The Claws of AxosBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 31 December 2003 - Reviewed by James Gent

I recently had the pleasure of seeing The Claws Of Axos for the first time, and on first viewings it struck me as one of the best of the Earth-based Doctor Who stories of the 1970s. Repeated viewings only enhanced my enjoyment, with its fast-moving scenes and direction, the well-realised visualisation of the Axon entity in its many shapes and forms, and the central concept of Axos itself – plus the central character of the third Doctor, far more abrasive than the avuncular presence of seasons nine to eleven.

The Axons are a nice twist on the alien races already encountered in the series. We have already seen. By “Axos” it has been the norm for an alien race coming in peace to be automatically viewed as hostile by the naturally distrustful Earth powers, in The Silurians, and it is quite interesting seeing their suspicions to be confirmed; and I particularly liked the twist on the contrast between pretty/friendly vs ugly/horrible aliens to be one and the same. Stealth invasion and body horror are not an original concept in Doctor Who, or sci-fi and horror in general, but always manages to be unsettling and disturbing, tapping into certain fears in the human subconsciousness, whether it is Quatermass, Alien or Rabid!

I found the Axons one of the most distinctive aliens in the series. In their humanoid guise, their androgynous appearance is quite appropriate for a race that is revealed to be a genderless consciousness, and their true nature as hideous blobs a grotesque contrast to their superficial form. Their amorphous mass of unformed organic blobs and tendrils gives them the impression of having been grown from their spaceship (which essentially they are) – the combination of the organic and the technological is always different to the more predictable sci fi norm of silver robots, and the Axons are clearly an inspiration for the Zygons and their spaceship.

‘Body horror’ – centred on concepts such as loss of individuality and human appearance, viscera, and hideous Freudian growths and appendages – is another element successfully realised in Terror Of The Zygons, which also featured shapeshifing aliens that could create duplicates of humans. The Axon creatures were obviously popular with the design department as they were reused, with a colour change, for that other body-horror shocker The Seeds Of Doom. Another nice touch to the Axons is Bernard Holley’s wonderful voice, which gives Axos a casually menacing and powerful aura for more sinister and subtle than the vocal histrionics of a Morbius or Omega!

What about the story? Obviously, it shares quite a few elements with Spearhead From Space, Terror Of The Autons, The Mind Of Evil and Inferno – a collective entity hoping to spread itself around the world by stealth, the Master collaborating with said alien entity for his own purposes, the infighting of the British Government providing as much threat towards Earth’s safety as the alien menace they are supposedly defending the planet from, and a highly pressurised industrial power complex. This might account for why people either love or hate this story – for me, any story influenced by the above stories (some of Pertwee’s best) can’t be bad, and these and other elements make it the quintessential third Doctor Earth invasion story. But, to those more immune to the charms of this format, the word quintessential can be replaced by the word ‘average’. There is an element of truth that watched alongside the stories that precede it The Claws Of Axos might give the viewer a sense of déjà vu, but viewed in isolation it is an exciting story, and mercifully isn’t dragged out to six episodes!

Another factor that may seem less if watched as part of Season Seven as a whole is the presence of the Master in his third story in a row. Personally, if the Master had only appeared in Terror Of The Autons, The Mind Of Evil and The Claws Of Axos, Roger Delgado’s reputation as one of the series’ finest humanoid villains could have been assured. It is a nice twist to see him double-crossed by his collaborators before we first meet him, and this does not diminish his villainy, as he is seen to have absolutely no principles or allegiances. Unlike the Ainley incarnation, Delgado’s Master has so many other qualities that being just a ‘baddie’ – he shares a scary amount of qualities with the Doctor, such as his charm, intelligence and air of sophistication, which is what makes their apparent collaboration towards the end all the more effective. The Master was introduced to provide not just a contrast to the Doctor, but also to suggest that they are two sides of the same coin – in a story where our hero is still a selfish, abrasive, arrogant alien genius, it makes you wonder just how far apart these two Time Lords are, and what would have happened if the Doctor had not chosen the path of goodness. It’s a shame that the series never fully explored the implications of their bizarrely competitive relationship, and that the next attempt to introduce a similar flipside to the Doctor’s conscience – the Valeyard – was just one of many interesting ideas lost in a story arc that became a game of Chinese whispers!

As I said before, the Doctor is wonderfully abrasive here, his opening scene in which he bangs the door against Chinn reminiscent of his arch treatment of Professor Stahlman in Inferno; another hangover from Inferno is when the discovery of Axonite provides the Doctor with an opportunity to get his TARDIS fully functioning again. The thing that appealed to me about the Doctor’s exile was that he was initially unwilling to be stuck on this “third rate planet” dealing with petty officials like Chinn, and – despite his heroism – always had one eye on a chance of escape, even if it meant leaving the Brig to deal with the latest threat to Earth’s safety. OK, this might make him seem callous and unlikeable, but I like these reminders that the Doctor is not a superhero or a saint, and has his own sense of self-preservation!

It is said that the once-influential UNIT became trivialised in Season Eight. The way I see it, The Claws Of Axos is one of the last times we see UNIT presented as a credible face of international relations, fleshed out with the addition of radar operatives and intelligence officers such as the briefly used Corporal Bell, who makes her second and last appearance in this story. Another criticism is that, far from being an independent body, they became indistinguishable from the regular army and in the pocket of the Government – here we have UNIT opposed, and at times, usurped by both the idiotic civil servant Chinn and the Army.

All these elements of this story – the Doctor’s less than squeaky clean personality, mankind’s greed and pettiness being as much a threat to the planet as invading aliens, UNIT’s status in Earth affairs – make me think that this story would probably be more at home in Season Seven. This is probably the only major flaw I can find in making this story something less than it could have been. In giving us an alien whose presence seems to pose a very real threat to the survival of the world, taking place on a national power source, it seems like the production team were going for a revival of the qualities that made Inferno such a stonkingly intense story, yet Barry Letts – who conceived Season Eight as a deliberate move away from high drama to family-friendly thrills and spills – got cold feet at the last minute and threw in some stereotyped characters. Bill Filer is amusing in the way that fake Americans in Doctor Who always are (The Tomb Of The Cybermen, Terror Of The Zygons) and a maverick element is always essential to balance things out between the Doctor’s impetuousness and UNIT’s establishment attitudes, but he seems like a more one-dimensional version of Inferno’s ‘everybloke’ Greg Sutton. As for Chinn… While the scenes of him conversing with his Edward Heath soundalike boss, who clearly trusts him as far as he could throw him, are amusing; the fact that the Government would choose such an obviously ineffectual individual to handle matters of international security does undermine any realism the story might be going for. Similarly, the story is let down by one of those Scooby Doo-style endings that dog even the most faultless story (The Leisure Hive comes to mind!) – the Doctor and the UNIT gang stand around in the wreck of a power station that provides energy for the whole of southern England, but these endings are what gives the show its charm: a nice cosy ending with everyone best mates again and Earth (or at least England!) returned to its homely, familiar self. These stories were made to be family teatime viewing, so I try not to carp too much about the endings. It’s easy to forget what it was like to have Doctor Who as part of our weekly routine every year – we all knew trouble would be around the corner again in seven days, as long as we tuned in the same Who-time, the same Who-channel!

