Attack of the Cybermen
Spearhead from Space
The Web of Fear
|Dates||Nov. 2, 1968 -
Dec. 21, 1968
With Patrick Troughton, Frazier Hines, Wendy Padbury.
Written by Derrick Sherwin (based on an idea by Kit Pelder).
Script-edited by Terrance Dicks.
Directed by Douglas Camfield. Produced by Peter Bryant.
Synopsis: The Doctor stumbles onto a conspiracy by the
Cybermen to invade Earth with the help of a megalomaniac, Tobias
Vaughn, whose activities are being monitored by the newly formed
|Note: Episodes 2,3,5,6,7,8 are available on CBS/Fox video release. Audio recordings and telesnap reconstructions of the remaining episodes are available at Missing Doctor Who Reconstructions & Audios.|
A Review by David Masters 26/5/97
This is one of my favourite Doctor Who stories, and another example of the advantages of allowing a story to develop over an extended number of episodes. I can think of very few negative aspects of this story -- there are a couple of minor parts which aren't that well executed, and the IE reception computer stretches credulity a touch, but nothing to seriously undermine the quality of the whole affair.
The positive elements are overwhelming. From the sheer scale of the story, down to the core performances, it is uniformly well executed, and a real triumph for director Camfield. Kevin Stoney is in superb form as Tobias Vaughan, oozing charm and menace, although the tempo behind his performances does momentarily drop a notch or two in the last episode. Peter Halliday is also good as the increasingly accident prone Packer. Some authors have cast doubt upon the credibility of Vaughan employing a fool such as Packer but surely Packer's ineffectiveness is only shown through the events in the story. He starts off well enough.
The Cybermen are also at their most impressive, impervious to little other than artillary and armed to the teeth. The only weakness the Cybermen seem to have is that offer little or no resistance to the Earth missiles. Not totally implausible, but it suggests rather more complacency than should be truly logical.
Cheaper by the Octet by Christopher Fare 26/5/97
While praise has been heaped upon such stories as The Tenth Planet and The Tomb of the Cybermen, I must admit I'm a fan of the lesser Cybermen stories. The Invasion is one of the best.
Yes, the story does run for eight episodes (or rather six these days), but there isn't any real padding in the story, which is quite simple yet it sustains itself over all episodes and rattles along at a great pace. The performances are pretty good from most members of the cast(although don't you wish that the Travers' had appeared instead?), with Kevin Stoney and Patrick Troughton rising above them all. Tobias Vaughn is a memorable villain, and his confrontation with the Doctor at the end of episode seven is one of the best moments in Doctor Who.
The Cybermen don't really appear, apart from their "invasion", which produces some great images (you know which ones) but like Genesis of the Daleks, you don't really notice their absence. UNIT start off well, although Rutlidge is ridiculous and Benton is given very little to do. Jamie and Zoe don't seem to e seen together with the Doctor for much of the story, they appear to split four episodes each (Jamie for the first four, Zoe for the second) but it works well.
The Invasion may be overlooked by some, but it's a classic and perhaps the best story of season six.
Invasion of the Bad Sixties Plotting: A Scathing Review by Kevin Guhl and Tim Karasko 5/9/97
We had seen all the available Troughton episodes, except for The Invasion. This was to be left for a rainy day, the last of Troughton, our favorite Doctor. We sat, expectant. For two mind-numbing hours, we still sat, agape. When it was over, we still maintained said positions for an hour. Why, swami of all that is good, (we asked) was Invasion ever found?! So many positive reviews have been written for Invasion. Pray tell, did we get a defective copy, the sick prank of some demented BBC son of a Packer?!
Okay, okay. It's better to have more Troughton than less. He was in fact the only good thing about this travesty, for the few scenes he had. Well, that female photographer kept our interest, too! ;-)
We are not without evidence of this menagerie of dung! See here:
1. There were plenty of exciting events going on! Of course, they were
all off camera!
--The only Russians we could find had American accents!
--What army of Cyberman roaming the streets? We counted three, no wait, twelve, but I think one was the Doctor clad in silver, as they ran out of extras, and I think I caught a few Daleks.
--What enormous space battle? There was some missile footage reused a dozen times and they kept changing shape! As well as some fireworks and toilet rolls.
--London seemed to be missing something very crucial to the invasion: a population! I suppose the Cybermen had a grand old time assimilating post boxes.
2. Invasion was not without suspense, no! Especially when you're against the television, straining to listen. What the heck was that computer blathering on about?! It sounded like the Cybermen were led by the fearsome teacher from Peanuts. And then we were on the edge of our chairs whenever that Zorro "Bring on the Calvary" music came on, followed by the cardboard-like apparition of the Brigadier. Well, he wasthe most colorful character in the episode, especially if you're watching the BBC video version.
3. Okay, on a topic that's not completely petty, I've seen suns burn out faster than this plot! When not plodding along without any hint of suspense, we saw potential great moments happen in a split second off-camera! Oh, what memorable, nonexistent nanoseconds!
