Doctor Who #226: The Invasion Part 5

"Is that all gibberish or do you really know what you're talking about?"TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.30 1968.

IN THIS ONE... Activated Cybermen hide in the sewers where Isobel aims to take pictures of them.

REVIEW: In most stories this length, we would say the monsters arrive much too late. I rather think it's too soon in this case, as the focus starts to shift away from Vaughn and Packer and towards the Cybermen. Vaughn still gets a couple moments, but the interaction between him and his henchman is kept to a minimum, exposition more than character work. It's still good that he's planning for every contingency though. He negotiates with the Cyber-planner to keep his human brain even if they do cybernize his body, but he also develops a weapon to disable the Cybermen once they've taken Earth over for him (AND is looking for the TARDIS to escape with it). In comparison, the Cybermen are rather dull. They have a sleek new look with giant headphones (I can't help but think of International Electromatics and their transistor radios, though surely, there's no connection) and for the first time, "tear" motifs on their eyes. These are the Cybermen at their most iconic. However, they're nothing more than shambling zombies at this point, the one gone mad not all that different from the others.

This episode is also notable for taking advantage of its weekly, unrecordable, unrepeated format. It actively cheats, hoping that even the viewers with the best memories will think they probably forgot a detail or two from the past 4 weeks. The Doctor and Zoe suddenly remember seeing a ship behind the moon, which the animation has restored, but wasn't in Part 1 originally. And Rutlidge now acts like he's under control by Cyber-means when just last week, he seemed to be acting under very human threat. Has the Cyber-revelation "updated" the past? Or was Rutlidge's just (a lot) more subtle? Because even if such a control technique always existed (one that doesn't turn you into a silent automaton like those motorcycle guys), why isn't it being used on Watkins? Chalk it up to things that work on a weekly basis, but show their defects seen all in one go, or on a faster schedule like mine.

And then there's flighty Isobel. If she's not going to believe in anything, or really care about anything, why are they letting her ride shotgun on the UNIT Mobile HQ? Captain Jimmy's attempts at asking her out only bring out the jerk in her, prompting her to ask if he's "stinking rich", which is both stupid (a STINKING RICH military officer?) and superficial. Adding insult to injury, it's her idea to take pictures of the Cybermen, which is both obvious and would seem unnecessary given UNIT's been operating for 4 years. I mean, if it was formed to investigate alien threats, why would UNIT Control be unwilling to believe in them? Of COURSE the Brig doesn't want her to do the job herself, no matter how much infrared film she has on hand (I'm thinking it's her uncle's and not used in fashion photography), because it's dangerous and SHE'S A RIGHT TWIT. I do like Jamie teasing the girls about his "male superiority" and they letting them get him in trouble, but it's not very convincing. Nor is the way the sewers' geography is conveyed, to tell you the truth. I'm sure tunnels branch off, but the Cybermen somehow get both in front and behind those meddlesome kids.

THEORIES: In this story, and all the way up to modern day Cybus-Men, Cybermen are seen to be strangely affected by emotions. In this episode, a Cyberman made to feel fear goes insane, while in New Who, unlocking their emotions makes their heads blow up. Those are pretty extreme, so how are they possible? My take on it is that the various computer systems that allow a Cyberman to operate require an extremely solid logical base. Emotion disrupts that base and prevents the Cyberman from communicating properly with its own body. Loss of control and even auto-destruct are possible outcomes.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The new Cyberman design is worthy, and Vaughn continues to steal the show. However, the slight comedy between Zoe and Jamie is undermined by Isobel's terrible characterization.


snell said...

"a STINKING RICH military officer?"

In fairness, there was a greater propensity in Britain for wealthy families to have at least one scion in military service (unlike, say, the US, where dodging military service was the primary sport of the rich).

Anonymous said...

They are known as "Ruperts" - useless twits who got through Sandhurst (military academy) on the strength of their family's money and/or aristocratic rank. Less common now, they'd have been everywhere in the 1960s.

Steve Flanagan

Siskoid said...

I can see the want ads now: TWIT looking for STINKING RICH TWIT to spend time with, borrow credit card from. Costly hobbies include photography and fashion.


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