Sue: Is there anything I should know before we start?
Me: Well, the first episode was broadcast on New Year’s Day 1977.
Sue: So any adults watching this would have been hungover. Fair enough.
Me: Oh, and there was a six-week gap between this story and the last story.
Sue: I didn’t even get six days off. Thanks.
Me: In fact, the BBC promoted this story as a season opener. But it isn’t. Not really.
Sue: Okay, I’m bored now. Press play.
The episode begins with a close-up of Louise Jameson.
Sue: Oh, it’s her! Don’t tell me! It’s on the tip of my tongue. I know this… It’s… It’s… It’s Leia.
Me: Try Leela.
Sue: Yes, that’s it. She’s a companion. She’s hard to miss, dressed like that. I’ve been expecting her.
Leela is on trial for being a heretic.
Sue: This is a rough tribal council. And Jeff Probst has really let himself go.
Me: No one in the UK gets your Survivor references, love, but don’t let that stop you.
I ask her to comment on the set design in the Sevateems’ throne room.
Sue: It’s a yurt.
Me: It’s a what?
Sue: A yurt. It’s a type of tent.
Me: Okay, apart from that.
Sue: Is the king sitting on Captain Kirk’s chair?
When the TARDIS materialises in a jungle clearing, the Doctor realises he hasn’t landed in Hyde Park. I pause the DVD.
Me: Do you want to say anything about that?
Sue: Not really. The TARDIS isn’t working properly. It’s old news.
Me: What about Tom Baker breaking the fourth wall?
Sue: No he didn’t. He was talking to himself.
Me: Yes, straight down the camera lens!
Sue: You can look anywhere you want when you’re talking to yourself. And the kids would have loved it. But I know what you mean, it was a bit awkward. He needs to meet Leia…
Sue: He needs to meet her as soon as possible so he can talk to another human being. Assuming she’s human of course. You know what I mean.
Me: If Tom Baker had his way, he’d be talking to a cabbage perched on his shoulder right now.
Sue: That must be a Doctor Who joke because I don’t get it.
When Leela is hunted by the Sevateem, she retaliates with her trusty crossbow.
Sue: She doesn’t **** about, does she? I thought she was going to be a screamer – I didn’t expect her to be like Xena.
Leela slinks around the jungle in skimpy leather underwear.
Sue: This is definitely one for the dads. Although there’s plenty for the mums to get excited about as well.
I think she’s referring to Tomas’ chest hair, although I could be mistaken (I was distracted at the time). And then Leela runs into the Doctor, who offers her a jelly baby.
Sue: You should never take sweets from a stranger. Everybody knows that. Mary Whitehouse must have been livid.
Me: Not to mention Charley the cat.
The Doctor and Leela are surrounded by invisible monsters.
Sue: Where would Doctor Who be without invisible monsters? We should put a counter on the blog’s homepage for all the invisible monsters.
Me: I already have. You just can’t see it.
Neeva, the Sevateems’ priest, is praying to the mighty Xoanon.
Sue: God sounds like Tom Baker. That’s a bit cheap, isn’t it? Couldn’t they have hired another person to play the part of the computer?
Me: Who said Xoanon was a computer?
Sue: I’m not completely stupid, love.
The Doctor threatens to kill one of the Sevateem with a jelly baby.
Sue: That was too flippant to be believable. It’s a very fine line, and they just stepped over it.
A priest named Neeva performs a complicated ritual that’s supposed to banish evil spirits.
Sue: Why is he waving a cylinder head gasket above his head?
Me: That’s a very good question.
Sue: You mean it really is a cylinder head gasket?
Me: It’s an ultrabeam accelerator, actually.
Sue: Right. I think I know where this is going now.
Leela rescues the Doctor, although she has to kill a member of the Sevateem with a Janis thorn in the process. Both Sue and the Doctor are horrified.
Sue: I don’t know how I feel about Leela being a mass murderer. I’m glad the Doctor gave her a good dressing down for that.
The episode concludes with the Doctor coming face to face with his, er… face.
Sue: Nice cliffhanger. I was beginning to lose interest, but I’m definitely intrigued now. Stick Part Two on.
Sue: That’s ridiculous. He must know that gloves go on your hand. I know he’s supposed to be primitive, but that’s daft.
