The Project Manager’s guide to Doctor Who: The Android Invasion

In this series I’m applying the methodologies of my day job to classic Doctor Who stories. Project management is a subtle profession requiring people skills and precise organisational abilities. Let’s find out if Styggron’s got what it takes.

‘And when I turned round, they were ALL wearing eyepatches!’

1. SET A CLEAR GOAL

The Android Invasion’s the whole reason I started writing this series. Chatting to Dan about it one day I blurted out that from a project management point of view, the Kraals were terrifying – and the seed of looking at Doctor Who stories from this angle was sown. So as I sit down to tear their famously awful, convoluted plan to pieces it would be embarrassing if I had my own personal ‘Oops no sorry look actually my eye was there all the time’ moment, wouldn’t it. I mean, no-one in their right mind thinks this plan makes sense, do they. Do they?

2. ESTIMATING AND PLANNING

No-one could say that the Kraals were under-prepared. They spend a full two years preparing for and rehearsing their invasion. They ransack the contents of their kidnapped astronaut’s brain and create exact plastic copies of Britain’s Space Defence Station and its surroundings on their home planet. Then they populate their rhino Legoland with perfect copies of all the real people in the original area.

The androids were not very frightening

 The standard criticism of this is that it seems pointless, when their actual plan is to wipe out humanity with a virus. Why make androids pose as a ragtag assortment of villagers and test them until they achieve full, terrifying mastery of the art of hanging around in a pub at lunchtime? I say why not. The virus will take three weeks to disseminate, we hear, and it seems that it needs to be added to water and food supplies. So why shouldn’t their androids be copies of publicans, butchers and shopkeepers and practice their daily routines?

Actually no, this one gives me the shits

Resource and timings are the biggest issues facing any project manager at the start of a large campaign. And if it seems that Styggron has gone over the top with his methodology, consider that he’s got, effectively, unlimited resource at his disposal. Compare how casually the fake village is destroyed with a ‘matter dissolving bomb’ with how, the one time we see an android being created, it just appears out of nowhere around a skeletal frame. I think the Kraals have mastered the conservation and recreation of matter, and can spend as much energy fashioning McEwan’s Export bar towels, little boxes of York jelly fruits, copies of the Daily Express and posters with pictures of cheese on them as they like.

The Doctor recognises their enormous technological abilities and ponders – along with everyone watching – why they don’t just take Earth by force with weapons. But considering they’re trying to escape from a radiation-ravaged planet, not ruin an unspoiled one, I think that question answers itself.

3. CONTINGENCY

Leaving aside that the very first thing we see on screen is a wonky android lurching to robo-suicide, Styggron’s got all the details under control. ‘Strategy is formulated upon knowledge,’ he declares when criticised for baiting the Doctor with an android Sarah. ‘It is important to see that our techniques are flawless.’ He even prepares for the unlikely event of an android revolt with the production of a weapon that deactivates them.

Are the dogs androids too? They’ve done the tongues well

As a project manager you rarely get the chance to test your processes before going live. Everything is done on the hoof. Styggron defies this with a constant insistence on testing. Again and again we see him pushing at the limits of the plan to eliminate any weaknesses, immediately eager for instance to factor in a trial run of the virus on a living human organism, a test which only suddenly becomes possible when the TARDIS arrives.

4. MANAGING THE TEAM

Styggron’s an extremely shouty, bullying manager. ‘Do as I say!’ he bellows at a cowering Crayford, unneccessarily adding ‘You SHALL do as I say!’ before unleashing some sort of pain wave. But then it must be stressful when you constantly need to distract your main team member from looking – or even scratching – under his eyepatch. To be honest the further I get into this analysis the more respect for Styggron I’ve got.

Apart from the androids, who obey him without question, the only other person Styggron has to liaise with as chief scientist is Marshall Chedaki. Military credentials on Oseidon are apparently conveyed by a nice chunky bit of gold bling around the neck, and Styggron treats his colleague with the disdain he deserves.

5. TRACKING, STATUS REPORTING AND CHANGE MANAGEMENT

‘There can be no variation in the schedule!’ screams Styggron at one point. All of us project managers feel like that from time to time. But flexible adaptation to the ongoing requirements of the project is the key to success and we can see that he does that alright. For instance his initial wave of androids has already been updated to reflect the latest staff changes at the Space Defence Station – presumably he learned about the Brigadier’s trip to Geneva from Crayford’s recent radio contact with Earth.

The range of phones pictured is available at Tandy’s

As for keeping track of things, he’s always firing up his communicator and shouting ‘Report! Report!’ if he hasn’t heard from his underling enough. The first time we see him he’s immediately noticed that the order for all units to recharge hasn’t been followed and is barking at Crayford about having detected a random unit. He’s clearly keeping a very close eye on progress.

DEBRIEF

  • The project manager was responsible for controlling a complex, large-scale operation with flair and great attention to detail
  • An extensive pre-project testing programme was carried out with unqualified success. The dogs were good
  • Application of the latest scientific techniques was well-deployed and benefit-rich as regards the through-the-line implementation of the plan
  • Management style bordered on the bullish but was thoroughly appropriate to the evolving needs of the process
  • ‘And all brilliantly planned by Styggron!’

Project WIN!

(I mean, if the Doctor hadn’t blundered into things, the Kraals’ plan would have succeeded. Within minutes of Crayford’s rocket touching down on Earth, the commanding officer and the key military staff of the Space Defence Station have all been seamlessly replaced by androids. We’d all have been dead from ginger beer by the 28th July and Blade Runner would never even have been made.)

7 responses to “The Project Manager’s guide to Doctor Who: The Android Invasion

  1. Your conclusion is that the plan is brilliant? That makes this one of the most revolutionary pieces of Doctor Who criticism ever.

    • I know! I feel like Paul Cornell in the 90s. Honestly though, I really did sit down intending to rip this silly story to shreds with a great deal of relish. But I couldn’t. The more I thought about it the more it all made sense. HELP ME

  2. I shouldn’t tell you about the audio play sequel to this that came out last month which also features The Master, should I?

  3. Michael Dennis

    I can’t. I’m in Geneva.

  4. Just wanted to say that I loved reading this (and went back to read your previous entries in the series). Certainly Styggron does seem to put a lot of time and effort into making sure that every element of his plan is perfectly planned and executed, though I can’t help but feel that any scheme that relies on convincing someone that they only have one eye is a little unnecessarily convoluted…

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