One criticism I find it harder to be forgiving of is the TARDIS scene with the Master. It’s great to see the Doctor back in his console room again, and temporarily back in time and space, so it’s a pity all we get is a tight shot of two walls and a door that refuses to shut properly!

The most famous blunder is the blue CSO backgrounds in Filer’s car and on the UNIT jeep. Given that even the most flawless of productions feature at least one effects flaw, it seems silly that these instances get singled out time and time again! It’s more than compensation enough that we get plenty of memorable images in The Claws Of Axos: the impressive-looking spaceship embedded in the surrounding of the English countryside in the middle of a freak snowstorm, the incongruous sight of the Axon creature striding across a metal and glass flyover in the Nuton complex, the spaceship’s root dragging a hapless tramp through its petal-shaped opening, the hideous sight of an Axon man’s face ballooning as it starts its transformation, the Axon man’s head spinning around Exorcist-style on the video screen, and the Freudian eyeball at the heart of the ship. There is a nice matte-style CSO long shot of the reactor which gives a great sense of scale. Even the fight between Filer and his Axon clone is well choreographed and cut-together, ending with a spectular double flip by a stuntman!

OK, it’s Season Seven Lite, but given that that most refreshing of seasons in Who’s history only gave us four stories, a slight return to its style is always welcome. Mixed with the ‘Pop Art’ design of Season Eight, and the welcome (if under-used) presence of new regulars Jo Grant and Captain Yates, and the Master at his martini-dry best, to me The Claws Of Axos is a distillation of everything I love about the Pertwee era and never less than watchable.





Terror of the ZygonsBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 31 December 2003 - Reviewed by Paul Clarke

After Season Twelve ending on a sour note, Season Thirteen gets off to a great start with 'Terror of the Zygons'. After the shoddiness of 'Revenge of the Cybermen', 'Terror of the Zygons' succeeds on almost every count, boasting great location work, cracking monsters, fine acting and a first rate script. 

Firstly, the Zygons themselves are excellent. Their costumes are amongst the series' best efforts, their sucker-covered embryo appearance being visually striking and rather disturbing. Good costumes alone however do not a decent monster make, and the Zygons benefit from a script that portrays them as ruthless, capable warriors armed with a novel but effective weapon on the form of the Skarasen. Their sibilant voices are suitably threatening, and the implication that they are equipped with stings (it is never confirmed in the script, but the way their victims scream when strangled suggests that they are suffering severe agony) makes them physically formidable. Further enhancing the success of the Zygons is the strong visual design of their spaceship interior, its organic appearance making it look authentically alien and fitting in with the visual appearance of the Zygons to make them look perfectly at home inside it. The fleshy controls are so unusual for Doctor Who that they can't help but be distinctive, and it makes a refreshing change to see a spaceship interior that isn't all polished metal and featureless corridors. The script also helps to contribute the success of the Zygons through its attention to detail; several Zygons aside from Broton are referred to by name, and throwaway remarks about "organic crystallography" and "dynacon thrusts" (amongst others) subtly reinforce that these creatures are using technology not known to this planet. The fact that these references are mentioned briefly and in passing somehow ensures that they don't sound like technobabble. Attention to detail is very important to the success of this story, from the deafening effect of the Zygon spaceship taking off from beneath the Loch, to the sight of the fluid rising ominously in the self-destructor in Episode Four. 

Another key factor in the success of the Zygons is John Woodnutt's superb performance as Broton in both his Zygon form and in his guise as the Duke of Forgill. Woodnutt, who previously appeared as the confused Hibbert in 'Spearhead From Space' and as the Draconian Emperor in 'Frontier in Space', is very, very good here, imbuing Broton with real menace, but also making him an actual character rather just a generic villain. As the Duke, Broton is required to pose as a human, and during the scenes in the castle in Episode Three, it is possible to forget that he's really a bigheaded green and orange alien warlord, as he displays dry wit and quiet courtesy, but he retains an air of menace as he keeps a cold, calculating gaze on his visitors at all times. As a Zygon, he's a threatening presence, glaring balefully from beneath large brows and hissing malevolently as he arrogantly boasts of Zygon supremacy to first Harry and later the Doctor. But he also has moments of real motivation; his announcement to Harry that he can never return home is matter-of-fact, but briefly stirs sympathy, before he flatly states that he intends to conquer Earth instead. He agrees with the Doctor's point that conquering Earth will be rather difficult for just a handful of Zygons, but adds that although it will be challenging it will not be impossible, which suggests that he has carefully considered his plans, rather than just decided to seize supreme power for the sake of it in a moment of megalomania. His defiant last words, as he grunts "the Skarasen will destroy you all", indicate a refusal to just give up even in the face of overwhelming odds, which I find strangely impressive even though he is trying to wreak havoc with a big puppet. 

John Woodnutt is not the only actor to put in a good performance in 'Terror of the Zygons' (although whilst I'm still on the subject, his performance as the real Duke of Forgill is further credit to his talents, possessing a warmth and good humour absent in Broton's impersonation). Angus Lennie is great as Angus McRanald, the local landlord who remains sceptical of UNIT's and Sarah's claims about monsters and aliens with bugs until the Zygon posing as Sister Lamont kills him. In truth, Lennie's performance is very similar to his performance as Storr in 'The Ice Warriors', but he's so right for the role that I don't really care if he's typecast or just playing himself, or simply doing a very good job. As with the Zygons, he benefits from the attention to detail in Robert Banks Stewart's scripts, and although his talk of second sight and knowing all the local gossip isn't remotely important to the plot, it adds some nice characterisation. Huckle too is well acted and characterised, Tony Sibbald providing a much better American accent that previous actors have done in Doctor Who! His performance nicely conveys Huckle's anger and distress at the loss of so many of his men and is, again, an example of the attention to characterisation that makes 'Terror of the Zygons' work so well. 

