‘Terror of the Zygons’ (TV)



Please feel free to comment on my review.

Let Zygons Be Zygons

This is the story where Sarah Jane Smith said to Rose Tyler in ‘School Reunion’ that she saw the Loch Ness Monster!

‘Terror of the Zygons’ is a rollicking and iconic adventure from the Tom Baker era of ‘Doctor Who’. It is set in the Highlands of Scotland (although it was really filmed in Sussex. Typical!); features a brand-new set of monsters called the Zygons and it provides a new take on the Loch Ness Monster legend.

The ‘Terror of the Zygons’ DVD is a 2-disc set, with the story on Disc 1 and special features on Disc 2. This four-part story by Robert Banks Stewart is the first of Tom Baker’s second season as the Doctor. It’s a gripping; action-packed and gothic earthbound tale in the Phillip Hinchliffe/Robert Holmes era.

It also has U.N.I.T. with the Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith, Harry Sullivan and the Brigadier solving a mystery in the Scottish Highlands. I enjoyed this adventure and managed to see it before having it on DVD. It’s still gripping, action-packed and gothic as it was when I first saw it and it is a true classic!

Several North Sea oil rigs get mysteriously destroyed, as there is a deadly threat lurking in the mists of Tulloch Moor. Investigating the mystery, the Doctor with Sarah Jane; Harry and U.N.I.T. discover it’s the Loch Ness Monster, controlled by the shape-shifting Zygons attempting to conquer the Earth.

Having the story set in Scotland was a true delight for me. I’ve been on holiday with my parents to Scotland many times and we’ve actually visited Loch Ness itself, close to Inverness. We didn’t see any monster rising out from the waters of the loch, but one day it may come out. One day perhaps.

The Scottish atmosphere of this story is really delightful. Hearing bagpipe music and feeling the Scottish mists make me think and feel of being on holiday within the Highlands and wanting to go back there again. Although I’m more in favour of ‘Monarch of the Glen’ country, but there you are.

I didn’t realise that the location filming for Scotland was in Sussex and not in the actual Highlands. This rather disappointed me really. There are no huge mountains in the background to support the Highlands setting and I should know since I’ve seen and walked up plenty of those great mountains.

‘Doctor Who’ has had its connections with Scotland already since one of the Doctor’s companions is Jamie who is a Highlander and the Doctor met Jamie in ‘The Highlanders’. I’ve written my own Scotland ‘Doctor Who’ story for my ‘Fifth Doctor’ series called ‘Chieftain’s Caves’. Also the Tenth Doctor and Rose have encountered a werewolf with Queen Victoria in Scotland in ‘Tooth and Claw’.

The concept of the Loch Ness Monster has been around since before I was born. The Loch Ness Monster was the starting point for this story and I really liked how the producer; the writer and the director have portrayed this legend. It’s quite clever to have it actually controlled by a race of aliens.

This story is well-directed by Douglas Camfield, who also directed stories including ‘The Invasion’ and ‘Inferno’. Douglas Camfield’s action-packed direction shines throughout and he utilises the army scenes with U.N.I.T. really well and effectively. There isn’t a moment that is very boring in his stories!

The regular cast are superb in this story. I really liked Tom Baker’s Doctor in his Scotland get-up at the beginning of the story (but wearing no kilt). I found it funny that Harry was wearing Tom Baker’s scarf and Sarah Jane was wearing Tom Baker’s hat when the trio walked along those Scottish moors.

Tom Baker really comes into his own as the Doctor by this point in his second season. He tolerates U.N.I.T. and the Brigadier that he used to work for, but is willing to help solve a crisis. I liked Tom’s eccentric manner and his big grin when he discovers the Zygons and their plan to conquer the Earth.

Elisabeth Sladen is lovely as Sarah Jane Smith. She’s good at investigating the Tulloch Moor mystery and she finds the secret passage-way at Forgill Castle. I liked it when Sarah Jane rescues Harry from the Zygon ship and when the Doctor puts her to sleep when trapped in a decompression chamber.

Ian Marter is very good as Harry Sullivan. Harry is compassionate and brave in this story, although he has a rough time of it when getting shot in the head and bandaged. Ian delivers a chilling performance when he’s Harry’s Zygon double and he attacks Sarah Jane with a pitchfork in the barn.