In conclusion, the explosions at the beginning of The War Games were more entertaining than this! Never has an alien invasion been so droll; so bad that not even the people of Earth seemed to notice. No wonder the Cybermen had inferiority complexes the rest of the series!
A Review by Jen Kokoski 20/1/98
If one needs an example of what an old, classic Who program is like, this is in the top running. Though only six of eight episodes exist on film, it is enough to see a spectacular drama unfold. With wit, humor and lots of suspense courtesy of some alien monsters (Cybermen) and their human megalomaniac conspirators (of the Electromatix Inc.), The Invasion seems more like an old classic sci-fi film than a silly Doctor Who episode. Spending the first few episodes tracking the missing Professor Watkins and uncovering a mysterious conspiracy at Electromatix, the Doctor and his viewers are slowly drawn into the suspense of the plot. Again, the monsters are merely hinted about until the unveiling finally takes place in the middle of the story. The use of a mechanized contact, with an equally intimidating alien voice, is another clever tool of building the expectation of the viewer. And their reward are the stunning sequences of the Cyber invasion. Beginning with a quiet moment, almost poetic in its appearance just before the maelstrom beings, the images of Cybermen descending on London through the cellars is a classic. I cannot say enough about this story line, except that at the time I first saw it the rival in the theaters was the much famed Independence Day. While ID4 had modern fx the BBC would envy, The Invasion has the story to remember.
A Video Review by Matt Michael 5/11/98
The Invasion is an oddity. Almost a pilot for the Pertwee years, it sits a little uneasily amidst the usual "base-under-siege" style stories of the Troughton era. True, it is part of the somewhat more eclectic Sixth Season, but it is hardly a typical Troughton tale. It's largely filmed on location; it has the anarchic second Doctor working with (rather than against) the establishment, and although it features the perennial Troughton monsters, Cybermen, they do not appear for the first four episodes, and even when they do, are firmly subservient to the real villain, Tobias Vaughan.
The story itself is very enjoyable, and almost sustains its eight episode length (although, in truth, I didn't really miss episode 1 on the video release). This might be to do with the fact that Vaughan is a fascinating villain. From his relationship with Packer to the revelation that he has been partially cybernised, and then to his realistically portrayed change of heart, Vaughan is one of the few Doctor Who "baddies" the audience can actually empathise with. The resolution to the plot is believable (and very similar to that of Silver Nemesis, rather perversely), and goes a long way towards establishing the Pertwee-era worldview (East co-operating with West for the good of the Earth).
And, as ever, Troughton is superb. He dominates every scene he is in, and it just goes to show what a crying shame it is that most of his stories are lost. The other regulars put in sound performances, particularly Wendy Padbury as Zoe (quite my favourite Troughton companion). In his second appearance, Nick Courtney has clearly made the part of the Brigadier his own, although in The Invasion his portrayal is somewhat closer to the comedic character of the Ninth Season than the hardened paramilitary of the Seventh.
The video release of The Invasion is very watchable, although the missing episodes are skimmed over very briefly. This isn't really noticeable for episode 1 (suggesting much of that episode was character establishment rather than action), but episode 4 could have done with a few telesnaps and snippets of dialogue to explain the plot more clearly.
All-in-all, The Invasion is a highly enjoyable Troughton story, and, in retrospect, a hugely important serial in that it established the format for the years to come.
A Review by Leo Vance 25/11/98
The Cybermen again. I love them, but the use of them in Troughton Who seems a bit excessive.
To start, Kevin Stoney's Tobias Vaughn is unquestionably a classic villain. A marvellous character, he impresses throughout. Putting forwards instead of the Cybermen and using them as foot troops would not normally be a great idea, but here it does work.
Patrick Troughton is excellent as the Doctor. Wendy Padbury doesn't seem able to fail, and Frazer Hines is on the ball as Jamie. Packer is a classic thug, easily replicated in dozens of Doctor Who's. Nicholas Courtney simply never fails, and in John Levene he gets a reliable sidekick.
The Cybermen never fail either. They are superbly designed, and well played in this story, and are helped by the fact that they are given wonderful scenes in Episode Six as they emerge from the sewers.
The effects are believable, although the missile footage is reused a bit too much, and the sets really cannot be bettered.
The script is well-written, and I suspect better for the absence of Parts 1 and 4, with which it might be too long. The plot is great, and the scenes in the sewers, while not as chilling as Attack of the Cybermen, are scary.
All round, an impressive story, let down by some indefinable reason that I can't fathom. From what I've typed, it should be 8 or 9/10, but there's something wrong. I can't see it myself. 7/10
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 4/4/99
The Invasion is a joy to behold and is almost certainly the best outing for the Cybermen, who play second fiddle to the humans. As a sequel to both the experimental The War Machines and The Web of Fear, The Invasion works in the same way they did by setting the story on contemporary Earth. The highlights of the tale include the emergence from the sewers by the Cybermen and the wonderful performance by Kevin Stoney as Tobias Vaughn, a character who really deserved a second outing, being both tragic and sadistic at the same time.
