N. America: Oct 8
As an adventure, it’s a simple and traditional alien invasion yarn, but it’s everything else that makes Terror such a top notch tale. For starters, the cast are sensational. As mentioned, Baker is exquisite playing his Time Lord in a rather grumpy alien fashion at times (his reaction to the Brigadier and UNIT, for example) and his outburst at human need for oil is apposite. But there’s delightfully fun moments too with comments like, “sounds like the Brigadier,” when explosions begin and his classic, “Social call?” when chatting with Broton.
Likewise Elisabeth “Hellooo, Fox Inn” Sladen and Ian Marter are gifted with much variety but it’s the latter who really gets to show off his skills as the actor plays the rather horrific Zygon version of Harry. And what a scene that is in Episode Two, the barn scene. The lighting and direction are sublime, coming together to produce a real moment of horror that is still genuinely chilling. Director Douglas Camfield, like so many involved with this production, is on top form and is helped hugely by the location work and the substantial use of film (as opposed to video).
The filmic look adds to the alien atmosphere of the piece (despite its earthbound setting), which is bolstered by the extraordinary soundtrack from Geoffrey Burgon. Unlike any other Who score, the use of acoustic and sparse instrumentation marks it from any other (well, apart from The Seeds of Doom, which he also composed – DVD review HERE). It’s a thoughtful and fascinating listen and, thankfully, is available as an Isolated Score to drink in, in all its odd, ethereal goodness elsewhere on the DVD.
Of course, any look at Terror of the Zygons would not be complete without mention of the incredible model work, set design and the titular monsters themselves – all beautiful works of art. Again, it’s Camfield’s use of each of these that accentuates their qualities, with particular reference to the spectacularly lit Zygon’s lair and the slow reveal of their appearance. There’s few Doctor Who aliens that were perfect on their first outing, but these guys most definitely are; the Zygons, and their surroundings, are so intensely foreign and alien – it’s incredible we’ve had to wait so long for their return.
A traditional, old-fashioned story with killer performances, all round, and a look and a feel, not to mention a sound, quite unlike what had come before (or, indeed, since), Terror of the Zygons is a stone-cold must watch for any Who fan.
We’re treated with the “usual” making-of documentary, Scotch Mist in Sussex, which sees valuable contributions from Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Banks Stewart. Though there’s no comments from the likes of Tom Baker and co., there is some excellent archival footage of John Woodnut (Duke of Forgill/Zygon) who chats warmly about the experience and some colourful remarks from John Levene (as well as using the phrase “when ego is that big” when referring to Tom). Likewise, the commentary is somewhat dry with no actors or actresses to liven up proceedings but it’s great to hear Hinchliffe and Stewart enthusing and reminiscing.
The UNIT Family series comes to end with Part Three as the gang discuss the end of their time on the show, with some interesting remarks regarding Tom Baker and the changeover from The Third and Fourth Doctor eras. Doctor Who Stories pops up again with two delightful installments; one featuring Baker, the other Elisabeth Sladen. Both interviewees give much to chew over and enjoy as they remember their time on the show (with the latter even chatting about K9 & Company). Sladen also takes front seat in the rather amusing episode of Merry-Go-Round entitled The Fuel Fishers – Lis takes a trip (somewhat nervous-looking, it has to be said) to an oil rig back in 1977 and explains how it all works. You maybe won’t watch it again, but it’s so lovely to see Lis having a bit of presenting fun.
Rounding off this hugely impressive array of extras are: the Radio Times listings (with some gorgeous Terror of the Zygons artwork); a couple of Easter Eggs (I won’t spoil them for you, but they are well worth checking out); informative but very playful Production Subtitles; a juicy trailer for The Moonbase DVD; and the aforementioned, and very welcome, addition of “Isolated Score” – allowing the viewer to watch the four episodes purely with the gorgeous soundtrack.