Doctor Who (1975): Terror of the Zygons

Terror of the ZygonsA review by Nalini Haynes

Terror of the Zygons is a four-part Doctor Who story. The Doctor (Tom Baker), Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) and Sarah Jane (Elizabeth Sladen) arrive in Scotland to help UNIT investigate the destruction of off-shore oil drilling rigs. It’s not made clear why their investigation is based inland although their location allows for exploration of real-world tensions and cultural shifts caused by drilling in the North Sea (for example, many of the locals have left to work for the oil companies).

Murder and mayhem ensue with added shape-shifting aliens and a REALLY BIG monster.

It’s difficult to review this story objectively as my first reaction on opening a postal envelope to discover this review copy was ‘OMG SQUEE’. I first watched this story when I was in primary school and I’ve seen it repeated so many times; the sense of nostalgia is so overwhelming, watching this story is almost like coming home.

Admittedly that sense of nostalgia didn’t stop me from laughing out loud at the poor stop-motion special effects of the monster. Time and budget constraints on the creators meant even they were dissatisfied with the results, cutting most visuals of the monster out, as was revealed in the extras.

The Terror of the Zygons was made at what I consider to be the peak of Doctor Who, the Tom Baker era with the solid John Pertwee foundation, when more effort went into storytelling than into special effects.

And the extras. OMG THE EXTRAS.

Every Doctor Who fan needs the extras.

Although I’m glad I didn’t know anything about the Tom Baker era other than the official Doctor Who stories when I first watched them, it’s interesting to hear about the behind the scenes dynamics now, nearly 40 years later. At first you might think the extras are all froth and bubble, carefully crafted to present a ‘happy family’ view of the BBC cast and crew. Then John Levene (Sergeant Benton) starts to reminisce about how wonderful it was to work with John Pertwee and how not-wonderful it was to work with Tom Baker. Tom Baker makes derogatory comments about the UNIT characters – or the actors? – while expressing his thoughts on why they needed to go.

John Levene, an elderly gentleman at the time of the interview, tries to keep it PG while sniggering over off-screen hilarity caused by the Zygons manipulating their console. It’s snippets like this that ever more endear the actor and the character to the audience.

John Levene (Sergeant Benton), Nicholas Courtney (the Brigadier), Elizabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith) and many other beloved yet deceased members of the cast and crew feature in the extras as well as many who are still living. Clips from various episodes are used to introduce or link various interview segments together, causing nostalgic upwelling and NEED FOR MOAR CLASSIC WHO.

Terror of the Zygons the story has 8.2 stars on IMDB, with which I agree.

The extras I’d rate HIGHER. <3