Doctor Who – The Invasion Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Invasion
  • Story #: 46
  • Episodes: 8 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 11/02/1968 – 12/21/1968
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury, Nicholas Courtney, John Levene
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“He’s a ruthless man, without moral or principles, his object is to get complete control of the electronics industry of the world.” – Professor Watkins describing Vaughn

“Now all I need is my cameras from the house and I’m all set.” – Isobel
“Now wait a minute, this is hardly a job for you.” – The Brigadier
“Why ever not?” – Isobel
“Well, you’re a young woman. This is a job for my men.” – The Brigadier
“Of all the bigoted, anti-feminist, cretinist remarks.” – Isobel
“This is no job for a girl like you. Now that’s final!” – The Brigadier
“Oh, you men!” – Isobel

“I’m sorry, Doctor, but I think those crazy kids have gone off to the sewers to get photographs of the Cybermen!” – the Brigadier

“The Invasion” is eight half-hour parts, spread over two DVDs (parts 1-4 on DVD 1 and parts 5-8 on DVD 2), and it feels really long. Parts 1 and 4 are animation and the rest are the original film/video. There is some very nice monochrome animation here, especially the shading. This story brings back Col. Lethbridge-Stewart, now Brigadier, and introduces Sgt. Benton and UNIT. The titular invasion is the Cybermen, working for Tobias Vaughn of International Electromatics.

Although “The Invasion” is long, and at times a bit clunky (there is a lot of our team getting split up, captured, escaping, comparing notes, etc.) what the story seems to be, more than anything, is a pilot for the early Jon Pertwee years when the Doctor is stranded on Earth and working for UNIT to stop alien invasions and plots week after week. That’s not a bad thing, or a criticism – but the long length, the modern-day on Earth setting, the invading force, the human in league with aliens – all of that will become very, very familiar in future years (and even in modern New Who it’s a pattern that’s followed occasionally).

The TARDIS is in space on the Dark Side of the Moon when a missile nearly hits forcing the Doctor to materialize – he does and finds out he is on Earth, in “The Community” a network of factories, living quarters, hospitals and stores, where everything is owned by International Electromatics. Anyone not working for “The Company” is exiled. And the company’s security forces use lethal force against anyone they perceive is breaking company rules, regulations or policies. The Doctor and TARDIS crew are smuggled off corporation property, by a man we learn much, much, much later is an undercover UNIT operative. Although the Doctor doesn’t realise it, the man who helped him is killed by IE security troopers. The Doctor and company then catch a lift to London.

In London, they go to Professor Travers’ house hoping to replace or repair some damaged TARDIS components, only to meet Isobel, a flighty photgrapher. Isobel’s uncle is Professor Watkins, a friend of Travers’ (who has moved to the US). Isobel states both that she thinks her uncle could help, and that he’s working for IE and she hasn’t seen him for a while. Zoë poses as a model for Isobel and the Doctor and Jamie head to International Electromatics to find Professor Watkins. And thus begins a very long story.

The first four episodes are really focused on IE – who are they? Who is their mysterious manager-controller, Vaughn? Just what are they doing? And are they more than an autocratic electronics firm? The Doctor and Jamie meet Vaughn and the Doctor senses something is wrong with him. They meet Professor Watkins and also run into the Brigadier and UNIT – who are also investigating IE (it seems people go in but never come out, or they come out oddly changed). But because the Doctor and Jamie run into UNIT they are away for a long time. Zoë and Isobel decide to try to find out what is going on themselves – and Zoë feeds an impossible equation to the reception computer, causing it to blow up. they are arrested by Vaughn’s private troopers and locked up. In episode 4, the Brigadier organizes a helicopter and the Doctor and Jamie perform a daring rescue. This is one of the animated episodes, unfortunately, but it’s still impressive. It’s also Jamie who discovers some crates in the warehouse on IE property actually contain Cybermen!

The second half of the story is a Cybermen story. Vaughn is working with the Cybermen but plans on betraying them, leaving himself sole dictator of the entire world. The Cybermen have a ship in space, capable of launching ships and bombs at the Earth. They also have a hidden army in Vaughn’s facilities. But also, for some reason, they are planning on using mind control to take over Earth. They have a beam that can debilitate and control people that is amplified by the microcircuitry in all of International Electromatics products. So episodes 5-8 are really an elaborate chess game between Vaughn and the Cybermen on the one side, and the Doctor and UNIT on the other. UNIT is able to conveniently order attacks (such as one on a prison convoy that frees Professor Watkins), and work with other nations (they have the Russians launch missiles to destroy the Cyber-fleet and later knock out a massive cyber bomb and the Cyberman mother ship.)

