Tuesday, October 20, 2009

4F4 - Terror of the Zygons 4

Everything is rolling along nicely in Episode Four. There's some great model shots of the Zygon ship in flight, a great explosion of said ship later in the quarry (and I love that a quarry is a proper quarry in this episode, as opposed to it doubling for an alien planet), some good sequences featuring the Brigadier firing off depth charges into Loch Ness, and a nice bit of witty and eccentric heroism from Tom Baker when he sets the self destruct sequencer on the Zygon ship.

Then, with about eight minutes left, everything goes a bit pear shaped. While surveying the wreckage of the Zygon ship and wondering what Broton's next move will be, the Brigadier suddenly remembers (he even says, "I've just remembered") that there is a major world energy conference taking place in London (something which, in the past, UNIT would have been involved in, based on how many peace conferences they handled in the early Pertwee era). So, all the world leaders in one place at one time - seems an obvious place to target for Broton to try and stage a takeover. But how can they gain access to the conference? Security is tight (too tight, it would seem, for even a high ranking officer in the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce to gain access), but thankfully, Sarah remembers that the Duke of Forgill is on the chair of the energy commission! "That's right! I am!", exclaims the Duke, apparently having forgotten until Sarah's reminder.

At the conference, the Skarasen emerges from the Thames, looking nothing like the impressive stop motion creature seen in the last two episodes, but, instead, looks like the cheap, CSO'd hand puppet we were all dreading it would be. Sigh.

Still, the last eight minutes doesn't entirely ruin what was an exceptional story - a fine vehicle to welcome back one of Doctor Who's finest directors, and one to send off one of its most memorable characters (and no, I'm not talking about Harry Sullivan, although I thoroughly enjoyed Ian Marter's year in Doctor Who). Terror of the Zygons is the last appearance of Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart for almost a decade. Admittedly, he's a bit of a passenger in this story, but nowhere near the dunce that he was portrayed as in the later Pertwee years. Still, the Brigadier was, and is, one of the most important characters in the history of Doctor Who - one of the few regular characters to stand up to The Doctor on occasion, sometimes combative with him, but always loyal. The Brigadier's departure was the last real aspect of the UNIT era to be dispensed with in the transition to a purely cosmic Doctor once again. Although we'll be seeing UNIT twice more in Season 13, neither feels like the cosy, familiar UNIT we're used to, even with the presence of Benton and Harry.

I've always enjoyed UNIT as a concept, even though many viewers think that The Doctor should never have been confined to Earth and form a partnership with a military organization to begin with, and that The Doctor should never be limited in his travels. But a series that needs to be bound by its own boundlessness is doomed to get repetitive, and the UNIT years were a refreshing about turn in the series' motivation. After six years, though, it was time to get back out there and explore the universe...


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