Doctor Who Story Number 046 – The Invasion

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.

“Packer!”

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).

Doctor Who Story Number 43 – The Wheel in Space

Written by David Whitaker from a story by Kit Pedler
Directed by Tristan de Vere Cole

Having left Victoria on Earth, The Doctor and Jamie arrive on an abandoned space ship.  The only crew, a solitary robot.  What happened to the humans on board?

“That’s marvelous isn’t it. ‘The Doctor told me to protect it’.  But don’t give them a reason and leave me to get you out of trouble.”

If fan consensus is anything to go by, I’m not supposed to like this story.  And yet, there is something undeniably appealing to me about 1960s Cybermen stories.  The Cybermen of this era are the best because they are cold and emotionless.  Sure, sometimes their plans were convoluted and didn’t make sense, but the same could be said of Series Six and people seemed to enjoy that.  Okay, possibly an unfair shot there, but still, I would take a 1960s Cybermen story over just about any televised appearance they have made in the intervening years.

By no means do I think this story is perfect.  It is slow, which at times conveys an ominous atmosphere and at times boredom.  I wasn’t too big on the space corridor that The Cybermen pranced along, but I’m sure none of the actors involved knew how to convey walking along a space corridor.  It still looked silly.  Indeed, the faults of this story probably do work better in audio than visually, but I was grateful for both the episodes that still existed.

There were some great images in this story, which is not to say that they were conveyed well on screen.  I’m using the word “images” the way my college poetry teacher did, which basically means a striking picture in your mind.  The images that stick with me from this story: An abandoned ship with a solitary robot keeping it running, metal spheres (which are Cybermats) ejected into space that eventually burrow into The Wheel space station, Cybermen stored in giant, metal eggs for deep space travel.  No, we never saw The Cybermen like this before nor do we see them like this again, but at least it was something new and different.  I loved the episode where Duggan finds a Cybermat, whom he nicknames Billybug, and thinks it is a cute life form of some sort.  He puts the Cybermat in the closet, only to discover later that it has been consuming metal.  I loved the interactions between Zoe and Jamie as she constantly puts him down, which The Doctor likewise does to her.  There is a definite hierarchy of intelligence between the three, and The Doctor sees it his duty to break Zoe’s dependence on pure logic.  In the end it works since she does something decidedly illogical: she stows away on The TARDIS.

I realize many male viewers enjoy the cat suit Zoe from The Mind Robber, but for some reason I think she looks better in space gear. Not sure what this says about me.

I had been dreading this story because I had heard so many bad things about it (largely that it was bad), but in the end I enjoyed it.  It was a fitting end to a season that went from one base under siege to another.  It also provided a nice bookend, starting and ending the season with Cybermen stories much like Troughton’s first season started and ended with Dalek stories.  But on the whole, I have to say I wasn’t really taken with this season.  It felt incredibly repetitive as all stories save one repeated the same scenario with slightly different details.  Almost all the stories felt too long.  It felt as if I was reading old issues of Ultimate Spider-Man where you would get to the end of the year and find that despite having twelve issues, you only had two stories.  This season had, what, 40 episodes and only seven stories?  This was honestly the first season where I thought about just letting the project drop and never returning to the blog.  Sure, I love Troughton, but this season felt a bit stagnant to me.  No wonder the ratings were beginning to drop and producers started thinking about changing the format.  As for me, I have The Dominators to look forward to.  However, I think I need some time to purge a bit after this season . . . and to wait until I have money in the DVD budget.  Hopefully the wait won’t be too long.

Doctor Who Story 37 – Tomb of the Cybermen

Written by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis
Directed by Morris Barry

With Victoria joining them on their adventures in time and space, The Doctor and Jamie join an archaeological expedition that has found a lost city of The Cybermen.

Just in time for Christmas circa 1967

 “Try to give us a smooth take-off, Doctor.  We don’t want to frighten her.”

For some reason, I love space archaeology.  This is a natural extension of my interest in history and archaeology in general, but I think space archaeology gives me the impression of a fully-formed civilization.  It gives the image of a universe that progresses as our world does and that nothing stays static.  Honestly, this is one thing that I feel Doctor Who has done well, off and on.  So the concept of an ancient civilization of Cybermen is wonderful to me.  One point of confusion, however, is the origin of the Cybermen.  In The Tenth Planet, they were said to have evolved on Mondas.  Here, the indication is that they originated on Telos.  One fan theory, and I believe this is the primary theory, is that Mondas traveled the universe and seeded Cybermen on different planets.  The Tenth Planet supports the traveling Mondas idea.  It works well enough, I suppose.  I can’t help but wonder if Pedler and Davis had an explanation, or if it was just oversight on their part.  But this inconsistency in no way diminishes the story.  Not for me, at any rate.

