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"Something more than human",
This review is from: Doctor Who - Terror of the Zygons [DVD] (DVD)
Terror of the Zygons might be one of Doctor Who's greatest examples of style over substance, but what style.
Firstly, with one important exception, the design work is first rate - from the Zygon spaceship interior to the creation off the Zygons themselves, one of James Acheson's finest contributions to the series.
The regulars, headed by Tom Baker are all on fine form. It's still quite early on in Baker's reign so the jaded flippancy of later years is absent - here he's firing on all cylinders, as he's still feeling out the possibilities of the part. Elisabeth Sladen's partnership with Tom Baker was going from strength to strength, and for my money the Doctor/Sarah combination of Season 13 is one of the strongest Doctor/companion team-ups in the series' history. It's a shame that Harry, played by the late Ian Marter, doesn't feature more - but sadly that's par for the course. He always gave his best, but there's simply not enough for him to do, so no surprise that this was his last story as a regular.
Though this was to be the final proper UNIT story until 1989, you wouldn't know this by viewing the story in isolation. Far removed from the comic relief of the later Pertwee era, in Zygons UNIT are a rock solid force and strong back-up for the Doctor, headed by Nick Courtney's immaculate performance as the Brig.
Returning to direct a Doctor Who story for the first time since his abortive work on Inferno (1970) was Douglas Camfield, one of the series' greatest stylists. The film work alone - such as the duplicate Harry attacking Sarah with a pitchfork or the hunt for the wounded Zygon through the woods - is several rungs above the norm, demonstrating why Camfield was so in-demand as a director.
Another welcome side effect of Camfield's presence is that we get a break from Dudley Simpson on composing duties. As great as Simpson was, it was always good to have a change now and again, and Camfield chose well, with the late Geoffrey Burgon producing an eerie score, full of menace.
The Skarasen, of course, is rubbish, but every story is allowed at least one faux pas.
With all these positives, it's just a shame that the story doesn't make a great deal of sense. With only six or so Zygons on the planet (although more are due to turn up in a few centuries time) it seems that Broton's master-plan to take over the world entails taking the Skarasen to London and letting it destroy a building. Even if it had, was Broton going to take it to every city on the planet to repeat this feat? Surely UNIT would have wised up and found a big enough missile to destroy it?
With just a little more thought, for example maybe Broton could have attempted to release a virus to wipe out the human race, the story could have ended more satisfyingly, but when everything looks as good as it does here, let's not quibble that the plot makes no sense.
There's a generous helping of special features, beginning with the option to view a "director's cut" of episode one, which basically means that a previously cut scene has been reinstated. Since this scene was partly in black and white it had to be re-coloured manually - so kudos to the RT for going to extra mile with this in order to present the option to view it in context - it would have been far easier to simply have it as a b&w extra - but it's lovely to be able to view it in colour as part of the episode.
Mark Ayres moderates an informative and entertaining commentary track with Philip Hinchcliffe, Robert Banks Stewart, George Gallaccio, Sylvia James and Dick Mills all having plenty of stories to tell.
Tom Baker is on fine form in "Doctor Who Stories". Featuring largely unseen footage recorded in 2003 for the documentary "The Story of Doctor Who", this has been one of the most enjoyable series of features from the last few years, and this one is a particular joy - any time that Tom is given free reign you know you're in for a treat.
There's another "Doctor Who Stories" with Elisabeth Sladen which forms a nice companion piece to the Tom one. And Lis also features on a schools programme - "Merry-Go-Round - The Fuel Fishers" made during the mid 70's. A lovely bit of nostalgia, it's great to see it included.
A good making of feature, "Scotch Mist In Sussex", The UNIT Family part three, a documentary about Douglas Camfield, a piece of tv reportage from South Today, the usual high quality production subs and a coming soon trailer for The Moonbase round off an excellent special features package.
Terror of the Zygons is a strong story from one of the series' greatest eras, so it's well worth a place in anybody's collection - and the plethora of special features make it a must buy.
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Initial post: 3 Oct 2013 21:37:12 BDT
Well presented, well structured review Mr Smith
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