The Invasion
The Tenth Planet
Attack of the Cybermen

Episodes 2
45 minutes each
Even the Doctor steals a helmet now and then.
Story No# 137
Production Code 6T
Season 22
Dates Jan. 5, 1985 -
Jan. 12, 1985

With Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant.
Written by Paula Moore. Script-edited by Eric Saward.
Directed by Matthew Robinson. Produced by John Nathan-Turner.

Synopsis: The Cybermen plot interfere with history with a captured time machine with the help of an alien mercenary.

Reviews 1-20

A Review by Kevin Guhl 18/1/97

It's not a perfect story, but Attack of the Cyberman snaps an important segment into the Doctor Who mythos. As the opening episode of Colin Baker's first season as the Doctor, Attack sets the tone for what is to come. Unusual, however, is the overwhelming exploration of Doctor Who's history.

In a sense, Attack is a sequel to the second Doctor story Tomb of the Cybermen and the first Doctor tale, The Tenth Planet. The Cybermen have travelled to Earth with the hopes of altering a history created in Tenth Planet; a plot to save their home planet from destruction. When the Doctor becomes involved, the story extends to the Cybermen's new world Telos, where the infamous tombs are located.

Other continuity points are ressurected, such as Lytton, the Cybercontroller (looking a wee bit pudgier than last time!) the I.M. Foreman junkyard and the long-awaited repair of the TARDIS's chameleon circuit. Last but absolutely not least is the Doctor's regenarative instability which is slowly returning to normal, however much that defenition can be stretched. This Doctor, while prone to violence, audacity and brash actions is also a passionate fighter for universal good and hides a caring nature. Although he'll infuriate Peri at times, he can be more personable when needed than past incarnations could. And of course there's the regret he holds for Lytton, showing that the Doctor is affected by his mistakes.

To a Who-fan, the recognition of all these past issues makes for exciting story-telling. But the uninitiated are still provided with a good adventure yarn that flows quite smoothly. While there are some plot holes, especially the Cybermen's personality (and intelligence degredation!) changes, all else is in place. Attack of the Cybermen contributes much to Doctor Who's history but manages to stay an enthralling piece of drama. Much more than just guilty pleasure!

You Just Never Can Tell by Dennis McDermott 24/3/97

This show has already been ably reviewed by Kevin Guhl, and I second most of his comments. This is an excellent show, better by far than Earthshock, I think for a very simple reason. We know the Cyberman are going to lose, but we don't really know what Commander Lytton, late of the Dalek task force in Resurrection of the Daleks, is up to. Hence, this show offers real suspense. Throw in the fact that the Commander is wonderfully defined character and superbly acted, he helps make this show one of the better ones in the Whovian universe.

I also think the Kryons are worth a mention. Both a threat and an aid to the Doctor, they are also fascinating characters. Frankly, I wouldn't mind a whole program built around them (perhaps before the Cybermen show up?)

A Review by David Masters 26/5/97

I am going to take an opposing stance to the previous reviewers of this story. Whilst I would not feature this tale in my all-time clangers list, I think it is an excellent example of the blind alley up which JNT and Eric Saward led Doctor Who once Baker was aboard as the lead man.

Attack is simply gratuitous. I don't necessarily mean the over-emphasis upon physical action (the program was trying to compete with The A-Team in the UK, after all!), but the whole underlying premise. Ultimately, it added nothing to the program. It merely regurgitates a number of old plots or old characters who had no reason to return. Why dredge up the CyberController or the Cyber-tombs? Why put Cybermen back in the sewers? Why bring up the chameleon circuit again? Why bring back Lytton for that matter -- characters such as his seldom work well a second time. It isn't continuity, its pure indulgence. Most of the "original" characters featured in the story (and I use the term very loosely) seem to be included for no better reason than a few set pieces, most of which revolve around how they die. Its one clichi after another. Technically, well-executed. But lacking in any sort of soul. One of the most depressing things about Attack, however, must be that despite its mediocrity, it is still one of the better entries from that season.

The Attack Begins by Ari Lipsey 18/5/98

An episode immersed in the series mythology, this story is in my opinion, the best episode 22. It's not perfect, but its still a lot of fun. I liked the return of Lytton and the two "policemen". The Lytton character is comes off far better in this story, perhaps due to the fact that he does not overshadow the Doctor as he did in Resurrection of the Daleks. I've always found the policemen eerie and mysterious, and I'm really glad they didn't get any lines.

The Cybermen are also in good form here. One wonders if more mythology has been created by the writers of this story than has been used. We learn about the Cybermen's tracking device, the new "Cyberscouts", and most importantly, the process of which people are turned into Cyberman is finally explored. For once I felt continuity was used as a literal device as opposed to a literal guideline as in Resurrection. The return of the Cybercontroller was an idea long overdue.

The Cybermen themselves are well portrayed. The first scene in which they appear is quite scary. Their menace, previously seen only in Tomb of the Cyberman, The Invasion, and briefly in The Tenth Planet, is in full force here. Too bad it couldn't last. Luckily, no on dies of gold poisoning.

The Cryons feel like a truly alien race, with their odd hand motions (courtesy of Doctor Who's best director, Matthew Robinson) and Bate and Stratton, though sounding more like solicitors then Cyber-rejects are also well thought out and realized.

Colin Baker's Doctor is great as usual, especially in the end when he tries to save Lytton. He even makes the scenes when he is jailed interesting. The best aspect of the story, aside from Colin Baker's Doctor, may be the late Brian Glover's Griffiths. Extremely well played, but the character itself is one of the best examples of ordinary people with human agendas getting swept up in the Doctor Who world.

There are two problems with this serial, though.

  1. A Cryon states that they assumed Flast was killed, but there first view of the Doctor is in the vastial store room, where Flast is being held. If they monitor the store room, surely they know she's alive.
  2. The Doctor is far too violent. He beats up a policeman (thank God not on screen), stabs Cybermen with his sonic lance, and fires Cyberguns. Don't get me wrong, I love on-screen violence, but my Doctor is supposed to use his brain to get out of situations, not weapons.

All together, this is the best Cybermen story of the 80's, perhaps even the series. Loads of fun.

Hip deep in continuity by Michael Hickerson 23/5/98

The recent release of some of the classic Troughton era, Cyber-stories showed me the luster, power, and presence the metallic giants had in their hey-day and just why they were so popular. Because, honestly, until I'd seen the black and white stories, the Cybermen had never really held much interest for me.

The color stories featuring the Cybermen are, for the most part, lackluster. They feature the metallic monsters as shadows of their former selves. Indeed, Attack of the Cybermen is the only 80's story that really does the Cybermen well.

That still doesn't raise it to classic status in my mind.

The first bring problem is that at the time it aired, the two stories it serves as a sequel to had not seen the light of day in twenty years. It's hard to move forward with events if you lose the fans who haven't had the good fortune to see Tomb of the Cybermen or The Tenth Planet recently. The first time I saw it, I got frustrated becuase I felt like I'd come in late on the party and missed the beginning fun. And that was just in episode one!

One of the major dominant themes of the Colin Baker era makes it's second, ugly appareance--that of keeping the Doctor and Peri on the sidelines of the action for at least an entire episode. The idea of repairing the chameleon circuit is fun, but it gets old quickly and wastes some valuable screen time that could have been given to explaining some of the Cyber-history to newbies like myself.

However, if you have access to Tenth Planet and Tomb and really understand the history that makes up Doctor Who, the story isn't that bad. The Cyber-plot to slam Haley's Comet into Earth is timely, if a bit ill concieved (then again, when weren't the Cyber-plans!). Bringing back Lytton from Resurrection of the Daleks is an interesting move and his character really gets some depth. This plotline also punches some much needed holes into the sixth Doctor's ego. We get to see Colin Baker swagger confidently, sure Lytton is up to his old tricks, only to see it deflated at the end of the story when he discover his true purpose. The last line of the story, "I've never misjudged anyone quite so badly as I did Lytton" is haunting and eloquent. It gets the right balnce of humanity and alienness that is so essential to the Doctor.

