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Review #3246: Classic Doctor Who: “The Android Invasion”

Posted on the 26 January 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: John Keegan

Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Barry Letts

Some serials have a terrible reputation, where the best thing you hear is that it’s got a fairly well known cliffhanger in the middle. Often, because I am a bit of a contrarian (stifle the chucking, thank you), I want to see if the final result was really so dire as I’d been led to believe. A few minutes into this one, though, and I knew that it was going to deliver on those rumors in all the wrong ways.

Review #3246: Classic Doctor Who: “The Android Invasion”

It starts when Sarah Jane goes tumbling down a hill. Well, that’s what it’s supposed to look like, but it’s fairly evident that they stitched the scene together in the editing room, and they hired someone’s car to do it in roughly five minutes. It’s one of the worst openings to a Classic Who serial I’ve seen, and that’s even accounting for some of the rough production values of the first few seasons.

I won’t even try to explain the plot, because it makes absolutely no sense. Aliens that aren’t Zygons want to invade Earth in roughly the same fashion as the Zygons, but do so by prepping a staging area that is identical to a village and UNIT facility on Earth, filled with android versions of everything. Imagine how many different ways the story can go wrong from there, and it’s probably part of the script. To say that this is one of Terry Nation’s worst additions to “Doctor Who” is an understatement.

It’s also a deeply unfortunate final appearance for Harry Sullivan and Benton. While the Doctor has yet to be released from his consultant status in strictly formal terms, it’s rather obvious by this point that the Doctor’s relationship to UNIT is mere formality. The show has moved on from that era, and more often than not, when it tries to return, it just doesn’t work.

I will give the cast credit for trying to do as much as possible with what little they were given. Even with the sloppy direction, editing, and post-production work, the performances are solid. I have to give Elizabeth Sladen particular kudos for her work as the android Sarah Jane. She plays the role very close to the usual Sarah Jane, but just far enough off-kilter that you know something is wrong, leaving alone the blatant visual cues that she’s not the real Sarah.

It all adds up to a dismal midpoint for an otherwise strong Season 13, which is a bit of a surprise. Longtime Classic Who fans point to this era as the best of the entire run, yet this season doesn’t quite match the quality of Season 7, the first year of the Pertwee era, which still stands in my mind as the strongest season of Classic Who I’ve encountered. While the early Baker era has produced some watermark materials, serials like this continue to hold it back.

Writing: 1/2
Acting: 2/2
Direction: 1/2
Style: 0/4

Final Rating: 4/10

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