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Tomb of the Cybermen

I'd thought for some reason that this was another six-parter, and settled down to watch episode four this morning, only to realise to my disappointment that it was all over. Well, having had a rather unsatisfactory run of Second Doctor stories, I am relieved to say that I very much enjoyed this. Certainly falls into the category of Doctor Who that you can safely show non-fans without fear of embarrassment.

I complained that it is sometimes difficult to tell Patrick Troughton apart from the other actors on the audio tapes. There is no problem at all when you are watching the programme; he is at the centre of every scene he is in. And this is not just the natural effect of the director concentrating on the central character: Troughton is simply fascinating to look at - such an expressive face.

The story is of course a classic. The Cybermen - or rather, the Cyber-controller, who is the only one who gets significant airtime, with Peter Hawkins' superbly chilling voicing of the lines - are worthy adversaries, assisted by their human dupes (vaguely foreign and therefore sinister, unlike the spaceship captain who is American and therefore clearly a Good Guy). The Cybermats could very nearly have been awful, but carry it off well. There are certain implausibilities in the set-up - why do the Cybermen limit themselves to a single means of egress after they have been woken, with the revitaliser on the other side of the hatch? Why does the Doctor allow the Cyber-controller to recharge himself? - but you can overlook them in the fun of the ride.

There are some nice little touches as well: Victoria's reaction to the Tardis; the Doctor and Victoria about their families; the Doctor telling Klieg just how insane he is; Toberman cradling his dead mistress. I even quite liked the special effects of the Cybermen doing mind-zinging things - would look very silly now but fitted the 1960s feel of the series.

The DVD has a couple of great extras as well: director Morris Barry's brief introduction to the original video release, excerpts from a panel discussion in 1992 which brought together the surviving actors and crew from the series, and slightly to my surprise but much to my delight a very brief video of the Dalek civil war from the end of the previous series, The Evil of the Daleks.

In summary, this is a DVD well worth getting hold of.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 2nd, 2006 11:10 am (UTC)
Agreed - one of the best black'n'white Doctor Whos. The expedition crew all have believable motives and are well acted, the setting is pleasantly spooky, and Troughton does indeed have a very commanding screen presence.

I like the way this one hints at a lot of background, too - the Brotherhood of Logicians would've been fun to see again.

Only thing I'm not too sure about is the possibly stereotyping of middle-Eastern people as dodgy - Kaftan and Klieg clearly originate somewhere in the Eastern Med and are both somewhat shifty...
Aug. 2nd, 2006 11:27 am (UTC)
Kaftan yes; Klieg I think is more central European in manner.
Aug. 2nd, 2006 11:47 am (UTC)
Tomb is great. The interesting thing is that at the time, while I loved both it and The Moonbase, I much preferred The Moonbase. I think that was because: it was on the Moon; there were lots of Cybermen; and there was the scene where Polly's cocktail dissolves the Cyberman's chest unit. Coming back to them later, though, Tomb was clearly superior. I don't think it was the best Troughton story, but that is just because there were even better ones than this.

The later Troughton Cyberman stories I found very disappointing, Wheel in Space in particular. Invasion was a good story, but the Cybermen were a little subsidiary to most of the story (and the Cybercontroller's voice was almost unintelligible). (I also disliked the redesign of the Cybermen for that, with the "ear muffs" and the "tear drops" at the eyes.)

The recharging of the Cybercontroller: I need to rewatch it, but I had the impression that they put the Cybercontroller in the recharging unit to get him out of the way, and the thing activated itself automatically. Also, that they did not expect him to be able to burst out through the door of the unit.
Aug. 22nd, 2006 08:37 am (UTC)
So, which is the best Troughton story, in your view?
Aug. 22nd, 2006 02:35 pm (UTC)
Good question. With Troughton, there is an embarrassment of riches. Provided you skip The Underwater Menace and The Space Pirates, you are not going to find yourself watching anything which is downright bad.

I'm tempted by Web of Fear, which was superbly atmospheric, and The Macra Terror, which made a huge impression at the time; The Mind Robber was quite surreal, and The War Games was an epic which kept us enthralled for ten weeks (it suffers a bit now from being seen in one great chunk and some of the scenes in episodes 7 and 8 seem a bit generous with the padding, none of that was obtrusive at the time). All of them (plus Tomb and The Moonbase) were stories some of us talked about for years, wishing we could get a chance to see them again. (As was Enemy of the World. I think it's one of Troughton's best, but anyone expecting a typical bit of Who would be disappointed. I can still remember the end, with Salamander being sucked out into the space-time vortex. That seemed shocking at the time.)

But I think the best has to be Evil of the Daleks. There might be plot holes, but it was a serial that was a joy to watch (as is episode 2 still), and when it was repeated we watched it as keenly as the first time round. I couldn't believe it when I learned the BBC had trashed that story!
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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