The regulars all benefit greatly from the script too. Tom Baker is superb, and it is impressive to see the Doctor's mood changes as he becomes involved in mystery of the rigs' destruction. Initially sullen and moody at having been summoned by the Brigadier to solve a problem relating to fuel, he's brought around by the Brigadier's sharp retort of "you don't want any more people to die?" which not only again nicely highlights the Doctor's sense of moral obligation to help people, but also serves as a reminder of how well the Brigadier knows him. As the story progresses, the Doctor gives an impression that he is enjoying himself, even when being chased across Tullock Moor by the Skarasen, admiring the creature as it stomps away in Episode Three. His scenes with Broton are great, as he casually belittles his enemy with lines like "Very good, very good. Almost impressive!" and "You can't rule the world in hiding. You've got to come out on to the balcony sometimes and wave a tentacle!" In addition, I also like the fact that this doesn't at all rile Broton, despite the Doctor's best efforts. I also like the Doctor's attitude towards the Skarasen; he has no qualms about blowing up the Zygon spaceship with them on board, but seems quite happy to let the monster go home (not, admittedly, that there is much else he could have done about it), since it was its masters who were responsible for it destroying the rigs and since it is basically a dumb animal that isn't really to blame. The unusual concept of the huge reptilian monster being allowed to go home and relax at the end of the story is rather endearing. Oh, and I love the Doctor's Scottish costume in Episode One!

Sarah and Harry also get plenty to do. Sarah's investigative skills are put to work in Episodes One and Three, and in addition she shows her usual mixture of curiosity and courage in following the tunnel in Forgill Castle down into the Zygon spaceship and rescuing Harry in the process. Mind you, points are deducted for her dithering on the cellar steps in Episode Four when the Doctor tells her to fetch the Brigadier. Harry also proves his value here. This is Harry's last story as a regular, and it's a shame to see him go, especially since his last ever appearance in the television series is in a story almost as bad as 'Revenge of the Cybermen', but at least he gets a last decent showing here. As well as getting another chance to put his medical skills to good use in Episode One, it is also Harry who first meets Broton, and learns about the Zygons, and although the Doctor doesn't actually find this out, Harry saves his life at the beginning of Episode Three, his interference with the Zygon controls releasing the trionic activator from the Doctor's hand just as the Skarasen attacks. Harry's last scene in the story, as he stands beside the Brigadier in full military uniform and politely but respectfully declines another trip in the TARDIS is a somehow very appropriate departure for him. In addition, Ian Marter gets to show off his acting skills by briefly playing a villain, which he does rather well; the nasty, sneering Zygon Harry is markedly different from the real Harry and the murderous look on his face as he attacks Sarah with a pitchfork is alarmingly convincing. 

'Terror of the Zygons' also marks the last appearance of the Brigadier for a good many years, and the last decent appearance of Benton and UNIT. As in 'Robot', the Brigadier retains some of his old credibility, or at the very least some of his old charm, and most crucially seems suitably commanding when he's organizing the attack on the Zygon ship in Episode Three and the hunt for the Zygons in Episode Four. The Brigadier is the subject of some wit, most notably his "Asleep? Impossible. I was on duty" line in Episode Two, but the story manages to incorporate this without making him the buffoon of 'The Three Doctors'. And in his last semi-regular story, it is worth noting that he finally meets a non-bullet proof alien menace, something he wished for in 'Robot', as he shoots Broton at the end. Benton too comes over well, ever likeable and ever reliable. I particularly like his "Why are you whispering?" scene with the Doctor in Episode Two.

Production-wise, 'Terror of the Zygons' is magnificent. The location work is superb, and although it wasn't filmed in Scotland it looks very authentic. The impressive incidental score helps to create this impression too. The Skarasen is of course the story's greatest limitation, but Douglas Camfield's careful direction means we only get very brief glimpses of it for the most part, save for the cringe-worthy shot of it rising out of the Thames at the end. Generally, the direction is very good, and the multiple fading shots of the Zygons' hands as they manipulate the controls on board their ship in Episode One are worthy of special mention. Overall, 'Terror of the Zygons' is a superb Doctor Who story and perfect start to the season.





Genesis of the DaleksBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 31 December 2003 - Reviewed by Paul Clarke

I've been dreading reviewing 'Genesis of the Daleks'. It is a story generally regarded as a classic, but for me it long suffered from the principle that familiarity breeds contempt. Once it was released on video, I watched it regularly until I became sick of it, and just as I decided that I didn't want to see it again for a very long time, BBC2 announced what the next story would be following the repeat of 'Doctor Who and the Silurians'… As it turned out however, that was the last time I saw it prior to this occasion, and after a lengthy absence, my enthusiasm for the story was entirely rekindled. 

'Genesis of the Daleks' is not perfect. I'll get my criticisms out of the way first, and the first is that it is rather padded during the first three episodes. Sarah's abortive escape attempt up the rocket scaffolding makes for an exciting cliffhanger but is a narrative dead-end, and the dystronic toxæmia from which she was so determined to escape is conveniently forgotten after the first five minutes of Episode Three. In addition, the scenes in the cave leading out of the Kaled bunker add little to the plot, rendering the shots of Davros' giant clam mutants pointless. Given that they are woefully unimpressive, this is unfortunate, since they need not really have been there. My other, criticism of 'Genesis of the Daleks' is that the meagre distance between the Thal and Kaled cities stretches credibility somewhat; we are expected to believe that a lengthy war has been fought on the doorsteps of these cities, each housing the last remnants of their respective races. I can think of an explanation, which is that the cities, both of them extremely spartan in décor, are an equivalent of the trenches used in world war one, built relatively recently on either side of the no-man's land in between (the wasteland), and that they represent the last bastions of civilization on the benighted Skaro, both races nearly extinct after a millennium of warfare. That said, it is always a bad sign when the viewer has to contrive explanations for threadbare areas of the plot, and given the many, many excellent aspects of this story, it is a shame. 

