Fresh from delivering the apparent classic ‘Genesis of the Daleks’, Terry Nation is back and writing a non-Dalek story for the first time since the brilliant Keys of Marinus.
Nation has been hit and miss in his attempts to write for the series in the 1970s and there’s a school of thought that anything he did well was either because he was going back to old ideas (Planet of the Daleks) or someone else rewrote if for him (Genesis of the Daleks).
So what about the Android Invasion? A good story, or is Nation a busted flush?
Doctor Who – The Android Invasion Review: What’s This One About
The Doctor and Sarah land on a planet that they think is Earth, but is really the planet of the Kraals, who are in the final process of rehearsing for an invasion of rural England by recreating the village of Devesham, its nearby Space Defence Station and everyone in it.
And seemingly all of it has been created by using the memories of Guy Crayford – an astronaut who is presumed dead on Earth.
As always, it’s up the Doctor to stop it.
Before I launch into what is a pretty extensive critique about how none of this makes even the slightest bit of sense, I’ll defend the story by saying that this was a story made at a time when people were only supposed to see it once and never again.
So on that score you’d look at the shock value of the story not really being set on Earth despite it appearing to be and think that it was quite clever. After all, if you only see the last episode three weeks after the first one you might forget some of the earlier plot and
just enjoy the surprise.
And that’s clearly what Terry Nation and Robert Holmes were banking on, because if they knew that this story would be immortalised on video and DVD in the years ahead they might have taken a moment to think about what they were presenting.
Because as I say…this story makes no sense.
The Kraal Plan – What…The…Fuck?!
So the Kraal’s need to move to Earth because the radiation on their planet has reached intolerable levels.
They have advanced technology, such as the ability to warp through space, create viruses that will wipe out mankind in a matter of weeks and other such things. You’d think that what they would do would be just to invade and attack, right? Wrong.
Instead they decide what they want to do is infiltrate in secret and then destroy humanity with this virus. And they plan on doing that by brainwashing an astronaut they have stumbled upon and captured and use his knowledge to get a better idea of what they are invading.
So they brainwash him by making him think that the humans have left him for dead. But they don’t just leave it at that; they say they have rebuilt him after he was ravaged by something like radiation, even though he wasn’t. And to emphasise the point that they’ve rebuilt him they make him believe that part of his body couldn’t be saved.
What part? Well they could have chopped off a hand, a finger even, but they decide the best thing to do is make him think he’s missing an eye. But rather than actually remove the eye, they put an eyepatch over it – despite it being perfectly healthy – and then just pray to God that he doesn’t bother to take it off at any point in the next two years. And he doesn’t of course.
So now they’ve got their man and brainwashed him into disliking humanity, they decide that they want to use him as a gateway to Earth and through that, their idea is to replace some key figures in the Space Station with Androids who will…I don’t know…help
the Kraals infiltrate unnoticed or something.
With me so far? Probably not, but I’ll keep going anyway.
So they’ve got their contrived means of getting to Earth and so plan to test that by recreating the surrounding area on their own planet. Seemingly through Crayford’s memory alone they are able to make a perfect replica of Devesham, complete with the knowledge of exactly who will be on staff two years later. That includes not only people who work at the station as their day job (in the hope that they haven’t moved jobs) but also which members of UNIT will be on staff while they are there.
But even that’s not enough for the micro-managing Kraals. For some reason they want to create the village nearby, along with Android replicas of all the villagers (assuming nobody has moved in or out in two years), a fully stocked pub, a calendar with the date July 6th printed on every piece of paper, freshly minted coins that were all issued on the same year despite the statistical unlikelihood of that happening, an unused dart board and everything in between. Why? I don’t know.
They also go to the trouble of creating android dogs, presumably in case someone like the Doctor stumbles across their plans.
So it’s lucky for them the Doctor has stumbled across it, and as such, in a bid to keep their plan secret, they program all the Androids – including his friends – to be hostile (that won’t raise suspicion, will it?), they have ‘basic’ Androids shoot at them even though the Androids don’t have the ability to distinguish between themselves and humans (think about that…), and when all that failed to work they make the Android Sarah tell the Doctor their entire plan.
Then, despite all the planning that’s gone into it, once they are ready to leave they decide to blow the entire village up. Presumably the Kraal economy is more wasteful than Greece (ooooh, topical).
But they don’t just want to kill the Doctor, they want to tie him up so he dies in the blast, thus giving him a small but crucial chance to escape and thwart their plans. Similarly, they don’t just want to test out their virus by actually TESTING it on Sarah; they give her a glass of water and assume she’ll drink it, and then they don’t even bother to check up on the results.