There are base under siege elements to this story, only the base is the Cyberman city, and the crew is trapped due to internal sabotage.  Our characters are trapped in hostile and unfamiliar territory, and the financiers of the dig, one Klieg and Kaftan (with her bodyguard Toberman), are not to be trusted.  This story is filled with tension from all areas.  Thus, a great beginning.  I’m also happy that this is a shorter story from the last few.  In addition, I can actually watch this story.  As the opening titles were playing, I kept waiting for a voice to come on and say “Doctor Who.  The Tomb of the Cybermen by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis.  Part one.”

“I think perhaps your logic is wearing a little thin.”
Klieg and Kaftan enact their plan.  They are part of a group called The Brotherhood of Logicians, and they wish to form an alliance with the Cybermen.  Naturally, the Logicians wish to control the alliance, using the power of the Cybermen.  Klieg spent much of these two episodes attempting to decode the symbolic logic that would open the hatch to the lower part of the city.  He threw some levers and pressed some switches, but he still didn’t have the correct combination.  Unbeknownst to him, The Doctor already knew how to open the hatch, and covertly helped Klieg.  The Doctor is quite conniving in this story.  On the one hand, it looks as if he is aiding Klieg and Kaftan while pretending to oppose them.  But in reality, I think he realizes Klieg and Kaftan must be thwarted outright.  If they are merely dissuaded from acting now, they may return later.  The Doctor seems to think he must take them to the brink of success, then defeat them.  Unfortunately, this means thawing the frozen Cybermen and seeing the body count rise.  I can’t help but wonder how moral this is.  Perhaps it is all part of giving Klieg and Kaftan the chance to change their minds.  I suppose it worked with the Chameleons, so I guess there is always a chance.

The Cybermats were introduced in this episode, rather fitting that I just finished Closing Time, which had the 2011 re-envisioning of the creatures.  In both versions, they are rather cute and seem safe enough.  I’m actually quite surprised at how fast the 1960s versions can move.  I wonder how they did it.  I’m not sure if The Cybermats have any other purpose beyond jumping and attacking, something Kaftan found out the hard way.

Having thawed the Cybermen, Klieg attempts to make a deal with them.  He is quickly put in his place as the Cyber Controller subdues him and tells Klieg and the others that they “shall be like us.”  I love the cliffhanger for episode two as it is probably the creepiest the Cybermen have been since The Tenth Planet.

“You scream real good, Vic.  Thanks a lot.”

It's always a bit unnerving when you step out of the bathroom and see a line has formed.

The Cyber Controller reveals that this entire city was a trap.  The Cybermen created a series of puzzles knowing that curious humanoids would one day come to Telos and free them.  Thankfully, The Doctor probes further as this doesn’t make much sense.  It seems that after the destruction of Mondas, The Cybermen started to run out of supplies.  They attacked the base on the moon to reacquire supplies (whatever those may be), but The Doctor thwarted that as well.  With resources running out, The Cybermen froze themselves for survival, but they made their city into a trap to lure others to rescue them.  So, that is where we are now.  Okay, I’m not sure I entirely buy it, especially as these stories seem to take place at different periods in time, but I’ll go with it for now.

Captain Hopper, having been summoned by Victoria, proceeds to engage in some dodgy acting.  This doesn’t prevent him from rescuing The Doctor, Jamie, and the others.  Well, everyone but Toberman.  The Cybermen begin his conversion and ready a small army of Cybermats who will attack the humans, should they be able to make it up the ramps to the upper level of the city.  Klieg laments not being able to negotiate from a position of power.  He is still convinced he can make his plan happen.  Ah, the arrogance of intelligencia.  However, it is up to Kaftan to help him find such power by taking a gun from the city’s weapon testing room.

This episode has the wonderful scene between The Doctor and Victoria where they discuss family and memory.  It is one of those surprising scenes in Classic Who where we have character moments.  It is a lovely scene, and The Doctor gives some motivation to his actions as well.  “No one else in the universe can do what we are doing.”

