Sue: I don’t know why we’re bothering any more.
Sue: Well, according to some of the comments on the blog, Doctor Who is a complete waste of time now.
Me: For the last time, stop reading the comments.
Sue: The general consensus seems to be that it’s all downhill from here. I was hoping it was going to get better, not worse.
Me: Don’t listen to them. They’re talking nonsense. There are plenty of great stories still to come.
Sue: Like this one?
Me: There are plenty of great stories still to come.
Sue: Oh, bloody hell, it’s Chris sodding Boucher again.
I didn’t correct her pronunciation. That would have been cruel.
Sue: It looks like this one is set on Earth. That’s something, I suppose.
We meet Adam Colby and Thea Ransome, two scientists whose idea of a good time is flirting over an eight-million-year-old skull.
Sue: This guy is a bit smooth. It’s Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, isn’t it? And he’s trying to seduce Valerie Singleton. Maybe he should offer her some Gold Blend coffee?
Me: That’s Benedict Cumberbatch’s mum.
Sue: She’s beautiful. You can see where he gets it from.
Another scientist, the creepy Max Stael, enters Fendelman’s laboratory.
Sue: It’s a young George from George and Mildred. Hang on, what accent is that supposed to be? German? Italian? French? All of the above?
Me: Eurozone, I think.
Meanwhile, a hitchhiker is being pursued by something threatening.
Sue: Now this is more like it. What a difference a week makes. This is proper Doctor Who again: scary, dark, and shot on film in a real location. Lovely.
The hitchhiker is killed.
Sue: It’s nice to see a man screaming for a change.
Elsewhere in the universe, the Doctor is up to his elbows in K9.
Sue: Has he broken him already? He only got him five minutes ago. I bet he couldn’t wait to start upgrading him, and now look at him. And what has Leela done to her hair? And why is she wearing another skimpy outfit? And where did she get that costume from? Did she make it herself? If she didn’t make it herself, why has the Doctor got that costume lying around in his TARDIS? And what has she done to her hair?
The scientists have gathered in a farmhouse kitchen for breakfast.
Sue: Oh yes, this is very nice. Look at those lovely Windsor chairs. Steamed ash, I think. I’m going on a course soon where I’ll learn how to bend steamed ash into…
I pause the DVD so Sue can explain basic wood turning techniques to me. This is almost as boring as Colby, Thea and Fendelman discussing science and stuff.
Sue: Okay, I’m confused. Is George her dad?
Me: They’re work colleagues.
Sue: Work colleagues who just happen to live together? In a cottage? In the middle of nowhere? I see. So is there a bizarre love triangle going on here? You can cut the tension with a knife. Ooh, I love their earthenware. Very nice.
The sexual tension is so overwhelming, Colby has to take the dog for a walk. And that’s how he discovers the body of the dead hitchhiker, although Fendelman begs him not call the police.
Sue: Why is George’s tie so short? He can’t even dress himself. And where the hell is he from, anyway?
Me: That’s Denis Lill you’re talking about. He’s a bloody good actor.
Sue: I’ll have to take your word for that.
Me: He was in Survivors. You liked him in Survivors.
Sue: It’s his accent. It’s all over the shop. Oh, that cabinet is gorgeous. I’d love a cabinet like that.
The TARDIS arrives on Earth, and as the Doctor opens its doors, cows can be heard mooing outside.
Sue: Oh, thank God. I thought that sound meant the Doctor needed to put some WD-40 on the TARDIS’ hinges. That’s a relief.
The Doctor and Leela encounter a local man named Ted Moss. He tells them that a rich foreign scientist, who made his money out of electronics – which doesn’t make sense because he isn’t Japanese – is up to no good at the priory.
Sue: At least we can rule Japan out for the accent. I’m leaning towards Mexico myself.
You’ll be pleased to know she recognised Derek Martin in a heartbeat.
Sue: He’s a terrible actor. He was rubbish in EastEnders and he’s just as bad here. Oh well, at least he’s consistent.
Derek is having a blazing row with an old woman.
Sue: Now, that’s scary. Kids would have wet themselves, I bet. Old people are bloody terrifying when you’re young.
The Doctor and Leela hide in the bushes surrounding the priory.
Sue: I have no idea what is going on, but it’s very atmospheric, and the direction is okay. But why is the Doctor eating the shrubbery? That’s a bit silly.
The Doctor and Leela are separated by heavy fog, which means the episode ends with two competing cliffhangers – Leela is pumped full of lead, whereas the Doctor is knocked over by a camera operator who can’t see where he’s going.
Sue: Oh, make your bloody mind up. I can’t handle two cliffhangers at the same time. And what is the Doctor doing, anyway? And why should I care? And you should cut to the credits after you’ve fired the gun, you numpties!
Sue: Is this Mick Jagger’s back garden again?
Me: Funnily enough, I think you’re right.
Sue: I wasn’t joking. I recognised the brickwork. Flemish bond. It’s lovely.
Some tarot cards have been neatly arranged on a table.