Nicholas Courtney returns as the Brigadier. I enjoyed watching the Brigadier in this one, as he summons the Doctor back to solve this mystery within the Scottish Highlands. I liked how he’s less sceptical about alien invasion by this point and he seems to work well with Tom Baker’s Doctor here.

John Levene also returns as Benton (now Regimental-Sergeant Major). With Mike Yates gone, Benton is given more to do with being the Brigadier’s second-in-command. I enjoyed seeing Benton’s scenes in action when chasing Zygons and when he and his men are looking for ‘bugs’ at the Fox Inn.

The guest cast includes John Woodnutt as the Duke of Forgill and Broton the Zygon Commander. I know John from ‘Jeeves & Wooster’ and he’s done quite a number of ‘Doctor Who’ TV stories. Here he’s playing three characters. The Duke himself; Broton disguised as the Duke and just Broton.

There are two other Zygons disguised as humans including Lillias Walker as Sister Lamont and Robert Russell as the Caber (the Duke’s ghillie). Sister Lamont is pretty terrifying when she’s a Zygon disguised as a human. That ‘Part One’ cliff-hanger when the Zygon attacks Sarah Jane is so terrifying.

There’s also Angus Lennie as Angus, the landlord of the Fox Inn. Angus has been in ‘Doctor Who’ before in ‘The Ice Warriors’ and he would later appear in ‘Monarch of the Glen’. I enjoyed Angus’ performance as the landlord in the story. It’s a shame that he as the character died tragically when being killed by a Zygon.

The Zygons are pretty terrifying monsters to watch. They’re ugly-looking and they have the ability to shape-shift into any person they want, including Harry. They have these whispery; harsh voices when they speak. The design of the Zygon make-up and costumes are pretty impressive in this story.

The Zygons’ space-ship interior looks pretty impressive and disturbing. It’s organic state and design makes it authentic and gothic. The way the Zygons use those control knobs on the consoles of their ship looks somewhat amusing and Tom Baker described them like ‘huge American pizzas’ strangely.

The exterior of the Zygon ship looks pretty impressive, especially when it rises up from out of Loch Ness and makes it in the direction of London at the end of ‘Part Three’. Also the destruction of the Zygon ship looks very spectacular as the Doctor asks, “Was that bang big enough for you, Brigadier?”

The Loch Ness Monster is okay but it’s not great. They used stop-motion animation to create the monster effect. There wasn’t enough time to fulfil what was necessary to make this monster work. I wish the production team were given more time to make the Loch Ness Monster look so convincing.

The music by Geoffrey Burgon is pretty good. It’s not like the Dudley Simpson scores that usually go with 70s ‘Doctor Who’ and it’s quite eerie yet beautiful to listen to. I have heard Geoffrey’s style of music-making before since he’d composed music for the BBC versions of ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’.

This story features the last appearance of Harry Sullivan as a regular companion to the Doctor. I was saddened that Harry left the way he did, as he stayed behind on Earth. I wish more was developed with Harry as a character, as he could have been a great companion with the Doctor and Sarah Jane.

This story also features the last regular appearance of the Brigadier. It would be a while before the Brigadier returns to ‘Doctor Who’ again, but there would be U.N.I.T. stories without the Brigadier in them. I liked Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier and I thought he was pretty good in this adventure.

The U.N.I.T. stories were phasing out by this point, especially as Tom Baker’s Doctor was no longer the exile and was having free movement by having adventures in time and space. Many would miss the U.N.I.T. stories, but the Doctor was having adventures again with Sarah Jane in time and space.

The DVD special features are as follows. On Disc 1, there’s an ‘Episode 1 – Director’s Cut’ option and there are audio options including a Mono Audio and a 5.1. Audio. There’s also an audio commentary with producer Phillip Hinchcliffe; writer Robert Banks Stewart; production unit manager George Gallacio; make-up designer Sylvia James and sounds designer Dick Mills; moderated by Mark Ayres. There’s an isolated score option by Geoffrey Burgon and an info-text commentary option.