Some aspects of this story are impressive: the helicopter rescue, the Cybermen walking down the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the fight in the sewers. But others really show the show’s lack of money (Isobel and Zoë are jailed by IE and disappear for a few episodes; Jamie is injured during the fight in the tunnels with the Cybermen – and does the same thing, etc.), the UNIT men discuss attacking the IE convey, later we see Vaughn’s head security goon reporting the attack and that UNIT made off with Watkins, and we see him reuniting with Isobel – but we don’t see the attack itself. But in a way, we don’t need to – your mind fills in the gaps, and Doctor Who shows it’s stylistic roots in British theatre.

“The Invasion” is a good story, but like most Doctor Who episodes that are longer than six parts, it just feels long, and like it needed a good once over by the editor’s pen. If it was tightened-up to even six episodes instead of eight – it would be a great episode. The animation for parts one and four is good, and I think this is one of the first if not the first story to be released on DVD with animation reconstructing the original episodes that were missing. Recommended.

Both disc 1 and disc 2 have special features as well as the actual episodes.

Doctor Who: The Scorchies Review

  • Title: The Scorchies
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: James Goss
  • Director: Ken Bentley
  • Characters: Jo Grant, Third Doctor, UNIT, The Scorchies (Guest)
  • Cast: Katy Manning (Jo), Melvin Hayes (The Scorchies)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/26/2017

The Scorchies want to take over the world. The want to kill the Doctor. And they want to perform some outstanding showtunes. Though not necessarily in that order…

Doctor Who The Scorchies is a Big Finish Companion Chronicles story performed by Katy Manning and Melvin Hayes. The Scorchies are a very nasty bunch of aliens, who just happen to look like cute, adorable, puppets. They come to Earth and take over a children’s TV show, using it to take over the minds of the adults who watch the program. Apparently, it’s the television equivalent of comfort food – something not really good for you, but that adults can’t ignore. Throw in some form of mind control and you have the basic plot.

The story, however, starts with Jo already captured at the television studio – by the Scorchies. The Doctor and UNIT are outside the studio, attempting to lay siege to it so they can defeat the “alien menace” so to speak. The plot, including the background of where the Scorchies come from, and the horrifying meaning of their name (they leave behind nothing but completely scorched planets – utter devastation). But because they look like puppets, and it’s a “children’s television show” this is accompanied by some truly awful songs and fairly terrible singing.

What surprised me about this particular story was that I expected it to be very, very funny. Instead, it’s horrifying. The moral – “don’t watch so much television” feels out of place in a television tie-in universe. Katy Manning, as always, is wonderful though, and the Scorchies (voiced by Melvin Hayes and by Katy herself) are voiced well, and at times, are very chilling. However, overall, since the actual story wasn’t really what I expected, I didn’t enjoy the story like I expected that I would. Still, even though it wasn’t the wild and humorous story I expected, it’s performed well, and it’s also much more like a full audio play, rather than what’s normal for the Companion Chronicles line where someone is telling someone else a story (not that I mind that, the story-telling part is a big part of what I like about the Big Finish Companion Chronicles.) Recommended with reservations – this is not what it says on the tin, rather, it’s a fairly horrifying story.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com

Click here to order The Scorchies on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Magician’s Oath

  • Title: The Magician’s Oath
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Scott Handcock
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Capt. Mike Yates, Third Doctor, the Brigadier, Jo Grant, UNIT
  • Cast: Richard Franklin (Mike), Michael Chance (Diamond Jack (guest))
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/13/2017

The Magician’s Oath is a story in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line, told by Capt. Mike Yates (Richard Franklin), though it’s set fairly early in the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) era, probably his second season. The framing sequence has Capt. Yates showing up at UNIT to “make a statement”, this being his story.

During the Summer, in London, a series of strange weather events occur. At first, these strange occurrences are amusing, but when a flash freeze hits half of Hyde Park and kills everyone there, UNIT becomes involved, including Mike, Jo, the Brigadier, and the Doctor. The Doctor also detects some strange energy readings, which he thinks are more worth investigating than the weather.

Mike and Jo, despite being warned off, decide to investigate anyway. A witness comes forward, the only person to survive what happened in Hyde Park, and she gives the cryptic clue of “Diamond Jack”. following the weather reports, Jo and Mike go to Trafalgar Square where a street magician named, Diamond Jack, is performing. Jo is dragged into his act and disappears. When Mike confronts him, weird stuff happens, including Diamond Jack floating in the air.

