by Mark Greig
That isn't actually a quote from this story. Rather it is how comedian Kenneth Williams described watching 'The Android Invasion' in his diaries. I rather think he was being too kind. 'The Android Invasion' is an absolute disaster of a story, the only low point in an otherwise exceptional season.
Coming across like a leftover from the Third Doctor era, 'The Android Invasion' is one of those rare non-Dalek stories from Terry Nation. We haven't had one of those since 'The Keys to Marinus' in 1964. Too bad Nation's script is just as sloppy as Barry Letts' direction. Neither seems to have any idea how to build up any suspense or mystery. There isn't a single plot twist that can't be spotted a good ten minutes in advance. Take the ending of Episode 2, for example. It's built up like some shock reveal, but at this point it has already been revealed that everyone in the village, including Sarah, are androids. So it is not much of a big deal when the fake Sarah trips over and her face falls off.
There are some good ideas here, but they are ultimately overshadowed by so many really, really bad ones. In fact, 'The Android Invasion' is probably most famous for one of the most ridiculous plot twists in Doctor Who history - Crayford's missing eye. The Kraal's get Crayford to help them by convincing him they saved his life and rebuilt his body, save for his left eye. But this is a lie (hey, that rhymed). He was never injured and he never lost his eye. They just put an eye-patch on him and hoped he didn't check underneath. This is a race that are able to create an almost perfect replica of an English village, and that was the best idea they could come up with. I don't know who is stupider, them for coming up with such a boneheaded scheme or Crayford for actually falling for it. Did he never shower at any point in those two years?
The boys from UNIT are back, but without the Brigadier. As I've said before, that is just wrong. Like making a Police Academy movie without Steve Guttenberg wrong. But even if he had shown up, it is a good bet he would've been treated as badly as the other UNIT regulars. I honestly don't know why they even bothered to bring back Harry and Benton for this story. This was to be the last appearances of John Levene (Sergeant Benton) and Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan) in the series and I am sad to report that they were both wasted. For the first three episodes all we see are their android duplicates, requiring the actors to do nothing more than stare blankly and follow the Kraals' orders. When the real ones finally show up, they are given nothing much to do. Poor Benton is knocked out and never seen again. A very undignified exit for one of the Doctor's most loveable companions.
Notes and Quotes
--The Androids are supposed to be indestructible, and yet the copy of Sarah loses its face after falling down and rolling over.
--It was really convenient that, after they'd taken over the entire complex and replaced everyone with doubles, the androids just left that one technician alone in the scanner room so he could fix up the Doctor's anti-android device.
--Like the Skystriker in 'Revenge of the Cybermen', Crayford's rocket is NASA stock footage of a Saturn V.
--Marshal Chedaki sounds almost exactly the same as Zippy from the children's television series Rainbow. Actor Roy Skelton provided the voices for both parts.
--Are the tracker dogs androids too? Do androids have a sense of smell?
--I love the looks the real Benton and Harry give Colonel Faraday after he says Crayford's “...been further into space than any other human being”. You know nothing, Jon Snow.
--How did the Doctor's clothes get dry so quickly?
The Doctor: "Is that finger loaded?"
Styggron: "The androids will disseminate a virus. It will cause a contagion so lethal, the Earth will be rid of its human population within three weeks, then it will burn itself out and the world will be ours."
The Doctor: "Once upon a time there were three sisters, and they lived in the bottom of a treacle well. Their names were Olga, Marsha and Irena... Are you listening, Tillie?... I feel disorientated."
Sarah: "This is the disorientation centre!"
The Doctor: "That makes sense."
The Doctor: "Let's try the pub!"
One out of four Carry On stars watching Doctor Who.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.