Overall, I'd have to say if you're a huge Who fan, Attack is a lot of fun. If you're just starting out watching, I'd say avoid it until you've seen a few episodes and then give it whirl. There's not a deep plot here, but it is still interesting.

A Review by Leo Vance 22/11/98

After The Twin Dilemma, it seems that Colin Baker needed only a good story to go on (despite fan hatred, The Twin Dilemma was in fact quite popular, going by audience appreciation and chart position). He got one. The thing is, it's only good for people who've already seen The Invasion and Tomb of the Cybermen. Eric Saward's decision to pack so much continuity in was a big mistake for the general public, and lost 1.7 million viewers in a week. Still, this is my review, not theirs.

On the up side, Colin Baker is, as always, superb. His banter with Peri is excellent, and Nicola Bryant's acting is irreproachable. David Banks is magnificent as the Cyberleader, and the Cybermen in general work well. The sets look to me like they are a vastly expanded and redesigned version of the Tomb sets. The plot is complex, and the script is very good. Maurice Colbourne is the star of the show, though, and it is his performance that lifts this story. His Lytton is the most believable and real character that Doctor Who has ever had. The stealth Cyberman is good too, and the sewer scenes early on are chilling. John Ainley as a Cyberlieutenant is good too. Griffiths is an excellent character, well matched to Lytton.

On the down side, Micheal Kilgarrif is a total disaster in his second role as the Cybercontroller, the escape on Telos seems pointless, with the characters being badly drawn, the acting poor, and why don't the Cybermen turn the slaves into full Cybermen they can trust?

These are minor gripes though, on a truly magnificent story. Remove Maurice Colbourne though, and I'll take out 2-3 points. 10/10

The Web of Time is Not as Dense as you Think... by Rob Matthews 29/3/00

Most fans pinpoint this story's adherance to established continuity as the cause of its loss of viewers from the one week to the next. I think that's overstating the case somewhat. Here's why-

For one thing, references to Mondas and Telos aren't made in any great detail until episode two - and by then, those 1.7 million viewers had already gone.

For another, fans are placing too much emphasis on their own knowledge of previous cyber stories, and assuming too little of the casual viewer. You DON'T need to have seen Tenth Planet, Tomb of the Cybermen, or The Invasion to understand the fate of Mondas and the reason for the Cybermen's colonisation of Telos. All that is explained quite concisely in the course of the story. The only really specific reference to Tomb is when the Doctor mentions that he 'thought the controller was destroyed', to which the Cyberleader replies "No. Merely damaged". I'm sure any mentally sound viewer could surmise from this that the Cybermen's controller had previously been seen to be destroyed and has now been resurrected for the sake of this new story. It's no different than switching on a Sherlock Holmes film and hearing "I thought Moriarty was dead"-"No, he escaped somehow". It's just a convention of any fiction that brings back a popular villain. One might assume from the way that the Dr and Lytton talk about the Cryons in the past tense that they too have appeared in the show before. But they haven't - and we still manage to understand what's going on!

Also, apart from the Cybermen-in-the-sewers element, the events in Attack are not at all connected with those of The Invasion; that story is in fact pretty much ignored here (most likely because because The Invasion clumsily broke with the cyber-continuity that Attack resurrects). So it's interesting that fans, with their truckload of associations, assume otherwise.

Having said all of this, I should humbly point out that I don't have an explanation of my own for why this serial suffered such a sharp decline in viewing figures - I personally think that the leisurely first episode is one of the series' most easily watchable. For one thing, it's nice to see real daylight instead of that dull yellow TV-studio look of so many alien planets. For another, the comedy relief (which so often falls flat in Who) actually works here; I smiled at Peri's well-timed "SShhh!", and laughed out loud at the delivery of "You told me you were from Fulham". Ultimately, this leisurely pace is detrimental to the plot, which has to be hastily accelerated in part 2. But while you're watching, it's enjoyable. The stuff with the chamelion circuit is unnecessarily criticised too- I mean, surely it helps explain to casual viewers why the Tardis normally looks like a police box. Every other Doctor Who story takes it for granted that we know, and in that sense makes assumptions about our familiarity with the show. The 'fat controller' is a mistake, of course; any actor would have done, and one who'd ate a few less pies would have been more suitable. But who knows, maybe the cyber-history hard drive is located around his midriff. The Cryons are one of the show's better creations. Their femininity contrasts almost schematically with the masculine ruthlessness of the Cybermen. I like their 'icy' look, and the revelation that it was they who'd built the refrigerated cities which the Cybermen colonised. It's a straightforward battle between good and evil, of course, but that's a battle that will always engage our interest. Lytton adds a nice ambiguous touch to the proceedings too, though, and this saga builds competently on the less developed character we saw in Resurrection of the Daleks.

But I'm not trying to make a case for Attack of the Cybermen as any kind of classic. All it really is is competent. It's basically just a runaround - albeit an entertaining one . But if you're going to have a story that consists only of a series of action-packed set-pieces, the Cybermen are a good choice for the bad guys. They're convincing, impressively designed and lend themselves nicely to explosions.

The scene where a Cyberman stands guard over a room containing volatile explosives - which only become dangerous OUTSIDE of that room - is of course silly. But examples of silliness in Doctor Who are legion. Another flaw is that the script spends too much time on the pointless Stratton and Bates when it should be introducing the Cryons. There's not much of an excuse for that, since these two characters contribute nothing to the story as a whole. Why would the Cybermen have their rejects do their work for them anyway? Surely they'd kill them and just do it themselves.

I've never really understood the complaints about the gore and violence, or even the cynicism, of this era. Maybe that's because I grew up on JNT-Saward Who and remember it just as affectionately as others of you remember watching, say, Troughton or Pertwee episodes in your youth. This era, a lot more so than 60s and 70s Who, really encourages kids to think in the abstract. Attack included, with its Tardis shenanigans and references to the 'Web of Time'. And I can quite objectively say that kids do like to be repulsed and frightened. When the Cybermen crush blood out of Lytton's hands, it significantly adds to their threat.

As for the complaints about the Doctor beating up the 'policeman' - he was pointing a gun at him for goodness' sake! Let's not pick on the sixth Doctor needlessly.

Attack has problems but I just don't see how reaffirming the original history of the Cybermen is one of them. Who villains actually tend to become much less engaging when their past is disregarded, because they end up in a vacuum; in Revenge of the Cybermen the cybermen became simply those silver guys with handles on their heads who want to rule the universe. In Destiny of the Daleks, with the Nazi theme of Dead Planet and Genesis forgotten, we were given a load of robots who trundled around saying 'Exterminate' so much that it eventually became a sound rather than a word. And then there's the Master in The King's Demons, acting like a bad guy for the sake of being a bad guy.

In Attack, the Doctor fights to stop the Cybermen learning the secret of time travel. Compare that to the shambolic Silver Nemesis, which simply dumps a load of 'future' Cybermen in 1980's Britain without even a thought for their established history. It's like suddenly any old villain can travel in time - apparently some can even do it by drinking bloody potions! Now there's lazy rubbish for you.

A Review by Ben Jordan 1/4/01

Having prevented the Cybermen from draining the Earth of its power in 1986, the Doctor once again encounters the metal meanies, who have travelled back a year earlier to try and change history, so that their home planet of Mondas is never destroyed. The Doctor meanwhile finds that villains are not always who they seem to be.

Watching this story once again along with The Tenth Planet, it occurred to me how much of a nightmare it might seem to the casual viewer, considering the number of previous stories they would need to have seen to understand every continuity reference which the plot is based upon. It really is an indulgent story for the fans, and unfortunately, because of its sequel-laden storyline, fails to pack the punch that something more original, like The Tenth Planet would do. That said, it's one of Season 22's finest hours, with a still unsettled Sixth Doctor, and the welcome return of Maurice Colbourne as Lytton, previously seen in the previous year's Resurrection Of The Daleks. I certainly wasn't expecting to see the Cybercontroller again after his seeming demise in Tomb Of The Cybermen. My, hasn't he put on weight!