The introduction of UNIT, whose roots lie in The Web of Fear, was inspired and sets the scene nicely for the forthcoming Pertwee era. By keeping the Cybermen in the shadows for so long also adds to their effectiveness when they are finally revealed, and the idea that they can be controlled by a device that generates emotional impulses is also novel.
The regulars also get more to do than normal, although Jamie is kept out of the action towards the end, whilst Zoe gets to shine when confronting the IE computer. Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier is effective, but the character is too much like the Brigadier from season nine (given that the character was much more serious in season seven), and John Levene`s Benton isn`t given a lot to do either. Patrick Troughton deserves special mention as he steals every scene he is in with his excellent turn as The Doctor.
Perhaps the only things that seems out of place is Packer: too incompetent to be of any real use to Vaughn. And the fact that the Cyber fleet is dispatched with as easily and as quickly as it is seems somewhat unlikely. But these points and even two missing episodes don`t detract from an otherwise excellent and highly enjoyable tale.
Fast paced and strong by Tim Roll-Pickering 29/1/02
This review almost rivals mine for The Crusade for strangeness because it is based on a combination of the BBC Video release and Michael Palmer's reconstruction of Episodes 1 and 4.
Right from the start this story is fast paced and rarely drags throughout its eight episodes. The Invasion works on several different levels, offering action, intrigue, comedy and conflict. As a test run for the UNIT format it works well since the organisation is presented with a strong level of sophistication rather than as just a bunch of soldiers for the action sequences. There are a few special effects that don't quite make it, such as the model work or a Cyberman falling off the factory roof in the final episode, but by and large these are easy to overlook.
Of all the Doctor Who stories set around familiar sites, The Invasion is the one I feel closest to because I spent four and a years at the City of London School which in its current location is just opposite the St. Paul's Cathedral steps that feature so prominently at the end of Episode 6 (although the steps themselves have since been rebuilt to be more disability friendly). Consequently the locations seen in those sequences are very familiar to me and thus make the threat seem a lot more real than even the shots of the Daleks in Trafalgar Square in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Wisely the story doesn't focus on these moments and indeed the Cybermen themselves are little more than just another race of invading monsters. Although this means nothing new is learnt about them, this does not detract from the story which focuses its attention elsewhere.
Like The Daleks' Master Plan, the main villain of the story is a human, and as with the earlier epic Kevin Stoney gives an exceptionally strong and memorable performance that contrasts well with that of the Doctor. Tobias Vaughn is a ruthless businessman and as such very different from most other foes in the series. In many ways he can be seen as a precursor of the modern incarnation of Superman's long running foe, Lex Luthor. (Although Luthor has been around since about 1940, it was only in the 1980s that he was portrayed as a corporate head with a hidden agenda, prior to this he was a run-of-the-mill mad scientist.) Treading the fine line between genius and madman, Vaughn comes across as a competent schemer whose plans are only disrupted by the unforeseen intervention of the Doctor, thus making the latter central to the plot.
Equally strong is Nicholas Courtney, returning as the now-promoted Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. His presence in the story helps to cut out what would otherwise have been a drawn out process of the Doctor seeking to establish his credentials with UNIT, which would undercut the pilot nature of the story. Many of the rest of the cast also turn in good performances, showing shrewd casting by director Douglas Camfield.
Both the design and direction of the story are very strong, with the script helping to cover up matters such as both of Vaughn's offices using the same set or the absence of the sequence in which UNIT rescue Professor Watkins. UNIT are truly a force to be reckoned with, as are the Cybermen, and so the whole story gels together due to strong and complementary production values.
All in all, The Invasion is one of the highlights of Doctor Who, both in previewing the major format change that was about to occur and also in telling a strong story in its own right. 10/10
Michael Palmer's reconstruction of the missing episodes is now four years old and shows its age through the lack of text captions to explain matters where the audio isn't necessarily clear. However it is very good considering the lack of telesnaps and manages to explain everything well. The one curiosity is a review of the story by Stephen Broome at the start of the tape which is notable for his statement that the incidental music wisely stays in the background - unlike on his review where some music is played so loudly in the background that at times it is difficult to hear what he is saying. The reconstruction itself is good, although likely to be superseded in the near future by one using text as well. 8/10
The BBC video release used simple narration by Nicholas Courtney to fill in the gaps. The links are good, but could contain more information such as why the TARDIS is invisible in Episode 8. With hindsight the absence of an audio tape containing the sound for the missing episodes is noticeable, but at the time it wasn't too much of a problem. The links are redundant now, but served their purpose adequately at the time. 7/10
Birthday surprise! by Joe Ford 23/7/02
It was my birthday on May 12th and I was spoilt rotten. I woke up to a huge pile of presents and amongst them were the videos Nightmare of Eden and Planet of Giants and audio CD The Daleks Masterplan (yipee!). But the holy grail of all my presents was the surprise gift from my partner The Invasion of which I had been searching for online for years but NEVER found a copy! Apparantly my face just lit up! I didn't care about the rest of the day I had to watch the surviving six episodes there and then!
