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 10 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.
Three scientists named Winlett, Moberley and Stevenson are examining a pod they’ve recovered from the permafrost.
Sue: I know this is going to be good because the guest actors are excellent. The one in the middle fancies himself a bit, the one on the left is quite dishy, and the one on the right could be played by Toby Jones if they made this today.
“The one on the right could be played by the short Nazi with the glasses from Captain America” is what she actually said. And then 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, Sue?
And then we meet Harrison Chase.
Sue: Didn’t he used to work at the Crossroads Motel?
Me: I don’t think so. You probably recognise him from The Italian Job.
Sue: Oh, who did he play?
Me: Camp Freddie.
Sue: You don’t say.
Back in Antarctica, not only has the pod opened, its tendrils have infected Winlett.
Sue: So this is basically The Thing?
Me: Sort of.
Sue: So where’s the dog, then?
Me: Where’s the what?
Sue: The dog from The Thing?
A helicopter arrives at the base. And no, it isn’t chasing a dog.
Sue: The models are impressive. They’re pushing the boat out for this one.
When Moberley welcomes the Doctor to Antarctica, he tells him he was expecting someone older. The Doctor, who’s a little put out by this, says he’s 749 years old.
Sue: This Doctor is always banging on about his age, so 749 must be 39 in human years. He’s 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.
Sue: Nice, dramatic close-ups, though. 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 any more.
And then, a few seconds later…
Sue: This can’t be Dudley, then.
Me: Well done. You deserve some sort of badge for that.
The Doctor investigates the area where the pod was found and immediately finds 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.
Winlett’s infection is getting worse by the second.
Sue: Is he turning into a tree?
Me: Don’t be silly.
Winlett is actually 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 Jon Pertwee was in a foul mood, but this Doctor only snaps when the world’s about to end, not because somebody 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 when a Krynoid attacks Moberley.
Sue: Is that it? Bloody hell, that flew by. Hurry up and stick the next one on.
Me: Are we still on for a 10?
Sue: It hasn’t lost any marks yet. Why?
Me: No reason.
Harrison Chase pays Dunbar for tipping him off about the pod.
Sue: Has he got green fingers under those black gloves? Is that the twist?
The Doctor and Stevenson go hunting for the Krynoid.
Sue: When you consider that this was filmed in a television studio, it looks amazing.
Me: We’re outdoors.
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.
The Doctor snaps at Sarah.
Sue: I’ll let him get away with that because the stakes seem 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 flippant the next. That’s his Doctor in a nutshell, I think.
She’s also drawn to the actor playing Stevenson.
Sue: I’m sure I’ve seen him before. Wasn’t he a pianist?
Me: No, it isn’t Richard Stilgoe, Sue, it’s Hubert Rees.
When Scorby leads Sarah away to be shot, 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 aren’t yelled at like that.
Meanwhile a Krynoid prowls the arctic 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 20 years ago…
Me: You’re confusing it 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: Yeah, that’s probably it.
Scorby and Keeler make off with the pod as the base is consumed by a massive fireball.
Sue: Well, the Doctor and Sarah are completely ****ed now.
Sue: This story is way ahead of its time.
Me: In what way?
Sue: The ice caps are melting.
This is a sly dig at the sandpit that’s currently doubling for Antarctica.
Sue: I bet the designer had a stroke when he read the script. Look, they’ve missed a bit…
The Doctor and Sarah take a car to the Botanical Institute, but their chauffeur drives them to a deserted sandpit instead. The Doctor reacts to this subterfuge by ramming the driver’s head into the car door.
Sue: 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. Jon Pertwee would have been appalled at that. 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 to 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 just can’t help myself…
Me: “The car is immaterial!”
Sue: Stop that, Neil.
The Doctor disguises himself as a chauffeur and drives to Chase’s mansion. Thankfully, the guard only gives him a cursory glance before letting him in.
Sue: I don’t think much of their security. Nice guardhouse though.
When the Doctor and Sarah are eventually apprehended, 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 is appalled by the music, too.
Me: It sounds like one of Tangerine Dream’s atonal phases.
Sue: Is there any other kind?
When the Doctor and Sarah make a run for it, and Scorby gives chase, the Doctor breaks the henchman’s neck and kills him.
It’s okay, 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 used his finger.
Keeler examines the pod.
Sue: Keeler looks like Robson Green. He’s a great actor.
Me: (Appalled) Robson Green?
Sue: No, this bloke.
Me: Thank **** for that.
Sarah is captured by Scorby (he’s really earning his money today) and the Doctor heads for higher ground.
Sue: Chase could do with a new roof. It’s a mess. And if this roof fell in, it would **** his plants right up.
Chase wants 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.
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 him from the front. It looked as if they were trying to hide his face.
Me: But you wouldn’t knock any points…
Sue: Shut it.
Chase wants to know what the Doctor does for an encore.
Me: “I win!”
Me: Sorry. I couldn’t help it.
The Doctor and Sarah leg it.
Sue: Shoot the pod! Shoot the pod!
The opportunity is missed and Keeler is infected as a result.
The Doctor and Sarah escape through the grounds.
Sue: Nice topiary. Very formal.
Keeler turns bright green.
Sue: We have a Hulk. He’s a skinny Hulk, but we have a Hulk.
Scorby introduces the Doctor to Chase’s favourite recycling machine.
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’s back. Is she the new companion? Please tell me she’s the new companion.
Me: I’ve never seen any ashtrays 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 cost him when he originally bought it.
Me: Inflation was rampant in the mid-‘70s. That was a nice in-joke for all the depressed adults in the audience.
Amelia bumps into Sarah on her way out. Luckily, the old lady arrived with Dunbar and Sir Colin Thackeray, and Sarah’s report forces Dunbar to do the right thing for a change.
Sue: That’s nice. He’s going to turn over a new leaf.
I glower at her.
Sarah rescues the Doctor from Chase’s crusher in the nick of time.
Sue: I’m surprised that wasn’t the cliffhanger. That would have been a great cliffhanger.
Dunbar tells Chase their deal is off.
Me: “Scorby! Get Dunbar!” … Sorry, that’s the last time, I promise.
Dunbar is killed by the Krynoid, and the episode concludes with a 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.
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 else 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.
Me: I vividly remember 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 it. Anyway, it wasn’t until the late 1970s, when I lived in New Zealand for a while, that I finally got to see it. In fact, thanks to the New Zealand Fan Club Webpage, I know I saw this episode on the 7th July, 1979 on channel SPTV at 4.05pm. And I’m pretty sure it was in black and white.
Sue: So how 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. 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 proper drama. There aren’t many characters in this, but the ones we do have are brilliant. We get to spend lots of time with them, and the actors are playing it totally straight. I love their back-stories and quirky mannerisms; I really care about them. Even the Butler is great. It reminds me of a Hammer Horror film with loads of really good character actors in it. I can’t fault the direction, the music, the lighting, the performances… Anything, really. You could repeat this on BBC1 tomorrow and I bet people would still enjoy it.
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 the plants 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, naturally.
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. Elm, I think.
She finally stops admiring the furniture when Scorby starts freaking out.
Sue: It’s a subtle performance. I almost feel sorry for him.
When Scorby is drowned by the Krynoid, Sue is both impressed and depressed.
Sue: Maybe he swam away? He could still come back again one day. He could…
The Krynoid almost brings the house down.
Sue: They are just about getting away with that special effect. And anything’s better than CSO, I suppose.
Chase feeds Sarah to his recycling machine.
Sue: At least he’s hanging around to watch her die. You have to give him credit for that.
The Doctor fights with Chase inside the hopper.
Sue: If his scarf gets caught up in that, it’s all over.
The Doctor gets the upper hand and Harrison Chase is pumped into the garden.
Sue: That’s easily the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen in Doctor Who.
The Doctor and Sarah make a run for it, but some pernicious foliage impedes their escape.
Sue: It’s The Evil Dead, now.
Me: Don’t worry, they don’t go that far.
The air force bomb the Krynoid into next week.
Sue: I can’t complain about that. Well done.
After a little light relief at the World Ecology Bureau, the Doctor and Sarah decide to take a short holiday on Cassiopeia. Unfortunately, the TARDIS takes them to Antarctica instead. It’s especially unfortunate for Sarah as she must have ended up with third-degree frostbite.
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?