Me: We’ve made it to Doctor Who’s 13th season.
Sue: 13, eh? Unlucky for some.
Me: We’ll see.
Thankfully, Terror of the Zygons gets off to a cracking start.
Sue: That’s a nice edit to kick things off. I’m not entirely sure what I was looking at there, but it’s a confident start.
An oil rig crumbles into the sea.
Sue: I still don’t know what I’m looking at, but that was probably a very nice explosion. I’m sure it was a smart decision to shoot it at night but I couldn’t really see anything.
Sadly, my copy of this story is incredibly dark and we’ll end up squinting at it quite a lot.
Happily, the next scene takes place in broad daylight, as the Doctor, Harry and Sarah march across a windswept moor. The Doctor is wearing a Tam o’Shanter.
Sue: Are we in Scotland?
Me: Nothing escapes you, love.
Sue: I like how Sarah is wearing the Doctor’s hat and Harry is wearing his scarf. They come across as one big happy family. Or very close friends who are comfortable swapping clothes.
Me: There are definitely forums for people like you.
And then Sue is swept off her feet.
Sue: Ooh, that’s a nice 1970s Land Rover. Oh, this is very nice. A nice location (although I’m not convinced it’s really Scotland), nice cars and a nice soundtrack. It’s nice. And it’s just like old times, too. I know I’m going to enjoy this one.
And then it gets even better.
Sue: A Land Rover Defender… now you’re talking. I’m spoilt for choice this week. And is that Benton driving? Get in!
A local Inn has been turned into UNIT’s temporary HQ. Inside, the Brigadier is discussing oil rig disasters with a man named Huckle.
Sue: The bagpipes are doing my head in. It’s too loud – I can’t hear a word anyone’s saying. It’s not Dudley, is it?
Even the Brigadier is annoyed by the racket.
Sue: Thank heavens he’s noticed it as well.
Sue: Why hasn’t the Brig made it stop?! It’s not even a real person playing those bagpipes – it’s a record. If it was a real person, we’d see them.
Sue: Okay, the bagpipes have driven the cats out of the room. Enough is enough. This is giving me a headache.
Me: Get used to it – the soundtrack is like this for the next 90 minutes.
However, when the Doctor walks into the bar, the music stops abruptly.
Sue: Thank **** for that.
Sarah decides to take the piss out of the Brigadier’s kilt.
Sue: Let’s have a look at your knees, then. It’s too dark, Neil, I can’t see his knees.
When the Doctor learns that the Brigadier has dragged him to Scotland to deal with an oil crisis, he scoffs at Earth’s reliance on fossil fuel.
Sue: The Doctor is well ahead of his time. If we’d listened to the Doctor in 1975, we wouldn’t be in such a big mess now.
But when the Doctor learns that the oil rigs have been attacked in mysterious circumstances, his interest is piqued.
Sue: My Dad made parts for the oil rigs around this time. He would have enjoyed this story.
The Doctor rushes off to investigate, leaving Sarah to make small talk with Angus, the Inn’s landlord.
Me: Look, it’s Shughie McFee from Crossroads.
Sue: I have no idea who that is, but I bet he’s the only gay in the village.
Me: Oh, you didn’t watch Crossroads back in the day, did you.
Sue: No, I had a life. I do remember this actor in another Doctor Who, though.
Me: There’s hope for you yet. In another universe you can tell me the name of the story as well.
Sue: I just remember you banging on about Crossroads.
Angus regales Sarah with tales of strange goings at Tulloch Moor.
Sue: It’s very American Werewolf in London, isn’t it? They are building up the tension quite nicely. The acting is fine, it’s on location, and there’s a nice pace to it. So far, so good.
Harry encounters a survivor from another oil rig disaster who has washed up on a beach. But when he tries to help the poor man, they are shot by a sniper in a sporran.
Me: Harry’s dead.
Sue: No he isn’t.
Me: Yes he is. He’s been shot in the head.
Sue: That’s just a flesh wound.
We cut to Doctor and Sarah at the Inn. The bagpipes are playing a lament for the dead.
Me: I told you so. They are foreshadowing Harry’s death with funeral music.
Sue: Really? They killed Harry?
By the time Sarah takes an urgent phone call from the local infirmary, I have successfully convinced Sue that she has just seen a Doctor Who companion die a brutal, senseless death. It’s one of life’s small pleasures.
Sue: But that’s awful!
Meanwhile, a Zygon is gently massaging the controls to his ship.
