Saturday, 7 January 2012

The Tomb of the Cybermen


  1. I watched this again on the VHS copy I bought after it had been re-discovered, and was so happy that it had, both then and now. It had always remembered as being a particularly brilliant Doctor Who story, and it was so nice to find that actually true when the episodes were returned to us.

    Further evidence for the Doctor having built the Tardis comes in the line that he's "perfected a rather special model", when talking about time travel with Victoria.

    The special effects are great. There's a lovely pan early on from the spaceship model to Toberman which really gives a sense of scale in the location shooting.

    The relationship between Jamie and the Doctor continues to be one of sheer brilliance, both of them masters of comedy both physical and verbal.

    The Doctor, when introduced to the city of Telos (not, mark you, the planet, which is un-named) helps out the humans who want to get into the tomb, and there's a question to be answered here: does he deliberately help them get in? Why not just leave, in the knowledge that they're probably not clever enough to open the tombs?

    My read of the story is that the Doctor actually doesn't mean to give the answers to the logic problems away - he just can't help himself from solving the puzzles. And then perhaps a little bit of wanting everyone to know how clever he is, but regretting giving the answers away as soon as he's done so.

    As a man brought up on Doctor Who novelisations, for me this has always been how the Cybermen killed - with their X-Ray lasers which cause smoke to come out from people's bodies as they're shot. Although the Cybermen of The Moonbase and The Tenth Planet may have killed differently on-screen, this is how they did off with people in the books, all of which I read long before I ever watched these episodes.

    This is how my Cybermen kill. And it's good.

    I watched this story with a friend who hasn't ever seen any black-and-white Doctor Who before, or even any before Tom Baker arrived, and am pleased to report that it still holds its spell even among the not-we. She was scared by the concept, laughed at the comedy, and jumped at the Cybermats. And we got a big disgusted ew when the Cyberman bleeds/melts/foams at the end.

    It's the small touches. The verisimilitude. The fact that the undersides of the Cybermats are shown, with dozens of triangular flaps which they use to move themselves, and their lovely wobbly organic eyes...

    And just as in their previous stories, the Cybermen have a plan, and they're following it. The human vilains have a plan, and even between Kaftan and Klieg, they have different approaches and attitudes.

    Which equals conflict.

    Which equals drama.

  2. Looks downstairs.

    Finds copy of borrowed DVD which I'd borrowed to watch it on instead of watching crappy old VHS.

    Saunters off, whistling and looking completely innocent.

  3. So the the Doctor, Jamie and new arrival Victoria turn up near the city of Telos just as an archaeological team are about to open up the last resting place of the Cybermen - scientists eh - so much intelligence but no common sense! So for our heroes it's out of a skaro frying pan and into a telos fire.

    Like Piers I remember my ecstatic excitement at the re-discovery of this lost story back in the 90s. It didn't let me down on first viewing and it does not now. In short, this is a cracker.

    The plot revolves around the scheming of Kaftan and Klieg of The Brotherhood of Logicians to use the expedition to get to the Cybermen and then use the Cybermen to take control of Earth. Of course, the logician Klieg is not clever enough to open the gateway to the tomb by himself but with some nefarious jiggery-pokery from the Doctor he manages it. My reading of this is that the Doctor knows exactly what he's doing and would rather fight a few cybermen now in a weakened state than a whole revived army earlier down the line. But then one of the great things about the Second Doctor and Troughtons performance is that you never quite know if he is in control or if its just luck that things tun out okay in the end. I would suggest that his performance here is even an improvement over his first year - equally adept at the horror and drama and the comedy - for example the rather wonderful moment at the start of the adventure when he and Jamie hold hands instead of both holding the nervous (understandably) Victoria.Compare this with the beautiful tender moment when he is explaining to Victoria how he remembers his family when he wants or needs to and the rest of the time he carries them around inside him. It is one of the mot touching pieces of character writing between companion and Doctor in the entire history of the show for me and the range and talent of Troughton is staggering.

    In addition, Fraser Hines and Deborah Watling are both excellent and immediately make a fine team to back up the Doctor. Watling confirms the promise of the previous story and once again, in amongst the screaming, Victoria also has reserves of courage and cunning to deal with the danger.

    The Cybermen are very impressive and look so tall and the Cybermats are a wonderful addition to their arsenal. A word also for the set design of the tomb - a staggering achievement for the team. And on the effects front the highlight is Toberman beating a Cyberman so badly foam oozes from his chest - it's visceral, exciting and scary all in one go.

    All this combines with the writing to make an absolutely thrilling and terrifically scary story. The downsides - well, yet another Cyberman story has some very dodgy accents among the human cast thrown into the mix. And Klieg is basically an idiot - a logical idiot but an idiot nonetheless. Kaftan is more calculating and some of the looks she gives Toberman hint at a subtext that certainly is not for kids I think - or perhaps thats just me.

    Overall, this is fantastic and one of the first black and white stories I would show to someone who wanted a way in to early era Who. In fact, my 9 year-old nephew watched it when I first got it 20 odd years back and to this day Troughton is still his favourite Doctor - he's a good boy that one.

    So from me, despite the accents, it's another 10/10. And if you dont agree we will make you like us!

  4. It's always a privilege to watch Tomb of the Cybermen, in more ways than one. It’s an old favourite, especially with the memory of the story being recovered. The story has its detractors (which story hasn't?) but I genuinely think it's an exciting, pacy and visually stimulating story. And not just because of Victoria's new dress...

    We are quickly introduced to an archaeological expedition. There are some strong characters here, Viner, Professor Parry, Captain Hopper, and Kaftan, Klieg and Toberman seem a curious bunch.

    Once again the sets are fantastic for this story. The tomb itself has an impressive scale but the design throughout the base is striking. I don't know how much those guys got paid but it could never have been enough.

    The Cybermen themselves seem unchanged from their last appearance but are joined now by the sinister/cute cybermats and the towering CyberLeader. Rewatching this for The Mission I noticed for the first time a creepy whispering voice beneath the Cyberleader's vocals. I guess it's the sound of Kilgariff himself doing the voice with the effect being applied live but it once again brings that connotation of ghoulish body horror, to me anyway. The Cyber consciousness speaking through a (might-as-well-be) dead man's mouth.

    As the story progresses Shirley Cooklin and George Pastell shine as dastardly Kaftan and Klieg. Pastell and Troughton are particularly fabulous in their exchanges. The Doctor doesn't care for smart arses, being one himself.

    Troughton, of course, is fantastic in this story, as are Hines and Watling. The Doctor and Jamie accidentally holding hands in episode one is brilliant but makes me desperate at the thought of what other 'business' has been lost with the episodes that are still missing. It's interesting that Watling has joined an established team and fallen into their rapport so quickly. I don't think this has happened before, except perhaps with Vicki? This is a terrific first story for Victoria, too. She's fiercely loyal to her new friends and not to be trifled with. Not a bad shot either!

    It's not a perfect story and it's strange that, aside from the CyberLeader, the Silver Meanies don't really do an awful lot but really, when you're having this much fun, who would nitpick?

    Although… Why do Cybermen need target practice?

    Better than: The Tenth Planet
    Not as good as: Power of the Daleks

  5. Well, they've got to learn to shoot somehow!