Written by Derrick Sherwin and Kit Pedler
Directed by Douglas Camfield
After dodging a missile, The TARDIS materializes in a compound owned by International Electromatics, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer. The Doctor decides it is time to visit Professor Travers, but soon becoming involved in a military investigation into the operations of Industrial Electromatics and its mysterious owner Tobias Vaughn.
Normally I try to take a few notes on each episode and compile my final thoughts from there. This time around, however, my notes are quite sparse and end partway through episode two. I really enjoy this story. It has my favorite Who director, my favorite Doctor, my favorite recurring villain, some great music, and Kevin Stoney as the human face to the alien invasion. Honestly, I’m not sure Doctor Who ever produced an actor who played the antagonist as well as Kevin Stoney. He sets the standard for villains. He was great in The Daleks’ Master Plan and he is great as Tobias Vaughn. Pairing him with the bumbling sadist Packer helps to lighten the tone. The two make a great double-act. Packer’s anxiety as plans start to crumble at The Doctor’s interference is wonderfully contrasted by Vaughn’s cold calm. The implication that his body has been partially cyber-converted is downright creepy. And his characterization holds throughout. Vaughn is a brilliant mastermind. He anticipates the eventual betrayal by The Cybermen. He has prepared for it. When it finally comes and he loses control, Vaughn sides with The Doctor, not for the good of humanity, but for revenge against his former allies. For me, Tobias Vaughn is the real villain of the story.
This isn’t to discount The Cybermen. I feel like The Cybermen have never been better than they have been in the 60s. They weren’t played for humor as they often have in Cymru Who. They were meant to scare. Scenes of an insane Cyberman in the sewers, the invasion in the streets of London, The Cyberman who appears when Vaughn calls for Packer, these are all chilling moments. Sadly, after the death of Vaughn, it all falls apart a bit. The Cybermen are dealt with quite systematically and with little challenge. It is a shame that after seven great episodes, the ending unfolds by-the-numbers. I think this is probably the only weakness in the story.
Episodes one and four are missing from The Invasion. For the DVD release, Cosgrove Hall’s animation team was commissioned to provide animated visuals for the soundtrack. For the most part, I love the animation, but I feel that the work in the first episode is perhaps the best. The arrival on Earth, combined with Don Harper’s music, is eerie. The tone that is set is quite ominous and paranoid. In all, I think the animation works well for this story and I think the idea of animating incomplete episodes is wonderful. I’m excited to see further animation (from Big Finish) for the Reign of Terror DVD release. It is worth pointing out that now that Galaxy 4 is incomplete (rather than completely lost as it once was) it would now qualify for animation status. Just a thought.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention that this is the first story where UNIT appears. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart informs The Doctor and Jamie that the para-military organization was created following the Yeti invasion. We see here the format for season seven and beyond. The Invasion is basically a preview of the Pertwee era.
Final Verdict: There is very little about this story that fails to work for me. Eight episodes of Doctor Who will rarely fly by as fast as these. If I were going to pick one story from the Troughton era to show to a new fan, it would be this one.
Coming Up Next: The next story is, of course, The Krotons. The only problem is that I don’t have it. The Region One DVD release is scheduled for some time in 2012, but no exact date is set at the time of writing. At one time the serial was available for viewing on the BBC Worldwide Channel of YouTube, but for some reason it is no longer available for viewing in the United States. I’m pretty sure I could get the story on iTunes, but I don’t know if I want to pay money for the digital copy, then more again for the DVD. I could change my mind in the next few weeks if I start getting desperate for more Doctor Who content for the site. Otherwise, expect a bit of a break from the classic series reviews for the time being.
And if I don’t see you here before then, a very Merry Christmas to all you at home (yes, I went there).