The day has finally come. It is the last of the 4th Doctor stories to get the DVD treatment, and one fans have been clamoring for. Just in time for their appearance in the 50th anniversary special, the Zygons have landed, in Doctor Who: Terror Of The Zygons.
This story was the first of the Hammer Horror inspired, much more gruesome Doctor Who stories of the Robert Holmes/Philip Hinchcliffe era, with more mature storylines, and much less UNIT involvement. This four part story by Robert Banks Stewart, the first of Tom Baker’s second season, takes the Highlands of Scotland (really Sussex) as its setting, a perfectly spooky and atmospheric place for a Who story. The Doctor and his crew set down on Earth once again, with a mystery waiting in the wings. Someone has been attacking off-shore oil rigs around Loch Ness, and there are stories of a giant monster being told by the natives.
In truth, the Zygons, one of Who’s most brilliantly realized monsters, are behind the attacks, sicking their monster, the Skarasen, on anyone who gets too close to their underwater base. The Zygons really are a thing to behold, with their terrifying faces, beady eyes, and bodies covered in suckers like some sort of orange octopus-demon. The sets are moody, with perfect lighting to give them that otherworldly atmosphere so needed to ramp up the scare factor. The Skarasen is essentially a puppet, literally and figuratively, a poor attempt at making “Nessy”, but it serves its purpose well enough.
This story also stands as a farewell to UNIT, and we won’t see UNIT proper until Battlefield many years later. We have Harry Sullivan captured by Zygons for a good portion of the story, and really, only the Brigadier gets much screen time.
Terror of the Zygons is mostly remembered for its villains, as the story doesn’t have a lot to offer, but what it does have is pretty great. It may have plot holes, but it still has plenty of scares, and remains a memorable part of Who history on that basis.
The extras are fantastic, with over two hours worth of bonus documentaries, behind the scenes, commentaries, bonus scenes, and a photo gallery.
First up is Scottish Mist In Sussex, an over thirty minute making of, that really gives you a glimpse into what does on behind the scenes, and how many people are actually the architects of thirty minutes of telly each week.
The UNIT Family – Part 3 is a fantastic look back at the Doctor’s “family” on Earth. It delves into each major characters life, on and off the set, and goes on to show how much they meant to the show, as well as the fans.
Who Stories – Tom Baker is a 23 minute interview from 2003, with plenty of back story, asides, and Tom’s always over the top, eccentric wit.
Who Stories – Elisabeth Sladen is another 20 minute interview from 2003, where she speaks of her time on the show, her fondness for Tom, and her love for the fans.
Not the best Tom Baker story, but it is far from the worst, with memorable, if only seen once, villains, scary set pieces, and an interesting take on the Loch Ness monster. There is a reason fans have been asking for this story for years. It is finally out on DVD now, and this Whovian highly recommends it.