Sue is up in arms as soon as Pertwee’s face appears.
Sue: So is that it, then? That’s the regeneration?
Me: No, this is just the title sequence.
Sue: But it’s a massive spoiler! It ruins his big entrance. Oh no, not Robert Holmes again!
The action kicks off at a radar tracking station.
Sue: Ah, colour! This looks lovely. However, even if I had seen this in 1970, I would have seen it in black and white. We couldn’t afford a colour telly.
Me: I could turn the colour down if you like.
Sue: No, don’t. This is fine.
A technician has spotted a meteorite shower on his radar screen.
Sue: This might look good but it sounds awful – there’s far too much echo in this location. The acoustics are so bad, it’s difficult to understand what they’re saying at times. And the background hum would drive you mad if you had to work there. No wonder this guy is sweating – he’s clearly having a nervous breakdown. And he looks like James Blunt.
When I explain to her that this production was hit with last-minute difficulties, and they had to improvise by making it entirely on location, and completely on-the-fly, Sue cuts this distraction some slack, which is a good job too because the sound in the next location is even worse!
Yes, we’re in UNIT HQ and Liz Shaw is being briefed by the Brigadier.
Sue: Is she the new assistant? She looks like a spy.
The Brigadier explains to Liz that UNIT has been set up to deal with extraordinary situations (“A bit like Torchwood, only less gay?”) but Liz isn’t having any of it.
Sue: The Brigadier was such a handsome chap. He has a lovely beauty-mark on his left cheek. Sigh.
At Ashbridge Cottage Hospital, Doctor Henderson discovers that our Doctor has two hearts and alien blood.
Sue: This looks great. Do all the Pertwee stories look this good?
Throughout the scene, the director does everything he can to obscure the Doctor’s face from the audience’s gaze.
Sue: There’s no point trying to hide his face now! You blew that surprise in the opening credits!
Sue loves the handheld camera work in this story (“This feels very modern. It’s not a million miles away from what it would look like today”) and when she watches a very long tracking shot down a very narrow corridor, she can hardly believe her eyes.
Sue: This looks like Das Boot! Who directed this one?
Me: Derek Martinus.
Sue: He can come back again.
Now fully conscious, the Doctor finally has a good look at himself.
Sue: Yes, I’d be disappointed too, if I were you. Troughton was much more attractive, although you had to concentrate really hard to see that.
Me: We are still watching an era of the programme when you weren’t expected to fancy the Doctor.
Sue: Well they are certainly succeeding.
Me: Although a lot of women do find Pertwee irresistible, apparently.
Sue: Now you are just taking the piss.
And then the Doctor starts rambling incoherently about his shoes.
Sue:So has this Doctor got a shoe fetish? Like the Second Doctor had a hat fetish? That could be interesting.
When Channing’s associates turn up to kidnap the Doctor, Sue believes that she’s found a flaw with the impeccable production values.
Sue: The make-up on these extras is appalling! Look at how shiny they’re faces are! The make-up department obviously weren’t used to working on film or in colour. They needed more time to practice.
The Doctor manages to escape from his captors, even though he is bound and gagged in a wheelchair.
Sue: You see, this is the problem I am going to have with Pertwee. It’s just too silly. It’s going to be Benny Hill-style slapstick comedy, isn’t it? The production values are great, and the direction is excellent, but it’s literally going downhill now.
Sue: When Pertwee’s face appears, it looks like Darth Vader’s helmet.
While Sue is clearly enjoying this story so far, I can tell that something is annoying her.
Sue: I think the reason I didn’t watch Doctor Who when I was little is because it was on the BBC and that was far too posh for our house. We were an ITV family. We’d probably watch Randall and Hopkirk because they weren’t so upper class. Everyone in this episode of Doctor Who sounds like they went to public school.
Me: Well, you’re middle class now, love, so you should be fine.
Sue: The make-up really does look plastic. It’s almost as if they’re supposed to look like they’re made from plastic and it isn’t a mistake.
Me: Come on love, you can do it.
Sue: Do what?
Back at UNIT HQ, Liz continues to be sceptical when it comes to the Brigadier’s tales of alien incursions.
Sue: It’s like Mulder and Scully. But with more sexual tension.
Me: What do you make of Liz so far?
Sue: I don’t like her.
Me: What’s wrong with her?
