Who Wrote It: Terry Nation
What’s It About: The Doctor and Sarah arrive on what they initially believe in Devesham, but they soon discover it is actually a replica filled with androids. Why has a replica of a sleepy British village been created on an alien planet?
In some ways, this is an unsurprising story from Terry Nation. Many of his stories have a 1940s-1950s science fiction feel. And when I think about this story, it reminds me of an old radio show X Minus One, which was a sci-fi anthology. In one episode, astronauts arrived on a planet that had a replica of an American town, and each astronaut found family members living in the town. In both that story and this on, the replicants had malicious intentions. But the point is that Nation’s stories are from an earlier era of sci-fi, an era that has faded away by the time the Fourth Doctor comes around. So The Android Invasion is a bit of an odd story, being places smack in the middle of a series that has increasingly been focused on horror. This story plays with an Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibe which gives it a bit of a horror feel, but for Nation, the pulpy sci-fi bits are always more important. This holds true in part four, when Nation’s roots begin to show in earnest.
The Android Invasion isn’t a bad story. In fact, the first three episodes are atmospheric, chilling, and they keep you guessing. Sure the androids are a given, but how Sarah and The Doctor are going to find their way out of the village and back to the TARDIS, which has left them, is a mystery. It is part four that hurts this story, although not as badly as some would say. It moves from atmosphere to action, then rushes toward a resolution. I almost wonder if concluding episodes were Terry Nation’s weak point. They all seem to be a bit rushed, now that I think about it.
I think the biggest strike against The Android Invasion that it appears in the same season as Terror of the Zygons. Zygons is the superior story; it did many of the same things The Android Invasion did, and it did them better. Sadly, this makes Terry Nation’s story seem rather silly. If it had been in an earlier era—say the Hartnell or Troughton eras—then it probably would have been received better. As it stands, it doesn’t quite fit the Tom Baker era. I like the B-movie sci-fi feel, but I just can’t help but feel this story could have been better than it is.
My Rating: 2.5/5