A Device of Death
Revenge of the Cybermen
|Dates||Apr. 19, 1975 -
May 10, 1975
With Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Ian Marter.
Written by Gerry Davis. Script-edited by Robert Holmes.
Directed by Michael E. Briant. Produced by Philip Hinchcliffe.
|Synopsis: The Doctor, Sarah, and Harry attempt to avert a Cybermen plot to destroy Voga, the planet of gold.|
Rehash of the Cybermen? by David Masters 18/7/97
Without wanting to appear too glib, the success or failure of a particular period in Doctor Who's history tends to depend on the abilities of the script editor. Obviously, this is taking a deliberately simplistic stance -- the producer, the lead actor, and various levels of "showbiz chemistry" all come in to play. Nevertheless, we still break down the various Who eras according to either lead man or producer, but this seldom provides an effective guide to the various ups and downs in the quality of the output, often during the same producer's reign. The period of influence by a particular script editor (Whitaker, Bryant, Dicks and Holmes especially) tend to be better indicators of script quality than looking at who was either producer or actor.
I cite this in the introduction to the review of this story as Revenge of the Cybermen (or should that be Rehash of the Cybermen?) seems to stand out as a blot on editor Holmes' copybook. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the finished product is not highly regarded by the fans, being only average amongst a period of much vaunted classics and, secondly, because Holmes took it upon himself to re-write Gerry Davis original script.
Using the "adaptation" published by DWB some years ago as a guide (although I wouldn't necessarily suggest that this is entirely representative of GD's efforts) one can quickly see why Holmes thought the story needed re-writing, the original quite obviously being written in the style of an early Troughton, with all the minutiae of that production style factored into the script.
The problem it seems is these very amendments, as Holmes, apparently rather pushed for time, replaced what he saw as Davis' flaws with a number of stock characters and situations, such as Vorus the mad scientist and his rocket (coming rather too soon after Genesis of the Daleks).
Despite a number of flaws, I don't consider Rehash to be quite the dud it is often portrayed as. The story is well directed and although it never has one too near the edge of one's seat, it pretty much keeps ones attention. The major complaints tend to be "fan gripes" rather than anything else; over-emotional Cybermen, spaceship interiors that don't fare well under a second glance (and were never intended to). I also seem to remember many favourable reviews of the story during the mid-80s (around when it came out on video) before BBC Video had churned out most of the Holmes era -- lots of comments about the authentic-looking cavern scenes filmed at Wooky Hole. Well, these scenes still look good, even if much of the remainder has turned to dust.
A Review by Keith Bennett 26/5/98
With the Doctor, Sarah and Harry having just escaped the clutches of the Daleks in the classic Genesis Of The Daleks, they now find themselves at the mercy of the Cybermen, the first Cybermen story since The Invasion, but there are problems here.
The good points first: Voga is extremely well portrayed and, with the tunnels and underground rivers, very convincing, and the Vogans themselves are interesting to look at (with Michael Wisher covering himself in make-up again), if not interesting in character. The scenes on the golden astroid are the best ones in the story. Overall, the production values are fine -- but there are certain other factors that are less than convincing.
There are many questions that could be brought up (as The Discontinuity Guide points out: why the Vogans don't have golden bullets when everything else there seems to be made of gold?). But one question I would like to ask is how on Earth did Kellman kill 47 people with the cybermats without Stevenson, Lester and Warner realising what was going on?! And the Cyberleader himself is a bit of a curio to his race. Not only does he show obvious emotion and sarcasm, but he also has an accent which makes him sound like he's been invading Chicago recently. There are also some dumb lines, including "Who's the homicidal maniac?" and "I wonder if your Doctor's right in the head."
The Doctor, Sarah and Harry continue to be an enjoyable team and it's a pity Harry didn't stay longer with the crew. Ian Marter was reported as saying that he wasn't totally happy with Harry's clumsiness, but I think he's totally charming and endearing.
Overall, despite its faults, Revenge of the Cybermen is entertaining and not as bad as some people seem to think. 6/10
"Animal Organisms!" - a substandard close to Season 12 by Tom May Updated 24/5/03 (originally 6/6/98)
"You have the ferocity of a cringing mouse, Tyrum!"This review is based on a whimsical viewing of the edited, non-episodic BBC Video release of Revenge of the Cybermen that I retain. I was curious to see whether it was as horribly tacky and laughable as on the previous viewing; and indeed whether the critical consensus was correct.
