It’s not easy being green.
Sue: Robert Banks Stewart. Does he exist? I recognise the name.
Me: Yes, he exists. He wrote Terror of the Zygons.
Sue: I liked Terror of the Zygons.
Me: I know, but you try telling some of our readers that.
Two men are gathering samples from a glacier in Antarctica when one of them proclaims, “This isn’t ice!”
Sue: No, it’s polystyrene, love, but nine out of ten for trying.
Me: You haven’t knocked a mark off already, have you?
Sue: Don’t be silly. If I knocked marks off for stuff like that, some of these stories would be minus five. A bit like this place.
Me: Very funny.
Inside their base, three scientists, Winlett, Moberley and Stevenson, examine the pod they recovered from the permafrost.
Sue: I know this is going to be a good one because the guest actors are all excellent. The one in the middle fancies himself a bit, the one on the left is quite dishy, and the one on the right would be played by Toby Jones if they remade this story today.
“The one on the right would be played by the short Nazi with the glasses from Captain America” is what she really said. She didn’t even remember that Toby has been in Doctor Who before, which, to be frank, is a disgrace.
We cut to the Doctor larking about at the World Ecology Bureau.
Sue: He’s wearing golf shoes with the studs taken out.
Me: Fascinating. I’d never noticed that before. What would I do without you?
And then we meet Harrison Chase…
Sue: Didn’t he work at the Crossroads Motel?
Me: I don’t think so. You probably recognise Tony Beckley from The Italian Job.
Sue: Oh, who did he play?
Me: Camp Freddie.
Sue: You don’t say.
Back in Antarctica, the pod opens and Winlett is infected by one of its tendrils.
Sue: So this is basically The Thing?
Me: Sort of.
Sue: So where’s the dog?
Me: Where’s the what?
Sue: The dog from The Thing?
A helicopter arrives at the base. It isn’t chasing a dog.
Sue: The models are very impressive. They are really pushing the boat out for this one.
Moberley welcomes the Doctor and Sarah. He tells the Doctor they were expecting someone a lot older. The Doctor says he’s 749 years-old.
Sue: This Doctor is always banging on about his age. 749 must be 39 in human years. He is definitely going through a midlife crisis.
As the Doctor enters the base, Sue asks me to pause the DVD.
Sue: Right, so where’s the TARDIS?
Me: He arrived in a helicopter.
Sue: His TARDIS doesn’t work, does it? That’s it, isn’t it? It still doesn’t work.
I ignore her. She sighs.
Inside the base, you can cut the atmosphere with a knife.
Sue: Nice, dramatic close-ups. I’m liking this a lot.
Sue: Is it Douglas?
Me: That’s my girl.
Sue: I don’t care if this is six parts, now.
And then, a few seconds later…
Sue: So this can’t be Dudley.
Me: Well done. You really do deserve some sort of badge for that.
If anyone wants to design a badge for Sue, that would be great. And if you design a really good one, I’ll send you a copy of this story on DVD, signed by the wife. If you hadn’t noticed, I’m quite partial to this story and I accidentally bought two copies when it was released. Closing date: a week today. Post your designs to our Facebook page if you fancy it.
The Doctor leaves the base to investigate the area where the pod was found. He quickly discovers another one.
Sue: He should put some gloves on. He’ll catch his death out there.
Me: The Doctor doesn’t feel the cold.
Sue: Since when?
Me: Look at him!
Sue: I suppose the Doctor would have looked a right dick in a puffer jacket. Besides, Elisabeth Sladen is doing enough “cold acting” for everyone.
Back at the base, Winlett’s infection is getting worse…
Sue: Is he turning into a tree?
Me: Don’t be silly.
The Doctor’s diagnosis doesn’t sound good. Winlett is turning into a savage, meat-eating plant called a Krynoid.
Sue: Tom is on fire this week. I love it when he’s angry. I didn’t like it when Pertwee was in a mood but this Doctor snaps because the world is about to end, not because someone has eaten all the sandwiches.
Chase’s men, Scorby and Keeler, arrive at the base pretending to be lost.
Sue: It’s Boycie!
Me: Lovely jubbly.
And then – nothing. Sue doesn’t say a word. She’s far too busy biting her nails.
Me: Nothing to say?
Sue: Shut up.
