Season 13 (July 21 - Aug 2)

July 21: Terror of the Zygons Parts One & Two
July 22: Terror of the Zygons Parts Three & Four
July 23: Planet of Evil Parts One & Two
July 24: Planet of Evil Parts Three & Four
July 25: Pyramids of Mars Parts One & Two
July 26: Pyramids of Mars Parts Three & Four
July 27: The Android Invasion Parts One & Two
July 28: The Android Invasion Parts Three & Four
July 29: The Brain of Morbius Parts One & Two
July 30: The Brain of Morbius Parts Three & Four
July 31: The Seeds of Doom Parts One & Two
August 1: The Seeds of Doom Parts Three & Four
August 2: The Seeds of Doom Parts Five & Six

July 21: Terror of the Zygons Parts One & Two

Full disclosure: this is the story I wrote a piece on for Outside In (which you can purchase here if you're interested (shameless plug over)).  This will try to not be a repeat of that piece, though I may touch on a couple of those points again.

It is rather nice to see UNIT back in action again, even if we're outside the usual stomping grounds and hanging around Loch Ness instead.  (Not exactly convinced about the Brigadier in a kilt though.)  But what's more striking is how irritated the Doctor seems to be about being summoned back by the Brigadier, even though he's the one who gave him the space-time telegraph in the first place.  "When I left the psionic beam with you, Brigadier, I said it was only to be used in an emergency," the Doctor grumbles.  "Oil an emergency?  Huh!  It's about time the people who run this planet of yours realised that to be dependent upon a mineral slime just doesn't make sense."  He does allow himself to be persuaded to help after the Brigadier mentions the loss of life, though.

Given that this is a UNIT story during Philip Hinchcliffe's producership, we get an interesting blend of that cozy UNIT feel and the more intense air of season 12.  It clearly suits director Douglas Camfield fine (back in the Who fold after 1970's Inferno), and he does a fabulous job with the material, but that blend is still present -- perhaps no more obviously than the sequence in part one where Harry is shot with a sniper rifle out on the beach while trying to help an oil rig worker who's stumbling in from the sea.  So while the Brigadier is setting up a base of operations in the local pub, Harry is lying on the ground with blood on his forehead (and Ian Marter does a good job of selling being struck by a bullet as well).  It's to Camfield's credit that this juxtaposition of styles works so well.  And he also does a good job with the titular aliens, showing us a hand here, a pair of eyes there, so that the first cliffhanger, showing one in its full glory menacing Sarah, has a strong impact.

Zygon Harry hides in a barn. (Terror of the Zygons Part Two)
Of course, once we've seen a Zygon, part two gives us lots of shots of them inside their organic spaceship.  They really are a masterpiece of design and still maintain their creepy impact even today.  Their ship is also just as unpleasant, looking like a pizza gone amok.  It's very impressive.  But the other thing we learn is that Zygons have the ability, given a suitable bodyprint, to take on the appearance of human beings -- which therefore allows Ian Marter to play a baddie, as a Zygon assuming Harry's form.  Marter is very sinister in this role, and he's aided by some striking direction -- one shot in particular (as shown to the right), with him half-hidden in shadow, is superbly framed and lit to make Harry seem very sinister.  The sequence doesn't last long, but its impact is long-lasting.

But shapeshifting isn't the only weapon the Zygons have: they also have control of a giant monster living in Loch Ness, which has been chewing up the oil rigs and caused the problem that brought the Doctor to Scotland in the first place.  Yep, it's the Loch Ness Monster, and it honestly doesn't look that bad -- it's a hell of a lot better than the dinosaurs from season 11, and there's something wonderful about the stop-motion animation used to make it chase the Doctor across the moorland -- a welcome touch of Harryhausen added to the proceedings.  It is a bit silly that the Zygons have to resort to gassing an entire town in order to let it pass unseen, but the monster does make for another effective cliffhanger, as it bears down on the Doctor and the tracking device that he can't get unstuck from his hand...

July 22: Terror of the Zygons Parts Three & Four

A reasonable cliffhanger resolution for once: the signalling device for the Loch Ness Monster is destroyed, and the Doctor was the last one holding it, ergo the Doctor has been destroyed too.  Thus the Zygons can proceed with their plans without further interference, they believe.  And seriously, the Zygons are still so creepy-looking.

One of the primary plot points for part three, however, involves the pub's landlord, Angus, being killed by the Zygon masquerading as Sister Lamont (and the transformation from Zygon to human and back is really well done -- that red-and-black effect does a good job of selling the change, rather than just, say, a simple dissolving mix), which leads to a cross-country chase for Warrant Officer Benton and his men -- and look, an alien that's not immune to bullets.  Someone probably should have told that trooper about the shapeshifting, though.  The big point gets the Duke of Forgill involved -- turns out he's a Zygon in disguise as well, and Sarah quickly (and serendipitously) learns that there's a tunnel leading right to the Zygon spaceship in Loch Ness.  She's able to rescue Harry, too -- although the Doctor still ends up being captured by the Zygons and taken back to their spaceship.  And when the Brigadier tries to get them to come out of the loch, they end up (in a really nice effect, both underwater and above it) simply flying away...

Part three does a good job of keeping the momentum going and setting up the big finale, and part four doesn't disappoint.  There are some marvelous moments in front of the camera -- that forced perspective shot of the spaceship model in the quarry, with people apparently jumping out of it, is so good that it's actually all too easy to believe it's a real full-blown set built on location (and compare this to the tank scene in Robot) -- and the script has some witty moments too.  "You can't rule a world in hiding," the Doctor tells Broton, the Zygon leader.  "You've got to come out onto the balcony sometimes and wave a tentacle, if you'll pardon the expression."  Robert Banks Stewart (a writer new to the show) also slyly pokes fun at its limitations: "When does this great operation begin, this conquest of the world?  ...  And what are you going to do with it when you've got it? Isn't it a bit large for just about six of you?" the Doctor wonders.  There's also the forward-thinking moment where the Brigadier handles a phone call from the Prime Minister who is clearly female ("Oh, absolutely understood, madam.  No public announcement").  But contrasting with this is the somewhat bloodthirsty moment where the Doctor traps the remaining Zygons inside the spaceship which he then sets to self-destruct -- as if the fact that these are would-be conquerors means that their lives somehow don't have value.

