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Recap / Doctor Who S13 E4 "The Android Invasion"

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"Is that finger loaded?"
The Doctor sizes up the threat.

Production code: 4J

The one where Sarah doesn't like ginger pop.

Written by Terry Nation. This four-episode serial first aired from November 22 to December 13, 1975.

The TARDIS lands in a typical English village that Sarah recognises as Devesham, home of the British Space Defence Station. However, it soon becomes obvious that things are not all as they should be, and the Doctor and Sarah realise that the village is a replica populated with androids.

An alien race — the Kraals — are aided by a brainwashed human astronaut, Guy Crayford, and have built the replica to rehearse for an invasion of the Earth. Styggron, a Kraal scientist, has perfected a lethal virus and plans to use his androids to disseminate it around the world, paving the way for the Kraal fleet.

Crayford, whose rocket had been damaged and who was rescued by the Kraals, returns to a hero's welcome. Despite the Brigadier being off in Geneva, the Doctor is able to warn UNIT about the android replicas — which now include himself, Harry and RSM Benton. The Doctor manages to use the radio equipment at the base to jam the android control signal and stop Styggron releasing the virus. He then uses his own android replica to fight Styggron, who infects himself with the virus in the process and is killed.

One of only two non-Dalek scripts written by Terry Nation, though a significant amount was re-written by script editor Robert Holmes, and Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen apparently changed much of their dialogue.


