This serial often gets compared to The Avengers, which Robert Banks Stewart also wrote for. It frequently included eccentric villains with peculiar fixations, such as cats or the planet Venus. It also featured an episode called Man-Eater of Surrey Green (written by Philip Levene) which had an alien vegetable controlling people, an eccentric, horticulture-obsessed millionaire and a batty old lady who loves plants, so it’s not hard to see why people make the connection. But to me this more resembles The New Avengers, with a brutal streak quite different from the cartoonish violence of Peel-era Avengers, or Pertwee-era UNIT stories.
It has moments of wit: Baker and Sladen are wonderful together, gently teasing each other and operating on the same wavelength. Sarah Jane does a cockney, ‘Down here, cloth-eyes. Are you blind?’ to distract a pursuing heavy, but then the Doctor punches him hard in the face – no Venusian Aikido here. Later, he twists Scorby’s neck accompanied by a cracking noise, which is in keeping with the grisly realism of Season 13, but probably a bit much.
Elsewhere, Baker seems to very much enjoy his scenes with Kenneth Gilbert (mucking about as they discuss leaks from the ministry) and Amelia ‘it’s pronounced Doo-car’ Ducat. He dresses up as a chauffeur himself to infiltrate Chase’s mansion, and gets a nice first meeting with Chase himself that has all the cool politeness and barbed jibes as his later encounter with Count Scarlioni. The dialogue is great, the action is beautifully directed.
Next episode: The Seeds of Doom – Part Four