Doctor Who #222: The Invasion Part 1

"Writing on a wall's much safer. You can't lose a wall, can you?"TECHNICAL SPECS: The Invasion is available on DVD, and features an animated version of this missing episode (one of two to get this treatment). First aired Nov.2 1968.

IN THIS ONE... The TARDIS turns invisible, so the Doctor tries to find someone to help fix the circuits, but runs afoul of International Electromatics.

REVIEW: Coming off The Mind Robber - which can't be ignored as the shot of the reconstituting TARDIS opens the episode - the animated look makes it seem like the characters DID lose the battle with the Land of Fiction and were turned into cartoons! Of course, it was never meant to that way, but it doesn't help that we go from the last shot of The Mind Robber, straight into the console room where there's no mention of the previous episode, nor of the passenger they'd just taken on. We're missing a bit of time between the first and second shots. Otherwise, the animation is quite nice. I had a reconstruction running on my laptop at the same time, and the DVD's version adds a lot to what amounts to a very limited collection of pictures (and a couple of brief clips). The lighting is moody, the atmosphere tense, and characters like the cow poking its nose in the TARDIS scanner, or the automatic receptionist smugly giving the Doctor the brush-off (it's a wonder what a tiny moving part can do to personify a machine). You might have seen the style in the flash animation Doctor Who story The Scream of the Shalka or the 10th Doctor's The Infinite Quest.

The last time the TARDIS showed up on contemporary Earth was The Web of Fear, and there's an attempt to place The Invasion in that world. The Doctor's got some computer circuits to repair and tried to find Professor Travers and Anne who would have access to the necessary tools, and Lethbridge-Stewart will appear in an upcoming episode. But the Travers family isn't home, instead their house is being used by another father-daughter (well, niece) pair, the Watkins. Were the actors unavailable? The uncle is the real electronician, and Isobel, well... She's certainly no Anne Travers. In fact, she's a terrible twit, vain (yeah, who DOES take pictures of themselves?) and scatter-brained. Her uncle's missing, but she doesn't realy care, or even know where he works. She's all over the place, allowing strangers the run of the house, though she bonds with Zoe over girlie things (Zoe's never had that in her life, so it makes sense she would be interested). I wish we still had the expression on Jamie's face when Isobel tells him she doesn't want pictures of him. It's the small comic looks the animation can't quite manage.

And if The Invasion is something of a sequel to The Web of Fear, it's more important as a prequel to the UNIT era. This is the first serial script edited by Terrence Dicks, a man who will leave an indelible stamp on Doctor by serving as co-showrunner through the whole Pertwee era AND write the lion's share of the Target novelizations. At this point, he's pinch hitting and will be alternating with Derrick Sherwin (who wrote this serial) as script editor. I don't know if Dicks was inspired by this serial to push the next Doctor in this direction, or if his ideas are being used by Sherwin (they massively rewrote Kit Pedler's outline), probably the latter. His fingerprints are all over this. It's contemporary/near future England. Benton makes his first, inoccuous, appearance (and soon, UNIT). Creepy guys on motorcycles. The Doctor hates computers. The TARDIS vanishes, for Pete's sake! Prophetic, no? It's a pilot for the next season.

Plot-wise, the episode does have problems. Nothing really happens for the first 10 minutes, and without the animation, we'd have long silent minutes while the TARDISeers get a lift from a lorry, then from another car. The music is pretty great, very suspenseful, but it's clearly padding. Long enough to forget the exciting bit up front where a missile is shot at the TARDIS from the moon. Once we get to International Electromatics, things start moving again. The auto-receptionist proves prescient since it has become the bane of our 21st-century existence (if you agree, press 1), though keeping it in a bare, empty room seems to defeat the purpose. We meet the villains (but still don't know WHOSE Invasion it is), the great Kevin Stoney as Tobias Vaughn, as slick and oily a villain as Doctor Who's had since, well, Stoney's Mavic Chen. The other half of his double act is the brutish Packer, a nice comic contrast to Vaughn's slimier demeanor. And then there's the shiny glass contraption behind his secret wall... The meeting between the Doctor and Jamie and these guys is fairly uneventful, and you get the feeling they got fleeced as the Doctor leaves his time machine parts in Vaughn's drawer, but it still has its moments. The Doctor stomps on Jamie's foot to shut him up (too late) and is quick to shut off the rock music coming out of Jamie's new disposable transistor radio (disposable? so the villains mean to destroy the Earth with pollution?!). It's double act vs. double act, and I'm hoping for a rematch soon.

VERSIONS: The animation tries its best to be faithful to the script and video, but it does take a few minor liberties. For example, it adds an alien ship flying past the moon after the TARDIS is attacked, likely unseen in the broadcast episode. Other inventions are related more to staging and camera angles.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The first episode of an eight-parter, it suffers from a slow-moving plot and the introduction of an annoying guest character. The villains look interesting, but show up much too late. As for the animation experiment, it looks keen. I want to see The Ice Warriors in this style!


Anonymous said...

The main mistake in the animation is that Zoe's wearing the wrong costume. She ought to be wearing the jumpsuit from the previous story, until she changes clothes at Isobel's house.

Siskoid said...

I don't remember if that was done to limit the number of modeled characters they had to do, or if it was an oversight.

LiamKav said...

Adding the ship was done to rectify a plot hole, since in a later episode the Doctor recalls seeing a ship, which in the original version wasn't there.

I believe that the lack of use of Travers was because they would have had to pay the writer of the Web of Fear for his use. I believe they had to pay to use the Brig for every episode he ever appears in, which must have made someone a fair bit of money during the 3rd Doctor era.

Interesting facts: The original animated version of this episode took more liberties with the staging. Either this one or episode 6 showed a massive room with a load of TV screens, with Vaughn's head shown as a huge projection. For the DVD release, they took out the stuff that would have never been in the original because of cost.

There was also originally the word's "Bad Wolf" written on Isobel's wall, but I think that's also been removed for the DVD version. I thought it was cute, but I can see why some people would consider it out of place.

Siskoid said...

You mean episode 4, but same difference. Yeah, the Bad Wolf thing is mentioned on TARDIS Wiki among other places, but isn't on the DVD. That's really too bad. Rose over-extending herself, I guess.


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