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MORTAL ENGINES (December 8, 2018)

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Let Zygons Be Zygons...

Zygon: When Being You Just Isn't Enough is not the Doctor Who you watched as a child or even the Doctor Who you now watch on television and DVD.

If anything, it's closest to a story from the first season of Torchwood.

Through the subtleties of English copyright law, independent film company BBV obtained the rights to a variety of Doctor Who monsters and characters - either directly from their creators or, in some cases, the BBC ; but were never actually allowed to come out and say that these videos (now DVDs) and audios were in any way associated with Doctor Who.

Although everyone knew they were...

These were the Dark Days of Doctor Who, post-Survival, when the show had been off the air for years, with no, apparent hope of ever returning.

All were very family-friendly, as far as I can tell; as die-hard fans of the show BBV knew their target audience, which makes Zygon - their last video production in 2007 - a bit of an oddity.

As you can clearly tell from the (slightly censored) DVD cover shot,there is a lot of nakedness (both male and female) in the hour-long story. The back of the box is less subtle with three clear pictures of nude men and women .

It's actually a bit of a shame that that was the easy angle BBV went with to sell the film on. Yes, there is plenty of man- and lady-bits on display, but it's all very casual and there certainly isn't any graphic sex, and it's really only a minor part of the film.

The story opens with electrician Mike Kirkwood (Daniel Harcourt) visiting his psychiatrist Lauren Anderson (Jo Castleton) - a character who appeared in an earlier BBV film, Cyberon.

Mike has been having vivid dreams about being a shape-changing alien called a zygon and he wants Lauren to reassure him that he's really just a normal guy.

Unfortunately, as she soon finds out after being hassled by the thuggish Bob Calhoun (Keith Drinkel) who wants her to help Mike "remember", he really is a zygon.

Mike is actually Zygon Commander Kritakh and Bob is his associate, Torlakh. The pair have been on Earth for 20 years and Mike has somehow lost his memory and now believes he is human.

Bob - a wanted murderer - needs Mike to get his memories back so they can continue their mission (sabotaging power plants to increase the amount of pollution in the atmosphere, to make Earth a suitable home for a zygon invasion fleet).

To speed up the process, Bob somehow grants Lauren a portion of his alien power, so they are mentally-linked and she can shapechange as well - a glorious head-rush of power that makes her indulge her suppressed hedonistic desires (which mainly revolve around shopping and nudity) before succumbing to guilt over what she has done.

Many levels up from a fan film, Zygon is a competent, if low-budget, science-fiction thriller, with an engaging trio of central characters, whose increasingly complicated lives you can't help but get caught up in.

Producer/Director Bill Baggs wisely limits the special effects, making them minimalisticly effective in the process, and restricts full-on exposure to a zygon in its true alien form to a single, brief scene.

In trying to be a complex study of identity theft (not in the straight-forward, stolen credit card sense) and desire, the narrative occasionally skips a beat but stays on target more often that not.

Zygon
poses some surprisingly big questions and manages to tell a good story in the Doctor Who universe about the "everyday" lives of one of his most iconic, second-string monsters.

Having only starred in a single television adventure, Terror Of The Zygons, their natural appearance was so dramatic that they remain some of the most recognisable creations in the Whoniverse Rogues' Gallery (outside of the A-Listers, like daleks, cybermen, sontarans, autons etc).

David Tennant has even said they are his favourite monsters from the show!

If nothing else, Zygon proves there is enough versatility in the aliens to tell "human" stories and to warrant a return in the new iteration of Doctor Who... but probably with less harsh language and exposed flesh!

Unless, they pop up in Torchwood, of course, then all bets are off...

[NB. Zygon action figure available from Forbidden Planet]

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MORTAL ENGINES (December 8)

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