Tuesday 27 September 2011

Are Invasion Stories Rubbish?

I rather hastily suggested in a comment that Doctor Who invasion stories are mostly rubbish. Is that true? Let's have a look.

I'm only counting stories where an alien race seeks to take control of the Earth. That rules out The Dominators (not on Earth), The Dalek Invasion (Daleks already in control) and Remembrance of the Daleks (the Daleks aren't trying to conquer Earth).

I'm not bothering with any BBC Wales stories. Incomplete stories are left unrated.

The Tenth Planet- ?/?

The Cybermen are great, some of the acting is not so great and the Doctor is out of the action for most of the story.

The Moonbase- ?/?

A little too similar to The Tenth Planet for comfort.

The Faceless Ones- ?/?

Enjoyable despite the plot being a little over-padded.

The Invasion- ?/?

This one is pretty good. Nice introduction for UNIT, great direction from Douglas Camfield, great guest performance from Kevin Stony and great work from the regulars. The only problem is that the Cybermen are a bit rubbish.

The Seeds of Death- 9/10

A superb story with an interesting premise, beautiful direction and a strong script.

Spearhead from Space- 8/10

Things start to go wrong with the invasion theme in this story. Writers start to get attached to the notion of the invaders with the gimmicky infiltration tactic. This is a really nicely produced story, but the poor plotting shows the difficulties of the stealth invasion format.

Terror of the Autons- 5/10

This is when the rot really sets in. The invaders are basically relying on a series of gimmicky ways of killing people. It makes for a very uninteresting story.

The Claws of Axos- 6/10

I quite like this story. Visually great, but the plot is a bit of a mess.

The Sontaran Experiment- 2/10

Mercifully short.

Terror of the Zygons 8/10

A strong story with a genuinely menacing atmosphere despite the glove puppet Loch Ness Monster. Perhaps this story feels a little unoriginal and UNIT are not used all that effectively here.

The Android Invasion- 2/10

A really story. Utterly generic drivel from Terry Nation.

Horror of Fang Rock- 9/10

A triumph of amazing script writing over minimal budgets and time pressure.

The Visitation- 3/10

Some fans like this, but I hate it. Lots of running around and getting captured, plus yet another alien strategy involving bio-warfare.

Earthshock- 9/10

The Troughton era is recycled 80s style. Very enjoyable.


While my definition of 'invasion' is rather narrow, the shortness of this list does demonstrate that alien invasions are only a small part of the heritage of classic Doctor Who.

Clearly, there are both good and bad invasion stories. I do think that some of the poorer invasion stories are those that rely on a very generic format of infiltration by stealth.


  1. I actually don't agree with some of your choices, if I may offer up another point of view.

    How can The Dalek Invasion of Earth not be an invasion story?? That's just odd. It's about the Daleks invading the Earth!!

    There's also Abominable Snowmen, the Web of Fear, Ice Warriors, and Fury from the Deep, all about alien menaces taking control with plans for complete domination. Faceless Ones is actually an alien abduction story, not an invasion.

    Sontaran Experiment isn't an alien invasion story, as they were assessing the humans, not invading them. Pyramids of Mars, The Masque of Mandragora and Image of Fendahl could all be viewed as invasion stories however.

    Earthshock is not an invasion story at all. They're just launching a bomb at the Earth.

    So, my two cents. Not sure if you agree or not.

  2. "I'm not bothering with any BBC Wales stories. "

    Aren't almost all of them alien invasion stories? Yeech.

  3. I wrote this post in a hurry. Some of my choices are questionable.

    Despite the title, The Dalek Invasion is about occupation not invasion. The Daleks had invaded the plantet beforehand.

    I could have included Abominable Snowman, Web of Fear, Masque and possibly Ice Warriors (though conquering the Earth seems like an afterthought for the Ice Warriors in that story).

    I was disinclined to do the two Yeti stories and Masque because they are about alien intelligences rather than alien races. I was using a very narrow definition.

    I didn't include Fendahl for the same reason as Seeds of Doom- it's about a creature behaving instinctively rather than an organised invasion.

    Are the weed things in Fury from the Deep actually extraterrestrial?

    I could possibly have included Pyramids of Mars, but Sutekh's main concern is to escape his prison. He does not have much of a strategy for when he gets out other than causing mayhem and carnage across the universe.

    Earthshock not an invasion? But the Cybermen plan to land a party on Earth once the bomb has gone off.

    Sontaran Experiment has a Sontaran warfleet heading to Earth with the intention of conquering it (which seems bizarre given that it is a desolate and empty planet).

  4. I don't wish to appear pedantic about this, honest. It's your list, you can arrange it as you like.

    But... the Sontaran fleet in Sontaran Experiment and the Cybermen invasion fleet in Earthshock never land or invade the Earth. It's just a possibility off-screen. Perhaps the Sontarans were just bashful and wanted the place to themselves. Like that's gonna happen. Just look at the queue forming in the Davies era and you'll see that it's not worth it.

    If you're counting those as invasion stories, you may as well throw in Dalek Invasion of Earth where the actual invasion isn't seen but at least the after effects are there.

    On the subject of the Davies era, has anyone ever really bothered to point out that the history of New and Old Who just do not work together? I doubt the producers care about that kind of thing, but fans must.

  5. Having included Sontaran Experiment, I could also have included Four to Doomsday. it's a questionable list, I know.

    Have you not read Lance Parkin's AHistory? He works very hard to harmonise the first two or three seasons of New Who with the Old Who.