The episode concludes with the Krynoid attacking Moberley.
Sue: Is that it? Bloody hell, that flew by. Hurry up and stick the next one on.top
Me: Just checking – are we still on for a ten?
Sue: It hasn’t lost any marks yet. Why?
Me: No reason.
I press Play.
Harrison Chase pays Dunbar for his tip-off about the pod.
Sue: Has he got green fingers under his black gloves? Is that the big twist?
Meanwhile, in Antarctica, the Doctor and Stevenson are hunting for the Krynoid…
Sue: When you consider that this was filmed in a television studio, it looks amazing.
Me: We’re outdoors.
Sue: Take my mistake a compliment.
Left alone in the base, Keeler and Scorby find the pod that infected Winlett.
Sue: It looks like a giant avocado. But I wouldn’t want to eat the guacamole.
They are interrupted by a radio transmission from a nearby base. Scorby tries to bluff it out.
Me: Derek’s fishing. He’s just caught a couple of stripers. We’ll bring `em home for dinner, we won’t be long.
With tension in the base mounting, the Doctor suddenly snaps at Sarah.
Sue: I’ll let him get away with that because the stakes are so high. He looks really worried.
But when the Doctor confronts Scorby, his demeanour is entirely different.
Sue: I like the way Tom can be deadly serious one minute and completely flippant the next. That’s his Doctor in a nutshell, I think. It’s a great performance.
She is also drawn to the actor who plays Stevenson (Hubert Rees).
Sue: I’m sure I’ve seen him somewhere else before. Wasn’t he a pianist?
Me: It’s not Richard Stilgoe!
Scorby escorts Sarah away to be shot and the Doctor erupts with anger.
Sue: Bloody hell! I’ve never seen the Doctor like that before. Boycie has sent him over the edge. Even the Daleks don’t get yelled at like that.
A Krynoid is prowling the Antarctic wastes…
Sue: You know, I’m sure I’ve seen this before.
Me: Well, there are four possibilities. Either you saw this when it originally went out -
Me: I made you watch it during our honeymoon period twenty years ago -
Me: You are confusing this with The Claws of Axos -
Sue: I can’t remember anything about The Claws of Axos.
Me: Or you’re thinking of the time John Williams came over to watch it and we made you leave the room.
Sue: That’s probably it.
The episode concludes with Scorby and Keeler making off with the pod just as the base is engulfed by a massive fireball.
Sue: Well, the Doctor and Sarah are completely ****ed now.top
Sue: This story is way ahead of its time.
Me: In what way?
Sue: The ice caps are melting.
She’s having a sly dig at the sandpit that’s doubling for Antarctica (“They’ve definitely missed a bit”), but she also admits that the production team are trying very hard.
Sue: I bet the designer had a stroke when he read the script.
The Doctor and Sarah return to the World Ecology Bureau, where they convince the authorities of the danger posed by the pod. Once again, Sue is spellbound by Tom’s performance. Lis isn’t bad, either.
The Doctor and Sarah are taken by car to the Botanical Institute. But their chauffeur has other ideas. He takes them to a deserted sandpit and he pulls out a gun. The Doctor reacts by ramming the would-be assassin’s head into the car’s door.
Sue: What a cack-handed killer. And why didn’t the Doctor just scoop up his gun and finish it there and then? Why all the running around? Ooh! The Doctor just punched him in the face. And he enjoyed it, too. You don’t see that very often. Pertwee would be appalled. Not even a “Hai!”
The Doctor and Sarah discover a painting in the boot of the would-be assassin’s car and they trace it back to the eccentric Amelia Ducat.
Sue: She’s wonderful. I could watch her all day.
When the Doctor informs Amelia that he found her painting in the boot of a Daimler, I can’t help myself:
Me: The car is immaterial!
Sue: Stop that.
The Doctor disguises himself as a chauffeur and he drives to Chase’s mansion. The guard gives the Doctor a cursory glance before letting him in.
Sue: I don’t think much of their security. Nice guard-house though.
The Doctor and Sarah are captured by Scorby and Chase decides to execute them. But first, some music.
Sue: He’s a megalomaniacal Jean Michel Jarre.
Me: Is there any other kind?
The Doctor hates the music, too.
Me: It sounds like one of Tangerine Dream’s atonal phases.