Initially, you get a diluted aesthetic reading of The Ark In Space; within a far less dramatic science fiction narrative. It is apparent that the characterisation of every character is substandard -- even the regulars. Series veteran Gerry Davis' script is derivative, seemingly of such dire stories as The Colony in Space and The Wheel in Space, and is frankly so dull, that even script editor Robert Holmes cannot induce any life in it. The crew of four are a lamentable bunch of stiff-upper-lipped uniforms, speaking in a language of bland cliches -- examples of which are duly given in Keith Bennett's above review. The Warner chap looks like he's fittingly asleep; the scowling 'untrustworthy scientist' type Kelman is the most compelling of the four, which does not perhaps say an awful lot; while the other two are wooden beyond the need for comment.
As I can only make fairly accurate guesses at where the episodes begin and end, I'd say that things liven up in the second episode a little, but not by much. The Cybermen's appearance is a total anti-climax; with both the title giving this away, and also the immediate mediocrity of their use after the cliffhanger to Episode 1. The music is absurdly portentous for such a dramatically limpid story; and such an unimposing band of Cybermen. The costumes are reasonable, close at least to their fine appearance in The Invasion, but their handling in the script and the playing of the actors are shoddy. Perhaps it is that they never did work so well in colour as in black-and-white... the mystique and facelessness seems squandered, mostly due to the above factors, and also that Tom Baker's irreverant persona understandably can't seem to take them seriously. Which is a big contrast to Troughton's brilliantly acted fear of them - yet would it really have much improved things had Baker been more like this here? As the Cyber-leader is frankly an embarrassment to the art of the instilling of subtle fear, through the Cybermen's emotionlessness. Christopher Robbie's much maligned pantomime performance is clearly out of place and seems to have stepped forth from the pages of a bad comic strip. But I would say, grudgingly, that at least he has some character unlike his literally dumb and mute sidekicks, who convey just as little presence in the sense of fear. But of course; should a cyberman seem so emotive and prancing as Robbie's does? Not really in a story as deadly sober and 'serious' toned as this is... but really, the script writing and production are the main faults. Robbie's bizarre hands-on-hips stance, and the clear gloating, anger, stupidity and taunting traits of his character tend to completely overshadow the Cybermen's dull, insipid plan.
The Vogan scenario is a little more credible, but antisceptic. The voices of the Vogans are hilarious -- even stalwarts such as Kevin Stoney and Michael Wisher are reduced to the stock of laughter. The politics of Voga are not really worth mentioning, as Holmes gives, for once, little depth, drama or humour in his creation of the overempathised "Planet of Gold." Or should we say, he fails to add much to Davis' terrible script. One does presume though that Holmes, or perhaps even Tom Baker himself was responsible for the hilarious moment: "Harry Sullivan is an imbecile !!" And Harry's obsession with the gold is faintly amusing and refreshing. Tom Baker is generally amusing here, just about managing to make this watchable... Ian Marter is a fairly amusing, if unsubtle comic performer as the buffoonish Harry Sullivan. Lis Sladen is really very forgettable and struggles to create any impression here; one of her few 'phoned-in' performances. So, the main cast, while maybe below-par slightly, do provide what solace there is... but, make no mistake though, I laughed a lot while watching this story -- I laughed at it, not with it.
The first time you watch this, if you are a child, it might just pass for a passable romp - helped a bit by nice location work in some caves - but after that it gets worse each time you watch it. It could well be one of the worst stories of the Tom Baker era, as it is substandard in pretty much all areas. It is a disappointing close to a good, if very overrated first season for Tom Baker. Baker himself is wonderful during the season, but I would contend that the 'new style' is nowhere near fully developed. Save the refreshing spin on the Pertwee formula, Robot - with an immortally madcap Baker - and the thoughtful, compelling The Ark in Space, this season really lacks direction, and clings onto such pointless matters as "Time Rings" and returning old monsters. Don't get me wrong, Genesis of the Daleks is good, but this is largely due to a good production, Baker and Wisher. It is over-exposed and bearing far too many of the dull Terry Nation cliches to be a genuine classic. Anyway, whereas the majority of Season 12 is decent, and certainly a step in a better, if not entirely new direction, from the banality of Season 11; Revenge of the Cybermen remains a - thankfully one-off - disaster.
