Doctor Who – Terror of the Zygons

Now this has been a long time coming, for reasons probably related to restoration, or perhaps it’s a bit of careful timing, given that the titular villains[1] will be making a return appearance next month.

This is one of those “transition” stories, which marks a change in the direction of the series. It’s the last regular appearance of the Brigadier and the UNIT crew. It’s also the end for Harry Sullivan, who returns to his normal duties rather than continuing to travel with the Doctor. But enough of the vague muttering, and on with the usual stuff.

Terror of the Zygons was first shown in August and September 1975, and stars Tom Baker as the Doctor and Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith. Having been summoned to Earth by a signal from the Brigadier, the Doctor arrives in Scotland where something has been attacking and destroying oil rigs.

It turns out that the attacks are being carried out by, err, the Loch Ness Monster, which is (of course) really an invincible cyborg called a Skarasen which is controlled by a group of Zygons, aliens who’ve been marooned on Earth for quite some time. Now they’ve learned that their home planet has been destroyed, and that a fleet of refugees is coming this way, they’ve decided to do the usual marooned alien thing[2] and take over the planet, eliminating humanity, etc, etc.

The Zygons have one useful trick – they can take on the form of any human that they’ve captured and plugged into their systems.

But of course, they didn’t allow for the Doctor, and in much the usual way, the Zygons are defeated, and Nessie the Skarasen returns to the Loch. And from this point on, the Doctor and Sarah travel freely, without reference to UNIT.

It’s all good fun, really. Tom’s settled into the role nicely, the Zygons are fun (though the Skarasen does suffer from being a bit rubbish[3]), and it’s the beginning of what you might call the “gothic horror” period of the show.

Special features, in addition to the usual production subtitles, commentary, gallery and so on, include:

  • Scotch Mist in Sussex – the usual look back at the making of the story, which quite shockingly[4] reveals that it wasn’t actually made in Scotland.
  • Remembering Douglas Camfield – Nicely made documentary on the life and work of the director of this and other stories, with many of the usual suspects taking part.
  • The UNIT Family Part Three – conclusion of the series about the part played by UNIT in the show, including contributions from Nicholas Courtney.
  • Doctor Who Stories – Tom Baker A 2003 interview with Tom, made for The Story of Doctor Who. Tom is good fun, as always
  • Doctor Who Stories – Elisabeth Sladen Another 2003 item, with Elisabeth Sladen talking about getting the part and her time on the show.
  • Merry-Go-Round: The Fuel Fishers A BBC schools programme from 1977, presented by Elisabeth Sladen. Lis visits an couple of oil rigs, which is the excuse for incluidng it here.
  • South Today A local TV interview with Tom Baker recorded during the making of this story

[1] Silly expression of the week
[2] See The Ice Warriors, for example
[3] See Invasion of the Dinosaurs, for example
[4] Well, not really