Terror of the Zygons

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080 – Terror of the Zygons
Doctor Who serial
The Loch Ness monster is let loose.
Writer Robert Banks Stewart
Director Douglas Camfield
Script editor Robert Holmes
Producer Philip Hinchcliffe
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Geoffrey Burgon
Production code 4F
Series Season 13
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Originally broadcast 30 August – 20 September 1975
← Preceded by Followed by →
Revenge of the Cybermen Planet of Evil

Terror of the Zygons is the first serial of the 13th season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts from 30 August to 20 September 1975. It was the last regular appearance by Ian Marter as companion Harry Sullivan, who would later return in The Android Invasion. It was also the last regular appearance by Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, although Courtney would return for guest spots as well.


On an oil rig off the coast of Scotland, high-pitched beeping echoes through the structure, and it begins to break apart, collapsing into the North Sea.

The Fourth Doctor, Harry and Sarah hitch a ride with the Duke of Forgill, a local landowner, to the town where the Brigadier and UNIT have set themselves up in an inn. The Brigadier is talking to Huckle, an official of Hibernian Oil, who owned the rig. Huckle complains that three such rigs have been destroyed in the last month.

On the shoreline, a survivor of the destroyed rig washes up. The Brigadier brings the Doctor, Harry and Sarah to Hibernian Oil, where Huckle briefs them on the injuries of the rigs' crew. Harry examines the injuries at the Sickbay, while Sarah goes to talk to the locals.

At the inn, Sarah talks to Angus, the landlord. Sarah admires a stuffed stag's head above the fireplace, a gift from the Duke just this past week. Angus observes that the Duke has not been himself since the oil companies came. His servants have left to work for them. Something alien watches her and Angus on a monitor screen. Angus tells Sarah about Tulloch Moor and how people have disappeared over the centuries when the mist came down.

The rig survivor, Munro, is spotted by the Duke's man, the Caber. Harry is driving by and sees Munro too. Before Munro can tell Harry about what smashed the rig, the Caber fires a rifle, killing Munro and creasing Harry's forehead with a second shot. Back at the inn, the Doctor is working on a radio probe to check for localised jamming when a call comes in informing them about Harry.

Alien hands manipulate organic controls. A high pitched beeping summons a creature from the depths that heads towards the Ben Nevis rig. The rig's communications with Huckle are jammed by the beeping.

The Doctor and Sarah visit Harry, who is sedated and being looked after by Sister Lamont, the nurse. Outside, the Doctor spots a piece of wreckage from the earlier rig with some odd holes in it. The Doctor asks Sergeant Benton for some plaster of Paris, and makes a mould of the holes, revealing very large teeth. The aliens, watching, decide that the Doctor knows too much and must be destroyed.

Harry awakens. Sarah goes to inform the Doctor, while Sister Lamont tells Harry that he will be looked after. A high-pitched beeping echoes through the room. As Sarah calls the Doctor, a suction-tipped hand clamps down on her shoulder. She turns and is grabbed by a large, orange biped: a Zygon.

The Doctor rushes over to the Sickbay. Sister Lamont tells them she found Sarah gone and Harry's bed empty. The Doctor finds Sarah hiding in a decompression chamber. As Sarah starts telling the Doctor about what happened, a Zygon locks them in and remove the air from the chamber. The Doctor hypnotises Sarah into not needing to breathe. He closes her eyes and then, breathing in loudly, places himself in a similar trance.

Harry is brought to the Zygon ship deep underwater, where he meets their warlord, Broton. Harry is told that centuries ago, their spaceship was damaged and they landed on Earth. They were waiting for rescue when their world had been destroyed in a stellar explosion. They intend to claim Earth for their own, using the sea monster under their command, an armoured cyborg of great power. Broton explains that the Zygons depend on the lactic fluid of the Skarasen, and Harry realises that if the monster is destroyed, the Zygons will die.

The Brigadier is briefing one of his officers at the inn when gas floods the room, knocking them all out. Meanwhile, Benton has found the Doctor and Sarah. He manages to open the pressure door. The Doctor tells Benton that the trance was a trick he picked up from a Tibetan monk.

Benton, Sarah and the Doctor discover that the entire village has been drugged by some kind of nerve gas, but they soon revive. The Doctor deduces this was done so that something could get around unseen. The Zygons watch Huckle give the Doctor a device he found in the wreckage: the signal device that summons the Skarasen. Harry is taken to another room in the ship, where he sees other humans hooked up to booths, providing the Zygons with "body prints" that they use to assume human form.

The Doctor hypothesises that the signal device sends out a primeval mating call, attracting the beast to it. The savaged body of a UNIT soldier is found on the Moor and the Doctor and the Brigadier go to see it, leaving Sarah behind in case Harry turns up. He does, but it is his Zygon duplicate. He takes the signal device. Sarah notices his curious behaviour but he pushes her aside and runs away. Sarah and some soldiers pursue him.

Sarah discovers "Harry" hiding in an upper level of a barn, and he attacks her with a pitchfork. She steps aside and he falls, injuring himself fatally and turning back into a Zygon. The signal broken, Broton, realising his man is dead, remotely disintegrates it. Harry is freed from his body print booth.

Sarah wonders how the aliens knew they had the signal device. The Brigadier orders the inn to be searched for bugs. Broton in turn orders that the Skarasen be unleashed. The signal device begins to beep. The Doctor grabs the device to lure the creature away while the Brigadier tries to get a fix on the activating signal.

The Skarasen catches up to the Doctor on the Moor, and he finds that he cannot get rid of the semi-organic signal device, which has fastened itself to his palm. The Brigadier manages to trace the incoming signal to Loch Ness.

Harry rushes into the Zygon control room and randomly hits the controls, causing the device to fall off the Doctor's palm and allowing him to roll out of the Skarasen's way. Broton assumes that the Doctor is dead and recalls the Skarasen. The Doctor retrieves the device and is met halfway by the Brigadier and Sarah, who tell him that the signal came from Loch Ness. The Doctor go visit Forgill Castle right next to the loch. They get a frosty reception from the Duke, who does not believe them when they tell him about the monster, aliens and their intention to drop depth charges in Loch Ness.

At the inn, Angus discovers the Zygon surveillance link in the stuffed deer head that was the Duke's gift. Sister Lamont enters the inn. Before his eyes, the sister turns into a Zygon and kills him, removing the link after. Angus's dying cries are heard by Benton, who discover the body and go off in pursuit of the killer. The UNIT troops sweep through the nearby forest, and fire on the Zygon.

The Brigadier is informed that a Zygon is being cornered. He and the Doctor leave Sarah behind at the Castle to research into the monster. In the woods, the wounded Zygon disguises itself once more as Sister Lamont, and fools a UNIT soldier to knock him out and steal his jeep. At the inn, the Doctor notices the missing eye in the deer head, and realises that the Duke might be a Zygon facsimile.

At the Castle, Sarah triggers a hidden switch and a section of the bookcases slides open, revealing a hidden passage. She takes a torchlight and goes in a long dark tunnel that leads to the Zygon ship. The "Duke" (in reality Broton) discovers the open bookcase. He and the "Caber" take the wounded "Sister Lamont" down into the ship.Exploring, Sarah finds the cell where Harry is kept. She frees him and they sneak back to the Castle, just in time to meet the Brigadier and the Doctor. The Doctor enters the tunnel, but does not get far. The Zygons emerge in their true forms, Broton telling the humans that they are leaving, with the Doctor as their prisoner. He warns them that the "big event" is yet to come. Broton retreats, sealing the entrance to the tunnel.

The Brigadier orders the loch to be depth charged. The Zygon ship does rise, but keeps on rising into the sky, flying away.

Broton orders a jamming signal to be transmitted. The Brigadier move his troops out while Sarah and Harry search Forgill Castle to find a clue to the Zygons' plans. Sarah finds some papers that indicate the Duke is President of the Scottish Energy Commission, but Harry dismisses the information as useless. They return with the Brigadier to London.

The Zygon ship lands in a disused quarry. There are reports of a large underwater object heading South at high speed. Broton enters the Doctor's cell and, taking the Duke's form again, tells him that Phase I of the conquest of Earth is complete. A great Zygon refugee ship is on its way, but will take some centuries to arrive. In the meantime, Earth's environment must be restructured, using human labour and Zygon technology to turn it into a new homeworld.

Left alone, the Doctor rigs some of the organic technology in his cell, electrocuting himself but sending a transmission. He makes his way to the body print chamber and frees the real Duke, Sister Lamont and the Caber. Broton leaves the ship to plant a signal device on his intended target,to prove the power the Zygons hold. When Phase II is complete, he will broadcast his demands to the world. Inside the ship, the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to set off the fire sensor, triggering an alarm. When the Zygons go to investigate, the Doctor ushers the humans out of the ship, jamming the hatches on the way out and activating the ship's self-destruct.

The Brigadier has arrived, and the escapees reach UNIT's position, the Doctor shouting for everyone to get down just before the Zygon ship explodes. Broton is still out there and has control of the Skarasen. The target is in London, and has to be close to the River Thames. The Brigadier says that Prime Minister will be attending a conference at Stanbridge House, near the river. The Duke adds that it is the 1st International Energy Conference. As the Duke is the President of the Scottish Energy Commission, Broton will have a pass into the meeting. They leave for London.

The Duke places the signal device in the basement of Stanbridge House. The Doctor finds Broton, back in his true form, and is attacked by him. The Brigadier shoots Broton dead. The Doctor finds the signal device in his pocket and feeds it to the Skarasen as it rises out of the Thames. The beast sinks back into the river and heads back to Loch Ness, the only home it has ever known.

Returning to Scotland, the Brigadier tells the Duke that the incident will be kept quiet, even the appearance of a fifty-foot monster in the Thames. The Doctor leads them into the woods where the TARDIS is, and offers all of them a lift, but the Brigadier and Harry decline. Sarah agrees on the condition they do go straight back to London. The Doctor promises, and the TARDIS takes off. The Duke tells the Brigadier that, as a Scotsman, he should have got a refund for Sarah and the Doctor's return train tickets.


The Brigadier refers to the Prime Minister as "Madam". Although already the leader of the Conservative Party when the story was made, Margaret Thatcher would not become Britain's first female Prime Minister until 1979.

This serial concludes a continuous series of adventures for the TARDIS crew, beginning from the end of Robot and ending with this story. Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) leaves the TARDIS crew with this story. Marter would return to play Sullivan and his android duplicate in the fourth story of this season The Android Invasion. He would also go on to write several novelisations of Doctor Who television stories (including some in which he had appeared as Sullivan), as well as the spin-off novel Harry Sullivan's War. The character returns to assist the Fourth Doctor in the Past Doctor Adventures novels System Shock and Millennium Shock by Justin Richards and be mentioned in the Fifth Doctor serial Mawdryn Undead in which he is said to be working for NATO. The Doctor would not have another male companion until Adric in season 18.

In this adventure the Loch Ness Monster is identified as being the Skarasen — a cyborg weapon of the Zygons. The season 22 adventure Timelash introduces the Borad who is thrown back in time and also becomes the legendary creature.


Interested in gaining new writers for Doctor Who, script editor Robert Holmes discussed ideas for the programme with Robert Banks Stewart. After their meeting in early 1974, Stewart devised a storyline for a six-part adventure called The Secret Of Loch Ness. Stewart felt that the Scotland's legendary Loch Ness Monster would make an ideal basis for a story because there were so few details about the mythical creature. Although at first focusing on the Loch Ness Monster itself, Holmes encouraged Stewart to concentrate more on the Zygons, the shape-shifting aliens of the story. As the story evolved, it was known variously as The Loch, The Secret Of The Loch, The Loch Ness Monster, The Zygons and finally Terror of the Zygons.

Cast notes[edit]

John Woodnutt had previously appeared playing Hibbert in Spearhead from Space (1970) and the Draconian Emperor in Frontier in Space (1973) and would go on to play Consul Seron in The Keeper of Traken (1981). Angus Lennie previously played Storr in The Ice Warriors.

This would be Nicholas Courtney's final appearance on the series for almost eight years; the Brigadier would not be seen again until Mawdryn Undead.

Broadcast and reception[edit]

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
"Part One" 30 August 1975 (1975-08-30) 21:41 8.4
"Part Two" 6 September 1975 (1975-09-06) 25:08 6.1
"Part Three" 13 September 1975 (1975-09-13) 24:09 8.2
"Part Four" 20 September 1975 (1975-09-20) 25:22 7.2

In The Television Companion (1998), David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker wrote that Terror of the Zygons gave a stereotypical portrayal of the Scottish and showed how much the show had changed since abandoning its regular UNIT premise. They felt that the story gave the UNIT their "dignity and believability" and praised the realisation of the Zygons, though they noted that the shape-shifting concept was not original. Despite the "major weakness" of the realisation of the Skarasen, they said "the story remains a strong one".[4] In 2010, Mark Braxton of Radio Times praised the "exquisitely horrible" design of the Zygons and the cliffhanger of the first episode where a Zygon attacks Sarah. He also was positive towards guest actor John Woodnutt and the incidental music, calling the whole production "a class act", aside from the Loch Ness Monster.[5] DVD Talk's John Sinnott gave the story four and a half out of five stars, praising the cast and the design of the Zygons.[6] Ian Berriman of SFX felt that it was "churlish" to criticise the Loch Ness Monster effect when the story "gets so much right, including first-class direction, pitch-perfect performances and a hauntingly eerie, folky score". He also was positive towards the design of the Zygons and their spaceship, though he found their scheme far-fetched.[7] Christopher Bahn, reviewing the story for The A.V. Club, described it as "fun" but noted that it could be formulaic instead of trying to be "groundbreaking"; he criticised the scene in the second episode in which Broton tells Harry everything about the Zygons, which did not leave much surprise left. Nevertheless, he praised the cast, the action sequences, and the Zygons described as "wonderfully surreal triumph of Doctor Who visual design" though otherwise they functioned as typical monster-of-the-week.[8]

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

Doctor Who book
Book cover
Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster
Series Target novelisations
Release number 40
Writer Terrance Dicks
Publisher Target Books
Cover artist Chris Achilleos
ISBN 0-426-11041-2
Release date 15 January 1976

A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in January 1976 under the title Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster. It was later republished under the original title, in 1993 with a cover by Alister Pearson.[9] In the novelisation, the Zygons have a deadly sting, the TARDIS momentarily disappears after landing and the Prime Minister is a man.

Home media[edit]

Terror of the Zygons first came out on VHS in November 1988; this was in an 'omnibus' format. It was first released in episodic format on Laserdisc in 1997, followed by a new VHS release in August 1999 in the United Kingdom, and released in 2000 in the United States and Canada. Music from this serial was released on the CD Doctor Who: Terror of the Zygons

The story was released on DVD on 30 September 2013.[10][11][12][13] It features a 'director's cut' version of episode one with a previously-unseen and newly restored 1 min 40 s opening scene featuring The Doctor, Sarah and Harry arriving in Scotland. The restored scene has been recolourised by Stuart Humphryes (AKA YouTube's Babelcolour).[14] A single disc version (with no extras) of the DVD formed part of the Fourth Doctor Time Capsule released on 29 July 2013.[15]


  1. ^ Shaun Lyon et al. (2007-03-31). "Terror of the Zygons". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 31 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  2. ^ "Terror of the Zygons". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  3. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (2007-08-07). "Terror of the Zygons". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  4. ^ Howe, David J & Walker, Stephen James (1998). Doctor Who: The Television Companion (1st ed. ed.). London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-40588-7. 
  5. ^ Braxton, Mark (28 June 2010). "Doctor Who: Terror of the Zygons". Radio Times. Retrieved 29 March 2013. 
  6. ^ Sinnott, John (19 November 2013). "Doctor Who - Terror of the Zygons". DVD Talk. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  7. ^ Berriman, Ian (30 September 2013). "Doctor Who: Terror of the Zygons Review". SFX. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  8. ^ Bahn, Christopher (7 December 2013). "Terror of the Zygons". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  9. ^ Lofficier, Jean-Marc (1994). The Doctor Who Programme Guide (Third ed.). p. [page needed]. ISBN 0 426 20342 9. 
  10. ^ "DVD Update: Terror of the Zygons". Doctor Who News. 2012-07-31. Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
  11. ^ "DVD Update: 2013 updates and expectations". Doctor Who News. 1975-08-20. Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
  12. ^ "DVD Update". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 2013-08-30. 
  13. ^ "Blogtor Who: DVD REVIEW: Terror of the Zygons". Blogtor Who. Retrieved 2013-09-23. 
  14. ^ "Other DVD". Babelcolour. Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
  15. ^ "The Fourth Doctor Time Capsule". Doctor Who News. 2013-09-07. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 


External links[edit]