The Android Invasion

Posted in Audio by - December 05, 2016
The Android Invasion

Aired 22 November – 13 December 1975

Tom Baker’s second season as the titular Time Lord has gotten off to a very strong start, ‘Terror of the Zygons’ and ‘Pyramids of Mars’ legitimate classics and ‘Planet of Evil’ an underrated but solid adventure in its own right. While ‘The Android Invasion’ does ultimately serve as a perfectly decent piece of entertainment, though, its positioning in this particular season makes it feel more prosaic than it might have otherwise, writer Terry Nation and director Barry Letts providing something of a flashback to previous eras in the process.

Whereas ‘Terror of the Zygons’ seemingly bid farewell to the UNIT era of the programme, ‘The Android Invasion’ tries to bring back the sentiment of that era without explicitly doing so. While many of the stories of Tom Baker’s early tenure have featured a gothic horror backdrop, this story again brings back the parallels to modern-day Britain and its space programme, the UNIT officer Colonel Farraday who is conspicuously similar to the Brigadier, and even Ian Marter’s Harry Sullivan as the show’s first returning true companion. Unfortunately, while this is all certainly passable, Harry never gets to do much in the story and no discussion of what impact traveling with the Doctor or returning home had on Harry is ever offered, absolutely a missed opportunity.

In fact, Terry Nation makes his mark known throughout by reintroducing several concepts previously used in his Dalek serials with radiation, radiation poisoning, and robot duplicates all coming to the forefront. However, instead of capturing the unique innovativeness and fun imagination of recent stories, ‘The Android Invasion’ instead takes a firmer, more efficient approach, again only something noticeable by its placement in this particular run of stories. An isolated English village so isolated that its citizens could be replaced by duplicates without drawing any attention is a fascinating concept, but the intrinsic horror and paranoia of such a setting is never explored. Instead, the rather one-dimensional characters, somewhat-unexplored Kraal aliens from Oseidon, and the revelation that the quiet English village is actually not on Earth at all keep the idea from reaching its full potential.

Even if Nation and Letts have created a serial that hearkens back to an earlier time in the programme’s history, the end result is certainly not a bad one. While it unfortunately doesn’t live up to the stories preceding it, ‘The Android Invasion’ still contains enough clever ideas and charm to anchor another good outing for the Doctor even if there are still some obvious missed opportunities to create something a bit more substantial. As always, Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen are fantastic together and easily carry the serial while also elevating the pervading workmanlike quality of the script when possible. There’s a strange shift from ‘Robot’ where Letts very purposefully put Baker into a Pertwee story to kick off his era to ‘The Android Invasion’ where Letts tries to instill his vision into a Baker story, creating a unique piece of Doctor Who history in the process that shows the creative path a different producer may have taken at the time.

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