Doctor Who #227: The Invasion Part 6

"Look at all that peace out there, and to think... It's difficult to imagine."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Dec.7 1968.

IN THIS ONE... The kids are rescued from the sewers, Vaughn is impervious to bullets, and the Cybermen come down the steps at St.Paul's after humanity passes out en masse.

REVIEW: Not since The Dalek Invasion of Earth has there been a Doctor Who story with such scope. People all over London (and presumably, the world) fall comatose on the spot, and the Cyberman army rises up from manhole covers, walks the streets, and overtakes St.Paul's Cathedral. Cybermen among us, with famous landmarks in the background, finally puts them in the same league as the Daleks. Monsters of epic proportion. And though I was partial to that loony theme of theirs in Tomb and elsewhere, the music here is much better suited to an invading force, a sort of dark electronic military march. A defining moment for the show, and the Doctor's missing it, falling prey to the Cyber-signal after losing the gear meant to protect him. The Cyber-ships also make their first appearance. To me, they've always looked like mobile versions of the space station from 2001, but I do appreciate how atypical they are (in this era, you'd expect saucers or rockets).

Despite the space given to the Cybermen, Vaughn and Packer get some strong moments of their own. As the invasion looms, Packer chews his nails ragged, pure worry to Vaughn's cool absolute confidence. Watkins' emotion-projecting machine is ready, and Vaughn of course insists on trying it out on human beings, essentially for fun. When Watkins calls him out on his sadism, megalomania and insanity, Vaughn seems to delight in proving him right, calling him on his bluff. Can Watkins really kill him? Vaughn puts a gun in his hands and asks him to fire. When he doesn't, he roundly slaps him - a shocking moment because it's so real. Watkins finally fires, but... Vaughn is bulletproof! How much "conversion" has already taken place? It's a great and tension-filled reveal. Vaughn goes on to punish lab assistant Gregory by telling him he doesn't have any time, as our point of view brusquely switches to the sewers and his being gunned down by Cybermen. It's a weird moment that follows another just like it. Gregory's just lost Watkins to a UNIT attack, you see, but this whole bit isn't in the episode. In a more modern format, we're used to quick cuts like this, even elliptical ones, but I don't know if it's particularly jarring because it's so different from the era's editing style, or if there's actually a missing transition in there.

That odd editing moment isn't the only weakness in the episode, of course. The matter of Ms. Isobel Watkins continues to irritate, for example. The fact that her plan backfires and causes the death of a UNIT soldier, exactly what the plan was supposed to avoid, might be interesting if Isobel felt any remorse at all. Instead, her apology is portrayed as a bit of inane flirting. Why she gets a doodad to protect her from the Cybermen's transmission is beyond me. Worse still, the Brig decides the pictures look fake so he can't use them to prove anything. This is a plot point I find utterly ridiculous. Does UNIT Command not trust its own officers' eye-witness accounts then? A man is dead, and UNIT isn't going to see the threat? I might also mention here the cheated cliffhanger of the mad Cyberman, just walking by the heroes obliviously, and some dodgy incidental music early on, using the "strange tense" music of the compound scenes to score action that really needed brighter stings. Thankfully, everything in the last paragraph can be excused by the great stuff in the first two.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The iconic parts of the Invasion begin, and despite the eye candy, we're STILL getting some awesome stuff from Tobias Vaughn. Can someone do an Isobel-less edit please?

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