Saturday, May 10, 2014

Terror of the Zygons - "You admire our technology, human?" "Well, I'm not human, and I've seen better."

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - Terror of the Zygons - Details

Season 13, Story 1 (Overall Series Story #80) | Previous - Next | Index

Four in his bonnie bonnet.
via Blogtor Who
Over at Squabbling Rubber, Gary Gillatt makes the case for E1 of "Terror of the Zygons" being the perfect episode of DW, and it not dropping off much from there. He may not be wrong. It's a must-read review. Sandifer has a different spin on it, but he also lands squarely on this story being a classic. We could continue the survey of critical opinion and find much the same wherever we look. This is a well-loved story and it lives up to the praise heaped upon it. Myself, I stop short of rating "Zygons" as highly as the ones that are ecstatic viewing experiences, for me at least -- "Brain of Morbius," "Talons," "Pyramids," are examples -- but I've not got a bad thing to say about it. Well, I take that back, there's one thing. Excepting -- which I'd very much like to do -- "The Android Invasion," this is the last we see of the late Ian Marter's Harry Sullivan. Ian's chemistry was so great with both Lis and Tom, for his character to be sloughed off with a throwaway line in the final minute of the story is downright cold-hearted.

This story comes out of the gate strong with a lovely model shot of North Sea oil rig. The doomed, haggis-loving rig operator is named Munro. I'm wracking my brains here trying to remember if there have been any other Munros apart from a UNIT chap back in "Spearhead," but none are coming to mind. This, then, I believe is the last of my people to appear on Doctor Who. Let's hope the new series addresses the lamentable lack of Munros lo these many years and finds occasion to bring in another ...

While it wasn't actually filmed in Scotland, they play it to the hilt as if it were. We get a kilted Brigadier, a bonnie bonnet and a new tartan scarf for the Doctor (Harry gets to wear the long scarf), the accents, the mention of haggis and the playing of the pipes, it's all so tongue-in-cheek charming without being condescending. At least not until we get that crack at the end about Scotsmen being cheap. The episode was written by a Scot, so I think what we're doing is winking at the stereotype, and it's played so broad I can't imagine genuine Scots would be offended by it. The classic series was a bit less kind in it's stereotyping of the Welsh, so any Scots bent out of shape over the portrayals here could take some comfort from that, I suppose.

The horror aspects of this story a strong suit. Zygon Harry and his pitchfork, that murderous Zygon nurse with her bloody arm ... even the empty eye-hole in the stag's head where the bug was lends a creepy air to the whole affair.

The Zygons and their organic ship call back to something like the Axons, but so much more ... naughty. All that fiddling with organic protuberances. John Levene, in the DVD extras, confirmed what one couldn't help but suspect while watching: that the the crew and anyone watching the filming must've been barely able to contain themselves. You know how ridiculous Tom Baker thought it was by how earnestly he twiddles with the controls of the chambers the Zygons use to capture the body template of the humans they impersonate.

The Skarasen is uncomfortably similar to the dinos from "Invasion of the Dinosaurs." Giant monsters are not something easily pulled off on a shoestring budget. The less shown and more left to the imagination in these cases, the better. It may not look like much, but you have to love the idea of the thing. A lactating cyborg serving as the main food supply of the Zygons and their ultimate weapon is a daft touch that fits so wonderfully here.

This is the last UNIT story to feature the Brigadier and Benton. Levene also appears again in the unfortunate "The Android Invasion," as a faux Benton, so it's better to remember him here. While Nicholas Courtney wasn't able to make it back for that one, the Brigadier's got a lot of story left in him, so we don't feel too bad about there not being any sort of farewell for him here.

While we're talking about Sgt. Benton, I'll take this opportunity to point out you can hear John Levene sing "The Ballads of Sergeant Benton" on his official site. He's right there with Shatner and Nimoy on the musical front.

Sarah Jane Smith isn't impressed with Caber's attitude.
via ThroughWho

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