A Zygon is given orders by its leader Broton. (Terror of the
Part Four) ©BBC
The resolution of everything is admittedly a bit daft (Broton's plan appears to be to hold the International Energy Conference to ransom with the Loch Ness Monster coming out of the Thames) -- although, again, the fact that Zygons can be killed by bullets is rather nice -- but there is a nice bit of symmetry.  The story started with the Skarasen (the Zygons' name for Nessie) attacking oil rigs, and now it ends with the Skarasen terrorizing London.  This is probably the worst the special effects get for the Skarasen, and it's not that bad at all (though it should be noted that the DVD has done a good job of stabilizing the most offending shot, which had wildly shaky film with rock-solid video superimposed on it, so that it only looks a bit bad, instead of really bad).  But the Zygons have been defeated, and all that's left is for everyone to head back from London to Scotland to the TARDIS -- even though two of those people (Harry and the Brig) are going to go straight back to London again (and the Brigadier has changed back into that kilt again).  Sarah prefers to head back to London via TARDIS, and so off she and the Doctor go.

And so we say goodbye to Harry Sullivan as a regular companion (though he'll be back for one more story later this season), and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart as a semi-regular character (he'll be back a few more times, but not until 1983).  It's a bit sad to see Harry go -- Ian Marter is an incredibly talented actor, and it's a shame they got rid of him, even if he's rather superfluous in plot terms.  The Doctor may not have liked having him around, but I sure did.  It's a little less sad to see the Brigadier go, but only because a) we know he'll be back, eventually, and b) his appearances have been more and more sporadic anyway.  Combine that with the fact that the fourth Doctor doesn't seem to really fit in with UNIT anymore, and it's probably best for the Brigadier to bow out at this point.  Oh, and UNIT too!  They'll be back a couple more times, but this in many ways feels like the last gasp of greatness for UNIT.  But at least they get a good story to go out on.

For many people the Skarasen is held up as a woeful effects shot that lets everything down.  As I mentioned in Outside In, this is nonsense.  It's not the world's most convincing effect, but it's a lot better than other effects from around this time.  I think the Skarasen receives the brunt of these criticisms just because all the other visuals in this story are so good.  The Zygons are incredible, the ship is convincing, and Camfield does a superb job of keeping everything moving.  Closer examination reveals that the script isn't quite as good as the direction initially makes it seem (e.g., Broton's plan is a little confused, there are some shocking lapses of good thinking on behalf of UNIT at various points), but it's Camfield's triumph that this only becomes apparent when you really sit down and think about it.  Terror of the Zygons is a solid tale, and when something like the Skarasen is the worst thing about it you know things are going right.  And if the Loch Ness Monster bothers you that much, you're probably watching the wrong show anyway.

July 23: Planet of Evil Parts One & Two

Hey, that's not London...

The thing that immediately strikes you about Planet of Evil is how impressive that jungle set is.  It's a riot of plants and colors, and it's all lit very moodily -- particularly on film.  But what's perhaps even more impressive is that the character of the jungle is retained when they go to studio scenes shot on video; it still looks like the same set (albeit with more standard lighting).  And so they've taken this really good jungle and decided to make it scary.  So add one lost expedition and the Doctor and Sarah stumbling on the remnants, just as the reinforcements arrive, and you've got a nice old-fashioned tale of suspense.  There's clearly something out there, killing people by sucking all the liquid from them (the disappearing effect is rather meh, but the dehydrated appearance of the bodies is first-rate) -- and unfortunately those reinforcements think the Doctor and Sarah are somehow responsible.

The Morestran spaceship does provide a nice contrast to the jungle set, even if it occasionally looks too much like a quick set that someone's put up in an hour, but the crew themselves disappoint by being rather one-dimensional; they don't trust the Doctor, and that seems to be their only motivation -- even to the exclusion of leaving Zeta Minor as quickly as possible.  I guess once they think they've caught the culprits there's no need to worry -- and the Doctor and Sarah making an escape, only to have one of the Morestran guards attacked by a nifty Forbidden Planet-esque monster, doesn't exactly help their case any.

Part two gives us more of the same but adds into the mix some motivation for what's going on, thanks to the Doctor.  The Morestrans still believe the Doctor's responsible for the deaths (and there seems to be a math error here: Sorenson says there were eight in his expedition, and he appears to be the only survivor; then we see O'Hara killed, which should make eight deaths, but Salamar keeps referring to seven deaths), but the Doctor's worked out that Zeta Minor is a gateway between universes, this one and one he refers to as one of antimatter, and that the antimatter universe isn't going to let the Morestrans take any of their universe away (in the form of mineral samples that Sorenson has collected).  But the Morestrans desperately need energy, so Sorenson doesn't want to relinquish the minerals.  However, their ship is unable to leave the surface, and then the antimatter monster attacks the ship -- which seems to convince the Morestrans that maybe the Doctor isn't responsible.  The Doctor offers to negotiate with the other universe, but when he's at the black pool which seems to be the immediate gateway, the antimatter creature rises up and causes him to overbalance and fall into the pool (with another David Maloney freeze-frame cliffhanger)...

July 24: Planet of Evil Parts Three & Four

It's a bit sad that, after we spent so much time in that awesome jungle for the first two episodes, that most of our time in these last two are spent on the Morestran spaceship.  It just can't compare.  But you can see what Louis Marks (whose last script was Day of the Daleks, you might recall) is doing by heading inside the ship; it's one thing to have something roaming the jungles outside, but it's another to have it in the ship with you.

