Terror Of The Vervoids:Doctor Who: Season 23
Terror Of The Vervoids SYNOPSIS:
Not quite recovered from witnessing Peri's death on Thoros Beta, the Doctor presents his defence in the form of an adventure from his future involving his new companion Melanie. The Doctor and Mel arrive on board a starliner in response to a distress call. Commodore Travers confines the travellers to the passenger suite hoping the Doctor uncovers the man who sent the distress call.
The ship's passengers include geneticists, Professor Lasky and her colleagues, some civilians and some Mogarians. A man named Grenville is killed and Mel checks the hold where the Professors hydroponics centre is kept with the cargo. An accident causes the giant pods in the hold to break open and the communications is killed. When a Mogarian dies the Doctor reveals it was actually a disguised human investigator he knew called Hallet.
His death signals their is a killer on board and the bodies are disappearing. The Vervoid plant creatures have emerged from the pods and aim to kill all humans on the ship a compost heap is made of the dead. The unknown killer wants the vervoids kept a secret and disposes of any in his / her way. The Doctor and Mel have little time left to unmask the murderer and stop the vervoids before a hijack attempt plunges the star liner toward a black hole.
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Terror Of The Vervoids DETAILS:
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Terror Of The Vervoids CAST & CREW
Colin Baker (Sixth Doctor)
Bonnie Langford (Melanie Bush)
Lynda Bellingham — The Inquisitor
Michael Jayston — The Valeyard
Honor Blackman — Professor Sarah Lasky
Malcolm Tierney — Doland
David Allister — Bruchner
Michael Craig — Commodore Travers
Denys Hawthorne — Rudge
Yolande Palfrey — Janet
Arthur Hewlett — Kimber
Sam Howard — Atza
Tony Scoggo — Grenville/Enzu
Leon Davis — Ortezo
Simon Slater — Edwardes
Barbara Ward — Mutant/Ruth Baxter
Peppi Borza — First Vervoid
Bob Appleby — Second Vervoid
Mike Mungarvan — Duty Officer
Hugh Beverton — Guard/First Guard
Martin Weedon — Second Guard
Production Staff for Serial 7C-1:
Writers - Pip & Jane Baker
Director - Chris Clough
Script editor - Eric Saward
Producer John Nathan-Turner
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Terror Of The Vervoids REVIEWS
From the rocky cliffs of Dover…errrh Thoros Beta to the brightly lit corridors of a starliner leaving Mogar bound for Earth…
Yep, it's the terror of the vervoids folks! The Doctor presents evidence for his defence from the future. Technically if you're presenting evidence from your own future it's strictly not evidence as it hasn't happened yet, ergo you can't be convicting of a crime you haven't made yet - which is why he's suddenly accused of genocide at the end of the tale doesn't make sense plus you would know what you'd done and be able to stop yourself doing it, or is the Matrix saying you can't and there's no such thing as free choice? Yeah, yeah timey wimey wibbly wobbly…is this gonna be the standard excuse for writers writing themselves into a corner? Anyway reckon on the writing and execution side Terror of the Vervoids would've probably been pretty average in a Davison season and would've slotted into the 'camp' Baker season 17 rather well.
But here Terror of the Vervoids seems better than normal maybe because it's surrounded by so much dross in other episodes. Pip & Jane Baker are back writing the script and it's easily their best one, ironically the only one not featuring the Rani. Sure it's got all the camp hallmarks of a Sydney musical, some bright sets, Colin Baker most outrageously colourful costume yet, a bubbly high kicking new assistant (the only red headed one the Doctor's had? Anyone?) who he hasn't actually met in the present yet, flower men and some big pea pods. Why these elements don't overwhelm it is because it's Dr Who back to basics. No genetic experiments, no warlord assassins no old monsters or villains. Terror of the vervoids is just a plain and simple Agatha Christie murder mystery set on board the space equivalent of a cargo ship.
There's the usual round of suspects, the dodgy group of scientists, led by the gravel voiced former avenger Honor Blackman lending a bit of class to the part of Professor Lasky, who's a formidable adversary. The old security bloke with a nervous tick, some dodgy mogarians and some other dodgy bloke who may or may not be a mogarian, a seemingly reliable Commodore - 'Tonker' Travers, that old guy who pops up now and again in Dr. Who who you know is gonna be a victim somewhere in the story and the delicious Yolande Palfrey playing the gorgeous, leggy, slender stewardess Janet. Should automatically give it '5' because she swans around in it. Why not make her the companion instead of Melanie Bush? (there's a double entendre` in that name have been trying to work out for 24 years)
Although Mel is still cute and quite resourceful…if only she had an intro story to give her more depth, she's just there in Terror Of The Vervoids like dear 'ol Dodo was 20 years ago in the Ark. But she makes an instantly likable companion and has a real chemistry with Baker and they seem to make a likely team and really care for each other. Why didn't they do this with Peri. As for Colin, well Grob won't agree but reckon he finally nails his Doctor here like he did in Revelation but with more warmth. He's more the dominant, inquisitive figure of the latter Tom Baker years, pretending not to care about the weird things going on the star liner but shows through the Doctor's unstoppable curiosity.Can't help thinking if he played it like this from day one despite the terrible scripts he wouldn't have got the can or been so lowly regarded as the Doctor. Terror of the Vervoids is the last one he recorded too.