It's a wonder that Peri chose to stay with the Doctor to begin with, considering how explosive and unpredictable he could be, and unfortunately, such behaviour from the erratic Timelord only seemed to increase her 'whine' quotient. Still, put yourself into her shoes. You've just witnessed your best friend, a mild-mannered man, change into a raving loony. Wouldn't you be complaining as well? Colin Baker certainly achieves the distant alienness that he set out to bring to his Doctor. Whereas the Fifth Doctor was more likely to be appalled and depressed by the machinations of his villains, the Sixth just gets highly irritated and immediately sets out to do something about it. That's what I enjoy about him. This of course is countered by his remorse at the moment he realises that Lytton was really a 'good guy' after all, who had been forced into questionable acts against his better judgement. Of all the sequel threads to this story, this one is the most affecting.

While the 80's Cybermen seemed to lose the edge and threat of their predecessors, they do have their moments, from their torture and attempted Cybernisation of Lytton (not to mention the Cryons), to their failed attempt to do the same to Bates and Stratton, who, seemingly human, show exactly what the Cybermen do to you when one removes his glove to show cybernetic arms. And as with The Invasion, Cybermen do seem to be more chilling when encountered in the dark realms of the sewers. Given that they revived the Telosian Cybermen, I think it would have looked great if they'd allowed them to remain as they originally looked, although it seems that Michael Kilgariff would probably never have fit into his old costume. He cuts a tall imposing figure to be sure, but the Cyberleader's original electronic monotones were a damn sight more chilling than the highly emotive voice Kilgariff gives him. Where's Peter Hawkins when you need him?

Was the story too violent? Well, looking back at it now, we can find much more excessive examples of t.v today. Back in 1985, I only remember enjoying it, rather than worrying about the bloodshed. It's a pity that the Doctor didn't find a better means of disposing of the Controller than by shooting him though. Violent for a pacifist or not, it was just out of character. Overall, a very good Sixth Doctor tale, although a little contrived, inconsistent, and bogged down by continuity.

A continuity nightmare? by Joe Ford 4/4/02

A stylish and exciting action adventure on the outside, a gratuitous continuity nightmare on the inside, this the work of a production team that are still obsessed with the 'trading on the past' feel of the Davison era and yet it still has a fresh feel to it. And why? We have the cybertombs from Telos (Tomb of the Cybermen), Mondas crashing into earth (The Tenth Planet), Lytton and his two policemen (Resurrection of the Daleks), references to Susan, Jaime, Tegan, 76 Totters Lane, the chameleon circuit... this is easily the most continuity heavy story in the show's history. And yet the reason it works is the story makes no excuses for these references, it simply drops them in our laps and moves on with the plot. It is actually quite pleasant to have a reminder of the scope that the show has covered through the years.

However this story is far from perfect. I'm not Tomb of the Cybermen's biggest fan but I have to concede that the tombs looked so much more impressive in the sixties story than here (although that was one of about three sets that story had but we have loads of different sets here!). The Cybermen look great but their voices are really embarassing, like a cross between Mr Blobby and guys in diving suits...only David Banks' Cyberleader is worth much cop and even he isn't given much to do. The Cybercontroller is especially poor with his flash gordon type robotic moments and voice... and why is he so porky?

Episode One is very good. A pleasant mixture of mindless violence and great one liners. In fact The Doctor and Peri do very little in the first twenty minutes and yet it is hugely entertaning thanks to the continuing exploration of their relationship and the genuinely amusing dialogue they are given. Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant are on form throughout selling their scenes for much more than they are worth. Their "I won't hurt you, I promise" scene is wonderful.

There are some fine actors on board and Brian Glover and Maurice Colbourne add a lot of weight to the early scenes in the sewers, which thanks to the ever present Cyber Scout is tense and exciting. They keep the Cyber scenes afloat and later when they join forces with Stratton and Bates things get quite involving. It's a shame that they are disposed of so quickly as they deserved a better fate.

On a production level the direction is very good indeed. Matthew Robinson may not have enjoyed directing science-fiction but it rarely shows. His early scenes have a realistic gritty atmosphere and he handles the action moments beautifully. Particularly good are Stratton and Bates attacking the Cyber Scout and the attack in the TARDIS is perfectly paced enough to work and despite promoting some fine visuals (great location work) he lets the actors show us what they're made of.

Things get too damn confusing in episode two but it's still vastly entertaining. The Cryons are effeciently conceived and designed and I just love their voices. The scenes with The Doctor and the elder Cryon are sweet and tender and Flast sitting alone amongst the explosives ready to sacrifice herself to kill the Cybermen says more about their race than the entire story does about the bland Cybermen. Eighties Who could do with more small gentle scenes like that. Lets not forget our psycho (fan exageration, not what I personally believe) Doctor who gets to blast the hell out of the Cyber controller... and not before time!

There are just too many plot threads running con-currently all of which are quite interesting but they are too diverse. Stratton and Bates going towards the ship, Lytton tortured, Peri and the Cryons, The Doctor and Flast, the Fat Controller... too much to keep up with and it gets quite irritating after a while. If only the script was simplified a bit this would be a near classic. As it is it is an entertaining mess, fun to watch at the time. As such it does deserve a reccomendation. If only we could take out the Cybermen... but that's what this all about.

And there is a downbeat ending which I always think is brave.

Eight out of Ten (Baker and Bryant lift it from six out of ten).

Resurrection of Resurrection by Andrew Wixon 17/6/02

It amazes me that no-one figured out Eric Saward really wrote this script until years after it was broadcast, because it has his paw marks all over it. For the fortnight of its first transmission I thought it was great, but now I can recognise it as the right stinker it really is. Not in a blatant, obvious, badly made way, because it's none of these things: the direction is creative and there are energetic and committed performances from most of the cast. But the script is terrible.

It's a blatant rehash of Resurrection, for a start: two parallel locations separated in space and time and only loosely connected by a few plot strands. Lytton and his killer plods appear, and there's a grim and unrelated subplot concerning not-very-likable characters who end up as cannon fodder. But more than that, it lacks focus: we're told what the Cybermen are planning to do, but never actually shown it. This revelation doesn't even occur until three-quarters of the way through the story, prior to which we're just treated to a lot of rather cynical characters bickering with each other as they walk up and down streets/sewers/corridors.

It goes without saying that too much continuity is the bane of AOTC. At least three previous stories inform the 'plot' in fairly vital ways and two of these were nearly twenty years old at the time. And even here the continuity is bad: the Doctor barely met Lytton in Resurrection! (One of many plot holes: how do the Cybermen get into the TARDIS? Not to mention the Cryon leader's amusing revelation that vaskil is common in 'the colder parts of Telos'. So the heat-detonated high explosive isn't just lying around in the sun? Wow, now there's something I couldn't have figured out for myself.)

I have so little time for this story. It's just another cynical and graphically violent meander through Saward's universe, and a crashingly unsubtle one at that. What really puts the tin hat on it is the Doctor's terrible final speech about how misunderstood Lytton was. It's bad enough that Lytton is basically the central character of the story who gets all the interesting stuff to do, but now we're supposed to believe this gun-toting mercenary clone (who, let's not forget, once cheerfully shot his own lieutenant in the face) is really a nice guy. No. No. No.

Nine million viewers tuned into Doctor Who to watch episode one of this story. Only six came back the next week. Those low viewing figures caused the cancellation, the cut to 14 episodes a year, the demise of the show as mainstream family drama. A landmark story but for all the wrong reasons.