  • Agony Beam: The Kraal mind scanner. Even when it's set low, it's super-painful.
  • All There in the Script: According to the script, Corporal Adams' first name is Richard.
  • Arm Cannon: The Kraals’ guard androids have them in their fingers, which kind me of kills their menace, especially with the page quote.
  • Back from the Dead: One of the many clues that something is terribly, terribly wrong in town is the fact the Doctor and Sarah see Corporal Adams up and about... despite him having just run off of a cliff earlier and had no pulse when they checked him.
  • BBC Quarry: About five minutes after they land, the Doctor and Sarah wind up in one, where they witness android Adams leap to its death. In episode four, the landing pods end up in the version on Earth (hey, why waste a good location shoot?)
  • Big Bad: Styggron.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Styggron, described by the DVD production notes as “one of the most eccentric opponents the Doctor has ever faced… or else he’s a twit”.
  • The Bus Came Back: Harry Sullivan and Sergeant Benton make their final appearances in Doctor Who.
  • Butt-Monkey: Sarah doesn't have a great time in this serial. She nearly falls down a "cliff" which she doesn't notice, sprains her ankle falling over a branch, gets captured offscreen, tortured, and knocked out by g-forces.
  • Complexity Addiction: Styggron might have actually conquered Earth had he just sprayed the planet with the impossibly deadly poison that would certainly have killed every human on Earth, rather than spend so much of his time dicking around with robot doubles, Gaslighting spacemen, and building hyper-realistic training simulations where the pubs are kept fully stocked up with ale but every day on the calendar reads the same date.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • The Doctor gets off a good one when tied to a post and left next to a bomb.
      Doctor: Don't go. Stay, then we can all go together!
    • Sarah herself gets a good one in the pub, when talking to the android Adams, asking him if he should be drinking so soon after breaking his neck.
  • Differently Dressed Duplicates: Androids impersonate the Doctor and Sarah in each other's presence on two separate occasions. The Doctor realizes that the Sarah duplicate is not real because she was wearing a scarf that he took from the real Sarah.
  • Death Glare: Android Doctor has a terrifying one when Android Benton shoots him, thinking he was the Doctor.
  • Distressed Dude: Sarah busts the Doctor out of his cell.
    "This time I'm saving you!"
  • Does Not Like Spam: Sarah Jane apparently hates ginger pop. It's how the Doctor recognizes her ginger pop-drinking android impostor.
  • Evil Knockoff
  • Evil Redhead: The android Adams. The real one, though, being a dutiful UNIT soldier, is a good redhead.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Crayford wears one. It later turns out he doesn't need it.
  • Failed a Spot Check: It's astounding that in all this time, Crayford never once thought to lift up the patch to examine his "injured" eye.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Android! Doctor is at first charming to the real Sarah but with an undercurrent of malice especially with Android! Benton and the forced Cheshire Cat Grin lets the viewers know something is off.
  • Fake Town: Styggron creates a replica of the village of Devesham on Oseidon and populates it with android duplicates of the villagers and Space Defence Station personnel as part of the Kraals' plan to conquer Earth.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: Sarah Jane's face falls off, revealing a terrifying robot face with protruding eyeballs. Robert Holmes famously received a letter about this from an eight-year-old complaining it was too scary (a Dramatic Reading of which is included as a DVD special feature).
    • The story begins with someone apparently jumping off a cliff. Perfect for little kids watching at five in the afternoon on a Saturday.
    • The scrappy, nasty fight between the Doctor and his android replica.
  • Flipping the Table: Done by the Doctor when escaping from Crayford's office.
  • The Future: After many stories in which the original idea of the UNIT era being in the near future had been almost forgotten, the last but one of the 1970s UNIT stories fully revives it, being set in a world where the UK has a major functioning space programme, "freighter" flights out as far as the asteroid belt are routine, and crewed exploration journeys have reached Saturn at least.
  • Gambit Roulette: Styggron's plot is almost as ludicrous as the way he goes about executing it. The DVD production note subtitles helpfully point out all of the holes in his plan and all the baffling and counter-intuitive moves he makes. Most fanon and Expanded Universe suggests Styggron didn't even understand his own plan.
  • Gaslighting: It's revealed Styggron convinced Crayford that he only has one eye. Near the end of the story, the Doctor tells Crayford to take his eyepatch off, and he discovers the eye under there.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: The Kraals are, put bluntly, utter crap at keeping prisoners. When they first get the Doctor, they lock him in a cell. Fair enough, but then the guards just walk off, allowing Sarah Jane to walk in and let him out. Styggron sees her doing this and just watches, rather than, say, alerting his androids or Crayford until after they've waltzed off. Their imprisonment of Sarah Jane's not any better - they just leave her lying on a table unrestrained and go off, thinking she's knocked out, allowing her to walk right out of their base and save the Doctor when she's done playing possum.
  • High-Voltage Death: Sarah busts out of her cell by taking a cable, waiting for Android!Adams to come in, and then frying him with it. He explodes quite spectacularly.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Styggron ends up getting killed by the virus he intended to infect humanity with. For added irony, he's knocked onto it by the Android Doctor he created.
  • Impersonating the Evil Twin: When he realised the complex is full of androids, The Doctor pretends to be his android double and successfully fools the other androids to the point where Android! Benton shoots Android! Doctor by mistake. He also succeeds in reprogramming his double to assist him, a fact which is only revealed after the double has done a Heroic Sacrifice in front of his horrified companion.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Crayford is an awful shot. He has a line on the Doctor, who is not exactly tiny, and still manages to miss him despite shooting straight at him. The fingermen aren't exactly much better, but they've got the excuse of being robots.
  • Large Ham: Two Tom Bakers? It's amazing any scenery was left.