The rest of 'Genesis of the Daleks' however, is outstanding. This is the bleakest and most powerful illustration of the horrors of war ever seen in Doctor Who on television, presenting us with an unrelentingly grim atmosphere from the very first shot of Thal soldiers mown down in slow motion. There are many familiar images of war used here, from the trenches to the mine-riddled wasteland between them, the terrible sense of waste and weariness and the atrocities committed by both sides. This latter issue illustrates the effect of the war on the people involved in it; the Kaleds are represented by blatant Nazi imagery from the start, which never fails to convey a sense of evil. The Mutos represent the human cost of war, victims scarred by weapons and abandoned by the Kaleds out of their desire to keep their race pure, reflecting the eugenics beloved of Hitler when he spoke of the Aryan race. Jack-booted and goose-stepping, the Kaleds, or at least the military elite, are clearly based on the Third Reich, and in the midst sits Davros, representing not only Hitler, but also people like Mengele, an utterly immoral scientist taking advantage of the war to further his own ghastly interests. Perhaps more unexpectedly however, the Thals, previously cast in the role of heroes due to their long enmity with the Daleks, are just as bad, happy to use "disposal labour" to prepare their rocket, and normally killing the Mutos on sight. Their wholesale slaughter at the hands of the Daleks, and the shock displayed by Bettan, later changes their role as they become the lesser of two evils, but lest we forget only a short time before they effectively commit genocide, wiping out nearly all of the Kaleds. The production reflects this general sense of horror too, not just in the gloomy trenches and wasteland, but throughout the bunker and both cities; in any other story the drab sets might be a disappointment, but here they are wholly appropriate, since the functional, utilitarian décor suits the mood, suggesting that after centuries of conflict neither race have either the resources nor the inclination to consider aesthetics. 

One of the most famous, and indeed most interesting, scenes in 'Genesis of the Daleks' occurs at the beginning of Episode Six, as the Doctor agonizes over the decision as to whether or not he can destroy the Daleks utterly. The reason I find it so interesting is that I disagree with his argument, but nevertheless find it to be a fascinating character moment. The Doctor's indecision rests on his reluctance to commit genocide, explaining to Sarah that he doesn't have the right to destroy an entire intelligent species; his excuse is that future worlds might become allies because of their fear of the Daleks. My personal opinion is that for all that the Daleks are an intelligent species, they are more a force representative of a force of nature; twice during the story, they are compared to a virus, once by the Doctor himself when he is trying to convince Davros to change their nature, and later by Sarah as she tries to convince the Doctor to complete his mission for the Time Lords. I've argued before that the Doctor's stance is akin to refusing to prevent an outbreak of smallpox, on the grounds that the survivors might be brought closer together as a result; other fans disagree, but I maintain that the Daleks are essentially an intelligent plague, utterly destructive, ruthless and completely beyond redemption, and devoted to exterminating or subjugating all other forms of life in the cosmos. Ultimately, I feel that the Doctor's dilemma boils down not a reluctance to destroy the Daleks per se, but rather to a refusal to accept for responsibility for such an action, which would have far reaching consequences for the entire universe. However you interpret the scene however, it remains very dramatic and compelling. 

Then we have Davros, played brilliantly by Michael Wisher. Davros is undoubtedly one of the series' greatest villains, and is one of the most potent symbols of evil ever to appear in Doctor Who. Much as I like the Master, he is motivated largely by his rivalry with the Doctor and on occasion will switch sides; for all that he is ruthless and has committed unspeakable crimes, he can still on a certain level be reasoned with. Davros however, is a different matter entirely. He is entirely focused on the development of the Daleks and will stop at nothing to achieve his aims. Initially, he is a villain by association; not only is he responsible or the creation of the Daleks, he is visually associated to them by the fact that his wheelchair resembles a Dalek base. However, his characterisation is such that it is quickly established that he is a villain in his own right, and one whose sense of morality is diametrically opposed to the Doctor's. The first real glimpse of his true nature is in Episode Two, when Ronson saves the Doctro's life by deactivating the newly armed Dalek; an astonished and furious Davros questions how Ronson can possibly consider a single worthless life to be of more value than his Dalek's instinct to destroy, and this is the first clear indication that Davros is way beyond the Doctor's ability to reason. The more the story progresses, the more terrible Davros is seen to be, one of the key moments being his decision to exterminate "the whole of the Kaled people", a statement which briefly shocks even Nyder. The fact that he is prepared to sacrifice his own race to ensure that his work can continue is utterly chilling, and is compounded shortly afterwards by his "retaliation" against the Thals, as he gives his Daleks their first ever taste of mass slaughter. 

By far my favourite scenes in 'Genesis of the Daleks', and indeed one of my favourite scenes from the whole of the series, is the Doctor's attempt to reason with Davros in Episode Five. He asks Davros if he would unleash a virus that would wipe out all forms of life in the universe; Davros, rather than coming round to the Doctor's way of thinking, is fascinated by this concept, and considers it carefully before deciding that he would, since that power would make him a God, a power which the Daleks will grant him. The scene is supremely effective in summing Davros up and is wonderfully directed; as Davros considers, the incidental score grows louder and more impressive in the background, rising to a climax as Davros screeches about power and the Daleks. Most disturbing of all, is the moment when, as he considers, his finger and thumb crush an imaginary vial of virus confirming in an instant that the Doctor has absolutely no hope of ever reasoning with him. 

The Daleks themselves are used sparingly in 'Genesis of the Daleks' as they take a back seat to Davros, but when they do appear they are highly impressive. Their casual destruction of the Thals is a great visual image, as the newborn creatures glide unstoppably around the Thal dome, exterminating without hesitation anyone they find. The fact that Davros is so utterly evil also benefits the Daleks, as they turn on him in Episode Six. Having just added to his other crimes during the story by trapping and disposing of those scientists who are no longer loyal to him, even Davros is horrified when his creations turn on those who have remained loyal, the ever-faithful Nyder among them. In his last few moments, as he tries desperately to reason with the Daleks, he comes to the horrified realization that they are so much a product of himself that they will let nothing and nobody stand in their way, not even him. It is a fitting irony that just as the Doctor tried in vain to reason with Davros, so Davros now tries in vain to reason with the Daleks, and is ultimately so shocked by the results that he reaches for the button that will destroy them utterly before he is gunned down. In many ways, the Daleks are once again the living embodiment of the horrors of war, born out of it and representing all that is terrifying about it. 