A Review by Dave Odgers 8/9/98
As a little lad, not so long ago, I bought Revenge of the Cybermen on video, and I loved it! It was brilliant! I couldn't get enough of the bugger. Yet, according to The Discontinuity Guide, it is "a contradictory, tedious, and unimaginative mess," summing it up with: "No time. No money. No mercy. Even the title's rubbish."
For a long time now, I have given in to the weight of peer pressure. I dismissed it and hadn't watched it for years, but last night all that collapsed. I watched it on a whim and, once again, I adored it. All it took was for one of the above criticisms to be false (and I'm afraid only one of them actually is) -- Revenge, I must now reveal, is not tedious, and surely that's the most important thing.
In The Doctors: Thirty Years in Time & Space, Peter Davison talks of an incident when, running out of time to shoot the final scene of the day, the director shoved everyone on set, told them to get on with it, say the lines, and edit as they went. Davison enthuses how the actors didn't know where to look, the cameramen didn't know where to point, plot explanation vanished in favour of TARDIS tittle-tattle, and everyone's adrenaline positively gushed as they got a real feeling of creative energy. He then goes on to state that, upon reflection, it was a load of crap because no-one knew what they were doing, but ignore that for the moment. It's that sort of spontaneous energy that makes Doctor Who what it is, both in the rushed acting and direction, in the wobbly sets, in the fizzes to which we're treated whenever there should be a bang and, most importantly, in the characters of the Doctor and his companions who are, with the occassional exception, amateurs improvising in an attempt to do the best they can with what they've got.
Doctor Who thrives on an abandonment of slick, sober, serious professionalism -- it's just another element of its anti-authority perspective on the world.
For example, in the fourth episode of Revenge, as the Cyberleader shakes the Doctor to the ground with a particularly ferocious Swedish massage, Tom Baker completely neglects to act pain, simply muttering the line: "We surrender," and then, as the Cyberleader fails to stop shaking him into the floorboards, repeating the cue louder. There's more errant silliness in Tom's sudden wail of: "Harry Sullivan is an imbecile," before a slapstck collapse, and Harry himself, the perfect companion, is utterly detached from the events about him, the absolute amateur in the fight against the Cybermen. Meanwhile, the American-accented Cybermen pose dominantly with hands on hips, using Cybermats and Cyberbombs -- they probably have a Cybership as well, but I missed that.
Skaro 7, in an article called "Feet of Tin," laments how Revenge should have been a classic. The combination of Hinchcliffe, Holmes and the Cybermen should have led to the ultimate in gruesome body horror. It's true, but all those gothic yarns are terribly... professional. This may be utterly uninspired and not in the least memorable, but while you're watching it it's a good laugh. So there you go -- watch it, re-evaluate it and, most importantly, forget it's in Season 12: it's just good clean family fun.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 18/4/99
After six years away from the screens, it would be fair to expect a story that reintroduces the Cybermen to be reasonably entertaining. Unfortunately, Robert Holmes turns in a somewhat lacklustre and uninspiring script, resulting in an equally lacklustre tale.
That is not to say that Revenge of the Cybermen is not without it`s good points; just that they are few and far between. The Vogans are believable and nicely characterised, and their subplot works quite well; but it does tend to irritate after a while. The Cybermen are also nicely redesigned, complete with practical weapons in the form of head-guns, making them more of a threat. The filming in the caves at Wooky Hole and the ensuing gun battle between the Vogans also come across as realistic and lends an air of atmosphere to the proceedings.
Unfortunately there are some faults, notably with the Cybermen themselves. Their portrayal, complete with accents and hands on hips, is ludicrous and quite frankly laughable as they almost appear camp at times. The regulars are also less well characterised, and this is echoed in their performances, none of which carries the weight as in previous tales.
Revenge of the Cybermen could and should have been so much better than the end result, which is in itself painful to watch.
Cyberbums by Andrew Wixon 27/12/01
So near, and yet so far: cast your mind back to the very first official BBC DW video release. And what did the guys at merchandising go for? Well, a fourth Doctor story - great! A Hinchcliffe-produced story - great! One with a lot of Holmes input into the script - great! An old enemy - great! A season 12 story with a rocket in it - great! Revenge of the Cybermen - D'OH!!!!
