Monday, October 19, 2009

4F1 - Terror of the Zygons 1

Douglas Camfield, how we have missed you. It's been five long years since the acclaimed director collapsed on the set of the Jon Pertwee story Inferno, but still managed to make such detailed notes and camera scripts that Barry Letts picked up the ball running and turned Camfield's work into one of the best Doctor Who stories ever made.

Finally making his return on Terror of the Zygons, you can see that he hasn't missed a beat. Everything seems just that little bit tighter and pacier (Graeme Harper studied under Camfield as an assistant director, and it shows) than any other Who made at the time. John Levene, possibly Camfield's biggest fan, always gives his best performances in Camfield-directed stories, and he is no slouch in this one, either. The Zygons are artfully kept ambiguous - a shot of glaring eyes here, another of hands moving there, and a wonderful sequence of several artsy dissolves between the Zygons operating their strange, organic controls of their spaceship.

Camfield's command of action sequences is displayed in full during the scene on the beach where Harry discovers a survivor of the oil rig destruction wash up on the shore. Note the way that the survivor, Munro, is filmed in extreme long shot staggering and collapsing. Cut to Harry running from far away to mere inches from the camera as he flies by. Then the extreme closeups of the Caber eying the scene up, and the even tighter shots of the trigger of the gun as he fires...marvelous, marvelous stuff.

All this leads to a super scary reveal a Zygon menacing Sarah Jane Smith at the end of the episode in one of the all time great shock cliffhanger sequences ever. What I love about it is that you do get a full on shot of the Zygon for the first time - head, mouth, body, everything - but it lasts so tantalizingly short, and zooms into the Zygon's face during the course of the scant few seconds that it's on screen, that no matter how many times you watch that cliffhanger, you never feel like you're seeing the entire creature at once.


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