The Troughton years are great I would never, ever deny that. I find that some stories are vastly over-rated and although good are a little disapointing considering the hype (stand up Tomb of the Cybermen and The War Games!) and yet others are literally forgotten but are wonderfully entertaining and quite gripping (lets give a warm hand to The Macra Terror, The Ice Warriors and The Seeds of Death). One thing fandom and the Troughton years and me all agree on (accept a couple of ponces from DWM) however is that The Invasion is a delicious story, exciting, well paced, superbly acted with a budget that really shows on screen.
The first thing that struck me about this story was how meticulous it looked. Douglas Camfield was known to have run his productions like a military operation and know where every shot would be and it certainly pays off here. There wasn't a single shot that was uninventive and even during the slower bits I was consistently noting how stylish or clever the angles and shots were. Dare I put one of our Who directors against a famous film director at the time but at times I was strongly reminded of Alfred Hitchcock's direction which like Camfield's is always a joy, perfectly pieced together to provide optimum effect.
There were just too many 'moments' that deserve to be mentioned but Jamie, Zoe and Isobel being hunted in the sewers by the screaming Cyberman, the wonderful chase up the lift shaft, the Cybermen punching their way out of the sewers and descending the steps of St Pauls, The Doctor and Vaughn traversing the streets filled with deadly Cybermen... these were all quality Doctor Who moments that Camfield created which just look truly superb.
Another thing that I noticed was despite its length (admittedly shortened to six episodes with the marvellous Nick Courtney narrating in between) the tension rarely lets up and I was never at any point bored. Especially clever considering the other longer stories of that year drag on boringly. And even when the plot did seem to stop (there is a whole lot of chasing around in the first few episodes) there were lovely character moments ("Oh you... you MAN!", Vaughn's reaction to Zoe breaking the computer, Jamie who goes from being very gentle with Vaughn to sudden outrage and fury!) to tie you over with little glimpses of the Cybermen to remind they are on there way... and of course we finally get what all want and that is LOADS of Cybermen, the last two episodes being the most exciting in quite some time.
Kevin Stoney is a great actor and imbues Vaughn with real menace and venom. He is the ideal villan for this type of story and he compliments Pat Troughton's Doctor perfectly. Their sparring is a constant delight with Troughton playing up his mishievous clown image to a hilt. Troughton also adds a lot of comedy to the story with his hysterical posing for Isobels camera right in the midst of the action! Padbury and Hines continue to make a resourceful and likable team and their chemistry (and with Troughton) glows on screen. A big hurrah for Nick Courtney's excellent portrayal of The Brigadier, another great character and if this was the story that blueprinted and test ran the Pertwee years I can fully understand why they went ahead and did it! There is not a single performance out of line with the script and that is another blessing.
After all this time (15 years I've been a fan!) the show can STILL surprise me. Doctor Who is a magical show and this is one of its all time triumphs. Given the quality of some of the other availible that is high priase indeed. It just makes me hunger to see some of the other Troughton classics now. C'mon peeps... check your attics, look in your barn, go through all your REALLY old tapes... somebody must have them lying about somewhere.
A Review by Andrew Hunter 20/8/02
Many of Patrick Troughton's stories are based around an alien menace, but the main plot of The Invasion is the Doctor versus Tobias Vaughn in a battle of intelligence. Vaughn is a powerful figure, mostly calm and devious. When he's not calm, he's shouting at someone at the top of his voice. This is a brilliant performance by Kevin Stoney. Tobias Vaughn is a partially converted Cyberman and plans to control the world. When Professor Watkins attempts to kill him with a gun, nothing happens to Vaughn, showing how deadly he is. Vaughn's imprisonment of Professor Watkins also presents his cruelty. Vaughn's assistant, Packer (played by Peter Halliday) is thoroughly evil and aggressive, with a bad temper.
Vaughn is in league with the Cybermen, who are planning to invade Earth. The plot is complex and intelligent, making the viewer think about it for a while. Though they are not in the story a lot, the menace of the Cybermen is still highlighted by the machine in Vaughn's office. The Cybermen provide many memorable scenes.
The most memorable scenes in The Invasion are the Cybermen coming out of the sewers and marching through the streets on London. This is quite a shocking sight because we're not used to seeing Cybermen on the steps outside St. Pauls. This shows them as a powerful invading force. Another scene would be when the Cyberman emerges from the cocoon, with the thumping music in the background.
Music is one of the many elements which make The Invasion as brilliant as it is. Most of the incidental music is brooding and futuristic, giving the story a dark atmosphere.
The Invasion also has some lighthearted moments. The scenes with Isobel (played by Sally Faulkner) taking pictures of Zoe and playing Teddy bears picnic on the gramophone spring to mind. There is also a slight love interest between Isobel and Captain Turner.
Isobel works well with Zoe. They both have similar personalities, and enter the sewers, against authority, to take pictures. They encounter a mad Cyberman, leading to a gripping cliffhanger. Frazer Hines also gives a good performance as Jamie, who even gives some humorous moments with sexist remarks. Patrick Troughton gives one of his best performances, facing the dangers of Vaughn and the Cybermen.
