"Terror Of The Zygons" A Tale From The Files of U.N.I.T.

This article is a bit of a departure for Fantastic Universes, as what we usually publish tends to be more... journalistic in nature.

A few months ago I was approached by the editor of a Doctor Who fanzine, to write a short story telling a classic Who tale, but from the perspective of one of the brave men and women of U.N.I.T. They wanted someone to handle "Terror Of The Zygons."

Anyone who knows me at all will instantly realise that this is the kind of opportunity that I would never pass up. This is a vintage Fourth Doctor story, and a personal favourite.

I re-watched the story three times, and even re-read the Target novelisation. I'm very glad that I did. The nameless Corporal from the show, who I'd chosen as my narrator, is actually given a last name in the book, but the same last name has also been attributed to a completely different Corporal from UNIT too; so I had to come up for a way for both to be legitimate. Yes, as always, I did my research and paid due diligence.

I called one of the Corporals, my one, Tom - after the Doctor incumbent for "Terror." I called the other one "Peter" after the Doctor in the most recent, and truly wonderful, "Zygon Invasion/Inversion" tale.

After a few drafts, I went after getting the seal of approval, advice and some well needed constructive criticism from people who I knew were fans of the show, this particular era, and a couple of respected writers (Thanks Adam, J.R., Jeff and Steve). Thanks to them, I finally got to deliver a story that I was happy with.

Sadly, the editor of the fanzine wanted the story written as a military report, and this wasn't quite what he was after. He then sent me a separate piece that was to be included, as an example of what he was looking for. After reading it, I decided to decline, and keep my story as it was. There's nothing wrong with a story told as a military report, but I find them incredibly hard to read, and no fun at all to write.

So... here's mine!

This is dedicated to all Doctor Who fans everywhere, particularly those who love Tom Baker's 4th Doctor, U.N.I.T., The Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney), Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter), and, most of all, the incomparable Lis Sladen, who played the wonderful Sarah-Jane Smith.

"Terror Of The Zygons"
A short story by Steve J. Ray, inspired by a screenplay by Robert Banks Stewart, and the novel by Terrance Dicks.