Sue: She’s too posh! I’m surprised she isn’t holding a cucumber sandwich in her hand while she drones on in that plummy accent of hers. I won’t be able to relate to her at all. Sorry.
Back at his cottage, a poacher named Sam Seely removes a Nestene sphere from the trunk where he has been hiding it.
Sue: Has he got a mobile phone secreted in there? What year is this supposed to be?
Sue: Oh, it’s them!
Yes, it’s our first glimpse of an Auton.
Sue: It’s the monsters from Christopher Eccleston’s first story! And Rory turned into one (or one turned into him, I’m not entirely sure). Yes, I do remember them. Plastic.
Me: Do you remember what they are called?
Sue: The Deadly Dummies?
Sue: Okay, calm down.
Me: Well, at least you have some working class characters to relate to now that we’re hanging out with Sam and Meg Seeley.
Sue: Yes, they have very nice cobbles. But they are not exactly coming out of this well, are they? This programme doesn’t seem to like working class people very much.
Back at the hospital, an important doctor has arrived from London in his red vintage car. The colour throws her at first but Sue believes that she has recognised the Third Doctor’s infamous mode of transport.
Sue: So does the Doctor steal this guy’s car? And does he cover his tracks by having it spray painted Daytona Yellow? What a jerk.
Me: Look! Naked Pertwee!
Sue: Sorry, but that isn’t doing anything for me. Oh look – he has a tattoo.
Me: Yes, fans have come up with plenty of theories to explain that.
Sue: Why can’t they just accept that the actor playing the part had a tattoo?
Me: Because that would shatter their hermetically sealed fictional universe. Let’s say you had to explain the tattoo within the narrative itself, what would you do?
Sue: I don’t know. Maybe it’s the mark of a Time Lord. Or a Time Lord criminal. Something stupid like that.
Me: You see! You do think like a fan!
She decides to change the subject.
Sue: Why doesn’t the Doctor steal that nice MG Midget over there? It would be a lot less conspicuous. Maybe he just wants to be like Steed in The Avengers or maybe he’s a fan of The Prisoner. I mean, he is copying both of them.
When an Auton causes a UNIT Land Rover to crash, Sue is horrified by the sight of its blood-splattered windscreen.
Sue: That was too gruesome for the kids, although it probably didn’t look that bad in black and white, so only the rich kids with their colour tellies would have been traumatised. And the rich kids deserved to be traumatised, so that’s okay.
The Doctor arrives at UNIT’s lab in the stolen vintage car, and he informs Liz and the Brigadier that the meteorites aren’t really meteorites at all.
Sue: Okay, I admit it, I’m starting to warm to him. He seems nicer than I imagined he would be. He’s got a certain charm, I suppose. Watching these stories could be easier than I thought.
The episode concludes with Ransome, a disgruntled employee at a plastics factory, exploring an off-limits area that has been decked out with new machinery. He is horrified when a mannequin suddenly comes to life.
Sue: Pretty scary stuff. Yes, this is a walk in the park compared to some of the stories we’ve seen. Are they all like this?
Sue: The Autons are lousy shots but at least they can run. Is this the first time we’ve seen a monster that doesn’t just shamble around aimlessly? I’m impressed.
When it becomes clear that the mysterious Channing has Hibbert, the factory’s managing director, under his complete control, Sue experiences deja vu.
Sue: Can any alien hypnotise a human? They all seem to be at it these days.
Ransome arrives at a UNIT tent that has been set-up as a base to search for more “meteorites”. He is traumatised by what he saw back at the factory.
Sue: He’s a little over-the-top; he’s sweating so much, he looks like he’s just been swimming!
Back at UNIT HQ, the Doctor persuades Liz to get the TARDIS key from the Brigadier.
Sue: The Doctor is a smooth operator. He has a very calming voice and Pertwee seems to be taking it very seriously. I like him. He’s definitely not what I was expecting.
Meanwhile, UNIT are interrogating Sam Seeley for making enquiries about how much they would be willing to pay for a “thunderbolt”.
Sue: If this was an episode of 24, they would have shot that poacher in the kneecaps by now.
Liz gives the Doctor the key to his TARDIS and he’s off like a shot.
Sue: So the Doctor tries to leg it? I’m not sure how I feel about that. That’s the sort of thing Hartnell would have done.
But he fails. The TARDIS doesn’t dematerialise and the Doctor is forced to evacuate its smoking interior.
