Just out on DVD from the BBC is Doctor Who – “The Android Invasion.” This four-part adventure aired at the end of 1975, as part of the thirteenth season of the classic series. The Doctor (Tom Baker, The Beeps, Little Britain) and Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen, The Sarah Jane Adventures) return to Britain, but find the world a bit odd. The little town they come to is empty, the calendar is stuck on one date, and all the money is newly minted. It’s soon apparent that the Kraals are set to invade Earth with androids, and this is their training ground.
This period of Doctor Who is full of invasion stories, and so this one might seem a little stale. Or, for those nostalgic for the previous Doctor, still adjusting to Baker’s version, it may be a nice return to formula. Either way, it’s a well written story by veteran Who scribe Terry Nation about using human-like androids to take over the planet. Once more, Sarah and the Doctor must thwart these attempts, this time without the aid of UNIT, who has already been infiltrated.
“The Android Invasion,” as par for the time, does lend itself to a little cheese. For one thing, the Kraals are pretty fake looking, something discussed in the DVD extras. For another, why don’t the doors in the Kraal base close all the way? Then again, there are also some pretty cool tricks. The androids look pretty sophisticated, and the scene where Doctor Who must fight an android version of himself is done well enough to pass a casual glance test. The double is close to Baker in build, and the camera angles work well enough, that the conceit holds up. It probably helps that Doctor Who doesn’t seek to get two identical faces in the same frame. So overall, pretty good job.
These episodes are notable for a couple of reasons. Namely, that two recurring characters make their final appearances in them. Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter, Crown Court) is the Doctor’s companion in season twelve, then does this one last adventure, albeit with a very tiny role, before disappearing forever. Similarly, Sergeant Benton (John Levene, Z Cars), also plays a small part in “The Android Invasion,” without a big send-off, but does not return to the series again. It’s a shame that the two just drop out with no real explanation after this.
The quality of this DVD is very good. The team did a fantastic job restoring picture and sound, and while it still looks like it’s from the 1970′s, of course, it does seem like an original, well preserved copy, rather than a cheap reconstruction.
Besides the four episodes, there are a few DVD extras. The standard photo gallery and PDF materials are present. In addition, there is a hilarious, completely cheesy commercial for Weetabix cereal featuring the Daleks, which doesn’t really seem to tie into this DVD, since the Daleks aren’t in the adventure. However, there really isn’t any room to complain, because it’s fantastic that it’s included somewhere in the Doctor Who DVDs. There is also audio commentary by guest stars Milton Johns and Martin Friend, who are joined by producer Philip Hinchcliffe and production assistant Marion McDougal.
In addition, two half-four featurettes are present. “Life After Who – Philips Hinchcliffe” is an extensive interview with producer Hinchcliffe. He discusses various television series and projects he has worked on. “The Village That Came to Life” is an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at “The Android Invasion.” Everything from the filming location, to the look of the Kraal, to Terry Nation’s development of the story, to amusing anecdotes of filming are included. It’s actually everything one needs to know about this adventure, and is a thoroughly complete special.
While not as essential to one’s Doctor Who collection as the other release from this past week, “Invasion of the Dinosaurs,” the wonderful acting and great extras do make this a valuable buy. I recommend picking up a copy of Doctor Who – “The Android Invasion,” on sale now.