Terror of the Zygons
Planet of Evil
Pyramids of Mars
The Android Invasion
The Brain of Morbius
The Seeds of Doom
Season Thirteen


Hinchcliffe heaven! by Joe Ford 8/4/02

After recently re-watching all season fourteen I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't as overated as I thought it was. It made me want to go back and watched all of Hinchcliffe's era to see what other classics I've been ignoring….

Terror of the Zygons: Even the dire Skarasen effects cannot detract from this one. A masterpiece and no doubt. This is almost the perfect example for how to tell a good Doctor Who story, a perfectly paced first episode with a creepy atmosphere and the sudden shocking appearance of our monster of the week at the end, episodes two and three leaking out their evil plan whilst still providing ample stylish set pieces, witty lines aplenty and a gorgeous musical score. The final epsiode notches up the drama a step with their evil plan exposed and it's all wrapped up with a big explosion and a big monster. Perfect Doctor Who. Not to mention Tom Baker's excellent performance, Douglas Camfield's outstanding direction and the scariest scene in Who ever (Sarah and double-Harry's chases and fight…brr creepy!). Even some shots of the Skarasen are acceptable: 9.5/10

Best moment: Harry tries to stab Sarah with a pitch fork…even I watched from behind the sofa!
Best dialogue: "I thought you were doing a Doctor" - "What an absurd idea!"

Planet of Evil: Before I start I feel obliged to mention that I find the image of the shadowy Sorenson sucking the life from the ship's crew with that chain rattling in the background one of the scariest things I've seen on television. Ever. There are some very good moments in this story (the wonderful jungles sets provide an excellent first episode, Sarah being a bit more brainy than usual, our heroes about to be ejected into space in coffins, the ominous black hole the Doctor falls into). However there are a few problems, mostly Salamar's crew who are all a bunch of backward stereotypes (especially that porky complainer and that bland coloured chap who reaches his nadir with the exclamation "Put your hands above your head!") and Salamar himself is serious uninteresting. I was glad when they all died! Tee hee! Vinshinksy is good and Sorenson is wonderfully acted and story is at least an engaging one: 7/10

Best moment: The bit in episode one…the wind rushing through the trees, the clanking chains, Sarah's hand tensing….something is in the woods with them…
Best dialogue: "No Salamar, don't use the atomic accelerator!"…Tom Baker's delivery of this is so lazy and undramatic I find it hysterically good every time I hear it!

Pyramids of Mars: Oh yes, we all know this one is good and we all know why….great acting, effects, plot, dialogue, blah, blah, blah…I wont spout out the same old cliches but I will cite two stand out scenes (in my eyes). First is that little moment between the Doctor and Sarah ("Perhaps he sneezed") in the poachers hut which proves they were so damn perfect for each other. And the terrifying scenes of Ernie Clements being stalked by the mummies, especially the shots of them coming up right behind him just before they catch him with a fab Dudley Simpson score! This one just has it all. Even some spectacular plot holes that I wont mention because frankly it's as close to utter perfection Doctor Who is going to get: 10/10

Best moment: The cliffhanger to episode two ("No you'll kill my brother!"). Doctor Who drama at it's peak.
Best dialogue: Then I abase you Sutekh, in every civilised name….whether that name be Set, Satan…." "Serve me Doctor!" "NEVER!"

The Android Invasion: Watched this yesterday and was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it was. The mystery laden first epsiode is great, with some of the best location work yet seen in the show. The sunny town always makes an ideal locale for Who stories but to make it seem so disturbing and edgy is due to the excellent direction of Barry Letts. Things are a bit more predictable in later episodes and even with the brill cliffhanger to episode two it just seems so lame with all this 'it was a testing ground all along' twist…sorry don't buy it. Sarah seems especially dozy in this one, tripping over twigs, falling down hills, screaming and being a bit useless but I still love her. Lis Sladen could rise above any material, bless her. It's not bad per se just dull which is the ultimate crime. More of a case of style of substance whwere the style is fabulous but the substance is terrible: 6/10

Best moment: Android Sarah's face falls off…cool!
Best dialogue: "A pint of what?" "Ginger pop!"

