Sunday, 13 December 2015

417 The Android Invasion: Part Four

EPISODE: The Android Invasion: Part Four
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 13 December 1975
WRITER: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: Barry Letts
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 11.4 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - U.N.I.T Files: Invasion of the Dinosaurs and the Android Invasion

"So, providing we don't burn up on re-entry, and aren't suffocated on the way down, we'll probably be smashed to a pulp when we land."

Somewhile later Sarah is roused by the Doctor. He plans to hide in the pods when they're fired out the ship to get to Earth before it. On Earth Space Control tracks the rocket as Harry & Benton search for the Doctor, worried by the Tardis appearing without him. Colonel Faraday takes them to Space Control where they contact Crayford. The pods are spotted and identified as meteorites. The pods land in the area near Devesham. The Doctor looks for Sarah. Visual contact is established with the rocket. Sarah hunts for the Doctor and finds her way to the Tardis where she meets Android copies of the Doctor & herself and flees into the woods. The rocket lands at Devesham and Colonel Faraday and Harry go to check if Crayford's OK. The Doctor arrives at the space centre and has them called back. Benton is called away and knocked out by an Android with his duplicate replacing him. The Doctor gives the space controller instructions and ask to have them kept secret. The Doctor detects that Harry & Farraday have been replaced and, threatened by his own duplicate, escapes through a window assisted by Sarah. The Doctor, pretending to be his double, goes back to the space centre & scanning room while Sarah climbs towards the rocket. The Android Doctor finds the Doctor as he's about to activate the jamming for the robot. Crayford arrives and questions what's going on. The Android Doctor reveals to Crayford the true plan using the virus to kill everyone. The Doctor breaks his brainwashing by getting him to remove his eye patch, discovering that his hidden eye is fine and realising he's been tricked by Styggron. The Doctor struggles with his Android and activates the jamming device freezing the Androids. Sarah frees Harry & Farraday in the rocket but they are caught by Styggron. Crayford & Styggron struggle, with the Kraal killing his former ally. The Doctor arrives and struggles with Styggron who falls against the plague jar and dies, but not before he shoots the Doctor. The Doctor then walks into the room revealing it was his reprogrammed android that attacked Styggron. The Doctor & Sarah go and find the Tardis in the woods.

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DOCTOR: After you.
SARAH: Uh uh. I'm going home, and I'm going by taxi.
DOCTOR: Oh. I'll make you an offer. I'll take you home.
SARAH: How can I refuse?

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With one major exception that was a pretty good episode. It's competent and fun Doctor Who with some amusing stuff done with the Doctor's robot double and repeated actions from earlier in the series: The Doctor dives through the same window in the Brigadier's office that he used to escape from Crayford in episode 1 and Android Benton once again gets to pull a gun on the Doctor only to discover it's his Android Duplicate!

There's some cracking dialogue too, especially at the start when the Doctor explains to Sarah how they're going to get to Earth before Crayford:

DOCTOR: We're on the way.
SARAH: I must have blacked out.
DOCTOR: Yes, you did. The G-force cut the blood supply to what you humans laughingly call your higher centres.
SARAH: Ha ha. I hate sarcasm, especially when I'm dying. I feel as though I've been through a mangle.
DOCTOR: It was a gentle massage compared to what's ahead.
SARAH: Oh, no, don't tell me. I don't want to know.
DOCTOR: Yes, you do. Just before Crayford puts the ship into re-entry orbit, these containers will be shot out like pips from a lemon.
DOCTOR: Through the cargo shuttle ejectors. And we'll be in them.
DOCTOR: Ask me why.
DOCTOR: Because they'll reach Earth before the ship. There's no other way we can warn the Defence Station.
SARAH: And what are we going to use for air?
DOCTOR: Oh, there'll be enough to last the few minutes in space. I'm more concerned about the efficiency of these retro tubes.
SARAH: Why, don't they work?
DOCTOR: Oh, I imagine they'll work well enough for the androids to survive impact, but we could be in for a nasty jolt.
SARAH: So, providing we don't burn up on re-entry, and aren't suffocated on the way down, we'll probably be smashed to a pulp when we land.
DOCTOR: Exactly. Sarah, you've put your finger on the one tiny flaw in our plan.
SARAH: Our plan? It's your plan.
DOCTOR: Well, I'm open to suggestions if you've got a better idea.
And eight years after we first met him we finally get a little view into Benton's life outside UNIT
BENTON: Yes, yes. Make it eight o'clock outside the Chinese takeaway. And don't be late.
GRIERSON: You've got her well trained.
BENTON: Yes, well, to be honest with you, it's my kid sister. I'm taking her to a dance at the Palais tonight.
Then our last major example of Chekov's Gun comes to pass. Remember Marshall Chedaki's words in episode 2?
CHEDAKI: If the androids were to fail in their task, the Kraal invasion of Earth could not even begin. Suppose the Doctor were to turn the androids against us? It would jeopardise the whole operation!
Sure enough that's exactly what The Doctor using his own Android Duplicate to defeat Styggron!

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The episode has come in for some stick over the years from certain publications and commentators who ask questions like "How come the Doctor's robot still works when his jammed the rest?" and "Why hasn't Crayford removed his eye patch before?". Both are easily explained away: the robot is inside the rocket shielding it from the jamming signal and Crayford's been brainwashed not to and removing the eyepatch is what finally breaks his conditioning. The Doctor even mentions that Crayford has been brainwashed just before the eye patch is torn off!

