Doctor Who #175: The Tomb of the Cybermen Part 4

"Well, now I know you're mad. I just wanted to make sure."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Sep.23 1967.

IN THIS ONE... The Cybermen go back to sleep and after defeating Klieg and the Cyber Controller, the Doctor seals up the tomb again.

REVIEW: Klieg continues to pile on the bad moves, but then he IS a complete loon who'd rather hear himself talk than kill anyone. The Doctor at one point says he's heard it all before, and so have we. It was only in the last story that Maxtible was saying the same kind of thing about the Daleks that Klieg is saying about the Cybermen here, and before that we had the Chameleons also going on about how intelligent they were. For all that, Klieg actually seems most akin to Zaroff. The dialog for all the guest characters sounds like it was pulled from a bad B-movie. Of the villains, it's Kaftan who winds up being the most interesting, perhaps because she doesn't explain herself. She's quite pathetic when she panics and tries to stop the Cyber Controller from reanimating his troops, her gun shots utterly futile against the silver giant. And the affection between her and Toberman is actually quite sweet. Both turn against the Cybermen for the other. Was there more to their relationship than mistress-servant loyalty? We don't know and that's what makes them better characters than two-dimensional Klieg.

Even so, the guest cast is mostly two-dimensional. Thankfully, the regulars never are (though Jamie approaches it as the trusty sidekick). Victoria continues to surprise, here shaming Captain Hopper with sassy wit. And of course there's Troughton's layered depiction of the Doctor, being "big" in his reactions early on, especially in the speech where he flatters Klieg, before he shuts it all down and turns very serious and low-key for the rest of the scene. The second Doctor's persona is very much an act, and when he breaks from it, you know things have gotten quite real. I love the look of astonishment on Klieg's face when the Doctor essentially takes back his flattery.

Part 4 has a lot of action and violence, the Cybermen's death scenes being particularly distressing. Somehow, the shaving foam coming out of their front grills was always more disturbing to me than any amount of blood. The Cyber Controller's spasms and Kafta's smoky death are equally powerful. As far as effects go, we get a reprise of the cryo-tomb (these guys need some Duracels), a really cool mind control wave overlay, and the Controller busting out of an alcove. Less successful is Toberman throwing an empty Controller costume around (feats of great strength are still difficult to achieve). In the end, the Doctor resets the traps and the Controller comes back for one last scare. He and Toberman will end up electrocuted and, well, the latter is just left to rot outside the door. Seems a rather callous ending. Actually, the actual ending shows a Cybermat running around, sole cyber-survivor, a possible indicator that the Cybermen will return. They will, but the little mat has nothing to do with it.

THEORIES: So was the Doctor manipulating events? In hindsight, especially given the 7th Doctor's modus operandi (which includes "moves" made as prior Doctors), we can today justify he was. The line in this episode about how the Cybermen "must" be made to sleep forever, and the Doctor's book on Cybermen seen earlier, do point towards that idea. Having arrived on Telos (by accident, one assumes), the Doctor helps the expedition get into the Tomb just so he can make it a better prison. While it doesn't seem like much has actually changed between Part 1 and Part 4, it has. More parts of the tomb are electrified, the logical gate no longer makes sense (the Doctor changes a few wires around), and the Controller is possibly dead. If it was the Doctor's plan, possibly hatched when he saw how easy it all was and deducing the Cybermen were actually sending a sort of invitation to be awakened, it's still one that cost a number of lives, not all bad. Yep, we're not incredibly far from the 7th Doctor, another incarnation that hides behind clownish behavior, but plays a darker game. Without the benefit of hindsight, it seems like sloppy writing. If the Doctor WAS making his mistakes on purpose, it wasn't clear enough.

VERSIONS: The Target novelization gets a few details wrong, like calling the Doctor "Doctor Who" and making Telos the original homeworld of the Cybermen instead of Mondas. Toberman is of Middle Eastern origin. The Cyber Controller has a black helmet; like the Cyberman pictured on the book, these are from later designs. Titan Books also published the serial's script.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A big action finish where the baddies get their due, and a noble sacrifice is made. The dialog is often terrible, but not the regular cast's, and the story looks cool despite straining its production limits.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - After a number of similar scripts, I found myself rather critical of Tomb. However, it's such a joy to finally get a full Troughton story, and a well produced one too, that it hardly matters. The Cybermen are awesome giants, for once without a big stupid weakness, and there are some lovely moments between the Doctor and Victoria. Truly, Tomb is a nice introduction to the second Doctor's world for fans unfamiliar with the era.

2 comments:

Boosterrific said...

This serial (seen on DVD) was my introduction to Patrick Troughton's Doctor, and therefore is the one that always comes to mind first when I think of the era. Despite some terrible, laugh-out-loud logic, I rally enjoyed this episode. I still frequently lament that the New Who Cybermen can't always be this awesome.

Siskoid said...

I guess it was mine too (or just maybe The Three Doctors).

The Cybermen aren't exactly knocking at the gates in this one, but they are nonetheless impressive. One the Doctor nipped in the bud. And yet, I completely agree that no degree of epic madness is enough to make the Cybusmen this great.

 

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