Terror of the Zygons gets off to a cracking start.
Sue: That was a nice edit to kick things off. I’m not entirely sure what I was looking at, 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 nice explosion. It was a smart decision to shoot this at night, because I can’t see a bloody thing.
Unfortunately, my copy of this story is extremely dark, which means we’ll end up squinting at the screen quite a lot. At least the next scene is in broad daylight, as the Doctor, Harry and Sarah traipse across a windswept moor.
Sue: (Noticing the Doctor’s tam o’shanter) Are we in Scotland?
Me: Nothing escapes you, love.
Sue: Sarah is wearing the Doctor’s hat and Harry is wearing his scarf. I like it. They come across as a big happy family. Or very close friends who are comfortable swapping clothes.
Me: There are definitely forums for people like you, Sue.
And then Sue is swept off her feet.
Sue: Ooh, that’s a nice 1970s Land Rover. Oh, this is very nice. A lovely location (although I’m not convinced it’s actually Scotland), nice cars and a nice soundtrack. It’s nice. I’m going to enjoy this.
And then it gets even better.
Sue: A Land Rover Defender. Now you’re talking! And is that Benton driving it? Get in!
In the local pub, which has been turned into UNIT’s temporary HQ, the Brigadier is discussing oil rig disasters with a man named Huckle.
Sue: The bagpipes are doing my head in. They’re too loud. I can’t hear a word anyone’s saying. This isn’t Dudley, is it?
Even the Brigadier is annoyed by the racket.
Sue: Thank heavens he’s noticed it too.
But he carries on in spite of it.
Sue: Why didn’t the Brig made it stop? It isn’t even a real person playing those bagpipes – it’s a ****ing record. Otherwise, we’d see them.
Sue: The bagpipes have driven our cats out of the room. Enough is enough, Neil. This is giving me a headache.
Me: Get used to it, love. The soundtrack is like this for the next 90 minutes.
But when the Doctor walks up to 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. This is 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 him in 1975, we wouldn’t be in such a mess now.
The Doctor’s interest is piqued when he learns the rigs were attacked under mysterious circumstances.
Sue: My Dad made parts for 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 pub landlord.
Me: Look, Sue, 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: You didn’t watch Crossroads back in the day, did you?
Sue: Not really, no; I had a life. I remember this actor from another Doctor Who, though.
Me: Then there’s hope for you yet. In an alternate universe, you told me the name of the story, as well.
Sue: I just remember you banging on about Crossroads.
There are strange goings-on at Tulloch Moor.
Sue: It’s An American Werewolf in London, isn’t it? They’re building the tension nicely. The acting’s fine, it’s on location, and there’s a nice pace to it. So far so good.
Harry finds a survivor from another oil rig disaster washed up on the beach. But when he tries to help the poor man, a sniper in a sporran starts shooting at them.
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.
The bagpiper (care of EMI Records) plays a sorrowful lament for the dead.
Me: See, I told you. They’re foreshadowing Harry’s death with funeral music.
Sue: Really? They actually killed Harry?
When Sarah takes an urgent phone call from the local infirmary, I somehow convince Sue that she’s just seen a Doctor Who companion suffer a brutal, senseless death. It’s one of life’s small pleasures.
Sue: But that’s awful!
Meanwhile a Zygon gently massages the controls to his ship.
Sue: That’s 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 a stolen Cylon ship, it looked like someone’s lower intestines when they got in the cockpit. Hey! Cylon – Zygon… Coincidence?
Sarah arrives at the infirmary and we discover Harry is alive and well. I duck as a cushion sails over my head (we haven’t had one of those in ages). And then, as the Doctor ruminates on what could be behind the attacks, we cut to his face on a screen in 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 during Inferno, but he got better, remember?
Sue: Thank **** for that. I thought this was good. Having said that, this close-up of what I assume must be a Zygon reminds me of Bungle from Rainbow. And that can’t be good.
The episode concludes with Sarah being threatened by a Zygon.
Me: That cliffhanger still scares the crap out of me today.
Sue: It’s good to see the gang back together again.
Me: What do you mean?
Sue: You know, the Brig, Benton, UNIT. It’s just like old times. And Douglas Camfield is back, too. What more could you ask?
Sue gets her first good look at a Zygon.
Sue: It’s an interesting design. I’m struggling to make out what they’re saying, but they look creepy and vaguely fishy. That one over there looks like a goldfish that’s drowning on dry land.
The Zygons own a cyborg pet called the Skarasen.
Sue: That isn’t so good. But it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it effect, so I’ll let it pass.
When the Doctor and Sarah are locked in the infirmary’s decompression chamber without any oxygen, the Time Lord sends Sarah into a trance before howling like a banshee.
Sue: Is he trying to scream more air into the room?
The Brigadier confers with a UNIT corporal.
Sue: Is he Yates’ replacement? He isn’t very good. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I think I actually miss Yates.
A UNIT soldier patrols the misty moors.
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 delicate.
The soldier is attacked and killed by the Skarasen.
Sue: Oh dear. Is this the point where it all starts to go wrong?
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? You could 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 it wasn’t the cats that ate it. I think I hoovered it up. Sorry.
The Zygons continue to plot and scheme.
Sue: The Zygons are very difficult to understand with their Doctor Who voices, don’t you think? That half-whispering, half-wheezing thing all the monsters do: “Doc-TORRRRRR…” You know, like that.
The Zygons can also mimic humans.
Sue: I said this was like Battlestar Galactica.
Harry’s duplicate is sent to retrieve the Zygons’ signalling device, and as soon as he has it in his possession, he rudely pushes Sarah out of the way.
Sue: They don’t even pretend to blend in, do they? Why bother with a disguise if you’re just going to draw attention to yourself like that?