A Review by Terrence Keenan 13/9/02

Okay, Anoraks. We're going to play a game. It's called "Count the Links to Past Stories"

Here's the list of stories and references:

  1. Tenth Plant -- Mondas
  2. The Tomb of the Cybermen -- Telos, the Cybercontroller, partially cyberneticized humans, the Tombs
  3. The Invasion -- Bezerk Cybermen, Cybermen in the sewers.
  4. Revenge of Cybermen -- Human double agent pretending to work for Cybes, only to be working for alien race who wants to destroy the Cybes forever.
  5. Earthshock -- Cybermen take over the TARDIS
  6. Resurrection of the Daleks -- Lytton and the cops
  7. Logopolis -- chameleon circuit
I'm leaving out all the different companion names that the Doctor calls Peri (along with The Terrible Zodin), and a few other that I haven't picked up since my last viewing.

They have a term for all this continuity navel-gazing. It's called fanwank, and it's just as annoying in a TV serial as it is in a book.

Acting, on all levels, is a disappointment. When the Cybermen, who are supposed to have no emotions, are more lively than the "real people," then there's a major problem. Nicola Bryrant is really terrible in this story. Colin Baker is no better, only getting one good moment -- the scene with Flast the Cryon. We spend far too much time with two unlikable gits named Bates and Stratton in the first part of the story. Maurice Coulborn's Lytton is unconvincing in his change of heart by the end of the story. The others don't do much save say their lines and take up space. A scenery chewing hamola would have helped immeasurably -- which is probably why I liked Colin's scene with Flast because it's a bit OTT.

The Plot? Well, there are holes big enough to drive a Mack truck through. And if you were to remove all the continuity references in Attack of the Cybermen, you would have a tight, fifteen minute tale.

And we move onto the violence. I'm not going to be a hypocrite and say that the Doctor should never use violence -- The Seeds of Doom is an all time fave and Big Tommy B whups serious ass in that one -- nor will I say that violence is offensive to me. It doesn't bug me all that much. However, for some reason, the last time I watched Attack, the scene where Lytton got his hands crushed felt completely out of line. Also, lots of people die for just the sake of killing someone every five minutes. I can picture the script conference: "Shit, I can't slap a reference in this point. Time to whack someone." It got on my tits after a while, and the aforementioned handcrushing angered me.

Is there anything worth praising?

Well, the Cybermarch music is tre cool (although the rest of it sucks rocks), and I thought the black Cybes were a nice touch. Brian Glover actually does turn in a decent performance. Seeing the cyberconversion process in the London sewers was a nice touch. And there's an interesting kernel of an idea with the "Male" Cybermen and "Female" Cryons going on, but it's not fully developed.

Anyhoo... there's not much to recommend Attack of the Cybermen. I suggest watching it when you want to get in touch with your inner Ian Levine.

The Fandom Menace (or Don't attack Attack!) by Steve Scott 8/1/03

Ah, Attack. The story that lost Who 1.7 million Joe Publics between episodes one and two thanks to mindless violence, gratuitous continuity and a porky Michael Kilgariff. As Paul Cornell states in his piece on The Twin Dilemma, "the public even came back for Attack of the Cybermen part one, were appalled, and went away forever."

Hmm. It's pinch of salt time again.

It's always difficult to ascribe reasons for the drop in figures. There could be many, many reasons. You'd have to issue a questionnaire to each one of those 1.7 million asking why they deserted Attack halfway through the run. Only when we get them back with answers such as 'I was appalled!!" and "The gratuitous continuity was a big turn off" may we draw such conclusions. I suspect that (unconsciously) a number of fans that don't care for this tale can always strengthen their argument with "I didn't like it, and nearly two million people at the time agreed with me!!"

So, did gratuitous continuity leave the audience feeling a wee bit cold, much like Colin in the fridge on Telos? Not very likely. As Rob Matthews rightly states, the real Ian Levineathon doesn't begin until episode two. Lytton and his flunkeys do turn up in part one, but they were seen less than a year ago - hardly long-forgotten continuity. So, if the fannish over-indulgence really did prove a turn-off, one can only assume either of two things: that every member of the audience was sent a complimentary copy of the script for episode two, read it and decided to jump ship, or I've watched an entirely different Attack part one to everyone else.

Let's turn to the question of violence. It's not gratuitous. The Who bangs-and-flashes quotient is all present and correct, and the Doctor's dispatch of the Fat Controller ain't too dissimilar to his polishing off the Cyberleader in Earthshlock. Much fuss has been made about the crushing of Lytton's hands. Highly reminiscent of the Doctor tug-of-war played by Jek's androids in Androzani, it's received vehement criticism way out of proportion with its actual shock content. We don't see an "ocean of blood" as Gary Gillatt laments in From A to Z. It's not that gory either. Particularly baffling is David Howe's criticism of the scene in The Television Companion: "the gratuitous incident in which the Cybermen crush [Lytton's] hands is unnecessarily nasty and gory." Excuse me, but isn't this the same David Howe who cited this particular scene as a 'Magic Moment' in his otherwise excellent book Timeframe? And best of all, if viewers really were turned off (neigh 'appalled') by all this mindless violence, what did they watch instead? The A-Team!! I pity the fool who thinks that particular show is bloodshed-free!

Well, there it is. Attack isn't the show that heralded the beginning of the end (steady on, Mr Wixon sir!). Rather, with a little too much reliance on Who heritage, it overly depends on the beginning.

A Review by Richard Radcliffe 11/3/03

My memories of this story were threefold. First I remember the TARDIS changing appearance - when I was 17 this was blasphemy indeed. The TARDIS looks like a Police Box, don't mess with what works. Second I remember the Tombs on Telos. Do they have 2 different Tombs, because these were vastly different from the atmospheric and visually impressive Tombs from Tomb of the Cybermen. Thirdly I remember the Cryons - I wanted to see Sarah Green in the flesh (so to speak), not behind a pathetic mask!

And thus were opinions formed on Attack of the Cybermen, and these very fanboy and silly opinions lasted a great deal of time. For years and years it was my least favourite story of the 1980's. It was with some trepidation then that Attack was placed in the video for my Cyber-loving wife Ruth. To my great delight and shock I found myself enjoying it, it was nowhere near as bad as I remember.

I had forgotten how sleek Doctor Who looked in the mid 80's for example. The multicoloured Doctor, with his luminous companion Peri. They even brighten up the dank sewers of London, and the alleyways of suburbia. The Cybermen positively shone. Their stunning entrance in the aforementioned sewers. The return of the superb hitman Lytton, accompanied by the lightweight, but comical Griffiths. The gravel pit of Telos, with some wonderfully battle-hardened characters intent on getting a Cyberhead.

There is a great deal to like about this story. The TARDIS changes are fine looking back, we know the old familiar Police Box will return, it provided some good laughs. The Tombs are different than Tomb of the Cybermen, but the sets are impressive enough in their own right. Even the Cryons come across pretty well. Was this really the same story from my mid teens? It is, but memory cheats. Attack of the Cybermen is much better than I gave it credit for. I suppose I am less critical now, and watch Doctor Who because I like it, not to pull it to pieces. I think I like it better this way.

Special mention must go to the lead. Colin Baker has come into his own with the Big Finish audios, proving beyond any doubt what a great Doctor he is. Watching the mid 80's serials again enforces that view. The wonderful personality of this brilliant actor shines through. 7/10

Continuity is the least of its problems by Tim Roll-Pickering 29/5/03

Season 22 kicks off with the only one of Colin Baker's stories to be set in contemporary London and it is a far cry from the London we normally see. There are no familiar landmarks present and instead we get to see round the back streets and sewers of the city. Attack of the Cybermen is set in a downbeat, grim world populated not by heroes but by desperate aliens and mercenaries. Even Russell the policeman is a far cry from the noble heroic figures that have appeared in previous tales. The result is a story about people struggling to survive. There's a shameless rehashing of old Cybermen continuity but to the viewer who doesn't know that much about past Doctor Who stories it doesn't matter whether or not the Cybermen have a spaceship on the moon or have been in the London sewers before. Nor for that matter does the viewer need to know just why the Doctor finds Foreman's Yard so familiar. In addition there is a return appearance by Lytton from Resurrection of the Daleks and it is good to see the series milking its more recent continuity as well. Contrary to popular belief, the continuity references in this story aren't that frequent and the most notable ones don't come until Part Two. The whole plot about the Cybermen planning to destroy Earth through Halley's Comet does feel a little tacked on to the rest of the story in order to provide an explanation for the events and very little is actually seen of the Cybermen preparing for this. Fundamentally this story is an action adventure and it is here that the real disappointments come.