The Brain of Morbius: A case of everything just clicking, perfectly. Bless Mary Whitehouse…perhaps she had point but who cares the horror content is FABULOUS. Brains splattering on the floor, blood bursting from gunshot wounds, heads being lopped off, scientists being cyanided to death, guns, blindness, brains in jars… and the acting is just great. Philip Madoc in particular shines, followed closely by the wonderful team of Tom Baker and Lis Sladen and the ever powerful voice of Michael Spice. The storyline is another Holmes winner, all twisty-turny, graphic and scary and yet still sitty and entertaining. Dudley Simpson provides another great score, a brilliant horror pastache…as I said a case of everything just fitting into place: 9/10

Best moment: Sarah confronting the brain…what a cliffhanger!
Best dialogue: "I am a Time Lord of the first rank…what are you!?" "Oh nothing, nothing, a mere nobody but I don’t think you're in the first rank anymore!"

The Seeds of Doom: If you were looking for a fast paced action adventure then look no further. If you're looking for a chilling villain stop right here. What's that? You want Sarah Jane Smith mouthing off to an assassin? Check! And a truly alien Doctor who uses violence if needed? Check! You want to see a man graphically turning into a plant? Check! Breathless action scenes? Yep! A true heart thumping musical score? Indeedy! An eccentric old bag who somehow blows every else of the screen despite her really AWFUL taste in hats? Okay! A big explosion? Yes! Fabulous location work? Oh yes! I think you get the point…this is another cracker from a cracking era: 9.5/10

Best moment: Sarah confronts plant man Keeler.
Best dialogue: "It'll mean the end of everything! Even your pension!"

Season Thirteen is in fact very good indeed, Hinchcliffe and Holmes between them carved their own section of Doctor Who and I don't think I'm exaggerating by saying it is the most popular. They took a Doctor/companion team and put them through hell (especailly poor Sarah) and they worked a charm, surpassing any before and since. They piled on the horror and put it all there on the screen for us to witness. They spat in the face of Mary Whitehouse. They gave us the most quotable dialogue in Who history. They gave us a show to be proud off, to show to others, to remember years and years after they were first broadcast. And I can't think of any better praise.

The Tom and Liz Show by Terrence Keenan 27/8/04

I've said this before, but the greatest Who Doc/Companion combination was the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith. It's a combination of efforts on both sides of the camera lens. I can watch Tom and Lis riff off each other in character and never get bored or impatient.

And it's the little moments that stick with me far more than the B-Movie, running, jumping hauling ass plots that make up Season 13. It's not to say that there weren't any strong stories, because there were, but it's moments like the "Know thine enemy" scene from Pyramids that stick with me far more than Sutekh's defeat in the end of the same serial.

It's obvious that Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes knew how good the chemistry between Tom and Lis was, because there are moments in every serial where they get to riff off each other. Pyramids of Mars is loaded with them, serious and comic. But, there's also the fun moment in ep 2 of Planet of Evil where Tom and Lis talk about Shakespeare while stumbling through an ominous forest while being tracked by a flying camera. Or, the ginger pop talk in The Android Invasion. And so on...

Because of the Tom/Lis Chemistry, we see over the course of the season Sarah being treated more as an equal, while still fulfilling the traditional companion's role -- shades of thing to come with a certain Time Lady named Romana. These two know and trust each other, get on with saving the universe and enjoying some bad jokes and humor-laced arguments along the way.

In terms of the individual serials:

Terror of the Zygons is really a horror story, in sci-fi drag. The Zygons are the nasty things in the caves. They're shapeshifters, bogeymen who operate in the mists and dark places. There are lots of moments that sell the horror angle brilliantly. The episode one cliffhanger, with that blobby hand reaching out to grab Sarah while she's on the phone. The pitchfork scene: Ian Marter looks satanic, with his super-white face and dead eyes. Even the hunting of the Zygon being seen at a distance in the woods works far more on a horror level. Broton's first image on screen is an extreme close-up of his eyes. The destruction of the rigs has far more in common with movies like The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and Godzilla than sci-fi.

On the acting side of things, Big Tommy B rocks. Lis Sladen rocks. Ian Marter excels both as Harry and Evil Harry. Nic Courtney and John Levene are solid. However, it's John Woodnutt (Broton/The Duke) and Lillias Walker (Sister LaMont) who steal the show. Woodnutt chews the scenery with relish, in a good way, and Walker just looks so damn menacing. The rest of the cast all hold their own.

Planet of Evil is a prime example of the Hinchcliffe/Holmes formula of raiding the B-Movie world for Who tales. Dr. Jeckyll meets Forbidden Planet, with a dash of Mutiny on the Bounty thrown in for good measure. It is a decent runaround which falls apart in the last episode. I could think of worst ways to kill a couple of hours.

One of the smartest things that the Hinchcliffe/Holmes team was smart in doing was in creating strong villains to counteract the very strong personality of Tom Baker's fourth Doctor. In Pyramids of Mars, we have one of the best examples of this thought, in Sutekh.

The story, rewitten extensibly by Robert Holmes, is laden with some very classic DW scenes and dialogue. My personal favorite scene is when Sarah discovers Lawrence Scarman dead, and the Doc puts things in perspective: "Four, Sarah. Five, if you count the professor himself. And it will be the first of millions if Sutekh isn't stopped." Then there's that brilliant scene in the TARDIS in episode 2, with the Doctor showing Sarah the consequences of not stopping Sutekh and Lawrence and the Doc discussing the ability to change the future. It's rare the show ventured into the effects of time travel, and rarely is it done better here. Pyramids of Mars moves at a brisk pace, holds up on many levels and features very strong performances. It's a story you can't go wrong with.

The Android Invasion is the dud of the season, getting off to a decent enough start, with some nice mysterious elements tossed in. Unfortunately, the last episode is a stinking old dog that even Tom and Lis can't cover with their acting. Such a shame.

The Brain of Morbius is another fun little Gothic horror/sci-fi hybrid that the Hinchcliffe/Holmes team did so well. The story bounces along quickly, and although some of the plot points are a bit weak, you can tell the cast is putting all their effort into it. It is what it is: four well-acted, fast-paced episodes of Horror/Sci-fi/Who fun. "Buy the ticket. Take the ride."

Far more violent than your average Who serial, The Seeds of Doom pushes against a lot of general rules for Who and for the character of the Doctor as to what he can or can't do. The characters are archetypes of sci-fi/horror/adventure stories, but played with such conviction that they feel fresh. Tom Baker gives his best performance as the Doctor, weaving a whole boatload of characteristics into a cohesive whole.

Season 13 holds up well today, because of Tom and Lis and a production team that knew how to use them very well.

Gothic Imaginings by Joe Briggs-Ritchie 20/10/08

We all of us know about Season Thirteen. It's mentioned in the same breath as Seasons Seven, Fourteen and Eighteen, an exclusive club if there was one. Tom Baker. Elisabeth Sladen. Philip Hinchcliffe. The best Doctor/companion team and the best producer, or at least that is the view of many people. There are very few who would disagree for fear of being publicly flogged. And of course there is that very popular word "gothic". The design work is mostly superb, the stories are very well written, acted directed and Dudley Simpson was giving the series exactly the right kind of music that it needed at this point in its history.

Terror of the Zygons begins things in superb style. Ok, so it does stereotype the Scots somewhat but if you can get past that then this is a very enjoyable, very creepy story. It's amazingly atmospheric and superbly lit. And by "lit", I mean underlit. The Zygon spaceship, Forgill Castle, the hospital; they are all very superbly lit which is what a story like this really needs. I look at some of the Peter Davison stories and cringe because they are so dreadfully overlit. Whoever was in charge of lighting on many of those stories should have been shot. Geoffrey Burgon's music is utterly haunting. As much as I admire Dudley Simpson, I don't think that he would have been able to do a better job with this story. The Zygon's organic technology is brilliantly realised and harks back to The Claws of Axos. It makes a refreshing change from gleaming hi-tech equipment. Take no notice of what many others say about the Skarasen. It's not half as bad as many would have you believe.