Capt. Yates finds Diamond Jack’s house. While outside, Mike is warned off confronting Diamond Jack by the Doctor and the Brigadier, but he ignores the warnings to rescue Jo. He locates Jo inside, who can’t believe she’s only been gone a few hours – she thinks it was days. The house itself is strangely empty with no photos or personal touches. Before Jo and Mike can escape, they are confronted by Diamond Jack.

The Brigadier, the Doctor, and UNIT arrive. The Doctor had found Jack’s spaceship. At this point, things get a little weird. The Doctor uses a device he found at the spaceship, a red cylinder, which seems to work in the reverse of the zap device from “Men in Black” – and restores Jack’s memories. But Jack is actually an alien prisoner – and a prisoner in three types, a “human” Jack who’s suffering from short-term memory loss until the Doctor reverses it, the person’s memories, stored in the cylinder, which the Doctor restores, and the physical body – which has only animal instincts. The Doctor, Jo, and UNIT go to the spaceship, where they manage to release the animal creature.

Meanwhile, Jack manages to kidnap Jo, again, and take her to Tower Bridge. Mike and the Doctor race to rescue Jo before the human Jack and his animal counterpart meet. Mike does rescue Jo, but not before Jack attacks her mind again, causing her to be placed in a coma. UNIT manages to take down Jack and the monster.

In the end, Mike confesses it took Jo a week to recover from her coma, and she lost her memory of the incident. Mike also confesses that he truly cared for Jo, even loved her, but she had only feelings of friendship for him.

The first half of this story works pretty well – the flash freeze is an intriguing mystery. But the second half, with the mysterious three-part alien, not to mention some alien civilization deciding Earth would make a great prison planet, works considerably less well. It’s like part 1 and part 2 are almost different stories, and they don’t gel being forced together. Mike’s sudden crush on Jo also seems misplaced, though the ending interview remarks that Mike was supposed to be a love interest for Jo. (Note: Mike was on the show before Jo Grant, as he was introduced with UNIT in Pertwee’s first story, whereas Jo was the Third Doctor’s second companion.) Even the flash freeze seems a little weird as “freezing to death” doesn’t work that way (it’s usually a process that takes a lot of time, and in cases where people have fallen into freezing water, for example, and are pulled out immediately – even if they seem “dead” they recover.) The way the situation in Hyde Park is described by Mike it’s more like the entire park was flooded with liquid nitrogen. I was left wondering, “huh?” Not to mention thinking the author had never actually experienced cold weather or frostbite.

But this is a Companion Chronicles story told from the point of view of an unusual companion, Capt. Mike Yates. As far as I know, it’s the only story told from his point of view in all of the tie-ins for Doctor Who. Yes, there are various UNIT stories, but they are often more team stories than the point of view of a single member of UNIT. Though as I said, I don’t remember even hints of a Mike-Jo romance, this is from Mike’s pov, and from what I remember of his character, he could quite easily have a thing for a woman who has no interest in him.

Overall, I’d give this 3.5 stars. It’s not horrible, but it’s not one of the best Companion Chronicles either.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com

Click here to order The Magician’s Oath on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Harvest of Time

  • Title: The Harvest of Time
  • Series: Doctor Who – Unknown
  • Author: Alastair Reynolds
  • Characters: Third Doctor, Jo, UNIT
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 8/23/2016

Harvest of Time is an original Doctor Who novel featuring the Third Doctor as played by Jon Pertwee and his companion Jo Grant. The UNIT boys – Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Captain Mike Yates, Sgt. Benton, and the Master also are involved in the story. Like many of the Third Doctor Era aired stories, this novel starts a bit slow – but it builds and builds to an awesome conclusion. The story also has a relevant message for today. The plot is a bit convoluted – but comes together in the last third of the book, and uses time travel in a plot that is both novel and that makes a certain logical sense.

The opening sequence is probably the most “separate” part of the novel, though it begins to make sense eventually. Then the Doctor and Jo are called, with UNIT, to investigate an anomaly at an off shore oil rig. When they arrive they are summarily dismissed. Yet, on the nearby shore something odd is going on. Before long, UNIT is engaged in combating one of the weirdest invasions ever – caterpillars in ambulators. However, far from being cute – early encounters in which the caterpillars take over the neural systems of human hosts – and the fact that the Doctor recognizes them immediately as the Sild a creature so terrifying they were destroyed by the Time Lords, makes them scary rather than cute. Even the Master shudders when the Doctor tells him that the Sild are invading. Besides their ability to take over humans, animals, or anyone else – the Sild conquer by sheer force of numbers. Meanwhile, on the oil rig, the daughter of an oil magnate has realizes she needs UNIT’s help, only to be stopped by government/corporate hacks in league with… you guessed it – The Master.

