“Hello everyone, the Brigadier here. Right, wipe that surprised look off your face! Yes, you in the back, I’m talking to you! Now, as you know, this week, we were to be left leaderless, adrift, and all that rubbish, but there’s been a change in plans. Seems that Historian chap’s gone and gotten his previous engagement canceled on him. No, I don’t know why. If I wanted questions, I’d ask for them, Corporal Benton! Right, now where were we. Oh yes, gentlemen–and ladies, my apologies, Corporal Bell–I give you, the Historian!”
Thank you, Brigadier. What more can I add to that? Let’s get to the episode! This episode first aired 21 December 1968.
H = Historian (yes, obviously he did make it this week)
K = Ketina
R = Ronelyn
Sp = Spoo
EG = ElfGrrl
P = Photobug
A = Altair
EG: So they saved the world, and the Cybermen don’t exist.
EG: Well, for now.
P: So, I’m amazed that we haven’t learned a bunch about the Cybermen simply because there’s a bunch of Cybermen bodies lying around. Not only that, we’re not sure they’re dead.
H: Ah ha. You clearly haven’t heard about the UNIT conspiracy.
Sp: Get comfortable.
Sp: Not that comfortable.
H: Don’t you know that THEY, the members of UNIT, have conspired to conceal all kinds of alien invasions from we unsuspecting sheep-like masses? Wake up, sheeple, wake up!
<brief discussion of “the UNIT conspiracy”. I recommend looking it up. Crazy stuff.>
K: So UNIT seemed more organized in this story, at least with their interactions with Russia, then I think we see them in most future stories.
R: I noted down that I think this is the most effective attack by conventional forces that I’ve ever seen carried out against the Cybermen.
H: It’s a very similar battle scene to that in Web of Fear. Both because the director is the same and because it was a conscious effort to echo it.
R: Yeah but, the casualty numbers from Web of Fear are basically inverted. UNIT lost what… two guys and one mad men. Verses… 20 Cybermen killed?
H: Maybe. In the first battle it was a dozen. We don’t know how many it was after that.
Sp: However many it was, you can guarantee it was divisible by 6. <because there were 6 Cybermen costumes>
H: But the deal with Russia is that when this was made, there was the idea that it took place around 1975, and they thought that relations in the world would have got a lot closer and a lot better by then. At least that’s what I’ve read. Clearly wrong.
Sp: But in story, if you don’t know that, and just go off of when it was made, you can take that story point as a sign of how serious the threat was. That Russia and the West would look at each other and go “right.”
R: <Russian accent> “Surely we can go back to destroying each other later.”
Sp: Flimsy reason to let the photographer tag along.
P: Works for me.
R: “I finally have a decent lens. And I figured out how to focus without that glare. And finally, it’s golden hour!”
<I did not type the photography puns. You’re welcome.>
P: Once again we have a photographer shooting way too close with what appears to be a telephoto lens. “This is a pore.”
K: Super close up shots of the Doctor posing.
P: Yeah. That was cute though. He’s adjusting his hair and stuff.
H: I absolutely love that entire sequence, from the moment he starts running down with the explosions going off all the way to posing for Isobel. Pure Troughton. It was great.
R: There were things about that that I liked. But I thought the mood clashed. You have this really dramatic, really tense, really terrifying sequence, I mean Vaughn gets his legs blown off. And then we switch to prat falls.
K: I agree.
H: I think that was the point. And honestly, that’s a lot of the Troughton era in a nutshell. I love it. I love the dichotomy.
Sp: Let’s be honest here, this entire episode was really all falling action, from the moment that the writers murdered Packer in cold blood.
K: It was all falling action after Vaughn’s whole “Okay. Let’s go get ’em.”
R: “They ruined my plans. I wanted a pony.”
H: Once again, I have to call attention to Kevin Stoney, because I don’t think a lesser actor would have been able to sell that like he did. Just absolutely fantastic.
R: Yeah, it was pretty cool. He sort of wanders between terror and rage, then over to shock, then resignation, and then he’s like “nah, I’ll just go back to rage.”
H: I love the scene where he essentially makes a fascist speech just before falling apart.
K: I didn’t particularly like the pacing from Vaughn’s death on. The battle with the Cybermen was okay, but I also didn’t like the Doctor pratfall scene, independent of whether he’s done it before or not. And the whole missle, Russians, solution, with the big 12 minute gap, just seemed…
Sp: Reach – grasp?
K: Yeah. Not anti-climatic, but…
Sp: I don’t have the same issue with it, but I could see how the last two-thirds of the episode come across as more of a plot outline than the actual story.
K: Yeah. There wasn’t really any character stuff. The 12 minute thing was awkward.
P: It was more like they got lucky than the got smart.
