Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Android Invasion: "Is that finger loaded?"

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - The Android Invasion - Index

Season 13, Story 4 (Overall Series Story #83) | Previous - Next | Index

Here we find, sandwiched between two of my all-time favorite stories, a dud. There's just no sugar-coating it.

When this disc emerged into my anticipatory mitts from it's xmas wrapping paper, my eyes lit up. A story I don't remember very well at all ... with Sarah Jane! The return of Harry Sullivan and Sergeant Benton! I couldn't wait to pop it in and kick back with some old school goodness. Turns out there's a very good reason these files were overwritten in my memory banks. Dammit if I wasn't leaving the room to empty the dishwasher, and later to pop some popcorn, without bothering to pause. Wasn't overly concerned I might miss some more running around in the woods, or some more running around the abandoned town, or some more stone-faced actors being boring androids.

Pull my finger.

And those androids, it felt like we were being served insufficiently reheated Auton left-overs, right down to their fingertip pistols, the poor man's version of the Autons' hand weapons. Also not living up to the original: the replacement for unavailable Nicholas Courtney. Bummer to see the Brigadier's name on the door, but to find Col. Faraday sitting at his desk.

The only remotely interesting scene that didn't feature Tom Baker (it will go without saying in future posts, I trust, that Baker's charisma translating to the screen is to be assumed unless otherwise contraindicated) was when android Harry Sullivan had Sarah Jane strapped into the brain analyzing contraption to make her android copy. That at least felt a little disturbing/menacing. The other tiniest bit of entertainment value from this one was a during one of the aformentioned running-around-the-forest scenes when the Tom Baker lets go of a branch that swats poor Lis Sladen and makes her chuckle. It feels like something that should have been an out-take, and actually took me out of the story because it was clearly Lis Sladen laughing, not the character Sarah Jane, but I'm glad it was left in, even if it was due to rushed shooting and/or lazy editing, because ... well, we'll never see a new, genuine Lis Sladen smile again, so it's like a little Easter Egg in the episode.

The alien baddies in this one, the Kraal, had an invasion scheme so cockamamie and impractical it defies explanation. The less said about it the better. All I'll remember them for is looking vaguely like proto-Ferengi.

The way the Kraal brow-ridges transition into
ears ...
My recommendation to anyone who might be watching the Fourth Doctor stories for the first time is to watch the preceding story, Pyramids of Mars, and then the one that follows, The Brain of Morbius, and skip this one until you've got nothing left of the old series to watch but Sylvester McCoy era stuff, and only then squeeze this one in.

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