In virtually every previous story the Cybermen have appeared in they were portrayed as being extremely tough and difficult to kill, usually only being destroyed through the exploitation of a key weakness of theirs or through destroying them with their own captured weapons. But in Attack of the Cybermen they are far from this, being easily weakened by shot by bullets and even by being hit in the face with an iron bar. The result is a race that seems exceptionally fragile and so other scenes where attempts are made to show them as tough, such as the scene where they crush Lytton's hands, come across as tokenistic and weak. The Cyber Controller returns but is a far cry from the menacing figure of The Tomb of the Cybermen, seeming incredibly stiff and jerky and being not at all menacing. Although the lighting for both the sewers and Telos creates a strong sense of menace, as does Malcolm Clarke's fantastic music score, the Cybermen veer widely between seeming incredibly threatening and being very easy to destroy. The story does at least attempt to use the Cybermen as more than just a generic alien race and so we learn more about their history and about how they settled on Telos than has previously been revealed anywhere. Furthermore we see them working hard to survive when faced with huge odds stacked against them, a fundamental basic principle of the Mondasians, as is their conversion of their prisoners into new Cybermen.

Apart from the Cybermen, the story also offers us the Cryons. As the displaced inhabitants of Telos they benefit from being cast in a sympathetic light, but the only one to make any impact at all is Flast, who is driven by burning hatred and very little else. Lytton is portrayed well, but his associates are all highly clichéd and so it's hard to shed a tear for any of them, or for the bland Stratton and Bates. The Doctor is portrayed well throughout the story, being brash and determined and at the end he is forced to realise he has made a big mistake, but there is a cop-out in the introduction of the 'sonic lance' which is transparently a replacement for the sonic screwdriver. Fortunately it is destroyed by the end. Scriptwise Attack of the Cybermen has some good ideas, but it is poorly put together and the result is a story that is at times confusing to follow, whilst the entire Stratton/Bates/Griffiths part of the story seems to have been included for little more reason than to provide some action sequences.

Of the cast, Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, David Banks and Maurice Coldbourne all give good performances, with the latter two effortlessly slipping into their old roles, but Michael Kilgariff is a big disappointment as the Cyber Controller, completely failing to recapture the spirit of his earlier performance. Few of the other cast make any noticeable impact otherwise, with James Beckett (Payne) and Brian Glover (Griffiths) overplaying their characters' simplicity.

On the production side, Attack of the Cybermen has some strong direction from Matthew Robinson and some good design, though many sets and locations do not look at all like they did in earlier stories. The TARDIS changing shape is an interesting little addition to the plot that provides the main humour but fortunately it doesn't dominate the story at all. At the end of the day Attack of the Cybermen is a strong adventure for watching once, but even then the weaknesses become all too readily apparent. 6/10

A Review by Brian May 3/10/03

If you are of the mindset that the mid-1980s was the beginning of the end for Doctor Who, you will surely have a strong opinion of Attack of the Cybermen. I certainly place myself in the above category, and, indeed, I have much to say on this story. Attack of the Cybermen represents everything nasty that Doctor Who had become. It's a crystallisation of a more violent and sadistic programme, and one that was now truly run by fans, who laced it with endless historical and continuity references. They thought that knowing winks to the audience were clever and witty, when in fact they were trite and self-indulgent. The lunatics had taken over the asylum, indeed.

After this first paragraph, you may be surprised to know that there are actually some things I like about this story. The first episode is enjoyable. The scenes in the sewers, especially the opening with the council workers, are creepy and suspenseful. Despite the story title, with the viewer already knowing who the enemy is, there is still a gradual, ominous build-up. The moment when the Cybermen are revealed is a memorable one, and they do exude a sense of menace. The black Cybermen are interesting creations - they are never quite explained, which is a pity. There are also some gripping moments with Bates and Stratton's attempts to procure the head of a Cyberman.

However, when we get to the second episode, the suspense turns into pure tedium. I don't think I've seen a more boring second half to a Doctor Who story. The Cryons are an interesting idea - it's nice to see a bit of Cyber-history delved into - but they are all rather poorly acted and not very interesting as individual characters. Their mechanical falsetto voices are more annoying than exotic and are often indecipherable. The scenes in the tombs and cells are forgettable, and Bates, Stratton and Griffiths are killed off very suddenly, as the writer no longer has any more use for them. The plot is also extremely complicated, confusing and, to be honest, quite daft. A point that leads me to the continuity obsessed nature of the programme as it stood at the time.

In an attempt to show off their Who knowledge, the production team bring in references to almost all the televised Cybermen adventures of the black and white era - most strongly The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Tenth Planet. (Less major references are the sewer scenes, recalling The Invasion, and the Cyber Leader refers to their "moonbase".) Plenty has already been said about the casting of Michael Kilgarriff as the now rather portly Cyber Controller. The plot, if you can call it that, revolves around the destruction of Mondas and the tombs of Telos. It's all rather incoherent really, with a reference to Halley's comet thrown in - another example of things dating badly (at the time it probably seemed like a clever contemporary reference point).

But, as I said before, references to past adventures and mythology do not necessarily a good story make, and here they don't stop with all things Cyber-related. Some companions' names are recited, there is Totter's Lane (An Unearthly Child) and the chameleon circuit (Logopolis). Even though its repair was short lived, I still think it was too sacred a Doctor Who institution to tamper with - the TARDIS is, and always should be, a police box! The continuity craze continues with a reference to a recent adventure, Resurrection of the Daleks, primarily concerning Lytton.

Make no mistake - I think Lytton is a great character. Maurice Colbourne's two performances as the sardonic mercenary are excellent. But here he is given no real depth - in spite of the writer's attempts to do so. Yes, we find out where he comes from - a planet we've never heard of - and we are meant to swallow that he is in fact a nice guy underneath. He tells the Doctor he had no choice but to work for the Daleks, but that did not stop him being a trigger-happy murderer in Resurrection (he attempted to kill the Doctor, remember!) True, Lytton does become a tragic figure at the end, but the Doctor's rueful admission of misunderstanding him hold no sway - despite his death, Lytton was a thug.

In the production team's attempts to drench us in continuity, they made a few mistakes with Lytton. In Resurrection of the Daleks, the Doctor and Lytton never properly met - they encountered each other twice - and very briefly. How does the Doctor know his name? Or anything else about him, for that matter? And how does Lytton know so much about "transgressing the laws of time" and the like?

One particular scene with Lytton brings up my other complaint about this story. Yes, you guessed it, that infamous hand crushing scene! It was gruesome, sadistic and unpleasant. Along with burning faces, acid baths and stabbings with hypodermics, this is another example of the increasing violence that overtook Doctor Who in seasons 21 and 22. This is where it lost its innocence. It could no longer be called a family show. The 1980s did see the programme mature as drama - something John Nathan-Turner should be commended for - but this road to sadism is another matter entirely. Where had the magic of Doctor Who gone?