Leela calls Neeva’s hat the Hand of Xoanon.
Sue: See! They even named it after a hand! So why is he wearing it on his ****ing head? However, I do like the way these people recycle everything. They remind me of the Wombles.
The costumes in this story are a constant source of fascination for Sue.
Sue: At least I know why Leela dresses like this, now. I always thought it was a bit strange that she ran around the universe in that tiny, little thing, but it all makes sense now. And the dads must have loved it.
Me: You already said that.
Sue: It’s worth repeating. And she’s not just a pretty face, either. She’s a very good actress. She’s not as charismatic as Sarah Jane – she has a much harder exterior – but it’s early days.
When Calib stabs Leela with a Janis thorn, the Doctor loses his cool and breaks Calib’s leg.
Sue: If his leg is broken, I haven’t got a head. Look at him! How can he bend over to pick up another man if his leg is broken? Either he’s lying about his leg or this is ****ing mental.
The Doctor is introduced to the dreaded Horda.
Sue: It’s a Cybermat. A resprayed Cybermat.
The Doctor survives the Horda test with a single bolt fired from a crossbow.
Sue: The Golden Shot was massive in the Seventies.
And then Nicol enters the living room.
Nicol: Oh look, it’s the Aztec Zone.
Me: Go away, Nicol.
Nicol: I’m here to watch Monday night’s Game of Thrones.
Sue: Sit down, Nic. This is very similar to Game of Thrones.
Nicol: You always say that.
Sue: It’s got a mysterious wall, and monsters, and prophecies, and bickering that goes on for ages. Oh, and the leader sits on a chair that he’s salvaged from a spaceship.
Me: It’s Game of Comfortable Chairs.
The Doctor and Leela infiltrate the face of evil.
Sue: It’s imaginative, I’ll give it that. There aren’t that many TV shows where the hero climbs over his own teeth.
Tomas is attacked by an apparition, which also sports the Time Lord’s face.
Sue: Lame cliffhanger. I’m starting to lose interest in this story. It’s not really doing anything for me.
Sue decides to focus on Calib’s nonexistent limp.
Sue: He’s doing remarkably well for a man with a broken leg. I bet he didn’t even sprain it. He’s just like you, Neil. A hypochondriac.
Sue doesn’t pipe up again until the Tesh turn up.
Sue: Hungarian folk dancers. I definitely didn’t expect that.
Sue stifles a yawn.
Sue: It’s gone a bit weird. I’m struggling with this one. Who are this lot again?
Jabel, captain of the Tesh, tries to shed some light on the situation.
Sue: He looks like Penn or Teller. I don’t know which one. The one who doesn’t say very much.
The Doctor and Leela are strapped to a pair of matching particle analysers. Trust me, this is much worse than it sounds.
Sue: Good cliffhanger.
Me: We aren’t even halfway through this episode yet.
Sue: Oh, bugger.
The Doctor tells Leela that he may have accidentally given birth to a schizophrenic monster.
Sue: I don’t think Leela knows what schizophrenic means. Not if her tribe walk around with gloves on their heads.
The Doctor’s reckless actions were driven by his ego.
Sue: So the Doctor wanted to be a god? That’s interesting. When did this happen? And how did he forget about it?
Me: The novelisation says it happened at the end of Robot, Tom’s first story. You’ve probably forgotten this, but at the end of that story, the Doctor leaves in his TARDIS but returns a few seconds later to ask Sarah and Harry to join him. The initial visit to this planet happened during that gap. The Doctor was still unstable after his regeneration, and that’s why he forgot about it.
Sue: You lot have an answer for bloody everything.
The monsters in the jungle are psi-tri projections from the dark side of Xoanon’s id.
Sue: I don’t think the kids would have liked this story very much. The monsters are invisible, the aliens look like they are taking part in Eurovision, and the Doctor is banging on about Freud. I would have been bored… What am I saying? I am bored.
Xoanon sends some Tesh to kill the Doctor and Leela.
Sue: I can’t take the Tesh seriously. They should be wearing ice skates, or appearing in a ballet. Something theatrical like that.
Leela knocks one of the Tesh out cold. The Doctor is appalled.
Sue: It’s not as if she’s killed him. The Doctor is always punching people’s lights out. That’s double standards, that is.
