Friday, 13 January 2012

417 The Android Invasion Part Four

EPISODE: The Android Invasion Part Four
TRANSMITTED: 13 December 1975
WRITER: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: Barry Letts
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
FORMAT: DVD: UNIT Files: Invasion of the Dinosaurs & The Android Invasion

Somewhile later Sarah is roused by the Doctor. He plans to hide in the pods when they're fired out the ship to get to Earth before it. On Earth Space Control tracks the rocket as Harry & Benton search for the Doctor, worried by the Tardis appearing without him. Colonel Faraday takes them to Space Control where they contact Crayford. The pods are spotted and identified as meteorites. The pods land in the area near Devesham. The Doctor looks for Sarah. Visual contact is established with the rocket. Sarah hunts for the Doctor and finds her way to the Tardis where she meets Android copies of the Doctor & herself and flees into the woods. The rocket lands at Devesham and Colonel Faraday and Harry go to check if Crayford's OK. The Doctor arrives at the space centre and has them called back. Benton is called away and knocked out by an Android with his duplicate replacing him. The Doctor gives the space controller instructions and ask to have them kept secret. The Doctor detects that Harry & Farraday have been replaced and, threatened by his own duplicate, escapes through a window assisted by Sarah. The Doctor, pretending to be his double, goes back to the space centre & scanning room while Sarah climbs towards the rocket. The Android Doctor finds the Doctor as he's about to activate the jamming for the robot. Crayford arrives and questions what's going on. The Android Doctor reveals to Crayford the true plan using the virus to kill everyone. The Doctor breaks his brainwashing by getting him to remove his eye patch, discovering that his hidden eye is fine and realising he's been tricked by Stygron. The Doctor struggles with his Android and activates the jamming device freezing the Androids. Sarah frees Harry & Farraday in the rocket but they are caught by Stygron. Crayford & Stygron struggle, with the Kraal killing his former ally. The Doctor arrives and struggles with Stygron who falls against the plague jar and dies, but not before he shoots the Doctor. The Doctor then walks into the room revealing it was his reprogrammed android that attacked Stygron. The Doctor & Sarah go and find the Tardis in the woods. Sarah intends to stay and get a Taxi home but the Doctor talks her into having a lift in the Tardis.

With one major exception that was a pretty good episode. It's come in for some stick over the years from certain publications and commentators who ask questions like "Why hasn't Crayford removed his eye patch before?" (because he's been brainwashed not to and doing so breaks his conditioning) and "How come the Doctor's robot still works when his jammed the rest?" (it's inside the rocket shielding it from the jamming signal). No, that's a competent and fun episode of Doctor Who with some amusing stuff done with the Doctor's robot double.

No the problem here for me is poor Patrick Newell, as Colonel Faraday. I've never seen his performance as Mother in the final John Steed and Tara King series of The Avengers but here he's nothing but a cheap Brigadier imitation/caricature. I know he's in because of Nicholas Courtney's unavailability but it's not a good performance and it would, in my opinion, have been a better episode with the role just filled by Harry & Benton. I doubt that the performance is an in-joke at the series Invasion of the Body Snatchers origins.

There's a couple of familiar names at the space centre this episode: Hugh Lund plays Matthews, one of the technicians, and he was a Zarbi in The Web Planet. Meanwhile the other technician, Grierson, is our old friend Dave Carter, who was credited for part 1, but isn't in it. He was also in Doctor Who and the Silurians as the Old Silurian, Inferno as a Primord, Terror of the Autons as a Museum Attendant, The Mind of Evil as a Prison Officer, The Time Monster as a Roundhead officer and Invasion of the Dinosaurs as Sergeant Duffy. This is his last appearance in Doctor Who as it is too for Ian Marter, as former companion Harry Sullivan, and John Levene, as RSM Benton. Neither get a particularly good send off with Harry last seen as a prisoner of Stygron and, even worse for a character that's been with the show for eight years, Benton lying on the floor having been attacked by an Android. In fact we're not even sure from this story if he's alive or dead. Fortunately when the Brigadier reappears many years later we discover that Benton has left the army and become a used car salesman while Harry is doing something "hush hush at Porton Down". I'm unsure if the plans at the time involved these characters returning for the next UNIT story. We know one was on the cards because the original six part version of the Hand of Fear, intended to close this season, would have killed the Brigadier off. UNIT does return in the six parter that closes the season but none of the soldiers seen are ones we've previously encountered. It's a bit of a damps squib departure for something that's been such a part of the last few years of Doctor Who.

John Levene emigrated to the USA where he works as an entertainer and occasional actor. His website can be found at Ian Marter continued to act into the 80s but developed a sideline adapting Doctor Who stories for Target Books. He novelised nine stories, making him the series second most prolific author. He died on 28 October 1986 from a heart attack caused by diabetes complications and was the first actor who played a Doctor Who companion to die.

This is also the last story directed by Barry Letts. From here he goes on to produce the classic serials for the BBC, with Terrance Dicks acting as his Script Editor once again. He returns to Doctor Who to act as Executive Producer on Tom Baker's final season over new producer John Nathan-Turner. During the 1990s he wrote two radio plays for the Third(Jon Pertwee) Doctor and contributed to many DVD commentaries effectively filling the moderator role on most of them. He died on 9th October 2009 aged 84.

Following this episode's broadcast on 13th December 1975 the program took a break for three weeks over Christmas. However two weeks later on the 27th December an 85-minute compilation repeat of Genesis of the Daleks was aired with a new story starting on Saturday 3rd January 1976.

Android Invasion was novelised by Terrance Dicks three years after it's broadcast in November 1978. It was released on video in 1995. It was released on DVD on Monday this week in the UNIT Files boxset with Invasion of the Dinosaurs

1 comment:

  1. I got this on DVD recently. Here are my thoughts on it...

    Along the lines of your thoughts on this serial, I agree it is quite underrated. For all its problems, The Android Invasion is a fun romp. As you say, almost every Doctor Who fan will agree Pyramids of Mars is a superior story. But the thing is, years back, when I had taped all these episodes on the VCR, it was The Android Invasion that I would more often re-watch. It's an entertaining story, and the rapport between Tom Baker & Elisabeth Sladen is fantastic throughout.