This Tom Baker story is a prime candidate for the strangest story ever attempted. Strange because it contains some interesting aspects that could have worked quite well – androids impersonating real life people, an astronaut tricked into betraying his own kind, and an alien race committed to destroying the earth through a hideous virus. It’s pretty standard fare for Doctor Who.
So it begs the question – why did the aliens in question (the Kraals) need to create a replica town on a barren planet? Why does it never occur to Astronaut Guy Crayford (who you would assume to be a bright chap being an astronaut) to look under his eyepatch and discover his eye is still there? Why does Sarah’s android double vanish in episode four for no readily apparent reason? More to the point – why does the Kraal invasion force disappear for no apparent reason? And if the virus the Kraals plan to use is so deadly, why is it contained in such a flimsy container as to put their own lives at risk?
The Android Invasion is in fact the prime example of classic Doctor Who being too clever for it’s own good, and adopting the Top Gear motto: “Ambitious but rubbish!” The production values cannot be blamed – the revelation of Sarah Jane’s android double is surprisingly chilling and effective. Baker and Sladen are as excellent as you would expect them to be, and the rest of the cast are perfectly respectable. You could in fact, disengage your brain and any critical analysis, and thoroughly enjoy this story. Up until the (frequent) points where the plot jars against any kind of common sense.
Furthermore, this story merits a dishonorable mention for how it treats the characters of Harry Sullivan and Sergeant Benton. They deserved their final appearance to be in the much more impressive Terror of the Zygons – where they played a full and active role in a persuasively gripping drama. As bit part players in a rather comical story, this was not the send-off either of these two heroes deserved.