There are many minor aspects of 'Genesis of the Daleks' that work so well. The fact that the Daleks are mutations of the Kaleds is brilliantly ironic, given that the Kaleds are so obsessed with racial purity that they exiled the Mutos (even more ironically, it is Nyder who tells us this, despite his total devotion to Davros's project). The gimmick of the Time Ring works well too, since it is far easier to lose than the TARDIS, and creates an additional level of tension by increasing the chances of the Doctor, Sarah and Harry becoming trapped on the nightmare that is Skaro. David Maloney's direction is superb, especially during Episode Six, as the tension builds and builds to a climax that, unusually, sees the Doctor departing without having achieved a great deal. And lastly, whilst Michael Wisher steals the show, mention must be made of Peter Miles' Davros, a character as thoroughly unpleasant and ruthless as his superior. Overall, 'Genesis of the Daleks' stands as one of Doctor Who's greatest stories, and maintains the adult feeling of 'The Ark in Space' and 'The Sontaran Experiment' whilst taking it to another level entirely. What a shame it couldn't last…





Pyramids of MarsBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 31 December 2003 - Reviewed by Paul Clarke

'Pyramids of Mars' is often accused of having plot holes. In fact, I can think of three potential plot holes, but only one of them actually bothers me, and that only slightly. The first of these is that the Osirans entombed Sutekh with everything he needs to escape, but this is obliquely addressed in the script, the Doctor firstly explaining that the Osirans' moral code forbade them from executing Sutekh and later telling Sarah that they had "cerebrums like spiral staircases" and were known for their guile and cunning. The implication is that leaving Sutekh with a chance of regaining his freedom is part of their moral code, and this is further implied by the fact that the traps in the Pyramid of Mars are dangerous but passable; certainly, this is the assumption made by Justin Richards in 'The Sands of Time'. The second supposed plot hole is that having Scarman build the Osiran war missile in England is pointless, since he could have constructed it outside Sutekh's tomb, but again this isn't really a plot hole, given that it makes sense for Sutekh to exploit the fact that Scarman owns a large and secluded estate. The third plot hole is that the Doctor is rather fortunate that Sutekh decides to travel to England to start his revenge, thus allowing the Doctor to destroy him, and it is this slight flaw that bothers me, since he could easily have destroyed the world from Egypt. On the other hand, he may have wanted to collect his remaining Servitors before launching his reign of death. But even if this is construed as a plot hole (it is undoubtedly a plot contrivance to allow the Doctor to triumph), it doesn't matter; 'Pyramids of Mars' is a story that confidently papers over its limitations with a great deal of style and atmosphere.

'Pyramids of Mars' is unusual (although not unique) in that every supporting character except for the briefly glimpsed Egyptians at the beginning is killed off during the course of the story. This is significant, because it demonstrates on a small scale the horror represented by Sutekh, as one after another characters are casually slaughtered at his behest. This works particularly well because Holmes and Griefer create characters that are uniformly well characterised, regardless of importance to the plot, so that every death has an impact. The first example is Collins, the old and weary butler who has remained in the service of the mysteriously absent Professor Scarman partly because he doubts that he could find a new appointment at his age, but probably also out of a sense of loyalty. He appears only briefly, but is rather likeable and Michael Bilton gives him a plaintive air that makes his death at the hands of the Servitors all the more traumatic. Warlock is an even better example, forcing his way into Scarman's house out of concern for his friend and paying the ultimate price, and his death also feels tragic, partly because he has survived being shot by Namin, but also because it is ultimately Scarman who orders his death, whilst under the control of Sutekh. The best example of this principle is Lawrence Scarman. Lawrence is superbly portrayed by the ever-reliable Michael Sheard, and lasts for nearly three episodes, during which time we see his almost childlike fascination with the Doctor's alien knowledge (the scene in which he bounds enthusiastically around the TARDIS is charming), and also his gnawing anguish over his brother's ghastly fate. His interference with the Doctor's attempt to block Sutekh's control of Marcus and the Servitors literally endangers the entire universe, but it is painfully understandable and it is hard not to feel sympathetic as guilt is added to Lawrence's emotional burden. His death at the smoldering hands of his brother is heart-rending, and because of this the Doctor's subsequent dismissal of Lawrence's death works so well in reminding us of the true scale of the threat posed by Sutekh. The usually compassionate Doctor is so focused on stopping Sutekh that he can't waste time with individual deaths, and this more than anything else in the story is the true measure of Sutekh's power. Even Ibrahim Namin's death is powerful, as this faithful servant of Sutekh is casual dispatched by Sutekh's puppet as a reward for his service, and the same is true of Marcus Scarman, as he briefly regains his freedom from Sutekh in Episode Four, only to disintegrate into a charred husk. 

Sutekh is vital to the success of 'Pyramids of Mars'. I praised 'Genesis of the Daleks' for its portrayal of Davros as one of Doctor Who's greatest villains by presenting him as a villain whose sense of morality is totally opposed to the Doctor's. With Sutekh, that principle is taken far, far further. He is perhaps the ultimate villain, a being of immeasurable power entirely devoted not to death or the subjugation of others, but to the total extermination of all life, everywhere, forever. His instruction to Scarman that after the missile is completed all life within the deflection barrier right down to birds, fish and reptiles must be destroyed because all life is his enemy is disturbing; no other villain in Doctor Who is so nihilistic. And whereas Davros is ultimately a man in a wheelchair whom the Doctor can physically overpower and in other respects face on an equal footing, Sutekh is effectively a God. The scene in which the Doctor confronts Sutekh in Episode Four is extremely powerful, Sutekh casually torturing him for every minor insult and explaining that all life must end under his reign. Gabriel Woolf's chilling tones drip with evil, helping to emphasize Sutekh's total malevolence, and mention must also be made of the rather sinister, but only briefly seen, jackal-like face beneath the impassive blue mask. 

If the human cost of Sutekh's evil is well conveyed by the deaths of the supporting characters, then the large scale consequences of his escape are served by the scene in Episode Three in which the Doctor takes Sarah to a 1988 in which Sutekh was not stopped. The brief sight of the blasted, lifeless Earth is highly effective, further demonstrating Sutekh's power without blowing the budget, and also implying interesting things about time travel, given that it suggests that the Doctor's defeat of Sutekh has always happened and is already a part of history even before he succeeds. 

The characterisation of the Doctor here also stresses the danger posed by Sutekh. Early on in the story, as Collins discovers the Doctor and Sarah, we get a fairly typical example of the Doctor's wit, as the butler demands to know how he got into the building; the Doctor cheerfully responds "Through the window. I understood the property was for sale?" However, as soon as the Doctor discovers the nature of his enemy, he is unusually grim throughout, and Tom Baker puts in one of his most intense performances. When the Doctor travels to Egypt to distract Sutekh, he fully expects to die in the process, but throughout the story he gives the impression that he isn't sure that can prevail here. Tellingly, once Sutekh is aged to death in the time corridor, he reverts briefly to his usually cheerful self, just before he and Sarah flee from the burning Priory. 

