Terror of the Zygons : Part One
First Broadcast 30th August 1975 @ 5.45pm (8.4m viewers)
The Zygons. For so many years amongst the pantheon of Doctor Who ‘one hit wonders’. Such was the memorable nature of the Zygons that they made appearances in comic strips, novels such as ‘The Bodysnatchers’ (1997), audio adventures such as ‘The Zygon Who Fell to Earth’ (2008) and even an independent adult movie. They would finally reappear onscreen in the 50th Anniversary story ‘The Day of the Doctor’ (2013). Recently they battled Peter Capaldi’s Doctor in the 2015 series.
Much of the reasoning behind the Zygons continued resonance with fans comes from their spectacular design by the extraordinarily talented costume designer James Acheson, who would later be awarded Oscars for his work. Although humanoid in shape and inhabited by an actor the costume is a design classic. Covered in suckers and with a striking orange colour, the Zygons were instantly recognisable aliens and Tenth Doctor David Tennant often names them as his favourite monster. A refurbished original Zygon has recently gone back on display at the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff and is worth visiting for that artefact alone. With almost only the fibreglass head and torso surviving, the work that has gone into returning the monster to exhibition condition is exemplary and the small details, such as the veins in the head, are astounding.
This story was written by Robert Banks Stewart and had previously authored episodes for ‘The Avengers’ and ‘Adam Adamant Lives!’. He would later create popular shows ‘Shoestring’ and ‘Bergerac’. Tasked with creating a Doctor Who script his skills in delivering gritty drama were perfectly suited to the programme. Although a traditional ‘invasion Earth’ story it, therefore, feels fresh and gripping. The first episode starts as a murder mystery with the Doctor investigating what caused the destruction of the oil rig. To add further intrigue Harry is shot before the episode culminates in a perfectly executed cliffhanger.
The climax of this episode is perhaps one of the best examples of effective Doctor Who storytelling. The tension builds neatly as a mysterious hand lurks towards an oblivious Sarah. In a superbly dramatic reveal, Sarah spins round as she and the viewer are brought face to face with the grotesque shape of a new alien creature. The sight of the Zygon lasted just a split second. But these brief moments would stick in the mind of the viewer, becoming a popular topic in schoolyards across the country and no doubt cementing the popularity of the Zygons which continues to this day.
Doctor Who – Tom Baker
Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart – Nicholas Courtney
Sarah Jane Smith – Elisabeth Sladen
Harry Sullivan – Ian Marter
Broton – John Woodnutt
Director – Douglas Camfield
Producer – Philip Hinchcliffe
Writer – Robert Banks-Stewart
Also First Aired On This Day…
- The Leisure Hive : Part One
- Into the Dalek