Doctor Who #583: Earthshock Part 3

"I know. I'm just a mouth on legs."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.15 1982.

IN THIS ONE... The Cybermen attack the bridge of the ship.

REVIEW: Tegan gets to join the fray, borrowing some overalls from that geologist girl (because after all this time, she still hasn't found a pair of trousers that will fit her) and grabbing a Cyberman gun so she can - oh gosh - kill him at point blank range! We're in Saward World now! How bloodthirsty of our Aussie stewardess! I'm all for giving her action scenes, though perhaps not lethal ones. I guess witnessing a massacre does something to your judgment. Regardless of the morality on display, Tegan gets a better deal than Nyssa, who is once again sidelined in the worst way. Babysitting the geologist after failing to convince the marines to sit on their hands and wait. It's surprising they did as they were told for as long as they did. And there's no real reason for her to suddenly refuse to go help the Doctor, except that she's become a tool of the script, keeping people from joining the action until whatever plot point has occurred.

No discussion of this serial would be complete without some criticism of its highly emotional portrayal of the Cyberman. They're arrogant, spiteful, self-satisfied and the guys low on the cyber-totem pole look rather chatty. I don't think it's ever been so clear that they are guys in suits. And yet, I can't get all that worked up about see. See, these Cybermen were my FIRST Cybermen, and for that reason, I have a lot of (camp) affection for them. I like David Banks' voice, and whenever I say "Excellent", I always follow it up with "Earth WILL be destroyed" (from Part 4) in his tone. Can't help it. Like the Daleks, these supposed logical machine minds ARE emotional (remember the smug CLEVER. CLEVER. CLEVER from The Moonbase?), they just don't recognize what they're feeling AS emotion. It would be more true to say they've excised what we would call "positive" emotions. They're without empathy, not feeling. So I'm okay with it, and when it's a step too far (the animated chat), I point and laugh. That feels good too. Hey, at least the weakness to gold has carried over from Revenge of the Cybermen. They were well on their way to accumulating a new weakness each time they appeared.

I'm less enamored of the human guest cast though. Beryl Reid's Captain Briggs is less and less convincing the more we see of her. It's like it's her first flight for all the experience she brings to bear. It's hard to care about her when she callously dismisses the death of crewmen as impediments to her getting her bonus. Her security chief Ringway is the only one who seems to care people have gone missing, but then he turns out to be the traitor, so it's a moot point anyway. Break the 15,000 Cybermen out of their Saran wrap, I don't care if all these humans die.

VERSIONS: Once again, a little polish on the raygun effects (which always seem to miss), but the other video effects are left alone.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Certainly has its flaws, but there's something to be said for building up your threat through lethal deeds and dramatic visuals.


CiB said...

"Like the Daleks, these supposed logical machine minds ARE emotional (remember the smug CLEVER. CLEVER. CLEVER from The Moonbase?), they just don't recognize what they're feeling AS emotion."

The problem I have with that explanation is that everyone around them seems to accept that they are completely devoid of emotion despite seeing this sort of thing. That is, even the Doctor (or anyone else) doesn't recognise that what the Cybermen are clearly feeling are emotions.

As for the "Clever Clever Clever" bit, I've always thought that was affected smugness. The Cybermen know emotion is a weakness, so they attempt to exploit that here by trying to make the humans feel small, foolish and inferior.

Then again though, I'm of the opinion that the last good (televised) Cyberman story was The Invasion.

Siskoid said...

I'd go as far as to say the only good Cybermen stories are Tomb and Invasion, that's it, ever.

I don't disagree with your point about Cyberman emotionalism, there's always been a problem with the writing there. However, in part 4, the Doctor does admit the Cyber-Leader is more emotional than most. Again here, and if only to win a no-prize, it's a matter of conflating logic with emotionlessness (see Mr. Spock for more). We can talk about their logic and how they made themselves unemotional, but what we mean (and what the characters in the stories may mean) is that they freed themselves from being slaves to emotion (which is what they consider humans) and lack empathy. No emotions is shorthand for "does not have the full complement of human emotions, in particular those that might make them nicer people".

The things we tell ourselves to excuse bad writing in things we love...

Bill D. said...

I enjoy the 80s Cybermen and, in particular, David Banks's camped up Cyberleader a whole lot, despite their flaws. I manage to work the phrases "I have found the ones from the TARDIS", "So, Doctor... a new appearance!", "Excellent!" and even the occasional "Ahhhh..." into conversation a lot more often than you think would be possible.

Siskoid said...

Who doesn't like getting excellent news?

LiamKav said...

I love excellent news, like getting home from work and finding that my wife has cooked me a well-prepared meal.


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