Revenge of the Cybermen is, let's face it, the runt of Season 12's litter, which is interesting considering how much of it is recycled from other stories in the season in terms of sets and ideas. The script is fuelled by silly contrivances and plot devices (the transmat clearly shouldn't cure Sarah given its use in the story by the Doctor and Cybermen, and why don't the Vogans use gold on the Cybermen...?), the music score ranges from the mildly effective to the highly inappropriate, and the Cyberleader, in both script and performance, is an extremely dubious creation.
But it's not all bad. The location filming is good and there are some effective action sequences in the caves. The Vogans are visually unusual aliens, though they have a very simplistic culture and do look a bit like something out of Stingray. I might even go so far as to say that this would be an average story had it been part of the previous season, and the fact that it's not shows how rapidly the show had improved under Hinchcliffe's tenure. This is clearly a series no longer reliant on the same old monsters and storylines (though the Cyber-costumes aren't that bad). You might even consider this a low-key attempt to kill the Cybermen off forever (the script strongly implies this). It certainly harmed their image permanently - given their ridiculous vulnerability (mainly to gold) in the later 1980s stories. It almost seems that this story and Genesis were attempts to conclude business with the best known old enemies, allowing the show to move on to the remarkable new territory it would conquer over the rest of the 1970s. Not a terrible story, but hardly - what's the word? - excellent.
Flat Lemonade On A Cloudy Day by Matthew Harris 21/5/02
"Why's he got his hands on his hips?" asked my mother on one of her sporadic trips through the living room while I was watching Revenge. "Aren't Cyberpersons supposed to be emotionless?"
Usually when she makes commentary on Doctor Who I take her to one side and explain whatever it is she's failing - or pretending not - to understand. But this time I was a little stuck. I mean, I can cope with Welsh Cyberlieutenants, genuinely terrible Cybermats, and a convenient-to-the-point-of-actually-sporadically-ceasing-to-make-sense cure for the plague (which just happens to act as an excuse for Sarah Jane and Harry to go to Voga). But camp Cybermen?
And therein, and in there, lies the problem with Revenge Of The Cybermen. If the best episodes of Doctor Who are like sitting outside on a hot summer's day under a parasol with a bottle of cola and a bag of chipsticks, then Revenge is flat lemonade and a cloudy day. And no chipsticks. To cut through the belaboured metaphor: it's diluted. In The Tomb Of The Cybermen, or Earthshock, the shiny blokes were genuinely menacing. Here, there is no sense of menace whatsoever. This can be put down to two things, if you're feeling glib: the fact that the Cybermen don't turn up for two episodes, and the Cybermats. God, the Cybermats. My little metal namesakes are changed from being quite worrying little metal rats, to hulking great unweildy silverfish that move with all the grace of a concrete hippopotamus. That episode one cliffhanger... oh dear lord, that cliffhanger. The image of Lis Sladen desperately trying to look scared as a stagehand pokes a metal silverfish at her will haunt me forever.
There's a little more to it than that. When the Cybermen do appear they still aren't menacing enough, or at all. Christopher Robbie as mentioned before, makes a worryingly androgynous Cyberleader. But worse than this is the fact that the Cybermen don't actually "do" anything. At all. I mean, for a "revenge" it's not especially pro-active, is it? Just blow Voga up and have done with it. Oh, and the guns in the heads don't really work.
The Vogans aren't great either (and try to ignore the fact that they have the Seal of Rassilon everywhere or you'll get a big continuity headache. It was cheaper than drawing some new doodles, alright?). It's a neat idea, but I probably would have sympathised more with the original idea of some human miners, since they'd've been the same species as me. Michael Wisher's in it, but he's terribly, nay criminally underused (although I like the hanky he's always carrying), and it's not David Collings' best work either. Although... is it me, or does his Vorus make a better case than the self-righteous Tyrum?
That's not to say it's all bad, mind. It's not unexciting, and the start, with the bodies strewn in the corridor, is quite affecting. But it's just... not right. I find that my first impressions seem to be quite accurate. I got it at Christmas. The first time I viewed it the first two parts passed me by completely. And I only concentrated particularly hard on part three because it was the first time I'd seen Cybermen outside the 80's David Banks era. Not a particularly good sign, I'm sure you'll agree.