DOCTOR 2: The Doctor has interfered in our plans for the last time.
CRAYFORD: But Styggron promised me there would be no killing.
DOCTOR 2: Fool. Do you really think the Kraals will spare humanity? Styggron has a virus in your ship that will destroy every man, woman and child in the world.
CRAYFORD: Styggron wouldn't do that. He's a surgeon, a genius. Look what he did for me!
DOCTOR: He did nothing for you, Crayford. Absolutely nothing at all. Except brainwash you.
CRAYFORD: That's not true.
DOCTOR: You were hijacked by the Kraals, Crayford. Nothing went wrong with your rocket, Crayford. You weren't even injured. Take off the eye patch and look for yourself.
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No the problem here for me is poor Patrick Newell, as Colonel Faraday. I've never seen his performance as Mother in the final John Steed and Tara King series of The Avengers but here he's nothing but a cheap Brigadier imitation/caricature. I know he's in because of Nicholas Courtney's unavailability but it's not a good performance and it would, in my opinion, have been a better episode with the role just filled by Harry & Benton. I doubt that the performance is an in-joke at the series Invasion of the Body Snatchers origins.

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The episode acknowledges this as Crayford returns to Earth:

MATTHEWS: Hello, XK-5, hello, XK-5. This is Devesham Control calling XK-5. Do you read me, do you read me?
GRIERSON: It's on the master scanner, sir. Right on course.
FARADAY: This is a moment for history, Grierson.
GRIERSON: It is that, sir.
HARRY: A two year journey.
FARADAY: He's been further into space than any other human being.
As he says the last line there's a wonderful knowing look between Benton and Harry both of whom have travelled far far further with the Doctor than Crayford has! Remember the panels on the wall of Reception that we commented on in episode 2 as being reused from Ark in Space?

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Here they are again in the space center mission control room cleverly painted to look like something computery. While we're at the helmet Crayford is wearing there looks like one from Moonbase 3, created by this story's director Barry Letts and his former script editor Terrence Dicks.

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The entire spacesuit has showed up previously in Doctor Who during Invasion of the Dinosaurs episode 6, with the suit, minus chest pack and helmet, making a return in The Sontaran Experiment.

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There's a couple of familiar names at the space centre this episode: Hugh Lund plays Matthews, one of the technicians, and he was a Zarbi in The Web Planet.

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Meanwhile the other technician, Grierson, is our old friend Dave Carter, who was credited for part 1, but isn't in it. He was also in Doctor Who and the Silurians as the Old Silurian, Inferno as a Primord, Terror of the Autons as a Museum Attendant, The Mind of Evil as a Prison Officer, The Time Monster as a Roundhead officer and Invasion of the Dinosaurs as Sergeant Duffy. This is his last appearance in Doctor Who.

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It's a last appearance too for former companion Harry Sullivan, played by Ian Marter and RSM Benton, played by John Levene. Neither get a particularly good send off with Harry last seen as a prisoner of Styggron and, even worse for a character that's been with the show for eight years, Benton lying on the floor having been attacked and replaced by an Android. In fact we're not even sure from this story if he's alive or dead.

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Fortunately when the Brigadier reappears many years later in Mawdryn Undead we discover that Benton has left the army and become a used car salesman while Harry is doing something "hush hush at Porton Down". This year that line was picked up on in The Zygon Invasion/Inversion and it was revealed he was creating what the Doctor referred to as "The Idiot's Gas". It makes perfect sense for Harry to be involved in something to repel the Zygons as he was involved in the original Zygon invasion attempt The Terror of the Zygons while the mocking title is a reference to a famous line in another Harry Sullivan story, The Revenge of the Cybermen. I'm unsure if the plans at the time involved these characters returning for the next UNIT story. We know one was on the cards because the original six part version of the Hand of Fear, intended to close this season, would have killed the Brigadier off. UNIT does return in the six parter that closes the season but none of the soldiers seen are ones we've previously encountered. It's a bit of a damps squib departure for something that's been such a part of the last few years of Doctor Who.

John Levene emigrated to the USA where he worked as an entertainer and occasional actor. His website can be found at Recently returned to the UK he's made several memorable contributions to the DVD series including "Living with Levene" on the The Claws of Axos Special Edition DVD.

Ian Marter continued to act into the 80s but developed a sideline adapting Doctor Who stories for Target Books. He novelised nine stories, making him the series second most prolific author. He died on 28 October 1986 from a heart attack caused by diabetes complications and was the first actor who played a Doctor Who companion to die.

This is also the last story directed by Barry Letts. From here he goes on to produce the classic serials for the BBC, with Terrance Dicks acting as his Script Editor once again. He returns to Doctor Who to act as Executive Producer on Tom Baker's final season over new producer John Nathan-Turner. During the 1990s he wrote two radio plays for the Third(Jon Pertwee) Doctor and contributed to many DVD commentaries effectively filling the moderator role on most of them. He died on 9th October 2009 aged 84. Who And Me, the intended first volume of his memoirs, sadly doesn't get as far as covering this story but is well worth a read.

Following this episode's broadcast on 13th December 1975 the program took a break for three weeks over Christmas. However two weeks later on the 27th December an 85-minute compilation repeat of Genesis of the Daleks was aired with a new story starting on Saturday 3rd January 1976.

Android Invasion was novelised by Terrance Dicks three years after it's broadcast in November 1978. It was released on video in 1995. It was released on DVD in the UNIT Files boxset with Invasion of the Dinosaurs on 9th January 2012, slightly too late for me to use in the original blog!

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