The acting in 'Pyramids of Mars' is very fine throughout. I've already mentioned Micheal Sheard and Gabriel Woolf, but Bernard Archard's performance as the living dead Scarman is very effective, and both Tom Baker and Elizabeth Sladen are on top of their form. Baker is convincingly agonized when Sutekh tortures him and as mentioned puts in a tense performance throughout. Because of this it falls to Sladen to lighten to the atmosphere slightly, which works because it suggests she can't fully comprehend the true danger posed by Sutekh whereas the Doctor can. She also gets to shoot at the gelignite on the ramp of the missile, thus contributing significantly to the Doctor's desperate (and as it happens, failed) gambit to stop Sutekh from destroying the Eye of Horus on Mars. 

The Mummies are another highly successful aspect of 'Pyramids of Mars', combining the unstoppable air of the Cybermen in their better outings with a distinctive and creepy appearance; in addition, the weird howling noise made by the Servitor that gets its foot caught in one of Clements' traps is rather spine-tingling. The whole production is very well made, with superb location footage, great sets (I especially like the strange swirling backdrops in the Pyramid of Mars, which creates an alien feel), and evocative incidental music. Overall, 'Pyramids of Mars' is a high point of the generally strong Season Thirteen and a real classic.





The Android InvasionBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 31 December 2003 - Reviewed by Paul Clarke

Terry Nation is possibly Doctor Who's most erratic writer. On the one hand he is capable of writing classics such as 'The Mutants', 'The Dalek Invasion of Earth', 'The Daleks' Master Plan' and 'Genesis of the Daleks', whilst on the other hand he is capable of writing such balderdash as 'The Keys of Marinus', 'The Chase', 'Planet of the Daleks', and, unfortunately, 'The Android Invasion'. Apologists for this story might argue that it seems worse than it is alongside the other stories of Season Thirteen, but personally I think there's so much wrong with it that placing it next to any other story, no matter how dire, is going to amount to little more than trying to polish a turd. 

'The Android Invasion' suffers from more plot holes than any other Doctor Who story I can think of. First of all, we have the replica of Devesham on Oseidon. This is immensely detailed and extremely elaborate, which raises the question, what exactly is the point of it? To explain what I mean, allow me to recap Styggron's plan. The Kraals intend to invade Earth and wipe out mankind using a virus. The virus isn't airborne and it kills its victims within seconds or minutes, which would limit its spread immediately, since anyone infected with it wouldn't have time to travel very far before dying. Metres, if they are lucky. Therefore, Styggron's androids are intended to "disseminate" the virus. In addition, note that Styggron insists that the extermination of mankind will take place within three weeks. Therefore, the androids will have to transport the virus to all parts of the planet within that time and physically expose everyone on Earth to it. This is, clearly bollocks; firstly, there are only a handful of androids, and secondly as soon as whole areas started dying in one go, quarantines would be enforced. Since there is no evidence that Styggron has facilitates on Earth to make new androids, this means that a group of androids who resemble the inhabitants of one small village are expected to evade quarantines without being noticed, which is also bollocks, and in case anyone is thinking of pointing out that they are allegedly indestructible, allow me to point out that this is twaddle, since Sarah electrocutes one (and their faces fall off very easily if they trip up). Even if we assume that this is possible, the androids would still have to spread out from Devesham on arrival, which raises the question of why Styggron establishes an elaborate program of training that involves the androids spending an afternoon in the local pub. The point is, the only possible reason for the needlessly elaborate Devesham mock-up would be if the Kraal androids were intended to infiltrate Devesham by replacing the inhabitants and then spend some time there gathering information. Which they aren't. Indeed, not only that, but they successfully replace the entire personnel of the Space Defence Station within minutes of arriving. The only remotely plausible explanation that is actually consistent with the witless plot is that the training ground allows them to become familiar with the layout of Devesham and the Space Defence Station, which in any case is provided to Styggron by Crayford. Some kind of map might have been easier…

In addition to these gaping plot holes, if Styggron wants to use the androids to wipe out mankind, why doesn't he just drop androids all across the planet from orbit, instead of bringing them all to Devesham? If he's so clever, why doesn't he just create an airborne virus? If he can't, why doesn't he just fill a couple of pods with the virus and dump it in the ocean, since Nation appears in any case to have misunderstood the difference between the words "virus" and "poison". The number of unanswered questions in this story are astounding; if the brain patterns taken by Styggron from humans are as detailed as he implies, why does the android Sarah not know that the real Sarah dislikes ginger pop and that she left her scarf with the Doctor? Are the dogs used to chase the Doctor and Sarah real dogs, and if so how did they get to Oseidon? If not, what are they for? If they are androids but are capable of following the tracks of the Doctor and Sarah, then why can't the other androids do the same? Waste of time making robot dogs, frankly. Why does the otherwise insanely detailed fake Devesham have stupid mistakes like the calendar with only one date in it? Why don't the androids in the pub grab Sarah in Episode One? If they're intelligent enough to realize that she could be part of some test, surely they're intelligent enough to bother to just hold on to her whilst they check with Styggron? Why, if most of the androids arrive at the pub in a truck before being properly activated, are some androids inside pods dotted around the village? Did they get bored and decided to play hide and seek? In Episode One, when Styggron tells Crayford that there might be rogue unit on the loose, does he catch a flicker of movement at the end of the corridor and immediately dive through a door to get at a gun? He can't possibly see that it is a stranger, and the androids are bulletproof. Well, probably: Styggron's claim that they are invincible is, as noted above, twaddle. To top it all off, the story ends with yet another notorious gaping hole as the Doctor uses a powerful electromagnetic field to jam the circuits of every android in the area, but then somehow manages to use his own android against Styggron. Apologists for this story might argue that this makes the Doctor look very clever, but given that he ahs only a few minutes in which to equip the android with a formidable array of shielding and reprogram it as well, I would argue that it makes Terry Nation look like a bit of an arse. 

Amongst all this rubbish, is there anything good about 'The Android Invasion'? Not really, no. The Kraals look quite good, but Styggron is basically a standard ranting megalomaniac with a mad plan, a line in gloating, and stupid dialogue ("Resistance is inadvisable!" Come back Professor Zaroff, all is forgiven…). Chedaki is voiced by Roy Skelton, who seems to have forgotten which of his roles he's in, as Chedaki sounds like bloody Zippy from Rainbow. Milton Johns is a fine actor, but Crayford is a ludicrous character; how on Earth he got the job of an astronaut if he's so paranoid that he assumes he's been deliberately abandoned when something goes wrong, and then agrees to help space Rhinos invade is a mystery, and then of course there is the notoriously stupid plot device of him never having looked under his eye-patch - does the man never wash?

