Story 1: Horror of Fang Rock
A grim tale set on a lighthouse during a dark night in the 1900s. The title horror is one of the Rutan Host, the eternal enemies of the Sontarans – and surprisingly, it turns out they are an aquatic race of jellyfish-like green blobs. It’s a good serial, despite having been hastily written, and I love the setting’s ambience. Unfortunately, the unusually high collateral damage, in the form of innocent lives unnecessarily lost, made it too bleak to be one of my favorites. Of course that outcome is realistic, but I will always prefer happier escapist endings.
Favorite moment: 13 minutes into Part 4, Leela gives the Doctor the idea to convert the lighthouse’s lamp into a weapon against the Rutan mothership. He replies, “Leela… that’s a beautiful notion.” And just look at her beaming smile!
Story 2: The Invisible Enemy
I watched parts of this, including most of the second half; I came for the introduction of the first K9, and stayed for the bizarre adventure of miniaturized Doctor and Leela in clone bodies, exploring the Doctor’s brain to find a microscopic sentient alien which has infected him. I first heard of K9 via Eleven’s reference to him (and no, Amy Pond, Leela was NOT wearing “a leather bikini;” it’s a leather tank top and miniskirt). I initially assumed that “metal dog” meant some sort of annoying yapping Aibo, a novelty for small children, but K9 is actually an intelligent dog-shaped speaking computer. He’s unintrusive and helpful, and is conveniently armed with a laser, which often comes in useful later when the Doctor’s no-guns policy would otherwise have resulted in failure. I like K9 (the models are all the same to me); I’d take him over any of the Fifth Doctor’s companions any day. Which, come to think of it, is really sad.
Story 4: The Sun Makers
It’s almost the title of a track from the latest Becoming the Archetype album. Not considered a notable serial by anyone I’ve come across, I chose to rent it because it promised the concept of artificial star creation, even though it promised a tiresome story about an oppressive corporate government. Well, the stars are merely six small “fusion satellites” in geostationary orbit surrounding far-future colonized Pluto, and we never actually get to see them. (Oddly, Pluto seems to have Earth gravity everywhere and perpetually dull skies.) The story, though, was surprisingly enjoyable – no redundant scenes of repression, plenty of fun rebellion. In my limited experience of fiction, it resembles the film Equilibrium; both involve a variation on the 1984 style dystopia which adds a drug that keeps people under control. The Sun Makers may rank low on most people’s lists, but I’m glad I watched it.
Story 6: The Invasion of Time
*The Invasion of Gallifrey.
I loved this story. It’s my favorite classic story set on Gallifrey. I would say it’s the most justified six-parter I’ve seen. The Doctor’s bizarre, seemingly self-serving actions are unexplained for quite a while, and when it all seems to be over, the entire situation changes drastically.
Leela never loses her faith in the Doctor, even when he has her exiled without explanation to the wild wastes of Gallifrey. (It’s the BBC Quarry, but with an orange filter on the lens. Not exactly what Ten described.) She meets a tribe of former Time Lords who long ago rejected technology and live as hunter-gatherers. Being of a similar culture, she falls in with them and convinces them to help her take back the citadel from the invaders.
It’s best to know as little as possible about what’s going on in this story, but I will share some more pictures. Here are the mazelike utility corridors of the TARDIS as they were at the time:
We also get to see the TARDIS swimming pool for the only time ever, and the pattern on its wall looks (probably unintentionally, given the 1978 airdate) like a digital image subject to signal interference. This was actually the first of two swimming pools on the TARDIS, and the second was never shown, although it was often referred to in series 5 and 6 of the revival series. And while being chased by enemies through the TARDIS corridors, the Doctor leads one into his garden, where the pursuer is trapped by a giant carnivorous plant. I want one!
Then there’s the most excellent De-mat Gun which the Doctor wields at the end – it’s total overkill for what he needs to do, but it’s awesome!
Less superficially, this story’s greatest asset may be the performance of John Arnatt as Lord Chacellor Borusa, the Doctor’s old teacher and mentor. He appeared in one earlier and two later stories, each time in a different regeneration, but this is the Borusa we get to know the best. I greatly enjoyed watching the interactions between him and the Doctor.
Leela abruptly decides to stay on Gallifrey at the end of this episode, having chosen to love Andred, a valiant citadel guard. (Louise Jameson had become understandably unhappy with her character’s development, or lack thereof.) K9 Mark I chooses to stay with her. “Doctor,” says Leela, “I will miss you.” The Doctor half-laughs, then quickly shuts the TARDIS door.