Basically Revenge can be summed up well by that bit at the end. As the Nerva Beacon rushes toward Voga, spelling certain destruction for the entire Vogan race, Tyrum says, "It's going to hit. It's going to hit." Not in panic, or in terror, or anything like that. Flatly, matter-of-factly, he says, "It's. Going. To. Hit." The apocalypse is upon us. Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. 4 out of 10 for those of you who need numerical evidence to affirm their existence.
Long distance return by Tim Roll-Pickering 19/8/02
If The Sontaran Experiment proved to the viewer that Tom Baker's Doctor inhabited the same universe as Jon Pertwee's, then Revenge of the Cybermen proved that this was also the world of Patrick Troughton's Doctor by bringing back the Cybermen for the first time since The Invasion. Resurrecting a monster after no less than seven years had elapsed is a very risky strategy but it is one that brings a stir to the older viewer whilst for those who have not seen the Cybermen before they can fit in as a previously unmentioned race that the Doctor has heard of in the same vein as the Draconians in Frontier in Space. A key question in assessing this story is thus whether or not it was right to bring back the Cybermen.
Whilst the gold vulnerability is one that hasn't been heard of before, there is no reason for it to have arisen in previous stories. And it makes the Cybermen extremely logical in that they are seeking to destroy a potential threat before mounting a fresh assault upon the universe. It would have been possible to tell the story with another alien race but it would have been so clear that the Cybermen were meant to be in it that it is better that they are used after all. The Cybermen in this story are a great improvement upon many earlier portrayals with strong voices and no Cyber-Directors reducing them to mere slaves. Physically they are far more impressive than the rather skeletal look of many of the earlier designs, whilst their voices are strong even if they do have clear accents. The Cybermen may have gained an additional vulnerability in this story but they remain a strong and deadly threat and it is a welcome sight to have them back. Christopher Robbie deserves particular praise for his performance as the Cyberleader.
The Vogans are an interesting addition to the series' mythology and their society can be seen as an allegory of 1970s Britain - a power that was once great but has now fallen upon hard times and which is bitterly divided over how to exploit its remaining resources. The feud amongst the race and Vorus' plan comes across as natural and logical. Unfortunately the acting is weak in this part of the story, with only Kevin Stoney bringing anything great to Tyrum, who is a far cry from his previous roles in The Daleks' Master Plan and The Invasion. Otherwise the Vogans are either over the top (David Collings as Vorus) or appear far too little to make much of an impact (Michael Wisher as Magrik).
The decision to reuse the sets from The Ark in Space makes sense from a budgetary point of view but there's very little explanation at the start of the story as to why the time ring has taken the Doctor and his companions to the wrong part of the Beacon's history. It is also difficult to accept that the same Beacon would be used for centuries before becoming the last refuge of the human race. One benefit is that Revenge of the Cybermen focuses on very different parts of the Beacon from The Ark in Space and so the reuse isn't so obvious. None of the crewmembers make any particularly memorable impact on the story, but Jeremy Wilkin makes Kellman a convincing character who seems to be so obviously an agent of the Cybermen that the revelation that he is actually working for Vorus and the Vogans comes across as a genuine surprise.
Revenge of the Cybermen is by no means the greatest story ever shown and is undoubtedly pulled up quite a bit by having an old monster return but it is nevertheless a good story that holds together well and is only let down by some of the execution. 6/10
A Review by Terrence Keenan 1/12/02
My name is Terrence Keenan, and I'm an unashamed Tom Baker Fan.
What this means is that I will invariably find the good in any serial that Big Tommy B appeared in with his scarf and floppy hat.
Even in Revenge of the Cybermen.
Go ahead, laugh. Assume I'm on psychotropic drugs.
Yes, the plot is about as original as your typical fanfic. Yes, the gold allergy was horseshit. Yes, the acting by the guests left a little to be desired. Yes, a Cyberman with his hands on his hips is beyond stupid....
There are so many little funny moments. I always crack up when at the beginning of episode 3, the Doc, Stevenson & Lester are doing See-No-Evil-Hear-No-Evil-Speak-No-Evil bit while the Cyberleader is ranting. Then there's Tom's Shakespearian soliloquy when he kills the Cyberman with a cybermat. ("Dusty death. Out, out!"). "Harry Sullivan is an imbecile!" Sarah's vanity moment -- "My ankles are not thick!" and many many more.