Ding-Dong “Kids! Come downstairs. Uncle Thomas is here.” “We're coming, mum.” Mrs. Smith opened the door. Waiting outside was a distinguished looking gentleman, in a worn, yet still elegant, three piece suit. He was an older man, and needed a walking stick these days, but he held himself with pride, and strength. He didn't need the medals on his lapel for anyone to appreciate his authority, or to realise that he had once been a military man. “Tom! Thanks so much for coming.” Mrs. Smith exclaimed. “Corporal Tom Palmer, reporting for duty!” He gave a salute, and stood to attention. “Oh, behave yourself!” She hugged him, took his coat and his left hand, leading him through the front porch, into her home. “Uncle Tom, Uncle Tom!” The children came running down the stairs. Lissie was six, and dressed in candy striped dungarees with a white top, her pig-tales bobbing behind her as she ran. Ian was eight, sporting a Batman T-shirt and jeans. The children almost knocked each other and their mother over trying to reach the new arrival. “Lissie, Ian! My goodness, look at you! You've both grown so big! Where's your dad?” “He's picking up some of the others.” Ian replied. “Can you tell us a story, while we wait for them, Uncle Tom?” Squealed Lissie. “Ooh, yes please! One of your scary stories.” Her brother agreed, eyes wide. Mrs. Smith smiled. “Go on in with the kids, Tom. I've got to put the finishing touches on the chicken.”
The odour of roast chicken with all the trimmings was wafting down the corridor, as welcoming as the family that had greeted him, on this cold winter's day. “Right we are, then. So... which one do you want to hear today?” “Tell us the one about the scara... scary... the Scarysin!” “Lissie! It's Skarasen, silly.” “Now, now Ian. She's younger than you, remember?” The old soldier said. “Sorry, Lissie.” Ian looked down at his shoes, idly kicking his feet. Corporal Tom Palmer walked into the living room with the children, placed his walking stick against the fireplace, brushed down the creases in his trousers and motioned for the children to sit, before doing so himself. He took his seat, and cleared his throat. “Now then, children. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin.” “This is a story from many years ago, when I was still a young man. I was working with U.N.I.T. and your Grandma in those days. We'd been called all the way up to Scotland, to a place called Tulloch, about an hour or so from Loch Ness.” “Ian, that's where the Scarysin lives!” “Lissie, I know!” He was shaking his head, but didn't take his gaze off the old man. The soldier smiled. “Some oil rigs had been destroyed, and lots of people had been hurt. Your Uncle Alistair was very concerned, so he made the decision to call for help.” “Ooh! I love this bit. Nana and the Doctor.” Lissie was on her feet now. “Yes, Lissie, me too! What did he look like this time, Uncle Tom?” “I think the common description is 'All teeth and curls, with an impossibly long scarf, and wide brimmed hat.' Though when he first arrived he was in Scottish attire; a beret and a tartan scarf. I have no idea where he got those from!”
“Nana was so pretty.” Lissie had slowly sat back down, and her eyes moved to the photos on the mantle. “You look just like her, you know? Yes, she was pretty, and so brave! Did you know that she, your Uncle Harry and the Doctor discovered that there were creatures called Zygons living in the lake? They had been there for hundreds of years. They were destroying the rigs, because they were blocking the comings and goings of their pet, which was also their most dangerous weapon.” “The Scarysin!” “Lissie!” retorted Ian. “Yes, children, the Skarasen... more famously known as the Loch Ness Monster. A huge and powerful creature, which was not only a weapon, but the source of the Zygon's food.” The children settled back down. “Now, the Zygons were very, very clever. Naughty... but clever. They could disguise themselves to look just like us. One of them even made himself look like Uncle Harry, and your grandma had to fight him off! Others took on the likenesses of important people from the area, so they could go about unnoticed and make their plans.” “They're our friends now, though, aren't they?” asked Ian, looking straight up at Tom. “Yes, Ian. When you were little they made peace with us, thanks to Aunt Kate, and the Doctor.” “Eyebrows Doctor. I love eyebrows Doctor!” Lissie squealed. “And he's very fond of you too, Lissie.” The old soldier laughed.“Now... Where was I? Oh, yes. Back then the Zygons didn't want peace. They had made plans to use their powers of disguise, and the Skarasen, to try and take over the world. That's why U.N.I.T. was created, you know? There was a lot of that stuff going on, back in the 70s... or was it the 80s? It was happening so often, that my mind's still a mess over it. “Anyway... I was there, and we tracked the Zygon spaceship to the Loch. The monster had been swimming between it and a place called the Devil's Punch-bowl. It would use underground rivers, and even made its way out to sea. Nowhere was safe!” “It chased the Doctor all the way to London, didn't it Uncle Tom?” Ian asked. “That's right. The team and I rushed back to London, and with the help of the Doctor and your Grandma, the Zygons and the Skarasen were defeated. Without the Zygons controlling the beast, and making her attack their enemies, she simply swam back to Loch Ness. Many people say that she swims there still, to this very day.” “I'd like to take her some jelly babies.” Lissie said, “Or some of mummy's roast!” “Lissie, I don't think that Skarasens eat jelly babies.” The boy was slowly shaking his head, but smiling at the same time. “Well, we could ask her.” She said. “Yes Ian,” Tom laughed, “There's no harm in asking.” The old soldier could see the children's parents in them, as well as the passion and vibrancy that they had clearly learned from their grandmother.
Ding-Dong Mrs. Smith called out from the dining room. “Kids... Tom! Daddy's back with Uncle Clyde and Aunt Rani.” Corporal Tom let in the three new arrivals, who greeted him with cheers. “Tom! It's so great to see you!” Said Luke. The two men looked each other in the eye, went to shake hands, but decided instead on a strong hug. “Hello, Luke. I wouldn't miss your mother's birthday for anything.” “Daddy, Daddy!” Lissie exclaimed, grabbing her father's legs, almost knocking him over. “Uncle Clyde, Aunty Rani!” Ian hugged his uncle and aunt at the same time, squeezing the breath out of them. “Hi, Kids! Right, who's hungry? Maria, should we come straight through?” Luke called out to his wife. “Yes, Luke. I'm dishing up now.” Luke led the children towards the kitchen, Clyde and Rani followed with Tom. “So, I bet the kids had you telling them old U.N.I.T. stories again?” Clyde asked, with a smile as huge as the ones that the children had worn, while listening to him tell his tale. “Yes, indeed. Those were wonderful days, with the old gang. I've been coerced into writing my memoirs, you know? As has my cousin Peter... the other Corporal Palmer? He stayed on with U.N.I.T. after I left. We can both tell a story, but we're neither of us very good writers. A chap called Terrance is helping Peter, and I'm working with a fellow who's doing a splendid job of making the Zygon story intelligible. He's also handling the shenanigans from the Harrison Chase case... chap called Robert Banks Stewart. Now there's a fellow who can write a story! You know, I think he's a distant cousin of the Brigadier's?”
Maria Smith showed them all to their places. She was no stranger to these tales, having been part of a fair few herself. “How is Peter?” She asked, “How are Uncle John, and Uncle Mike?” “I still see John, Mike and even Jo, from time to time. We have regular get togethers... but, we've lost so many old friends. The Brigadier, Liz, and Harry. Your dear old mum, Luke...” The gathering went quiet for a few moments. Tom looked around at his extended family. Although they weren't blood relatives, the community of people who had lived these adventures were a real family, one unlike any other. There was no denying it. “Ah, U.N.I.T.” said Corporal Tom Palmer, with tears in his eyes, and a smile on his face, “Splendid chaps, all of them.

"Now, then... where's that famous chicken?”


I hope that anyone who reads this, enjoys it. It was originally a lot more convoluted, and I was even toying with Corporal Palmer turning out to be a Zygon at the end, but I think that would've been a step too far.

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