The Master is also the subject of “Time Fade” – slowly being forgotten by everyone, even UNIT. The Doctor, and the Master, discover why and engage in some fascinating bits of time travel and re-arranging to prevent and reverse the damage of the time-fade.

As always with a Jon Pertwee story, things do eventually work out, despite a somewhat high body count (this novel even manages to keep the “we can only have so many people on camera” feel of the Pertwee stories – telling us about various disasters while showing a few in detail.)

Overall, it’s a unique SF and time travel story, the monster is very unique, I really liked the end, and the story has an interesting message. Definitely something to pick-up and add to your Doctor Who collection.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Eye of the Giant

  • Title: The Eye of the Giant
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Christopher Bulis
  • Characters:  Third Doctor, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Liz), UNIT
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/28/2013

NOTE: Spoilers

The Eye of the Giant moves like a freight train. It’s a fast-moving adventure story.

The Eye of the Giant is part of Virgin Publishing’s Doctor Who Missing Adventures original paperback novel series. I read the e-book version. The story features the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee), and Doctor Elizabeth Shaw (Liz), and UNIT, including Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, Sgt. Mike Yates, and Sgt. Benton. The novel begins with Liz and the Doctor working on the TARDIS council. They are interrupted by the Brigadier, who delivers a strange artifact found inside a shark in waters off New Zealand and Australia. Liz and the Doctor investigate, soon launching a time bridge to 40 years in the past.

Meanwhile, 40 years ago, a millionaire’s yacht heads for the mysterious island of Saltuna. Aboard the ship are the millionaire founder of Paragon Studios, Marshal Grover, his second wife, Nancy Norton (an actress), his daughter, Amelia, from his first marriage, Paragon’s leading man, Montgomery, Paragon’s leading director, and his cameraman, and Professor Steinberg – whom Grover’s promised a chance to investigate and make discoveries on the island, and their servants, as well as the ship’s rather large crew. The ship is heading for the island, when they are hit by a mysterious something. They manage to make it to shore, but the ship is damaged and will take days to repair.

Steinberg is excited about this since he will be able to investigate the island. He hopes to make enough discoveries to regain his status in the medical and scientific community after one of his previous experiments killed a patient.

The director, cameraman, and leading man are also excited about filming Nancy’s new film on the mysterious and exotic island. However, Nancy, who shows herself to be a spoiled brat, isn’t excited. She wants nothing to do with filming on the island, and urges her husband to leave as soon as possible.

Nancy is right in a strange way: the Island is occupied by strange, giant, creatures. A huge, giant snake attacks Nancy, but she is quickly rescued. Soon giant crabs come out of the water and fight some giant bats. Other members of the ship’s crew find giant ants.

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Liz travel through the time bridge, hoping to find the origin of the mysterious artifact they are investigating at UNIT HQ. They arrive very near a volcano on the island, escape, then encounter the group from Paragon Studios. Sgt. Mike Yates also soon follows them. In trying to find the Doctor and Liz, he meets and rescues Amelia.

Before long, it becomes apparent that a UFO had crashed on the island several years ago, the pilot had been carrying stolen medical supplies. One of the ampules had broken, causing the giantism on the island. The pilot, however, had fallen down a hole, and the environmental controls of his suit had failed. Years later, Amelia Grover falls down the same hole, Mike Yates rescues her and they find what they think is a native statue. Later in the book, the alien is re-animated. However, he’s not your typical evil Doctor Who alien, like the Daleks or Cybermen. Rather he’s an old-fashioned thief who simply wants to repair his ship, get off the island and planet, and to sell what he stole.

Eventually, the Doctor helps accomplish this, as well as getting the yacht off the island, with her remaining passengers and crew. The aliens from whom the first alien had stolen the medical supplies, shoot down the ship, and the ship’s power core lands in the volcano, causing the eruption that history records happened and destroyed the island. Liz, the Doctor, Mike, and the Brigadier and his rescue party all return to HQ.

The novel could have ended there – it really should have. But when everyone returns to the present, they find a strangely altered Earth, where Nancy Norton is leader of the world, and her cult of personality has her treated as a goddess. Returning to the past, the Doctor, Liz, Mike, and Benton, must prevent or change Nancy’s fusion with the alien. They do but at a high cost of additional lives lost on the ship, including Nancy’s and Amelia’s. However, the timeline returns to normal, and the Doctor and company return to their UNIT HQ.

This was a quick and enjoyable read. However, it should have stopped when well enough ahead. I didn’t care for the last 80 pages, and I thought Nancy’s Cult of Personality wildly improbable. The method of fixing the problem was, of course, even more depressing. Still the book is a fun romp, and a quick read. I enjoyed it.