K: And the switch from the explosion of the ship to Zoe getting her picture taken again was jarring. It was like…they won?
Sp: I could see how that might not work for you. I think it worked for me, because compared to the rest of the story, and especially the last 2-3 episodes, this episode represented the turning of the tide, and it was appropriate for “our heroes” to completely be in charge and rout them. Which is the kind of thing that lets me gloss over things like a platoon of Cybermen not firing their guns once in the alley. And in general, no on screen friendly casualties.
R: Two, actually.
Sp: But in the giant battle I would expect UNIT soldiers to be dropping left and right, especially from big scary Cybermen “fry you from the inside” guns. And the battle sequences in this really felt like a shoot gallery, or if you like a grenade gallery, for UNIT.
H: I have a possible production explanation for it. The soldiers in that scene were not actors…
K: No kidding.
H: They were soldiers. They were a platoon of the Coldstream Guards.
Sp: Ah, yes. I see where you’re going with this. “Not exactly good for morale, the good guys dying here.”
H: No, that’s not where I was going, but it’s close. I was going for the “argh! I’ve been shot. I will fall now.”
R: “Ugh. Yous is gots meses!”
Sp: Professional soldiers, amateur actors. Got it.
K: That explains why that one guy was grinning like an idiot in the fight scene. “Yeah! I’m on Doctor Who!”
H: “My little brother’s going to be so excited!” But it does explain why they were able to march in formation so well, because they’re real soldiers. And they knew how to handle their guns.
K: Yeah, we didn’t have the problem as last time with goofy gun recoil. We just get grinning soldiers this time.
R: Once again we had the attack…
P: Of the soundtrack.
R: Oh yeah.
K: That I didn’t mind so much. I definitely noticed it, but it didn’t bother me.
P: Yeah. It was good, happy music.
K: Not really during the fight scene.
H: It was martial music. I reminded me a lot of the incidental music of “The Bridge Over the River Kwai.”
R: “Picnic assault brigade, attack!” I’m glad it worked for you, it just didn’t fit for me. Especially the music from when the Doctor and Vaughn are running on rooftops. That was much more actually dramatic.
K: Yeah. That’s the music I remember, from the rooftop run.
Sp: Frazer Hines?
H: Yes, he was on vacation.
Sp: I was going with drunk, but okay.
K: So they filmed the final scene?
H: They prefilmed it, yup. Interesting note about the filming, this and earlier episode of this story were the first episodes of Doctor Who where the studio stuff was filmed out of sequence. Dougie Camfield decided to do the film thing, and film everything he needed on one set at one time, rather than filming stuff in sequence, like they’d done before. While it was normal for the film, I would say it’s ground breaking for Doctor Who, and basically set the scene for the way filming would happen in other stories, especially in the 70’s.
P: Budget cuts?
K: Budget practical. It saves money, but it’s a good way of saving money.
H: This is one of the most expensive stories of the season, but yes it is very practical. It just shows that editing equipment had become more practical and cheaper to use, too. There are so many things about this story that are so amazing, and that’s definitely one of them.
K: Are we ready for final thoughts?
R: I have more. Did anybody else notice the Russian’s incredibly high tech missile was a V2?
P: Only for the first portion of the launch, yes.
Sp: Obviously that was meant to indicate that the rocket was shedding multiple stages on the way up.
R: You mean acquiring multiple stages?
Sp: That’s possible. I was too busy looking for the shot of the Cylon raider banking left and the Vipers launching.
R: Budget cuts.
H: Because that’s what the original Battlestar Galactica <from the 1970’s> was all about.
P: I have a bone to pick with the plot. If you’re going to intercept a bomb that is going to destroy the world, you don’t fire one missile and then wait to see if it hits, and then decide to get the next missile ready and then point it in the right direction and fire it.
K: They wouldn’t have fired them one at a time?
R: If you really want me to geek out about this… the computer systems back then could only handle managing a single missile and target at a single time.
P: But even here at Cougar Mountain, they had two independent launch computers at a time.
P: Rocket sounds.
Sp: Eh eh eh! Rocket sound. Only one computer, remember.
P: Okay, so I don’t see the demise of the Cybermen who were on the ground as being certain.
H: Dun dun dun!
P: I know we’ve gone full circle, but it still bothers me. If this were a story about the Germans landing in England, and they blew up their ship, you wouldn’t assume all the Germans on the ground were dead.
K: But one thing that hasn’t been established is that can the Cybermen act independently if their Cyber computer has been blown up.
H: We actually did see in the Tenth Planet that when Mondas was destroyed all the Cybermen die. So it’s possible that the idea of a control beam needed to keep them active. That, and please don’t make me watch Attack of the Cybermen right now.
