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Terror of the Zygons

Production Code: 4F

First Transmitted

1 - 30/08/1975 17:45

2 - 06/09/1975 17:45

3 - 13/09/1975 17:45

4 - 20/09/1975 18:20


The Doctor, Sarah and Harry return to Earth in response to the Brigadier's summons. UNIT are investigating a series of attacks on North Sea oil rigs and have set up a temporary HQ in the Scottish village of Tullock. The attacks are the work of a huge cyborg, the Skarasen, controlled by a group of aliens called Zygons whose spaceship lies at the bottom of Loch Ness.

The Zygons plan to take over the Earth as a substitute for their own planet, which has been devastated by solar flares. They are using their shape-shifting abilities to take on the identities of locals whose inert bodies are held aboard their ship.

The Doctor releases the Zygons' prisoners and causes their ship, which has now emerged from the Loch, to self-destruct. Only their leader, Broton, survives. He has assumed the identity of the Duke of Forgill and travelled to London. There he plans to give a show of strength by destroying a World Energy Conference with the Skarasen, which is now approaching up the Thames.

Broton is shot by UNIT troops and the Doctor throws the Skarasen its homing device, which it devours. Without a controlling influence, the creature makes its way back to Loch Ness.

Episode Endings

Sarah telephones the Doctor from the infirmary where Harry has been taken to recover from a head wound sustained when he was shot by the Duke of Forgill's retainer, the Caber. Their conversation is interrupted as Sarah is attacked by a Zygon and lets out a terrified scream.

The Doctor races across the moors to try to escape from the pursuing Skarasen but eventually trips and falls to the ground. Broton, watching on a screen in the Zygon ship, gives the order to kill, and the Skarasen bears down on its victim.

As the UNIT team look on, the Zygon spaceship rises from Loch Ness and takes to the air.

The TARDIS dematerialises and the Duke of Forgill expresses astonishment that the Brigadier, a Scot, did not think to ask the Doctor and Sarah for their return rail tickets to get a refund on them.


Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

I Married a Monster from Outer Space.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

The Beast from 20000 Fathoms.


Dr Finlay's Casebook.

Burns' Tam O'Shanter.

The Kraken Wakes.

The Midwich Cuckoos.

Dialogue Triumphs

The Doctor : "When I left that psionic beam with you, Brigadier, I said that it was only to be used in an emergency!"

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart : "This is an emergency!"

The Doctor : "Oil? An emergency? Ha! It's about time the people who run this planet of yours realised that to be dependent on a mineral slime just doesn't make sense."

The Doctor : [To Broton] "You can't rule the world in hiding. You've got to come out on to the balcony sometimes and wave a tentacle."

Double Entendre

The Doctor : [Blows up the Zygon spacecraft] "Was that bang big enough for you, Brigadier?"


The Doctor mesmerises Sarah to prevent her from suffocating when they are locked in the decompression chamber: 'A trick I picked up from a Tibetan monk'. [This may refer to a visit to the Det sen monastery (The Abominable Snowmen) or even to K'Anpo (Planet of the Spiders).

The Brigadier indiactes that UNIT was formed before he joined it.

The Zygons arrived on Earth 'centuries ago' in a crashed spaceship. Having sent out for a rescue mission, they then heard that their home planet had been destroyed in a stellar explosion. Broton decided that Earth would make a perfect new home. A large Zygon fleet left before the disaster and is presently making its way to Earth. [Broton states that it will be 'centuries before they arrive'. Presumably they never arrived.]

The Skarasen is a cyborg, grown from an embryo. It is the Zygon's life source, providing them with the lactic fluid they need to survive. It is also, clearly, the Loch Ness Monster. [The Borad is said in Timelash to also be swimming about in Loch Ness, but this is probably just a joke on the Doctor's part, as the Borad is unlikely to survive his trip.]


Party Politics


Tulloch Moor, near Loch Ness, Scotland; Brentford; Westminster, [May/June 1973].


The model shots of the Zygon spaceship are excellent.

John Woodnutt - previously seen in the series as Hibbert in season seven's Spearhead from Space and as the Draconian Emperor in season ten's Frontier in Space - plays both the Duke of Forgill and Broton.

Angus Lennie, who had previously appeared as Storr in season five's The Ice Warriors but was better known for his role as Shughie McFee in the soap opera Crossroads, plays landlord Angus McRanald.


The village in which much of the action takes place is called Tulloch. (It is called Tullock, according to a sign board seen on screen.)


The 'space time telegraph' that summoned the Doctor at the end of the previous story is renamed psionic beam. The Zygon ship operates on a 'dynacron thrust'. 'You underestimated the power of organic crystalography.'


The Doctor states that he has been dragged '270 million miles' by the Brigadier (The distance from Jupiter's furthermost satellite to Earth is closer to 370 million miles).

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Tom Baker

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart - Nicholas Courtney

Harry Sullivan - Ian Marter

Sarah Jane Smith - Elisabeth Sladen

Angus - Angus Lennie

Corporal - Bernard G High

Duke of Forgill - John Woodnutt John Woodnutt also played Broton in all four episodes, but was uncredited for this on screen.

