Saturday, 10 August 2013

The Android Invasion

The Doctor is tied to a
‘The Android Invasion’ stands with ‘The Keys of Marinus’ as one of only two non-Dalek stories written by Terry Nation. A good thing too, the man was full of ideas and the Daleks, by now, had really gotten old and needed a break. Instead Nation delivers a scripts about a plot to take over the Earth by stealth, replacing people slowly by androids, and then infecting the population with a virus.
Well. That’s Nation all over, isn’t it? His first episode sees the Doctor and Sarah seemingly arrive back on Earth, but is that where they are? They explore for much of the episode, peeling the apple if you like to slowly discover that they cannot possibly be on Earth. Devisham is the town, a lovely little village near a space centre.
UNIT are bizarrely in control of the space centre, but as Nicholas Courtney was not available no Brig. But Harry (Ian Marter) and Benton (John Levene) do appear for their final appearances, firstly as dopple-ganging androids, then in episode four on the real Earth as themselves. And androids too. Sadly they are given very little to do, and this would be their last appearance in the show. Not a great way for them to go out, today Philip Hinchcliffe regrets that but he didn’t realise this would be the last story involving UNIT (although UNIT does appear in ‘The Seeds of Doom’, no regulars appear in that story at all).
Anyways, the first episode is perhaps the best. Nation’s penchant for eerie atmosphere is at the fore here. Not so long after this story I think he would create ‘Survivors’, a wonderful TV series involved a plague that wipes out nearly the entire Earth population (there it is again) where just about every episode was very very eerie indeed!
Stygron and the Doctor
As a story it’s ok. Some nice moments. Hinchcliffe on the DVD bemoans the Kraals, with their big masks and fumbling wide fingers. He postulates they should have been more nimble to create the technology of an advanced society. Maybe he is right but I didn’t mind them, I thought the masks were pretty good all considered. They did lend themselves to being portrayed by the actor inside as grumpy old men though. And we only saw two of them.
It was competently directed by former producer Barry Letts, although it’s not very pacey at any point and the final episode, mostly thanks to the script, again fails to really cap off the build up, as in ‘Pyramids of Mars’ and indeed many Doctor Who stories. Terrance Dicks always said that episode three was the hardest episode to write, but I think for sure it’s episode four because you have to tie it all together nicely and give the viewers a big, satisfying ending. Not easy to do!
Milton Johns as Guy Crayford.
The cast was fine.... Milton Johns as Guy Crayford, the astronaut captured by the Kraals who was fooled into thinking that he only had one eye, when under his eye patch he apparently NEVER took off even to shower was a second perfectly good one. He plays the gullibility perfectly but perhaps the character was written as too gullible to be possibly believable.
Tom Baker and Liz Sladen are great as usual, and carry a LOT of the story, with very few big characters over the four episodes. Mainly it’s just the Doctor, Sarah, Crayford and Martin Friend as Styggron, the Kraal scientist behind the whole crazy scheme. Harry, Benton, Chadaki (another Kraal, one of only two to speak) and Colonel Farady in episode four only formed the support but had very little to do. Tom battled through a sickness he caught when he decided to do a stunt requiring him to be submerged in a big pond, making his lines husky but still doing a great job. A solid if unremarkable story.


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