The direction is adequate, the design uninspiring; the interiors of the Kraal base are forgettable and the spiky-bottomed doors just look daft. The whole set up in Episode One of the quite village with its inhabitants acting strangely is promisingly sinister, but delivers manure. Even the title is rubbish, suffering from the same basic weakness of 'Revenge of the Cybermen' in that its title undermines the mystery behind the first episode from the start. The regulars are fine; Tom Baker and Elizabeth Sladen are capable by this point in the series of playing their respective roles with consummate ease, and both tackle the feeble script well. John Levene and Ian Marter are also both their usual reliable selves, but they get little to do and it is therefore a shame that their last appearance in Doctor Who is in this story rather than the marvellous 'Terror of the Zygons'. Nicholas Courtney gets a particularly lucky escape in that respect, with the character of Colonel Faraday created as a stand in; Patrick Newell does well with what he's given, but the script paints him as a buffoon and the Brigadier had quite enough of that in 'The Three Doctors'. 

I'll end by pointing out one last plot hole; the Kraal fleet is poised to attack, but is never mentioned again after Styggron's death. In Episode Two, Chedaki tries to convince Styggron to abandon the androids, arguing that they are dangerous and that the Kraals can conquer Earth without them. Why then, do they not invade? The answer, and indeed the answer to all the plot holes in 'The Android Invasion' is actually quite simple: Chedaki and Styggron are lovers, but Chedaki is rather submissive; keen to please his completely loopy boyfriend, Chedaki humours his occasional plan to invade other planets even though they are ill thought out and obviously won't work. Once Styggron dies, Chedaki breathes a sigh of release and decides to quit whilst he's ahead, and/or goes home to Oseidon because he's too distraught to lead an invasion. Makes more sense than what we see on screen, anyway…





The Seeds of DoomBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 31 December 2003 - Reviewed by Paul Clarke

It is often said that Doctor Who is at its most successful when its roots are showing, which perhaps explains the success of 'The Seeds of Doom'. The most obvious influences on this story are The Thing, to which the first two episodes have notable similarities, and The Quatermass Experiment, in which an alien influence infects an astronaut and transforms him into a giant tentacled mass that threatens to germinate and eradicate all human life on the planet. In addition to these other influences, 'The Seeds of Doom' is heavily based on Phillip Levene's earlier Avengers script Man-Eater of Surrey Green, in which an alien seed pod lands on Earth and is nurtured by a wealthy botanist, over whom it exerts telepathic control. In addition to this, an eccentric female botanist, of whom Amelia Ducat is rather reminiscent, aids Steed and Mrs. Peel. With so many obvious influences, 'The Seeds of Doom' could have been something of a mixed bag, but with six episodes and two major locations it manages to combine its multiple ingredients with considerable success. 

With the danger of padding always a problem with six part Doctor Who stories, 'The Seeds of Doom' successfully avoids this problem by essentially taking the structure of a two-part story followed by a four-part story, one of only two such six parters in the series history. Thus, the first two episodes concern the discovery of the two Krynoid pods in Antarctica, whilst the four remaining episodes focus on Harrison Chase's insane attempt to unleash a Krynoid on Earth. It is these first two episodes that are obviously influenced by The Thing, as scientists in the Antarctic uncover a buried alien lifeform, but in this case the lifeform is of course the first pod and it infects Winlett. The first two episodes are very atmospheric, managing to overcome budgetary limitations with a confident swagger; brooding incidental music accompanies the scientists' discovery of the pod and manages to make a throbbing cabbage look sinister, and the threat represented by the pod is emphasised further by the Doctor's doom-laden warnings about the nature of the Krynoid. The actual transformation of Winlett is realised using make-up that resembles green foam rubber, but as with the bubble-plastic Wirrn Larvae in 'The Ark in Space', it works because both script and actors take it so very seriously. The Doctor's suggestion of amputating Winlett's arm adds an additional detail of reality, as the occupants of the base struggle to deal with a wholly unexpected situation with minimal resources and no outside help. In theory, setting a story in Antarctica should be a very bad idea in budget and effects terms, and inevitably there is much use made of CSO, polystyrene snow, and stock footage, resulting in a recreation of Antarctica which looks cheaper and less effective than that used on 'The Tenth Planet'. Mercifully, exterior scenes are kept to a minimum, and once again the script and acting paper over these potentially dodgy scenes. 

It has been suggested that Robert Banks Stewart's unfamiliarity with Doctor Who results in a story more reminiscent of The Avengers, with a great deal more gritty realism than usual. I agree with this to an extent, in that there are certainly similarities with The Avengers on display; the Doctor and Sarah are sent to Antarctica in Episode One in a helicopter and by a ministry to, in effect, act as troubleshooters. In addition, there is an unusual amount of gun usage, and Chase is very much in the mold of a diabolical mastermind straight out of The Avengers. On the other hand, The Avengers (or to be precise, the Emma Peel era) is also known for its wit and whimsy, with eccentricity as important as plot; 'The Seeds of Doom' boasts an eccentric villain and indeed another eccentric in the form of Amelia Ducat, and also has moments of wit, but I wouldn't say that it feels much like The Avengers. Whilst unlike Doctor Who, The Avengers was always aimed at an older audience, its more adult feel lies in directions other than violence, especially by the Emma Peel era, during which highly stylized and choreographed fights were the norm, not Molotov cocktails and machine guns. Instead, 'The Seeds of Doom' feels more like what it is; grittier than usual Doctor Who. Thus we have the Doctor resorting to physical violence with his fists, and also memorably pulling a gun on Chase. In return, Scorby throws him around in the compost room and he is visibly rattled as a result. It is also perhaps worth noting that whilst Steed (and of course, often the Doctor himself) usually faces danger without losing his composure, here the Doctor clearly suffers, as summed up neatly by Chase's final scene, as he tries to drag the Doctor into the crusher, even as the Doctor is trying to save Chase's life; the Doctor doesn't follow Chase's death with a quip, he just looks genuinely shaken. 

