like the sort of teeth you’d find in a tacky joke shop.
Sue: The Brigadier is a right dick in this universe. I bet he comes good at the end, though. He’ll redeem himself, just you wait and see.
As Greg holds the advancing Primords back with some corrugated piping, Sue thinks she’s spotted a flaw.
Sue: Greg’s hands should be frozen to that pipe by now. He ought to be wearing gloves. That’s just basic health and safety, that is.
Back in the marginally friendlier universe, Greg finds Liz in the Doctor’s shed.
Sue: It’s hard to believe there was actually a time when automatic garage doors were still magical and awe-inspiring.
Back in the 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.
The Doctor prepares to escape.
Sue: How will the Doctor 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 people into giant squids. Or pandas.
As the Earth tears itself apart, Sue finally gets something right.
Sue: You really like this story. I can tell.
Me: How can you tell?
Sue: You aren’t saying much, and you’re biting your nails. Although, to be fair, this is very intense.
The Brigade Leader’s subordinates take it in turns to belittle him.
Sue: I don’t like them talking to the Brig like this.
Me: That isn’t the Brig.
Sue: I know. But it still doesn’t feel right. He’s got a pet-lip on him now. Oh… they shot him. At least Liz came good in the end.
The episode concludes with the Doctor abandoning everyone to an extremely painful death.
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 got it together before the lava reached them.
Me: That’s a lovely image to end on. Thanks.
Sue: Shall we watch the next one?
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 our wedding anniversary?
Me: And it’s the last episode of the seventh season, too!
Sue: That was quick.
Me: The seasons are a lot shorter now. Anyway, have you recovered from last night’s episode when the Doctor didn’t win and everybody died?
Sue: Are they really dead, though? For real?
Me: Yes. Burnt to a crisp, probably. Unless Liz put them out of their misery and shot them first.
Sue: But the Doctor can still go back in time and save them.
Me: What? The whole planet?
Sue: No, silly, just the people we care about.
Me: He can’t do that.
Sue: Oh, that is sad. It’s an awfully large body count for a children’s television programme. Oh well, at least we’ve still got some spares back in the real universe.
And back in the real universe (the one with a British Space Programme, but let’s not get into that right now), events are spiralling towards the same disastrous conclusion.
Sue: Oh no! The flange is going to blow!
Me: What’s a flange?
Sue: Call yourself a fan! You use a flange to connect pipes, valves and pumps. Trust me, it won’t be good news if it blows.
The Doctor, who’s in a coma, is mumbling incoherently about blown output pipes.
Me: That’s you talking in your sleep, that is.
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, and as soon as the Doctor finishes ruminating on nature of freewill, it’s back to throbbing machinery and ear-splitting sirens again.
Anyway, the Doctor rushes back to the complex in order to stop the drilling before it’s too late. He does this by waving his arms in the air and raving like a lunatic.
Sue: He isn’t going about this the right way, is he?
The Doctor pushes the Brigadier out of his way.
Me: Did Jon Pertwee say, “Get out of my light!” to Nicholas Courtney? What an actorly thing to say.
The Doctor is led away from the complex by two UNIT soldiers, although it isn’t long before he’s free again, thanks to his fingers.
Sue: Oh, nice double-Spock action! I don’t understand why all the Doctors don’t use that superpower.
Sir Keith demands proof that Professor Stahlman has lost his mind. And then, right on cue, Stahlman emerges from the drill head.
Sue: There’s your proof! He’s a ****ing werewolf!
The Doctor stops the drill from penetrating the Earth’s crust with 35 seconds left to spare.
Sue: I thought they’d take that down to the wire. It’s more realistic this way, I suppose, but they could have squeezed even more tension out of that scene.
The banter between the Brigadier and the Doctor, which wraps up this story, makes Sue laugh, and as the credits roll, she turns to me and smiles.
Sue: That was a great episode. Lovely.
Sue: It was too long. Again. I didn’t like the werewolves or the zombies, either. The story didn’t need them. It could have been four or five parts without them. But the premise was very good, the acting was great, and the alternate reality was fascinating. I liked Liz, as well. She’s becoming one of my favourite companions. And there was plenty of Brigadier action, too, which was nice. I’ll give it: