Shows - Review
Doctor Who (1963-1989)
Episode: Terror of the Zygons (Part 1)
Review by: Michael Hickerson
The Doctor makes Zygons by bygones...
by Michael H
I wish I could say I came up with the headline above, but I didn't. Nope, that comes to your courtesy of TV Guide back in the day when I first saw this magnificient Tom Baker story. That was the write-up for the episode and I have to admit, it still amuses me to this day.
One thing that interests me about the Hinchcliffe era is that whenever Philip Hinchcliffe talks about his time on the show, he admits that a poorly realized visual effect can mar an otherwise great story. It doesn't take much of a stretch to realize he's talking about Terror of the Zygons.
Zygons is firmly at the crossroads of two eras of Doctor Who. It's the start of the Gothic influences of Hinchcliffe and Holmes but it still has the elements of the Letts and Dicks regime stamped all over it. Surprisingly enough, the story actually does quite well being a distilling of both things that make each respective era successful. And it's a damn good story too.
The plot is fairly typical--alien invaders want to overthrow the governement and conquer Earth. But instead of being and out and out overt threat, the Zygons instead use disguise and subterfuge to conquer the planet. Watching the story, I do have to wonder why the attack is put into high gear with the arrvial of the oil rigs. I can surmise it's that the Zygons realize it's only a matter of time until humanity discover them, but I'm not sure the script makes this abundantly clear. But really, that's about my only major problem with the story so it's not enough for me to dismiss it from the ranks of the classics.
Also evident is the Letts and Dicks worldview. It's another story in which the Doctor laments humanity's dependence on some natural resource. It's not quite as hit you over the head politically as, say Green Death and we don't have the return the Earth to a golden age like we did in Invasion of the Dinosaurs, but the environemental preservation sensibility is still on the show. And I'll give you that it works, if only becuase it's not brought up and then driven home over and over again like other stories I've mentioned.
No, instead of a political soliquoy on why we should save the Earth, we get a damn good story instead. Yes, it borrows a lot from other stories, but who cares? This one is so much fun and the Zygons are so well realized on the screen and as characters that by the time you realize we're borrowing bits from other eras, the story is just about over and you've got a big grin on your face. This is the kind of story that Doctor Who can and should produce and it's lucky that we're in an era that will consistently produce quality stories like this one. If anything, Zygons is the beginning of one of those classic runs in Dr Who that most of us hope will happen again on the new series.
Part of that is that the Zygons themselves are so well realized. As a monster ,they're effective and their layer is effective. Zygons features some fine model works, some good make-up and some great set designs. The ship FEELS alien rather than just looking alien. And that all works.
Where the story is let down is the Skarasan. Thankfully, the production staff seems to have learned from Invasion of the Dinosaurs that long shots of poorly done prehistoric monsters on the Beeb budget just won't work. The Skarasan is shown closer up so we can't see how slowly it would actually move. But the creature does take you out of the story a bit because it is so obviously an effect and a not so great one. When this one comes out on DVD, I hope they'll give us the option of a CG Skarasan like we got with the updated CG on Dalek Invasion of Earth, Ark in Space and Earthshock. This is one case where re-doing the effects would actually help the story.
But don't let that ruin your enjoyment of Zygons. It's fun, it's crisp and it's an entertaining four episodes.
Last Updated: 3/3/2006
Other Reviews by Michael Hickerson
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