“Well now I know you’re mad.  I just wanted to make sure.”
Klieg, armed with cybernetic technology, thinks he has the Cybermen at a disadvantage.  To a degree, he is correct.  The Cyber Controller is losing energy fast and must be revitalized.  Throughout the story, the Cyberman mantra has been “We Shall Survive.”  In the end, that is what this episode is about, a powerful race faced with extinction.  In the end, Klieg and Kaftan are killed and The Cybermen return to hibernation.  Technically, they do survive, but they have gained nothing.  Toberman even sacrifices his life to re-seal the city.  The final shot of a Cybermat hints that we The Doctor may yet see these creatures again.

In all, a good story, an excellent script.  The weaknesses, I think, lie primarily with Captain Hopper’s acting and the direction.  Morris Barry does well enough in dialogue heavy scenes, but when it comes to action, he doesn’t seem to know where to place his cameras, nor how to choreograph the action in such a way to make movements clear.  But I don’t believe these flaws take too much away from the story.   Troughton is brilliant and has some great material to work with.  Jamie has some good lines and, as always, works wonderfully with Troughton.  Even Victoria gets a few scenes to establish her character now that she is out of Dalek imprisonment.  She also has to find a way to cope with the loss of her father, a particularly painful plot point.  But in the end, she finds her place with The Doctor and Jamie, and even gets to rile Captain Hopper up once or twice.  It may not be the masterpiece fandom once believed it to be, but Tomb of the Cybermen is still a solid story and one I constantly enjoy.

Up next in the Classic Era journey, The Abominable Snowmen.  And I have a confession.  This will be the first time I have viewed/listened to this story.  Beyond the involvement of a character named Professor Travers and The Yeti, I have no idea what happens in this story.  New territory, my friends.

Doctor Who Story 33 – The Moonbase

Written by Kit Pedler
Directed by Morris Barry

After being pulled off course by a strong gravity well, The Doctor and companions find themselves on the moon.  And obviously, there is a base on it.  A moonbase.

Time to pay the piper, Jamie.

 “It’s the phantom piper!”

Moffat-Who has raised the horror element of Doctor Who, which would make many people assume that Steven Moffat has been inspired by the Hinchcliffe-Holmes era with it’s Hammer-horror style.  I can’t remember where I read this, but Moffat disputes this, citing The Moonbase as the inspiration for the frightening elements of his era of Doctor Who.  I have not known The Troughton Era to be regarded for its horror, but when you think about it, it is there.  The basic conceit of the “base under siege” is that a group of disparate people are attempting to survive at all costs.  Likewise, season five has been dubbed “the monster season”.  The first time I experienced The Moonbase, it was through audio.  But this time around, I watched the two surviving episodes, and I think I can see Moffat’s point.  The first time I saw a Cyberman walk into the medical bay and wrestle an ill, struggling man off his bed, then carry him out of the room, I felt chills.  For whatever reason, I grew up with childhood fears of being kidnapped and this image resonated with me.  The image of someone larger and stronger physically subduing and taking a weaker person away is horrifying.

We have the return of The Cybermen, a bit more metallic and much more robotic in voice.  In truth, I miss the voices from The Tenth Planet because I found them genuinely inhuman and creepy.  That, and you could understand what they said, which is more of a struggle with the vocal distortions used here.  This complaint aside, The Cybermen are still being used well.  I can see why they were so striking in the early days, and I think I am still waiting for an amazing Cyberman story in Cymru-Who.  The return of these villains in The Moonbase is never adequately explained (how did Cybermen survive the destruction of Mondas), but it hardly matters.  The Moonbase takes place a couple of centuries after The Tenth Planet.  Sure, people remember The Cybermen, but they have almost faded into a type of verifiable mythology.  There is something mythic in the return, much like the return of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings, The Others in A Song of Ice and Fire, The Sith in Star Wars, or some ancient, inhuman Lovecraftian evil.  Even The Doctor invokes this mythic idea when he tells his companions that evil is bred in the dark corners of the universe and these evils must be stopped.  And I guess The Cybermen are evil, they want to destroy all life on Earth after all, but they don’t seem quite as evil and unnatural as the examples above.  In comparison, they seem quite petty and driven toward revenge.  Still evil, just a bit less evil.  Uninspired evil.  Regardless, they are still creepy and their plan isn’t on the same level of absurd that later plots would achieve.