The direction for once is pacy and moves quickly. Progressing the story with no real slow points, thanks to new director Chris Clough. The lounge and gym sets maybe over lit but the scenes set in the Hydroponic centre and ship's service corridors are dark and moody giving a bit of atmosphere. Thankfully the monsters are kept out of sight for the first half after they first emerge from their pods and are effectively creepy going around killing people to add to their compost heap, it's only when they're shown in the second half they lose their menace. The design is ok but still joins the plastic monster brigade of the JN-T years plus why do they speak English and with cockney accents? If they just made nothing but nasty, krynoid like noises and gone about their business they would've been more believable.
Still the body count racks up as one by one characters are dealt with and some, like Rudge and at least two of the scientists are shown to have their own agendas, outside the main culprit who turns out to be the guy you wouldn't suspect...as usual. Plus there's a few revelation subplots like what is the thing in the isolation room? Who was the investigator guy who sent for the Doctor? Why was he killed? What are the Mogarians doing? Why are there such shit special effects for that badly enacted black hole? Plus the courtroom bits were few and far between and the bits that are tampered evidence are more obvious .There are some hammy moments but most of the guest cast act believably and treat the situation for real which helps. It must be hard trying to keep a straight face when running around a star liner being chased by flower men and helped by a guy in a clown suit but somehow this strange mix works. Enjoyed Terror of the Vervoids enough to give it 7/10
An awesomely hot MILF. I would do her faster than any other male Doctor Who fan would do Nicola Bryant in the first episode of Planet of Fire. She is gorgeous. She's slim, has great legs, tight little arse and cute little belly button. And she comes in the right size. Plus, if my theory is correct, there is a 99.999999999999999999999999999999% chance that she too may have a vagina.
Bonnie Langford - another angle:
I, too, am trying something from another angle as well.
Now you would think that all these vaginas, and Bonnie Langford, plus what I'm currently doing with my other hand would result in Terror of the Vervoids getting a decent score, right?
Here are a few more things to ponder about terror of the vervoids; How can the Doctor take Mel with him in the Tardis when he hasn't met her yet? Does the fact we are seeing events in the Doctor's future mean that he isn't found guilty? How can the Doctor know what is happening during scenes from the future that he isn't even in?
In a season of utterly pointless, badly thought out and ill conceived ideas, TERROR OF THE VERVOIDS is....well, another one of them. Leaving aside the pointless court room scenes (again) - oh and by the way, how long did it take for the Sixth Doctor to recover from the death of Peri? About two minutes. Or, about the same time it took for the Fifth Doctor to recover from the loss of Adric. I digress, TERROR OF THE VERVOIDS has more in common with stories such as THE SPACE MUSEUM or THE SENSORITES than ROBOTS OF DEATH cos it is simply just another story that is nothing more than wandering up and down corridors or running up and down corridors. I couldn't give a damn about this whole "whodunnit" aspect of the plot, if anything by this stage it was a "why bother?" for me.
The walking vagina's we have already mentioned and I couldn't give a damn about anyone from the space ship regardless of who they were. The subplot about the Commondore meeting the Doctor previous to this story in an unseen adventure didn't do anything for me, if anything I felt slightly alienated by it and no doubt it would have further alienated casual viewers wondering what the missing story was. Without the whole trial scenes and some better direction and a more interesting script TERROR OF THE VERVOIDS could have been a more engaging adventure but I was utterly bored shitless by now (after being embarrassed by MINDWARP).
Chris Clough is yet another in a long line of JNT's light entertainment directors who have no idea how to direct, shoot or stage a scene. Again, point and film. You gotta ask where the hell Graeme Harper was??? The Doctor has by this stage been reduced to the status of a clown, being the foil for Mel's health and fitness regime. He looks fat, his hair looks like a clown wig and he's just an utter embarrassment now. Seriously, is it any wonder the series was going down the drain?
Now on to the casting of Bonnie Langford as Mel. Leaving aside the fact that I'd love to give her one over my desk in a scene reminiscent of Anal Addicted Whore Tramps in Bangland, I thought she was the boost (ANY boost really!) that this series now needed. I had never heard of her and unlike any of the fan boys in the UK at the time, I didn't have any preconceived ideas about her talent or past showbiz skills. She gave the series an energy and a spark that the Doctor/Companion relationship had sorely lacked with the dull and lifeless Peri. I liked the way she bounced into each scene and I found her enthusiasm quite catchy. It would have been nice to have given her ANY sort of a back story but there you go. I found her much better than Colin Baker in the series cos at least with Mel I actually liked and cared for her as a person. She also provided a nice screamy cliffhanger as well.