Most of this review has put Attack of the Cybermen in a "big picture" context. Returning to the story in its own right, there are some other positives. The location footage, especially that of Telos, is excellent. The direction, by Matthew Robinson, is strong and solid, if overly glossy (Robinson also directed the likewise flashy - and just as violent - Resurrection of the Daleks.) It was a good idea to revive the "body horror" element of the Cybermen - playing on the fears of being turned into one prevailed in stories like Tomb, but was ignored later on. (This is perhaps the story's most successful use of continuity.) The acting - non-Cryon at least - is good, although David Banks' Cyber Leader offers nothing new, and is no different from any of his other portrayals. Colin Baker has settled in well as the Doctor, although his continual "Wait, watch and learn!" is very irritating.

Unfortunately, the incidental music is poor, especially that grating, atonal noise that accompanies Lytton, or any mention of him. The Cyber-march theme is still good, but was better in Earthshock, where it was original and had more dramatic effect.

One final question: why does the Doctor leave the TARDIS unlocked in the first episode? It seems to be just so he can find some Cybermen wandering around inside, create a cliffhanger, get captured, and hasten the journey to Telos!

In spite of some good points, for the reasons above I can only give Attack of the Cybermen a poor mark. 3/10

A Review by Scott Poerschke 22/10/03

I would have to completely disagree with the review by Brain May in almost every respect. I find Attack of the Cybermen to be an excellent story which has at its base an elaborate and brilliantly conceived plot that draws upon the show's long history. As a result, Doctor Who has taken its place as a great science-fiction series moving from disjointed and disconnected vignettes to developed histories that add depth to the characters and their own unique perspectives.

The entire episode aims high and indeed it delivers in almost every respect. From a technical aspect, the show's models, especially of cyber control, are brilliant. The sets are well constructed. I especially like the blue floors that add a real contrast to the olive drab color of the computers. The machinery attached to the metamorphosing humans into Cybermen are reminiscent of the Borg on Star Trek: The Next Generation. I have often speculated if the show's creators had borrowed ideas from Doctor Who, especially when you consider the honeycomb-like structure of the tombs in relation to the cubicles in the Borg ship. By the metamorphosing humans not being thrust out into the open, also add a new dimension to Doctor Who: subtlety. The very fact that the Cybermen have two bases adds a unique aspect to the story, giving the viewer an impression of the whole of Cyber culture. I cannot think of any previous episode that has such slowly opened and in essence crafted the race and culture of the antagonists as well as Attack of the Cybermen has. Certainly, no previous episode comes as close. Well, at least some might argue that Tomb of the Cybermen does a rather excellent job as well. One must remember however, that at the time Attack was produced Tomb was something of a distant memory.

When analyzing the story, I find it rather believable and applaud Doctor Who for sticking to its own conceived storyline, even if this storyline was created over twenty years ago. Yes, we might marvel at the attention given to previous stories like the intricate history constructed for Stargate SG-1, Bablyon 5, or even Blake's 7, but when a series attempts to integrate a history that was constructed with no intention of further developing it (referring specially to The Tenth Planet) and with it the added time between the two episodes, Doctor Who should be given serious consideration and praise for their efforts to blend the two together. The story does attempt many references to the past, yet most of these are rather subtle. I cannot understand why some of my fellow enthusiasts would be shocked by this, we have seen similar references to past Doctors in previous episodes, nearly every regeneration episode comes to mind. The only thing that separates this episode from others is the sheer volume of references, like the plotline. It is simply too much for some to handle. But, isn't this the overall characterization of this area in Doctor Who? It is simply "in your face."

Violence is always used against this story. But, how could this season be any less violent than previous? Or is it rather, referring to the "in your face" attitude discussed in the previous paragraph, the Doctor's attitude towards violence that causes most to squawk while reviewing this episode? Of course, there is always the infamous hand crushing scene, which I admit is a bit over the top. I think most objections relate not to the actual crushing of the hands, but the amount of blood produced from it, especially when it falls upon the white floor. I do not approve of gratuitous violence, but must admit the scene adds much needed verisimilitude to the Cybermen and makes their threat seem far more menacing and real. Yes, the Cybermen too can inflict pain that is as ugly and nasty as any human can.

As for characterization, many complain that they are rather dull, even one previous reviewer citing the Stratton/Bates/Griffiths plotline as existing solely for action. The only logical conclusion that can be derived from these statements must stem from a lack of actually viewing the episode. What can be more gripping? Coming face to face with your own intentions and then having to make a choice as to your next course of action, realizing that in the process that you are not only unexposed to a new culture but a new planet as well. As a viewer of Attack of the Cybermen, I was amazed how even the minor characters like Griffiths (Brian Glover) had to make some serious decisions. As for the chief character in the story, besides the Doctor of course, Lytton's underestimation by the Doctor adds a real human dimension to the series.

Obviously, Doctor Who was attempting something new realizing that the overly simplified plot structure and characterization of previous episodes could no longer suffice. I believe that this began with The Caves of Androzani and continued up until the end of the series, culminating in The Curse of Fenric (with some obvious setbacks such as McCoy's first season). Attack of the Cybermen is a product of this growing trend. While not perfect, referring specifically to extreme acts of violence, the story attempts to integrate a complex plot structure with believable characters. I believe that story accomplishes both rather brilliantly. Furthermore, the story definitely a product of a new area of Doctor, a kind of blending you might say. A blending of the long and detailed history, not only referring specifically to the plotline but to the way that the story is constructed as well, with new elements of realism that add much needed verisimilitude.

On a final note, I do not care what anyone else says about the music, it is one of the best in the series. 9/10

Due consideration before attack by James Aanensen 17/12/03

Much has obviously been said already about this story, as well as the sixth Doctor and his era as a whole. Having read plenty of these reviews and then gone back and watched season 22 it does become quite clear that the issues and problems raised by so many fans are painfully evident. But at the same time, so many Colin Baker stories are the most frequently reviewed. I believe this is not simply because they are easy to paste and rip into ( a thought I initailly had) but because despite the unending script and plot problems plaguing this season, the episodes are for the majority, highly watchable. Attack of the Cybermen, I have come to the conclusion, is a perfect example of this. Why this is the case is interesting - many of us agree that it is the role and performance of Colin Baker - I have to agree with Joe Ford and others wholeheartedly on this. Possibly becasue we had so little of him, but he enraptured us so in that short period his era draws so much analysis. I've wondered if Peter Davison had played the role for as long as C. Baker would he have attracted the same amount of analysis?

Attack of the Cybermen's problems have been listed too many teams and don't need repeating here, suffice it to say that they all lead back toward a script editor who let through too much that would not have got through in earlier years. Again this issue has been covered, as well as the circumstances surrounding the time Saward worked in (timeslot competition etc.). The bottom line is then, that C. Baker's era as a whole suffered from this, and the production teams desire to produce fast-paced action stories locked together by continuity references as being the only way to compete. Also the length of the season in season 22 did not help. Several elements in Attack certainly (in my view anyway, many of you will totally disagree) point towards it meriting a third episode.

The initial introduction of Stratton and Bates and thier subsequent movements promise a lot, but ultimately lead absolutely nowhere. Another reviewer mentioned that it seemed like the writers ran out of ideas and time and so simply killed them off. It just leaves me really annoyed. Bates especially is a really strong character and to just be killed of like that is frustrating given the amount of screen time he and Stratton got.

The rest of the plot is rushed to a finish, and while the final death scene of Lytton is excellent with excellent characterisation of the Doctor, it could have been drawn out and the Doctor's resolution tying in with the attempt to steal the time vessel. Good speculation, but like most of the sixth Doctor's era, that's all we've really got. Even Vengeance on Varos suffers in a similar way - the rushed and forced conclusion when the story was still going on quite nicely with plenty of development potential. I go as far as saying that some of these scripts rubbished so much over the years may not have been so bad, but had to be butchered to fit into the ninety minutes on offer, thus leading to the plot holes and mistakes so prevalent throughout. Yet another constraint put on the production team in this proimising but ill-fated era.

