The Insects! by Roger Noel Cook and John Canning – 5 episodes
Which is better? Antz or A Bug's Life? There's only one way to find out... FIGHT!!!
Official Plot Synopsis:
A severe plague of caterpillars forces a West Country to spray his crops with a powerful new insecticide. After a strange road accident in collision with what appears to be a caterpillar of giant proportions late one night, UNIT is called in to cordon off the area. The caterpillar is killed by the crash, but as Dr. Who and the Brigadier fly to the scene, another lumbers at two policeman. Dr. Who manages to render the second monster caterpillar unconscious and so capture it as more giant insects turn up in the surrounding countryside. Dr. Who and the Brigadier fly to investigate a battle taking place between two monster ants when something sinister flies towards them...
That’s Kind of Cool:
Well, a ten-page comic strip manages to predict the whole A-plot of The Green Death, with the Doctor and Brigadier playing a central role right in the thick of the action. The Doctor’s reluctance to use lethal force on the innocent giant instincts separates him even more from the TV Comic Second Doctor than just his face, and UNIT being alerted to the situation is entirely credible. Monsters causing lorry crashes and prowling the countryside recall both Spearhead from Space and The Silurians, with an interesting lack of villains – the mutation is a complete accident and the bugs attack without malicious intent. The Doctor is able to save all the insects, and the sights of giant pests roaming fields and attacking anything that comes in their path is surprisingly effective – comic strips have to the only medium where such a thing could work without dodgy editing/models/CGI.
"Hey, they did a comic version of The Green Death! Funky!" exclaim confused 1970 Who fans...
You Gotta Be Fucking Kidding Me:
What kind of rubbish pesticide not only DOESN’T kill any insects but actually causes them to grow gigantic? Where do they get all the mass from? How do they simply shrink back to normal in a matter of seconds when they needed hours to grow that large in the first place? Where does all the mass go? And why are the caterpillars so utterly pissed off with everything?
Similar thoughts occured to me during the reviews of this season.
How does the Doctor work out that Farmer Lane knows the cause of the giant bugs after an encounter with the dragonfly in a helicopter? Even if he say, saw a farm covered with giant caterpillars and put two and two together, how does he know the farmer’s name? How does the Brigadier know what he’s talking about?
And Farmer ‘Dan Lane’? What the hell?!
Farmer Lane isn’t concerned at knowing which fields he’s dusted or how many, which is odd considering it’s his living...
It is night at the end of part one but day at the start of part two.
How do they fit the caterpillar into the stores cage?
A “daddy longlegs” refers to spiders, not aphids... morons.
What are the odds that two rival ants would happen upon each other in the middle of a village after both becoming gigantic?
How does the Doctor get the syringe to empty itself through the skin of the caterpillar?
Words of Wisdom:
“What is it this time? How can I get the TARDIS repaired if you keep pestering me?” – The Doctor does his traditional ‘I’m as mad at exile and not gonna take it any more’ opening rant.
“I’ll call the police... help’s needed desperately!” – A Cragwell inhabitant talks deadpan to camera as he wanders away from two giant wrestling ants to use a phone box.
“I’m being tailed by the most incredible thing you’ve ever laid eyes on!” – The Brigadier’s description can only lead to disappointment when it turns out to be a giant wasp. I was expecting a threesome between Jessica Alba, Sarah Alexander and Alysson Hannigan. A giant wasp isn’t worthy of the Verkoff Files...
Heh. "G-AWFL". "God Awful", get it? And it's the right registration for the helicopter and everything!
“Pin-point accuracy! Remember, if any of those shells hit the helicopter, you two’ll be posted to Iceland for the rest of your lives!” – Unless the gun crew destroy the helicopter and everything in it. In which case, they’ll be promoted.
“Great Scott! It’s torn down the steel mesh!” – Less talking more running, Brigadier!
- The two policemen left on their own are attacked by a second giant caterpillar. Next week, Dr. Who attacks the monster from the air!
- The Doctor orders the unconscious giant caterpillar taken to the nearby abandoned air field for analysis. What is the Doctor’s plan?
- The Brigadier and the Doctor are travelling in the UNIT helicopter, unaware of the giant dragonfly following them. Will the giant insect attack?
- The caterpillar suddenly grows restless and tries to escape. Will the cage hold this giant caterpillar?
