Doctor Who #417: The Android Invasion Part 2

"I always told Alexander Bell that wires were unreliable."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.29 1975.

IN THIS ONE... Benton and Harry show up, but they're fakes. Like everything else in this story, including... oh no! Sarah!

REVIEW: It's kind of precious that the Doctor still believes the people in the village - now including our good friends Benton and Harry - are under some kind of alien control even after seeing android and being told (by an untrustworthy source, but still) aliens are replacing people with duplicates. As an audience member, I'm impatient for him to catch up to us, in on it because of the title and the twitching UNIT-bot in Part 1. Or he might be playing it close to the vest because he knows Sarah's been replaced. Strangely, he cites a scarf as the crucial clue instead of those the audience might actually have noticed, like her sudden enjoyment of ginger beer,  her healed ankle, or even the mysterious phone that only works when the village's overlords want it to work. Hopefully, the shocking, face-popping - and iconic! - cliffhanger tells him everything he needs to know. Though he's slow on the uptake in regards to the androids, he does realize a twist we hadn't - this isn't really Earth, and except for Guy Crayford, lost astronaut, everyone is just a robot based on his memories (as with the killer UNIT unit created just to be destroyed). I do hope the real Benton and Harry get to show up in this, their last story, because it'd be a crying shame if they didn't.

Guy's not really the only real person, there are also the Kraals. Ironically, their rhino-inspired masks look very fake indeed, but I don't dislike the design. Some effort was put in making their technology quite alien too, somewhere between ours and the Zygons'. Theirs seems to be a story of scientific hubris. They've created a (they think) perfect facsimile of an English village, and Styggron thinks his androids are both unbeatable and incapable of turning on their masters. He's probably wrong on both counts. The fear that the Doctor could reprogram them seems to telegraph the ending, I can't quite remember. The plot is a bit schizophrenic when it comes to these aliens. Styggron keeps changing his mind about what to do with the Doctor, to Crayford's general distress, and again shows his hubris as scientific curiosity keeps his security forces from putting an end to the Time Lord threat.

I'm used to easy reversals of fortune in Terry Nation scripts, but I don't have to like them (Sarah robot just up and gives up, throwing herself to the ground in frustration, for example). And he trots out that old chestnut, the sprained ankle, once more. Terry, Terry, Terry... Do all your Who girls have weak hams? The idea that the TARDIS continues on its programmed journey if the key is in the lock is a completely wrong-headed feature, but Nation can't keep from adding to the time ship every chance he gets. Holmes keeps Nation less under control this time, but he does come up with a few good lines, including one about Devesham being "a village without a future" when the Doctor's investigation of the inn reveals a calendar with only one date on it - July 6th. Kraal-Devesham - where every day is my birthday. It makes up for the fact that no episode of Doctor Who was ever shown on my birthday, I suppose.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - There are some nice surprises (or at least, moments of revelation, if you knew the plot points already), but we do lose something when the three likeable companions are essentially evil androids for most or all of the episode.


Wriphe said...

I'd like to add that as a kid, I remember this serial made me feel really, really clever, as if I were able to pick up on something the Doctor didn't. I haven't seen it in years, but I think if I were to rewatch it today, I'd find the Doctor's intentional obtuseness to be really irritating.

Siskoid said...

As it's made with kids in mind, I'd say it's a virtue, but I prefer that the Doctor know, but remain vague, so I can be smarter than the companion at least.

Wriphe said...

I just realized: we keep calling him "the Doctor," including the definite article as though it were necessary, although we are discussing a person aliased "Doctor" and not a titled doctor. Is his name "The Doctor" or "Doctor"? If the former, we should be capitalizing the article; if the latter, we should be omitting it altogether, shouldn't we?

Siskoid said...

My usage is the same as on the show. If you're talking to him, you call him Doctor (as you would your physician). If you're talking about him, you call him The Doctor.

It's not his real name, it's a title Ian and Barbara give him and which he adopts.

Siskoid said...

I just realized I capitalized the "The" there, but in a normal sentence, I use "the". Every episode's subtitles and scripts bear this out.

Wriphe said...

If Ian and Barbara had nicknamed him "Bandit," we wouldn't continue on calling him "the Bandit," now would we? We use the uncapitalized definite article because we are treating "Doctor" like a title, like "President." That's a bit peculiar, isn't it?

If the Doctor were a real person -- as I think we would all love to believe -- we wouldn't do any such thing. If his assumed name was Doctor, we would call him such. Do your friends call you "the Siskoid" when they aren't talking directly to you? (If they don't maybe they should. That sounds pretty awesome.)

I can accept that we call him "the Doctor" because the fictional character is the BBC's intellectual property and therefore within their domain to name as they see fit. It just seems that in our discussions, we are de-personalizing the character by treating his chosen alias as a title.

I'm not complaining. I'm just saying, "that seems weird."

Siskoid said...

Well, think of the Doctor in Star Trek Voyager. It's the same usage. "The Doctor" is not a name, it's a title. Like "the Brigadier". With the Brig, we know his real name, with the Doctor, we don't.

Matthew Turnage said...

If Ian and Barbara had nicknamed him "Bandit," we wouldn't continue on calling him "the Bandit," now would we?

Why not? That's consistent with the usage regarding Burt Reynolds' character in "Smokey and the Bandit" - called "Bandit" when spoken to, "the Bandit" when spoken about.

Having a Who episode broadcast on your birthday can be a mixed bag. On my birthday, there's been "Evil of the Daleks" Part 5, "The Time Monster" Part 5, and "Love and Monsters".


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