Written by Kit Pedler
Directed by Derek Martinus
Cybermen invade the SPISC while Cutler and Barclay attempt to get the Zeus 4 shuttle back into Earth’s orbit.
We get a massive amount of information in this episode. Mondas appears to get around, having once been a twin planet to Earth, it went to the edge of the galaxy and has now returned to drain Earth’s energy. Perhaps the Cybermen mean Earth’s resources. Regardless, it will leave Earth a dead planet and all life will be destroyed. The Cybermen graciously offer to take the SPISC crew back to Mondas for conversion to Cybermen, an offer which the SPISC crew refuse. We also learn a lot about the Cybermen and how they were once human but constantly worked to improve their bodies until only the brain was left. And of course, they have no emotions, which will lead to every Doctor having some sort of rant about the benefits of emotions and, in one instance, the satisfaction of a well-prepared meal. I rather enjoy the self-confidence of the Cybermen in this story. Sometimes they are played for laughs, but in this story, The Cybermen are deadly serious and the characters take them as such. They are cold and eerie, even their voices are mechanized but they have inflection that makes them seem, not so much robotic, but inhuman. And I think that is the point Kit Pedler is trying to make. It isn’t that The Cybermen are robots or even cyborgs as we know them from later science fiction. They are inhuman, they are perversions. They are the end result of an attitude of constant improvement at any cost, even the chopping off of anything remotely human if it is perceived as a hindrance. The Cybermen, in their purest form, are a technological Frankenstien monster. Based on what I have seen of later Cybermen stories, I almost suspect Pedler was the only writer to portray them well on the television show. Regardless, these are The Cybermen at their most-frightening and most disconcerting.
I don’t have much more to say, but for those unfamiliar with the story or the plot, I’ll go over a bit of what happens in this episode. Zeus 4 is destroyed on re-entry, but not before the base in Geneva sends a shuttle to help get Zeus 4 down. Unfortunately for Cutler, his son volunteered to pilot the shuttle. If we thought he was hard before, he is worse now. Ben attempts to fight The Cybermen, but is locked in a storage closet. He is able to escape, reluctantly killing a Cyberman in the process. This allows him to gain one of the light-weapons that The Cybermen use. Cutler uses the device to kill the rest of The Cybermen in the base, so for the moment they are safe. But this only lasts for a short while as scanners pick up a fleet of hundreds of ship heading toward Earth from Mondas. Interplanetary war seems imminent.
Similar to The War Machines, we have news reports. These reports are about the new planet appearing in Earth’s sky. One of my continual complaints about the RTD era was that the threats always seemed too big, too dire, and taking place on present-day Earth. And if I voiced this, others did as well. But I’m starting to think this complaint is somewhat invalid if I truly believe the Classic Series was any different. The War Machines was, at the time, a contemporary story with a couple of rampaging machines. And in this story, we have an invasion fleet and a new planet appearing in the sky (makes me think, reluctantly, of The End of Time). In a few months time I will see another Cybermen invasion, this time on contemporary Earth (The Invasion), and it is one of my favorite Cybermen stories. So why, if Doctor Who did this from time to time, did it grate so much in the RTD era? Well, I think on one level, it was ignorance on my part, failing to make the connection with what came before. But on another level, Classic Who didn’t often show how ordinary people dealt with the invasion. Maybe you’d get a cop on a deserted street being shot by an Auton or an army of Cybermen marching down the empty steps from St. Paul’s Cathedral. There was a conspicuous lack of extras in the old days. Now, however, we can have Cybermen bursting into residences, Daleks destroying houses, and people on the street watching as the Sun is blocked out by the Atraxi. Bottom line, the stories seem bigger not because they are, but because they can now be filmed that way. If Innes Lloyd had the budget that RTD had, and the support of the BBC, I think it is safe to say we would have multiple shots of television announcer Glenn Beck reporting the new planet and getting perspectives of the people. However, I think such a move sacrifices the intimacy that this story and other Classic Series stories have. So, it would seem Doctor Who has always touched upon large-scale, world-wide events, but in the past it focused more on how our characters dealt with it in their corner, rather than showing how the world dealt with it.
Humble pie is a bitter dish.