Sue: Does the Doctor dress like this all the time? It’s not very practical, is it? It’d be okay if you were going to spend an evening in a casino, but not much else.
Back at the Seeley’s cottage, Meg, Sam’s wife, is searching through one of her husband’s trunks.
Sue: She’s expecting to find his porn stash.
When Sam Seeley admits to UNIT that he has been hiding an Auton sphere in a trunk back at his house. The Doctor, Liz and the Brigadier set off to retrieve it.
Sue: Shouldn’t they ask him where the trunk is before they set off? They could spend all day searching his house for it.
But an Auton has got there before them.
Sue: Did it just kill a dog off-screen? I am not happy about that to put it mildly.
When Meg Seeley discovers an Auton ransacking their cottage, she immediately reaches for her shotgun.
Sue: You go, girl. You see, this is why we need a shotgun.
Me: No, the reason we need a shotgun is here (warning: you can’t “un-see” things so click that link with extreme caution).
Sue: He’s probably just taking the piss.
Me: Yeah, probably. But I have bought a shotgun. Just in case.
As the Auton advances, Meg lets him have both barrels in the chest. He remains unfazed.
Sue: Shoot him in the head! Has she never seen a zombie film?
When UNIT turns up, proving that handguns are just as inefficient, the Auton decides to leg it back to Ransome so it can vaporise him to death.
Sue: It’s the monster that cleans up after itself.
The episode concludes with General Scobie answering the door to himself.
Sue: That’s a creepy cliffhanger. So is this the Autons’ plan? To take over the world one waxwork exhibit at a time? It’s going to take ages.
Sue: I bet Madame Tussaud’s Top Civil Servant Exhibit went down a storm with the public. Who needs Ghandi and Elvis when you’ve got a permanent undersecretary to gawp at.
When the Doctor learns that Channing has replicas of political figures that have been designed to infiltrate the highest echelons of society, Sue is impressed by the plan.
Sue: It’s a good, creepy idea. And it explains a lot. Like, why David Cameron looks so plastic.
But what really impresses Sue about this story is its pace.
Sue: This doesn’t mess about. This is why four-part stories are the perfect length for Doctor Who: there’s no padding. Are all the Pertwee stories four parts?
Me: Not quite.
Luckily, before she can dwell this, Sue is distracted by Liz Shaw’s line, “I can hardly keep me eyes open”.
Sue: Her accent has slipped. She’s not as posh as she thinks she is. I’m starting to warm to her now.
And then the moment we’ve all been waiting for arrives, as shop window dummies around the country suddenly come alive to wreak their special brand of havoc.
Sue: This would have terrified the kids. I expect this is why Russell did it again when he brought the show back. At least he could afford to break some glass. I like the way the Autons still have the price tags hanging off them as they massacre everyone. It’s a brilliant concept.
The Doctor heads for the plastics factory, armed with a jerry-rigged contraption that will immobilise the Autons.
Sue: Is he still driving around in a stolen vehicle? The Doctor is a TWOCK-er!
The Doctor and Liz make their way to the Nestene incubator, but just as he is about to zap the Consciousness itself, he’s thwarted by a dodgy lead.
Sue: Just plug the cable back in, you dozy mare!
The Doctor then proceeds to have a fight with a giant octopus.
Sue: Okay, this isn’t great. There are showing far too much of the monster. Funnily enough, it probably looked okay in black and white.
Just when things look fatal for the third Doctor, Liz sticks the lead back into the Doctor’s machine and the monster is destroyed.
Sue: Why didn’t he just use the sonic, or doesn’t he have a setting for that yet?
Back at UNIT HQ, the Doctor and the Brigadier formalise their working relationship.
Sue: Come on, Doctor, show Liz inside your TARDIS. You can’t bang on about it to her and then not take her inside, you tease.
And then, to top it all, Sue even manages to complete the Doctor’s final words before he does.
Sue: “Doctor John Smith. Shaken, not stirred”.
Sue: That was wonderful. Good direction, a good script (Robert Holmes has come on in leaps and bounds) and there are some really nice performances. There’s nothing I can’t forgive, so I’m going to have to give it –
Me: Oh dear, it’s all gone a bit Moonlighting.
Sue: It was four parts long, it moved and it was in colour! What more could a girl ask for? As long as all the Pertwee stories are all like this, we’ll be fine.