With Barry Letts and Robert Sloman making room for transcendental environmentalism or Brian Hayles cheekily raising an eyebrow at the European Union and the miners' strike, the series was at its most 'political' in the early to mid 1970s. This is despite the fact that it's taken a few decades for Terrance Dicks to grudgingly acknowledge that "anything a writer thinks or feels is bound to come out in his work" and that such a subtext existed within the series he was script-editing. Perhaps he wasn't as left leaning as his old mentor and friend Malcolm Hulke who, out of all the writers working on the show, made such a virtue out of wearing the colours of his social conscience on his sleeve.
Hulke clearly delighted in the fact that Doctor Who provided him with an opportunity to both reflect on the turbulent times in which the series was being made and on his own roots in the Unity Theatre, a politically motivated social national theatre movement founded in the 1930s. Its affiliation with the Communist Party influenced the Unity to pursue "an artistic policy based on a realism that demanded that the plays it presented should explain the world better" and "a means of politically conscious self-expression that was collective and provided a solution to individual alienation," according to Colin Chambers in The Story of Unity Theatre. Perhaps Hulke found a similar atmosphere of collective expression working with Dicks and Letts at the time and felt he could explore the shades of grey that attend the grand schemes of scientists, the military, government and individuals, whether on the right or left, within a science fiction series. He certainly wanted to "explain the world better" on a Saturday tea time.
...what would happen if Britain was ruled by a Vichy-style government
This was not unreasonable as, since the 1950s at least, the sub-genre of dinosaur films had been a staple of the B movie circuit and many a children's matinee. Certainly, the radioactive monster swimming in the Thames in The Giant Behemoth (1959), the dinosaur emerging from the Irish Sea to devastate much of London in Gorgo (1961) and the dinosaurs that fight with cowboys in turn of the century Mexico in the Valley of the Gwangi (1969) are all distant cousins to Letts's idea. Hammer's When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth had only been in cinemas two years previous to the development of Invasion of the Dinosaurs and Amicus were already developing their adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Land That Time Forgot that they would release in the following summer of 1975. Dinosaurs were, it seemed, still the currency of British fantasy.
Dicks discussed this idea with Hulke and, as of January 1973, the script was retitled Timescoop and featured a London threatened by dinosaurs rather than aliens. Sadly, Letts didn't get the dinosaurs he really deserved for the serial and the visual effects provided by Clifford Culley looked poor even by 1974's standards. Hulke was also not happy with the retitling of the serial to Invasion of the Dinosaurs, preferring his working title of Timescoop. He and Dicks then fell out after the first episode was contracted to Invasion which seemed a bit of an affectation especially after the Radio Times gave the game away by using the whole title.
"let's not dip the Welsh in toxic chemical gunge... let them eat Quorn"
He was in the end simply tapping into the underlying paranoia of the decade and a deep sense that the governing of Britain had gone seriously awry in 1974. Yes, Invasion of the Dinosaurs does explore the extremes that some in power would embrace to solve the perceived problems of overpopulation, as explored in Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb, and the environmental disaster predicted in the Club of Rome's Limits of Growth but it's also a 'state of the nation' piece. The likes of Sir Charles Grover and General Finch are the extreme versions of eco-guerrilla Professor Jones in that they are prepared, rather like the ecoanarchists who found their idol in Unabomber Ted Kaczinski in the late 1970s, to get their hands very dirty indeed.
However, as Heath's government ploughed on through terrorist attacks, strikes, sky-high oil prices and the three day week, Hulke also uses Grover and Finch to represent those within the government and the military that were determined to reverse the verdicts of the centre right in power and those on the far left. With the United Secretariat of the Fourth International in the summer of 1973 declaring what we all knew was already happening - "the precipitate decline of British imperialism within the internationalist capitalist framework" - it seemed the general consensus was that Britain was on the brink of collapse. Grover's Operation Golden Age was therefore an attempt not only to frighten the middle classes with kidnapped dinosaurs but also, by rolling back time, reclaim a romanticised version of Empire and beat the so called 'British disease' by reversing the effects of industrialisation and over population.
Curiously, with figures like Grover and Finch fighting back against this decline, Hulke also manages to preempt the paranoia surrounding the various military coups that were mooted in 1975 and that saw American commentator and CBS journalist Eric Sevareid suggest that Britain was "sleepwalking into a social revolution" where "some kind of backlash is building up." Hulke's General Finch is a precursor to Sir Walter Walker, a former NATO commander-in-chief who sweet talked a number of grandees and money men into supporting a military coup against Wilson's government. Grover, as Minister with Special Responsibilities in London, likewise could resemble the figure of Sir Val Duncan, chairman of Rio Tinto Zinc, who gathered a gang of right-wing industrialists together one evening in April 1975 and proposed a similar coup and support for a coalition government. Hulke knew which way the paranoid wind was blowing it seemed.