At The End of the Day:
As the official end of the ‘missing adventures’ between the Second and Third Doctors, The Insects! seems to be a kind of greatest hits package with giant, ferocious creepy-crawlies, the Doctor mucking around with chemicals to reverse it, and lots of cutaways of civilian carnage and military explosions. It’s not a bad tale but anyone would be hard pressed to find an original idea within it as far as TV Comic is concerned. Maybe if it had embraced its continuity instead of copying it, it could have been a winner. Farmer Glenlock-Hogan’s giant bugs are caused by the Doctor’s notes about his adventure with giant earthworms and the Brotherhood; the giant wasps are a sneak attack by the Quarks who use an opportunity for over-sized etymological action; the Multi-Mobile is used to fend off the fighting ants; the dragonflies attacked by the insane parrots from Arkwood zoo; and the military base and airfield could see a return of the tearaways attempting another insanely-overconfident adventure... maybe I’m just jaded of season finales using all these discarded plot threads and TV Comic was never one for recycling, especially in a stressful period like this where the format of Doctor Who was outstripping their knowledge and ability in no time. By now, Season 7 had debuted – and while TV Comic wasn’t completely out of touch, it wasn’t on the pulse either.
Roger Noel Cook says farewell to Doctor Who comics in a far less self-aware and camp way than Steve Parkhouse did fifteen years later...
Season 6b – What The Fuck Were They Thinking?
I’ll be the first admit I was surprised at how well the set-up works, with the strip taking a deliberate step to fit into the continuity of the series and it’s credible that a the end of The War Games, the Doctor uses his telepathic powers to sabotage the Time Lord mechanisms (like the gallows in Vengeance of Varos) so he is marooned on Earth but not forcibly regenerated. With him stuck on the last planet the Time Lords will look for him, he stops giving a damn, lives in a hotel and lives the life of a celebrity until the Time Lords indulge their sadism and use his interfering ways to lure him into a death trap. No wonder some New Adventures considered the season worth mentioning (but there isn’t a flashback to The Night Walkers in Timewyrm Apocalypse, I checked). Season 7a is not half as effective, and the strip should have perhaps returned to doing its own thing rather than slavishly trying to stay topical.
There isn’t a bigger change than the exile format and it’s a smart move to try it out with the Second Doctor to get a feel for earthbound stories, but it’s a surprise at how sophisticated The Tearaways! feels to The Arkwood Experiments!. The producers at the time feared that and earthbound series left them only two plots – alien invasion and mad scientists and I was impressed that TV comic managed for the most part to avoid these entirely. The closest to a mad scientist is Cecil the insane science geek, very much a secondary threat behind rioting schoolkids and ferocious parakeets. The only aliens to appear are the friendly Quotrons. Giant animals are all down to human intervention. Human villains take up the slack, with Fitz-Walker’s criminal gang, the Brotherhood, Cecil and enemy agents. Season 7 and 8 were almost exclusively located in scientific installations or plastic warehouses, but 6b and 7a were set much closer to home. The Doctor is seen at hotels, universities, airports, TV game shows, zoos, private schools, petrol stations and country farms, places people were likely to run into him. It’s almost breaking the fourth wall for people to know about the Doctor through newspapers, radio reports and BBC light entertainment, and all his confidantes are young children. Season 7 got sick of earthbound stories and had the Doctor leave Earth and visit another dimension, while 6b had flashbacks allowing him to travel to other planets, and excuses for him to visit America, Mexico and outer space.
Season 6b works a hell of a lot and given a bit more time and room to work out the plots it could have been utterly brilliant. Season 7a stumbles on the spot for sixteen weeks and it’s no wonder that with Season 7 on television, it was decided something more intense had to be done rather than trusting that the vague stories they were printing would compliment rather than contradict. Ultimately this would be the last story written or edited by Roger Noel Cook. Cook became TV Comic’s main writer for Doctor back in 1967 when the comic returned to full colour and the Cybermen were brought in to fill the gap left by the Daleks. Since then, he’d managed to come up with some of the most insane and retarded of plot ideas coupled with a zenith of unrealistic dialogue with such stories as pollen-allergic Cybermen on skis, a universal plague of incredibly gullible witches, yetis living under the polar ice cap, Old Father Time being a clock-fetishist psychopath, Jamie McCrimmon being a millionaire ex-part native of 1970, and of course the Quarks being the most feared race of slave-taking, giant wasp-breeding, pro-American alien warriors in the known universe. Perhaps it’s fitting that when The War Games took away the mystery and confined Doctor Who to a single linear universe, an ideas man like Cook wouldn’t be able to thrive.