Part three does a good job of maintaining the suspense, with the Doctor spinning through a black void and communicating with the antimatter creature -- apparently his promise as a Time Lord to return the antimatter was good enough for the creature to accept.  And so the spaceship tries to leave Zeta Minor, Salamar having ordered that the antimatter be taken off the ship -- only it seems that Professor Sorenson has hidden some away, thus preventing the ship from getting too far into space.  That's bad enough, but it seems that Sorenson is being taken over by the antimatter, turning into some sort of animal (this is often compared to Jekyll and Hyde, but it's also a lot like a werewolf).  The glowing eye effect is pretty nifty, but there's a lot of "hands covering face" acting -- presumably to remove whatever has been painted on Frederick Jaeger's eyelids.  Still, it's an effective shot.

But yes, Sorenson has turned into an animal-like creature and started killing people, but Salamar is convinced that the Doctor and Sarah are responsible.  There's a nice moment after the first death in this episode, where Vishinsky consigns Morelli's body into space, while playing the last rites for a Morestran Orthodox.  It shows the level of thought that went into things (even if Vishinsky doesn't seem particularly sympathetic towards Morelli's beliefs: "One of those," he says a bit derisively upon learning his faith, and then when he plays the last rites silently, he remarks, "We may have to play the last rites, but we don't have to listen"), and it's a clever way of establishing the jettison equipment -- so that when Salamar wants to space the Doctor and Sarah, we already know what that entails.  Thus the cliffhanger is even more effective, particularly since we see them both disappear from view...

The antimatter creature watches the TARDIS depart. (Planet
of Evil
Part Four) ©BBC
Part four doesn't quite wrap things up as nicely as one might want.  There's a sense in which things have been nearly sorted out less than halfway through, which is presumably why they introduce a new threat by having a crazy Salamar shoot Sorenson with a "neutron accelerator", which turns him into a whole bunch of antimatter creatures roaming the ship and attacking people.  It only stops when the Doctor finds the real Sorenson, knocks him out, and drags him into the TARDIS so he can take him back to Zeta Minor.  It's noticeable that this is one of those rare instances in which the Doctor seems to have total control over the TARDIS, able to make short hops in space but not time with it -- and to have a dangerous enemy along for the ride is even more striking.  But in any event, the Doctor is able to return the antimatter and the hybridized Sorenson back to Zeta Minor and save the Morestran spaceship.  Pleasingly, the antimatter creature decides to return Sorenson to "our" universe, minus any antimatter contamination -- it's nice to have the misguided "villain" survive the story.  The Doctor thus returns Sorenson, picks up Sarah, and heads off to Earth again.

There are two things going for Planet of Evil: the superb design work on Zeta Minor and its antimatter creature (pinched from Forbidden Planet or not, it's still cool) and the desire from Louis Marks and the rest of the crew to make a straightforward scary story.  These decisions go a long way in papering over any flaws the rest of the story might have (such as making Salamar go mad -- difficult in the best of circumstances, but Prentis Hancock does seem to be a little out of his depth, such that it's almost like a switch is flipped when it's decided, "oh, he's crazy now").  It's not designed to be an allegory or an "event" story; it's just there to tell a tense, scary story, and at this it succeeds marvelously.  A solid, well-done tale.

One lingering question though: what is it about the planet that makes it evil, exactly?

July 25: Pyramids of Mars Parts One & Two

I always forget about the opening "prologue" of this story, with the nice stock footage of Egypt and the discovery by Marcus Scarman of Sutekh's untouched tomb.  I'm not sure why I forget; it's a nice set-up showing that something terrible will be happening for the next four episodes, but in my head the story opens with the TARDIS scene and the Doctor acting inscrutable.

This first episode is all set-up, mainly: there's something wrong at Scarman's house  -- a priory in England, with rooms full of Egyptian artifacts but the professor himself nowhere to be found.  In his place is an Egyptian named Namin who's running things while Scarman is away.  Namin's willing to preserve his secrets at all costs, so there's a chase sequence outdoors with Namin and two mummies (yep, walking mummies -- with huge chests) trying to find the Doctor, Sarah, and a wounded gentleman named Dr. Warlock, who was shot by Namin but only injured, thanks to the Doctor's intervention.  It's a nice chase (even if we have Egyptian mummies hunting people down in the English countryside), and it eventually culminates with our heroes escaping (for now) and taking refuge at the house of Scarman's brother, Laurence.  There's some stuff there with a crude radio telescope and a signal from Mars that apparently translates as "Beware Sutekh" -- although why this signal is apparently being broadcast in English is never explained.  The Doctor is now worried ("If I'm right, the world is facing the greatest peril in its history") and they head back to the priory to see Namin summon Sutekh's servant from inside a rather nice special effect in a sarcophagus, who coolly but quite brutally kills Namin, telling him that Sutekh only needs one servant.  The servant then very calmly declares that he brings "Sutekh's gift of death to all humanity."  It's a creepy cliffhanger.

There's a lot more of this coldness and callousness on display in part two.  Sutekh's servant turns into Marcus Scarman, only Scarman looks like a walking corpse (so kudos to the makeup department on that one).   Dr. Warlock is strangled to death by a mummy in Laurence's house, and a poacher who happened to be on the grounds when the mummies set up a forcefield around the place is crushed to death between two mummies in a literal death hug -- though not before the poacher tried to shoot down Scarman, only to see Scarman expel the bullets and suck the smoke into his chest, unharmed (well, I think that's what's happening; it's a really neat use of reversing the footage, but it's not quite clear what's supposed to happen beyond "bullets can't harm him").  But the most striking version of this comes from the Doctor himself, as he shows Sarah the consequences of not stopping Sutekh in 1911:
DOCTOR: 1980, Sarah, if you want to get off.
SARAH: It's a trick!
DOCTOR: No.  That's the world as Sutekh would leave it.  A desolate planet circling a dead sun.
SARAH: It can't be!  I'm from 1980.91
DOCTOR: Every point in time has its alternative, Sarah.  You've looked into alternative time.
LAURENCE: Fascinating.  Do you mean the future can be chosen, Doctor?
DOCTOR: Not chosen, shaped.  The actions of the present fashion the future.
LAURENCE: So a man can change the course of history?
DOCTOR: To a small extent.  It takes a being of Sutekh's almost limitless power to destroy the future.
The manner in which the Doctor matter-of-factly shows the result of their inaction is quite callous, but it's also very effective (and looks a lot like it's been inserted to forestall viewer questions about how Sutekh could destroy the world in the past).