<One of the plot points of Attack of the Cybermen, Colin Baker era, is that some of the Cybermen might have survived in the sewers.>
K: Okay. So now are we ready for final thoughts?
R: I think so.
A: It was awesome. It had a lot of good characters in it. Vaughn, Packer, Isobel, the UNIT guys.
P: I missed Jamie. I don’t think the soldiers ever figured out that shooting their guns was going to do any good, but they certainly liked the explosives.
H: I couldn’t believe that they didn’t take any of the dead Cybermen’s weapons. You’d think.
P: You’d think after the battle you’d start seeing those in the future.
H: Apparently we do. We seen them in Mission to the Unknown and The Dalek’s Master Plan. It took them that long to reuse the prop.
R: Budget cuts.
P: Vaughn’s plan to kill the Cybermen by transmitting the thought energy was very shallow in principle – in effectiveness.
R: When did that gun get powerful enough to just kill a Cyberman when it got hit?
Sp: I can hand wave that away. Up to this point all of the uses of it were slow – either to test it or to be cruel with it. But now he was not messing around. Which is why he could not only sad and freak out one Cyberman to death, but he could sad four or five of them at a time.
P: I believe the maximum is six.
K: Actually, the maximum he could take out in one hit was two. Otherwise he wouldn’t have gotten shot.
P: It had a happy movie feel towards the last few minutes, with the forced soundtrack of joy. Which actually worked on me. So the story arc as a whole… this certainly is a big story. We started with the accidental discovery of the Cybermen. We found an electronics…
R: Trojan horse?
P: Yes. In the consumer devices. We had Zoe knocking down computers with her brain.
P: We had sewers. Zombified Cybermen. We had helicopters as a major component, and flying central command bases. We had a great cast of characters in every area of this story. I would say that this story was worth the 6 weeks…
P: 8 weeks to spell out.
H: To be fair, I think we watching it in about 10 weeks. But your point is well taken.
P: Me likey.
EG: Yay! We saved the world! For now! Dun dun dun! I think that I… <points to the ceiling> yeah, I’m done. But with one more “Dun dun dun! Dun dun dun dun!”
H: Okay. Spoooooo?
<no more than 6 “o”’s for Spoo.>
Sp: So, Historian.
H: Uh oh.
Sp: Cybermen are basically Doctor Who’s zombies. Right?
H: Ah…eh…kind of.
Sp: In terms of Monster Movie tropes.
H: Where are you going with this?
Sp: I believe in this story specifically, and in the last few Cybermen stories really, it seems to be established that individual Cybermen are pretty scary and thorough killers. But in groups they don’t seem to be really effective. Menacing, sure. Makes for great cinematography. Sort of works plot-wise to imagine a giant army of Cybermen has overrun the world…I guess we’ve scene an individual Cyberman be a threat on screen. And we’ve seen groups of Cybermen, or the Cybermen as the bad guy side be scary offscreen. But if I see more than 2 or 3 Cybermen together on screen, in general…they’re either just waking up or about to be killed and giving little to no resistance. So it takes a little bit of the menace and the oomph…
Sp: Yes. That too. It takes a little bit away from the setup and the drama of the previous few episodes. Now, as I said before, I went along with the kind of direction of the last couple acts of this episode, which was “yeah! The heroes win!” and I could sort of get behind a overwhelming victory dramatically I guess. I doesn’t take away from the great stuff that we saw with Vaughn and Packer and the general story setup too much. It just seemed like it would have been very easy to go off the rails, or feel like a victory that was too easy. It worked, as an overall story, but I don’t know as would want to revisit it again any time soon. I don’t know if it holds up to a close viewing. And the next Cybermen story that I see, assuming we ever see one again in the project…
H: The next Cybermen story is in 1974.
Sp: Well, anyway, the Pertwee Cybermen story…
H: Nope. Tom Baker.
Sp: Not until then? Really? Anyway, the next one in Doctor Who chronology would need to do a little extra work to build the Cybermen back up to be a threat.
H: So, I would say that I think a group of Cybermen were a significant threat in both the Moonbase and in the Tomb of the Cybermen.
Sp: Yeah. That’s right. Moonbase was pretty much the Cybermen bearing down and being ruthless and stuff. But Tomb of the Cybermen was closer to what I was talking about, still. You see a bunch of Cybermen, they’re just waking up. You see an individual Cyberman he straight up kills you, or almost does. You see a bunch of Cybermen again, and they get ’em.
K: Anything else?
Sp: So camera chick, when I look at the story as a whole, completely unnecessary.
P: I disagree.
Sp: Yes, camera guy.
P: She was cute. She was eye candy.
K: No, Eye Candy was four companions ago.