Sarah follows Harry to a barn, and Douglas Camfield ladles on the tension with a hoe.
Sue: Can’t they make Douglas direct them all?
Harry attacks Sarah with a pitchfork.
Sue: ****ing hell! How grim was that? What an amazing scene. That was very disturbing. And very, very dark.
Me: Yeah, it’s a shame this copy is so poor.
Sue: Why isn’t this story on DVD yet? It obviously isn’t a duffer, so what are they waiting for?
Me: Well, I can’t corroborate this, but I remember someone telling me that Terror of the Zygons will be the last story they ever release on disc. I think it’s because someone who works for the range knows someone who rates this story as their all-time favourite, so a decision was taken to release it at the end, just to spite him.
Sue: That would be really funny if the picture wasn’t so dark.
The Doctor pockets the signalling device and 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 simply don’t believe it. A Land Rover wouldn’t develop a technical problem like that. Benton must have forgotten to fill it up. He should have taken a jerry can in case of emergencies. This is silly; the Doctor actually believes a Land Rover has simply broken down.
Me: So you can accept the Loch Ness Monster, but you can’t accept 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.
Sue: Since when did Nessie go traipsing around the moors? It stays in the water. Everybody knows that.
Me: I remember watching this story at school. I must have been eight or nine at the time. It was either the whole story or bits of it were included in a Schools and Colleges programme.
Sue: What on Earth were they trying to teach you during that class?
The Doctor tries to outrun the Skarasen.
Sue: I wish we didn’t have to see the monster. Just hearing it is enough. This is definitely Camfield’s lowest point. 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 clicks into place.
Sue: Oh, I see! So the Zygons have built this robot Nessie thing (which explains why it moves in a completely unrealistic fashion) and they’ve used it to scare people away from Loch Ness, yes? That actually makes sense. Phew, I was worried there for a second.
Sue: Doctor Who should be banned from using dinosaurs.
The Zygons believe the Doctor is dead and they order their pet home.
Sue: So they don’t call it Nessie, then? That’s disappointing.
Angus becomes suspicious of the Zygons’ transmitter, which has been hidden in the stag’s head.
Sue: This guy always plays the token Scot. I’m sure I’ve seen him in loads of things.
Me: Yeah, he’s the Scottish Talfryn Thomas.
And then Sue enjoys a rare treat.
Sue: Two Land Rover Defenders in the same scene. 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 claims the Loch Ness Monster has been using a subterranean tunnel in order 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 anything they liked.
Angus is attacked by a Zygon who has disguised itself as a nurse, and UNIT are 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.
Sue is forced to eat her words when the nurse emerges from the forest with a bloody bullet wound.
Sue: The bullet must have ricocheted off a tree.
The Zygon brains a UNIT soldier with a large rock.
Sue: Homicidal nurses! This is not for kids.
Meanwhile, Sarah stumbles across a secret passage in the Duke of Forgill’s library.
Sue: Sarah’s panty line is very visible in this story. God knows what it must look like on a decent copy. Nice jumper, though. Not too keen on the coat.
Sarah manages to avoid the aliens.
Sue: I like the Zygons. They’re quite Octopussy. Do they come back again?
Me: There’s a fan film, which features Zygon porn. I could hunt down a copy down, if you like.
Sue: I’ll pass, thanks.
As the Zygons prepare for take-off, UNIT decide to depth-charge the suckers.
Sue: Typical UNIT. The Brigadier’s been dying to do this all day.
When the Zygons’ ship emerges from the Loch, the onlookers are stunned by a noise that’s even more debilitating than the bagpipes.
Sue: I’ve just noticed that Ian Levene (sic) has a very big mouth.
The Zygon ship takes off.
Sue: What a clunky piece of shit.
Sue: The Zygons’ spaceship looks like a depressed elephant.
The Doctor tries to disarm his captors with humour.
Sue: I like it when the Doctor takes the piss out of the aliens. There’s a nice mixture of comedy and drama in this story. It strikes just the right balance.
Tom does this a lot in Terror of the Zygons and there’s plenty of appreciative laughter from Sue.
Sue: Why did Broton visit the Doctor in his cell? He didn’t need anything from him, and he gave the Doctor loads of information. It’s a bit lazy, this. Jon Pertwee would have worked that out on his own.
Me: Yeah, and it would have taken him six episodes to do it.
Sue: Good point.
The Brigadier receives an important phone call.
Sue: That’s interesting. Was that supposed to be Margaret Thatcher?
Me: Or Shirley Williams.
Sue: Or Edwina Currie?
Me: If you like.
Sue: So the UNIT stories have to be set in the future. Okay, then.
The Zygons’ ship is spotted in a nearby quarry.
Sue: A quarry. How convenient.
The Zygon’s ship explodes.
Sue: That was very impressive. One of the best explosions I’ve seen in this series so far. Douglas should have chucked sand over the cast’s faces, but that wasn’t bad at all.
Our heroes race to the Fourth International Energy Conference in London so they can stop Broton from turning the Skarasen into a weapon of mass destruction. But when the Doctor interrupts Broton’s plans, the Zygon massages 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.
After Broton is shot and killed by UNIT (he was standing two feet away from them at the time), the Doctor races to the terrace to face the Skarasen.
Sue: Oh dear.
The Doctor throws the signalling device at the monster as innocent bystanders scream off-screen.
Sue: Are you 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 concludes 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 was the point of that?
The Brigadier politely 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 guessing that the Doctor and Sarah will take a detour first. And why did Harry go all the way to Scotland if he had no intention of going back in the TARDIS? That was a bit pointless.
When the TARDIS dematerialises, the Duke tempers his astonishment with a self-deprecating jibe about how tight-fisted 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 quite 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.