Laurence is meanwhile having trouble accepting that his brother is dead and that the Marcus we see is just a walking corpse, so when the Doctor tries to set up a jamming device to break Sutekh's control over Scarman, Laurence tries to stop him -- just as two mummies burst in to kill them, leaving us with the rather disturbing image of one of them grabbing Sarah's throat as the cliffhanger...

July 26: Pyramids of Mars Parts Three & Four

Part three keeps the momentum going, as the Doctor formulates a plan (thanks to Laurence) to blow up the missile that the mummies are building in order to destroy the apparatus on Mars that keeps Sutekh a prisoner.  There's an entertaining scene with Sarah and the Doctor inside the poacher's shed looking for explosives, where Sarah tosses a box of gelignite to the Doctor, much to his alarm: "Sweaty gelignite is highly unstable," he says quietly.  "One good sneeze could set it off."  They can't find any detonators though: "Perhaps he sneezed [to set it off]," Sarah says facetiously -- a comment which the Doctor is very clearly (and wonderfully) not amused by.

Sutekh, last of the Osirans. (Pyramids of Mars Part Three) ©BBC
While they're gone, Laurence receives a visit from Marcus and unsuccessfully tries to break Sutekh's hold on him, resulting in Marcus strangling Laurence.  This leads to probably the most callous Doctor moment ever: after he finds Laurence is dead (casually pushing the body aside when he's done examining it), the Doctor gets on with his work, prompting a rebuke from Sarah: "A man has just been murdered!"  "Four men, Sarah," the Doctor responds evenly, putting things in perspective.  "Five, if you include Professor Scarman himself, and they're merely the first of millions unless Sutekh is stopped."  It's a nice way of making the Doctor seem not quite human while still on the side of "good". 

The stuff with the Doctor dressed as a mummy (and yes, that's really Tom Baker underneath -- director Paddy Russell insisted on it, much to his displeasure) and Sarah turning out to be a crack shot with a rifle is also quite entertaining, and the fact that Sutekh is containing the force of the explosion with pure mental energy is quite impressive -- and requires the Doctor to head down the sarcophagus space-time tunnel to Sutekh's tomb (prison?) in order to distract him so that he releases his mental grip on the explosion.  Sutekh is not happy with the Doctor...

The opening of part four is fantastic.  Sutekh's power over the Doctor, even while he's still confined to his chair, is impressive, and Tom Baker really sells the Doctor's horror and fear over being controlled by Sutekh.  It's also quite worrying, how Sutekh is able to take full control of the Doctor and have him take Marcus and a mummy to the pyramid on Mars that controls Sutekh's imprisonment.

Sadly, it does sag a little in the middle, as they remake part of Death to the Daleks here, with mental puzzles and such needing to be solved in order to get further inside the pyramid.  In the fine tradition of Terrance Dicks, Sarah even mentions how it reminds her of the "city of the Exxilons" -- but that doesn't solve the basic problem of repetitiveness.  Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen do manage to keep things entertaining (such as with their entrance and immediate exit into the room Marcus is currently in, or with the Doctor writing "RELAX" in the dust of the cylinder Sarah is trapped in and Sarah sarcastically indicating her understanding), but it's not quite as wonderful as the first part.  But then Sutekh is actually freed and heads out to wreak his vengeance on the universe -- but thanks to some technical jiggery-pokery by the Doctor, he ends up trapped in a "corridor of eternity" and thus cannot leave before he dies.  The universe is saved, and the Doctor and Sarah leave as an explosion from the sarcophagus starts a large fire in the priory...

It's not hard to see why Pyramids of Mars has a reputation for being one of the standout Tom Baker stories (and indeed one of the standouts of the entire series).  There's a real effort here to make this as tense and serious as possible -- there's very little in the way of humor to relieve things, and much of the humor we do get is rather black (such as the aforementioned bit with the gelignite).  Tom Baker is at the top of his game here, acting alien and intense without going too far or (most crucially) turning into a caricature, and Lis Sladen is more than up to the task of keeping up with him.  Add into that an outstanding performance from Gabriel Woolf as Sutekh (never has evil sounded so calm and cultured as here) and a creepy turn from Bernard Archard as the possessed Marcus Scarman, and the result is a cast taking an already solid script and elevating it to something special.  It's not perfect, but it's a lot closer than most other stories ever get.

July 27: The Android Invasion Parts One & Two

It's actually rather clever, calling this The Android Invasion.  By announcing the main concern prominently in the title, the viewer is distracted from realizing that the invasion hasn't actually happened yet.  So when the Doctor and Sarah arrive on Earth and find masked figures shooting at them and UNIT soldiers walking jerkily over cliffs, we already know that the problem has something to do with androids, and we (sort of) assume that all the other anomalies (the brand-new money, the deserted village) are related.

This does come at a price though; because we already know that there are android problems in the town of Devesham, there is a bit of a sense of "get on with it" as we wait for the Doctor and Sarah to catch up.  Director Barry Letts doesn't help with this either, as he has a number of relaxed moments (such as watching all the villagers get off that truck and slowly take their places in the pub and wait for the clock to chime) that add to this almost casual feeling.  Even the cliffhanger to part one, as an alien secretly observes Sarah rescuing the Doctor from a cell inside the Space Defence Centre, feels oddly loose and not the shocking/impressive moment it should be.

