Saturday 18 August 2012

634 Attack of the Cybermen Part Two

EPISODE: Attack of the Cybermen Part Two
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 12 January 1985
WRITER: "Paula Moore"
DIRECTOR: Matthew Robinson
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 7.2 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Attack of the Cybermen

The Doctor interrupts Peri's execution promising the Cybermen that if they want her co-operation she must live. The Cyberleader tells the Doctor that the Cyber Controller is alive and that Cybermen can now time travel and tells him to send the Tardis to Telos. Lytton tells the Doctor that the Cybermen have captured a Time vessel and returns the sonic lance. The Doctor tells the other captives how the Cybermen usurped Telos' indigenous population, the Cryons and how he destroyed Mondas in 1986. Disguised as a Cyberman Stratton escorts Bates towards Cybercontrol. The Tardis materialises in the Cybermen Tombs disguised as a Gateway. A rogue reactivating Cyberman escapes from it's chamber allowing Peri, Lytton & Griffiths to escape. Peri is rescued by two Cryons, Rost & Varne, while Lytton & Griffiths go to meet with a third, Threst, who responded to Lytton's distress call on earth. The Cryons want Lytton & Griffiths to steal the Cybermen's time vessel. The Doctor is imprisoned with the Cryon leader Flast. She tells the Doctor that the Cybermen intend to use their timeship prevent Mondas from being destroyed. On the way to Cyber Control Lytton & Griffiths meet Bates & Stratton and pool their resources, with Bates revealing that he & Stratton are failed Cyber conversions. The Cryons reveal that Lytton is working for them, attempting to stop them leaving Telos and destroying it as a test for destroying Earth. Flast tells the Doctor that the Cybermen intend to crash Halley's comet into Earth. She tells the Doctor that there's an unstable mineral stores in the room with them that with self combust if heated. Lytton is captured as his team approaches Cyber control. The Doctor unlocks the door with the sonic lance and uses some of the mineral to destroy the guard outside. He escapes, but Flast is trapped by the warm air outside that her body will not stand. He leaves the sonic lance with her for her to detonate the rest of the explosives with. The Controller tortures Lytton for details as to how the Time Vessel will be stolen, then has him prepared for Cyber Conversion as the Time Vessel approaches Telos. They detect the Doctor's escape and begin a search. The Doctor arrives as the Cryons help Peri get back to the Tardis, and lures the guards away with a distress signal from a dead Cyberman for the Cryons to destroy. The Cybermen kill Flast, but she has buried the sonic lance in the unstable mineral. Bates is electrocuted by the door leading to the time ship landing pad and Griffiths & Stratton are gunned down by the time ship's crew. Varne is killed by the Cybermen lured from the Tardis. Peri tells the Doctor that Lytton is working for the Cryons and he resolves to rescue him. The Tardis, restored to it's familiar Police Box form, materialises in Cyber Control. The Doctor tries to free Lytton but is interrupted by the Controller. Lytton attacks the Controller as the Cyber leader arrives leading the Doctor to seize the Controller's gun and kill all the Cybermen present, but in the scuffle Lytton is killed. The Tardis leaves as the unstable mineral reaches the correct temperature destroy Cyber control and the time ship. The Doctor reflects on how badly he has misjudged Lytton.

That was far better than I was expecting it to be. Everytime I watch this story I'm surprised by it as in between showings it's reputation amongst fans grows in my mind. That's not to say it doesn't have it's problems....

.... chief of which is the levels of personal violence seen in it. Doctor Who has always been about people dying, frequently in interesting ways but here..... Having already shown scenes of violence in the first episode here we get the Cybermen hurting the Doctor, Stratton crushing Griffiths' arm with his exposed cyber arms, Lytton stabbing the Controller followed by the inevitable green gunge spurting out and, worst of all, Lytton's crushed & bloodied hands as the Controller tortures him for information. The others you can debate but this last example is clearly well over the line for a Saturday tea time program. Column inches were generated in the papers and BBC management took notice. We also get the Doctor merrily mowing down Cyber command with a gun but, like in Earthshock, it's a pressure situation with a great many lives at risk so I think we can forgive it.

Questions: How are the Cryons walking round the Tombs when OK when Flast can't leave the store room she's locked in? And if the temperature outside is too warm for her then how did the Cybermen get her in there? How did Lytton's call on earth get responded to by the Cryons in future on Telos? How did they send their response back in time? What's the point of destroying Telos? Surely the Cybermen may want to use it's facilities again? It doesn't seem to have any connection to their plan to destroy Earth?

The Cybermen's plan here is to alter the time stream by destroying Earth. Now obviously this is a bad thing for us, and indeed catastrophic for the Doctor's personal time stream as he was present for Mondas' destruction and various future events on Earth. But the idea is remarkably similar to that had by the guerillas in Day of the Daleks. Thankfully in this case the plan is defeated avoiding events we've seen being undone. Just you wait till I get to The Movie & Sound of Drums/Last of the Timelords... Flast's revelation the Cybermen want to avert the destruction of Mondas marks the break between episodes 3 & 4 of the four part version of the story.

One of the supporting actors playing the Cybermen perhaps needs a little more direction as he's rather comic as he tries to beat out the fire on his arm and then, assuming it's the same actor as a different Cyberman, wave the rest of the Cybermen out the store room when the exploding material is found!