H: She was fun. She was a good transitional character who helped them get into the plot, with telling them where her uncle was. She was just fun. And the by play that she had with the captain was fun. She may have not been the linchpin of the plot, but she certainly contributed to it. She also got them down into the sewers to take pictures.
P: To die!
H: She just killed the policeman.
EG: When you say that it sounds wrong. It sounds like a lot.
Sp: Yeah, but none of it was completely…didn’t have to be her. Her pieces either could have been accomplished by other characters or she could have served her story function and then not needed to be there for about the last 3 episodes or so.
P: But isn’t it nice to meet a nice character than you enjoy that doesn’t automatically become the next passenger in the TARDIS?
Sp: That’s what the Brigadier is for.
H: I’m going to point out that during the first episode that Spoo theorized that Isobel was going to be the next companion in the TARDIS.
R: He was not alone. I voiced a similar opinion.
K: And so you’re disappointed that she isn’t?
Sp: No. By the end of the story…actually about halfway through, if I think about it, she kind of lost the companion glow. In Zoe’s introduction, a lot Zoe’s contribution to that plot, and the way that she did it, felt very companion-ish. Isobel didn’t seem to have that kind of depth of heroic spirit attached. She was just kind of there.
R: “I know! I’ll take a picture. It’ll last longer.”
P: I guess if she became a companion her trope would always be “I’ll just step aside and take a picture” and then be kidnapped / fall off a cliff / etc.
K: Okay, then. Ronelyn?
R: So, I guess he packed it in. You know. Packed up.
R: The ah…story just wasn’t his bag, I guess.
Sp: Well, enough about Vaughn, what did you think about the other character?
R: Zip it.
K: Me? After the final many, many thoughts of Photobug and Spoo, I’m almost feeling final thoughted out. As I said before, this episode ran a little off for me. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous ones. As as story it wasn’t too bad. The Cybermen’s plot wasn’t nearly as ridiculous as any of their previous plots. For classic Who, this was probably the least ridiculous plot. So that was good.
Sp: I will quibble. It was the least convoluted, but it certainly delivered its ridiculousness in a efficient and compact package. To wit, why did they need a radio guide beam to hit A PLANET? And I can’t believe I only just thought of this.
H: To be fair, it had been established that Cybermen could do no navigation whatsoever without a radio beam in the Wheel in Space. It was established that Vaughn had guided them there in the first place. Now, admittedly, you’d think they’d be able to just shoot a bomb at the earth. But, apparently they were shooting it from far away so they needed something to guide it in? I don’t know.
K: But still, on a scale, even with your quibble, it’s less ridiculous than any other Cybermen plot.
Sp: Yeah. That’s why I’m calling it a quibble. Radio beam to hit a planet. Quibble. Most of Wheel in Space, and most of Dalek Master Plan, big problems!
K: Okay. So, yeah. As a story overall I liked it. It could have lost 2-3 part and it still would have done fine. Loved all the character stuff. Disappointed with this last episode because…probably because there wasn’t enough character stuff. All yours, boss.
H: Don’t call me boss. So, I think this is a fantastic story.
Sp: Of course you do!
H: The first time that I tried to run through the Patrick Troughton stuff and I got to this story I had heard it was very good, but I was unprepared for how much I enjoyed it. And I think the strength of this story comes down to five people – Patrick Troughton, Wendy Padbury <Zoe>, Nick Courtney <The Brigadier>, Peter Halliday <Packer>, and Kevin Stoney <obviously Cyberman #1… no Vaughn. And he’s doing this from memory.>
People have complained that this is a Cybermen story where the Cybermen hardly do anything…
H: But that’s kind of beside the point. Ketina is absolutely right that it is the character moments that really make this story. The establishment of UNIT is fantastic. The direction of the action sequences is very good. But without those performances this story would be nothing. And I’m just consistently impressed with Kevin Stoney and his work in this story.
K: I guess that’s why I didn’t like this episode. Because Packer died right at the beginning, so the rest of the episode was lame.
H: Interesting fact, Peter Halliday was also the uncredited voice of all the Cybermen and the Cyber Controller.
R: Which died like a bitch. That’s what happens when you give emotions to a chandelier.
And that wraps up the Invasion–and Mr. Tobias Vaughn too! We’re going to be taking a week break before diving into our next story, but I should get a wrapup post ready for this one before then. In the meantime, I’ll make my standard request (otherwise known as occasional begging) for comments from you readers out there. I’m fairly certain someone is reading this–at least, I hope someone is! At any rate, see you in two weeks for a far less Earthbound adventure! Until then, I remain
IN TWO WEEKS: THE KROTONS EPISODE ONE
(“Right, Benton and the rest of you, fall out!”)