Still, they do a nice job of maintaining the mystery, even as in part two things become more and more odd -- such as the day calendar that only reads 6th July.  Part of the fun here is Milton Johns's portrayal of astronaut Guy Crayford, who's pitched at just the right level of control mixed with borderline hysteria.  His scenes with the alien scientist Styggron are quite entertaining, particularly as Styggron has no interest in Crayford's feelings whatsoever.  Plus, by including Crayford in the proceedings and adding his backstory (as told by Sarah) of a deep space astronaut who disappeared and was pronounced dead, they're able to keep the Earth pretense up.  Having Benton and Harry Sullivan also walking around helps, even if they're not in these two episodes much and they're behaving strangely (because androids) when they are around.

But by the end of part two we've started to work things out, and thankfully the Doctor has as well: for whatever reason, this is just a very accurate facsimile of Earth.  However, by this point the focus has shifted; Sarah has clearly been replaced by an android (with lots of clues for the viewers -- the Doctor mentions her scarf, but there's also the ginger pop stuff and the lack of a sprained ankle as sustained earlier in the episode), and in what's the most interesting cliffhanger of the story (and directed with some urgency, thankfully), "Sarah" is knocked back and her face falls off, revealing the android circuits inside...

July 28: The Android Invasion Parts Three & Four

This third episode feels very transitional, as if writer Terry Nation wants to get to the actual invasion on Earth but knows he needs to wrap things up on Oseidon, home planet of the Kraals.  What this means is that the Doctor is put in great jeopardy at roughly the halfway point ("Resistance is inadvisable," Styggron tells the Doctor when he captures him), tied to an obelisk in the center of the fake village with a matter dissolver bomb at his feet, but then there's still 10 minutes of action left for what would have otherwise been a natural cliffhanger.  You'd think this would make things more exciting, but what it actually amounts to is the Doctor and Sarah locked up for a bit and then getting free (Sarah by tricking and destroying an android guard, the Doctor by being rescued by Sarah from Styggron's brain drain machine -- "I feel disoriented," the Doctor says after Sarah rescues him.  "This is the disorientation centre," Sarah replies.  "That makes sense," says the Doctor) before being knocked out by some intense g-forces as the rocket they're inside lifts off.

Styggron meets with Marshal Chedaki. (The Android Invasion
Part Three) ©BBC
Still, we do get some villainous plans and character motivations outlined in this episode, which is always welcome.  Styggron wants to wipe out humanity with a virus in a disguised Vaseline jar, paving the way for the Kraals to leave their doomed planet and start afresh -- standard villainy, then.  Guy Crayford is a little more complicated; he believes that he was abandoned by humanity while out in space and was rescued and healed by the Kraals, who were able to restore everything except his eye.  That doesn't completely explain why Crayford's so willing to help the Kraals, but to be fair, he thinks they're just going to take over half the planet and not actually kill anyone.  Nevertheless, it's not the strongest motivation ever.

Part four is probably the most interesting of the lot, since they actually get to the invasion attempt, which means we get a chance for some doubles shenanigans as well as a chance for characters to not act like robots.  It's nice to see Benton and Harry for real again, even if they're both woefully underused -- but even this limited screen time has some good moments, such as when Colonel Faraday (the Brigadier replacement for this story, as Nicholas Courtney was unavailable) mentions that Crayford has been further into space than any other human being, and Harry and Benton both exchange a knowing look.  There's also a bit of fun with both the Doctor and his android duplicate wandering around the Space Centre, both convincing the other androids that they're the android version.  It's more fun, but it feels like they could have done a lot more with this part of the premise -- possibly played up the uncertainty as to who was an android and who was human more.  What we get is entertaining but limited in its ambitions.

And unfortunately, this story rather hinges on the single most stupid moment in all of Doctor Who, where Crayford learns that the Kraals have duped him -- the proof being that Crayford still has his eye underneath that eyepatch.  How in any universe did Crayford not know this?  He never looked to see what the missing eye looked like?  Not once?  He just trusted on blind faith that oh, by the way, you only have one eye now?  But no, this is a revelation to him -- had he ever checked, it's doubtful he ever would have helped the Kraals with their plan, but he didn't and all he gets for this betrayal is being killed by Styggron.  But it's okay; the Doctor reprograms his android to attack Styggron (er, even though he sent out a signal that jammed all the android circuits; still, this is just about acceptable, I guess), thereby knocking him on the deadly virus container which shatters, killing Styggron (rather nastily, it must be said).  The invasion has been stopped.

It's not the worst story ever, and there are a number of welcome moments of levity and wit in a season that has been significantly more serious as of late, but ultimately The Android Invasion feels more like something Terry Nation did to earn a paycheck than anything else.  There's no sense of exploring a theme or reworking a classic story in Doctor Who terms (something the show under Hinchcliffe has started increasingly doing), and while Barry Letts' direction isn't bad, it is a little loose, and the whole thing sags as a result.  But other than the gobsmackingly stupid idea of Crayford and his eye, there's nothing really terrible here -- but there's nothing very striking or memorable either.

July 29: The Brain of Morbius Parts One & Two

We're back to form with this story, as "Robin Bland" (in reality a pseudonym for Terrance Dicks, heavily rewritten by Robert Holmes92) gives us a space version of Frankenstein -- and then, not content with that, throws in a Sargasso Sea of crashed spaceships and a mystical group of female seers as well.  The result is that, even while the material is treated rather seriously (though not as seriously as, say, Pyramids of Mars), there's a light touch underneath constantly keeping things moving.

It helps that Philip Madoc is so delightfully ambitious as Doctor Mehendri Solon, the would-be Dr. Frankenstein of this story.  He's apparently a brilliant neurosurgeon, but what makes things so entertaining is his fixation on things like the Doctor's head.  There's a purpose behind it, of course -- he wants the Doctor's head to complete the pieced-together body he's built -- but the way Madoc plays it suggests that he would be interested in some head-stealing even if he wasn't trying to give his master Morbius a body again.  Solon also gets all the best lines, such as calling his assistant Condo a "chicken-brained biological disaster."  But Colin Fay as Condo is also doing a fabulous job, playing Condo as entertainingly dim but not going too far with it.  As a result he's quite a sympathetic character, even if he's on the side of the villain and keeps doing villainous things.