Huckle - Tony Sibbald

Munro - Hugh Martin

Radio Operator - Bruce Wightman

RSM Benton - John Levene

Sister Lamont - Lillias Walker

Soldier - Peter Symonds

The Caber - Robert Russell

Zygon - Keith Ashley

Zygon - Ronald Gough


Director - Douglas Camfield

Assistant Floor Manager - Rosemary Webb

Costumes - James Acheson

Designer - Nigel Curzon

Film Cameraman - Peter Hall

Film Editor - Ian McKendrick

Incidental Music - Geoffrey Burgon

Make-Up - Sylvia James

Producer - Philip Hinchcliffe

Production Assistant - Edwina Craze

Production Unit Manager - George Gallacio

Script Editor - Robert Holmes

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - John Dixon

Studio Sound - Michael McCarthy

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

Visual Effects - John Horton

Visual Effects - John Friedlander

Writer - Robert Banks Stewart

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'A fifty foot monster can't swim up the Thames and attack a large building without somebody noticing. But you know what politicians are like.' There are amusing acknowledgements of some of Doctor Who's visual limitations in a story still remembered for the clumsy puppet Skarasen.

The Doctor hears of the Zygon's plans to conquer the Earth and asks 'Isn't it a bit large for just about six of you?'. Like The Hand of Fear, the traditional BBC gravel pit is called upon to be a real quarry instead of some exotic alien planet.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

After the Yeti in The Abominable Snowmen, giant sea monsters in Fury from the Deep and the Minotaur in The Time Monster, Doctor Who presents its own version of yet another creature of popular legend (or should that be myth?), namely the Loch Ness Monster. 'I always wondered just how long it would take the writers to get round to Nessie as subject matter...' wrote Keith Miller in DWFC Mag Number 25, dated March/April 1976. 'Anyway, this story of Broton and co was written with quite a lot of originality, but also with a generous helping of tried and trusted... scenes [from The Sea Devils]. Take for instance the opening scenes with [Munro] on the oil rig...'

Another third Doctor story to which Terror of the Zygons bears a certain similarity is The Green Death, in that it relies for much of its atmosphere on a somewhat stereotypical depiction of the people and culture of the country in which it is set - in this case Scotland rather than Wales. 'Television shorthand is employed from the opening moments,' noted Tim Robins in In-Vision Issue 7, dated August 1988, 'when an oil rig worker is heard to request: "Can ye no send over a few haggis? The chef we have here disnae ken the first thing aboot...". At this point, the Skarasen thankfully puts an end to this walking cliche.'

Terror of the Zygons differs from The Green Death however in that its stereotypes, such as Angus the bagpipe-playing landlord with 'second sight', seem less patronising - perhaps a consequence of the fact that writer Robert Banks Stewart was himself a Scot - and that it contains no equivalent to the earlier story's allusions to contemporary issues like pollution and loss of employment in the mining industry. '[It] represents a tourist-eyes view of Scotland,' concluded Robins. 'Rituals (bagpipes playing), the social status of the laird, dress (the kilt), language (accent and references to Gaelic), artefacts (the stag's head [on the wall of the pub]) and food (haggis) exoticise the Scottish culture - taking on a mythic quality as well as providing local colour.'

The featuring of UNIT serves to highlight just how much Doctor Who has changed since Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks were in charge. Under Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes the series has become far less cosy and taken on what has often been described as a gothic horror quality. There are many scenes in this story that it is impossible to imagine having been included a few seasons earlier. A good example is the sequence in which a Zygon, having taken on the appearance of Harry, attacks Sarah. As Miller put it: 'Harry turned very nasty in his guise of a Zygon (or vice versa) and the sequence with Sarah in the barn was very well done - the slow climbing of the ladder and the shot of Harry, hidden in shadow except for a single eye, glaring at her. Chilling... Then Harry picks up a pitchfork and lunges at the young journalist, misses and plummets to his death... below, with a lot of synthesised groaning. Ooh, nasty...'

The Brigadier and his UNIT team are themselves depicted much more realistically on this occasion than in their last few appearances, regaining some of their dignity and believability. This is no doubt attributable in part to the influence of Douglas Camfield, renowned for his interest in all things military, who - returning for the first time since season seven's Inferno - again proves himself to be one of the series' very best directors. His earlier Doctor Who work had shown him to have a predeliction for presenting scary material, and his characteristically dynamic and stylish approach is perfectly in tune with the more horrific quality brought to the series by Hinchcliffe and Holmes.

The Zygons are not particularly original in their conception. As far back as season four's The Faceless Ones the series had presented creatures capable of appropriating people's appearances, which is in fact a stock idea in science-fiction, and their organic technology recalls that of the Axons in The Claws of Axos, who also had to leave their home planet due to solar flare activity. Where they really succeed however is their wonderful on-screen realisation. Their costumes, the responsibility of James Acheson and John Friedlander, are a masterpiece of monster design and, coupled with the highly effective way in which they are directed by Camfield, make them a chilling and memorable foe for the Doctor.

For a time it seems that Terror of the Zygons is to be an almost faultless production. But then the Skarasen appears. The realisation of this creature is undoubtedly the major weakness of the story. Even the dramatic final scenes are let down by the Skarasen, as Keith Miller noted: 'The fight in the cellar between Broton and the Doctor, Sarah and the Brigadier was quite good, with Broton coming to [a] predictably nasty end. Then, to wrap things up, [the Skarasen] rises very unconvincingly from the Thames to the humorous squeaky screams of the passers-by.'

In the Lively Arts documentary Whose Doctor Who in 1977, Philip Hinchcliffe made the observation that just a single unsuccessful effect can result in the failure of an entire production. It would be surprising if the Skarasen from Terror of the Zygons was not one of the effects that he had in mind. Even with this impediment, however, the story remains a strong one.

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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.

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