DOCTOR WHO CLASSIC MONSTERS: THE ZYGONS
Every time a new series of Doctor Who ends, the first question fans ask is which classic monsters will be returning next year. So far, the Daleks (twice), the Cybermen, Sontarans, Silurians, the Macra and Davros have all undergone a new look and upgrade for the twenty first century.
The rumours currently circulating are the Yeti, the robotic servants of the Great Intelligence, are due to return for the new series but other contenders have been the Ice Warriors and the Wirrn.
However if you put a poll out, the top answer would easily be the Zygons. The shape shifters have only appeared once in the classic fourth Doctor story Terror of the Zygons. In that adventure the Brigadier called the Doctor along with Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan back to Earth to investigate the destruction of oil rigs off the Scottish coast.
This gave Tom the first opportunity to stamp his fun loving personality on the character by wearing tartan.
They discover the Zygons have been using their pet the Skaresen to attack the rigs having been wakened from their slumber at the bottom of Loch Ness thus giving the legend of the Loch ness monster credence. They could take on anyone’s form to walk among us by placing the original in a chamber on their ship. Their plan was to convert our planet to a more suitable environment for their species and they have already sent a signal to the rest of their fleet which is wandering space in the aftermath of their home world’s destruction.
Being young enough to remember the original broadcast I remember how terrifying the Zygons were. They were designed on a human embryo and the costume literally swallowed the actor creating a true alien threat that has stuck in the minds of an entire generation. Add to this their whispering voices and stinger hands and you have a deadly enemy.
Everything about the Zygon stank of alien and Robert Stewart Banks succeeded in bringing a living breathing society of aliens through a few lines of dialogue. We knew they were homeless, seeking a new planet to colonise; they had crashed to Earth years previously; they lived off the milk provided by the Skaresen which was a dinosaur like animal that they had upgraded as a cyborg. Their ship echoed their bodies with its organic, pizza like controls and duplicate chambers. They could put an entire village to sleep just to protect the Skaresen and had sophisticated bugging devices hidden in the nearby village to observe human activity. And despite their alien visage they were merely trying to survive and find a home. The evolution of humanity had simply got in their way. They intended to solve this by infiltrating an energy conference and ensuring their plans got approved to change our environment.
One of the most frightening moments from the story occurred off screen when Sarah Jane found the hidden entrance to their ship. The Doctor wandered in by himself and the next thing he is screaming in agony. The attack happens off screen and it is when the Zygon, Broton fills the entrance to warn off the Doctor’s friends that terrified children everywhere. Similarly the show was being criticized for overt violence at the time and the scene where Sarah Jane is attacked by a Zygon disguised as Harry remains a classic scene as he menaces her in a hayloft with a pitchfork. He plunges to his death to be impaled on farm machinery below and even his death gurgles are alien and other worldly.
One of the few stories yet to be released on DVD, the Zygons in just four episodes burned themselves into the minds of thousands of children. They featured on a jigsaw back in the 70s depicting their arrival on a swamp world. The fact they sent a signal revealing Earth’s location to their fleet leaves a story waiting to be told right there. And it’s not just me that thinks so.
As well as comic strips, they returned to face the eighth Doctor in Victorian London in the novel The Bodysnatchers and with the limitless scope of a book; we got to see a second form of Zygon, white ones that acted as the scientific division and the orange ones the military. They still wanted the Earth for themselves and released a herd of Skaresens this time to destroy the populace. The Doctor almost managed to secure a peace with them but it was all for nothing. The Zygons were killed and everything returned to normal. This novel by Mark Morris is an astounding piece of work and so well written you can see it in your head, leaving you wishing the TV guys would pick it up and do it. And again in Sting of the Zygons the tenth Doctor and Martha Jones fought a new Zygon invasion. But this wasn’t the end of them when in the Big Finish range, again with the eighth Doctor, his companion Lucie Miller’s aunt turned out to be a Zygon that had posed as a human and liked it so much, it remained that way until forced to reveal its true identity in the story the Zygon that Fell to Earth.
Much like the new series these adventures added to and expanded upon the Zygon culture further fuelling the demand that they return to the screen. Clive Barker once said monsters should have an eloquent evil aspect to them and the Zygons completely fulfilled this role. Deadly homeless shape changers that drink milk from their cyborg pet, they made their mark back in the seventies and maybe they will again in the 50th anniversary year.
Follow Owen on Facebook