Sue: Oh no…
Me: Go on, then. Say your catchphrase.
Sue: Actually, I’ve decided to say “Terry ****ing Nation” from now on.
A soldier is walking through a wood, nursing a twitching arm.
Sue: Either he’s late for breakdancing practice or he’s an android.
Me: I think the clue is probably in the title.
The TARDIS arrives in the same wood.
Sue: I like the Doctor’s new coat.
Sue: He’s drinking oatmeal?
Me: No, that’s the colour of his coat.
Sue: Why is the Doctor dressed for the middle of winter when Sarah is dressed for a summer picnic?
Me: Everyone says that about this story. Try to be more original, love.
Sue: I don’t know why you just don’t turn off the comments, Neil. They’re obviously getting to you.
Me: But if I did that, I’d be accused of not being able to take criticism.
Sue: But you can’t take criticism, Neil. You’re ****ing terrible.
Four figures dressed in white protective suits and matching helmets open fire on the Doctor and Sarah – with their fingers.
Sue: So it’s the Autons again. Why didn’t they call it The Auton Invasion? Hang on… Autons aren’t androids. What’s Terry playing at?
In her haste to get away, Sarah almost topples over the edge of a cliff, and Sue isn’t impressed with the direction of the scene to say the least.
Sue: That made Sarah Jane look really stupid. Who directed this rubbish?
Me: Barry Letts.
Sue: He just can’t leave it alone, can he?
The twitching soldier throws himself over the same cliff.
Sue: I’m surprised we didn’t see his brains splattered all over the rocks.
Me: He’s an android, remember?
Sue: Yeah, but I’m not supposed to know that yet, am I? Do Autons even have brains?
The soldier is a UNIT corporal, but what’s really strange is his wallet only contains freshly minted coins with the same year stamped on them.
Me: If only they’d told us what the bloody date was! It’s so frustrating!
The Doctor and Sarah explore a deserted village.
Sue: The location is very nice and it’s a lovely, sunny day. It’s nice and quiet, too. I could live there quite happily. What are the house prices like? I can imagine a big gang of Doctor Who fans retiring there someday. Actually, I’ve suddenly changed my mind.
She notices Tom Baker isn’t feeling very well.
Sue: That’s a nasty sore throat he has. It was probably all the screaming he did last week.
The Doctor and Sarah find a deserted pub. All the coins in the till have been newly minted with the same date.
Me: So what’s the bloody date, then? Is it 1980 or is it 1975? ARGH!
We never find out.
Sue: It’s beginning to annoy me now, and I don’t even care.
Sarah suggests the village could have been evacuated thanks to a radiation leak, and if they’re not careful, they’ll end up looking like “a couple of ‘nanas”.
Sue: I haven’t heard that expression in years. I’m going to start using it again.
The silence is broken when a van carrying some villagers turns up. The new arrivals take their places in the pub and remain as still as statues. And then, just before they move again…
Sue: Did I just hear the floor manager whispering in the background? I hope that wasn’t Rosie.
When Sarah tries to make small talk with the barman, she receives a frosty reception.
Sue: They should have called this pub The Stepford Arms. The pub in An American Werewolf in London was friendlier than this.
Sarah returns to the TARDIS, but she’s distracted by a coffin-shaped object before she can step inside.
Sue: The Doctor should put her on probation for leaving the key in the lock like that.
The TARDIS dematerialises without her.
Sarah investigates the capsule, and even though I don’t mention it at the time, I’m transfixed by the damaged spare tyre the Kraals have replicated for that extra touch of verisimilitude. Talk about attention to detail. Anyway, the capsule opens and a hand grabs Sarah’s leg.
Sue: That was creepy. That would have scared me as a kid.
Me: I didn’t see this episode at the time. I had to go to a friend’s sixth birthday party instead. I can’t even remember his name now, but it might have been Paul. I remember playing pass the parcel when it was on, and feeling bloody miserable because I knew I was missing Doctor Who. Missing a Part One was almost as bad as missing a Part Four back in the days before VHS and Betamax.
Sue: Yes, but did you win pass the parcel?
The Doctor arrives at the local space defence station (every village should have one), where he finds an office belonging to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.
Sue: Excellent. I’ve missed the Brig.
But he’s interrupted by an astronaut named Guy Crayford.
Sue: The direction in this story isn’t great, but the plot isn’t bad. I’m definitely intrigued and I want to find out what happens next.
The Doctor makes a run for it and UNIT give chase.
Sue: Are you sure this lot are really UNIT?
They shoot at the Doctor and miss.
Sue: Yep, they’re definitely UNIT.
The Doctor is taken to a cell, and the episode concludes with someone – or something – spying on him.
Sue: It’s the Sontarans!