Sue: Is there any other kind?
The Doctor and Sarah make a run for it. Scorby gives chase, so the Doctor breaks his neck and kills him.
It’s OK, Scorby’s fine. In fact, he’s never felt better.
Me: It was a chiropractor move, not a death move. It probably cleared up some sciatica that was nagging him.
Sue: I think I preferred it when the Doctor just used his finger.
Back at the mansion, Keeler is examining the pod. He isn’t very happy.
Sue: Keeler looks like Robson Green. He’s a great actor.
Me: Robson Green?
Sue: No, this bloke.
Me: Thank **** for that.
The Doctor and Sarah are separated and Sarah is captured by Scorby (he’s really earning his money today). The Doctor heads for higher ground.
Sue: Chase could do with a new roof. It’s a mess. And if his roof fell in, it would **** his plants right up.
Chase decides to use Sarah as a guinea pig in a horrific experiment. The pod begins to open and Sarah’s arm is pinned to the table by the mad millionaire.
Sue: That was a great cliffhanger. It doesn’t get any better than that.top
The Doctor jumps through the conservatory’s skylight and saves the day.
Sue: Nice stunt double.
Me: That’s Tom!
Sue: Is it really? In that case, they should have filmed it from the front. It looked as if they were trying to hide his face. Oh well.
Me: But you wouldn’t knock any -
Sue: Shut it.
The Doctor grabs Scorby’s gun. Chase wants to know what the Doctor does for an encore.
Me: I win!
Me: Sorry. I can’t help it.
The Doctor and Sarah decide to leg it.
Sue: Shoot the pod! Shoot the pod!
But the opportunity is missed and poor old Keeler is infected as a result.
The Doctor and Sarah make their escape through the grounds.
Sue: Nice topiary. Very formal.
Keeler turns bright green.
Sue: We have a Hulk. He’s a very skinny Hulk, but we have a Hulk.
Scorby apprehends the Doctor, and then he roughs him up a bit.
Sue: He’s a bit handy.
Me: Scorby is a wonderful character. And, just like Condo, he also appears in his very own audio spin-off. We should definitely check it out.
Scorby introduces the Doctor to Chase’s favourite recycling machine – the one with the large toothed crusher.
Sue: I think I can see where this is going…
But Chase’s murderous machinations are interrupted by Amelia Ducat.
Sue: Excellent. I’m glad she came back. Is she a new companion? Please tell me she’s the new companion.
Me: I’ve never seen any ash trays in the TARDIS so don’t hold your breath.
Amelia tells Chase that he owes her a thousand guineas – a significant increase on the 750 guineas it would have cost him when he originally bought it.
Me: Inflation was rampant in the mid-70s. That was a nice joke for all the depressed adults in the audience.
On her way out, Amelia bumps into Sarah. It turns out that Amelia arrived with Dunbar and Sir Colin Thackeray in tow, and Sarah’s report forces Dunbar to do the right and honourable thing for a change.
Sue: That’s nice. He’s going to turn over a new leaf.
I glower at her.
Meanwhile, Sarah rescues the Doctor from Chase’s crusher just in the nick of time.
Sue: I’m surprised that wasn’t the cliffhanger. That would have been a great cliffhanger.
Dunbar confronts Chase, insisting that their deal is now off. Dunbar storms out, gun in hand.
Me: Scorby! Get Dunbar! (pause) Sorry, that’s the last one. I promise.
Dunbar is killed by the Krynoid and the episode concludes with the rampaging monster making a bee-line for the Doctor and Sarah.
Sue: That wasn’t the best cliffhanger in the world. It was a bit wibbly-wobbly. Like a fat Triffid. They should have gone with the crusher instead.top
For the first time since An Unearthly Child, Sue watched an episode in complete silence, although Nicol did walk in halfway through to yell “Feed me, Seymour!”.
Sue: That was excellent. What do you want me to say?
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we won’t be covering the David Tennant and Matt Smith eras on this blog, as every single update would end up like that.
In order to fill out some space, I drop this little tidbit over the end credits:
Me: I have very a very vivid memory of that cliffhanger, thanks to a cow.
