"I think the General's a bit overwrought." "I think he's insane."TECHNICAL SPECS: No DVD yet. Internet provides. First aired Apr.25 1970.
IN THIS ONE... The Doctor meets the aliens in orbit and brings down their ultimatum, though he's captured by Reegan before he has a chance to transmit it.
REVIEW: Two stories into the Barry Letts era (Spearhead was still a Sherwin production) and there's a definite theme at work, i.e. that humanity can be as bad or worse than the aliens. As with the Silurians, the Doctor may be the only one able to broker a peace, but will the authorities listen to him this time. We get relatively little of the aliens, but what we see is pleasantly, well, alien. The ship is this glowing, organic thing with a gaping maw, better as a model than in the CSO shots, but even those work once the Doctor's feet are on the ground. There's something wonderfully askew about the human astronauts jabbering about what is essentially the Hypno-Toad show on an egg-like television, thinking they're on Earth watching sports. The aliens aren't very clearly seen, no doubt because their environment is saturated with radiation, but they have very strange body language. The one we see on Earth has a bubbling face that finally breaks through Liz's composure. She's less terrified than startled, but she plays the panicked moments very believably.
You know, I give this serial extra points for not yet having a scene that explains the whole plot in one go. We still have to put it together ourselves and though we now know some of the circumstances, the motivations behind them are still something of a mystery. Reegan and Carrington are obviously working at cross-purposes, so does Carrington want the aliens as a weapon for Britain, and Reegan as a way to commit super-crimes and get rich? Or does Carrington actually have something else in mind? Like studying them to better arm himself against alien invaders? We shouldn't forget that all his talk of moral duty was more or less the Brigadier's justification for attacking the Silurians in the previous story. The aliens, at least, are justified in their aggressive posture. They want their ambassadors back, and are holding the human astronauts as hostages until then, and threatening to destroy the Earth if they don't get them. The human astronauts don't seem to know what's going on, but Carrington probably opened these negotiations during his own Mars mission, though apparently under false pretenses. We're definitely the ones showing bad faith here.
I like it when UNIT is competent, and it starts out that way with the Brig ordering forensic evidence, etc. Other UNITeers aren't so strong, however, and let Reegan escape with the Doctor thanks to slow communications. And hell, the van just left, jump in a jeep and track it down! It doesn't bode well that Lennox died on their shift either. Maybe Liz SHOULD take the job Reegan offers after all. That's an amusing bit, though of course, I doubt he pays in anything other than bullets (or their equivalent). His minions tend to meet with untimely ends. Speaking of Liz, she and the Doctor are happily reunited before Part 7, and by happily, I mean that the Doctor is a bit touchy-feely with her. Maybe Jo wasn't the first companion the Doctor seemed to have feelings for. It's a small moment, stroking her hair, saying that she makes him feel better, but it's a moment nonetheless. I'm calling it Doctorly affection, no need to go into fanfic mode here, kids!
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - I keep coming back to the same adjective to describe this serial, and that's "intriguing". Mysteries, motivations, strange aliens, relationships, characters' potential. All that is intriguing.