BBC HomeExplore the BBC

3 September 2014
Accessibility help
Text only

BBC Homepage

Entertainment Cult

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

 
The Android Invasion

Production Code: 4J

First Transmitted

1 - 22/11/1975 17:45

2 - 29/11/1975 17:45

3 - 06/12/1975 17:45

4 - 13/12/1975 17:45

Plot

The TARDIS arrives on the planet Oseidon where the alien Kraals have created an exact replica of the English village of Devesham and its nearby Space Defence Station and populated it with androids in order to rehearse for an invasion attempt. A human astronaut, Guy Crayford, has been duped into collaborating with them.

The TARDIS travelson to Earth alone, and the Doctor and Sarah follow in Crayford's rocket, which is being used to carry the spearhead of the invasion force. The Kraals' chief scientist, Styggron, intends to release a deadly virus in order to weaken resistance to the forthcoming invasion.

On reaching Earth, the Doctor and Sarah try to convince UNIT troops at the Space Defence Station of the danger, but with the Brigadier away in Geneva, their attempts fall on deaf ears - Crayford is being hailed as a hero.

The Doctor uses the Station's transmitters to jam the control signals of the now active androids - including duplicates of himself, Harry Sullivan and RSM Benton - and prevents Styggron from releasing his virus. Styggron accidentally infects himself during a fight with the android Doctor and is killed.

Episode Endings

The Doctor is captured trying to escape from the replica Space Defence Station but Sarah sees him being taken to a cell and creeps up to release him once the android guards have gone. Unseen by Sarah or the Doctor, a communicator on the wall swings back to reveal an alien face peering out at them.

The Doctor and Sarah return to where the TARDIS landed, but it has gone. The Doctor now knows that this is not the real Earth - and that his companion is not the real Sarah. He grabs her and, as she struggles to free herself, she falls over. The front of her face falls off to reveal that she is an android.

The Kraals are preparing Crayford's rocket to leave for Earth. The Doctor and Sarah hurriedly make their way on board, where they find pods containing androids. They start to move the androids out so that they can get into the pods themselves - otherwise, they will be crushed by the g-force on take-off. Sarah manages to get into one of the pods, but the rocket takes off and the force starts to crush her.

The Doctor and Sarah locate the TARDIS on Earth and depart.

Roots

Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The Stepford Wives.

Pohl's Tunnel under the World; Star Trek (the mind probe in Errand of Mercy).

On waking up, the Doctor mixes up Chekov and Carrol.

Dialogue Triumphs

The Doctor : [To one of the android drones with a finger-mounted gun.] "Is that finger loaded?"

Styggron : "The androids will disseminate a virus. It will cause a contagion so lethal, the Earth will be rid of its human population within three weeks, then it will burn itself out and the world will be ours."

The Doctor : "Once upon a time there were three sisters, and they lived in the bottom of a treacle well. Their names were Olga, Marsha and Irena... Are you listening, Tillie?... I feel disorientated."

Sarah : "This is the disorientation centre!"

The Doctor : "That makes sense."

The Doctor : "Let's try the pub!" [[Kraals drink McEwan's Export]]

Dialogue Disasters

The Doctor : "I will now activate the hostility circuits."

Double Entendre

The Doctor : "If we can somehow lure that guard in, give him a good stiff jolt..."

Continuity

The Doctor likes tea, muffins and ginger beer. He can survive high acceleration, and was unpaid when advising UNIT. Sarah has been a journalist for at least two years, hates ginger pop, and once came to Devesham on a story (to cover the loss of XK5).

Benton has a younger sister (they're ballroom dancing partners). The Kraals know of the Time Lords. The TARDIS is due for its 500 year service. The planet Oseidon has the highest natural radiation level in the galaxy, but an Earth type atmosphere, gravity, etc.

The Space Defence Station (British, rather than UN) is an installation against alien attack, the only one of its kind in the world. The Brigadier has an office there [as a courtesy on a liaison basis]. UNIT staff are on hand for the important event of Crayford's return.

