Face facts: it’s not very good.
Sue: Is there anything I should know before we start?
Me: Well, the first episode was broadcast on New Years 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: OK, I’m bored now. Press play.
The episode begins with a close-up of Louise Jameson.
Sue: Oh, it’s her! Yes, don’t tell me, it’s on the tip of my tongue. I know this. I do. 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 standing trial for the crime of heresy.
Sue: This is a rough tribal council. 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: OK, apart from that.
Sue: Is the king sitting on Captain Kirk’s chair?
I thought she’d never get there.
The TARDIS materialises in a jungle clearing; the Doctor correctly surmises that 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. But that’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 are 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 own way, he’d be talking to a cabbage perched on his shoulder.
Sue: That must be an in-joke. I don’t get it.
Leela is hunted by the Sevateem. She retaliates with her crossbow.
Sue: She doesn’t **** about, does she? I thought she was going to be a screamer. I didn’t expect her to be Xena.
Leela slinks around the jungle in her skimpy leather underwear…
Sue: This is definitely one for the dads. Although, to be fair, there’s plenty for the mums to get excited about as well.
I think she was referring to Tomas’ chest hair, but I could be wrong, I was distracted at the time.
Leela runs into the Doctor. He offers her a jelly baby and she accepts.
Sue: That’s not an appropriate message to send to the kids. You should never take sweets from a stranger. Everybody knows that. Mary Whitehouse must have been livid.
Me: Not to mention Charley the cat.
Leela and the Doctor find themselves surrounded by invisible monsters.
Sue: What would Doctor Who do without invisible monsters, eh? We should put a counter on the blog’s homepage for the invisible monsters.
Me: I already have. You just can’t see it.
Sue: If you put that on the blog, they’ll lynch you.
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 voice 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 isn’t having any of it.
Sue: It’s too flippant to be believable. It’s a fine line and they stepped over it.
The Doctor is brought before Neeva and the priest performs a complicated ritual designed to banish any 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, killing a member of the Sevateem with a Janis thorn in the process. Sue’s horror mirrors the Doctor’s; this is tempered slightly when the frozen corpse manages to extend a protective arm as it tumbles to the floor.
Sue: I don’t know how I feel about Leela being a mass murderer. I’m happy to see the Doctor giving her a 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 in this, but I’m definitely intrigued now. Stick Part Two on.top
Sue: That is ridiculous. He must know that a glove goes on your hand. I know he’s supposed to be primitive, but that’s plain daft.
Leela calls Neeva’s hat the Hand of Xoanon.
Sue: See! They even named it after a hand! So why is he hearing 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: Now I know why Leela dresses like this. I always thought it was a bit strange that she’d run around the universe in that tiny, little thing, but it makes sense in this story. The dads must have loved it.
Me: You already said that.
Sue: It’s worth repeating. And she’s not just a pretty face. 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.
Calib stabs Leela with a Janis thorn. The Doctor loses his cool and breaks Calib’s leg.
Sue: If his leg is broken, I don’t have a head. Look at him! How can he bend over to pick up another man if he has a broken leg? Either he’s lying or this is ****ing mental.
The Doctor is introduced to the dreaded Horda.
Sue: It’s a Cybermat. A resprayed Cybermat.
The Doctor tosses a Horda in the direction of a Sevateem tribe member and the man runs away screaming. “Who was that?” asks the Doctor.
Sue: That was the campest man in the village.
The Doctor survives the test of the Horda with a single shot fired from a crossbow.
Sue: Forget William Tell, The Golden Shot was massive in the seventies.
Nicol enters the living room…
Nicol: Oh look, it’s the Aztec Zone.
Me: Go away.
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 salvaged from a spaceship.
Me: Game of Comfortable Chairs.
The Doctor and Leela climb into the Doctor’s massive face.
Sue: It’s very imaginative. I’ll give it that. There aren’t that many TV programmes where the hero can climb over his own teeth.
While the Doctor and Leela explore the head’s interior, Tomas is attacked by an apparition that possesses the Doctor’s giant face.
Sue: Lame cliffhanger. They should have finished on the shot with the Doctor’s face roaring at the tribe member. To be honest, I’m starting to lose interest in this story. It’s not really doing anything for me.top
It’s slim pickings for the first few minutes as Sue’s interest continues to wane. She decides to amuse herself with 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.
She stifles a yawn as the Tesh start bowing obsequiously at anything that moves.
Sue: It’s all 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, but he’s as clear as mud.
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, it’s a lot 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. Her tribe walk around with gloves on their heads. They aren’t the sharpest tools in the box.
The Doctor implies that his reckless actions may have been driven by his ego.
Sue: So the Doctor wanted to be a God? That’s very interesting. When did this happen? And how could he forget all 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 he returns a second later to ask Sarah and Harry to join him. The initial visit to this planet happened during that one second gap. The Doctor was still unstable after his regeneration and that’s why he forgot about it.
Sue: You lot have an answer for everything.
The Doctor tells Leela that 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 on ice skates. Or in a ballet. Something theatrical like that.
Leela knocks one of the Tesh out cold. The Doctor is appalled.
Sue: Steady on. It’s not as if she killed him. The Doctor is always punching people’s lights out. That’s double standards.
The Doctor enters Xoanon’s chamber and he methodically explains the plot. It still doesn’t make any sense.
Sue: I like some of the ideas in this story. It’s just not very coherent. I can’t follow its logic.
The episode concludes with Xoanon questioning its 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 anymore, but that was brilliant.
Me: That scared the hell out of me when I was seven.
Sue: Every now and again, this is very interesting. And maybe the computer is really saying “Who comma am I”. Have you ever thought about that?
Me: You and your bloody commas.top
Leela rescues the Doctor from Xoanon’s hissy fit and the computer responds with a dose of red emergency lighting.
Sue: They should have lit the whole thing like this. It might have stopped this place looking like a tile shop. Having said that, the only lighting that would make the Tesh would look good would be no lighting at all.
Xoanon has electrified the wall and the sends a Tesh to ram the Doctor into it.
Sue: He’s being attacked by a rabid Data from Star Trek.
When that doesn’t work, Xoanon uses Leela to carry out its dirty work.
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 thing. I think 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 faces that stayed with me the most, it was the Doctor and Leela running up and down these sterile corridors.
Sue: That’s because the giant heads are in it for ten seconds and the corridors are in it for several hours. It’s not rocket science.
Neeva turns up with a very large gun. He turns it on the face of Xoanon and fires.
Sue: I’m completely lost now. I haven’t got a clue what’s going on anymore.
Xoanon screams the place down.
Sue: Tom Baker never does anything by halves, does he?
And then it’s all over. The Doctor wakes up two days later to find Xoanon in a much more user-friendly mood.
Sue: What a bizarre ending. Can you imagine the Doctor sitting down for tea and biscuits with some Cybermen after he’s defeated them? Didn’t this computer kill loads of people? Is that it?
The Tesh and the Sevateem continue to fight over who should govern the planet. The Doctor decides to leave 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 if I were you, pet.
Leela asks the Doctor to take her with him, but the Doctor turns her down.
Sue: That’s very 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 though, which doesn’t seem fair. I’m guessing that they’ll explore this later on. That scene was the best thing about the whole bloody story.top
The Final Score
Sue: I’m didn’t like that one very much. It was definitely below average. I liked some of the ideas but it didn’t add up for me. Something was missing. Leela was OK but she’s difficult to warm to. I think I miss Sarah Jane.
The experiment continues…
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: OK. 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! Here’s the trailer for their award-winning documentary:
Next week: Sue sidles up to Mark Gatiss in Lidl.top
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