Friday, December 28, 2012

Doctor Who #402: Revenge of the Cybermen Part 3

"You've no home planet, no influence, nothing. You're just a pathetic bunch of tin soldiers skulking about the galaxy in an ancient spaceship."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired May 3 1975.

IN THIS ONE... The Cybermen strap a bomb on the Doctor and send him to Voga. Kellman revealed as double agent and killed.

REVIEW: There's a clever idea at the heart of this story, but so much of it is badly handled, it's hard to see it as a plus. It seems that Kellman was a double agent all along, and that he was really working with Vorus to lure the Cybermen to the gold planet in order to destroy them forever with a rocket two years in the making. He was in it for the gold, not for the power the Cybermen are offering (ruler of the solar system? Real people would rather get money than responsibility). That's a fine idea, and more interesting than the reverse, but since the plan forces Kellman to engineer the death of Nerva's crew, would it have been so hard to give him pangs of remorse? As played, he's a ruthless sociopath and actually quite boring. His death is supposed to mean something because he partially redeemed himself, but I can't make myself care. We might also inquire as to why they put the plan into effect before the rocket was ready. Instead, it all falls apart because the Cybermen can land on Voga before it is. And why the HECK can't the Vogans defend themselves against Cybermen when their planet is made of the Cybermen's "only" weakness? I should think they wouldn't even need "glitter guns". Just throw rocks at them. It seemed to work with the Cybermat.

But there's another problem. The plan is predicated on all surviving Cybermen being present. Destroying a handful (which is all we see) would be pointless. So there are only that many still alive after the Cyber Wars, though they have enough parts to rebuild an army on their ship. So here's my problem: The Doctor's insults ring truer than they should. They really ARE the losers of the galaxy. Lame ducks whose one plans don't make a jot of sense. They shoot everyone on Nerva, but on the stun setting because they need them to carry bombs into the heart of Voga. Because exploding a planet of gold will, apparently, destroy all that gold, not fling it across the system. Like it's the only source of gold in the universe. In their depleted numbers, you could probably commit genocide with what you find in a small jewelry store. Worse, these losers with a common every day weakness, while they look striking as fireworks shoot out of their heads, are nowhere near the monsters they used to be. It gets worse when they finally speak. They've lost all the mechanical distortion they used to have and sound like guys talking inside a bucket. They don't even have the decency to move while they're doing it, so there at least one scene where you can't really figure out who's talking. Two guys standing still, two bucket voices. Is it any wonder they wouldn't return for another 7 years, as long as they'd been gone?

So what's good about this episode? Still a fair amount. Tom Baker again tries to liven things up, with nice gags like trying to look inside the Cyber Leader's mouth, but his dialog includes two "that's the trouble with...", so the script isn't always helping him. Through Harry and Sarah Jane, we continue to discover the real story. They're brought to Tyrum and forge a quick alliance, though as it turns out, Vorus wasn't all bad either. Sarah gets to ride one of the boats, and returns to Nerva, where she isn't immediately captured, thankfully. In the last act, the jeopardy elements are actually well done. The things we, the audience, know, but the characters don't, are used to ramp up tension. Will Sarah mention the rocket and make the Cybermen blow the bombs early? Or will Harry undo the explosive buckle on the Doctor's chest and set them off even earlier? They've got the characters playing against one another in a pleasant enough fashion. Even the rock fall is caused by the two teams trying to get to one another. Certainly more exciting than the never-ending massacre of Vogans by two Cybermen, just standing there, never running out of firecrackers.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The story is more clever than expected, but does nothing for the Cybermen.


snell said...

"They really ARE the losers of the galaxy."

Tell that to the Borg. #stillstings

Siskoid said...

It's interesting that the Borg are Cyberman copycats and had something of a similar trajectory, starting out more powerful than they ended up. Compare the Borg in Q Who? to those in Descent and it's a lot like The Tenth Planet to Silver Nemesis.