Sue: This is horrible. Is this supposed to be organic technology?
Me: Well spotted.
Sue: It reminds me of something else.
Me: Babylon 5?
Sue: Battlestar Galactica. When they had to fly that stolen Cylon ship it looked like someone’s lower intestines when they got in its cockpit. Hey, Cylon – Zygon. Coincidence?
Sarah arrives at the oil company’s infirmary to find Harry alive and well-ish. I duck as a cushion sails over my head. We haven’t had one of those in ages.
Back at the Inn, the Doctor is ruminating on what could be causing the attacks, when we suddenly cut to the Doctor’s face filling a strange red-tinted view screen on the Zygons’ ship.
Sue: That was a lovely edit. The direction is first-rate this week. Who is it?
Me: Do you really have to ask?
Sue: Is it Camfield? Is it really? I thought he was dead.
Me: No, he had a heart attack when he was directing Inferno, but he got better. Remember?
Sue: Thank **** for that. I thought this was a bit good. Having said that, this close-up of what I assume to be a Zygon reminds me of Bungle from Rainbow. That can’t be good.
The episode concludes with Sarah threatened by an advancing Zygon.
Sue: Pretty scary stuff.
Me: That cliffhanger still scares the crap out of me today.
Sue: It’s good to have the gang back together again.
Me: What do you mean?
Sue: You know, the Brig, Benton, UNIT – it’s just like old times. And Camfield is back too. What more could you ask for?
Sue gets her first good look at a Zygon.
Sue: That’s an interesting design. I’m struggling to make out what they are saying but they look creepy and vaguely fishy. There’s one over there who looks like a goldfish that’s drowning on dry land.
The Zygon’s cyborg pet, the Skarasen, is also seen for the first time.
Sue: Now, that isn’t good. But it was a blink and you’ll miss it effect, so I’ll let it pass.
The Doctor and Sarah find themselves trapped in the infirmary’s decompression chamber with no oxygen. The Doctor sends Sarah into a trance. And then he howls like a banshee.
Sue: Is he trying to scream more air into the room? That was very odd.
Meanwhile, back at UNIT’s temporary HQ, the Brigadier is talking to a UNIT corporal about their predicament.
Sue: Is this the replacement for Yates? He isn’t very good is he? I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I think I miss Yates.
Out on the misty moors, a UNIT soldier is on patrol.
Sue: This looks great. It’s very atmospheric. Good old Douglas. So who did the music? He wouldn’t work with Dudley Simpson so it can’t be him.
Me: A guy called Geoffrey Burgon.
Sue: I like it. It’s very delicate.
The poor soldier is attacked and killed by the Skarasen.
Sue: I wish we hadn’t seen that. Oh dear. Is this the point where it all starts to go downhill?
The Doctor finds the Skarasen’s signalling device at the scene of the crime.
Me: I used to have one of those but I think one of the cats ate it.
Sue: What? That would have killed it!
Me: Don’t worry, it was tiny – no bigger than a grain of rice. It came with my collectible Zygon action figure.
Sue: So that’s where I recognise the Zygons from. And I don’t think it was the cats, I’m pretty sure I hoovered the signalling device up once. Sorry.
As the Zygons plot and scheme, Sue strains to hear them.
Sue: The Zygons are difficult to understand with their classic Doctor Who voice, don’t you think? That half-whispering, half-wheezing thing all the monsters do. “Doc-TORRRRRR!” Like that.
A few hours after we saw this episode, Sue decided to amuse herself by thrusting the toy Zygon into my face whilst demanding, in her very best Broton impression, “Make me a cup of teaaaaaaa”. At least this story is making an impression.
The Zygons demonstrate their ability to mimic humans.
Sue: I said this was Battlestar Galactica.
A duplicate of Harry is sent to retrieve the Zygons’ signalling device. When he has it in his hands, he rudely pushes Sarah out of the way.
Sue: They don’t even pretend to blend in with their surroundings. Why bother with a disguise at all if you’re just going to draw attention to yourself like that.
Sarah gives chase.
Sue: There’s a lot of running around in this episode. I bet the cast had to be fit.
Me: If you look at rehearsal footage, most of the cast were chain smokers.
Sue: Then there’s hope for you yet.
Sarah pursues Harry to a barn and Douglas ladles on the tension with a hoe.
Sue: Can’t they get Douglas Camfield to direct all of them?
When Harry finally attacked Sarah with a pitchfork, Sue actually gasped.
