Doctor Who #223: The Invasion Part 2

"If there's trouble to be found, the Doctor and Jamie can't miss it."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.9 1968.

IN THIS ONE... Lethbridge-Stewart is back and he's a Brigadier heading the newly-minted UNIT! Zoe destroys the computer receptionist.

REVIEW: As promised, one thing leads to another, and Benton leads the Doctor and Jamie to the first appearance of UNIT, the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce. Lethbridge-Stewart returns, and in the four years since The Web of Fear (his calendar - it's only been a couple weeks for the TARDIS screw), the Colonel has made it to Brigadier. The UNIT Mobile HQ also makes its first appearance, and it's in a large plane, the interior sold by rounded walls. Composer Don Harper seems to have given UNIT its own theme, a whistley military tune that accompanies Benton's car going right up into the aircraft. If you don't recognize Benton, it all looks like a case of the Doctor and Jamie being captured by sinister men - the Doctor giving up, sitting down in the alley and starting a solitaire game is classic, classic Troughton - but the episode flips the capture and turns into a celebratory occasion. As the Brig describes him, the Doctor is a resourceful "amateur" who can get the job done better than UNIT can, but he doesn't know what he's really getting himself into by forging this partnership (see Seasons 7 to 11... and beyond!).

It's not all dads and uncles, the companions get fun things to play as well. Jamie is particularly humorous in his pride of the radio Vaughn gave him, a child unwilling to let the Doctor look inside, and later boasting about its musical ability compared to UNIT's communications device. Zoe, paired up with the flighty Isobel, has a duel with a computer, in which an insoluble equation makes the machine overheat and burn up. (What is this? Star Trek?) Fun, but pretty pointless. It doesn't accomplish anything except revenge, though Vaughn it delights Vaughn (he's awesome). The two girls' laugh at the end of the scene is so unbearably fake, you'll have to fight the impulse to turn the television off, but the rest of their scenes are pleasant enough. There is an issue with the music that scores their scenes however. Though Harper creates distinctive music for UNIT and the moments of tension, the girls are either shouting over a phonograph record or stomping all over some kind of low muzak that then finds its way into other scenes, as if Vaughn's office was in a department store or elevator.

Speaking of Vaughn, Stoney continues to be eminently watchable and truly charming, making threats in the nicest possible way. He's great, even if he's kind of played this role before. Mavic Chen, too, was a megalomaniac who thought he was in charge of the monsters and not the other way around. Who ARE those monsters? Well, the strange glass cabinet isn't telling yet (but see Theories for the spoilery truth because it does raise some questions), but you can probably put the puzzle pieces together yourself: Machine voices, emotionless henchmen, super-strength... But those aren't half as interesting as Tobias Vaughn, who runs the show from his epic office overlooking London, with its multiple circular vid-screens. Have I said? He's awesome.

THEORIES: Can we solve the mystery? That thing in Vaughn's closet is a Cyber-Planner (cousin to the one seen in The Wheel in Space). It claims to recognize pictures of the Doctor and Jamie as enemies [of the Cyber-race] once encountered on "Planet 14". Where and when was that? This story takes place on contemporary Earth, definitely before all other Cyberman appearances (the earliest of which was the destruction of Mondas in 1984, according to The Tenth Planet). In the 21st-century stories (The Moonbase and The Wheel in Space), the Cybermen are, like humanity, not yet capable of interstellar travel. They have trouble getting around, a fleet of ships with terrible guidance systems, etc. Later Cybermen will have time travel capability, but there's no indication of this quite yet (Attack of the Cybermen has them return to these events, strongly inferring that the original Cybermen involved were not time travelers themselves). So if there's a Planet 14 incident, it has to be within our solar system. The title of the first Cyberman story may hold the key, "The Tenth Planet". Well, if Mondas was Planet 10, and we already know the first 9 (I'm including Pluto), and let's say we count the planet that became the asteroid field (as per Image of the Fandahl), we're up to 11 known planets around Sol. But of course, new "dwarf planets" have been discovered since then, including Eris, Ceres, Haumea and Makemake. The Sun Makers mentions a planet beyond Pluto called Cassius. So plenty to choose from. I do like the About Time series' theory that one of these is Telos, a planet that could have been under cloak (like Mondas was) until discovered whenever Tomb of the Cybermen takes place. This gives the Cybermen an outpost from which to launch all those initiatives against Earth before going dormant. It would also explain the two distinct Cyber-races seen, the Mondasians so dependent on their world for power, and the sleeker soldier Cybermen seen every other time. The Cybermen on the outpost (Telos/Planet 14) evolved differently (more robot parts and integrated power supply). The ones on Earth in The Invasion likely don't even know the Mondasians' plans for 1984, because the schemes certainly aren't compatible. As to the WHEN the Doctor and Jamie were on Planet 14 BEFORE the UNIT era, well, that's fodder for Season 6B...

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The introduction of UNIT, and the re-introduction of the Brigadier are enough to offset any padding perceived from Zoe's computer duel. On any case, the Doctor, Jamie and Vaughn are all delightful.


S said...

Love love love this story.

Mitchell Craig said...

Hey, Zoe blowing up that snooty computer is a badass companion moment (ranking right up there with Nyssa holding a bunch of Time Lords at gunpoint).

Siskoid said...

Agreed, but it doesn't do much for the plot does it?


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