And when they eventually get to Earth and replace the key figures that they replace (which for some reason didn’t include the guy who apparently runs the place), they don’t kill them, but instead tie them up.
And they assume that the Earth authorities will just accept that Crayford has managed to survive for two years in deep space by recycling his own piss, and not question it. And they don’t!
So that’s their plan.
They could have and did do all of that, when they could have avoided it all by just going to another planet (which wouldn’t be too much of a stretch considering they can fly as far as Earth in a couple of hours) or if they had to have Earth they could have just bombed it.
So no, this plan makes no sense to me and deeply compromises the story. And as a result of that, I find it hard to be positive.
The End of the UNIT Era
Beyond that, one of the few noteworthy things about this story is that it’s the end of UNIT as a reoccurring theme in the show.
Yes, they show up again in the Seeds of Doom but those soldiers are just no-names who are unfamiliar to us; they may as well be ‘The Army’.
No, this is the real end of the UNIT era, and though the Brigadier has disappeared already, we now say goodbye to Benton and Harry Sullivan.
I get the feeling this wasn’t supposed to be their last appearances though, because if it was, the lack of any sort of goodbye scene must have felt like a right kick in the teeth.
UNIT could have worked going forward, but by this point, maybe ‘Aliens invade modern-day Earth’ had been getting a little stale.
Milton Johns as Guy Crayford
If I’m going to be positive about one thing about this story it’s that Milton Johns is quite good as Guy Crayford.
Unlike most villains, he does a good job of making you dislike him.
Johns is – whether you consider it to be unfortunate or not – a naturally slimey wee character, and so his weasily antics here and later on in the Invasion of Time make him one of the more odious actors in the show, but for the right reasons rather than being because he’s bad at his job.
- I hate incongruous writing, and this story has it. From the off, all we hear about is the Doctor’s love of Ginger Beer. We’ve never heard of it before, nor will we hear about it again, but in the Android Invasion, he’s just crazy about the stuff. Why? Well you’d think it was so the Doctor could rumble the Android Sarah, but the reason he gives for knowing it wasn’t her is that she was wearing a scarf that the Doctor had in his pocket (which incidentally is another part of the plot that doesn’t make sense – how did the Android Sarah have the scarf).
- So what was the point of the Ginger Beer stuff?
- You’ll notice that there’s another character that sounds exactly like Zippy in this one. It was of coursed voiced by The Emperor’s New Clothes of Voice Acting, Roy Skelton. It becomes clear that Skelton only has three voices in his supposed repertoire – his
own, Zippy and George. Still…that’s at least two more voices than Nick Briggs.
- One thing you can do while watching this is play a game called ‘Which Scenes Were Filmed After Tom Baker Goes Into The Lake And Picks Up A Bad Throat Infection’. Give it a try, it’s fun.
- Not quite sure how he managed to dry his clothes though, are you?
- That guy who played the Brigadier’s replacement for the episode is the sort of actor you’d expect to find in something like Rentaghost or Bodger & Badger. Absolutely awful.
- And of course, it begs the question of how a) he’s not aware of any extra-terrestrial stuff seeing as he’s high up in UNIT and b) how he’s even employed by UNIT considering the budget previously wouldn’t run to hiring extra staff.
- Max Faulkner is in this again. Who is he? Well he’s been in almost every story for the past three seasons and barely gets a word in. Have a look out for him in other stories and you’d be surprised how often he pops up.
- I can’t say I’m a big fan of the Kraal masks as they don’t offer any sort of movement in the face and the actors underneath sound muffled.
- But Stigron really did have a gritty death, didn’t he?
- To end with a positive thought though, I do like the scene where the Doctor first enters the Space Centre and gets blanked by the UNIT soldier. His incredulity and annoyance at that is well performed as he really does look pissed off.
Doctor Who – The Android Invasion Review: Final Thoughts
Following on from the Pyramids of Mars, this is a seriously disappointing story.
It just doesn’t make sense.
Of course, that’s not to say it’s bad, because there are far worse stories out there that do make sense but are incredibly boring or poorly acted.
If you can disengage your brain from a moment and don’t look…well I wouldn’t say too deep…don’t look at it at all, then you have a reasonably entertaining story that is mostly well performed.
But as I say, it’s laughable how little sense it makes and so I give this one the thumbs down, especially considering it’s sandwiched between two excellent stories.
And it would appear as though Terry Nation is back ‘on form’, unfortunately for us all.