As to the violence, I believe that the mangling of Lytton's hands pales into comparison opposed to the death scene of Flast. This is far more chilling and quite well done - it perfectly illustrates and enhances the evil of the Cybermen. Early in the story they had been portrayed as far too vulnerable and so these two scenes are necessary to establish that the Cybermen are still ruthless villains. Comparing what Doctor Who was up against in the ratings the action was quite necessary for it to maintain popularity even though it lost. Yet another element forced upon the production team that had unfavourable consequences.

If it had not been for Colin Baker's performance and the characterisation (one thing they got right) this era would have been a total loss. But when consideration is given to the circumstances surrounding production, while not forgivable totally, you can appreciate this era for the potential it had thanks to the lead. The 1.7 million viewers lost started turning away mid Davison era, not mid week between episodes of Attack of the Cybermen.

A Review by Will Berridge 22/12/03

As a story, like so many in the 80’s, Attack succeeds more in its individual elements. Most importantly, it features by far the most effective use of the eponymous monsters in the later era. In Revenge, Earthshock, The Five Doctors, and Nemesis, any bog standard race of monsters could have played their role, but Attack is actually about the Cybermen. Hence there seems to be much more of a focus on what characterises them, to make them more than ‘just a pathetic bunch of tin soldiers wandering the galaxy in an ancient space spacecraft.’ In Attack there’s a considerable emphasis on the inhuman strength and brutality of the Cybermen, and the story derives as much ‘body horror’ as it possibly can from the idea of cybernetic transformation.

To me this is an infinitely scarier way of portraying the Cybermen than as unthinking, totally emotionless, simple computing machines, an aspect of them which only really could succeed in the 1960s when computers were a novel, unexplored and hence fearsome concept for the average viewer. Hence frequent fan criticisms of the Cybermen showing emotions such as sadism and anger are really a bit trite; it’s much easier to see cybernetic brain implants enhancing the human brain rather than totally computerising it. Furthermore, it would probably create a degree of mental damage, which explains psychotic behaviour like the maiming of Lytton, or random acts of violence against Griffiths or the Doctor. For older viewers anyway, the hand-crushing is a much more demonstrative of the inhuman behaviour of the Cybermen than a ‘Swedish massage’ (see Revenge again) is, though the question of how it affected a young audience remains pertinent. As for the body horror, at last we actually get to see the process of cybernisation in earnest, men whose bodies are being transformed into machines filling the background in Cyber-control. The revelation of Bates’ mechanic arm, and his pinching Griffiths’ hand with it, is also exploited to full effect. The Cryons are a worthy addition to the tale, too; their dignity and sibilant eloquence serve as a counterpoint to the brutality and arrogance of the Cybermen. The humans in this story are also well constructed. For most of the story the human character interaction revolves around two fairly symmetrical double acts. Lytton bullies Griffiths, Bates bullies Stratton. Of the two victims, Griffiths is much better at standing up for himself than the whinging Stratton (‘That sounds like another insult, Mr Lytton’), and oddly enough, for a criminal, comes across as a rather heroic character in many regards. He taunts the Cybermen (‘getting a bit rough is it?’), and criticises Lytton quite genuinely for the deaths he is responsible for. He’s a very sympathetic character too, as a very everyday human being, taken out of his native environment, and stranded with little means of escape on the alien world of Telos. And the Doctor never provides a dull moment either, Colin Baker stamping his authority on the script with typical boisterousness.

Unfortunately, all this individual brilliance is sadly feels of little significance because an appalling plot fails to give any of it relevance. Stratton, Bates, and Griffiths are all killed off at once, as they attempt to enter a time and space machine we never see and are told next to nothing about. The notion of a time travel device other than the TARDIS should be an important concept for a story to develop, but here it is just used as a traditionally artificial plot device, so the Cybermen can go back and ‘change history.’

I saw Attack along with Dr Who Weekend on UK Gold and The Curse of the Fatal Death and it’s only just struck me how similar the notion of the Cybermen going back and preventing Mondas’ destruction, which the Doctor had a good deal of a say in The Tenth Planet, is to it. Specifically, the ‘well I went back before YOU did and bribed the castle architect FIRST’ speeches. If we’re going to introduce the notion of changing history, lets make it established history, not fictional history the show established 20 years ago and will have been forgotten by everyone but the die-hard fans! All this over-complicated twaddle means we have to have a double setting for the story, which takes place both on Telos and Earth. This was the approach that completely muffed up Arc of Infinity and makes for the most frustrating aspect of Resurrection of the Daleks. Long gone are the days where budgetary restrictions allowed for small, isolated, claustrophobic settings for stories, like abandoned beacons and lighthouses. Sigh. Because of this, we also see the TARDIS hideously overused in this story to hop between the various locations, as if it actually knows where it’s going. It’s even used to make short trips, such as to Cyber-Control at the end - how on earth does he know how to get there? And if Davison’s Doctor used the TARDIS as a Nr 9. Bus, in this story it’s used as a flipping conference hall - virtually the entire cast make their way into it by the end of the first episode! We also see a hideous amount of it at the start as the Doctor faffs about being arrogant and eccentric.

If the plotting is bad, then some of characterisation is distinctly iffy. It’s fine for the Doctor to be boisterous, eccentric, even arrogant, even violent in some circumstances. The problem is we don’t expect the Doctor to use crude violence to destroy his enemies, but some sort of brilliantly improvised tactic or invention to sort them out (like tripping them over with his scarf, for instance). Here he just blasts them with guns or sonic lances. Not terribly characteristic, is it? And some of his behaviour towards Peri is very revealing of why the younger audiences particularly were discontented with his Doctor. In DW the audience tends to see the adventure through the eyes of the young companion, ignorant, unsure and afraid of the surreal worlds they tend to be thrown into. When the Doctor makes it obvious that he doesn’t really care about Peri’s anxiety, it must be very unsettling for a child watching, because for this age group the principal function of the central character is to reassure. He also treats Peri horribly when he tells her to shoot Russell, a police officer. The worst aspect is that Peri obviously can’t tell whether he means it or not, and is so terrified she begs Russell to give the Doctor the information he wants. Making the central character into a bully and an anti-hero was not a good idea for an audience whose viewers tend primarily to be pre-teenage. The other big botch up is with the ‘heroic’ actions of Lytton. Why does fighting the Cybermen redeem the character? He both fights for the Daleks, in Resurrection, and against our ‘tin friends’, for money, not anything particularly virtuous like honour or justice.

Attack marks a peak in the development of the Cybermen as monsters in DW, and their presence makes the story constantly watchable, but it would have been altogether more satisfy with a comprehensible plot. 7/10

A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 21/6/04

New season, new episode format, old enemy. This in short is a very simplistic summing up of Attack Of The Cybermen. Criticised for being too continuity heavy; which in fact isn`t strictly true as it merely references other stories. What it does succeed in doing is bringing the more horrific aspects of the Cybermen to the fore, largely through the conversion scenes, which are effective as they don`t shy away from violence. However whilst this aspect of the Cybermen is well used, the inclusion of the Cyber Controller is superflous and adds nothing to the plot.

Colin Baker is better served by the script, as the Sixth Doctor is less erratic, showing a more compassionate side both in his relationship with Peri and indeed his dealings with both the Cryons and Lytton. Of the supporting characters, the Cryons are a good idea spoilt by bad costumes; Lytton is somewhat watered down since his previous appearance in Resurrection Of The Daleks and Bates and Stratton are wasted characters with untapped potential. Tighter scripts would have made Attack Of The Cybermen better; although it's not a bad story, it's not the best.

"You're enjoying this!" by Damon Didcott 19/4/06

Bates and Stratton end up totally wasted and superfluous. The Cyber Lieutenant has a hilarious voice like the evil Weatherman from the Bananaman cartoon (or if you don't remember that, like Mr. Bean). The Cybermen are still too easy to kill, even if it's mercifully not gold coins fired from a catapult this time round, and remain dumb as a post most of the time. The famous Tombs now sadly look more like The Rooms of the Cybermen, the imaginative layout replaced by a load of doors. The music is often discordant and noisy, Malcolm Clarke falling all over his Casio in a manner that would raise even Keff McCulloch's eyebrows. The plot is convoluted, not helped by cramming most of it into Episode 2 rather than spreading it evenly about. The Doctor's depression about misjudging Lytton seems a little unjustified considering he'd barely met the man. The Cybermen easily get into the TARDIS, leaving me to wonder if the Doctor just leaves this highly valuable time machine lying there unlocked.