Sue: Have the Sontarans and the Autons teamed up? How exciting!
I don’t have the heart to tell her otherwise.
Sue: So why are the Sontarans dressed in glam rock platform boots and pearly king jackets? If they hope to blend in with the 1970s…
Me: Or the 1980s…
Sue: …then they aren’t going about it the right way.
The Doctor and Sarah run into a familiar face.
Sue: Benton! Oh, how I’ve missed you, Benton. Actually, maybe it isn’t Benton. He could be an Auton. Is this Westworld but with UNIT soldiers instead of cowboys? Is this an alien theme park?
Even Harry Sullivan turns up.
Sue: That’s nice. So where’s the Brigadier?
The Doctor and Sarah escape into the woods, but Sarah stumbles, injuring her ankle.
Sue: If I were Sarah Jane, I’d wear hiking boots every time I left the TARDIS, even if I was in a ball gown that week. She knows she’s going to end up running around – she always ends up running around – so she should come prepared. And Tom sounds dreadfully ill. I’m beginning to worry about him.
Pursued by UNIT troops, the Doctor decides to hide in a pond.
Sue: Tom is not a happy chappy. It’s written all over his face. Either he’s scared of water or he’s in a really bad mood; it’s difficult to tell.
Me: I think this is what made him ill.
Sue: Health and Safety at the BBC certainly left a lot to be desired in the 1970s. Poor Tom.
Sarah is captured and taken to the aliens’ laboratory. She tries reasoning with Harry, but he’s definitely not himself.
Sue: She probably thinks Harry’s been hypnotised. That’s what usually happens, isn’t it? At least Terry is trying to do something a bit different.
Sarah stares into the face of a Kraal.
Sue: That isn’t a Sontaran… What the hell is it? It’s horrible.
Back at the pub, the Doctor orders a pint of ginger beer.
Sue: That isn’t a pint! No wonder this place is empty. The Doctor should report him to Trading Standards.
Now that she can see the Kraals in all their glory, Sue tries to figure them out.
Sue: Shelly. His face.
Me: He looks like Hywell Bennet?
Sue: No, shell-y. You know, as in the seaside. He has a face like a clam. A clam crossed with a giant pig. Doctor Who loves giant pigs.
The Doctor examines the pub’s fireplace.
Sue: Do you remember when everyone had brass ornaments hanging over their fireplaces? We were the only house in our street that didn’t have any brass, thank God. My mother couldn’t be arsed polishing it. Good for her.
The Doctor orders another drink.
Sue: Yeah, and this time make it a pint!
The Doctor is amazed to discover the calendar on the wall doesn’t include a tomorrow.
Sue: It’s Groundhog Day meets The Prisoner. I like it.
The Doctor arranges to meet Sarah in the local shop.
Sue: Is this Royston Vasey?
Sue guesses Sarah is an android straight away. I was hoping she’d pick up on the continuity error involving her scarf but, alas, the clue is definitely in the title.
Sue: (Pointing at the Kraals) Blimey, this lot are a bit boring, aren’t they? It doesn’t help that I can’t tell them apart. I hate it when I can’t do that. And I suppose the guards with the exploding fingers aren’t Autons, either? I’m disappointed.
The android guards pursue the Doctor and Sarah into the woods.
Sue: It looks like they’re being chased by the Stig.
The episode concludes with the Doctor confronting ‘Sarah’, who suddenly falls over (for no readily apparent reason). When her face falls off, Sue blames shoddy workmanship.
Sue: I’ve definitely seen this cliffhanger before. Did you try to make me watch this when we first met?
Me: Definitely not.
Sue: Hmm… Maybe they played this bit on the news when Elisabeth Sladen died. Yes, that must be it.
Me: Thanks for that. I feel all sad now.
A faceless Sarah starts shooting at the Doctor.
Sue: This is really disturbing.
Meanwhile Styggron and Chedaki are still bickering.
Sue: The one on the right sounds familiar.
And then the penny drops.
Sue: Oh, it’s George from Rainbow. (Mimicking George) “That’s a good idea, Zippy!”
Me: That’s uncanny, Sue. Much better than your Terrance Dicks.
More androids are unloaded from a van in the centre of the village.
Sue: It reminds me of the place where Amy Pond comes from. You know, the village where everything is slightly wrong. You can definitely see the influence. It reminds me of The Prisoner and The Avengers, too.
Me: Yes, there’s definitely an ITC vibe to this.
Sue fixates on a red telephone box on the village green.
Sue: I saw one of those on eBay for two grand the other day. But you could probably buy a TARDIS for that kind of money, so I thought to myself, what’s the point?
Styggron sneaks up on the Doctor and attacks him with an obligatory neck rub. And then the androids secure the Time Lord to a cross with the help of some artificial ivy.