The Doctor enters Xoanon’s chamber and methodically explains the plot to everybody. It still doesn’t make any sense.
Sue: I like some of the ideas in this story, but it isn’t very coherent. I can’t follow its logic.
The episode concludes with Xoanon questioning his own identity, and we are left with the computer’s electronic representation of the Doctor communicating with the voice of a child. This is even stranger than it sounds.
Sue: Great cliffhanger. I haven’t got a clue what’s going on any more, but that was brilliant.
Me: That scared the shit out of me when I was seven.
Sue: Maybe the computer is really saying “Who comma am I.” Have you thought about that?
Me: You and your bloody commas.
The computer bathes the room in red emergency lighting.
Sue: They should have lit the whole thing like this. It would have stopped this place from looking like a tile shop. Having said that, the only lighting that would make the Tesh look good would be no lighting at all.
A Tesh tries to push the Doctor into an electrified wall.
Sue: He’s being attacked by a rabid Data from Star Trek.
When that doesn’t work, Xoanon forces Leela to do his dirty work for him.
Sue: It’s a rite of passage for a companion to be hypnotised. She should be pleased.
The Doctor and Leela head for the communications room.
Sue: There are too many corridors in this. I’m losing the will to live.
Me: Funnily enough, this is what I remember the most about this story. It wasn’t the scary Tom Baker face that stayed with me, it was the Doctor and Leela running up and down these corridors.
Sue: That’s because the giant heads are in it for 10 seconds and these corridors are in it for several hours. It isn’t rocket science.
Neeva turns up with a very large gun, which he turns on Xoanon.
Sue: I haven’t got a clue what’s going on any more.
Xoanon screams the place down.
Sue: Tom Baker never does anything by halves, does he?
And then it’s over, and the Doctor wakes up two days later to find Xoanon in a more user-friendly mood.
Sue: What a bizarre ending. Can you imagine the Doctor sitting down for tea and biscuits with the Cybermen after he’s defeated them? Didn’t this computer murder loads of people? Is that it?
The Tesh and the Sevateem fight over who should govern the planet. The Doctor leaves them to it.
Sue: This lot will probably kill each other by the end of the week.
Leela runs after the Doctor.
Sue: Yeah, I’d make a run for it too, if I were you, pet.
Leela asks the Doctor to take her with him, but he needs some persuading.
Sue: That’s interesting. He hasn’t forgiven her for being a mass murderer yet. He didn’t have a problem when it came to forgiving a computer with a much worse track record than hers though, which doesn’t seem fair. I’m guessing they’ll explore this later on. That scene was the best thing about the whole bloody story.
Sue: I didn’t enjoy that one very much. It was definitely below average. I liked some of the ideas, but it didn’t add up to anything. Something was missing. Leela was okay, but she’s difficult to warm to. I think I miss Sarah Jane.
This is how their brief encounter panned out:
Two of Sue’s very talented students had been nominated for a national RTS award at a ceremony to be held at the Barbican in London, and part of the day’s events included a series of masterclasses from leading industry professionals, including, as luck would have it, Steven Moffat. So we knew that Sue would be in the same room as him for a short time at least. But would she get to meet him? That was highly unlikely.
And then she found herself standing in the same lift as him.
Me: What did you do?
Sue: I seized the opportunity and I whipped out The Ark in Space.
Me: Oh my God. What happened next?
Sue: I said, “I don’t mean to press gang you but – “
Me: Please tell me you didn’t say that.
Sue: I thought he’d laugh.
Me: Did he?
Sue: “Interesting choice of words,” he said.
Me: Right, so what did you do next?
Sue: I said, “If you don’t sign my husband’s Target reprint, he’ll divorce me”.
Me: Okay. Now did you, at any point in this exchange, tell him who you were?
Sue: I think so.
Me: You think so?
Sue: Everything happened so fast. He was in a rush.
Me: Right. So he probably thought you were a random stalker. Nice one.
The Moff worked it out eventually because he sent Sue a lovely message via Twitter after his talk. I bet he regrets following her, though. She DMs him once a day to suggest Benedict Cumberbatch as a possible Master.
Oh, and Sue’s students won their category!
Next week: Sue sidles up to Mark Gatiss in Lidl.