And then we have the Cyber Controller. Getting Michael Kilgarriff to reprise his role from Tomb seemed pointless. He didn't provide the voice, or have much to do in terms of body language, so there wasn't anything solid there to justify a second outing apart from his height and giving a smartass wink to the fans. All they really needed was just someone tall rather than this specific actor again. The casting decision was made worse given his notably increased waistline, combining with the smooth egghead of the redesigned (and less effective) outfit to make the Controller look unfortunately like a fat balding man. And for some reason Kilgariff plays him basically like a robot rather than a cyborg, all jerky movements and walking in straight lines, not to mention the odd accent he affects. "Emotion... is a veakness."

So there, Attack of the Cybermen - 1/10.

Well, hold on.

First off, it's one of the rare 6th Doctor TV stories where I think the balance for his character is right.

Revelation of the Daleks remains a superior piece of work, regarded by many, including me, as the best of Colin's television tenure. Yet as a showcase for the 6th Doctor and his behaviour, it's pretty thin on the ground. Attack sees the Doctor still a little erratic due to the traumatic regeneration, but without tipping over into the kind of panto outbursts as seen in Twin Dilemma or the callous careless attitude in Vengeance. You get a better idea of his range here.

He's still brash, rude, self-centered, arrogant, loves the sound of his own voice and leaps to tall conclusions in a single bound. But look at the obvious concern and sympathy he has for the Cryons when he's about to leave, more compassion on display here than the quick "I'm sorry about the DJ." His interest and kindness towards Flast as he learns about what has happened to her and her race. The way Peri has to practically drag him away from Lytton's dead body and his determination to rescue Lytton in the first place. His bold claim that he'll take care of the Cyber scout, and then when he's out of Peri and Russell's view, we see him looking worried and nervously giving his cat badge a couple of strokes for luck. His energy as he strides around the streets, Peri trying to keep up like a sail boat caught up in an ocean liner's wake. And then the very core of the 6th Doctor, what drives him: his sheer stubborn bloody-minded righteous indignation at what he feels is wrong.

You can certainly choose to dislike the 6th Doctor. I'm not a big fan of his era myself. Recent fan appreciation seems to me to be based more on Colin's performances in the audios and what the era WANTED to be, rather than what it actually was, up there on the TV screen in black and white (or gaudy technicolour). But, to be fair, my dissatisfaction is usually due to the lacklusture scripts and weak production values rather than the 6th Doctor himself, odd exception aside.

He's a jumbled contradiction of a man. Here in Attack, much more so than in the overrated Vengeance or something like Two Doctors, it works for me and he remains a facinating contrast of a Doctor. Part of this is no doubt due to time and distance; you can understand many people not feeling quite so charitable at the time as they felt their favourite show was being dragged down into violence and cynicism or whatever. Now, with Doctor Who back on mainstream television, getting rave reviews and re-energising interest and appreciation of the 'classic' Who of 63-89, you can kind of appreciate it for what it is rather than being unable to budge from seeing it as one of the nebulous and varied Reasons Why Doctor Who Died.

To take one occasion that's been criticized before... his leaping into the sewer to attack the policeman. It sits perfectly fine with me. Not only was he (and Peri) being threatened with a gun, it's the kind of thing I've seen before with the 3rd and 4th Doctors. You could even argue it's done with a bit more discretion since it occurs off-screen with some biff-bang-wallop sound effects, rather than actually seeing liberal use of venusian akido, fisticuffs, or wooden chairs. While I love it when the Doctor is able to use his brain to think his way out of danger, there are times when defending himself or others may involve the swing of a fist or even scooping up a handy cybergun. It fits with this Doctor, in a new physically capable body and a not-going-to-stand-for-this attitude, to leap in after the policeman and take him on. They took it too far in other stories but here it's about right for me.

Long blathering about the 6th Doctor aside...

It's also pretty funny, mainly in Episode 1. I usually find the Peri/6th Doctor banter tiresome and sometimes even mean-spirited, but they get some good material here. Making fun of each other, Peri teasing about his coat and the TARDIS's appearence, the Doctor stepping over the trapdoor hole just to make her jump... little moments like that which hint at some affection there rather than just insults and put-downs. Peri is still written as pretty useless but she manages to disarm one of the coppers, scores some points in her ongoing verbal battle against the Doctor, and gets to make friends/be creeped out by the Cryons. The choice of outfit is a bit eye-popping, an incredibly lurid flourescent pink leotard top that combined with Colin's coat to nearly made my TV explode. It does make it a bit hard to concentrate on the poor woman's face and what she's saying. Honest, that's why I was distracted, the colour... yes. Ahem. At least her second choice of clothes reminds me of her classy outfit in Revelation of the Daleks and it was certainly sweet of the cold unfeeling Cybermen to make sure she didn't get a chill or anything nasty like that. Bless.

And Griffiths, man... Brian Glover really makes the most of his role, so much so that he was re-written to survive into Episode 2 to get a few more lines. His complaining about his boots, the attempts to get someone to help knock down the wall, "You said you were from Fulham", "Trust him to cheer everyone up"... by the time he was quite rightly taking the piss out of the goofy Cyber-Lieutenant with "Get-ting-a-bit-rough-is-it?" I couldn't help but laugh. I looked forward to seeing him as much as Captain Weaking Scum from Nimon. As with Stratton and Bates he gets killed off disappointingly, but at least he gets in some good one-liners along the way.

David Banks has much less screen time than in Earthshock but is still good value as the Cyber Leader, and surely gets in his most excellent "Exxxxxxcellent!" when he finds out the Doctor is involved, brandishing his clenched fist at the cameraman. Plus, love that funky two-fisted head crush on Griffiths! Maurice Colbourne is again dependably good in the role of Lytton, all cold professionalism and cynicism, and I was surprised at how good Faith Brown was in the role of Flast. She makes for a very sympathic character, especially when she finally shows some anger at wanting revenge, aided by almost the only decent music of the story as she turns on the sonic lance and sits alone in the storeroom waiting for the Cybermen. The Cryons are strange characters, in feminine contrast to the Cybermen but with those frosty walrus-like moustaches and large eyes. Kinda like spooky bush-babies. They do seem convincingly oddball and alien with their tactile movements and ethereal voices.

It's also nice to see a story involving the Cybermen that's actually about them, rather than just in the role of handy bad guys. For the first time since Tomb, we get a story that solidly touches on the cyber-conversion process. We see several people in wall niches in the process of being transformed, both Bates and Stratton have been augmented with artificial arms and legs, and Lytton also ends up going through the conversion process. More on the psychological elements of this would've been nice, and the attempts to fit in all the Cyber-continuity might strain things a bit, but it's still appreciated. The strong point of the Cybermen to me was that they came across like metal zombies, wanting to capture us and turn us into zombies too. They don't want just power or territory, they want our very bodies for raw material as well. More than anything else, it was this body horror approach that gave the Cybermen interesting identity, that set them apart, and I'm glad to see it here.

Attack of the Cybermen is a bimbo of a show. It's brainless and it's shallow, but looks great and can be a lot of fun. Those hoping for something a bit cerebral would be best off looking elsewhere, and hey... if it's a choice between this and something like Ghost Light, it's the cream of Scotland Yard all the way for me. But maybe I was just in the right mood for it. As an example of action-orientated dumbass slam-bang Dr Who, this holds up pretty nicely.

And isn't it nice to see Davros not having a clue who the Daleks are...?

6/10 (above average)

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