Because The Invasion is set on Earth, there are no bad special effects, something which cannot be said about many of the early Doctor Who stories. The sights of London also make the story more interesting, as this is a real city on our planet. We can also relate to the sights of London.
The only main problem with the video is that the sound and picture quality are slightly blurred. With episodes one and four missing, Nicholas Courtney provides linking narration. This is rather brief and doesn't give enough detail.
The Invasion is the first of the UNIT stories, who face aliens planning to attack Earth. This was the format for most of the Jon Pertwee era, but The Invasion still remains one of the best UNIT stories.
"We don't arrest people, just investigate them" by Terrence Keenan 4/10/03
I'm gong to talk about Who directors for a moment, because it seems to be something that most of fans and critics don't really touch on all that much. Most of the Who directors were hacks (a compliment). They weren't artistes, but craftsmen trained to work in TV and do their job in a competent fashion. Two directors from the 80's -- Graeme Harper and Alan Wareing -- managed to stand out because they added a little something extra in terms of visuals or understanding the material and translating it.
Douglas Camfield, director of The Invasion (and numerous other tales) also stands out. His stories always have drive. They move fast, even in the longer ones. The visuals may not be exciting, or call attention to themselves, but events always move along and dead spots are virtually non existent. I can tell his stories from other directors due to their pacing.
The Invasion keeps its frantic pace through throughout the whole story. Camera angles bounce around to keep scenes fresh. Close-ups on interesting faces (Troughton, Courtney, Stoney and others) during exposition scenes give them a little life. And every scene comes in at the latest possible moment and leaves at the earliest -- classic good filmmaking.
As the first official UNIT story, after two warm-ups to the format (The War Machines showed Who could work in the contemporary, The Web of Fear uses the Doctor/military team up) The Invasion works well and sets up the formula that would dominate Pertwee's era. It's a shame that certain touches -- the more laid back Brigadier, the UNIT HQ being a plane -- were left out of future stories.
The laid back Lethbridge-Stewart is a good place to start. It's a interesting way to go about it. He calls Captain Turner Jimmy and refers to his regular army superior by his first name as well. When the Doctor and Jamie are brought to UNIT HQ, the Brig apologizes for the "dramatic" actions of his men. And when things get bad at a couple of points, he orders up some tea. He's also quite competent, and shows his trust in the Doctor and his own troops by letting them handle actions on their own. Finally, he's a man of action, standing right on the front lines during the final battle with the Cybes at the IE factory.
Tobias Vaughn is the other main character. Bond Villain 101. But, done with enough verve to make it work. Corny as it is I like that he helps the Doctor at the end out of hatred, not out of love for his fellow humans, or realization he's made a big mistake.
It's pretty surprising how well the Second Doctor blends into the UNIT formula. You can make the argument that the UNIT tales are variations of the Troughton Base Under Siege story, with Earth (or just England) being the base in question. Jamie and Zoe get into trouble and then get back out of it. A fave moment is when Zoe destroys the computer in the IE lab out of spite.
Acting is pretty good all around. No one really stands out besides Courtney and Troughton, but more important no one sucks rocks either. The story itself is well done, with the game of one upmanship between Vaughn and the Cybermen adding an extra level of tension.
The Invasion is good, old-fashioned Who with a director who knows how to keep the whole thing cruising along.
Brilliant! by Paulo Felipe 27/8/04
I watched all the episodes, inclusively the missing ones, there are some recons over the internet that you can search and watch. Well, it may be a flaw in my character that I usually never dislike a Doctor Who adventure and I got annoyed that some reviews point out Invasion is a cheap tale. Ok, there are some flaws, but there are tons of unforgettable moments.
A Review by Finn Clark 25/8/08
The Invasion isn't merely long. Like The War Games, The Daleks' Master Plan and Trial of a Time Lord, it's unique in its length, although it's also the shortest of these mega-stories and on first glance the one with the weakest claim to special status. It's a bog-standard alien invasion that happens to blather on for eight weeks instead of six. The Cybermen invade Earth. That's the plot of the entire Troughton era, isn't it?
One difference is the iconic alien-invasion footage. "This is me and Krang outside Big Ben." However if that were all, then something like Dalek Invasion of Earth would have a greater claim to importance. No, the key factor is that it's consciously the blueprint for the Pertwee era, with the Brigadier, UNIT, pitched battles with aliens in a near-contemporary South England, attempted realism, a near-impenetrable wall of military, scientific and bureaucratic technobabble and of course the ability to keep you watching hours of plotless waffle in which nothing happens.
I'm going to talk about the latter for a while, because it really is extraordinary. Somehow it doesn't drag, unless of course your English isn't enough to cope with the jargon-ridden dialogue and must rely on following the story. You poor mad fool. You'll never stay awake. Nevertheless, for me these eight episodes pulled off the same baffling trick I saw in Inferno. On reflection, I think The Invasion's story doesn't feel slow-paced because it doesn't have one. Nothing happens! People run around, get captured and escape. Hardly anyone even dies. There's a death in part one and another in part five, but overall this must be one of the most bloodless Doctor Who stories.