"take the world that you've got and try and make something of it"John Crichton). They are all disciples of Grover's indoctrination and their journey resembles a Workers Revolutionary Party summer camp in space (all clad in denim). Perhaps this was Hulke's nod to the 1970s vogue for celebrity endorsement of the Socialist Labour League (later renamed the Workers Revolutionary Party), under the leadership of the controversial Gerry Healy. Healy persuaded many actors, writers and directors to gravitate towards the League, claiming among his membership the likes of the Redgraves, Troy Kennedy Martin, Ken Loach, Frances de la Tour and Tony Selby. Even Slade played at their fund raising activities.
You can see how a political ingenue like Captain Yates, who sees the world as "all too complicated and corrupt," could get swept up in all this sort of business. However, it is corruption of the worst kind that hoodwinks those on the ship into believing they are about to emerge onto a new world when in fact it will be the Earth allegedly returned to a purer age after the murder of billions of humans. Hulke's position about much of this is clear as he has the Doctor, in the final episode, tell Yates that the alternative is to "take the world that you've got and try and make something of it." He also recognises that Grover was completely mad but that his intentions were honourable by realising that the planet might "become one vast garbage dump" and that in the end it is man's greed that has brought it to the brink. Perhaps it's also a metaphor for the failures of the Heath and Wilson governments and wherein the British crisis was seen by Correlli Barnett in The Collapse of British Power as "brought down upon the British by themselves."
To add verisimilitude to all these political shenanigans, there's even a 'reminder' room where Mark and the others chuck Sarah in front of a monitor screen when her conditioning goes a bit wonky. Again, this is another familiar trope from Hulke who used similar moments like these to provide political context within Colony in Space and Frontier in Space. Nothing like footage of the Yom Kippur war and the student riots in 1968 to inspire the masses and prevent dissension in the ranks. Perhaps we should all spend an hour in the 'reminder' room just so we can forget the dinosaurs and relish in a fascinating script that has plenty to say about the times in which the programme was made.
This story also heralds the return of UNIT, the Brigadier, Yates and Benton. Yates particularly is given more to do in this serial and plays an active role in the Operation Golden Age conspiracy, with Richard Franklin managing to display some skill when required to flesh out the character here as one torn between his duty and his naive beliefs. Dicks also adds some continuity from The Green Death and suggests that Yate's experiences in that story have had some bearing on his recruitment to Grover's eco-anarchism and his betrayal of the Doctor. Touches like these and the brief scenes that show how much faith the Brigadier and Benton have in the Doctor when both of them are under pressure from General Finch to arrest him underline that old cliche of the closeness of the UNIT 'family'.
Although Grover and Finch are positioned as the villains of the story, Hulke goes some way to making them sympathetic and Noel Johnson imbues Grover with a great deal of charm as he attempts to explain to anyone who will listen to him about why he is trying to return the Earth to a purer age. Johnson manages to portray a man who is also trying to convince himself that the murder of millions is justifiable and his hypocrisy is reflected in Ruth's own rather immoral solutions, either brainwashing or death, to Sarah's interference on the ship. There's also some effective support in these scenes from Carmen Silvera as Ruth, Terence Wilton as Mark and Brian Badcoe as Adam. John Bennett is excellent as the steely and resolute Finch. Peter Miles and Martin Jarvis as Whitaker and Butler, the scientists providing the timescoop technology to carry out Grover's vision, are used sparingly but put in memorable performances. Both seem to be involved in the scheme for their own ends and clearly have little interest in Grover's ideals.
This is a tightly made, pacy story and the only real longeur is the extended chase sequence that takes up most of episode five but as is now noticeable with six part stories from the era they clearly aren't sustainable beyond four episodes, often requiring padding or a new sub-plot to carry the story forward. Sarah's entrapment on the fake spaceship ensures that the story remains interesting despite the less than effective dinosaur puppets that, upon making their own appearances, do tend to distract from the characters and plot that Hulke has been developing. By the time you've stopped laughing at feeble dinosaurs that can't raise their heads and bend their knees you'll find it hard to get back to the story proper. But do try because it's worth it.
