Written By: Nicholas Briggs
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs
Tom Baker (The Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela), Michael Maloney (Gregor Saraton), Gillian Kearney (Mina Challis), James George (Knight Commander Elunas), Steven Alexander (Knight Commander Ollerie), Nicholas Briggs (Baragor/Zygons/Knights)
To someone who is only a casual Doctor Who fan, the Zygons may not be the most familiar of The Doctor’s proverbial rogue’s gallery. For over 3 decades, their sole appearance was during a single story, 1975’s ‘Terror of the Zygons’. However, with the simulcast event that was The Day of The Doctor, this particular foe has made a rather remarkable comeback.
The opening scene of Zygon Hunt, from Season 3 of the Fourth Doctor Adventures, is something reminiscent of Jurassic Park, aside from the otherworldly setting and the lack of actual dinosaurs. A team of big game hunters move through the jungles of the unnamed planet, shooting for sport any beast that they deem worth having a crack at. However, as the scene changes, we see what looks like a radar screen, with what can only be described as a large animal moving across it accompanied by a steady blipping noise.
The Doctor and Leela land on the planet, with the usual spell of comedic dialogue, remarking that the weather is better this time round. As they move off into the jungle, Leela shows her Sevateem heritage by applying moss to a wound they find on an injured, pterodactyl-like creature. As Leela tells the creature to “rest a while”, it becomes apparent that her and The Doctor are being watched. A hunting party suddenly emerges and Mena, an engineer, points a gun at the time travellers. It is revealed that the “Solar Knights”, with Mena as their Commander’s Adjutant, are on the planet Garros on shore leave. While The Doctor and Leela converse with Mina, it appears as if they are being observed or listened to from an undefined location.
The Doctor remarks that the reptilian species they just helped are “the largest inhabitants of Garros”. However, upon hearing a loud roar in the distance, they realise that this might not be the case. The Solar Knights pursue the large creature they are “hunting for sport” and it dives into a lagoon, so they take up positions to be ready when it surfaces.
Mina takes The Doctor and Leela back to the lodge, whilst Saraton, the Knight Commander, arrives after a conversation showing the relationship he shares with his “little helper”. Saraton’s interrogation of The Doctor and Leela turns sour when the “savage” reveals what Mina recounted earlier, much to the Knight Commander’s derision. His moment of anger is cut short when Elunas, one of the officers, falls from a balcony. The fall, The Doctor believes, is not what killed him, but Saraton refuses to listen and the actual cause of death is almost glossed over.
While The Doctor and Leela escape from Saraton’s guards, we see unidentified individuals watching over proceedings, seeming interested in the use of The Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. As The Doctor and Leela attempt to return to the TARDIS, they see Mina with one of the large creatures being hunted earlier. The beasts are seen to be feeding smaller creatures, which The Doctor identifies as Zygons. The Doctor and Leela watch the scene unfold, with a Zygon remarking that it is only a matter of time before they capture Saraton.
The second episode opens with the attempted massacre of the Zygons, with Saraton believing they have hired The Doctor and Leela to kill him. Saraton is suspicious of Mina, but isn’t entirely sure of the underlying facts. The Doctor, meanwhile, has a “change of heart” and decides to solve the various mysteries that plague the planet after all, whilst making his way with Leela back to the lodge. They are halted in their progress by a Knight, who is promptly killed by a Zygon – demonstrating the Doctor’s revelation that they are “deadly at close quarters”. Leela is unsure why The Doctor then wishes to speak to Mina, considering the events that have transpired, but is eventually convinced.
It emerges that Gregor is a war criminal and the Zygon plan is to destroy the human race for the sake of preservation. However, Mina experiences a crisis of conscience but still attempts to kill the time travellers as part of her mission. The Doctor and Leela are observed discussing their next move, as Leela states that she has a “cunning plan”.
The revelations that make up the rest of the episode are well written and detailed, including a reference to the Loch Ness Monster! The final confrontation and negotiation attempts are intense, with Gregor not realising his end is nigh until it’s too late.
The conclusion to the episode is heart-warming; with the Zygons realising that Earth is not the only place capable of settling Zygon life. With that, the time travellers depart the planet Garros, The Doctor and Leela realising that their companionship is of great importance to one another. The Doctor pushes a control on the Tardis console, landing them in their next adventure, unsure of when or where they have ended up.
The vocal casting, as for the previously reviewed Season 3 Fourth Doctor Adventures, is well-suited. The Zygons are clearly distinct from the rest of the cast by their almost ice warrior like whisper with the planet’s own jungle life also being part of the immersive atmosphere. As for the Solar Knights, Ollerie and Elunas are acted well, with the Knight Commander encompassing every inch of the power hungry “mankind patriot”.
The Doctor and Leela work well together, playing off of each other as has become customary, with the comedic misunderstandings and misinterpretations keeping the story flowing. The score fits the era well and whilst it is ever present, it makes itself known only when it wishes to, paralleling the Zygons themselves.
In conclusion, this story is well crafted and leaves many questions unanswered for a reasonable length of time. In spite of the relative lack of action, the acting from all sides be it the Solar Knights, The Doctor and Leela, or the Zygons, is more than enough to make this adventure worth a listen. With or without prior knowledge of the Zygons this adventure should be an interesting new listen for any fan. However, background may be needed to make the principles explained easier to understand.