The Sisterhood of Karn, on the other hand, isn't quite as well realized -- the sense of mysticism surrounding their actions and abilities is a good move, but there's still a sense that these are something of a backwards people, despite their relationship with the Time Lords.  It doesn't help that they're one of these groups who've decided ahead of time that the Doctor must be guilty of whatever plot they're concerned about and thus don't give him a chance to explain himself.  Still, they have the power to mentally transport both the TARDIS and the Doctor to their shrine, and to make Sarah go blind, so they're clearly not a group to trifle with.  How you feel about their elaborate dances and movements is probably a matter of taste (I personally can't quite decide if they're very silly or wonderful).

But where these two episodes excel (for a more dedicated fan like me, at least) is in their development of the mythos of the Time Lords.  Most of it is (shrewdly) kept vague, with talk of alliances with Time Lords and special healing elixirs and (most excitingly) a Time Lord criminal named Morbius who met his end on Karn.  Obviously the Morbius bit is the main thrust of the story, but the circumstances behind his initial downfall are kept pleasingly indistinct -- it's enough to know that he was a villainous Time Lord who met his end on this planet.  It's also a nice twist in the cliffhanger to part two, with a blinded Sarah stumbling down into Solon's lab after hearing Morbius calling, and the audience learns that Morbius, this famous, deadly enemy of both the Time Lords and the Sisterhood, is now literally just a brain in a jar.  Good stuff.

July 30: The Brain of Morbius Parts Three & Four

Morbius may just be a brain in a jar, but he still gets one of the best villain rants ever: "Solon, I think of nothing else [than gaining a body again]!  Trapped like this, like a sponge beneath the sea.  Yet even a sponge has more life than I.  Can you understand a thousandth of my agony?  I, Morbius, who once led the High Council of the Time Lords and dreamed the greatest dreams in history, now reduced to this, to a condition where I envy a vegetable."

In fact, it's Solon's reassurances that Morbius will have a body again that leads to Morbius's panicking, as he learns that the Doctor is a Time Lord.  "That is why his head is so perfect.  From one of your own race, from one of those who turned up on you and tried to destroy you, you get a new head for Morbius.  The crowning irony," Solon tells him.  "Fool!" Morbius cries, alarmed at the thought that the Time Lords have found him.  "I'm sorry, the pun was irresistible," Solon says, misunderstanding Morbius.  But yes, this is the moment in which Morbius decides to stick his head in a plastic fishbowl, never mind the consequences -- he has to be able to escape from the Time Lords and the Sisterhood, who he thinks are working together.

Yet the Doctor's not exactly getting along with the Sisterhood.  He's doing better than the last time he was there, but even after solving the problem of their dying Sacred Flame (thanks to a firecracker knocking some soot loose) they're not willing to give him the benefit of the doubt: "And so now, Doctor, you expect us to show gratitude?" Maren asks disdainfully.  Next thing we see of the Doctor, he's lying on a stretcher, about to be taken back to Solon.  (Actually, it's never made clear if the Sisterhood is really returning the Doctor to Solon or if it's just a ruse to get the Doctor back inside Solon's place.)

Intriguingly, they also spend the entire episode with Sarah still blind -- which leads to lots of nice blind acting from Elisabeth Sladen, as she's forced to assist Solon in his operation -- since Condo became angry when he saw that Morbius had his arm and fought with Solon, inadvertently knocking Morbius's brain onto the floor in the process.  She does finally regain her eyesight though -- just in time for the completed Morbius creature to menace her...

Morbius and the Doctor engaged in a mindbending contest.
(The Brain of Morbius Part Four) ©BBC
Part four has a couple odd moments, it must be said.  The strangest part is after an already questionable moment where the Doctor orders Solon to kill Morbius and then wanders off after Sarah, apparently just trusting that Solon will obey; but stranger is the decision, after Solon traps them downstairs, for the Doctor to make cyanogen and send it up the ventilation shaft.  Does he hope Solon will investigate?  Because what actually happens is that the gas kills Solon instead (all right, maaaaaaybe it only knocks him out, but we never hear from him again) -- it's only because Morbius now has "the lungs of a birastrop" and is thus immune to cyanide gas that the Doctor and Sarah are freed.  This leads to a mindbending contest between Morbius and the Doctor93, the result of which leaves Morbius crazed and the Doctor on the verge of death.  But Morbius pitches over a cliff to his death, and the Doctor is restored thanks to some of the Sisterhood's Elixir.  The galaxy is safe from Morbius and the Doctor and Sarah depart (albeit with a rather odd-looking and -sounding dematerialization effect -- what was director Christopher Barry going for here?).

It's got some strange moments, sure, but The Brain of Morbius continues the recent trend of brimming with such confidence that any flaws are simply brushed aside.  This self-assured approach (never once does this story seem uncertain about where it's going or why things are happening) makes this a tremendous success -- highly entertaining in almost every regard, with everyone involved on the top of the game.  The mystic nature of the Sisterhood is also a nice touch -- and provides a good contrast to both Solon's "mad scientist" scheme and the Doctor's rational approach.  A superb tale.

July 31: The Seeds of Doom Parts One & Two

It starts with some really poor superimposed blowing "snow" over stock footage before settling down into a tale of horror in the Antarctic (which is apparently having record precipitation, given the amount of blowing snow we see).  And it's clear from the outset -- at least for these two episodes -- that this is intended to be closer to the horrific end of the SF spectrum.  Yes, six years before John Carpenter did it, Doctor Who sets out to do its own version of The Thing from Another World.

The first episode is mainly set-up for the terror that will later be unleashed, with the discovery of the seed pod in the permafrost, the Doctor and Sarah making their way to Antarctica, the pod's germination and infection of Winlett... all pieces that are being put into play.  The  cliffhanger to part one is the discovery that the plant-infected thing that was once Winlett is now moving around and killing people -- everything before that is just ratcheting up the tension.  And part of the reason this episode is so successful at raising that tension is because of how seriously the Doctor is treating things.  He clearly has his suspicions about this seed pod, and seeing what's left of it and the effects on Winlett only confirm his fears: this is an alien plant that will destroy everything.  "On planets where the Krynoid gets established," the Doctor tells Sarah, "the vegetation eats the animals."

