Timestamp #83: The Android Invasion

Doctor Who: The Android Invasion
(4 episodes, s13e13-e16, 1975)

Timestamp 083 The Android Invasion

 

London: Are they there yet? It looks like the right place and the right time, but appearances can be deceiving.

The Doctor has a new coat, and our heroes are being followed by a twitchy UNIT soldier as they explore the area. They encounter four figures in spacesuits who start shooting from their fingertips, and, of course, they run. Sarah Jane nearly bolts off a cliff, but the Doctor saves her. The twitchy soldier isn’t so lucky as he runs headlong to his doom.

Or does he?

There’s a body, which is a sure sign of death – well, usually – but that corpse’s wallet is full of shiny new coins, all from the same year. They discover a strange pod near the soldier, and then get shot at again by the trigger-happy spacers, so our heroes get to exercise Rule #1 of Zombieland. They eventually end up in the village of Devesham, but the town is abandoned. The pub is full of half-full drinks, those strange coins, and not much else, and Sarah Jane remembers from her days as a journalist that the space center is a short distance away.

Sarah Jane spots the spacers walking with the newly resurrected soldier, and she accidentally breaks a glass, which arouses suspicion. The spacers come close to opening the door when a pickup truck arrives with the villagers. They all stiffly walk about town, some of them filing into the pub and sitting down. An uncomfortable silence follows until the clock strikes eight, at which point everyone acts normally.

Yeah, that’s normal.

The Doctor heads for the space center to contact UNIT, and he leaves Sarah Jane (with the TARDIS key) to investigate the village. She is soon discovered, and the crowd is deathly silent. They ask her to leave, and she does, but encounters one of the spacers by the truck. When he turns, his face is all electronics. She runs away, and a clear theme is established: Running, and lots of it.

The Doctor arrives at the space center, but the place is deserted except for a single unresponsive soldier. Sarah Jane arrives at the TARDIS and places the key in the lock, but gets distracted by a pod nearby. The TARDIS dematerializes on its own and a figure grabs her from the pod. He attempts to strangle her, but she runs (again).

With all this running, I’d be dead by now.

At the space center, a disembodied voice called Styggron tells Crayford, a man with an eyepatch, that something is abnormal. Crayford investigates as the Doctor reaches the Brigadier’s office, which is empty. Crayford soon discovers the Doctor and interrogates him. The Doctor runs, and the UNIT soldiers open fire. He is soon apprehended, and Sarah Jane pursues his captors. She starts to unlock the door when a strange face peers out from the wall. It looks kind of Sontaran, but it’s not.

The mysterious voice hides again, but tells Crayford about the new arrivals. Crayford is excited by the development, but knows that they must be destroyed. Crazy thing: Crayford is supposed to be dead, a victim of an earlier spaceflight that Sarah Jane reported on, but he is clearly moving about. Meanwhile, the travelers run into Warrant Benton, but he pulls a gun on them. He appears to power down when Crayford orders the operation cancelled, and the Doctor and Sarah Jane hide. Soon after, Crayford orders Harry Sullivan to cordon off the perimeter, and the travelers decide to run for the village and attempt to warn London.

With friends like that, who needs enemies to run from?

Sarah Jane twists her ankle so the Doctor stashes her in a tree and distracts the pursuing dogs. The soldiers capture Sarah Jane (who left the tree) shortly thereafter. Sarah Jane wakes up strapped to an alien-looking table and being attended by Harry, who starts an analysis of her. The Doctor reaches the village and tries calling UNIT, but the phone is dead. The phone in the pub is also dead, and the keeper tells him that the lines are down after an overnight gale. The Doctor orders a ginger beer and throws darts, but discovers that the board has never been used. It is a camera for the aliens, who are watching everything.

At this point, we get a good look at the non-Sontaran aliens. They are the Kralls. The makeup is pretty bad. The mouths do not move well at all.

Doctor Who has done better.

Anyway, the pub has other oddities: The horse brass on the wall is plastic and the calendar has only one date. The dead phone rings, revealing that Sarah Jane has escaped. She asks the Doctor to come to the village store, and after he hangs up, the phone once more becomes inoperative. The Doctor follows the clues to the store and Sarah Jane tells her story. He offers her ginger pop to soothe her nerves, something she couldn’t stand before, and she enjoys it. The Doctor puts all the pieces together and takes Sarah Jane back to the TARDIS.

Back in the secret base, the Krall use Crayford’s patterns to create a hostile android, which they use to demonstrate a newly developed weapon used to stop the androids. Meanwhile, the Doctor finally finds out that the TARDIS has dematerialized — presumably continuing on to Earth — and the he reasons that they are not on the real Earth and that Sarah Jane is not the real Sarah Jane. Sure enough, she attacks him, he pushes her away, and her face falls off to reveal an android. The Doctor runs off as the Sarah Jane-droid opens fire.

And just where was she keeping that pistol?

More details emerge about the dastardly plan: The Kralls intend to destroy the village in nine minutes, and plan to use the real Sarah Jane as a test for a virus to kill humans. Sarah Jane listens to the discussion, then sneaks away when the coast is clear. Back at the village, the spacer androids gather up the villagers and drive them back to the Krall ship. In the village, Stryggon restrains the Doctor as he places the bomb. Sarah Jane arrives (her ankle injury having mysteriously vanished) and saves him using the sonic screwdriver. They barely make it back to the base as the bomb explodes, eradicating the entire façade, but are immediately detained by the androids. In detention, the Doctor explains the android situation to Sarah Jane, deducing that they are on Oseidon.

So, not London.

Craydon comes in and explains his story: He’s contacted Earth with an elaborate hoax story, and he plans to return to Earth as a hero with the Kralls by his side. He claims that no humans will be harmed. The Kralls want the Northern Hemisphere, and they will leave the Southern Hemisphere for humanity. The Doctor is not sold on the story, and neither am I. I’m rather partial to the Northern Hemisphere.

Styggron has the Harry-droid spike a water pitcher with the virus and take it to the cell. Meanwhile, the Doctor opens the floor tiles and plans to electrocute the guards. The androids take the Doctor to the scanning room, but he warns Sarah Jane to save the water for the trap. As the Doctor is prepared, Styggron discloses his plans for human genocide.

Sarah Jane sets a small fire to lure the guard, then springs the trap and disables the android. She then rescues the Doctor from the scanner and they race for the rocket as it lifts off. Sarah Jane makes it into a protective pod, but the Doctor does not.

Cliffhanger: Will they survive?

Yes, and in cheap narrative fashion: The Doctor awakens her some time later. No really, that was it. All the race for the pods because they can’t survive the crushing g-forces and hey, by the way, nice nap you had there and by the way we’re going to ride these android pods to the surface but we may not survive re-entry since the pods aren’t designed for us.

On the real Earth, the real Harry, real Benton, and real acting commander Colonel Faraday monitor Crayford’s return. Benton and Harry are concerned since the TARDIS has arrived without the Doctor or Sarah Jane. The pods are sent to Earth, but the Doctor and Sarah Jane are separated on re-entry. Sarah Jane lands in the forest and finds the TARDIS. The Doctor-droid finds her and almost has her convinced that he’s real until a nearby pod opens to reveal a Sarah Jane-droid.

The Doctor reaches the space center and asks the guard (the model for the previously “dead” soldier) to notify him if another Doctor arrives. He asks the technicians to jam the electronics by pointing the radar dishes at the ground. Meanwhile, he figures out that key personnel have already been replaced and makes a run for it with Sarah Jane. The Doctor poses as his duplicate, re-enters the complex, and confers with the technician. The dishes are put in position, but the Doctor-droid stops him from turning on the power. Crayford stops the Doctor-droid from killing the technician and the Doctor, but is flabbergasted by the Krall plan for genocide. Crayford runs for the ship while the Doctor fights the Doctor-droid. The Doctor ends up near the control panel and turns on the jammer, stopping the androids in their tracks.

Sarah Jane reaches the ship and frees Harry and the colonel, but she is ambushed by Styggron. Crayford tries to stop Styggron but is killed. The Doctor-droid arrives and flips Styggron into the virus vial, and then the Doctor-droid is shot. The threat is over. The day is saved.

The Doctor and Sarah Jane arrive at the TARDIS, but Sarah Jane wants to go home, and this time by taxi. The Doctor offers to take her home in the TARDIS, and Sarah Jane relents.

She does know that she’s not going home yet, right?

This was a well-written adventure with a lot of twists and turns. They cheapened cliffhanger between episodes 3 and 4 stole some of the momentum, but I still had fun with it.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Brain of Morbius

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

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Timestamp #80: Terror of the Zygons

Doctor Who: Terror of the Zygons
(4 episodes, s13e01-e04, 1975)

Timestamp 080 Terror of the Zygons

 

A peaceful looking oil rig collapses into the ocean after a high-pitched chirping echoes throughout the structure. Welcome to Season 13 and the debut of the Zygons.

After receiving the emergency call from the Brigadier, the Doctor and his companions are back on Earth and walking through the countryside. The Doctor has embraced the Scottish theme of this story with a (unnamed) Tartan scarf and matching Tam O’Shanter hat, while his companions have adopted the typical hat and scarf. They hitch a ride to town with the Duke of Forgill, a local landowner who is upset about Hibernian Oil’s employees trespassing on his land, and meet up with the Brigadier and his Clan Stewart kilt.

You know, I’ve kind of missed him.

The Doctor is upset that he has been called back for a simple oil problem, hardly an emergency in his book, but agrees to help nonetheless. Harry goes to examine the injured rig crew in sickbay, Sarah Jane goes to interview the locals, and the Doctor joins the Brigadier to investigate the oil company. As Sarah Jane interviews Angus, the inn’s landlord, a Zygon eavesdrops on their conversation through an unknown bug. Angus thinks the Tulloch Moor is haunted, but Sarah Jane is not convinced.

While this is their first appearance in the franchise, I have seen the Zygons before in the new series. They really haven’t changed much over the years.

A survivor named Munro stumbles out of the ocean and Harry finds him. Caber, the Duke’s right-hand man, inexplicably shoots Munro and grazes Harry. The Doctor and Sarah Jane visit Harry in sickbay wher the Brigadier informs them of another oil rig collapse — the Zygons summoned a creature from the deep to destroy it — and the Doctor accompanies him as Sarah Jane tends to Harry. The Doctor examines part of the rig’s wreckage and discovers the imprint of a giant tooth.

Sister Lamont, the nurse who is attending to Harry is creepy. At first I thought she was a Ratched, but instead she’s a Zygon who attacks both companions. When the Doctor (who was on the phone with Sarah Jane when the Zygon struck) arrives the hospital, they companions are missing. The Doctor finds Sarah Jane in a decompression chamber and is trapped inside when he attempts to rescue her. He hypnotizes Sarah Jane to slow her breathing, then places himself into a trance as well. Meanwhile, Harry is taken to the Zygon ship, which is deep under the ocean. They crashed on Earth centuries before and waited for rescue, but their world was destroyed. The creature, a cyborg called a Skarasen, is their weapon and means of survival. If it dies, they die.

The Brigadier and his team are knocked out with poison gas, and the Doctor and Sarah Jane are rescued by Warrant Officer Benton. The trance was something he learned from a Tibetan monk. They return to the inn and discover that the same nerve gas that affected the Brigadier’s team also incapacitated the entire village. The Doctor receives a signal device, which controls the Skarasen, and the Zygons are upset by the turn of events. The take Harry to the chamber to become the pattern for one of the Zygon invaders.

The Brigadier’s team recovers and discovers one of the UNIT patrol soldiers who was killed by the creature. The Doctor goes to investigate and leaves Sarah Jane at the inn, much to the Zygon’s delight. Harry’s doppelgänger arrives, steals the device, and runs, leading Sarah Jane and some troops on a chase. She finds him in a barn, and he attacks her, but he falls on his pitchfork and reverts into Zygon form before dying. The Zygons disperse the corpse before Sarah Jane brings UNIT to see it.

Sarah Jane deduces that the Zygons are spying on UNIT, and the Zygons send the Skarasen to destroy them. The Doctor lures the beast away in a truck as the Brigadier tracks the signal’s origin. The Skarasen chases the Doctor, who has to run after the truck runs out of fuel and the tracker attaches itself to his hand. The Brigadier traces the signal to Loch Ness.

Ah, of course: Nessie is an alien cyborg.

Harry bursts into the control room and starts mashing buttons on the console, which conveniently results in the tracker falling off the Doctor’s hand. In a terrible special effects sequence, the Skarasen crushes the tracker, which stops the signal and makes the Zygons assume that the Doctor is dead. Meanwhile, Benton is searching the inn for bugs, and we figure out that the Duke’s prized deer head trophy is the transmitter.

After finding out where the signal came from, the Doctor asks Sarah Jane and the Brigadier to take him to the Duke’s castle. The Duke does not believe their tale, and he refuses to allow UNIT to use depth charges in the loch. Back at the inn, Angus discovers the deer head transmitter, and the nurse goes full Zygon on him and removes the eye. Benton and his team give chase into the woods, shooting at the Zygon as it flees, and report to the Brigadier that they have it cornered. The Doctor and the Brigadier leave Sarah Jane to investigate the Duke’s library as they rendezvous with Benton. The Zygon resumes its form as Sister Lamont, knocks out a UNIT soldier, and escapes. The Doctor discovers the missing eye and concludes that the Duke is a Zygon agent.

At the Duke’s castle, Sarah Jane discovers a hidden passageway behind the bookshelf and follows it straight to the Zygon ship. Shortly afterward, the Duke finds out about her intrusion. He and Caber help the injured Sister Lamont doppelgänger back to the ship, and the Duke orders Caber to find and destroy Sarah Jane.

Sarah Jane rescues Harry and they return to the Doctor and the Brigadier. The Doctor heads to the ship but is intercepted by Zygons and held hostage. The Zygons tell the companions that the oil rigs were only the prelude to the “big event”. UNIT begins shelling the loch and the Zygon ship surfaces and flies away. The Brigadier prepares to follow, but the companions suggest searching the castle for clues. Sarah Jane discovers that the Duke is the President of the Scottish Energy Commission, but Harry dismisses the information and they join the Brigadier for a trip back to London.

The Zygon ship lands at a disused quarry, but UNIT cannot track it due to a jamming signal. Broton, the Zygon leader and Duke doppelgänger, tells the Doctor that a refugee fleet is on its way to Earth, but in the intervening centuries, the planet must be rebuilt to suit them. After Broton leaves, the Doctor rigs some of the technology in his cell, which electrocutes him but broadcasts a tracking signal to UNIT. The Zygons leave the Doctor for dead, but he comes to, infiltrates the body print center, and frees the humans being held there. He then blows up the ship using the self-destruct mechanism, which is a bit bloodthirsty, but he did try negotiating first.

Broton, having left moments before, goes to place a tracker on the target so Skarasen can destroy it. The Brigadier and the companions figure out that the International Energy Conference is the target, and that the Broton can get in using the Duke’s credentials. They all reconvene there, and the Doctor confronts the Zygon. Sarah Jane summons the Brigadier, who shoots and kills Broton.

Hey, firearms finally worked!

The Doctor takes the tracker and rushes outside where he feeds it to the Skarasen. The creature returns to the river and swims back to Loch Ness, and thus we have the legend. The team returns to the TARDIS near the loch, and the Doctor offers them all a ride home, but only Sarah Jane joins him with one proviso: They are to return straight to London.

Yeah, right.

We finally say goodbye to Harry. I can’t say that I’ll miss him, but I can say that he’ll join the ranks of Steven Taylor as one of my least favorite companions.

As far as the story goes, it’s lackluster and all over the map. It’s an unfortunate case of style over substance: The Zygons and their ship were well done for the era, and the story plays on the prevalent oil-politics in the news, but it also heavily leans on Scottish stereotypes to drive the story, and I had a hard time getting around them. From the very first line haggis-laden line of the first episode, the story jumps from kilts to beards to bagpipes to second sight to the Loch Ness Monster, and it finishes on a joke about stingy Scotsmen.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s nice to visit Scotland again, but this doesn’t come close to the spirit of Jamie McCrimmon. It was a fun, but ultimately routine and forgettable romp.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Planet of Evil

 

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

Timestamp #79: Revenge of the Cybermen

Doctor Who: Revenge of the Cybermen
(4 episodes, s12e17-e20, 1975)

Timestamp 079 Revenge of the Cybermen

 

It has been a long time since we encountered the Cybermen. That break ends as the Time Ring delivers our heroes back to the Nerva Beacon, just not exactly as they left it a few weeks ago.

As they investigate the station, they discover several dead bodies, some of which are obviously mannequins. Harry estimates that they have been dead for a couple of weeks. In that time, the station has been ravaged by a plague and is under quarantine, and is being protected by the few remaining survivors. Those survivors are also trying to fulfill the station’s mission as a warning buoy for a nearby hazard to navigation: The Voga asteroid.

The Doctor determines that this is the Nerva Beacon before it became the Ark in Space as a cybermat creeps by undetected. The team unlock a door using a screwdriver (but not the sonic one) and reach the control room just after the cybermat kills operator Warner and Professor Kellman, a planetary surveyor, alters the communication logs. Those logs hold evidence that the asteroid is inhabited, which Kellman claims isn’t true. The Doctor and his companions are captured by the station’s crew, and they examine Warner while being under suspicion of bringing the plague to Nerva. As the Doctor investigates the virus and Voga, Kellman spies on them with a makeshift receiver and then transmits a message to a waiting Cyberman spacecraft.

The Vogans, who share a common seal with the future Rassilon, are debating their situation. The one called Vorus is in control of the mines, and they assume that the reason they haven’t been contacted by their agent is that the Cybermen are monitoring their communications. The Cybermen were last heard from centuries before. They vanished right after attacking Voga near the end of the Cyber War.

Following his suspicions, the Doctor investigates Kellman’s quarters and finds gold, which Voga has in abundance. Kellman returns and the Doctor hides under the bed, but Kellman sets a trap that electrifies the deck plating and locks the Doctor in the room. Sarah Jane reviews the station’s logs and is attacked by the cybermat. The Doctor escapes Kellman’s quarters and rushes to Sarah Jane’s aid after killing the cybermat, but she’s already been bitten. The Doctor rushes her to the transmat, which will filter the poison from her blood, but the device has been sabotaged. Kellman overhears the conversation and the plans to arrest him, so he arms himself.

The Doctor jury-rigs the transmat, and it beams Sarah Jane and Harry to the asteroid, saving Sarah Jane’s life. As Harry finds the abundance of gold, the Vogans capture the travelers. Meanwhile, the station crew captures Kellman. The crew and the Doctor interrogate Kellman as the Cyberman ship approaches. The Cyberman Leader is identified by a black headpiece. Gold can kill the Cybermen by suffocation, explaining why they want to destroy Voga. The crew threaten Kellman with a cybermat using a control box they found in his quarters, coercing him to give up the transmat control drive.

The Vogans prep a device called the Sky Striker for use against the Cybermen. Councillor Tyrum, a leader of the Vogans, has dispatched troops to take over the mines and stop Vorus’s plans to re-emerge on the galactic market. Tyrum fears that they will be attacked again. Vorus plans to kill the humans and hide the Sky Striker from Tyrum. Harry and Sarah Jane escape just as the execution team arrives, and Tyrum’s militia arrives to force the Guardians to stand down.

You know, the Vogan politics are a bit of a drag on the story at this point.

The Doctor repairs the transmat but cannot locate his companions. The Cyberman ship docks with Nerva and board the station. The crew tries to repel them, but are struck down by cannons in the heads of the intruders. They also take down the Doctor. They are all merely stunned, and Kellman tries to find information on the Doctor but only comes up with an apple core and jelly babies. Meanwhile on Voga, Sarah Jane and Harry are taken before Tyrum and explain themselves. The mention of the cybermat sparks Tyrum’s interest in confronting Vorus.

As Kellman outlines his plan for the Leader, it is explained that his reward for destroying Voga is rule over the solar system. Kellman is sent to Voga to verify that the transmat is functional, and he is taken captive by the Vogans. The Doctor and humans, with a Cyberman escort, are to take bombs to the mines and set them, after which they will have fourteen minutes to escape. They cannot be defused, and they will kill the carriers if the harness is removed. The Vogans ambush the bomb team, but the Cybermen make short work of them.

Kellman is taken to Tyrum and explains that he was working with Vorus to destroy the Cybermen with the Sky Striker. This will result in the destruction of the Nerva Beacon as well, and the companions plan to warn/rescue the Doctor. Sarah Jane beams up to Nerva and overhears that the Cybermen have lied about the fourteen minute delay.

Kellman and Harry try to intercept the bombs as the Doctor and his team make their way to the center of the asteroid. They meet up as Kellman causes a cave-in the kills him and knocks out the Doctor’s team. They stop Harry from unbuckling the harness, and the Doctor humorously declares that Harry is an imbecile. The team makes a plan to attack the Cybermen while one of them continues on to confuse the trackers on their harnesses. Their plan is foiled by the sheer strength of the Cybermen, but one of the crew unbuckles his harness and destroys the enemies with the suicide switch. As the tracker signal is lost, the Leader orders a manual detonation, and Sarah Jane rushes them. They brush her off and attempt the detonation, but the Doctor has overridden the communications link and disabled the bombs.

Sarah Jane explains to the Cybermen how Kellman betrayed them. The Doctor convinces the Vogans to wait just long enough for him to rescue Sarah Jane. The Cybermen develop an alternative plan to crash Nerva into Voga with bombs and Sarah Jane onboard, and the Doctor frees Sarah Jane and then uses the remote control cybermat to ambush the Cybermen with gold dust.

As the Nerva Beacon races toward Voga, Vorus launches the Sky Striker as he shot by the militiamen. The Doctor and Sarah Jane are captured and are tied up as the remaining Cybermen leave in their ship. The Doctor frees himself and Sarah Jane, reasons with the Vogans on how to change the rocket’s course, and then overrides the gyros to park Nerva on the other side of the Voga asteroid. Just as the station stabilizes, the TARDIS finally arrives to meet the Doctor, and Harry returns to Nerva via transmat. They leave at the summons of the Brigadier who communicated an emergency through the space-time telegraph.

Overall, it was a decent story, but not particularly strong. I liked the Cyberman side of it, but the internal Voga politics dragged on the story. The last two episodes nearly made up for it with the action, but the setup took far too long and was way to choppy and erratic as the writers tried to make the Voga stuff fit.

All in all, I consider it a so-so return that should have been better.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

UP NEXT – Twelfth Series Summary

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #78: Genesis of the Daleks

Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks
(6 episodes, s12e11-e16, 1975)

Timestamp 078 Genesis of the Daleks

 

The last story was an experiment in splitting six-part serials into smaller pieces to remove story padding. That two-parter is followed by this six-parter, which would be ironic if not for that fact that it’s one of the most beloved stories in classic Who. When I ask classic fans what the Doctor means to them, this is usually the story they point to.

Because of that, I was really excited to watch this one.

The Doctor and his companions have departed future Earth after defeating the Sontarans, but they don’t arrive as expected on Nerva. Instead, they are on misty planet drowning in a battle that echoes World War II. In short order, the Time Lords arrive and reveal that they redirected the Doctor to Skaro in the distant past. The Doctor is upset about the manipulation, but acquiesces when the Time Lords tell him about his mission: To interfere in the development of the Daleks. They provide him a Time Ring to return to the TARDIS after his mission is complete.

The travelers soon find a warrior, who is soon killed in an artillery barrage, and note the distinct anachronisms in everything around them. They continue on, stumble into a minefield, and eventually discover a large domed city surrounded by trenches. The Doctor theorizes that the anachronisms are due to the battle raging on so long that technology has regressed as resources were depleted. The trench is attacked by chemical gas rockets, and the Doctor and Harry are spirited into a bunker and transported into the city.

The attackers are the Thals, and the Doctor’s captors are the Kaleds, a very Nazi-like organization. The Doctor surprises the Kaled commander, who keeps referring to the Doctor as a “muto”, and takes him captive. The Doctor and Harry return to the wasteland, but Sarah Jane has already recovered and moved on, and the duo are surprised by Security Commander Nyder, who raises the alert in the base. The pair of travelers are soon captured and interrogated by Nyder, who refers to Davros, the greatest scientist of the Kaled people. He also explains that the mutos are Kaleds who have been genetically scarred by the war, and that they are exiled to keep the Kaled race pure.

They are laying this Nazi allegory on thick.

Meanwhile, Sarah Jane is on the surface being pursued by the mutos as night falls. She comes across a weapons test led by Davos, a scarred man with a third eye in a robotic chair. The test is of a Dalek, which isn’t quite autonomous yet. After the test, Davros departs, and Sarah Jane is nearly spotted by the Kaleds before being abducted by the Mutos. The Mutos fight over whether or not to kill Sarah Jane since she is a “norm.” They are interrupted by a Thal patrol who take Sarah Jane and the Muto Sevrin for physical labor.

Back in the bunker, the Doctor and Harry are delivered to the holding area where they are scanned. The scanner detects the time ring, which is physically removed under the Doctor’s protest. As scientific examiner Ronson examines the Doctor and Harry, he discovers that they are aliens to Skaro. That discussion is interrupted by Davros, who demonstrates the Dalek – known at this point as a Mark III Travel Machine – for the assembled scientists. When shifted to automatic mode, it detects the Doctor and Harry and almost exterminates them until Ronson interrupts the experiment. A furious Davros gives Ronson the night to investigate the travelers, but it must be done from their holding cells.

The Doctor discovers from his interrogation that the Kaled scientists were formed as an elite group for research, but over the years they became more powerful and influential. Ronson notes that the Doctor used the term “Dalek” well before Davros called the machine by the same name, and the Doctor reveals that he is from the future. Ronson discloses his fear that the Kaleds are becoming more evil and immoral, including experiments by Davros to create the final form the Kaled mutation. The travel machine, the Dalek, is the vehicle to house and propel that being. Ronson believes that if the government knew about any of this, they would shut down the entire program, and engineers an escape into the cave system surrounding the bunker.

The Thals are using the slave labor to pack a rocket with distronic explosives, but they are not provided any shielding or protection, so the workers will die from exposure to the material. After the first shift of rocket loading, Sarah Jane attempts to spark a rebellion and plots escape through the top of the dome. She distracts the guard and the prisoners flee. The guard sounds the alarm as the prisoners climb, and the Thals open fire, killing several of the prisoners. Sarah Jane loses her grip and falls, landing on a lower platform unharmed. Sevrin helps her recover and pushes her onward, and they nearly escape before the Thals catch up to them.

The Doctor and Harry reach the city tell the Kaled Council about the Daleks and the future. The Council won’t shut down the bunker entirely, but decide to inspect and audit the programs. As the Council adjourns, the Doctor and Harry learn about Sarah Jane’s whereabouts and set out after her. Davros discovers that the Councilors are meeting in secret and that the travelers were in attendance. He agrees to the investigation, but in secret begins his plan for complete extermination of the Kaled people by arming the Daleks with the mutations.

The Doctor and Harry infiltrate the Thal dome to discover Davros petitioning the Thal Council for peace, claiming that the Kaled Council is not interested in ending the conflict. Davros provides the Thals the means to weaken the Kaled dome and exterminate the Kaled people with their rocket. The Doctor and Harry jump two guards and steal their suits – “Excuse me, can you help me? I’m a spy.” – before rescuing Sarah Jane and the captives. Harry leads them out of the city as the Doctor works to sabotage the rocket. One of the guards triggers an anti-intrusion system and captures the Doctor.

The Doctor wakes up in the Thal dome’s control room with the bombardment of the Kaled dome underway. They launch the rocket as the Kaled scientists watch in dismay, and the Kaled dome is destroyed. Davros calls in the Daleks and orders them to exterminate Ronson before declaring their rise as the ultimate supreme race. The Doctor is freed in the Thal celebration, and the Thals see Davros as a hero of the people. After Davros orders changes to the Daleks that will remove their consciences completely, the Daleks attack the Thal dome and exterminate with prejudice. The Doctor and a Thal woman, Bettan, escape the dome and she decides to raise a rebellion.

A temporal inconsistency: These Daleks don’t require the static tracks like they did in the Hartnell era, which falls after this war’s conclusion. Did something change in the timeline to remove this detail?

The Doctor makes his way to the Kaled bunker to retrieve the time ring, and is attacked by Mutos and saved by Sarah Jane and Harry. Scientists begin to foment a rebellion against the Dalek program, but are interrupted by Nyder and Davros just as the travelers break into the city and are subsequently captured. Davros discusses time travel with the Doctor and demands that he disclose exactly how he defeats the Daleks in the future. When the Doctor refuses, Davros uses the threat of harm to the companions as leverage. I see where the Daleks get their stunning personalities and penchant for temper tantrums. The Doctor yields to Davros and provides a litany of Dalek defeats which are recorded for the future. As they take a break, Davros trusts the tape to Nyder as he sits down to confer with the Doctor. The Doctor tries to persuade Davros to abandon the Dalek project, but Davros is not swayed. Convinced that Davros is insane, the Doctor seizes control of the leader’s chair and threatens to disable it and kill him if he doesn’t shut down the program. He nearly succeeds before Nyder stops him.

Kavell, one of the leading scientists, breaks Sarah Jane and Harry out of the confinement cells. Nyder escapes, and the Doctor warns that Davros knows what Kavell is planning. The travelers set out to retrieve both the time ring and the recording of the future. Meanwhile, the Daleks have destroyed all resistance in the Thal city, and all that remains is Bettan’s rebellion. Inside the bunker, rebellion also breaks out, but Davros surprisingly orders Nyder’s forces to surrender. Davros tells Nyder that this is a ruse, as is the conference to listen to the rebellion’s demands. At that conference, the rebellion demands that the Dalek project be terminated. Davros asks for time to consider the demands, and agrees to the demands on the condition that the military and scientific elite present the demands to a vote before him.

The Doctor discovers plastic explosives and detonators, and plots commit genocide by destroying the Dalek embryos in the incubation room. He enters the chamber to place the charges, and emerges with Dalek tentacles wrapped around his throat. After being freed, he holds the conductors in his hands but cannot detonate the explosives. Does he have the right? Killing them would secure freedom and peace for the future, but the action would make him no better than the Daleks themselves. He pulls the plug on the plan when he hears that Davros is willing to discuss the demands.

That epic moment in the franchise was worth the price of admission alone. Tom Baker sells it with passion.

The travelers attend the discussion, secretly returning the Doctor’s possessions to him. Davros shows his opponents a button that will destroy the entire bunker — seriously, a big red button to destroy everything? — but no one will press it, which Davros sees as an argument in his favor because it shows weakness. Meanwhile, he has been maneuvering the Daleks to assault the rebels, and Bettan’s forces set charges to seal the bunker permanently.

Nyder sneaks out during the vote, and the travelers follow him. In the ensuing altercation, the Doctor drops the time ring, but convinces Nyder to take them to the tape recording. As the travelers destroy the tape, Nyder escapes and locks them in the office. They bring up the camera feed of the vote as the Daleks roll in and kill everyone. The travelers are soon rescued by Sevrin and start running from the Daleks, and the Doctor sends the companions with Sevrin and the rebels while he returns to destroy the incubator chamber. At this point, he’s at his last straw, and it seems that he’s willing to become the villain to save countless lives. His efforts are thwarted by a Dalek who fires on him, but the Dalek rolls over the conductors, completes the circuit, and destroys the chamber and itself.

The Daleks start the assembly line without Davros’s approval, and kill Nyder as he attempts to shut it down. They rebel against Davros, apparently exterminating him as he attempts to destroy the bunker with that big red button. The travelers escape as Bettan’s forces seal the bunker and use the time ring to return to the TARDIS.

This was a really good story, and it earns the admiration that fans bestow on it. On the downside, it is a bit padded and long, but that easily washed out by the quality and performances.

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Revenge of the Cybermen

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #77: The Sontaran Experiment

Doctor Who: The Sontaran Experiment
(2 episodes, s12e09-e10, 1975)

Timestamp 077 The Sontaran Experiment

 

Before watching this serial, I read up a little on this short story. The TARDIS wiki entry tells the tale: “Script editor Robert Holmes was not a fan of six-part stories, believing that they were padded, so for season twelve, he decided to have one four-part story and one two-part story.”

After some of the reviews on The Timestamps Project, I can attest to that. I respect him for going out on a limb like that.

This one picks up right after The Ark in Space. The Doctor and his companions teleport down to Earth with only a few hiccups, and the Doctor sets to work on fixing the refractor units. The companions venture off to explore as Harry corrects his demeaning banter with Sarah Jane. For now, anyway. Within no time at all, the Doctor is in the crosshairs of a hunter’s rifle, Harry takes a tumble into a disguised trap, and Sarah Jane goes for help.

One of the hunters is chased by a robot, and falls off a cliff. The Doctor goes to help, and the other hunters mistake the Doctor for the perpetrator and stun him into submission as another human in a spacesuit, Roth, watches from the brush. Sarah Jane returns to the refractors and finds only the sonic screwdriver, so she returns to Harry, but he’s no longer there. In the interim, Harry has fled after being attacked. Roth sneaks up behind Sarah Jane and saves her from the robot, and he explains that the trap was set for the robot, who is an agent for an alien in the rocks that is trapping the human explorers and torturing them.

In a twist on that theme, the Doctor is being interrogated by the explorers. It seems that the Nerva Station has become legendary as a lost colony. These explorers are from another colony, GalSec, and being monitored by the alien. There were nine of them on a military expedition, and they were stranded when the alien destroyed their ship. The explorers are serious about the interrogation, but the Doctor is not, and his overall attitude about it is amusing. He’s freed in short order as Roth stages a diversion and Sarah Jane rushes to the Doctor’s rescue. They head back to the hole trap and investigate, and the Doctor jumps into the hole as the robot arrives. The Robot takes Sarah Jane and Roth to the alien, which Harry has just located, and the reveals himself as a Sontaran.

That explains the title.

Sarah Jane is surprised to see the Sontaran since he look just like the one who died in 13th century England. Sure, Sarah Jane, they both look like a potato in armor, but Linx looked more like an undead zombie potato in armor. This Sontaran, Field Major Styre, reveals that he looks the same – no he doesn’t! – but he is not the same because they are a species of clones bred to fight wars. As Sarah Jane ponders this, Roth tries to escape and Styre kills him.

Back at the hole trap, the Doctor climbs out and into the arms of his previous captors, who are subsequently captured by the robot. The Doctor dives back into the hole and finds the tunnel that Harry used. Speaking of, Harry explores the area around the ship, finds a captive, and tends to him. Keeping the story’s title honest, the Sontaran is experimenting on humanity to determine their limits and weaknesses in preparation for an invasion of Earth. After Styre interrogates Sarah Jane, revealing that she should not exist since she was not among the humans on the planet at the time of the catastrophe, he reports his results to his commanders and begins a fear-based experiment on Sarah Jane. Harry locates Sarah Jane, calls her “old girl” again because the old boy never learns, and tries to free her but cannot. After Harry departs, the Doctor arrives, disables the force field, frees Sarah Jane, and confronts the Sontaran. He tries to escape, but the Sontaran shoots him before returning to his ship to deal with the rest of the human explorers.

Harry returns to the unconscious Sarah Jane and Doctor, and in a fit of anger and determination, he nearly strikes the Sontaran before the Doctor stops him. The Doctor was saved by his own contradictory nature – “Never throw anything away,” but remember that “It’s a mistake to clutter your pockets” – and he devises a plan after disabling the robot and listening in on the invasion plans. The Doctor decides to confront Styre in hand-to-hand combat, which will tire the Sontaran and force him to recharge at the ship, which Harry and Sarah Jane will sabotage. The battle is so-so, but the Doctor’s use of the Sontaran’s pride against him is just awesome. As planned, Styre wears himself out, returns to the ship, and melts away as the ship reverses the recharge sequence. The Doctor solves the Sontaran threat with a bluff, and beams himself and the companions away.

To Robert Holmes’s credit, this was a much tighter story than most. On the downside, it was a little too fast-paced for this era and writing staff, and the storytelling shortcuts were obvious. Despite that, I think it was still a good adventure.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #76: The Ark in Space

Doctor Who: The Ark in Space
(4 episodes, s12e05-e08, 1975)

Timestamp 076 The Ark in Space

 

After this one started, I realized that I had seen it before as part of the “greatest hits” one-story-per-classic-Doctor series on Netflix. Just like The Aztecs in that same series, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense on my first watch.

How does it fare this time? You’ll find out shortly.

The TARDIS, sporting a different look (maybe?) with the backlit “POLICE BOX” label, arrives on a space station with people hibernating in stasis tubes. Harry Sullivan is shocked after his first trip in the TARDIS, and amusingly, the Doctor checks gravity with a yo-yo. I’ve missed the whimsy so much since Patrick Troughton. As the team investigates the strange station, Sarah Jane is divided from the group and trapped in a room that is losing oxygen. Harry and the Doctor discover her after she’s lost consciousness, but they also fall into the same trap. Just in time, the Doctor discovers that the cables have been chewed through, and he uses his sonic screwdriver to repair the circuit.

As Sarah Jane recovers, the Doctor and Harry are attacked by a security robot and they seek cover under a table. The Doctor tries to distract the robot with his hat and scarf – created for him by that “witty little knitter” Madame Nostradamus – and finally uses his sonic screwdriver to unfasten the table from the deck and move across the room like a turtle to the security panel. They distract the robot and shut it down.

Meanwhile, Sarah Jane is teleported away and processed by the automated system. As Harry and the Doctor look for Sarah Jane, they find a skulking creature that leaves a slime trail. They discover the processing room, which leads the Doctor to conclude that they are in a cryogenic repository and ultimate human library. A literal ark in space.

Hence, the story’s title.

They discover banks upon banks of suspended humans, as well as the slime trail, and this leads Harry to Sarah Jane, who is also in suspended animation. Harry looks for a resuscitation unit and finds a large dead insect. Shortly afterward, one of the humans revives. Her name is Vira, and she is a First Med-tech. She helps to revive Sarah Jane, and then moves to their leader, Noah. His real name is Lazar, but he is named after the myth of the Biblical Ark. They took to the stars after solar flares threatened the Earth, anticipating only 5,000 years in suspension. Evidently, they slept far longer.

The power fails as Noah is being revived, and the Doctor goes to the control room to restore the systems. He investigates the failure in the solar stacks and finds substantial contamination from the grubs. When Noah comes to, he is concerned that the travelers will contaminate their carefully selected gene pool. He tracks the Doctor to the solar stacks after arming himself. He finds the Doctor in the control room and refuses to believe the Time Lord’s story, and he shoots the Doctor.

A note on Harry: He just doesn’t learn. Sarah Jane has asked him not to call her “old girl,” yet he continues to do so. He also calls Vira the same and touches her shoulder when it’s clearly not desired. The Doctor sees something in him, so I’m giving him a chance, but come on, Lieutenant.

Anyway, Vira traces the slime trail in the hibernation chambers to a capsule once occupied by a technician named Dune. On the other side of the station, Noah goes to the solar stacks as Harry and Sarah Jane attend to the Doctor. Noah finds the broken solar stack chamber, and is attacked by the grub. The Doctor comes to and the travelers follow Noah to the solar stacks, but he intercepts them and escorts them back to the hibernation section.

Vira revives a technician name Libri, who reacts strangely to Noah’s presence as though he saw a creature. Noah leaves the captives to Libri, and then orders a shutdown of the station, claiming to be Dune as well as Noah. The Doctor advises Libri to stop Noah, then investigates Dune’s pod and finds evidence that the dead insect embedded larvae in Dune, just like creepy real-world parasitic wasps, which consumed him and absorbed his knowledge. Libri confronts Noah, but Noah disarms and kills him before revealing that he is metamorphosing into the insect. His hand is covered in painted bubble wrap. In a moment of lucidity, Noah fights the alien presence and transfers command to Vira with an order to get back to the planet as soon as possible. He discloses that the aliens are the Wirrn, and that they will absorb the humans.

Another note on Harry: He calls Sarah Jane a chauvinist for feminism. I’m really starting to dislike him. He’s competent, but he’s an ass.

The Doctor and Vira track down Noah, but he’s nearly consumed by the Wirrn. Vira is saddened because she and Noah were pair-bonded for the new Earth. Meanwhile, Harry and Sarah Jane begin to awaken the crew. Vira wants to awaken everyone and send them to Earth, but the Doctor convinces her to delay until he can stop the invasion.

Harry and the Doctor perform an autopsy/necropsy on the insect, and the Doctor tries to download the Queen’s memories into the station computer. When that fails, he downloads the memories directly into his own mind. As that happens, the Wirrn break into the hibernation chamber and kill one of the technicians. Vira orders the remaining men, Harry and Rogin, to be armed, and they drive the Wirrn back into the ventilation ducts.

The Doctor discovers in the Queen’s memories that she was killed by the automatic robot guard, and the Doctor decides to electrify the station’s infrastructure to defeat them. Trapped in the room by the Wirrn, the Doctor uses the transmat to move everyone to the control room, but it fails after only Harry and Rogin are transported since the Wirrn shut down the power systems. The Doctor braves the station to restore power, but encounters a nearly metamorphosed Noah. He is saved by Vira and Sarah Jane, and the Wirrn explain that they are seeking vengeance since human explorers displaced them from their breeding grounds in Andromeda. They plan to absorb all of the knowledge on the Ark become a superpower, but offer sanctuary for people on board if they leave immediately.

The team devises a plan to electrify the station using the transport shuttle, and Sarah Jane volunteers for the most hazardous task: routing the cable through the ventilation ducts. She gets stuck at one point, and the Doctor provokes her into fighting her way free, after which he praises her. I enjoyed that clever moment.

With the normal routes to the hibernation chamber cut off, the Wirrn attempt alternate entries. The Noah-Wirrn negotiates with the Doctor by holding the oxygen supply hostage. The Doctor appeals to his remaining humanity, but fails. The Wirrn attempt to take the shuttle bridge through the cargo bay, and the Doctor has the team return to the ark and the shuttle take off automatically. The Doctor’s attempt to sacrifice himself to release the locks is thwarted by Rogin who bravely takes his place. The swarm is ejected from the station in the shuttle, and Noah-Wirrn deliberately destroys the shuttle in his last gasp of humanity.

With the shuttle destroyed, the transmat is the only way to get the humans back to Earth, but the Doctor notices that the system is faulted. He, Sarah Jane, and Harry beam down to Earth to fix them as Vira begins awakening the ark.

This one was a fun romp with the typical monster-of-the-week and cliffhanger ending of the early years. Even with Harry’s bone-headedness, it was still enjoyable, much better on this go-round with some franchise context, and a good full intro to this Doctor.

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Sontaran Experiment

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

 

Timestamp #75: Robot

Doctor Who: Robot
(4 episodes, s12e01-e04, 1974-75)

Timestamp 075 Robot

 

It’s never easy changing Doctors, but I think I’m going to like this one.

Things start out with another new title sequence, which is great, but I kind of miss the warp stars. The story itself kicks off with a delirious Doctor who mentions previous adventures as Lieutenant Harry Sullivan, UNIT’s staff physician, takes the Time Lord to the infirmary. Congratulations are also in order as Benton’s been promoted to Warrant Officer. That’s one big wetting-down party.

As the heroes get sorted out, a robot infiltrates a military facility. It kills a dog, so we know it’s bad, and steals top secret disintegrator gun plans. Back at UNIT, Sarah Jane asks the Brigadier for a pass to tour the Think Tank research facility, and as they leave the lab, the Doctor sneaks in, finds his TARDIS key in his predecessor’s shoe, and almost makes it into the TARDIS before Doc Sullivan catches him.

At this point, we get our first really good look at the Fourth Doctor. His eyes are wild and fun, and so it his youth. He reminds me so much of Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor.

The Doctor tricks Sullivan and ties him up before trying to leave in the TARDIS, but Sarah Jane stops him and discusses the need for him to investigate the mysterious theft. The Doctor, still unstable, almost shrugs off this duty, but he stops as he remembers the Brigadier and Sarah Jane. The Doctor tries various wardrobe options to match his new persona – including a Viking ensemble, a royal outfit, and a clown suit – before settling on his trademark scarf, coat, and hat. After that, the game is afoot.

Sarah Jane arrives at Think Tank for her tour, and the franchise continues to be progressive with a female director, Hilda Winters, at the facility. Sarah Jane doesn’t expect it, and mistakes assistant Arnold Jellicoe for the director. The Think Tank facility has a robotics division, but the only roboticist, J. P. Kettelwell, left in a very public spectacle. As Sarah Jane chases that lead, the Doctor, Sullivan, and the Brigadier set a trap at the next piece for the disintegrator gun. The robot avoids them by burrowing underneath and stealing the part.

Sarah Jane interviews the roboticist, but that lead is a dead end, so she sneaks back into Think Tank and discovers the robot in the lab. The facility’s director claims that the robot, Experimental Prototype Robot K1, is completely for show, and demonstrates that the robot cannot kill based on the prime directive that it can never harm humanity. The First Law of Robotics lives on, at least in a fashion. Sarah Jane is coerced by the director to keep her experience secret. Of course, the first thing she does is tell the Doctor and the Brigadier.

Winters and Jellicoe reset the robot again – hello, modified Zeroth Law! – and send it out after Cabinet Minister Joseph Chambers. The Brigadier decides to send Sullivan on a James Bond-style mission into Think Tank while the Doctor decides to interview Kettlewell. The robot breaks into Chambers’s home, kills him, and steals some documents. The Brigadier, the Doctor, and Sarah Jane discuss the incident and the Think Tank’s association with the Scientific Reform Society, a group that advocates societal rule by the scientific elite.

The robot visits Kettlewell in a disoriented state, explaining that his orders conflict with his prime directive and seeking help. Sarah Jane visits the Scientific Reform Society while the Doctor and the Brigadier investigate Think Tank. Director Winters claims that the robot has been dismantled, and the Doctor uses his scarf to sweep the floor for clues. They are escorted out just as Sullivan arrives disguised as a medical inspector. Kettlewell later calls the Doctor and informs him that the robot is there, but Winters and Jellicoe arrive first.

The dressing of the Scientific Reform Society was a bit on the nose with the Nazi-like uniforms, attitudes, and symbology. They are bad guys. Like, really bad guys.

The Doctor leaves a note for Sarah Jane and Benton, then takes Bessie to meet the professor. The Doctor encounters the robot, who attacks him under orders. The Doctor tries to escape, but the robot knocks him down. It is about to kill him when Sarah Jane arrives and intervenes. K1 recognizes her and enters its logic loop once again, but UNIT arrives and opens fire. It flees Kettlewell’s lab under UNIT assault, and the professor is found tied up in a storage locker.

Sarah Jane tends to Kettlewell, and he tells her of the robot’s construction. It is made from a living metal, but fear not, because Kettlewell has also discovered a virus that can destroy the metal. Kettlewell mentions that he is a member of the Scientific Reform Society, but that he only visited once. Together, they make a plan to sneak Sarah Jane inside.

We also find that a stunning plot convenience – the combined nations of Russia, China, and America have entrusted the locations and launch codes for their nuclear arsenals to Great Britain – is now the key to the entire conflict. The robot stole that information from Chambers, and now Winters and Jellicoe likely have it.

At the SRS meeting, Winters introduces K1 and Kettlewell as allies, which shocks Sarah Jane. Even more shocking is their betrayal, which the Doctor disrupts after incapacitating the guards with his antics and scarf. Kettlewell’s goals are simple: With the Society’s help, he can finally make humanity to stop ruining the environment.

Wait. That’s it? Okay.

Winters orders the execution of the Doctor and Sarah Jane, but the Brigadier and UNIT arrive in explosive fashion. Winters, Jellicoe, and Kettlewell escape with the robot and Sarah Jane, and the antagonists uncover Sullivan when he calls the Brigadier. The entire Think Tank is moved to an underground atomic bunker. UNIT tries to storm the site, but Winters deflects them with the automated defense system. She demands the Brigadier’s surrender within 30 minutes, otherwise she will destroy the world in a nuclear holocaust. Having none of it, the Brigadier sends Benton to destroy the machine gun emplacements, and the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to detonate the landmines and open the bunker door. Director Winters arms K1 with the disintegrator gun and sends it out to deal with UNIT, where it kills one soldier and destroys a (toy) tank. That effects cheat makes sense since they spent so much on the visuals and new titles.

The action sequences were nice, but the Doctor’s youthful charm and comedic antics were the highlight. They’re kind of refreshing after the seriousness of Pertwee’s Doctor.

Director Winters tasks Kettlewell with unlocking the launch codes and linking the missiles to a worldwide network. She starts the countdown to launch, but Kettlewell stops it and escapes with Sarah Jane and Sullivan. Sarah Jane tries to reason with the robot, and it almost works, but the programming forces it to fire on Kettlewell, and murdering its creator sends it into a logical shutdown.

UNIT invades the bunker, but Winters has already transmitted the launch commands. The director runs while the Doctor reprograms the computer and stops the countdown. Sarah Jane wanders off and is taken by the robot, who is trying to reason out its logical conflict and decides to destroy humanity per Kettlewell’s desire. On a positive note, it chooses to save Sarah Jane.

The Brigadier wishes that he could meet an alien threat that wasn’t immune to bullets – Thank you, Brig! – and Benton tells the team about the living metal and the virus. The Doctor and Sullivan head to Kettlewell’s lab to find the virus as K1 locks the bunker and restarts the countdown. The countdown is thwarted by the fail-safes for each superpower’s warheads, so K1 takes Sarah Jane to the surface. The Brigadier shoots K1 with the disintegrator, but the plan backfires as K1 grows to immense size.

Note: Insert shark to jump here. The Fourth Doctor can borrow the Ninth Doctor’s leather coat.

K1 King Kongs Sarah Jane to a rooftop for her safety, then engages the UNIT troops in a terrible special effects spectacular. The Doctor and Sullivan arrive with the virus, and drive Bessie to K1’s feet and deploy the virus. The virus shrinks K1, then dissolves it completely.

Back in the lab, Sarah Jane is upset over K1’s destruction. The Doctor offers her a jelly baby to snap her out of her reverie, and then offers to take her away in the TARDIS.

I love his quote here: “There’s no point in being grown-up if you can’t be childish sometimes.”

Doctor Sullivan arrives just as they were about to leave, and he invites Sullivan along. The “bigger on the inside moment” is priceless as the Doctor is off once again.

With the story and the acting alone, this serial was scoring as a high 4 until the entire super robot fight. Even after that, it’s still good. Baker is delightful as the Doctor, and his companions have great chemistry. I settled on a 4 before adding in the regeneration handicap.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Ark in Space

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.