Sue: ****ing hell! How grim was that? What an amazing scene. That was pretty disturbing. And very, very dark.
Me: It’s a shame the quality of this copy is so poor.
Sue: Why isn’t this story on DVD yet? It clearly isn’t a duffer, so what are they waiting for?
Me: Well, I can’t corroborate this, but I do remember someone telling me five years ago that it’ll be the last ever story released in the range. I heard it was because someone who works for the DVD company knows someone who rates this story as their favourite, and a decision was taken to release it at the end just to spite him.
Sue: That would be funny if the picture wasn’t so dark.
The Doctor pockets the signalling device and he draws the Skarasen away from his friends. Unfortunately, the Doctor’s vehicle breaks down before he can get very far.
Sue: A Land Rover would never do that. No, I do not believe this. That Land Rover wouldn’t just develop a technical problem like that. Benton must have forgotten to fill it up. He should have topped up a jerry can in case of an emergency. This is getting silly now, the Doctor actually believes that a Land Rover has broken down.
Me: You accept the Loch Ness Monster but you have trouble when it comes to a Land Rover breaking down.
Sue: For no clear reason. There are limits, you know. And what do you mean – the Loch Ness Monster? Are you taking the piss?
Me: I’m deadly serious. In fact, the novelisation is called Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster.
I have to pause the tape and get the paperback down from my shelf before she will put the cushion away.
Sue: It’s a bit daft this, isn’t it? And since when did Nessie go traipsing around the moors? It stays in the water. Everyone knows that.
Me: I remember watching this story at school once. I must have been eight or nine at the time. It was either the whole story or bits of it were included in one of those programmes for Schools and Colleges.
Sue: What on Earth were they trying to teach you during that class?
The Doctor tries to outrun the beast.
Sue: I wish we didn’t have to see the monster. Just hearing it is enough. This is Camfield’s lowest point, but then again, what could he possibly do differently? What a shame.
When I remind her that the Skarasen is a cyborg and the Zygons have been hanging around Scotland for centuries, everything suddenly falls into place for her.
Sue: Oh, I see! So the Zygons built this robot Nessie thing (which explains why it moves in a completely unrealistic fashion) and they used it to scare people away from Loch Ness, yes? Right. That actually makes sense. Phew, I was a bit worried there for a second.
Sue: Doctor Who should be banned from using dinosaurs.
The Zygons mistakenly believe that the Doctor is dead and so they order the Skarasen to return home.
Sue: So they don’t call it Nessie, then? That’s a bit disappointing.
Back at the Inn, Angus becomes suspicious of the Zygons’ transmitter, which has been hidden in the stag’s head nailed to the wall.
Sue: This guy is always hired to play the token Scot, isn’t he? I’m sure I’ve seen him in loads of things.
Me: Yeah, he’s the Scottish Talfryn Thomas.
And then Sue is given a very rare treat.
Sue: Two Land Rover Defenders in the same shot. It doesn’t get any better than this. If I won the lottery, I’d buy a Defender with the snorkel attachment so I could drive it underwater.
Me: That would be handy. Especially in this story.
The Doctor, Sarah and the Brigadier decide to pay the Duke of Forgill a visit at his castle. The Doctor not only claims that the Loch Ness Monster exists, he explains that it’s been using a subterranean tunnel to commute to the North Sea.
Sue: Is that really possible or are they just making it up? They didn’t have Wikipedia in 1975 so I guess they could say practically anything they liked.
Meanwhile, back at the Inn, Angus is attacked by a Zygon disguised as Sister Lamont. UNIT arrives too late to save him.
Sue: He must have a canny pair of lungs if UNIT heard him in the next postcode.
UNIT track the Zygon to a nearby forest. They shoot to kill.
Sue: They won’t hit it. Never in a month of Sundays.
However, when Sister Lamont emerges with a bullet wound to her arm, Sue is forced to eat her words.
Sue: The bullet must have ricocheted off a tree.
The Zygon nurse then brains a UNIT soldier with a very large rock.
Sue: Homicidal nurses. This is not for kids.
Meanwhile, back at Forgill Castle, the poor quality copy of this story begins to reap some rewards.
Sue: Which castle did they film this in?
Me: It’s the one in Shepherd’s Bush. BBC Television Centre Studio 3, I think they call it.
Sue: Get away!
In the course of Sarah’s investigations, she stumbles across a secret passage hidden in the Duke’s library.