Once part two starts, the horror part kicks in, as the Krynoid is wandering around looking for food.  Yet that's not the main concern for the main characters -- no, that's the arrival of two men determined to find the strange pod for a plant collector named Harrison Chase (who found out about the pod last episode via the same person who informed the Doctor), and who are willing to kill everyone else to cover their tracks.  So while the Krynoid roams free, the Doctor and Sarah are tied up in the living quarters of the base and held at gunpoint.  One of Chase's men, Keeler, is uneasy with the violence, but the other, Scorby, has no such compunctions; when he learns that they found a second seed pod (which the Doctor went out of his way to find for some reason), Scorby takes it and decides to wire a bomb to the base's power plant -- tying Sarah up next to the bomb for added measure.

Despite the ever-present threat of the Krynoid, it doesn't actually make a direct attack on anyone until the end, when it kills Stevenson in the main camp and then moves to attack the Doctor and Sarah inside the power plant.  They manage to lock it inside and then run away as the clock on Scorby's bomb reaches zero, and the episode ends with a tremendous explosion as the power plant is ripped apart...

August 1: The Seeds of Doom Part Three & Four

Parts one and two of this story could have been their own story; other than a brief sequence showing that the Doctor and Sarah survived (in which it's very clear that a sandy quarry covered with polystyrene doesn't make a good substitute for snow-covered plains), the action is entirely based in England.  Of course, everything that happens in England is a direct result of the events in Antarctica, so it's not like they're unconnected stories or anything.

Part three is obviously transitional -- the second pod hasn't hatched yet and the Doctor and Sarah don't even know where it's been taken.  It's only by luck (incompetence?  It's Chase's chauffeur that botches the murder attempt) that they learn that Chase has the pod, thanks to a roundabout manner via a painting in the boot of a car painted by Amelia Ducat, who's played by the marvelous Sylvia Coleridge.  She's a wonder every time she's on the screen, puttering away and being delightful all the time -- even when she's acting as an undercover agent for the World Ecology Bureau in part four.

The other notable thing about this episode is how violent it is, as the Doctor goes around thumping and tackling people.  Admittedly, a lot of it isn't really any different from Jon Pertwee shouting "hai!" and throwing people over his shoulder, but there are a couple unsettling moments -- such as when the Doctor grabs Scorby's head and twists it, almost as if he's going to break his neck.  That one looked like a moment too far (one can only imagine what would happen if children tried to imitate it).

There are other entertaining moments, though, such as when Chase gives the Doctor and Sarah a guided tour of his mansion, which culminates in a large conservatory, where Chase plays hideous electronic music for his plants.  "You know, Doctor, I could play all day in my green cathedral," Chase says campily.  But soon the show is over, and there are some standard escapes and recaptures -- one of which involves Sarah being readied to be the victim of the soon-to-germinate Krynoid pod...

Sarah discovers the infected Keeler. (The Seeds of Doom
Part Four) ©BBC
Part four opens with a great moment, as the Doctor (who's been watching from the skylight above) jumps through the glass, knocks out Scorby and takes his gun, and then holds Chase at gunpoint.  "What do you do for an encore, Doctor?" Chase asks drily.  "I win," the Doctor replies, pulling Sarah away.  It's admittedly a rather atypical scene for Doctor Who's leading man, but they pull it off.  And good thing, too, as immediately after this the pod germinates and infects Keeler.  Chase is fascinated by this and has Keeler taken to a nearby cottage rather than to a doctor -- Chase wants to see what happens.

Most of this episode consists of more running about.  The Doctor manages to get captured and is tied up in the basement, ready to be thrown into a really nasty-looking composter, but Sarah is still free at least.  But this episode also has the ticking time bomb of Keeler's transformation, as we see him become more and more covered with plant material as the Krynoid takes over his body.  There's a tense moment where Sarah comes across him and he pleads to be set free, promising that he won't hurt her -- but it looks fairly obvious that he's lying as the Krynoid instincts take hold.

Then at the end of the episode, while Sarah is freeing the Doctor from the composter (and just in the nick of time, too), Keeler breaks free from his bonds and begins to roam the grounds (and it's probably worth noting that the human-looking Krynoid costume is an old Axon costume painted green -- you can sometimes see a bit of red peeking through).  What's more, by the time the Doctor and Sarah find him, he's lost all trace of humanity, and the Krynoid is now a large, deadly plant intent on devouring our heroes...

August 2: The Seeds of Doom Parts Five & Six

It took a little while, but we've finally got a huge man-eating plant menacing everyone.  And it grows pretty quickly too; it was only last episode that Keeler was still tied to a bed, and now it moves from eight feet tall to something like twenty in the space of ten minutes of screen time, as the Doctor and Sarah are trapped inside the cottage with Scorby and two guards.  It's a pretty tense scene, particularly with the fourth Doctor as close to losing it as he ever gets.  "Scorby, if I die, you die," the Doctor hisses, after the Krynoid offers to let the others go in exchange for the Doctor's life.  "I'll take a chance on that," Scorby replies.  "There is no chance!" the Doctor yells, and you get a hint of the desperation the Doctor feels, not just to save himself and others, but to get through to Scorby that the Doctor is the only way to stop the Krynoid.  But it's only when the Doctor comes up with an alternate plan (that involves, somewhat infamously, Scorby making a Molotov cocktail) that he convinces Scorby that his way is best.