People, Power and Puppetry (32:41)
Dr. Matthew Sweet impressively steers our attention away from the elephant (or should that be the dinosaur?) in the room - this being "the one with the dodgy dinosaurs" - and concentrates on the virtues of Mac Hulke's script and characters. Producer Ed Stradling and co-writer Sweet return to the political and social dimensions of the superb What Lies Beneath documentary that accompanied the DVD release of The Silurians, to focus again on another Hulke story that chimed with those "strange days, indeed" of the 1970s. Sweet takes us through the genesis of the scripts for the final Pertwee season, the commissioning of Hulke and the development of his original idea. This half hour explores Hulke's era-specific themes about the moral consciousness of alternative politics and the unease about the establishment and the military. As well as Dicks, there are reflections from Terence Wilton and Peter Miles about the power of personality and the bonkers 'Operation Golden Age' plot. The late Barry Letts and director Paddy Russell also discuss how important was the credibility of the characters to the story and the effectiveness of good casting. People, Power and Puppetry concisely covers the production too, including Cliff Culley's puppet effects; the location filming; casting; the introduction of the Whomobile and an actual example of that media shibboleth - the series' oft mentioned wobbly sets.
Billy Smart’s Circus (1:43)
Back in the day, you'd see Doctor Who barge its way onto other children's programmes like Disney Time and Blue Peter or in this case a television broadcast of Billy Smart's Circus. This clip comes from an edition broadcast on January 6th, 1974. This was a week before Dinosaurs started transmission and offered viewers a preview of Pertwee's Whomobile and is a salutary warning about appearing with children, animals and custom built, three wheeled vehicles.
John Levene Commentary (10:13 on Episode 5 only)
'Gentleman Johnny Bingo' on falling over properly, how to handle a machine gun, 'Venusian oojah' and the price of crockery.
Deleted Scenes (4:49)
Some interesting little finds including a section cut from the first episode prior to the TARDIS's arrival and the edits made to episode three.
Doctor Who Stories: Elisabeth Sladen Part 1 (13:58)
This is bittersweet. Originally shot for The Story of Doctor Who in 2003, many of you who have read Lis's recently published autobiography will recognise most of these recollections, including the CSO knickers story. Lis recalls her audition and Pertwee's resignation, working with Kevin Lindsay, Lennie Mayne and Nicholas Courtney. The shadow puppet titles and interstitials are rather delightful.
Now and Then (13:44)
Another labour of love from Richard Bignell as he revisits the extensive locations used throughout the serial. Little time capsules all of their own, this edition underlines how some parts of London have since changed. A handy guide if you've got a spare day out in London and you're short of anything to do.
Great selection of production stills. Plenty of Pertwee hi-jinks and gurning.
Generically, with its use of English village locations and defence installations, it has often been stylistically compared to The Avengers and, with its plot concerning the replacement of human beings with android doubles, borrowing from the 1950s science fiction paranoia of the aforementioned Body Snatchers. As such, the story recycles the xenophobic anxieties of 1950s science fiction films which were considered a denial of the power of the military/industrial complex to defend ourselves from invaders who looked just like us. Contemporaneous to The Android Invasion, as the disc's production notes reveal, the concept of the android duplicate was also a fixture of popular films and television such as The Stepford Wives and The Six Million Dollar Man.
Its story of an alien invasion conducted by the Kraals via stealth and the copying of key personnel working at a defence station in the English home counties reflects some of the more fantastical elements - particularly those perennial favourites of deserted villages and doppelgangers - from certain spy-fi adventures series of the 1960s, including The Avengers episodes 'The Town of No Return', 'The Morning After' and 'They Keep Killing Steed', the Department S episode 'The Pied Piper of Hambledown' and Danger Man's 'Colony Three'.
The Android Invasion is perhaps an homage to these and other ITC action adventures series and that comes as no surprise because writer Terry Nation had spent much of the late 1960s and early 1970s script writing and editing on The Avengers, The Champions, Department S and The Persuaders! amongst others. Both Barry Letts and Philip Hinchcliffe considered action adventure a staple part of the series' format and, according to Jonathan Bignell and Andrew O'Day's Terry Nation, they saw Nation as someone who could "draw on his skill in crafting scripts in this genre" as in the 1970s the Doctor Who format drew "closer to the action drama he had written in the 1960s in which intelligence operatives dealt with mysterious threats to national security." The Doctor/Sarah partnership in The Android Invasion certainly echoes the crime fighting duos dealing with diabolical masterminds featured in the dramas that Nation had worked on, particularly The Avengers, as a series in which, Michael Bracewell noted, ‘the underground of popular culture and the hidden precincts of Cold War paranoia were compressed into a Looking Glass world where nothing – to satirical ends or not - was ever quite as it seemed.’
... a Cold War paranoid figuration of bodily invasion, infiltration and contamination
By July 1975, and the start of production, the serial was titled The Android Invasion and Holmes had worked with Nation on reshaping the story, adding much content for the Kraals in the process and having to replace Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart's intended role in the script with the character of Colonel Faraday because Nicholas Courtney was already committed to other work. Ironically, Faraday was then played by Patrick Newell, probably best known to viewers as Mother in the Tara King episodes of The Avengers, adding further resonance to Nation's action-adventure homage. Unfortunately, he's only present in the final episode and comes across as something of a buffoon, a quality that had crept into the characterisation of the Brigadier on a number of previous occasions.
Mysterious threats to the nation's security were as much part of the paranoia of the 1970s as the military coups and the decline of Britain that had flavoured Invasion of the Dinosaurs. As Andrew Pixley noted in his archive feature in Doctor Who Magazine 193, The Android Invasion's depiction of a fake English village set up on an alien planet to use as an android training ground picked up on the Cold War supposition "of espionage training centres in different countries where agents were coached to the extent that KGB agents could become perfect English gentlemen to infiltrate another country as 'sleepers'." In a recent New York Post article, according to Boris Korczak, a former double agent who worked for the CIA, spying on the KGB from 1973-1980, "some of these training schools were located in small towns in the southern part of the Soviet Union. They were exact replicas of American suburbs where the bulk of KGB agents were deployed during World War II."
At roughly the same time as this serial was transmitted, Prime Minister Harold Wilson was being conspired against by MI5 and CIA agents who believed that he was in effect a KGB 'sleeper'. Various defectors had claimed that during the 1960s that Wilson had 'replaced' his predecessor Hugh Gaitskill, the alleged victim of a KGB assassination plot, at the behest of communist supporters. That MI5 took this seriously, when it clearly wasn't true, is a measure of the Cold War paranoia still rife within Britain of the late 1970s and their smearing of Wilson increased his own state of paranoia immensely.
The Guy Crayford character (a suitably jittery performance from Milton Johns) is surely a symbol of this rampant insecurity of the times, brainwashed into believing his hijacked ship had crashed and that the Kraals had rescued him. It is Crayford's memories of the village and the defence station that provide the training ground for the duplicate androids. Crayford is therefore the literal form of a Cold War paranoid figuration of bodily invasion, infiltration and contamination. He's so paranoid that you're also left to question his credentials as an astronaut. Sadly, the evidence that the Kraals had deceived him, revealed by the missing eye and eyepatch business in the final episode, doesn't work in the story but then again, and this is stretching a point, brainwashing techniques could have persuaded Crayford his left eye was missing even when it wasn't. You are left to wonder how Crayford would not know he had 20:20 vision and if he bothered to wash his face at all.
Sarah takes a tumble and loses her face
The theme has its roots in the the literature of duality, most potently evoked in Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde or Oscar Wilde’s The Picture Of Dorian Gray, where at their heart these stories are about changes or losses of identity. The androids of the Doctor, Sarah, Benton and Harry exemplify this slippage of identity, the fragmentation of the self as their human counterparts are confronted by an 'other' version of themselves. Emily E. Auger observes, in Tech-Noir Film, that the aforementioned use of androids in The Stepford Wives depicts "humans reduced to 'blanks' which the viewer reacts to with horror because they have been introduced to the 'originals' and know what has been lost." Hinchcliffe and Letts build this into that rather effective cliffhanger to episode two when the duplicate Sarah takes a tumble and loses her face and the introduction of the 'evil versions' of such well loved characters like Benton and Harry.
While the subtexts in the story are interesting, the actual plot is full of holes. As well as the eyepatch nonsense there is also the question of how the Doctor's android is reactivated at the climax of the story when it was made clear that the Doctor had deactivated them all in a previous scene. It seems the root of this failure of logic lies in the fact that Barry Letts ran out of time to tape the scene in which the Doctor explains this and both he and Hinchcliffe had to abandon it, hoping that viewers wouldn't notice. The Kraal invasion tactics are also a bit of a mess. The Kraals intend to wipe out humanity with a virus communicated by a handful of androids in a village in three weeks. Surely three weeks will give the Earth plenty of time to instigate quarantine procedures? Why create a fake village to do this if you have, as suggested, an invasion fleet? Why not create an airborne virus rather than entrust it to a group of androids who have a tendency to fall over, lose their faces and get electrocuted? And where does Styggron's fellow Kraal, Chedaki (the one played by Roy Skelton and sounding rather too much like Zippy from Rainbow) disappear to after the Doctor puts the kibosh on the planned invasion? Look too closely at this and it doesn't hold up that well.