Sadly, she doesn't help TERROR OF THE VERVOIDS out of the starting gates. And thus I rate accordingly;
zero out of ten.
Use the letter V.
Varos. ReVelation. VerVoids.
Maybe if they'd named parts 13 and 14 "The Evil of the Valeyard" Baker would have been fine! And maybe if Twin Dilemma was called "A Violently Vicious yet Vivid Adventure" he'd have been brilliant!!
Pip and Jane Baker seem to be much maligned… sure they totally ballsed up one (maybe one and a half) of their stories, but on the whole 3 are nice, harmless adventures - with maybe a touch of twee scripting - but plot wise they're reasonably creative and interesting.
You could really see Terror Of The Vervoids somewhere in season 12 - 14… it's nowhere near as good as some of those obviously, but it is kind of a cross between Robots of Death and Seeds of Doom plot wise… and if it wasn't for the unwanted meddling by the Valeyard which destroys some of the tension, it wouldn't look too out of place… OK… it'd probably need a different sidekick.
Mel is painful. Cute as a button in her exceptionally high pants, but man she is annoying. Pity they didn't cast her as Janet, and Yolande Palfrey as Mel - how hot is Janet??!! Yes, Mel would have to go down as my least favourite companion I think… she's grating, over the top in her "niceness", too bubbly, and just… just… well… twee! She's the twee bits in this script really… and while this is possibly her best outing, it's still annoying. OK, she's got a good scream and a great bum… but that's it!
The other thing that detracts from the telling of the Terror Of The Vervoids is, once again, the trial. It's not as intrusive as in Mindwarp, but the Valeyard's tampering doesn't just interfere with the Doctor's evidence, it interferes considerably with the telling of the story… and is annoying.
On the whole though, what we have is a nice spacey who dunnit… something we don't often get in Dr Who - but something that when it's done well, comes across really well, and gives the Doctor a great opportunity to use his greatest asset - his brain. As such this kind of adventure is a great one to use as his defence in the trial, as the cerebral side of the Doctor does shine through. One by one, and subplot by subplot the suspects are whittled down - and just when we think it was going to be the obvious one who looked guilty from the moment she was doing some badly executed sit ups in her first scene (technique goes backwards in the future… and we're going back to using tapes too…), we find out that she was the red herring, and it was the mumbler two all along. Sure Terror Of The Vervoids is a whodunnit by numbers - but it's certainly not something that's overused in Who, and it works.
We also get some nice introductions to some new races - an interplanetary cruiser could have been a big chance to do some show-off "look at what we can create" work (ala The End of the World), but instead we get two new races who start off in the background, and work their way into Terror Of The Vervoids and earn their place in it. The Mogarians are great - and with their translators, they kind of look like they may have been an inspiration for the Ood. They turn out to be incidental to the plot, but they're well realised, and for an era where memorable new creations are sparse, they're nice and simple and could easily have come back. And they play Galaga - I can't wait till that version gets released!! Best.Game.Ever!
And of course, we also get the Vervoids… yep, another genetic experiment gone wrong! And whilst I'm sure that Grob will tell us that they look more like another V word, I reckon they come across really well. Their voices are menacing, and the methods by which they kill things is frightening… and they even knock off the bloke who was looking after them (which I guess is standard in the "crazy genetic experiment" plot!
In terms of realisation, at times unfortunately I guess you could say Terror Of The Vervoids wouldn't look out of place in season 17… yep - in the future we're now no longer wearing jumpsuits, but instead it's bad skivvies with shoulder pads on the outside. We also get some of the old school incidental music though - and thanks to the quality of the script, this makes it feel more like a season 12 or 13 again! Chris Clough makes a pretty good debut, with some nice panning and nice POV shots scattered throughout the piece - I particularly like the POV shot of the old bloke getting killed - very nicely done.
Like any good who dunnit there are a lot of performances - and most of them here are pretty good (except for Mel of course… and maybe the old bloke… Kimber… who played Kalmar in State of Decay apparently… I don't remember Kalmar, but I guess he was one of the bearded blokes… and the other red herring Rudge, he wasn't that flash). Anyway, the bloke from GP does a good job as the Commodore (who looks like he might be about 64 - come on, given some of the lame jokes on display, they could have worked Commodore 64 in there!) - is that the first time an Aussie has had a major part in Who? The other main one I guess is Lasky… and she's OK… but staged at times, but generally she's fine.
I guess Terror Of The Vervoids is pretty disjointed - much like season 23 - but all up it is a good solid story, let down by some camp dialogue and maybe let down a little by the trial… I don't really think you could pin genocide on anyone for destroying some overgrown plants, that weren't actually a race… but I guess Terror Of The Vervoids builds up nicely for the conclusion.