Then, as to be expected, there's a bunch of running around -- although, somewhat surprisingly, the Doctor actually leaves the grounds of Chase's mansion to personally get Sir Colin Thackery and UNIT (in their final story of the 70s -- not that anyone you'd recognize shows up) to come down and take care of the Krynoid.  But while he's gone, we get a very creepy scene with Chase inside his conservatory.  Chase has earlier tried to convince the Krynoid that he's on its side, and we now see him meditating with his plants.  When Scorby and Sarah try to talk to him, it becomes clear that he's gone insane (or possibly, as the Doctor later suggests, he's being controlled by the Krynoid). "The time has come," Chase says.  "Animals have ruled this planet for millions of years.  Now it is our turn."  "What do you mean, your turn?" Scorby says.  "You're one of us, Chase."  But Sarah realizes the truth: "He's not.  At least, not in his mind.  You hate us, don't you? ... You want to see us all die."  It's a chilling moment, beautifully underplayed by Tony Beckley as Chase.

The Krynoid above Chase's mansion. (The Seeds of Doom
Part Six) ©BBC
The cliffhanger's a bit lame (the Doctor (who comes back) and company are trapped outside the mansion while the Krynoid looms over the house), but part six does a great job of selling the danger that the Krynoid poses: "By my reckoning you've got about fifteen minutes before the Krynoid reaches the point of primary germination... The Krynoid is about to eject hundreds of embryo pods.  The whole planet will be doomed," the Doctor tells UNIT's Major Beresford (this story's Lethbridge-Stewart replacement).  And meanwhile the Krynoid is causing all the surrounding vegetation to also become dangerous and attack humanity -- it's not quite clear how, but it's still very effective, as it smashes windows and grabs people as they try to run through the grounds.  Scorby in particular has a memorable death, as he loses his nerve, runs through the grounds and is pulled under the waters of a pond by the ivy that lurks beneath.

Chase isn't quite done yet, as he kills a UNIT soldier with the composter and then plans the same fate for Sarah -- it's only the Doctor's last minute intervention that saves her.  The composter also proves to be Chase's undoing, as he physically wrestles the Doctor inside the scoop part (for lack of a better term) but then is caught up by the grinders, screaming horrifically as he goes (although the subsequent shot of the moving grinder is surprisingly clean).  "I tried to save him," the Doctor says with anguish.  Then there's just enough time to get out of the place before UNIT(?) jets blow the whole place up with bombs, killing the Krynoid.  The planet is safe, and the Doctor and Sarah head off for a well-deserved holiday -- only they end up in Antarctica because the Doctor forgot to cancel the coordinate programme in the TARDIS (suggesting he may have been planning to take the TARDIS to Antarctica before deciding to go by helicopter instead -- or you can treat it as a goof like everyone else does).

It fits squarely in this season's theme of going for a more scary approach (what's usually called "Gothic horror"), but the execution of The Seeds of Doom is, as has been observed before, rather atypical.  The Doctor is certainly more hands-on in this story than in others, more willing to be aggressive and violent.  But we also see a more desperate side of the Doctor -- especially in the later episodes -- that give this story an added impetus.  Douglas Camfield does another fantastic job in his final directorial assignment for Doctor Who (and, pleasingly, he's learned from Terror of the Zygons, which featured another giant monster on location, by shooting all the outdoor scenes on video so that the CSO monster effects are significantly more effective), adding a real sense of menace and (sorry) doom to the proceedings.  The slightly unusual approach this story takes means it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but it's very effective at what it sets out to do.

It's also the final story of season 13, a season which has set out to be much more terrifying than any season prior.  It's not the somewhat bleak and heartless style of season 3 or the straight-up scary monster approach of season 5, but instead an effort to create a more visceral feeling for the show.  Hinchcliffe and Holmes clearly want to make this show much more intense and adult than it's been before, and they do this partly by falling back on older tales that they know are effective and giving them a new spin, and partly by juxtaposing different scary elements to see what happens.  Whether by accident or design, it's an undeniably effective approach, and it's notable that the only story this season not to really follow this pattern (The Android Invasion, which feels like it would have been perfectly at home during Barry Letts's tenure) sticks out like a sore thumb.  Obviously it's an arguable point, but this is just about the scariest Doctor Who would ever get, consistently turning out purposefully terrifying stories.  It won't last for long, as the show moves on to a harder, more SF approach next season, before undergoing a radical shift in season 15, but that makes this season special -- an effort to really push the boundaries of the show.


91 And yes, this is the story where Sarah Jane Smith repeatedly states that she's from 1980.  This isn't really the place to get into the whole UNIT dating argument, other than to observe that this is one of the few pieces of on-screen evidence to not gel with an early-70s setting for the Pertwee UNIT stories and so is probably the bit brought up most often for the late-70s theory.
92 The story goes that Dicks, unhappy with the rewrites, requested that his name be taken off and replaced with "some bland pseudonym".  When he saw the name Robert Holmes had chosen, all was, it seems, forgiven.
93 All right, let's talk about the Morbius Doctors.  During the mind duel, we see various former faces of Morbius and the Doctor: in order, braincase Morbius, the Morbius face that Solon has a bust of, then Tom Baker, Jon Pertwee, Patrick Troughton, and William Hartnell.  There's a cut away to Sarah (so possibly they started showing Morbius faces again when we weren't looking), then back to eight unfamiliar faces as Morbius crows, "Your puny mind is powerless against the strength of Morbius!  Back!  Back to your beginning!"  So the clear intention is that these are pre-Hartnell Doctors (and producer Philip Hinchcliffe has confirmed that that was what they were going for).
     Obviously this causes all sorts of continuity problems with other stories, so fandom has bent over backwards trying to explain what these faces are, with theories ranging from "They're Morbius" (which doesn't really at all fit with what's actually going on) to "The Doctor's faking it" (well, ok then -- boring but plausible) to the very 90s theory of "They're the faces of the Other, the Gallifreyan who was there with Rassilon and was reincarnated much later as the Doctor" (that's putting it very roughly -- see the New Adventure books for more if you're really curious (or you can follow this link, but I'm not sure it helps)).  Nowadays, in the post-50th-anniversary world where we know of other incarnations who "don't count" as the Doctor, we could also speculate that these are incarnations from before he called himself "Doctor", a title which seems to coincide with a new regenerative cycle -- but that opens up a lot more cans of worms.  It might be simpler to just go with the "faking it" theory.