This one was good, but for the first time this season, not brilliant. Which is a shame, as it had all the makings of a classic. The initial set-up, spread across the first couple of episodes, is brilliantly intriguing. There were times when I genuinely wasn’t sure what was real and what wasn’t, and I loved The Doctor spotting all the tiny clues that something was amiss.
The androids themselves were also excellent throughout – a good balance between the eerily uncanny and the dead-behind-the-eyes automaton. Unfortunately, the Kraals are not so interesting. They’re not bad, and I liked that Roy Skelton just used his actual Zippy voice, but they’re a bit generic and dull. Couldn’t we have done without them? I don’t see why the androids had to be the henchmen, rather than being behind it all themselves.
The whole thing felt very old-school, and slightly out of whack with the brave new direction the season has taken so far. I think it’s down to a combination of Terry Nation using the same old tropes as he’s been flogging since 1963, and the sleepy English village setting feeling very Pertwee. As does, of course, the presence of UNIT.
It wasn’t really much of a last hurrah for them, considering we only saw the non-android versions of them for a few minutes in Part Four. Lovely and unexpected though it was to see Harry, so much more could have been made of what it means to be an ex-companion. And I’ve just read that this is the last we ever see of Benton, and I feel conned. All he did was smile politely for a bit and then get knocked out.
Then there’s the lack of The Brigadier, which was made worse by the somewhat insulting decision to replace him with a one-off stand-in. Why couldn’t Benton have been deputising for him, and why didn’t anyone question who this other guy even was? Overall, if you’re not going to use them properly, I’d kind of rather UNIT weren’t involved – Terror of the Zygons would have been a much better send off.
There’s plenty to keep you entertained in this serial, not least the android duplicates of Sarah Jane and The Doctor, which were by far the best thing on offer. But frustratingly it never quite lives up to its promise, and as such it’s a little underwhelming.