Doctor Who: Terror Of The Zygons REVIEW

Doctor Who: Terror Of The Zygons DVD review.

Doctor Who "Terror Of The Zygons"

“I specifically asked for a fez!”, Tom sulkily grumbled.


Release Date: 30 September 2013
1975 | PG | 96 minutes | £19.99 (DVD)
Distributor: BBC Worldwide
Director: Douglas Camfield
Cast: Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Nicholas Courtney, John Levene, John Woodnutt

This Fourth Doctor tale was an important transition point for the series, marking the last time that the ‘70s “UNIT family” had a significant role; Nicholas Courtney’s Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart would return for one-off appearances, but not for another eight years.

The story’s set in Scotland, and boy, do they let us know it – the deluge of references to Haggis, kilts, caber tossing, Rabbie Burns and bagpipes borders on racial stereotyping. About the only thing missing are the comedy ginger wigs. The Doctor’s there to help UNIT investigate the mysterious destruction of several oil rigs, which turn out to have been chewed up by the Loch Ness Monster.

The story has taken a lot of stick for the rubbishness of this bog-eyed stopmotion effect, but that’s churlish considering that it gets so much right, including first-class direction, pitch-perfect performances and a hauntingly eerie, folky score.

Then there’s the monster’s masters, the Zygons, who are set to make their return in the 50th anniversary special. Their half-foetal, half-octopoid design, the colour of livid sores (the work of costume designer James Acheson, who went on to win three Oscars) is one of the series’ best; the interior of their “organic spaceship”, which looks like the result of a microwave lasagne explosion, looks magnificent (though the way they fondle the controls looks faintly obscene); and their ability to copy human “body prints” is full of dramatic possibilities. It is, frankly, an utter disgrace that it’s taken 38 years for them get a second crack of the whip.

The only thing we can deduct marks for is the battiness of their scheme, once it’s finally unveiled. If you wanted a show of strength for your fearsome cyborg, why would you arrange an attack on an energy conference rather than, say, the Houses Of Parliament or a nuclear power station? Maybe they’d just received a particularly painful gas bill.

Extras:


The key bonus is an optional “director’s cut” of the opening episode, which reintegrates a scene of the TARDIS arriving (dropped because of problems with the light changing, and now lovingly restored); lasting 1.37, this is a lovely little treat.

The commentary track has a rotating cast featuring producer Philip Hinchcliffe, production unit manager George Gallacio, writer Robert Banks Stewart, make-up designer Sylvia James and special sounds man Dick Mills.

Making Of “Scotch Mist In Sussex” (31 minutes) covers all the bases very well; but the highlights of both this and a third and final segment of “The UNIT Family” (26 minutes) are the colourful quotes from John Levene (UNIT grunt Benton) and Tom Baker, with the latter describing Benton as “a bone-headed dolt straight out of The Phil Silvers Show” (!) and Levene confessing he was “like an ant on an elephant’s leg” in relation to the star.

Nine-time Who director Douglas Camfield is paid tribute to in a moving half-hour doc which includes contributions from his son and scores of family photographs, while 1977 documentary The Fuel Fishers (an edition of schools programme Merry-Go-Round) sees Elisabeth Sladen donning her yellow mac to visit an oil rig (20 minutes).

The package is completed by a three-minute local news interview conducted with Baker during location filming, interviews with Baker (23 minutes) and Lis Sladen (20 minutes) shot for 2003 doc The Story Of Doctor Who, and an isolated score option, as well as the usual text commentary, gallery and Radio Times PDFs.

Lis Sladen visits an oil rig.

Tom Baker is interviewed by South Today.

Ian Berriman twitter.com/ianberriman

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