Sunday 1 January 2012

405 Terror of the Zygons Part Four

EPISODE: Terror of the Zygons Part Four
TRANSMITTED: 20 September 1975
WRITER: Robert Banks-Stewart
DIRECTOR: Douglas Camfield
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
FORMAT: VHS: Doctor Who Terror of the Zygons

The Zygons transmit a jamming signal to hide their course. Sarah & Harry search the castle for a clue to Broton's plans discovering that the Duke is the president of the Scottish Energy Commission. The Zygon craft touches down in a quarry near London. The Skarasen is tracked travelling towards London. Broton, disguised as the Duke, tells the Doctor more Zygons are coming fleeing the destruction of their world but are not due for centuries. He plans to alter Earth's climate to make it more like the Zygon home world. The Brigadier is contacted by the Prime Minister about what action he should take. The Doctor interferes with the Zygon equipment broadcasting a signal from the Zygon ship that gives away it's position in a disused quarry just beyond Brentford. The Zygons believe the Doctor has been killed as the Duke leaves to place the activator on their target, but his alien physiology allows him to survive and free the other prisoners of the Zygons. The Doctor simulates a fire alert which summons the Zygon crew allowing them to escape. The Doctor sets the ship to self destruct as they leave and it explodes as the Brigadier & UNIT arrive. The Brigadier recalls that there is a International Energy Conference that's taking place at Stanbridge House on the river that the Duke has an invite to. Broton plants the activator in the cellar. The Doctor, Sarah & UNIT search the building and are found by Broton. He and the Doctor struggle but Broton is shot & killed by the Brigadier. The Doctor finds the signalling device and throws it into the Thames where it is caught and eaten by the Skarasen which then retreats up the river to the sea. The Doctor, Sarah, Harry & Brigadier return with the Duke to Scotland so the Doctor can find the Tardis. Harry & the Brigadier decide to take the Train home while Sarah is persuaded to travel back in the Tardis....

Oh that was rather good. Yes the Skarasen effects are a tinsy bit ropey but that's a decent ending to the story. One of the oddest bits jumped out at me though as Broton is leaving the Zygon ship he says "when phase 2 is completed I shall broadcast my demands to the world" and as he does so he puts his bowler hat on casually like he's going off to work for the day. Class.

The episode claims the quarry is in Brentford, but like the Scotland locations in the story it's in Sussex. However Stanbridge House is on the Thames in London albeit in it's guise as Millbank Tower, previously seen as the International Electromatics headquarters in The Invasion.

The Zygons are probably the greatest one appearance only monster in Doctor Who. One of them nearly had a appearance as a prisoner in Shada, but this (bar the flashback cameo in Logopolis) is their only appearance. Their shape shifting ability would you think make them an easy monster to bring back. Indeed they might have worked a lot better instead of the broadly similar Slitheen in the new series.

This episode sees the departure of Ian Marter as companion Harry Sullivan, returned to Earth by the Doctor. He'd be back for UNIT's next appearance in The Android Invasion. However The Brigadier doesn't return in that story. It's unclear why Nicholas Courtney didn't appear in Android Invasion but the extended career summary in Doctor Who Magazine 436 makes it clear that his marriage was collapsing at the time so I suspect that that might be a factor. By the time Seeds of Doom came around Courtney would be performing in a stage show in Canada. It wouldn't be until 1983 that we saw the Brigadier again.

Terror of the Zygons was novelised by Terrance Dicks and released under the title Doctor Who & The Loch Ness Monster. This might have to draw attention to the famous element of the tale but I suspect also served to distinguish it from the similarly named Terror of the Autons which was already in print. Terror of the Zygons was released as a compilation video in the UK in 1988, but had appeared the year before in Australia. It's not the only story to be released outside the UK first: Deadly Assassin was first released in the USA and Talons of Weng Chiang was released in Australia & the USA before the UK. An episodic video version followed in 1999. To date it is one of only two stories that were available as video compilation stories not yet released on dvd: the other is Death to the Daleks. And thus, in many ways, Terror of the Zygons is the main reason Phil still has a VCR. It's the only Doctor who story VHS that has regularly got played back in our house since the DVD releases came to dominate.

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