Friday, 31 January 2014

Story 93 - The Invisible Enemy


In which the TARDIS is invaded by an alien virus, which infects the Doctor. The ship had just passed through a strange cloud in space. The virus fails to have any affect on Leela. A few hours earlier, a space shuttle taking the relief crew to the base on Saturn's moon Titan had encountered the same phenomenon and they had all been infected. They are compelled to destroy the crew already on the base and prepare the complex for the spawning of the virus. They await the arrival of the Doctor, as he is now host to the Nucleus of the Swarm. The Doctor is as yet unaware of the malign influence he harbours, and he pilots the TARDIS to Titan base after the commander, Lowe, sends out a distress signal. Lowe is the only person there unaffected. Once the ship has materialised on the rocky moon, the influence of the Nucleus grows and the Doctor is compelled to kill Leela.


He struggles to keep the virus at bay. Lowe also becomes infected, but keeps this hidden from Leela. The Doctor puts himself into a comatose state, but first directs the TARDIS to the nearest medical facility - the Bi-Al Foundation. This is built inside an asteroid. The Doctor is put into the care of Professor Marius. Marius has a mobile computer in the shape of a dog, which he calls K9. (He hadn't been able to bring his real dog to the Foundation). Lowe begins infecting Foundation personnel. The Nucleus must be returned to Titan Base as soon as possible in order to spawn. Leela and K9, which is armed with a blaster built into its nose, hold the infected men at bay. The Doctor emerges from his coma to instruct Marius on a plan to dislodge the Nucleus. The Professor should prepare clones of the Doctor and Leela, miniaturise them, then inject them into his body. These clones will only live for a short time. After Marius has carried out these instructions, Lowe breaks into the lab and infects him too. Marius is ordered to repeat the cloning / miniaturisation process on Lowe, so he can stop the attack on the Nucleus.


The Doctor and Leela trace the Nucleus but fail to destroy it. The clone of Lowe is destroyed by anti-bodies, whilst those of the Doctor and Leela run out of time. Marius extracts the Nucleus from the Doctor and it grows to huge size. Lowe takes it to the Titan Base. The Doctor works out why Leela was immune to the virus and this leads to a cure. The Doctor borrows K9, and he and Leela rush to Titan in the TARDIS. Lowe is killed and the Doctor rigs up a booby-trap. When the Nucleus tries to break free from the cabinet where it has installed itself, a blaster will ignite flammable gas. The Doctor, Leela and K9 depart as the base is destroyed. Back at the Bi-Al Foundation, Marius announces that he is shortly to leave for Earth - and won't be able to take K9 with him. The Doctor is not so sure, but Leela is quite insistent that the robot dog joins them on their travels...


This four part adventure was written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, and was broadcast between 1st and 22nd October, 1977. It is most significant for the introduction of K9. It is also the first flowering of producer Graham Williams' vision for the programme - a move away from Gothic Horror towards more conventional science fiction scenarios. (There are an awful lot of spaceships in the Williams era).
The programme hasn't stopped borrowing from cinematic sources. Episode 3's miniaturisation plot is lifted wholeheartedly from the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage. In this a group of specialists are miniaturised, along with a submarine, to be injected into a comatose man - victim of an assassination attempt. They need to carry out a medical procedure. One of them is actually working with the killers, out to sabotage things. Anti-bodies attack people - killing the villain. In both this and the film, it is through the tear-duct that those on the outside will extract the miniscules. The TV programme (and film version) of Quatermass II influences the design for the Swarm's spawning tank. There is a lot of great SFX on show - particularly the model-work of Ian Scoones - with a little help from Matt Irvine. One design element that fails miserably is the prawn-like Nucleus. Inside is regular Dalek operator John Scott Martin. The voice is John Leeson's.


Which brings us to K9. Loved and loathed in equal measure, it was designed by Tony Harding. The first draft design was more like a Doberman. K9's problems are legion - interference with camera signals, Tom Baker's dislike for having to go down on his knees to get shots, the gears breaking and so forth. If you really want to know about K9, try and track down a copy of Steve Cambden's book The Doctor's Affect. Steve was assistant operator of the prop from Nightmare of Eden through to Full Circle. K9's pluses were its popularity with the public, and John Leeson.
There are two principle guest artists, and both have appeared in several Doctor Who stories over the years. Marius is played by Frederick Jaeger (The Savages and Planet of Evil). Lowe is Michael Sheard - (first appearance The Ark in 1966, final appearance Remembrance of the Daleks in 1988).
Episode endings are:

  1. The Doctor starts to change under the influence of the Nucleus. He is compelled to kill Leela - slowly sneaking up on her with a blaster in his hand...
  2. The miniature clones of the Doctor enter the Doctor's system...
  3. The Nucleus grows to enormous size once extracted from the Doctor...
  4. As the Doctor and Leela debate taking K9 with them, the robot dog trundles into the TARDIS...


Overall, not a bad story. Great special effects (apart from the Prawn). It will always be remembered most for the arrival of K9. He is still going strong - having appeared on the BBC Stargazing programme only a week or two ago (January 2014).
Things you might like to know:

  • The DVD for this story is one of those which has the option of new CGI effects. (Worth it for getting rid of that obvious pre-broken wall section). One big change is the realisation of Titan's atmosphere. The new shots show the more accurate thick orange atmosphere - mostly nitrogen with methane and ethane clouds. Only problem: some of the studio scenes feature windows - and the painted backdrops still show the clear starry skyline from the televised version.
  • Contact has been made...
  • There is a famous continuity error, where we see the Bi-Al asteroid already damaged before the shuttle crashes into it.
  • Baker and Martin use the "Gallifrey being in Ireland" joke for the second time (last outing The Hand of Fear). In both cases, it seems to be a misconception specific to hospital personnel...
  • Contact has been made...
  • The Doctor has changed his tune about Humanity's expansion in a relatively short time. In The Ark in Space, their spread across the Galaxy was something to be admired. Now, he likens them to a plague - fitting in with the alien virus theme, of course.
  • This story sees the return of the futuristic white TARDIS control room. The designer on this story is Barry Newbery - who had come up with the previous wood-panelled version.
  • Contact has been made...
  • Interesting phonetic spellings on the various signage on show - ISOLAYSHUN WARD, IMURJINSEE EGSIT etc.
  • My favourite John Leeson story. Attending his first US Convention, he took part in a K9 soundalike competition - the pre-internet audience not knowing what he looked like. He didn't win...
  • Contact has been made...

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