A shame because The Android Invasion does have its moments. It too has a very atmospheric and mysterious opening episode and makes very good use of location filming throughout. The opening set up with the village, the malfunctioning UNIT doppelganger (Max Faulkner getting a bit of the limelight) throwing itself off a cliff and the trigger happy androids ("is that finger loaded?" is a smashing ad-lib from Tom) is eerily appealing and wonderfully sustained. In the pub scene in the first episode, Letts generates palpable tension as he cuts quickly to each immobile android's face in close up as Sarah and the Doctor watch them come back to life. He handles the location filming very well, especially the action sequences, and Tom and Lis are as reliable as ever, further underlining what a smashing Doctor/companion team they were, despite Tom's very obvious throat problems. However, even though Letts's film and studio work is particularly good, his money-saving use of CSO abounds and various interiors are simply defined by plonking actors in front of out of focus stills and augmenting locations with radar antennas and rockets using the process. They slightly cheapen the look of a well mounted production that offers some diverting escapist fare.
It's also both a delight and disappointment to have Ian Marter and John Levene back in the cast as Harry Sullivan and RSM Benton. As a consequence of Hinchcliffe reducing the prominence of UNIT and their role in contemporary Earth based stories, they aren't used very much and neither character shines in what would be their final appearances in the show. I also have to agree with Hinchcliffe in that the Kraals don't really work as monsters. The masks aren't bad but even Doctor Who could claim better make-up effects at the time and the downside is that there isn't room for subtlety in the performances from Martin Friend and Roy Skelton as Styggron and Chedaki as they have to get their characters across through often quite immobile masks. In their scenes together, they also do tend to hang about and bicker a lot about which is the best way to invade the Earth. Perhaps they should have had a word with Terry Nation and between them they might have made their minds up.
Toby Hadoke is joined by producer Philip Hinchcliffe, actors Milton Johns and Martin Friend and production assistant Marion McDougall to mull over their time making this four part serial. There are very occasional lapses into silence but overall this bowls along with plenty of anecdotes from all assembled including: Friend and Hinchcliffe discussing the difficulty of working with the Kraal masks; Johns recalling his working relationships with both Troughton and Baker as the Doctor and McDougall offering an appreciation of the role of production assistant in the making of television during the 1970s.
The Village That Came to Life (30:56)
Nicholas Briggs dons his anorak and prowls the village of East Hagbourne and wanders the rooftops at the Health Protection Agency (during filming it was formerly the National Radiological Protection Board) in Harwell to bring us the behind the scenes story of The Android Invasion. He even finds time to pop into the local pub and embarrass some of the locals who were children when the Doctor Who crew came to film in their village. The commissioning and production of the story is covered in reasonable detail with Letts, Hinchcliffe, Martin Friend and Milton Johns discussing the story, its themes and its often logic defying moments. And for the geeks out there, check out the title sequences all styled using The Avengers typeface.
Life After Who (29:35)
Quite frankly the best reason for buying the DVD apart from the actual story itself. A wonderful interview with Hinchcliffe that covers his career post-Doctor Who, taking in his work at the BBC, ITV and as an independent onsuch drama series as Target, Private Schulz and The Charmer, single plays Take Me Home and Friday on My Mind and his overseeing of Taggart and Rebus while controller of drama at Scottish Television. His interviewer is his own daughter Celina, herself a television industry professional, and this makes the whole thing both delightfully personal and satisfyingly detailed.
Good selection of images, including set designs and Tom and Lis autographing on location.
TV advert for a Doctor Who themed promotion. Character Options eat your heart out. Or your Weetabix.
Doctor Who: UNIT Files Box Set
2 | entertain / Released 9 January 2012 / BBCDVD3376 / Cert: PG
Invasion of the Dinosaurs
6 episodes / Broadcast 12 Jan 1974 - 16 Feb 1974 / Running time: 147:15
The Android Invasion
4 episodes / Broadcast 22 Nov 1975 - 13 Dec 1975 / Running time: 98:11