Sue: Oh no.
Me: Go on, then. Say your catchphrase.
Sue: No. I’ve decided to say “Terry ****ing Nation” from now on instead.
Trust me, it’s completely different.
A soldier is walking through a wood. His right arm is twitching erratically.
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. Jesus.
Sue: Why is the Doctor dressed for the middle of winter when Sarah is dressed for a summer picnic?
Me: Everybody 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 are obviously getting to you.
Me: But if I did that, I’d be accused of not taking criticism well.
Sue: But you can’t take criticism. You’re ****ing terrible.
Me: (Meekly) Refunds are available.
Sue: Oh, grow some balls, why don’t you?
Sue: It’s not as if we are holding a gun to their heads. Although that would be interesting.
The Doctor and Sarah encounter four figures in white protective suits and helmets. They open fire on our heroes with their fingers.
Sue: So it’s the Autons again. Why didn’t they just call it The Auton Invasion? Hang on… Autons aren’t androids. What is Terry playing at?
In her haste to get away, Sarah almost falls over a cliff. Sue isn’t impressed with the direction of this scene to say the least. In fact, she makes me rewind the DVD so she can examine its awfulness in more detail.
Sue: That made Sarah Jane look stupid. Who directed this rubbish?
Me: Barry Letts.
Sue: Bwarry? (sic) He just can’t leave it alone, can he?
The twitching soldier throws himself off the same cliff.
Sue: I’m surprised that we don’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? (pause) Do Autons even have brains?
The soldier is a UNIT corporal – but what’s really strange is that his wallet only contains freshly minted coins with the same date stamped on them.
Me: If only they 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 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 that Tom Baker isn’t feeling very well.
Sue: That’s a nasty sore throat he has this week. It was probably all that screaming he did last week.
The Doctor and Sarah find a deserted pub. In the till, all the coins have been newly minted with the same date as well.
Sue: So what’s the date, then? Is it 1980 or is it 1975?
We never find out.
Sue: It’s beginning to annoy me now, and I don’t even care.
Sarah suggests that the village may have been evacuated thanks to a radiation leak and they will 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 a number of villagers arrives. The Doctor and Sarah hide as the villagers file into the pub. They take their places 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 it wasn’t Rosie.
The Doctor leaves Sarah to keep her eye on things, but when she tries to make small talk with the barman, she is given a very frosty reception.
Sue: They should have called this pub The Stepford Arms. The pub in An American Werewolf was friendlier than this.
Sarah returns to the TARDIS to wait for the Doctor. She places her key in the TARDIS lock and she leaves it there when she’s distracted by a coffin-shaped object lying nearby.
Sue: The Doctor should put her on probation for leaving the TARDIS key in the lock like that.
The TARDIS dematerialises without her.
Sarah investigates the strange capsule, and even though I can’t mention it to Sue right now, I am completely transfixed by the damaged spare tyre that the Kraals have decided to replicate for that extra touch of verisimilitude. Talk about attention to detail.
The “coffin” opens and a hand grabs at Sarah’s leg.
Sue: That’s creepy. That would have scared me as a kid.
Me: I didn’t see this episode on its first transmission. 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 it. 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) but it is completely deserted. In a corridor, he finds an office belonging to Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart.
Sue: Excellent! I’ve really missed the Brig.
The Doctor is interrupted by an astronaut named Guy Crayford (Sue recognises Milton John’s face and voice but his name means nothing to her).
Sue: The direction in this story isn’t great but the plot isn’t that bad. I’m definitely intrigued and I want to find out what happens next.
The Doctor makes a run for it and some UNIT soldiers give chase.
Sue: Are you sure this lot are really UNIT?
They shoot at the Doctor and miss.
Sue: Yep, they are definitely UNIT.
The Doctor is captured and taken to a cell and the episode concludes with a poo-coloured face spying on him from behind a wall.
Sue: It’s the Sontarans!
Sue: So the Sontarans and the Autons have teamed up? How exciting.
I don’t have the heart to tell her yet.
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 eighties.
Sue: – they then aren’t going about it the right way.
The Doctor and Sarah run into a very familiar face.
Sue: Benton! Oh, how I’ve missed you, Benton. Oh, but maybe it isn’t Benton. He could be an android Auton. Is this Westworld but with UNIT soldiers instead of cowboys? Is it an alien theme park or something?
Even Harry Sullivan turns up.
Sue: 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 wearing a ball gown. She knows she’s going to end up running around – she always ends up running around – so she should come prepared. And Tom sounds dreadful. 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 the 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 left a lot to be desired in the 1970s. Poor Tom.
Sarah is captured and taken to an alien laboratory where she is tied to a table. She tries to reason with Harry who is clearly 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 looks up and she sees the distorted face of a Kraal named Styggron.
Sue: That isn’t a Sontaran. What the hell is it? It’s horrible.
Meanwhile, back at the pub, the Doctor is ordering a pint of ginger beer. What he gets sends Sue into a tizzy.
Sue: That isn’t a pint! No wonder the place is empty. The Doctor should report him to Trading Standards.
The Doctor examines the pub’s fixtures and fittings.
Sue: Did he just say “dartsboard”? It’s dartboard, you idiot.
Me: Well, you should know – you’re the expert.
Don’t forget to join our Facebook page if you haven’t seen Sue’s appearance on a 1989 edition of Bullseye yet.
Sue: Oh yeah, that reminds me –
Innnnnnnn one’s face! A cushion!
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, shelly – you know, as in the sea-side. He has a face like a clam. A clam crossed with a giant pig. Doctor Who loves giant pigs.
