Although the hugely popular TV show, Doctor Who, is famously known for sci-fi, (for the most part, at least), it’s a fact that in the 1960s and 1970s, the show was very much Cryptozoology-driven. For example, in 1968, when the doctor was in his second incarnation – played by actor Patrick Troughton – a still much loved adventure was broadcast: The Web of Fear, a 6-part story that ran from February 3 to March 9, 1968. It followed on from a previous adventure: The Abominable Snowman, which was aired in late 1967. I should stress I didn’t see the show at the time. I was only three years old! In the first story, the doctor and his comrades, Jamie and Victoria, materialize in the doctor’s TARDIS time-machine in Tibet – and right in the heart of Abominable Snowman territory. Unfortunately for the doctor, he becomes the prime suspect in the death of a man who was actually killed by a huge, hairy Yeti. While the doctor is imprisoned, Victoria and Jamie discover huge footprints around the TARDIS and go on a quest to locate the legendary beasts.
What follows is a strange story of real flesh and blood Yetis and robot versions that are under the control of the evil Padmasambhava, who has tapped into what is termed the Great Intelligence, a formless, non-physical alien entity that is intent on dominating the Earth. No-one will be surprised to learn that the doctor and his friends save the day, and the real Yetis, from the wrath of the Great Intelligence and its robotic snowmen. Such was the success of The Abominable Snowman, it prompted the BBC to work on a sequel, the aforementioned The Web of Fear. In the new story, the Himalayas have been replaced by London, where the Great Intelligence is hard at work to – yet again – try and make the Earth its own. It’s clear from the outset that something menacing is afoot: the city is shrouded in a strange, ominous fog and the London Underground has become infested by a strange fungus that spreads rapidly along the old tunnels. There’s something else in the shadowy, coiling tunnels too: an army of robotic Yetis, once again doing the bidding of their ethereal master, the Great Intelligence. Cue a battle between, on one side, the doctor and the military, and on the other, the alien invader and his mechanical man-monsters. No prizes for guessing who wins the day.
From August 30 to September 20, 1975, the BBC ran “Terror of the Zygons.” It was a four-part Dr. Who story, broadcast on Saturday evenings, and which put an interesting spin on the story of the Loch Ness Monster. In much the same way that the monster of the 1970 movie, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, was actually an advanced piece of machinery – namely, a carefully camouflaged submarine – so was the Nessie that tangled with the world’s most famous, fictional time-traveler, Dr. Who. “Terror of the Zygons” tells the story of an alien race, the Zygons of the title, whose home world was decimated and destroyed by solar flares centuries ago. As a result, they decide to create a new home for themselves. No prizes for guessing the planned location of that new home: the Earth. The one, solitary band of Zygons that successfully makes the journey to Earth has the distinct misfortune to crash in none other than Loch Ness. And they remain there for hundreds of years, patiently planning for the day when they can finally claim the Earth as their own.
To help them in their quest to seek control of the planet, the Zygons employ the use of a terrifying, huge monster known as the Skarasen. It’s an ancient beast of the deep waters that the Zygons turn into a cyborg – a half-flesh, half-machine that does their every bidding and which lives in Loch Ness. It has, over time, of course, become known as the Loch Ness Monster. That bidding includes a wave of mysterious and violent attacks on oil-rigs in the North Sea. It’s up to Dr. Who and his comrades, Sarah Jane Smith, Harry Sullivan, and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, to defeat the deadly Zygons – who are shape-shifting monsters that can take on the form of any human being they choose. Fortunately, Dr. Who finally saves the day, as he always does. But not before the Skarasen/Nessie wreaks havoc in and around London’s River Thames and the Zygons do their very best to take hold of the planet.