Sue: If you took the Doctor out of this story, this could easily be an episode of Tales of the Unexpected.
She starts to hum the theme tune (she doesn’t do the dance, thank heavens) and I’m forced to intervene.
Me: Yes, alright, love. You’re missing the plot.
Sue: Oh, I don’t care about the plot. I’m bored already.
And then Sue’s Coronation Street detector goes off.
Sue: Oh, it’s him. The taxi driver with the bad leg. Don somebody.
Me: Did you watch Coronation Street before you met me?
Sue: Are you joking? Of course I watched Coronation Street. You were the one who stopped me, remember? You said it was just old women gossiping in corner shops and we had to watch Brookside instead. I never did find out what happened to Don.
Derek Martin is killed by an unseen force, and when Colby discovers the body, he tells Thea that a look of pure terror was etched on the poor man’s face.
Sue: They can’t show his actual face because he can’t do that particular emotion. He’s useless.
Thea faints as the Doctor strolls into the kitchen.
Sue: Thank God. Maybe he can tell us what’s going on. I’m completely lost.
Me: I’m barely following it myself, and I’ve seen this before and read the book.
Maggot-like creatures suddenly appear over her Thea’s body.
Sue: What? Why? How? Eh?
They disappear again, but not before the Doctor can identify them as embryo Fendahleen. Unfortunately, Sue has other things on her mind.
Sue: What do the yellow pens represent?
Sue: All the men have yellow pens in their pockets. The only person who doesn’t have a yellow pen is Thea. That must be important.
In the very next scene, a yellow pen can be seen poking out of Thea’s lab coat pocket.
Sue: Hmm… Very interesting.
Me: No it isn’t!
Sue: I bet it is.
Me: Oh, knock yourself out. I give up.
Sue is annoying me almost as much as Adam Colby is annoying her.
Sue: What a smug ****. I hope he dies next. A slow, painful death would be nice. I’m not fussy, really.
Colby continues to argue with an increasingly agitated Fendelman.
Sue: Fendelman should be in a Spaghetti Western. I think he’s definitely Mexican. “Do you want some jalapeños with that, Adam? Huh?”
We also discover that Stael is a member of a mysterious cult.
Sue: Where the hell did that come from? Isn’t having an alien skull, wormy things, and a scary old woman enough?
Fendelman suggests humans have evolved from aliens.
Sue: You know, I’m sure he’s a good actor, but why did they saddle him with that stupid accent? There’s just no need for it.
Me: Well, his name is clearly significant. Fendelman, Fendahleen…
Sue: So what? Who says you can’t have a silly name and a normal voice? Who would complain about something like that? “Oh, I don’t like this story because a man named Fendelman doesn’t have a silly accent”. What utter rubbish. And where the **** is K9?
It’s not all bad news, though, and Daphne Heard’s performance as Grandma Tyler is rightly singled out for praise.
Sue: She’s brilliant. More of her, please. Don is holding his own, too.
Thea is abducted by Stael.
Sue: There isn’t a great deal of music in this one. It’s very quiet, even when stuff is supposedly going on. I think I actually miss Dudley’s marimbas.
When the Doctor enters Colby’s lab, he is immediately drawn to the ancient skull sitting on the table. He even offers it a jelly baby.
Sue: Now he’s just taking the piss. I bet that wasn’t in the script.
The Doctor is forced into touching the skull against his will.
Sue: The direction is good, and this has the potential to be very atmospheric. It definitely looks good. But it’s boring. Really, really boring. It’s too adult for the kids and too tedious for the adults. Nobody wins. It doesn’t help that Tom Baker isn’t taking it seriously, either.
The reprise begins with the Doctor offering the skull a jelly baby again.
Sue: It isn’t even a real jelly baby. It’s a liquorice allsort, for ****’s sake. Nice table, though.
Leela rescues the Doctor; she knew something was wrong thanks to her instincts.
Sue: Finally, her psychic superpower pays off. It’s been a long time coming.
Stael drugs Thea up to the eyeballs.
Sue: Is somebody down there playing a church organ? And does the yellow pen mean you’re a member of this cult? Is that the secret signal?
Stael will become a god!
Sue: He comes from the same country that Fendelman wants to sound like he comes from. If that makes sense.
The Doctor revives Grandma Tyler with a recipe for fruitcake. And then he then explains that ghosts are merely the by-products of time fissures.
Sue: That’s the first plausible thing the Doctor has said in this story. Tom Baker has had to up his game now that he’s playing against the old granny. She’s excellent.
Stael takes Fendelman and Colby hostage in the basement. Colby still acts like a wise guy, even with a gun pressed against his lips.
Sue: Do us all a favour and shoot him in the ****ing head. Please.
The Doctor and Leela take the TARDIS to the Fendahl’s old stomping ground, the Fifth Planet. The Doctor explains that the Fendahl is using astral projection to manifest itself back on Earth.
Sue: They are making this up as they go along. None of this connects to anything else, as far as I can tell. It’s just one bizarre explanation after another.
The Fifth Planet has been placed in a time loop.