Back in the pub, the Doctor is examining the fireplace.
Sue: Do you remember when everybody had brass ornaments over their fireplace? 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 when 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 up with Sarah in the local shop.
Sue: Is this Royston Vasey?
Sadly, Sue guesses that 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.
Styggron and a Kraal named Chedaki bicker over the details of their invasion plan.
Sue: Blimey, they’re a bit boring this lot, 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? 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 falls over (for no readily apparent reason). When her face falls off, Sue blames shoddy workmanship.
Sue: I’ve definitely seen this cliffhanger before. Have you ever tried to make me watch this story?
Me: Definitely not.
Sue: Hmm. Maybe they played this bit on the news when Elisabeth Sladen died. Yes, I think that’s probably it.
Me: Thanks for that. I feel all sad now.
A faceless Sarah sits up and it starts shooting at the Doctor.
Sue: That is really disturbing.
Meanwhile, Styggron and Chedaki are still bickering.
Sue: That one on the right sounds familiar.
When Chadaki says the following line, the penny finally drops:
Sue: Oh, it’s George from Rainbow. (as George from Rainbow) That’s a good idea, Zippy.
Me: That’s uncanny. Much better than your Terrance Dicks.
The Doctor makes it to the center of the village, where several androids are being unloaded from a van.
Sue: It reminds me of the place where Amy Pond comes from – the village where everything is slightly wrong. You can definitely see the influence. It reminds me of The Prisoner and The Avengers a lot, too.
Me: There’s definitely an ITC vibe to this.
As the Doctor makes his way through the village, Sue is drawn to the red telephone box standing on the 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, what’s the point?
Styggron sneaks up on the Doctor and he attacks him with an obligatory neck rub. Sue sighs, but when the Doctor greets the Kraal with a cheerful “Oh, hello!” she falls about laughing.
The androids tie the Doctor to a cross with some artificial ivy.
Sue: Are you sure this isn’t the Autons? This would make much more sense if it was the Autons.
Sarah rescues the Doctor and they make it to the Kraal ship just before the village is wiped from the face of the planet with a CSO dissolve.
That’s all she’s got.
The Doctor and Sarah are locked up in a cell together and Crayford begs Styggron to spare their lives.
Sue: He’s like a really shit Nick Fury.
Crayford visits the Doctor in his cell, where he cheerfully spill the beans.
Sue: He got fed up drinking his own piss. I really like this actor though – what’s his name again? – I almost believe his crazy story.
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.
The Doctor is led away to have his brain patterns stolen. Sarah uses her poisoned water supply and an electrical cable to incapacitate an android.
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 is disoriented and his recital of Chekov mixed with Lewis Carroll gets a very big laugh.
Sue: You never know what he’s going to come out with next. Tom always manages to keep it interesting.
The Doctor and Sarah board Crayford’s rocket just as it takes off.
Sue: It’s a very roomy rocket.
The Doctor places Sarah in one of the android capsules but he is crushed by the g-force before he can shut the lid. The episode concludes with Sarah struggling against the mounting pressure.
Sue: Suck your cheeks in, love.
The rocket escapes Oseidon’s gravity and all is well.
Sue: Right, so there wasn’t really a threat in the last cliffhanger. Just some minor discomfort.
In the background, a capsule opens to reveal a copy of the Doctor inside.
Sue: Now that would have been a cliffhanger. What a wasted opportunity.
The Doctor comes up with an insane escape plan and Sarah lists the many ways they could end up dead.
Sue: There’s some very witty banter in this. The dialogue is very good. 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 clean-shaven. He’s Brig-lite.
The Kraals’ capsules arrive on Earth.
Sue: Shooting this scene from behind a rock doesn’t really work, Barry. Oh dear.
The Doctor steps out of his capsule.
Sue: So which Doctor is that?
He staggers around comically.
Sue: Ah, it must be the real one.
Crayford’s rocket is guided down by the Space Defence Station. Sue is very happy when she discovers that Britain has its very own Lieutenant Uhura.
Sue: Isn’t anyone going to ask him why he’s suddenly got an eye patch?
Me: They are just being polite.
With android doubles running about the place, it doesn’t take long for Sue to lose track.
Sue: Do both the Doctors have sore throats? Or is that how you tell them apart?
Crayford’s rocket lands safely and the SDC celebrate 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.
The Doctor confronts Colonel Faraday but Sue won’t give him the time of day.
Sue: It’s obvious that they’ve just hired somebody to say the Brig’s lines. But this bloke makes the Brig sound like an idiot; it just proves how good an actor Nick Courtney really 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 Doctor?
Me: It’s not Benton.
Sue: Since when?
Me: Here, I’ve got a flowchart 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 Benton. You can’t tell them apart. What a ‘nana.
Crayford is told the terrible truth – there’s nothing wrong with his eye.
Sue: They can’t be serious.
I have to stop her from throwing a cushion at the television.
Sue: So he never took it off when he had a 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 7/10 but not any more.
The Doctor fights his android double and Sue is very impressed with the choreography.
But when Styggron kills the Doctor – which turns out to be an android – Sue only has one thing to say:
The Doctor explains that he reprogrammed the android to do his dirty work for him.
Sue: When? How? Why? Eh? This was heading for a 6/10 but not any more.
The episode concludes with Sarah accepting a lift home in the TARDIS.
Sue: You’d have thought Benton and Harry would have seen 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 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 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 good and there’s some nice banter between the Doctor and Sarah Jane. The location was lovely, too. What a shame.