Me: I didn’t see this story when it was originally broadcast in 1976. I think my bed-wetting had something to do with that. Anyway, it wasn’t until the late seventies, when I lived in New Zealand for a while, that I finally saw it. In fact, thanks to the New Zealand Fan Club Webpage, I saw this episode on the 7th July, 1979 on channel SPTV at 4:05pm. I’m pretty sure it was in black and white.
Sue: Where does the cow come into it?
Me: Well, we were living with my aunt and uncle in the rural South Island, somewhere between Queenstown and Arrowtown (where I went to school for a while), and it was getting dark outside. And then, just as the plants started to go mad, I noticed a big scary face at the window. Turns out it was a cow from a nearby farm. I screamed the place down.
Sue: Thanks for that.
Me: Do you want to say anything about this episode?
Sue: I’m not happy about the Brigadier being stuck in Geneva again. Are aliens attacking Switzerland? If not, where the hell is he? And Benton should have been there at the end with the weed killer. But apart from that, it was great. It’s a proper drama. There aren’t many characters in this, but the ones we do have are all brilliant. We get to spend lots of time with them and the actors are playing it totally straight. I love their little back-stories and quirky mannerisms; I really care about them, even the Butler was great. It reminds me of a Hammer Horror film with loads of really good character actors in it. I can’t really fault it – the direction, the music, the lighting, the performances. Yeah, you could repeat this on BBC1 tomorrow and people would still enjoy it.
Me: You aren’t put off by the Krynoid, then?
Sue: It isn’t bad at all. I love the soundscape.top
Sue: I didn’t mention this yesterday, but why are they stacking the pot plants outside in a nice, neat row? Why don’t they just chuck ‘em through the doorway?
Me: The BBC must have hired them in and they didn’t want to lose their deposit.
With the Krynoid bearing down on the house, UNIT unleash their new-fangled laser gun.
It’s completely useless.
Sue: They’d be better off with one of Benton’s rocket launchers. Or maybe some concentrated Roundup.
The tension is almost unbearable as the Doctor and Sarah search the house for Chase. Or is it?
Sue: That’s a very nice cabinet. It’s elm, I think.
But she isn’t admiring the furniture when Scorby freaks out.
Sue: It’s a really subtle performance. I almost feel sorry for him.
When Scorby is drowned by the Krynoid, she’s both impressed and depressed.
Sue: Maybe he swam away? He could come back again one day.
The Krynoid almost brings the house down…
Sue: They are just about getting away with that special effect. And anything’s better than CSO.
The Doctor and Sarah are trapped.
Sue: I can feel the desperation in this one. Oh look – nice drawers. Pitch pine.
Chase corners Sarah in the recycling room. He gloats for a bit and then he punches her in the face.
Sue lets out a mortified gasp.
The Doctor calls on UNIT for help and they both agree to call in an airstrike.
Sue: The Brig would have loved this. What a shame.
Chase ties Sarah up before feeding her to his recycling machine.
Sue: At least he’s hanging around to watch. You have to give him some credit for that.
The Doctor intervenes with seconds left to spare. He gets into a fight with Chase inside the hopper.
Sue: If he gets his scarf caught in that, it’s all over.
The Doctor gets the upper hand and Chase is pumped into the garden.
Sue: That’s the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen in Doctor Who.
The Doctor and Sarah make a run for it but their escape is impeded by pernicious foliage.
Sue: It’s The Evil Dead, now.
Me: Don’t worry, they don’t go that far.
The airforce arrive and they bomb the Krynoid into next week. Sue nods appreciatively.
Sue: I can’t complain about that at all. Well done.
After a little light relief back at the World Ecology Bureau, the Doctor and Sarah decide to take a short holiday on Cassiopea. Unfortunately, the TARDIS takes them to Antarctica instead. This is especially unfortunate for Sarah as this detour must have resulted in third-degree frostbite. The Doctor says he probably forgot to cancel the co-ordinate programme.
Sue: Hang on a minute… so he was going to use the TARDIS to get to Antarctica! He must have bottled it at the last-minute.top
The Final Score
Sue: Finally. A story that didn’t fall apart at the end. I know the suspense is killing you, so:
Me: You’re not giving it a 10 just to keep me happy, are you?
Sue: Trust me, I’d love to give it a nine, just to piss you off, but I can’t. It can’t get any better than that, surely?
The experiment continues…top
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