Terror of the Zygons (1975)

Terror of the Zygons kicks of the second season for Tom Baker as the Doctor. It marks the final appearance of UNIT until 1989 and it also marks the end of Harry Sullivan’s appearance. At the end of the previous story ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’ the Doctor had been summoned by the Brigadier so there is a nice (if longated) link between the story and for reasons only known to the production crew the story is set in Scotland where a load of oil rigs are being sunk by forces unknown. We meet a few locals who are immediately suspicious and alarm bells ringing. The terror of this story is set by the Zygons who are attempting to take over the Earth.

The first cliffhanger is brilliant because it’s the first chance we get to see the Zygon in full. Before then there had been glimpses but not substancial but that is how a monster should be introduced. The look of the Zygon is very impressive. When you look at them its very difficult to not been impressed with it especially at how organic it looks. The only thing that lets it down the join between the outfit and their mouths. That big monster is possibly the only thing that lets the whole thing down but its appearance out of the water is thankfully restricted.

The locals are a bit odd and I don’t mean in the sense that their not human but the actors playing them. The most bizarre one is that of Tony Sibbald who plays Huckle. He is the one who works on the oil rigs. I cant quite make up my mind where Mr Huckle is suppose to be from. He seems to be Scottish but has a bit of American in there. John Woodnutt is arguably the best of those that gets copied by a Zygon. To my amazement this is actually Woodnutt’s third appearance in Doctor Who (Hibbert in Spearhead From Space and the Draconian Emperor in Frontier in Space). Whilst this isnt as good as his Hibbert offering, I do think that he does well making the Duke of Forgill totally unlikeable and then when we meet the original we find he is a nice likeable and willing to go along with the Doctor’s plans. Lillias Walker is the strangest of the lot because she looks like she’s literally come from Mars. The scene where she is wounded and attacks the UNIT soldier was one of my favourite bits because it felt un-Doctor Who like and it was the clearest indication that this was a Hinchcliffe story and not a Barry Letts story.

There are other sights that show a shift in tone compared to the Pertwee era. The sight of Harry attacking Sarah is quite a shocking thing especially as the companions relationship at this point had always been fun. Harry does suffer in this story, he gets shot and hospitliased and then we don’t see from him again until episode three and is effectively a spare part. I think that had they gone with an older actor to play the Doctor then Ian Marter would have probably lasted longer. Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen both put in good performances. This is the period where Tom Baker is 60% serious and 40% silly, as time would go by it would be the other way around. What’s quite interesting in how we now have the Sarah Jane Smith that we all know as opposed to the one that we had when she debuted in The Time Warrior. She has been slightly watered down but I think that Sarah Jane Smith is still one of the best companions ever.

I was never a big fan of Terror, I could never quite put my finger on what it was but having watched it again for the first time in a couple of years I have to say that it is actually quite a good story. I thought the final line was quite a funny way to finish a story, with a dig at the stereotype of how tight the scots are financially. This is a sound way to start this series.

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