Planet of Evil is another creepy, underlit story. It concerns sinister goings on in the distant future on a planet at the edge of the universe. The jungle set in this story has become quite famous and rightly so. Compare it to jungle sets in Planet of the Daleks and Kinda and you'll see exactly what I mean. The spaceship set is a bit same-old but it's serviceable. Prentis Hancock is so wooden he's practically creaking as he walks. Never mind.

Pyramids of Mars. There isn't very much I can say about Pyramids of Mars that hasn't been said a billion times already so I'm not going to. Just watch it.

The Android Invasion is definitely the weakest story of the season. It's basically just a variation on the same theme as Terror of the Zygons. Well, perhaps "variation" is a bit generous. What about rehash? Rip-off? You decide. The fact that it's still extremely watchable proves the strength of Season Thirteen. This is one that needs to be watched as child would watch it, i.e. uncritically. Just enjoy it for what it is.

The Brain of Morbius is a story that is really very deserving of the word "gothic". If Mary Shelley wrote a Doctor Who story, this would probably be the result. Which basically means that it is very heavily indebted to Frankenstein, right down to the mad scientist and artificially created body. Thunder and lightning, disembodied brains, a "squalid brood of harpies", headless bodies, bloody gunshot wounds... This is what the early Tom Baker years are all about, a much more visceral style. Some dodgy sets for the exterior of Karn are the only real drawback. Very dark with a strong sense of black humour.

The Seeds of Doom. Doctor Who does Day of the Triffids. And The Quatermass Experiment. And The Thing From Another World. And The Avengers. Like the rest of this season, it's inspired by many genre films. Quite frankly, there couldn't have been a better way to end this season. The Brain of Morbius is all dark browns and reds. This is bright green, white and yellow. The whole of this season is based on the idea of body horror and The Seeds of Doom takes it to the Nth degree. It's violent, vivid, witty and macabre. The lush grounds of Athelhampton house make a superb, organic setting and splitting the story between Antarctica and England means that the six part format doesn't drag. Once again, Geoffrey Burgon provides some truly eerie, haunting music. Tony Beckley is brilliant as barking mad millionaire Harrison Chase and John Challis does a wonderful pre-Boycie turn as henchman Scorby. Revel in it!

A superb season whichever way you look at it.

A Review by James Neiro 18/6/10

The immensely popular Season 13 worked for so many reasons: fantastic writing, great guest actors and the fact that Tom Baker had made the role of his Doctor his own. The season opener, Terror of the Zygons, ended the previous season's arc and introduced us to a villain able to shapeshift and created a very atmospheric and terrifying theme to the story. Terror of the Zygons would become a fan favorite and it's easy to say why. The Zygons were created to look authentic, a change for Doctor Who. It was only the Loch Ness Monster that weighed the story down. Harry Sullivan departed in this episode, written out by the producer at the time, which alas was regreted at a later date when it had become apparent that he had become quite popular amongst fans.

The following story, Planet of Evil, saw the Doctor and Sarah battle an invisible monster on the planet Zeta Minor. It was Pyramids of Mars that garnered the most attention for the season. A popular adventure devoted much to Egyptian mythology. The Android Invasion followed with a quick cameo by former companion Harry Sullivan. The story would be full of twists and turns and would become one of my own favorite stories.

The Brain of Morbius followed with the odd and rather ridiculous plot of a renegade Timelord (now only a brain) attempting to plant himself inside the Doctor's skull. The Seeds of Doom, the season finale, lifted the season up after its disappointing predecessor with the plot focusing both in the Antarctic and in England and centered around a seed pod buried deep under the ice that would be unearthed by a team of scientists and would eventually infect them. It was a standard plot that worked well in the movies and was amazing on the small screen at the time.