Regardless of whether or not 'The Seeds of Doom' more closely resembles The Avengers than Doctor Who, it remains a highly effective story. Part of this success is down to the Krynoids. Massive, tentacled, intelligent, carnivorous plants from outer space are not common even in Doctor Who, and on paper the Krynoids look like a bad idea; animated plants are always at risk of looking silly, and tentacles are notoriously difficult to realize effectively. Nevertheless, the Krynoid - both of them - generally works very well. The use of a recycled, repainted Axon monster costume from 'The Claws of Axos' works well, as does the model work of the giant Krynoid squatting over Chase's Mansion in Episode Six; even the tentacle that bursts into the building in the final episode looks good. The eight-foot high Krynoid is rather less impressive, and during the Episode Four cliffhanger it is amusingly reminiscent of the Slyther. Another unfortunate decision is to let it speak, given that the chosen vocal effect makes it sound like the Wonderful Krynoid of Oz. These are however, minor shortcomings and in fact the execution is essential to the success of 'The Seeds of Doom', given that the concept can't help but sound vaguely silly; killer vegetation is not an idea that I personally find especially scary. Nevertheless, it works because of the approach taken. The Krynoid itself works because big tentacled aliens tend to make an impression, but far more impressive an achievement is the realisation of the hostile native plant life as the Krynoid begins to exert its influence over the plants of Chase's estate. Wisely director Douglas Camfield avoids the use of stop-motion animation or vines on wires, and resorts to the simple approach of waving plants about. This sounds daft, but it works surprisingly well thanks again to the acting and direction, not to mention the incidental score. Scorby's death is a good example; dragged under water by animated pondweeds, John Challis's acting convinces that Scorby is genuinely fighting for his life, the scene is starkly shot and the foreboding incidental music completes the effect, making it a powerful scene. The Krynoid also works because of what it does; a human being infected by and transformed into an alien monster is not an original idea in science fiction (or Doctor Who), but it seldom fails to work. Winlett's transformation is given added effect by the Doctor's grim warnings of what will ultimately happen to him and the fact that he suggests amputation simply because he's running out of ideas, but it is Keeler's transformation which is by far the most horrific. Here, the effect is heightened by Chase's inhuman attitude to Keeler's inhuman transform, as his zealous fascination with the Krynoid deafens him to Keeler's pitiful pleas for medical aid. Even more disturbing is the scene of Hargreaves bringing him a plate of raw meat; on seeing it, Keeler's look of helpless anger gives way to an expression of ravenous hunger. 

Speaking of Scorby and Keeler, with the first Krynoid stranded in the middle of icy tundra with very little to eat and no plant life to control, the most immediate threat to the Doctor and Sarah is Chase's henchmen. Keeler is basically along as a botanist whom Chase owns "body and soul", and who objects to Scorby's brutal tactics but is too weak to actually stand up to him. His indecisive character works well as a contrast to Scorby and Mark Jones' tortured portrayal works particularly well when the second pod infects him. In many ways however, Scorby is by far the most interesting character. It is established early on that he is, as to use the Doctor's vernacular, a "stooge" for Chase, but unusually for Doctor Who he gets a very meaty role for a mere stooge. Despite acting under orders from a far more dangerous nutter, he remains a significant enough threat on his own to cause problems for the Doctor. The reason being of course that he is utterly ruthless and highly professional. Although the Doctor later overpowers him, Scorby gives as good as he gets as he throws the Doctor around in the compost room, and generally fares well against a being that has destroyed near-omnipotent demigods. His later alliance with the Doctor and Sarah to save his own skin works well, demonstrating his overwhelming drive to survive, something he addresses in Episode Five, as he tells Sarah that he has always relied entirely on himself, and nobody else, during a lengthy and probably bloody career. This utter selfishness immediately explains his character perfectly, a ruthless mercenary who will do anything for money, unless it threatens his own survival. Interestingly, and refreshingly, during the final two episodes, he shows absolutely no interest in revenge on the Doctor or Sarah for previous indignities aside from a couple of guarded threats, which seem more like a show of strength than anything else. Appropriately, Challis portrays Scorby as an efficient thug, and it is impressive that a character who is neither of the main villains can be so interesting without being acted with the charisma of psychopaths such as Reegan from 'The Ambassadors of Death'. 

And then there's Harrison Chase. In a season featuring such villains as Broton, Sutekh and Morbius, it is easy to overlook Chase, who isn't even technically the main protagonist of the story. Yet with only the villainy of a giant vegetable to upstage, Tony Beckley steals the show. Chase is a superb villain; a complete lunatic played perfectly without being over the top. Initially, Chase seems almost comical, a neatly suited leather gloved and arguably slightly camp maniac millionaire whose obsession with plants is so great that it places him amongst Doctor Who's highest echelons of utter madmen. When he plays a symphony to the plants in the greenhouse it treads a fine line between ludicrous and sinister, but Beckley pulls it off perfectly. As the end of Episode Three approaches however, he becomes much scarier; Keeler's protestation that what he intends to do to Sarah is inhuman meeting with the chilling response "I don't care. I must see what happens when the Krynoid touches human flesh". As he "nurtures" the terrified Keeler he becomes even more disturbing and by the time he makes contact with the Krynoid in Episode Five he's already so overwhelmed by his fascination with the creature that it's hard to tell whether he's really possessed or not. A villain with a giant crushing machine just sounds silly, but Beckley's acting and Camfield's direction mean that when the Doctor is tied up in the crusher, its just tense, especially with Baker at the height of his powers and yelling at Sarah to turn it off. Chase's death, as he is dragged into the crusher and pumped into his gardens, is entirely appropriate; it's also chilling, as he determinedly attempts to take the Doctor with him, whilst the Doctor is trying desperately to save him. 

The rest of the guest cast is, at worst, adequate; Kenneth Gilbert as Dunbar and Michael Barrington as Sir Colin are unmemorable but competent, but Sylvia Coleridge is hugely entertaining as the eccentric and rather endearing Amelia Ducat. I also feel the need to mention Seymour Green, but only because of his amusingly appropriate name. The direction, mentioned briefly above, is very good, particularly during the last four episodes once the CSO Antarctic is out of the way; the location filming is stunning, and meshes perfectly with the impressive interior sets of Chase's mansion.

Finally, I should just mention UNIT. This is the organization's last semi-regular appearance, and boasts none of the regulars, with Major Beresford standing in for the Brigadier and neither Mike Yates nor Sergeant Benton anywhere to be seen. It has been suggested that this is rather a downbeat farewell for UNIT, and indeed John Acheson's Major Beresford is forgettable, but it's also worth noting that after descending into cosy incompetence later on during the Pertwee era, UNIT does literally get to save the world here, as they are responsible for blowing the Krynoid to pieces. It isn't the most ingenious means of defeating the monster, but it works, and as UNIT's last act in Doctor Who for a very long time, it isn't a bad way to sign off.