October 8, 2013


(Special thanks to BBC Home Entertainment for providing a complimentary DVD for review)

Admittedly, my love of 1970s Who is probably borne more out of nostalgia (so much so that last night - the rough date when I first watched Who - I watched my first story) than anything else. So when I received a review copy of Terror of the Zygons (released today by BBC Home Entertainment), I approached watching it with some trepidation. It's not one of my favorite stories, but it's not hated - it was always just "there". Having viewed the DVD, I can honestly say that it's probably the last great UNIT story - a melding of Letts'/Dicks' storytelling tropes with Hinchcliffe/Holmes' more baroque leanings, making it a much better story than memory serves.

It's not without reason that this is the last great UNIT story - all the UNIT regulars are present, and there's a great semi-contemporary focus on oil in Scotland, as well as the Loch Ness Monster. Although initially intended as a six-part season closer (for Tom Baker's first season), Terror of the Zygons became a four-part season-opener which demonstrated the economy and more gothic leanings of Hinchcliffe and Holmes. (If the Zygon's fetal appearance doesn't slightly creep you out, the more "organic"-looking tech of the Zygon ship would be sorely out of place in early 1970s Who). Terror of the Zygons also shows off exactly why Douglas Camfield was highly regarded as a Who director - there's a directness and energy in his direction. (One of the featurettes on disc 2 is a great documentary on Camfield, and he's one Who director whose work is worth finding and watching). Only the special effects - an effect to bring Harryhausen-style animation to Who - provide a slight drop in quality; however, this is only a small part of what is a really good Who story. (Also, UNIT never really featured in a major way - in Seeds of Doom, they serve as backdrop, and we'll not mention The Android Invasion).

Like the Camfield featurette, many of the special features are illuminating, especially for the wrong reasons. For example, in part three of The UNIT Family, Tom Baker rips into the character of Benton, and John Levene's onscreen behavior....possibly explains the lack of respect. (For those following along: Part One is found in The Invasion DVD, and Part Two is in Day of the Daleks). But many of the other featurettes, including a pair of interviews with Tom Baker and Elizabeth Sladen, are really on the money. Like many of BBC Home Video's other Who releases, you definitely get value for the money, and this definitely deserves watching.

With all the news around "found" episodes and the 50th anniversary, it would be easy to forget that there is currently a great wealth of currently available Doctor Who on DVD. Terror of the Zygons is one of those stories - for some, it's a classic; for others, is a great watch. For me, it's moved into a place that's a little of both. Very highly recommended.

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