Doctor Who – Revenge of the Cybermen

Doctor Who Story 079 – Revenge of the Cybermen

Cybermen with the Cyberleader.
Plotting revenge. (Source: Wikipedia. Copyright 1976 by BBC.)

Who Wrote It?: Gerry Davis

What’s It About?: The Doctor, Harry, and Sarah return to Nerva, only at a different time. While they wait for the TARDIS to catch up to them, they discover the station is quarantined due to a virus. A skeleton crew is keeping the station operational to help ships navigate around a newly-discovered satellite orbiting Jupiter, a satellite which turns out to be the planet Voga, the Planet of Gold.

The long fall of The Cybermen begins here. They go from being frightening, emotionless cyphers to blundering robots. And why is gold suddenly lethal to the Cybermen? While I am willing to suspend some amount of disbelief—due to an oversight of design, one incarnation of The Cybermen left their breathing apparatus susceptible to gold dust—I refuse to believe that the Cybermen would see the destruction of a planet as a more expedient solution than redesigning to eliminate the gold weakness. Cybermen are about adaptation and improvement. Refusing to fix this weakness is somewhat out of character. While Gerry Davis wrote the original script for Revenge, I know that Robert Holmes did an extensive re-write. I’m curious which of them introduced this weakness. (Although, having now consulted Shannon Sullivan’s excellent website A Brief History of Time (Travel), it seems Gerry Davis was responsible for the gold weakness. Perhaps the absence of Kit Pedler is the problem. Again, as a one-off, this wouldn’t bother me, but we will see this exploited again and again.)

There are some things the story does well: the atmosphere of the scenes on Nerva during the first episode is good; the cliffhangers are very good; the location work is effective (is it truly praise to say something is “effective”); I like that Kellman was a double-agent. It was a nice twist; and I like the idea of returning to a location we have already seen, only in a different time (which was also done in The Ark and will be done again in The Long Game and Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways). But overall, the story is slow, a bit dull, doesn’t make a lot of sense, and introduces elements that will hinder the effectiveness of the Cybermen (gold weakness, emotional Cyberleaders) for decades to come. In all, it was a poor ending to an inconsistent season. But this isn’t too surprising since the stories were commissioned by a one producer (Barry Letts) and managed by another (Philip Hinchcliff). We’ll see if next season has a more consistent feel.

My Rating: 2/5

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