Sue: Sarah has a very visible panty line in this story. God knows what it must look like on a decent copy. Nice jumper, though. Not too keen on the coat.
Inside the Zygons’ ship, Sarah avoids contact with the aliens.
Sue: I like the design of these Zygons. They are quite octopussy. Do they come back again?
Me: There’s a fan film featuring Zygon porn. I could hunt a copy down if you like.
Sue: I’ll pass, thanks.
Sarah rescues Harry and they escape to the castle. But the Zygons capture the Doctor and they prepare their ship for take-off. So UNIT decide to depth charge the suckers.
Sue: Typical UNIT. The Brigadier has been dying to do this all day. He never changes, does he?
The Zygon ship emerges from the Loch and the onlookers are stunned by a noise even more debilitating than bagpipes.
Sue: I’ve just noticed that Ian Levene has a very big mouth.
The Zygon ship takes to the sky.
Sue: What a clunky piece of shit.
Sue: The Zygons’ spaceship looks like a depressed elephant.
The Doctor decides to disarm his captors with humour.
Sue: I like it when the Doctor decides to take the piss out of the aliens. There’s a nice mixture of comedy and drama in this story. It strikes just the right balance.
He does this a lot in Terror of the Zygons. The infamous references to “Only six of you” and “Wave a tentacle” result in plenty of laughter from Sue. And, once again, whenever Tom decides to dominate a scene, Sue is hypnotised into silence.
Sue: Why did Broton visit the Doctor in his cell in the first place? He didn’t need anything from him and he gave the Doctor loads of information. It’s a bit lazy, this. Pertwee would have found this stuff out on his own.
Me: Yeah, and it would have taken him six episodes to do it.
Sue: Good point. Actually, this is a brilliant scene.
Back at UNIT HQ, the Brigadier takes a very important phone call.
Sue: That’s interesting. Was that supposed to be Thatcher?
Me: Or Shirley Williams.
Sue: Or Edwina Currie?
Me: If you like.
Sue: So the UNIT stories must be set in the future. I see.
The Zygons’ ship has been spotted in a nearby quarry.
Sue: A quarry. How convenient.
Sue is drawn into the Doctor’s daring escape from the Zygon ship and she’s even impressed by the use of forced perspective to sell its evacuation. And then the ship explodes into a million tiny pieces.
Sue: That was a very impressive explosion. One of the best ones we’ve seen in the series. Douglas should have chucked sand over the faces of the cast, but that wasn’t bad at all.
Our heroes race to the Fourth International Energy Conference in London to stop Broton from turning the Skarasen into a weapon of mass destruction.The Doctor interrupts Broton’s plans and the Zygon tries to massage the Doctor into submission.
Sue: Has the Doctor got an Achilles Neck? That’s the second time someone has tried to shiatsu him to death.
Broton is shot and killed by UNIT (he was standing less than a yard away from them at the time) and the Doctor desperately searches for the Skarasen signalling device.
Sue: It’s like when you have to hunt down your mobile phone by ringing it. We’ve all been there.
The Doctor races up to the terrace to face the Skarasen.
Sue: Oh dear.
The Doctor throws the signalling device into the monster’s face. As the Doctor watches the scene unfold, we hear scores of bystanders screaming off-screen.
Sue: Are you quite sure he’s thrown it down Nessie’s neck and not into a large crowd of people? It sounds like there’s a massacre going on down there.
Nessie swallows the devices and buggers off back to Scotland.
Sue: I bet that made the evening news.
The episode conclude with the Doctor, Sarah, Harry, the Brigadier and the Duke of Forgill returning to Tulloch Moor to retrieve the TARDIS.
Sue: Why have they taken this bloke to see the TARDIS? What’s the point of that?
The Brigadier refuses the Doctor’s offer of a lift back to London, as does Harry.
Sue: I expect they’ll pick Harry up later. I’m guess the Doctor and Sarah will take a short detour first. And why did Harry go all the way back to Scotland if he had no intention of getting back in the TARDIS? That’s a bit pointless.
The TARDIS dematerialises and the Duke tempers his astonishment with a backhanded insult about how tight the Scots can be.
Sue: And a nice bit of casual racism to finish on. Lovely.
Sue: Not bad. It had a lot going for it: the Zygons, the location, the direction, the music, Tom Baker, the Brigadier in a kilt, and the extensive Land Rover collection. But a few things let it down: the monster, the Zygons’ diction, and, most importantly, the plot. Even the Doctor took the piss out of it.