On Disc 2, there’s a making-of documentary called ‘Scottish Mist in Sussex’ with cast and crew interviews; the ‘Remembering Douglas Camfield’ documentary and ‘The U.N.I.T. Family – Part Three’ documentary looking at the latter U.N.I.T. stories with the Third Doctor, the Fourth Doctor and the Seventh Doctor. There’s also the ‘Doctor Who Stories – Tom Baker’ interview and the ‘Doctor Who Stories: Elisabeth Sladen – Part Two’ interview. There’s ‘Merry-Go Round: The Fuel Fishers’ with Elisabeth Sladen; a ‘South Today’ interview with Tom Baker; a photo gallery of the story; a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF of the story and two exciting Easter Eggs. There’s also a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘The Moonbase’ with Patrick Troughton, Anneke Wills, Michael Craze and Frazer Hines.

‘Terror of the Zygons’ is a great ‘Doctor Who’ story to watch. I enjoyed watching it with the Doctor, Sarah Jane, Harry and U.N.I.T. It features the first appearance of the Zygons who would return to ‘Doctor Who’ in books, the Big Finish audios and in the 50th anniversary special, ‘The Day of the Doctor’.

‘Terror of the Zygons’ rating – 9/10

The previous story

For the Fourth Doctor was

  • ‘Toil and Trouble’ (Penguin/Audio)

For Sarah Jane was

  • ‘Toil and Trouble’ (Penguin/Audio)

For Harry was

  • ‘Toil and Trouble’ (Penguin/Audio)

For the Brigadier was

For Benton was

The next story

For the Fourth Doctor is

For Sarah Jane is

For Harry is

For the Brigadier is

  • ‘Double Trouble’ (Annual/Audio)

For Benton is

Return to The Fourth Doctor’s Timeline
Return to Sarah Jane’s Timeline
Return to Harry’s Timeline
Return to The Brigadier’s Timeline
Return to Benton’s Timeline
Return to The Doctors’ Timelines Index
Return to The Companions’ Timelines Index
Return to Doctor Who Timelines
Return to Doctor Who
Return to Sci-Fi

4 thoughts on “‘Terror of the Zygons’ (TV)

  1. Timelord007

    Apart from some dodgy effects this is a awesome 4 parter, Tom Baker is at his bonStewart only st & the story is scary & chilling especially when Zygon Harry tries to murder Sarah.

    A fantastic review of my favourite era Tim, great story this a pity Robert Banks Stewart only wrote two stories for Doctor Who on tv.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tim Bradley Post author

    Hi Simon.

    Glad you enjoyed my review on ‘Terror of the Zygons’.

    To be honest, I didn’t notice the dodgy effects from this story as I found it really engaging and the performances of the cast were superb. I enjoyed Tom Baker in this story and yes it was scary when Harry seemed to be murderous towards Sarah Jane, before it turns out that he’s actually a Zygon.

    I would like to write a ‘Doctor Who’ story with the Zygons in it. It’ll have to be a pretty good one, wouldn’t it? 😀

    Yes it is a shame Robert Banks Stewart only wrote two stories for ‘Doctor Who’ on TV as both ‘Terror of the Zygons’ and ‘The Seeds of Doom’ are very good. At least we have a third story by Robert Banks Stewart in ‘The Foe From The Future’, wonderfully adapted by John Dorney for Big Finish.

    Many thanks, Simon.

    Tim. 🙂


  3. Williams Fan 92

    Great review Tim.

    It’s nice that Forces TV (not Forbes TV) decided to screen this serial as part of their run. This was my second time seeing the Zygons, having first seen them in ‘Day of the Doctor’. It was especially scary when they made a copy of Harry Sullivan who then tried to kill Sarah Jane. I understand why Harry decided to stay on Earth. At least this won’t be the last time we see him.

    The Loch-Ness Monster looked pretty decent in design I’ll admit. It was very tense when it terrorised London in the final part. Interestingly enough, the Brigadier is Scottish so that’s another connection. It was also great to see Benton once again. The Fourth Doctor as usual was amazing and I liked the Tartan scarf he wore for some of the story.

    Have you had a to read all of ‘Four Time-Travellers and a Baby’ which I have now completed.
    It’s not great I have to admit. I’m going to remake it in the near future as part of my ‘Fifth Doctor by Williams Fan 92’ series on my blog.

    Take care, WF92.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi WF92,

      Glad you enjoyed my review on ‘Terror of the Zygons’. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this story, but I enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the story and what you made of the characters.

      I haven’t read ‘Four Time-Travellers and a Baby’ in a while. I”ve been waiting for you to share your story and other stories on your blog so I can provide feedback on them. I look forward to checking them out.

      Many thanks for your comments.

      Tim 🙂

      Liked by 1 person


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