This episode brings to the fore a distinguishing feature of the Cybermen: all other monsters want to kill or subjugate us but the Cybermen want to turn us into them. This is an aspect of the Cybermen made clear in Tenth Planet and followed up repeatedly, in various levels, during Tomb of the Cybermen & The Invasion. Is missing from Revenge of the Cybermen and Earthshock where, for all of each stories pros and cons, it might be A.N.Other monster fulfilling the role. We've had minor characters Cyber converted in the first episode in the background, but here we see the effects up front and personal in first Bates & Stratton and then Lytton which further adds to the grimness of the episode. But it is part of the real horror of the Cybermen and Eric Saward obviously likes the idea because he returns to it in Revelation of the Daleks giving the Doctor's mightiest foes the ability to convert humans. In fact every story this season features people being transformed into monsters.... bar possibly Mark of the Rani, and there they become a tree! The show, and script editor Eric Saward, are looking a little short of ideas this season as we also return to the idea of a race of Doctor Who monsters wanting Time Travel in The Two Doctors.

The idea of a human becoming a emotionless cyborg monster is the key to Star Trek's The Borg, easily the best new enemy added during Star Trek: The Next Generation. The cyber conversion bays, seen in the sewer base and cyber control, look awfully like the receptacles for Borg in their cubes and the Tomb effect here, with multiple levels and railings reminds me a lot of the interior view of the cubes. The Tombs take a lot of flack for not being enough like the 60s version seen in Tomb of the Cybermen but it's not that bad. Stick the Tomb cyber logo on the frosted doors and we'd be fine. There much more multi level than I remember with the next level up intruding into shot several times to help add to the scale.

I am amused that as soon as Peri gets something warmer to wear, that appalling red jumpsuit, she starts complaining that she's cold! It is awful, makes her look like a knockoff version of Anneka Rice in Treasure Hunt!

Ah the Cryons. Perhaps not the series greatest alien race. The look ain't great with the cling film heads but I can see what they're trying to get at by suggesting that these are creatures made of ice. The name is a bit silly: Cryon, suggesting Cryogenics and cold, take us into Terry Nation planet naming territory! Since they're Telos' indigenous species surely Telons or Telosians would be better. Inside the Cryons are some relatively well known people, chief among them being Blue Peter presenter Sarah Greene as Varne. Greene started out as an actress and first appeared on Blue Peter to publicise The Swish of the Curtain a program in which she acted in and got noted down by Blue Peter's editor as a possible future presenter. She's the third Blue Peter presenter to act in Doctor Who following Peter Purves and Christopher Wenner. At the time this story aired she was presenting Saturday Superstore and the program heavily promoted the new season of Doctor Who with a cast interview that prefaced the video release and can be seen on the DVD. Varne's the Cryon that gets it in the attack on the Cybermen guarding the Tardis dying with a rather odd lense flare effect!

Threst is played by Esther Freud , daughter of Lucian Freud, the painter and great grand-daughter of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. If you come across anyone named Freud in the news or TV then chances are she's related to them! Now a novelist she's married to David Morrissey, the actor who plays Jackson Blake in the Next Doctor. Flast is played by actress, singer, comedienne and impressionist Faith Brown who is not to be confused with actress, comedian, and impressionist Janet Brown, the widow of Meddling Monk Peter Butterworth! Finally Rost is played by Sarah Berger who I know almost nothing about apart from her appearing on the DVD commentary track for this episode. However while reading The Fry Chronicles, the second volume of Stephen Fry's autobiography, I spotted her name mentioned in a play he'd been in and immediately thought "Cryon". I didn't remember which one and five minutes after finishing this I'll have forgotten which is which again! Correct me if I'm wrong but, bar the Doctor & Peri, aren't Rost & Threst the sole survivors of the events of this story?

This is the last appearance in Doctor Who for Maurice Colbourne. The slight ambiguity as to whether there was a Dalek duplicate of Lytton could have allowed the character to return to the show even after we see his death here. Later in 1985 he took the starring role as Tom Howard in Howards' Way but in 1989 he collapsed and died from a heart attack aged just 49.

This is also the last (inevitably uncredited) appearance for series regular background artist Pat Gorman, once again inside a Cyberman just like the Invasion and Revenge of the Cybermen. In all he appears in 83 Doctor Who episodes and a complete list can be found in his extensive IMDB entry.

So.... Some might argue that you can't understand this story without an in depth knowledge of Cyber stories from the sixties. But everything you need to know is explained on screen before you: how the Cybermen's home Mondas was destroyed, what they're using Telos for. Yes it adds to the story if you've seen the earlier tales but if you haven't you don't need to. Excessive violence apart, Attack is a pretty decent Doctor Who story.

Attack of the Cybermen was novelised by Eric Saward in 1989. It was released on video in 2000 in the Cyberman tin with The Tenth Planet. Doctor Who - Attack of the Cybermen was released on DVD in March 2009.

1 comment:

  1. Really good, detailed rundown. I agree with almost everything you had to say about Attack of the Cybermen. I wrote up a pretty similar review of it about two and a half years ago. Here's a link...

    If only this had been Colin Baker's debut story instead of The Twin Dilemma!