Doctor Who #403: Revenge of the Cybermen Part 4

"I think, therefore it missed."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired May 10 1975.

IN THIS ONE... The bombs are disarmed, so the Cybermen point Nerva at Voga.

REVIEW: In the final act of the final act, the story finally gets up to speed. It takes a while to get there, of course, as we suffer through Lester's incredibly underwhelming sacrifice to stop the two Cybermen on Voga. The pacing is slow, shots of Lester don't have him looking in the right direction, and after we've been told bad things would happen if a booby-trapped belt buckle were unfastened, all we get is a brief flash of flame that somehow kills the Cybermen, but given a bomb is strapped to Lester's back, isn't really much of anything. That the Doctor inexplicably disarms the bombs in between scenes doesn't help matters. The Cyber-shenanigans - later there's a super-silly shoulder-shaking attack that should have stopped the whole production and forced a reshoot - are, as usual, the weakest part of the story. It might have been more interesting to explore the political clash between Vorus and Tyrum instead. These characters both have valid points of view which suffer from the broad strokes used to define them. Vorus has to die in an either messy or realistic scene, your choice, to ramp up the jeopardy, but the in the end, his Skystriker rocket, played by a painfully obvious stock shot of a Saturn V, partly saves the day.

But I have to admit the last "reel" has a lot going for it. The Cybermen load Nerva up with bombs and aim it at the planet, and though the Doctor manages to kill a Cyberman by using a Cybermat as a gold dust delivery system, he and Sarah are still captured. He misses his deadline and the rocket is shot at the station as it starts to crash into Voga. He and Sarah escape their bonds, but the controls are locked. The rocket is diverted (the Doctor's perhaps too good at figuring out controls at a distance) and destroys the Cybermen, but the station is still crashing, a mountainous cylinder spinning at incredible speeds on the viewscreen. Yeah, it's a little silly-looking, but it is exciting compared to, say, the zoom-in on a picture of the station the Vogans see. Everybody, without exception, is in danger, including the Doctor's personal time line. After all, if Nerva is destroyed now, how can it be the Ark they landed on earlier/later? And though I'm sure it's all the same cues, I'm really enjoying the music, especially the Cyberman marches. I guess I was distracted by annoying plot holes and dumb Cyber-retcons through the earlier chapters.

"HARRY SULLIVAN IS AN IMBECILE!" shouts the Doctor after a belly laugh and before comically passing out. It's a memorable moment, but is it one Harry deserves? Though he seemed destined as a comic foil in Robot, his actual function across the next three stories was that of a steady and loyal action assistant for the Doctor, spending a lot more time partnering him than Sarah, usually sent off to be put in danger. So while yes, he did cause the rock fall, and almost blew the Doctor up, it's not like he had any reason to believe he was putting anyone in danger, and his track record had been, up to this point, strong. It's to his credit that he doesn't take any of this personally. In fact, my impression of Harry as a twit, here catered to as he forgets what the silver giants are called, has been called into question over the last few weeks. He's quickly become a favorite and in line to win a prize for most undervalued companion. He's got a couple stories to go, but in this, his final "trip", he deserved better than the Doctor's mean-spiritedness. Sarah also talks to Harry through gritted teeth when he states the obvious in his best Brigadier voice, but she's pretty stressed and it works. Of course, Lis Sladen is a treasure. There are some great bits of business between her and the Doctor too. Their reunion scene and how she plays her response to his surprise that she's happy to see him again, like it catches her off-guard. The whistling. Her management of the Doctor's flights of eccentricity ("Dusty death!", and no goodbyes, sorry Harry). The episode doesn't skimp on character moments.

VERSIONS: In the Target novelization, the Cybermen are armed with hand weapons as they were in the past; they don't shoot from their heads. The book includes a one-page History of the Cybermen written by Gerry Davis.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Far from perfect, we nonetheless get an exciting and entertaining final chapter.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The return of the Cybermen is a wasted affair, creating a new and sillier paradigm for Who's "second greatest" monsters that would immediately make them go on hiatus again. That said, the character-driven comedy and exciting final act do redeem it a great deal.

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