Doctor Who #638: Attack of the Cybermen Part 1

"Lytton? Tall, lean, dark, dark, well-spoken? The sort of man who might shoot his mother just to keep his trigger finger supple?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: This story is available on DVD. First aired Jan.5 1985. The series moved back to Saturday nights and for the length of the season, with 45-minute episodes.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor fixes the chameleon circuit, sort of, and runs afoul of the Cybermen who have just allied with Lytton.

REVIEW: The TARDIS returns to Totter's Lane? The Doctor fixes the chameleon circuit (don't worry, it's a big fake-out to get publicity JNT-style, the ship obviously loves its police box shell too much to let him succeed for long)? The Cybermen in the sewers from The Invasion are working with the Dalek duplicate from Resurrection of the Dalek and the (New Look!) Cyber Controller on Telos from Tomb of the Cybermen? Who is this new writer, Paua Moore, that they allowed to put so much fanwank on the screen? The answer is that Paula Moore doesn't exist. She's a pseudonym for, depending on who you listen to, Eric Saward and his ex-girlfriend Paula Woosley as a blind for the script editor to write a story, Saward and fanwanker-in-chief Ian Levine, a combination of all three, or according to Levine now, he alone. I wouldn't so quick to make that claim, Ian, even if Saward's fingerprints are all over it. It's got his favorite monsters, a villain he created, and it's sadistically violent. Griffiths almost getting his skull caved in by Cyber Leader, a Cyberman getting shot in the mouth, a new sonic (a lance instead of a screwdriver) is introduced and all it's good for is STABBING, that's Saward all over (not that he couldn't have injected it into the script after the fact, obviously, and he IS paired up with the director from the bloodthirsty Resurrection). For the record, Attack of the Cybermen has the third ever highest onscreen death count at 41.

Strangely, a lot of the violence is perpetrated on the Cybermen themselves, who seem such fragile creatures here. A simple 20th-century gun has one spraying green liquid, and a makeshift baseball bat is all it takes to take their heads off (it at least has the temerity to keep walking). Weak. No wonder Lytton is so cocky. He's evidently trying to get back into space and off our primitive little mud ball, though staging a fake heist seems a strangely convoluted way to go about getting to meet the Cybermen. Still, he gets a couple of good digs in at the expense of his crew (including the recognizable Brian Glover). The Cybermen are planning something in two time zones (a reprise of Resurrection of the Daleks), but despite the episode's extended length, we never get to know what that is. In addition to the Cyber Controller's new look (unimpressive if you've seen Tomb), they've painted some sewer Cybs black. It's so dark down there anyway, it took me a while to spot the Cyber-camo. Once they walk onto the TARDIS (the way it's edited, I can't see how they got there before the Doctor), the black ones become pretty obvious though. A subplot about human prisoners on Telos trying to escape their Cyber masters is pure Saward, who so likes to give his characters lots to do, often at the Doctor's expense.

So the Doctor... Well, he's still "unstable" and calling Peri by other companions' names, etc. That's more benign than trying to choke her. The duo's dynamics are a mixed bag, with the TARDIS scenes particularly tedious. A lot of bitching and moaning; Peri being much too scared of pretty much everything, including Halley's Comet on the viewscreen, and stammering her way through the script; the Doctor shouting a tripled line ("Unbalanced?!" x3); and so on. Things pick up on Earth, and even the costumes don't look so garish on film/location (Peri's shocking pink top looks orange, for example). Maybe it's the familiar surroundings, but Peri is a lot chirpier in the "real world", turning TARDIS strife into light mockery. She laughs at the conspicuousness of the TARDIS' new disguises and the Doctor makes excuses. He plays a few notes on the TARDIS/organ, and the episode's score keeps to the tune for a bit longer. And it's kind of fun to see Peri holding a gun on a policeman or two. The Doctor jumps into a hole and trounces one of the Dalek duplicates, all out of shot, which keeps it light, but this is definitely a physical incarnation, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Hartnell, Pertwee, Tom Baker and even Davison had their share of fisticuffs. It's only when the Doctor goes beyond matinée idol violence - the sonic lance stabbing comes close to crossing the line - that the portrayal becomes objectionable.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - A lot of continuity thrown at fans, but not much indication as to where it might be going. The 45-minute format doesn't really prove its worth here.



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