The Senior Defence Astronaut is kept well informed, so much so that he knows that the Doctor is a Time Lord. Rockets can land and take off from the Station [suggesting that it's the British government's new direction for their space programme, an attempt to create a space borne complement to UNIT]. Space freighters were being tested two years ago [there must be space stations for freight to be moved to]. Humans have only got as far as orbiting Jupiter.

Location

Oseidon, the Devesham Space Defence Station, [Friday July 1973: calendar in the Inn].

Untelevised

Untelevised Adventures: The Doctor once met the Duke of Marlborough.

Trivia

Tom Baker had a bad throat while the location filming was being done, and his voice is much huskier than usual during these scenes.

Marshal Chedaki sounds almost exactly the same as Zippy from the children's television series Rainbow. Actor Roy Skelton provided the voices for both parts.

Like the Skystriker in the previous season's Revenge of the Cybermen, Crayford's rocket is represented by NASA stock footage of a Saturn V.

Ian Marter and John Levene make their final contributions to Doctor Who as, respectively, Harry Sullivan and RSM Benton (and their android doubles).

Patrick Newell, appearing here as Colonel Faraday, was better known as Mother in the espionage thriller series The Avengers.

Myth

This story was originally written to feature the Daleks rather than the Kraals. (It wasn't.)

Goofs

The Doctor lets go of a branch and it slaps Sarah in the face.

A large piece of cardboard appears behind the pod for the Doctor to lie on.

The Doctor's robot detector in episode four would have been very useful earlier on.

The Kraal plan has several flawed aspects: their indestructible androids' faces fall off when they trip, and their complete memory prints don't include a dislike for ginger pop.

Why do the Kraals need the androids at all, as the virus will wipe out all human life in three weeks? [The virus canister breaks at the end and only Styggron is affected, so perhaps the virus has a tiny range, and has to be spread manually.]

The village, the Space Centre and all the people were copied from Crayford's mind, so why is there an android of Harry (he wasn't a member of UNIT two years previously), and why isn't there one of the Brigadier (who does, after all, have his own office at the Space Centre)?

Why do they need to destroy their duplicate village? Chedaki and the rest of the fleet are left unmentioned at the end of the story, especially odd since the Doctor says the Kraals could take Earth by force if they wanted to!

As the Daily Mail reviewer in 1975 wondered, how can the Doctor use his own android against Styggron if all the androids have been neutralized?

Crayford has never looked under his eyepatch to find his intact eye! (And nobody at Space Control notice this acquisition, either.)

In part four, an android version of Sarah appears just after the real Sarah runs off after being confronted by an android version of the Doctor by the TARDIS. When the android Doctor appears inside Space Control, this android Sarah has vanished, and never appears again in the story.

Fashion Victim

Styggron's silver Doc Martens.

The android mechanics' space helmets. 'I don't like the look of them,' says Sarah.

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - Tom Baker

Sarah Jane Smith - Elisabeth Sladen

Chedaki - Roy Skelton

Colonel Faraday - Patrick Newall

Corporal Adams - Max Faulkner

Grierson - Dave Carter

Guy Crayford - Milton Johns

Harry Sullivan - Ian Marter

Kraal - Stuart Fell

Matthews - Hugh Lund

Morgan - Peter Welch

RSM Benton - John Levene

Styggron - Martin Friend

Tessa - Heather Emmanuel

Crew

Director - Barry Letts

Assistant Floor Manager - Felicity Trew

Costumes - Barbara Lane

Designer - Philip Lindley

Fight Arranger - Terry Walsh

Film Cameraman - Ken Newson

Film Editor - Mike Stoffer

Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson

Make-Up - Sylvia Thornton

Producer - Philip Hinchcliffe

Production Assistant - Marion McDougall

Production Unit Manager - Janet Radenkovic

Script Editor - Robert Holmes

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Duncan Brown

Studio Sound - Alan Machin

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Visual Effects - Len Hutton

Writer - Terry Nation

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'Resistance is inadvisable.' Stupid, tiresome and very irritating. Kenneth Williams' description of episode two in his diaries: 'Doctor Who gets more and more silly.'