That's even true of the conclusion. Episode seven has almost no confrontation, bar the Doctor and Tobias Vaughn getting serious in a showcase for the story's two best characters. After that, episode eight has Cyber-battles. They look astonishing. It's a landmark in British television, not just Doctor Who. Douglas Camfield pulls out all the stops, having been saving up the pennies for two months. Check out the credits. "The BBC wish to acknowledge the help given to them by the Ministry of Defence in the making of this programme." However, that finale is almost as lame as The Wheel in Space's. At least The Seeds of Death maneuvered its humans and Ice Warriors into the same room. This takes place on the other side of the world via stock footage, with our heroes watching it on a radar screen. This story isn't slow-paced, but immobile. There's no plot progression. Instead, it's a soap opera that happens to involve alien invasion. The Cyber-invasion only advances if you count Vaughn's announcements that Phase Two is complete. I know someone who watched the six extant episodes without realising that two were missing. Says it all, really. What's wrong with the Troughton era?
We don't even see our first Cyberman until halfway! This is effectively a Cybermen four-parter with an industrial espionage four-parter nailed to the beginning. Mind you, their latest weakness is the only sensible one they'd ever have. Succumbing to emotion makes more sense than being killed by radiation, gold, harsh language, etc. Plus, of course, they're scary. No, make that really scary. The Troughton era often seemed to have been written and script-edited by the cleaning staff, but I think it's up there with Hinchcliffe for putting great visuals on the screen. I adore Troughton-era Cybermen.
Their thinking is gibberish, though. The Troughton era took something of a TV Comic attitude to its monsters, with the Cybermen, Ice Warriors and Yeti generally being interchangeable, but The Invasion actually doesn't make sense with its chosen villains! The Cybermen aren't just metal thugs. "We will survive. You will be like us." However, here they're randomly awaiting Vaughn's instructions or else deciding to annihilate the Earth with a bomb. Since the latter is almost on a whim, why didn't they do it five years ago and save themselves all this trouble? Only ten minutes earlier they'd been shipping a Cyber-army to Earth! Dafter yet is at the eleventh hour telling Vaughn exactly what he needs to become their enemy. Admittedly that's a typical Cyberman mistake, but it's still dumb as rocks. Why not let him keep believing he's your ally until you fry him like a kipper? Perhaps these are more time-travellers trying to prevent The Tenth Planet? If only this story could have swapped villains with The Web of Fear. Even Vaughn's Cyber-thingy is basically one of the Great Intelligence's pyramids. Professor Watkins is okay, but I preferred him when he was called Professor Travers.
Episode six deserves special mention. It has those rightly famous Cyber-scenes, but an action sequence happens offscreen thanks to Douglas Camfield making a mess of his location schedule and having to cover up. Then there's the extraordinary moment where Vaughn orders the death of someone who's in his office one moment and being shot in the sewers the next! You'd think they teleported. Finally, there's the scene in which Vaughn gives Professor Watkins a gun and bullies him into shooting him. What if he'd shot him in the face? Well, since Vaughn is cybernetic from the neck down, I suppose he was planning to snap off the Professor's hand off at the wrist before the gun could get that high.
Oh, and, as in several other sixties stories (e.g. The Seeds of Death), the Cybermen's spaceships need a radio signal to home in on. This was Doctor Who's era of attempted realism in space travel, you see. Of course that looks hilarious today. I was amused by Russians saving the world, though.
So what about UNIT? Surprisingly it's a poor outing for the Brigadier, who's mostly just directing things. In part five he confronts a hypnotised minister and in the end leads his men into battle, but even in part seven where he's actually doing something, he's still acting to a radio. Part six even sends him to Geneva! Incidentally, I was amused in part two by his "All right Benson," but the credits get it right. Yes, it's Benton. In that episode, it's also fun to see John Levene being sinister, plus some startling black-and-white thuggery. It feels completely different from HAVOC's Pertwee-era stuntwork and it almost makes me wish the 1970s could have waited another year or two just to see how different things would have been.
Moving on to the villains, Kevin Stoney is excellent and also unrecognisable as Mavic Chen from The Daleks' Master Plan. Oddly enough, both times he was an anti-Doctor. Chen was aloof and superior (Hartnell), while Vaughn is masking his real intentions with surface charm (Troughton). He can even be jolly, though he has a temper when things aren't to his liking. His sidekick Parker is less memorable than Maurice Browning's Karlton had been, but I liked his squeal of "move!"
I also love the episode three cliffhanger. Jamie climbs into the coffin-like crate and finds something moving underneath him, which sadly doesn't turn out to be Zoe.
All that's well and good, but these days we also have the animated reconstructions of episodes 1 & 4. Season Six is now complete bar The Space Pirates! Obviously everyone would like to see more and no one wants to pay for it, but would I be allowed to say that the Flash-animated faces look disappointing? Computer cut-outs can't act, although the voices help. However, in all other respects, this is amazing, especially the computerised upskirt knicker shots of Zoe and Isobel climbing up the helicopter's rope ladder. There's such a thing as tradition. Cosgrove Hall threw in a Bad Wolf reference, by the way.
The Invasion is a laughable runaround whose greatest mystery is that it isn't rubbish, thanks to contemporary atmosphere and scary Cybermen. However, it's also special for being Troughton's UNIT story and for its iconic Cyber-invasion shooting. After this and The Web of Fear, you can see why exiling Pertwee to Earth looked so attractive. Overall, I have great respect for this story while also thinking it's a load of old bobbins. It's charming and confident. I couldn't pretend I think it's good, but it's a completed Troughton tale with loads of style and much to admire.
Silver Sewers by Joe Briggs-Ritchie 13/7/14
The Invasion is not only the final Cyberman story of the Sixties, it also marks the final appearance of the type of Cybermen that the show gave us in the Sixties: i.e., mostly silent, resilient to damage, employing hypnosis and with built-in armaments and heavily distorted voices. They were the Borg long before the Borg ever came along. In Revenge of the Cybermen, we are introduced to the more talky, emotional type of Cybermen and then it all went downhill from there. The Cybermen of the Eighties are loquacious, gloating, macho types who display more than a hint of an emotional reaction at the mere mention of the word 'gold'. By the time of Silver Nemesis, they are essentially cannon fodder for a teenage girl with a catapult and a bag of gold coins. Yes the Sixties were the heyday of the Cybermen, so it's fitting that they end the decade in style with a story that knows how to play to their strengths. At eight episodes, The Invasion is easily one the series' epics. It features some truly iconic imagery and essentially lays the foundations of the Pertwee years. The DVD release has gone quite some way to restoring the story to its full glory. I always found the video release to have a disjointed feel due to the missing episodes and the somewhat insubstantial linking narration. With the newly animated episodes, the whole thing now hangs together so much more effectively, the pacing and internal logic are sharper and the story regains a sense of its sheer size. As the first attempt at animating episodes for a DVD release, they are very satisfying and exactly what this story needed.
The animations themselves are very charming, firstly because it's somewhat surreal to see the Doctor's face as a cartoon and secondly because they have a kind of retro look to them. It's tempting to start seeing entire missing stories coming to DVD! I know it probably wouldn't happen but in lieu of the missing stories actually coming back in their entirety (something I would've thought nigh on impossible until the recent rediscovery of The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear), I think it would make the best stopgap measure available. Just think of it, Fury from the Deep, The Daleks' Master Plan... Oh the possibilities! The Doctor and Vaughan in particular have such splendid faces with the Doctor being superbly realised. All credit to the animators for producing two episodes that manage to maintain the mood and atmosphere of the live action episodes so effortlessly. They could have failed to convince in which case they would have stood out like a pair of sore thumbs, but instead they fit into the visual narrative beautifully.
So this is the first UNIT story and therefore a crucial one in Doctor Who history. There is so much here that was adapted for the new format the following year that this story is essentially the blueprint for the Pertwee years. Alien invasions (specifically ones that focus on the Home Counties and even more specifically on London) are nothing new by this point, yet you could argue that it is in this story that the concept takes on a new significance. We now have UNIT to deal with the problem and the Doctor as their scientific advisor. It is also symbolic of the series preparing to change direction. The Second Doctor is very much a rebel; he doesn't particularly hold with institutions or authority figures. The Third Doctor most certainly does. He may constantly complain about bureaucracy, military idiots and the Insufferable Gits from the Ministry but it doesn't alter the fact that he's a part of it all and he relies on UNIT as much as they rely upon him. And, let's face it, the Third Doctor is most certainly an authority figure himself, his arrogance and haughtiness are very far removed from the impish, childlike qualities of his predecessor. If the Second Doctor is an unkempt, rebellious student, then the Third is a smartly dressed, patriarchal professor. Those waves of falling Cybermen almost act as kind of metaphor for the series beginning to shed its current skin...
Speaking of the Cybermen, this is a strong candidate for their best story. They don't really even feature in the first half (apart from a few suggestions of their presence) and when they do finally put in an appearance they spend the majority of their screen time lurking in the shadows, saying very little and generally playing second fiddle to Tobias Vaughan. Therein lies their success in The Invasion; by keeping them to a minimum, the story highlights their effectiveness and plays down their weaknesses in a similar fashion to how Day of the Daleks makes its titular monsters work so wonderfully. Owing to its substantial length, The Invasion doesn't need to fill up every scene with Cybermen; it can afford to use them sparingly, and indeed it does. Only at the climax does it unleash them in huge numbers, ensuring that this story stays in the mind of the viewer. The scenes of them marching around London and in particular down the steps in front of St Paul's Cathedral are truly iconic. These scenes are up there with the Dalek emerging from the Thames, the shop window dummies coming to life and the Sea Devils lumbering out of the waves.
It's also nice to be reminded of how resilient the Cybermen are. They became somewhat weaker in their later stories, a fact which reduces their impact. Here they are impervious to most things except grenades and bazookas, a long way from their Eighties counterparts who were vulnerable to knives, arrows, catapults, gold badges, harsh language... These are automatons that are only interested in converting others into Cybermen, they can't be reasoned with, and they have no inclination whatsoever towards small talk. They also look like they mean business with their bulky costumes and built-in weaponry. Attack of the Cybermen attempted a similar strategy by having them skulking around the London sewers, but it just doesn't have the same effect, firstly because it smacks of trying to recapture the glory of past successes and failing miserably, and secondly because by that period of the show's history even a dark sewer seems overlit. I think the 1960's also proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that they are so much more effective in black and white. Their crucial weakness here of course is emotion. This is a sensible and clever use of their nature as emotionless creatures. Exactly where their later susceptibility to gold came from is anyone's guess. I'm tempted to say that Revenge of the Cybermen made quite effective use of the concept, but I honestly don't know if my fondness for that story is clouding my judgement. Silver Nemesis takes it to a ridiculous extreme and all that business with the bag of gold coins and the catapult is ludicrously portrayed. We won't see Cybermen of this kind again until Rise of the Cybermen, but unfortunately I can't take those seriously either. Too bulky and too much stomping around, to say nothing of the fact that they look far too macho and more than a little camp...
The location shooting in London lends the whole thing an expensive air, although I have to say the capitol seems strangely underpopulated. Perhaps, as with The Dalek Invasion of Earth, it was shot early on a Sunday morning? Back then it was about the only time of the week when you could easily film in central London. The amount of location filming combined with all the hardware on display does kind of give it the look of a film. Another interesting aspect of the production is the score; it makes heavy use of the cymbalom, a Hungarian folk instrument, and it gives this story quite a distinctive sound. It actually sounds somewhat reminiscent of John Barry's score for The Ipcress File.
It's also a very successful character piece. Patrick Troughton gives one of his strongest performances as the Doctor. He's charming, shrewd and, as with Tom Baker, you can see the cogs furiously turning behind his eyes. He's also passionate and occasionally fiery, exemplified in his heated exchanges with Vaughan. He has a nice line in pragmatism too, demonstrated when he and Jamie are seemingly trapped ("accept the situation, nothing we can do") and later on when they are making their escape up the lift shaft ("It's simple. We get squashed."). The Brigadier is already very much the character that people came to love; yet here, for the first time, he is also the character that we came to know, the head of UNIT. I particularly enjoy his somewhat surreal suggestions about laying on things; "lay on some tea", "I'd better lay on some transport". Priceless!
Tobias Vaughan is one of the iconic villains of Sixties Doctor Who. He is eloquent, charming, silver-tongued and takes great relish in generally being villainous. Kevin Stoney is clearly having a ball playing the part and he imbues him with that extra something that elevates a very good villain into an excellent and memorable villain. He is also genuinely pscyhotic and nasty with it; instead of simply having Gregory killed where he stands, he has him sent down to the sewers, the subterranean Cyber shooting gallery, to basically act as target practice for the Silver Giants. He sits on the top shelf of villainy alongside the War Chief, Solon, Harrison Chase and Scarlioni. One of the key successes to playing a first-rate villain is often a memorable voice and Kevin Stoney certainly has one of those. He oozes every single word like menacingly flavoured honey. He is aided by Packer, something of a comedy turn from Peter Halliday. Packer so badly wants to be a sinsiter henchman, an all round shit bag, but unfortunately his ineptitude means that he never quites achieves his perverse aims, failing miserably at just about every single turn. It's a great perfromance from Halliday, functioning as the perfect comedy foil for Vaughan's altogether more sinsiter ambitions.
It's not perfect of course. Very occasionally the pacing is a little odd, such as when UNIT snatch Professor Watkins in Episode 6 and then also when Vaughan's men attack the house in Episode 7. Each time, we are given only a suggestion of what has transpired rather than being privy to the whole sequence. I imagine that this was done for budgetary and/or time reasons, but it seems a little odd and doesn't really sit with the story as a whole, considering how epic the rest of it is.
The Invasion is certainly deserving of its place in Who lore. It is one of the 'epics', the first UNIT story, the final Cybermen story of the Sixties and the last that we will see of the Silver Giants for quite some time. There is no question of the level of quality at which it operates. It is easily one of the finest stories of the Sixties and contains some of the most iconic imagery ever seen in the show. It may also very possibly be the finest Cybermen story. Earthshock is the only story from the Eighties where they recapture something of their past glory. Revenge of the Cybermen is a personal favourite of mine but, looking beyond my personal bias and viewing it as objectively as I can, it isn't in the same league as The Invasion. Of the remaining competition, Tomb of The Cybermen is undoubtedly a classic but it can't compare with The Invasion in terms of quality or production values. So does this make The Invasion the best Cybermen story? Erm... yeah, probably.
It's big, it's important, it's stylish and gripping. Long may it be treasured.