    • Styggron has his moments, too.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Styggron and Chedaki's actor play them like this, full stop.
  • Literal Cliffhanger: When Sarah Jane and the Doctor are fleeing from the androids, she ends up falling and dangling off of a cliff.
  • Meaningful Echo: "Don't be a fool, Benton, I'm one of you." First said by the real Doctor when he bluffs the androids, then by the Android Doctor himself.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands / Diabolus ex Machina: The TARDIS' pause control, which Sarah Jane bypasses with the key. Granted, the Ship had previously demonstrated a Hostile Action Displacement System, which would allow it to temporarily disengage when attacked, but this would never even be mentioned again.
  • Noisy Robots: Generally averted, since the androids are intended to be perfect replacements. The only one who does make any of the typical mechanical whirring and clanking noises is the malfunctioning Adams (the UNIT soldier who does the really spectacular cliff dive), and that's only because there's something wrong with him.
  • Not Herself: Sarah Jane apparently hates ginger pop. It's how the Doctor recognizes her ginger pop-drinking android impostor.
  • Obvious Second Choice: It's pretty obvious that Col. Faraday was supposed to be the Brigadier.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: The Doctor's robot duplicate during the fight is clearly a double with a bad wig.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: The Android!Doctor shoots Grierson, but it only seems to hurt him in his arm/shoulder area.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: The Doctor realizes Sarah Jane has been replaced when the android both accepts the ginger pop he offers her and says he's likes it after downing the bottle, because he knows she hates ginger pop. In fact he figures it out the moment he sees her, because, as he put it, "The real Sarah wasn't wearing a scarf."; he's carrying the real Sarah's scarf in his coat pocket. Him giving her ginger pop is just his way of checking to make sure he's right.
    • Sarah Jane realises Android! Doctor isn't the real Doctor when it doesn't react fazed to Android! Sarah coming out of the coffin and advises her not to warn Earth.
  • Platonic Cave: The fake Earth.
  • Pseudo-Crisis: Episode Three has a cliffhanger where Sarah and the Doctor are getting blasted off into space and are overcome by the G-force... and then they escape the planet's gravity and everything's fine. Particularly sloppy since the scene immediately after this shows a pod opening to reveal an evil robot Doctor.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: When a pack of dogs have his scent, the Doctor has to jump into a small pond to evade them. Tom Baker performed the stunt for real while on location, and he got a minor throat infection from accidentally taking in some of the water. It wasn't too serious, but his voice sounds a little bit raspy thereafter.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Crayford.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: The android duplicates of common characters have been programmed to have more emotion than you'd expect for a robot.
  • Robot Me: The android replicas include the main characters.
  • Robotic Reveal: When the Doctor works out android "Sarah" isn't the real one, she pulls a gun on him. He tackles her to the ground, and her face comes off, revealing the inner workings of the android. (See image).
  • Servile Snarker: Chedaki is an evil version.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Doctor says to Sarah, "Listen, once upon a time, there were three sisters, and they lived in the bottom of a treacle well. Their names are Olga, Masha, and Irina." This is a mash-up of lines from Alice in Wonderland and Anton Chekhov's Tre sestry.
    • The Doctor says, "The best laid schemes of mice and Kraals gang aft agley", an adaptation of "The best laid schemes of mice and men", a quote from Robert Burns' poem "To a Mouse".
  • The Smurfette Principle: Aside from Sarah-Jane, Tessa is the only speaking female character in the story.
  • Spoiler Title: One of the worst of the many examples in Doctor Who, which gives away something that is meant to be a mystery for two full episodes.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Colonel Faraday for The Brigadier.
  • Synthetic Plague: The Kraals plan to wipe the human race out with one.
  • Temporary Substitute: Nicholas Courtney was unavailable, so the usual role of the highest-ranking UNIT officer was filled by Colonel Faraday, played by Patrick Newell.
  • Twisted Ankle: Sarah goes down on her ankle while running away. The injury makes running from the androids difficult, and leads to her getting captured.
  • Uncanny Valley: Almost certainly invoked with the robot duplicates, but especially the android Doctor, who acts almost exactly like the Doctor, but with just enough subtle malice that makes him profoundly creepy.
    • Not to mention the pub scene, wherein the whole pub is filled with androids, just standing there, not moving. Then the clock goes off and they start acting like normal people.
    • Presumably the whole point of the replica village was to avert this by "training" the androids on how to at least blend in when they land on Earth.
  • Waking Non Sequitur: After being interrogated, the Doctor isn't exactly lucid.
  • Waxing Lyrical: The Doctor's "all go together" line quoted above is a Shout Out to Tom Lehrer's nuclear war satire "We Will All Go Together When We Go".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never see Benton again after he's knocked out by one of the duplicates. In fact, for many years some fans thought Benton had actually been killed in this story, until "Mawdryn Undead" revealed that he had retired from the army and become a used car salesman.
    • Or Chedaki, for that matter. He doesn't go with Styggron to Earth. What happened to him? (His fate is explained in the novelisation).
    • A second android Sarah Jane is introduced near the end and then immediately forgotten about.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The story was inspired by Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).
  • Written-In Absence: The Brigadier is said to be in Geneva, as Nicholas Courtney was in the middle of a theatrical tour.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Pretty much said verbatim by Styggron when he kills Crayford.
    Styggron: I used you, Crayford, as I used the androids. But you are no longer of any value to me!
  • Your Head A-Splode: Styggron plans to leave the Doctor underneath the mind scanner with the controls dialled up, informing him that eventually, his head will explode.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go / I Lied: As Android! Doctor points out, the Khrals would never have spared humanity.