Sue: Are you quite sure this isn’t the Autons? It would make a lot more sense if it was the Autons.
Sarah rescues the Doctor and they return to the Kraal ship just before the village is wiped from the face of the planet with a CSO dissolve.
Crayford visits the Doctor in his cell and cheerfully spill the beans.
Sue: He probably got fed up drinking his own piss.
But Crayford has been duped – the Kraals are going to destroy humanity with a deadly virus.
Sue: Terry and his viruses. He’s obsessed! Terry must have been a very sickly child.
When the Doctor is led away to have his brain patterns stolen, Sarah incapacitates an android with an electrical cable.
Sue: (As George from Rainbow) That was a good idea!
The Doctor’s head is about to explode when Sarah rescues him. Again.
Sue: Twice in two episodes. Is that a new record?
The Doctor and Sarah board Crayford’s rocket before it takes off.
Sue: It’s a very roomy rocket, I must say.
The Doctor places Sarah in one of the capsules, but he’s crushed by the G-force before he can shut the lid. The episode concludes with Sarah struggling to survive against the mounting pressure.
Sue: Suck your cheeks in, pet.
The rocket reaches escape velocity.
Sue: Right, so there wasn’t a threat in the last cliffhanger, after all. Just some minor discomfort.
A capsule, which contains an android copy of the Doctor, begins to open.
Sue: Now that would have been a great cliffhanger. What a wasted opportunity.
When the Doctor comes up with an insane escape plan, Sarah lists all the ways they could end up dead.
Sue: There’s some very witty banter in this story. The dialogue is very good. Yeah, this isn’t bad at all.
Meanwhile on Earth…
Sue: Yay! It’s the real Benton and Harry.
Sue: WHO THE **** IS THAT?!
It’s Colonel Faraday.
Sue: They’ve recast the Brigadier. But they can’t do that!
Me: Calm down, it’s a completely different character.
Sue: So why did they hire someone with a moustache, then? It’s very confusing. They should have hired a woman, or someone who was clean-shaven. This guy is basically Brig-lite.
The Kraals’ capsules arrive on Earth, and the Doctor steps out.
Sue: So which Doctor is that?
He staggers around comically.
Sue: Ah, it must be the real one.
Crayford’s rocket is guided back to Earth.
Sue: Isn’t anyone going to ask him why he’s suddenly got an eye patch?
Me: They’re probably trying to be polite.
With android doubles running around the place, it doesn’t take long for Sue to lose track.
Sue: Do both these Doctors have sore throats? Or is that how you can tell them apart?
Space Defence celebrate Crayford’s safe return with a nice cup of tea.
Sue: If this was NASA, they would be yelling and hollering and giving each other high fives. This is very low-key.
Sue still won’t give Colonel Faraday the time of day.
Sue: It’s obvious they’ve hired somebody to say the Brig’s lines for him. But this bloke makes the Brig sound like an idiot. It just proves how good an actor Nick Courtney was.
Sue: Who’s who?
Me: Is that supposed to be a joke?
Sue: No. And why is Benton letting the Doctor shoot at the other
Me: That isn’t Benton.
Sue: Since when?
Me: Wait, I’ve got a flowchart around here somewhere…
Even the Doctor doesn’t have a clue any more.
Sue: Maybe it’s supposed to be this confusing on purpose?
The android Benton shoots the wrong Doctor.
Sue: I like the way they programmed the android to be as stupid as the real Benton. You can’t tell them apart. What a ‘nana.
And then Crayford has an epiphany – he’s got two eyes after all!
Sue: They can’t be serious!
I stop her before she can throw a cushion at the television.
Sue: So he never took his patch off when he was in the shower, or when he went to bed? He never peeked at it the whole time? But that’s just stupid! This was heading for a seven out of 10, but not any more.
The Doctor fights his android double (Sue’s impressed with the choreography), but Styggron kills the android by mistake.
The Doctor explains he reprogrammed the android to do his dirty work for him.
Sue: When? How? Why? Eh? This was heading for a six out of 10 but not any more.
Sarah accepts a lift home in the TARDIS.
Sue: You’d have thought Benton and Harry would have turned up to see them off. And Sarah must be mad if she thinks she won’t end up on another detour. But I guess that’s the point.
Sue: I know I sound like a stuck record, Neil, but it fell apart at the end. It started out brilliantly – they should have spent a lot more time in the village building up the tension – all of that stuff was excellent. But the aliens’ plan was insane. And why would the astronaut go along with it? Was he blind? No. He wasn’t even half-blind. What a load of rubbish. But some of the ideas were okay, and there was some nice banter between the Doctor and Sarah Jane. The location was lovely, too. What a shame.