Doctor Who #174: The Tomb of the Cybermen Part 3

"The power cable generated an electrical field and confused their tiny metal minds. You might almost say they've had a complete metal breakdown. "TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Sep.16 1967.

IN THIS ONE... The group escapes the Cybermen except for poor Toberman, and the Doctor zaps some Cybermats.

REVIEW: The Cybermen really are at their coolest (no pun intended) in this serial, aren't they? They're not awkward (The Tenth Planet), petty thugs (most stories) or cookie cutter robots (New Who). They're imposing, mythical and remorseless. Their "return" is painted as a much worse thing than any attack while they lived. Their voices are lot easier to understand than in The Moonbase, an encounter they remember the Doctor from (but they don't mention The Wheel in Space, naturally - can they tell from when the Doctor is, and don't want to screw up their own history?). Their plan to assimilate only advanced minds, explaining the complicated means to access their tomb, makes them play the long game for once. And their little ceremony to reactivate the Cybermats plays into the "curse of the mummy" feeling the story is going for. When the Cybermats made their New Who debut recently in Closing Time (AKA The Lodger 2: The Wrath of Stormageddon), I was shocked by their nasty set of teeth. But lo and behold, they were inspired by these Cybermats here. There's one shot of them grinding their electric razor-like felt teeth at an American astronaut. Well, I'll be.

Because this HAS my favorite version of the Cybermen, I want to forgive a lot of the plot holes and production problems, but they do abound. The Cybermen have some real trouble navigating through a smoke screen and prove they don't have the strength to rip Victoria's arm off (not that this is something I want to see happen, but it would have in a more realistic universe). They're not even strong enough to lift Toberman over their heads without the help of a Kirby wire (the hook in his pants is so obvious that it MUST have been visible even on the lower-quality broadcast, though I do appreciate they put the short fight on film to make it more exciting). Production problems like that are perhaps unavoidable, but script blunders are less forgivable. Why would they keep Klieg and Kaftan in a weapons testing room? Why is Hopper acting like he's hiding something every time he forbids the group to go back to the rocketship? If the Yanks can just pull a few wires and open the hatch, what was all that advanced math in the previous episode for? The dialog is equally bad, especially Hopper's (though that's as much because of the delivery). Klieg has some incredible words to say as well, but then he's completely bonkers, getting distracted by visions of himself as master of the world and such.

It's the regulars who provide all the best moments. After the Doctor short circuits the Cybermats with some of his usual, effortless MacGyverism, he lets out a real groaner of a pun (above) and Jamie - or should I say Frazer, because there's no way the Scotsman from the 1750s would understand it - reacts like we would. Breaks character, sure, but fun nonetheless. The best scene is between the Doctor and Victoria. Sad and sweet and sensitive, it deals with Victoria's grief, having just lost her father, and has the Doctor talking about his own family. The Doctor occupies his mind with travel and adventure in part, it seems, to cope with the loss of his world. Before the Doctor was the Last of the Time Lords, he was still cut off from his people. The feelings are the same and we recognize more modern Doctors in this portrayal (it'll become less tenable once the Time Lords do show up as grade-A jerks). And it's really sweet that Victoria lets the Doctor sleep because he's so old, showing respect to her elders as a matter of course, and to her new father figure.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The Doctor-Victoria scene alone is worth the price of admission. The story continues shift between really cool use of the Cybermen and bad writing though.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Agree the Cybermen are awesome here. My first Cybermen story was "Earthshock" and I do think they are fantastic in that story - you really feel like they're unstoppable. Sadly, just a few years later they are taken out by slingshots...

Siskoid said...

There are two Cyber-quotes I am prone to uttering in daily conversation (to the bewilderment of my colleagues and loved ones). One is "You will be like uzzzzzz" from this era, the other is "This is excellent news. Earth WILL be destroyed." from Earthshock.

LiamKav said...

But if the Earth is destroyed, what will happen to all those well-prepared meals?

Bill D. said...

Hopper and Jim are two of my most favorite one-story characters in all of Who. They're not even imitations of stereotypical "cowboy" American pilots, it's like they're imitations of imitations. It's hilarious.

And the Doctor's scene with Victoria at night is just wonderful. Sometimes I'll pop in the DVD just to watch that bit. "Our lives are different to anybody else's. That's the exciting thing, that nobody in the universe can do what we're doing."

 

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