Sue: Like Groundhog Day?
Me: It’s probably a bit worse than that. More like Groundhog Second. You wouldn’t get anything done.
Grandma Tyler gives her nephew a lecture about evil spirits as she fills some shotgun pellets with rock salt.
Sue: I could watch a whole series with these two fighting evil in the countryside. As a series, it’s definitely got legs.
Down the basement, hooded cult members are waiting for the show to start.
Sue: I hope this isn’t going to turn into Eyes Wide Shut.
Me: Speak for yourself.
The Tylers hear a gunshot.
Sue: The cult has executed Fendelman for crimes against foreign accents.
She doesn’t realise she’s right and Denis Lil has been shot in the head.
Sue: That was a bit bleak. And why shoot him and not the other ****? That makes no sense whatsoever. Hang on a minute! Maybe they were lovers! It all makes sense now!
The Doctor and Leela brave the fog and return to the priory.
Sue: This story has all the right ingredients, but they don’t work when they’re mixed together. This would be a terrible fruitcake.
A fully-grown Fendahleen attacks!
Sue: Why has it got pink hair? It looks like a cross between a giant maggot and a Chinese Dragon. This isn’t scary at all.
Me: Really? It scared the crap out of me when I was eight.
Sue: Seriously? I think they could have shown you anything and you’d have found it scary. It’s rubbish. It’s the alien equivalent of Ashley Cole.
Sue: Why can’t they run away?
Me: Well, the story implies the common dream people have, where they can’t run away from something, is derived from a race memory we have about these things.
Sue: You’re having a laugh! They probably can’t move because their jaws are on the ****ing floor. This is atrocious.
Me: We’ve seen much worse than this.
Sue: Not today we haven’t.
Sue believes she’s nailed the problem.
Sue: We’re watching two different programmes: Tales of the Unexpected and Doctor Who. And it’s a mash-up that doesn’t work.
Thea is transformed into a golden figure dressed in billowing robes. She rises from the floor, a giant pentangle behind her.
Sue: This reminds me of Marc Bolan at Newcastle City Hall in 1973. Marc came up on this huge star and it got stuck, and when they finally got him off it, he was so pissed off, he starting kicking it. It was a bit embarrassing, to be honest.
Stael, who realises he’s made a terrible mistake, asks the Doctor to leave him with a gun so he can kill himself.
Sue: You and me both, mate. Bloody hell. This isn’t for kids. This isn’t for anybody, actually.
The Doctor hands the gun to Stael.
Sue: Bloody hell. You can’t throw a powerful scene like that into the middle of this incomprehensible mess. It isn’t appropriate.
Colby escapes with his life, but he quickly turns on Grandma Tyler, calling her a “stupid old witch” and even more cruelly, a “Swede-bashing cretin”.
Sue: Please stick him with one of your anus thorns, Leela.
The Doctor explains that rock salt is the perfect weapon against their enemy, which is why people throw it over their shoulders for good luck.
Sue: I bet it’s also the reason we use it to kill slugs.
The Doctor tells Leela the story of how the Time Lords interfered with the Fendahl on the Fifth Planet.
Sue: This is all very interesting, I’m sure, but it’s just another idea that’s being thrown into the pot at the last moment. I really don’t care any more.
The Doctor believes Dr Fendelman was genetically prepared for this moment, although on the other hand, it could be a massive coincidence.
Sue: For ****’s sake. Even the script hasn’t got the strength of its own convictions.
The Doctor comes up with a plan and Leela gives Colby a cheeky peck on the cheek.
Sue: That’s completely wasted on him, pet. Still, nice rug.
The Doctor and Leela head for the basement, where, armed with flasks of salt, they battle a Fendahleen.
Sue: Tom Baker nearly took the camera out with that shot. It would have been a mercy killing, I suppose. And how did one of these things kill that hitchhiker at the beginning? He was running like the clappers and this lot can barely move.
As the Doctor places the skull in a lead lined box, he’s surrounded by tiny Fendahleen.
Sue: Which one of them is dropping babies all over the place?
Thea starts floating around the priory as a disembodied ghost.
Sue: Er… Why?
The Doctor rigs the time scanner to implode and our heroes escape in the nick of time.
Sue: They’re playing Dudley’s music backwards. I like it.
Incredibly, Colby survives.
Sue: That’s ridiculous. How can you let him live after you’ve killed Benedict Cumberbatch’s mum? That’s unforgivable.
Leela lets her hair down.
Sue: Thank heavens for small mercies.
The Doctor drops the skull in a supernova (“So is it indestructible or not? Make your bloody mind up!”) and then, after some playful banter, the credits roll.
Sue: Is that it? Even K9 is hanging his head in shame.
Sue: That was rubbish. And boring rubbish, too, which is even worse. There were too many ideas that went absolutely nowhere. I don’t even know what the Fendahl is, or was. Was it the worm, the gold woman, or the skull? It made no sense. The atmosphere was nice, and the sets were great, but they were completely wasted on that script. I’ve forgotten it already.