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

The Android Invasion is the weak link in an otherwise outstanding season and has received decidedly mixed reviews over the years. Keith Miller, giving an early reaction in Doctor Who Digest Number 1, dated July 1976, was unimpressed: 'I must be fair and say that the story... left me cold. It created very little atmosphere and wasn't worthy of [Terry Nation's] talents.' Graham Howard, commenting more recently in TSV 44, dated June 1995, was only a little better disposed toward the story: 'Taking everything into account I would describe The Android Invasion as good but not great. A qualified success.'

Terry Nation had taken a conscious decision to write a story featuring a new race of monsters rather than his famous creations the Daleks, and the Kraals - a sort of cross between a human and a rhinoceros - are a somewhat unoriginal but otherwise reasonable addition to the ranks of the Doctor's adversaries. Their on-screen realisation by visual effects sculptor John Friedlander - making his last contribution to the series - is not too bad either, although Miller thought otherwise: 'The [Kraals'] masks were terribly false, I'm afraid to say; even funny.'

Actor Martin Friend makes the most of his role as the hunchbacked and conniving Styggron and brings over well the single-mindedness of the character. Indeed, all the guest cast in this story give good performances. Milton Johns as Crayford cuts a tragic figure as he comes to terms with the Kraals' duplicity and with their intention of using his rocket as a proverbial Trojan horse in their invasion of Earth; it's good to see Ian Marter and John Levene again; and Patrick Newell is perfectly adequate as Colonel Faraday, although the viewer suspects - quite correctly - that he is simply a stand-in for the unavailable Nicholas Courtney. Even those actors required to play the standard androids do so with an eerie stillness that seems to work.

The direction by Barry Letts - returning to Doctor Who for the first time since he relinquished the post of producer - is fine, indeed perhaps his best for the series. The location filming is good, and there are some very memorable moments, including a disconcertingly twitching UNIT soldier apparently committing suicide by throwing himself off the edge of a cliff at the beginning of Part One (in fact it is an android malfunctioning); some creepy scenes in the replica village, particularly those in the pub; and the classic ending to Part Two where the front of the android Sarah's face falls off to reveal the electronic circuitry beneath.

It is in its plotting that the story really falls down. The Kraals are clearly intelligent creatures and have some formidable technology at their disposal: they can create convincing android duplicates, drain the minds of others and place their knowledge in a computer, develop a killer virus and, perhaps most impressive of all, construct a near-perfect replica of an English village, including all the flora and fauna, buildings, smells, sky, clouds and everything needed to convince the Doctor that he is actually on Earth. And yet they are unable to come up with a solution to the rising levels of radiation on their home planet and instead devise a highly convoluted plan to take over the Earth.

Howard pointed out some other problems: 'The "make Crayford believe he lost an eye by giving him an eye-patch" [scenario] is probably the most infamous plot weakness, but it is not the only one. The inability of people to shoot straight takes on almost farcical proportions... Less easy to dismiss as dramatic licence are some of the other plot deficiencies.

For a start, why was it necessary for the Kraals to go to such extraordinary lengths to copy Devesham and the Space Defence Centre in such meticulous detail if they were ultimately going to destroy the replica anyway?... If the androids are "indestructible" why did the face of the android version of Sarah fall off so easily? Why did the calendar in the pub have only one date? Why is it that when Styggron is killed, the threat of invasion seems to disappear, when surely the Kraal invasion fleet is still out there?

While not all these criticisms are entirely fair - it is clearly indicated in the story that the reason why the pub calendar has only one date is that the Kraals' replica of Devesham is imperfect - the general thrust of them is valid. There are some bold ideas and concepts here but they are inadequately thought through, and things happen for no good reason other than to progress the plot.

It is quite obvious, to take the most blatant example, that Terry Nation has invented the previously unheard of TARDIS pause control, which bizarrely causes the ship to move from Oseidon to Earth when the key is inserted in the lock, simply because he is unable to think of any other way to get it from one planet to the other if the Doctor and Sarah travel in Crayford's rocket.

In a lesser season The Android Invasion might perhaps have held its own, but in season thirteen, with shining Doctor Who gems all around, it can manage only to glimmer dully.

< Pyramids of MarsFourth DoctorThe Brain of Morbius >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy