Terror of the Zygons

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080 – Terror of the Zygons
Doctor Who serial
The Loch Ness monster is let loose.
Directed by Douglas Camfield
Written by Robert Banks Stewart
Script editor Robert Holmes
Produced by 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
List of Doctor Who serials

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. He would later return in The Android Invasion. It was also the last regular appearance by Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.


An unseen force attacks and destroys an oil rig in the North Sea. In rural Scotland the day after the attack, the Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan arrive in a small village where Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and U.N.I.T. are investigating the rig's destruction. Huckle, a representative of Hiberian Oil (the company which owned the rig) explains that three other rigs have been destroyed in similar circumstances in the past month. He leads the Doctor, Harry and the Brigadier to Hiberian Oil's headquarters, where survivors of the rig's destruction are having their injuries treated. Meanwhile, another survivor, named Munro, washes up on a shoreline.

At the village's inn, Sarah talks to the landlord Angus, and admires a stuffed deer's head. Angus reveals the head was a gift from the Duke of Forgill, a local landowner, and tells her an old legend about Tulloch Moor, where many people have disappeared in the mist over the centuries. On his way back to the village, Harry sees Munro on the moor, but before Munro can reveal what happened to the rig he is shot dead by Caber, one of the Duke of Forgill's servants. A second shot severely injures Harry. The Doctor returns to the inn and starts work on a radio probe to check for localised signal jamming, but receives a phone call stating Harry has been found injured on the moor. He and Sarah visit Harry in Hiberian Oil's sickbay, where he is sedated and being cared for by a nurse named Sister Lamont.

While Sarah stays with Harry, the Doctor leaves and spots a piece of wreckage from a destroyed rig pierced with strange holes. He takes it back to the inn and makes a plaster cast of inside the holes, which resemble large fangs. At the sickbay, Harry starts to awaken. Sarah tries to telephone the Doctor, but is grabbed by an orange-skinned creature.

Hearing Sarah's screams over the phone, the Doctor races back to the Sickbay. Sister Lamont tells him she found Sarah gone and Harry's bed empty. The Doctor finds Sarah in a decompression chamber, but before she can explain what happened the creature locks them in and remove the air from the chamber. The Doctor hypnotises Sarah into limiting her breaths, and puts himself under a similar trance. Sergeant Benton finds them and unlocks the pressure door. At the inn, the Brigadier is briefing one of his officers when gas floods the room, rendering them unconscious.

The Zygons, as they appear at the Doctor Who Experience.

Harry is brought to the spaceship of the Zygons, which is deep underwater. Their leader Broton reveals the ship crashed on Earth centuries ago, but while they waited for rescue the Zygon home planet was destroyed in a stellar explosion. The Zygons plan to conquer Earth, and command a mammalian sea monster called a Skarasen, which they have upgraded into an armoured cyborg and send to destroy the oil rigs. They also have several humans held captive, including the Duke, Caber and Sister Lamont. The Zygons are capable of shape-shifting, and use their captive's "body prints" to mimic them. Meanwhile, the Doctor, Sarah and Benton return to the village to find everyone drugged by nerve gas. When the people start to wake up, the Doctor deduces the gas was let off so something could pass through unseen. Huckle gives the Doctor a strange device he found in the wreckage, and he hypothesises it is what summons the sea monster, attracting it by sending out a mating call.

The dead body of a U.N.I.T. soldier is found on the moor, and the Doctor and the Brigadier go to investigate, leaving Sarah at the inn. A Zygon disguised as Harry arrives at the inn and takes the signal device, but Sarah is suspicious of Harry's behaviour and pursues him with a troop of soldiers. She follows him into a barn, where he is hiding on the upper level. He attacks Sarah with a pitchfork, but falls from the ledge and dies, reverting to his original form. Before he can be taken away, though, Broton "disperses" the corpse. When the Doctor and the Brigadier return, Sarah wonders how the aliens knew they had the signal device. U.N.I.T. search the inn, and Broton sends the Skarasen to attack the village. As the signal device starts to beep, the Doctor takes it to lure the monster away while the Brigadier tries to trace the activating signal. As he runs onto the moor, the semi-organic device attaches itself to the Doctor's hand, so as the Skarasen approaches him he is unable to remove the device.

On the Zygon ship, Harry rushes into the control room and randomly hits the controls, causing the device to fall off the Doctor's hand and allowing him to evade the Skarasen. Broton assumes the Skarasen has killed the Doctor and calls it back. The Doctor retrieves the device and reunites with the Brigadier and Sarah, who have tracked the signal to Loch Ness. They visit Forgill Castle, and meet with the Duke of Forgill, who does not believe the Doctor's claims of aliens inhabiting the loch.

At the inn, Angus finds hidden surveillance cameras within the eyes of the stuffed deer head, which the Zygons have been using, but before he can tell anyone about it a Zygon disguised as Sister Lamont kills him and removes the cameras. Sgt. Benton finds Angus' body and leads the U.N.I.T. troops in pursuit of the killer. They track the Zygon down to a nearby forest and open fire. The Brigadier is informed that U.N.I.T. are pursuing a Zygon, and he and the Doctor leave Sarah at the castle to research the history of the Loch Ness Monster, which they suspect was inspired by the Skarasen. In the forest, the wounded Zygon disguises itself as Lamont, knocks out a soldier and steals a Jeep.

At the Castle, Sarah triggers a hidden switch and finds a hidden passage. She ventures into the dark tunnel, which leads into the Zygon ship. The Duke, who is actually Broton in disguise, discovers the open route and brings the Zygon wounded by U.N.I.T. into the tunnel. In the ship, Sarah frees Harry from his cell and sneaks him back to the castle, where they meet with the Doctor and the Brigadier. The Doctor explores the tunnel, but is taken prisoner by the Zygons, who seal the entrance. The Brigadier orders for Loch Ness to be depth charged, but the Zygon ship emerges from the loch and takes off.

The Brigadier orders U.N.I.T. to follow the Zygon ship, while Sarah and Harry search Forgill Castle for clues of what the Zygons are planning. Sarah finds documents revealing the Duke of Forgill is President of the Scottish Energy Commission, but Harry dismisses the information as useless. They return with the Brigadier to London, while the ship lands in a quarry and the Skarasen swims out to sea. Broton, taking the Duke's form, tells the Doctor that a Zygon refugee ship is coming to Earth, but will take many centuries to arrive. In the meantime, the Zygons plan to restructure Earth's environment to make it suitable for them to inhabit. When Broton leaves the ship to plant a signal device on his chosen target, the Doctor rigs some of the organic technology in his cell and sends a transmission. Escaping from the cell, he frees the real Duke, Sister Lamont and Caber and uses his sonic screwdriver to set off the ship's fire alarm. While the Zygons are distracted, the Doctor ushers the captives out of the ship and activates its self-destruct setting.

When U.N.I.T. arrive at the quarry, the Doctor and the captives escape from the ship before it explodes. They trace Broton's target to London, close to the Thames, and the Brigadier and the Duke explain that the Prime Minister is attending the first international energy conference at Stanbridge House, which is near the river. Because the Duke is the president of the Scottish Energy Commission, the disguised Broton will have a pass into the meeting. When U.N.I.T. and the Doctor reach Stanbridge House, Broton has placed the signal device in the basement to lure the Skarasen. The Doctor confronts him, they fight, and the Brigadier shoots Broton dead. The Skarasen emerges from the Thames, and the Doctor throws the signal device into its open mouth. Satisfied, the monster swims away, heading back to Loch Ness.

Returning to Scotland, the Brigadier tells the Duke the incident will be covered up. The Doctor leads them into the woods where the TARDIS is, and offers everyone a lift. The Brigadier and Harry decline, but Sarah asks to be taken straight back to London. The Doctor promises, and they depart.


This serial sees the departure of Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter). Marter would return to play Sullivan and his android duplicate in the fourth story of this season The Android Invasion.[1] He is mentioned in the Fifth Doctor serial Mawdryn Undead, in which he is said to be working for NATO.[2]

In this adventure the Loch Ness Monster is identified as being the Skarasen — a cyborg weapon of the Zygons. The season 22 serial Timelash introduces the Borad, who is thrown back in time and also becomes the legendary creature.[3]


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.[4]

Terror of the Zygons was originally intended as the finale for Season 12, ending the TARDIS crew's continuous adventures and delivering Harry Sullivan back to Earth. Instead, due to scheduling concerns, the serial was held back as the first story of Season 13.

Due to budgetary constraints, location filming in Scotland was not possible and outdoor scenes for Terror of the Zygons were all shot in West Sussex. The North Sea beach scenes were filmed on the beach at Climping; scenes on Tulloch Moor were shot on the common at South Ambersham in the South Downs; and the landing area for the Zygon spaceship was filmed at Hall Aggregates Quarry in Storrington.[4]

Cast notes[edit]

John Woodnutt had previously appeared as Hibbert in Spearhead from Space (1970) and the Draconian Emperor in Frontier in Space (1973),[5] and would go on to play Consul Seron in The Keeper of Traken (1981). Angus Lennie previously played Storr in The Ice Warriors.[5]

This was Nicholas Courtney's last regular appearance in the series. The Brigadier would next be seen in Mawdryn Undead, almost eight years later.

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".[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12]

Reviewing the serial in 2007, literary critic John Kenneth Muir acclaimed Terror of the Zygons as "a riveting and horrifying adventure", singling out the fleshy Zygon costumes for particular praise. He drew parallels with a number of historic Doctor Who serials, noting that the Zygon story drew on some familiar Doctor Who ingredients, including alien invasion (The Invasion), "body snatchers" (The Faceless Ones), an oil rig setting (Fury from the Deep), biomechanical technology (The Claws of Axos) and the revelation of an ancient Earth legend to be alien in origin (The Dæmons). However, he was disparaging of the use of a glove puppet to represent the Loch Ness Monster, comparing it to "the Invasion of the Dinosaurs debacle".[13]

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster
Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster.jpg
Author Terrance Dicks
Cover artist Chris Achilleos
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
Publisher Target Books
Publication date
15 January 1976
ISBN 0-426-11041-2

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.[14] 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, having been previously available only in Australia; this was in an omnibus format. It was first released in complete and unedited episodic format on Laserdisc in 1997, followed by a new VHS release, also in episodic format, 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.[15][16][17][18] It features a "director's cut" version of Part One with a previously unseen and newly restored 1 min 40 second opening scene featuring the Doctor, Sarah and Harry arriving in the TARDIS, which has materialised invisibly due to a faulty fusion plate. The restored scene has been recolourised by Stuart Humphryes (AKA YouTube's Babelcolour).[19] A single disc version (with no extras) of the DVD formed part of the Fourth Doctor Time Capsule released on 29 July 2013.[20]


  1. ^ Terry Nation (writer), Barry Letts (director), Philip Hinchcliffe (producer) (22 November – 13 December 1975). Season 13. The Android Invasion. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC1. 
  2. ^ Peter Grimwade (writer), Peter Moffatt (director), John Nathan-Turner (producer) (1–9 February 1983). Season 20. Mawdryn Undead. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC1. 
  3. ^ McCoy, Glen (writer); Roberts, Pennant (director) (9–16 March 1985). Timelash. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC1. 
  4. ^ a b c Sullivan, Shannon (2007-08-07). "Terror of the Zygons". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  5. ^ a b "Terror of the Zygons - Details". BBC. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ "Terror of the Zygons". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  8. ^ Howe, David J & Walker, Stephen James (1998). Doctor Who: The Television Companion (1st ed.). London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-40588-7. 
  9. ^ Braxton, Mark (28 June 2010). "Doctor Who: Terror of the Zygons". Radio Times. Retrieved 29 March 2013. 
  10. ^ Sinnott, John (19 November 2013). "Doctor Who - Terror of the Zygons". DVD Talk. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  11. ^ Berriman, Ian (30 September 2013). "Doctor Who: Terror of the Zygons Review". SFX. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  12. ^ Bahn, Christopher (7 December 2013). "Terror of the Zygons". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  13. ^ Muir, John Kenneth (1999). "Season 13: Terror of the Zygons". A Critical History of Doctor Who on Television. McFarland. ISBN 9780786437160. Retrieved 2 November 2016. 
  14. ^ Lofficier, Jean-Marc (1994). The Doctor Who Programme Guide (Third ed.). p. [page needed]. ISBN 0 426 20342 9. 
  15. ^ "DVD Update: Terror of the Zygons". Doctor Who News. 2012-07-31. Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
  16. ^ "DVD Update: 2013 updates and expectations". Doctor Who News. 1975-08-20. Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
  17. ^ "DVD Update". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 2013-08-30. 
  18. ^ "Blogtor Who: DVD REVIEW: Terror of the Zygons". Blogtor Who. Retrieved 2013-09-23. 
  19. ^ "Other DVD". Babelcolour. Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
  20. ^ "The Fourth Doctor Time Capsule". Doctor Who News. 2013-09-07. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 


External links[edit]

Target novelisation[edit]