With Doctor Who‘s 50th anniversary special airing in just a few weeks, fans of the show are eager to gobble up any hints they may get as to the plot. One thing that has been revealed is that the Zygons will be featured, an alien race that has appeared only twice before, the second time being in a small way, disguised as humans in last year’s “The Power of Three.” Thus, it seems appropriate that the BBC chooses now to release the defining serial about this race – Terror of the Zygons – on DVD.
Terror of the Zygons is set in the Scottish Highlands and combines four familiar elements: an exploding oil rig, the Loch Ness Monster, overreaching espionage, and shapeshifters. I’m sure BP wishes the spill in the Gulf of Mexico could be blamed on aliens and sea creatures, but alas, this is fantasy, not reality.
The Doctor (Tom Baker), Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), and Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) arrive in a Scottish town and investigate the destruction of the rig. It soon becomes clear that the destruction was not a natural occurrence, but their early attempts to investigate are thwarted because the Zygons are watching them, meaning they know exactly what our heroes are up to. Eventually, of course, the good guys get the upper hand.
It’s interesting just how relevant so much of Terror of the Zygons is, considering it aired in 1975 as the 13th season premiere.. It’s recently been in the news how the U.S. government is spying on everything we do, as well as our allies’ actions, much like the Zygons are doing in Scotland. Plus, the Deepwater Horizon incident is not far from our memories. This may have been nearly 40 years ago, but the story is still something we can relate to.
Many have praised the Zygons as a very interesting race, with Tenth Doctor David Tennant naming them as his favorite Doctor Who monster. It’s curious why they have been gone so long, then. Surely “The Power of Three” telegraphs the modern continuation’s plans to bring them in, and it’s about time. An alien race who live under the sea, have biological engineering, i.e. living mechanics, and depend on Nessie’s milk to survive, they are unique in many of their characteristics, and it’ll be cool to see how they’ve been updated.
Terror of the Zygons is actually an ending of sorts for a major Doctor Who era. Besides being the last series regular appearance of Harry Sullivan (the Doctor will not have another male companion for five years), it also marks the final episodes of Brigadier Lethbride-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) for nearly a decade. For a time, Doctor Who became an ensemble, with the Doctor and UNIT cooperating frequently, especially while the Doctor was marooned on Earth. Here, we see the departure of that structure, signaling a return to an older version of Doctor Who stories.
The recent two-disc DVD release has plenty of extras, as usual. There’s an audio commentary with a panel of those who worked on the production, photo gallery, isolated music, and PDF materials. A Director’s Cut of the first part is available on the disc, which mainly adds a deleted scenes set early in the story. Featurettes include new additions to already existing series – “The UNIT Family – Part 3,” “Doctor Who Stories – Tom Baker,” and “Doctor Who Stories – Elisabeth Sladen.” There’s also a “Making of,” a tribute to Douglas Camfield, the director of this story, and more.
In short, the most recent Doctor Who release lives up to other recent DVDs in the series, continuing to provide not only the chance to watch classic installments of the beloved show, but also giving plenty of information for those who wish to look a bit deeper.
Doctor Who – Terror of the Zygons is available now.