Monday, September 23, 2013

DVD REVIEW: Terror of the Zygons

 
TERROR OF THE ZYGONS
Starring Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen and Ian Marter

2 Disc: details HERE

UK: Sep 30
Aus & NZ: Oct 2
N. America: Oct 8



STORY 
This was very much Tom's perfect season, and what an amazing way to kick it off. Terror of the Zygons is oft spake extremely highly of and it's no wonder - this four-parter from 1975 has everything you could possibly want. It's creepy as hell, shot beautifully, has one of the very best Doctor Who soundtracks (not to mention monsters) and it's got Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen and Ian Marter gelling like never before (and never again, sadly).

As an adventure, it's a simple and traditional alien invasion yarn, but it's everything else that makes Terror such a top notch tale. For starters, the cast are sensational. As mentioned, Baker is exquisite playing his Time Lord in a rather grumpy alien fashion at times (his reaction to the Brigadier and UNIT, for example) and his outburst at human need for oil is apposite. But there's delightfully fun moments too with comments like, "sounds like the Brigadier," when explosions begin and his classic, "Social call?" when chatting with Broton.

Likewise Elisabeth "Hellooo, Fox Inn" Sladen and Ian Marter are gifted with much variety but it's the latter who really gets to show off his skills as the actor plays the rather horrific Zygon version of Harry. And what a scene that is in Episode Two, the barn scene. The lighting and direction are sublime, coming together to produce a real moment of horror that is still genuinely chilling. Director Douglas Camfield, like so many involved with this production, is on top form and is helped hugely by the location work and the substantial use of film (as opposed to video).

The filmic look adds to the alien atmosphere of the piece (despite its earthbound setting), which is bolstered by the extraordinary soundtrack from Geoffrey Burgon. Unlike any other Who score, the use of acoustic and sparse instrumentation marks it from any other  (well, apart from The Seeds of Doom, which he also composed - DVD review HERE). It's a thoughtful and fascinating listen and, thankfully, is available as an Isolated Score to drink in, in all its odd, ethereal goodness elsewhere on the DVD.

Of course, any look at Terror of the Zygons would not be complete without mention of the incredible model work, set design and the titular monsters themselves - all beautiful works of art. Again, it's Camfield's use of each of these that accentuates their qualities, with particular reference to the spectacularly lit Zygon's lair and the slow reveal of their appearance. There's few Doctor Who aliens that were perfect on their first outing, but these guys most definitely are; the Zygons, and their surroundings, are so intensely foreign and alien - it's incredible we've had to wait so long for their return.

A traditional, old-fashioned story with killer performances, all round, and a look and a feel, not to mention a sound, quite unlike what had come before (or, indeed, since), Terror of the Zygons is a stone-cold must watch for any Who fan.

EXTRAS
And, as it's the last of Tom Baker's stories to get a DVD release (and the last "complete" Doctor Who story, for the time being anyway), Zygons gets a suitably fabulous makeover. There's two discs here and they are both packed with Who~goodness. Heading the set, if you like, is the remarkable deleted scene from the adventure. It's only about a minute or so but seeing "new" footage of Baker, Sladen and Marter is like hearing a new song from The Beatles - an unearthed gem.

It's a damn fine scene too with Harry and Sarah as brilliant as ever, as an invisible TARDIS lands in Scotland. Without a doubt, this is one of the most extraordinary and exciting extras ever to be included on a Doctor Who DVD - my heartfelt congrats to the team for uncovering it, and so tenderly put it back together for the world to enjoy (you can see the raw footage they had to deal with elsewhere on the disc, in a secret squirrel hiding place). The scene is included as part of the "Director's Cut" version of the story. Worth the DVD price alone? Darn straight.

Thankfully, though, there's more! Another treat included here is an on-set report from television show, South Today. Tom Baker is interviewed and, in a where-was-branding-when-he-said-that moment of candour, admits that due to "keeping in shape" for Doctor Who he can't go on his "bachelor benders" any more. Blimey. Guess someone wasn't thinking of the children there.

We're treated with the "usual" making-of documentary, Scotch Mist in Sussex, which sees valuable contributions from Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Banks Stewart. Though there's no comments from the likes of Tom Baker and co., there is some excellent archival footage of John Woodnut (Duke of Forgill/Zygon) who chats warmly about the experience and some colourful remarks from John Levene (as well as using the phrase "when ego is that big" when referring to Tom). Likewise, the commentary is somewhat dry with no actors or actresses to liven up proceedings but it's great to hear Hinchliffe and Stewart enthusing and reminiscing.

Director Douglas Camfield is honoured in Remembering Douglas Camfield, a wonderful tribute to his career lead by his son, Joggs. He had a fascinating televisual life and worked on a number of very high profile projects and, most of all, seems to have genuinely touched the lives of all those he worked with. Watch out for other various Who legends such as Graeme Harper (director of The Caves of Androazni, Utopia, et al), Peter Purves (companion Steven Taylor) and Hinchcliffe as well as memories from Celia Imrie (The Bells of Saint John) and a surprise appearance from Terry "The Gov'nor" Wogan...

The UNIT Family series comes to end with Part Three as the gang discuss the end of their time on the show, with some interesting remarks regarding Tom Baker and the changeover from The Third and Fourth Doctor eras. Doctor Who Stories pops up again with two delightful installments; one featuring Baker, the other Elisabeth Sladen. Both interviewees give much to chew over and enjoy as they remember their time on the show (with the latter even chatting about K9 & Company). Sladen also takes front seat in the rather amusing episode of Merry-Go-Round entitled The Fuel Fishers - Lis takes a trip (somewhat nervous-looking, it has to be said) to an oil rig back in 1977 and explains how it all works. You maybe won't watch it again, but it's so lovely to see Lis having a bit of presenting fun.

Rounding off this hugely impressive array of extras are: the Radio Times listings (with some gorgeous Terror of the Zygons artwork); a couple of Easter Eggs (I won't spoil them for you, but they are well worth checking out); informative but very playful Production Subtitles; a juicy trailer for The Moonbase DVD; and the aforementioned, and very welcome, addition of "Isolated Score" - allowing the viewer to watch the four episodes purely with the gorgeous soundtrack.

Terror of the Zygons doesn't need selling, it's simply astonishing. And simply astonishing sums up the collection of extras to complement its feature. If you've never seen the story, do NOT delay - buy now. And if you are a fan of it already (of course you are), then you'll want to drink it in in all its remastered, extended and extra-laden DVD glory. The perfect way to end the Tom Baker DVD releases.

BLOGTOR RATING 10/10
Thanks to BBC Worldwide


Check out more Doctor Who DVD reviews HERE.

3 comments:

DjPookie2000 said...

Great review, Terror of the Zygons was my first Who and boy did it blow my socks off when I was 5. I was genuinely scared of the Zygons with their shape shifting. I too think it has one of the best soundtracks ever. I can't wait to get my copy in October.

richard curl said...

How do I find these easter eggs?

Heathcliff Blair said...

Nice review, and your comments about Geoffrey Burgon's lovely score are an especially good call.

Those interested might want to check out the BBC's The Nightmare Man thriller wherein its director Camfield seemed to have guided the serial's composer, coincidentally named Robert Stewart, to provide a score remarkably similar to Burgon's Zygons/Seeds music in places. Admittedly though, it's not quite in the same league as Burgon's work. But it does indicate that Camfield had a persistent liking for incorporating lilting/haunting music into his productions. He must have been a very interesting man.

All the best
Heathcliff Blair