Also, as a straight-up action story, it works. Just don't think about things like plot. The location shooting is atmospheric, the caves of Wooky Hole adding to the alien ambience.
There, I feel better.
The worst Doctor Who story ever? by Joe Ford 27/9/03
I think most people would join me in saying the period of Doctor Who in which Philip Hinchcliffe produced and Robert Holmes script edited was easily the most popular and stable of the shows long history. Despite the Hammer horror steals the imagination, production values and acting were rarely better. The stories were packed with spoilers, great moments such as the mummies bearing down on Sarah in Pyramids of Mars, the Doctor assassinating the President in The Deadly Assasin and any scene with Davros from Genesis of the Daleks. There are so many more to mention. Tom Baker, Lis Sladen, Ian Marter and Louise Jameson saw the show through its coolest stories. They are justifiably praised. It was three seasons of brilliance.
So how on earth did this steaming pile of horseshit get made right in the heart of such talent? Beats me chief but it saddens me to say that very same team who gave us Robots of Death (same director, producer and script editor) offers up this, a story that lacks even the most basic competance in any part of the production. There are people out there that claim Revenge of the Cybermen is unfairly treated. It isn't, IT IS SHIT. One of only a rare few Doctor Who stories that I search in vain to find SOMETHING nice to say about it.
A poor script of course sabotages a story from day one. Why on earth call in that old hack Gerry Davis to write the Cyberman story? What were so great about The Tenth Planet, The Moonbase and Tomb of the Cybermen anyway? Revenge of the Cybermen is nothing but an almalgamtion of those stories and a re-run of the last story (Genesis). Crap Cybermen with stupid dialogue? Yep. A mysterious plague? Yep. A base under seige? Oh yes. There are just too many flaws in the script it would be absurd to list them all here but here are a few of my all time favourites...
Maybe this wouldn't be so bad if the dialogue wasn't so awful as well. It really is cheesy and not in a "oh it was the seventies so never mind" kind of way. Sarah actually says "I know what this place isn't. It isn't uninhabited", perhaps her most stupid line ever (and that's some feat!!!). The story is chock a block full of cringe inducing lines that the actors do their very best to try and make work. Alas not many actors could pull off some of the Cyberleaders lines here and this could be the reason he is so universally maligned.
Maybe the design can help, one thing you can usually count on in a Hinchcliffe story is a rich look to the story. Erm, nope. The Beacon, so beautifully photographed in The Ark in Space is reduced to a cardboard nightmare, the walls painted a horrible shade of brown-grey. Honestly it loses its scope, it appears so much smaller without the cryogenic chamber and someone has undressed all the other sets. The surface of Voga is no better, aside from some impressive location work in Wookley Holes it is drab sets all the way, the gold on this planet sure looks dull because instead of glistening city it is a claustrophobic and grim looking. The primary colour is a sort of miserable brown and it does not appeal to the eye.
The Cybermen are almost at their most stupid (nothing could beat their cartoon antics in Silver Nemesis). It was watching this story again that I realised I don't much like the metal meanies. Oh the idea behind them is sound (and sometimes treated perfectly with Star Trek's The Borg) but more often than not the realisation of the creatures just sucks. Crap dialogue, stupid jug helmets and numerous mentions of how they have no emotions does not make a decent baddie. Let's see them actually DOING something evil like massacaring millions, tearing arms off, crushing peoples hands (ohh that comes later). Here they look ridiculous, they are so silver they glisten in the lights (showing up everything CSO for miles around), their stupid tubes and jug helmets are bigger than ever and their head guns are laughably inept. They look like the costumes are made from sponge! The Cybercontroller has an obvious Australian accent (casting error?) and struts around in a hysterically camp fashion giving the Doctor neck massages whenever he gets a bit rude. Not exactly fearsome are they. Only when they are on location do they look vaguely menacing but then they are trapped in a web of plotting problems mentioned earlier so I'm still annoyed.
Even Tom Baker seems awkward here, it's not first season blues by a long shot because he has already proved himself worthy of the central role in the past three stories. It's just the Doctor is a little surplus to requirement here, he crosses a wire, carries a bomb, insults Harry but he's not really essential to the story and that can never be a good sign. Baker is lumbered with most of the horrible dialogue and struggles to bring to life scenes such as the hostage scenario or the initial exploration of the deserted beacon.
Sarah Jane and Harry fare better simply because they have such good chemistry on screen it doesn't matter that their dialogue is trite. I love the bits with them rushing about the caves dodging bullets, about the only scenes with any kind of drama or excitement. Lis Sladen is so good she could bring alive an episode of Voyager and Angel (and that would be difficult) and Ian Marter is so lovable you would hug him despite his chaunism and goofiness.
Michael E Briant has the ability to shine on Doctor Who. He did so with Robots of Death, The Sea Devils (a seriously overated story but beautifully packaged), The Green Death, Death to the Daleks. He also had the ability to kill a story before the end of episode one (the atmosperic opener is usually always a winner despite the story) such as Colony in Space and this story. The lack of any kind of restraint in the direction is the final nail in the coffin for Revenge of the Cybermen. Sets are cramped and uncomfortable, the actors nervous, the villains are over exposed and the action scenes lack any of the vital spark to get them going. It's just a mess and all these things could have been recitified by the director.
And I have never, ever heard such an innapropriate musical score on any television serial before. Scrap Death to the Daleks (same composer no less!), The Sea Devils, Paradise Towers and Battlefield (even though they have similarly tension lacking scores) this horn blowing nonsense pervades the entire story. It is a four or five note piece and is played over every Cyberman scene... I half expected them to start dancing around the sets it is so jolly! It is a bizarre final touch to a desperately poor story.
I think I may gave stated before that this would be the only story I would give one out of ten to. Well I've changed my mind, the negatives are in such abundance here I can't even find it in my heart to give it that.
Zero out of ten. The worst story ever.
A Review by Ryan Thompson 14/6/04
The long anticipated return of the Cybermen is nothing short of dissapointing, easily the worst story in an otherwise strong season. Here we see the same beacon as before but poorly lit, dull, and colorless. The sets are accompanied by competently acted but poorly characterized humans, especially Kellman. They make the slightly wooden nature of Vira and company (from the absolute classic Ark in Space) appear virtually unnoticeable. I also find it unlikely that the Time Lords of all people would give the Doctor a faulty piece of equipment (which caused him to arrive on the beacon in the wrong time zone).
Harry was the largely ignored companion in Genesis of the Daleks. In this story it seems as though both Sarah and Harry are totally forgotten. There are some climactic scenes such as when the two companions inadvertently arrive on Voga, the gold planet or when the beacon is about to crashland, destroying the entire world. On the whole, most of the action centers around a re-creation of the Troughton base-under-siege type plot with lots of battles and corridor wandering (cue those cybermats!). Sarah being infected seems like another arbitrary excuse to write her out of a story, and stretch the second episode. The Cybermen's takeover also drags on far too long
The color does nothing to improve the Cybermen. As a matter of fact it shows the limitations in their design. Some of the greater moments in the story come when the Cybermen confront the Doctor face to face. "You have no home planet, no influence, nothing. You're just a bunch of pathetic tin soldiers skulking about the universe in an ancient spaceship". Still, even Tom himself cannot save this story from plunging into mediocrity. I'm not sure if I've ever seen a 4 part story with this much padding in it.
Positive elements like the episode 2 cliffhanger or the Cybermen's new ominous voices allow this story to retain a marginal below average grade. 4/10
A Review by Michael Creevey 11/3/05
Lately I have stumbled on this vast body of collected DW wisdom, The Doctor Who Ratings Guide. I have been enlightened, infuriated, entertained, and miffed at various times, but rarely bored. Such definitely applied in my reading of reviews of this particular story. I can understand that people have problems with this particular story -- let's face it, there are problems with the basic premise of the story, and continuity regarding Cybermen is further damaged (mind you, is a gold-allergy really all that much worse than a nail-varnish one?) and Tom Baker seems a little low key. Other than that, I have always found it an entertaining yarn, well structured and paced, logical yet not particularly predictable. It recreates a world (Voga) and its politics convincingly, with just a handful of Vogans (and hence little damage to the budget). And it has Cybermen in it (a great bonus in my view).
There are many quality reviewers who contribute to this site. One of them is Joe Ford, even if I don't always agree with his conclusions. His review above motivated me to provide a dissenting opinion -- and let's face it the claim "Revenge of the Cybermen is utter crap" is the majority viewpoint so it can hardly be said that his is a minority opinion.
To quote him:
So how on earth did this steaming pile of horseshit get made right in the heart of such talent? Beats me chief but it saddens me to say that very same team who gave us Robots of Death (same director, producer and script editor) offers up this, a story that lacks even the most basic competance in any part of the production.I personally cannot understand this kind of statement at all. The scenes on Voga actually have real caves in them. I personally love much of what this story does on Voga. The collapsing rocks actually look reasonably real. The scene in which Harry tries to remove the bomb harness has a palpable tension. And I always feel a sense of real hopelessnes as the Doctor and the two beacon crewmembers ploddingly pace their way to the centre of Voga. There are several other nice touches like this, for example the byplay between Vorus and Tyrum over the future of Voga, the young buck recklessly seeking to return to the surface with a suicidal plan, and the other content to leave his race as a bunch of sun-scared troglodytes for all eternity.
As far as embarassing grappling with Cybermats is concerned, which has been mentioned in several reviews of this story, is that really significant at all? I mean what is it, do we like DW for good stories, ideas, well acted, and applaud at the relatively few occasions when special effects are realized admirably considering the limited budget, or are we special effects freaks? Of course Lis is holding that cybermat to her neck. What would one expect? It's hardly an intrusive effect however. This smacks of clutching at straws, a necessity to follow the current 'received wisdom' on this particular story, and then saying, 'it has bad effects'. Oh please.
As far as the Cybermen itself are concerned, some find them disappointingly realized or even a fatally flawed concept. Some feel that in this story, they move too far from Cybermen as initially conceived by Kit Pedler, being emotionless. Some find the dialogue they use in this story bad, complain about them using Australian accents, etc.
Personally I think that the Cybermen as a concept, whilst obviously not 100% original, is terrific and echt-DW. They are an essential part of the fabric of the DW cosmos. I love them as originally conceived, but have no problem that they didn't maintain that weird electronic sing-song for their entire existence. Continuity for the sake of continuity, is pointless in my opinion. As an update on the 60's Cybermen, the RoTC model works just fine. They should have kept their weapon units in their heads, as later stories demonstrate. A hint of emotion, irony etc is also a perfectly valid take and really a subtle evolution of their character; truly soulless machines were terrifying in the Troughton era, but a smidgeon of personality is no problem. As I see it, each story needs to be internally consistent, and I have no problem with consistent continuity, however there is no reason to be slavishly obedient to it. If the basic problem with RoTC is that, 'Cybermen can't display a shred of emotion 'cause they didn't appear to in an era two Doctors previous' this is a very shallow premise indeed. Certainly to then label it the worst in the show's history. As far as the so-called ridiculous dialogue that the Cyberleader is given, I sense that this is essentially an argument along the lines of the above. It's hardly worse than uttering 'exterminate!' or 'answer!' or 'Do not move!' every five seconds.
Perhaps then I should mention the other 'big problem' with this story, the whole gold thing. I don't like the use of gold as an 'achilles heel' for the Cybermen, as a principle, but it works completely acceptably within the context of the story. It is difficult to explain on any kind of scientific basis, but in my opinion it isn't theoretically impossible. It is in any case, as I implied above, a lot less worthy of derision than having Cybermen with plastic chest apparatus being destroyed with nail varnish. Yet oddly this didn't really damage ,a href=moon.htm>The Moonbase for me either. It is true, though, that from this point on the Cybermen become progressively weaker, with Silver Nemesis taking the gold weakness to very silly extremes indeed. But this is not relevant to a consideration of this story as a story, because the gold weakness is not overexaggerated here. The point about Vogans impotently shooting rounds of gold bullets at cybermen without effect I thought was explained by the Doctor, in his mention of a glitter gun (which evidently was able to spray gold dust into cyber chest units) and his use of gold dust (ineffective as it turned out) rather than gold bullets, to attack the Cyberpersons.
Strangely, in the face of overwhelming and profoundly sage opinion, this story is and always has been one of my favourites. Unlike the fate of other stories, the revisionists have failed to alter my opinion of this one much at all. There are defects, but very few DW stories have no serious defects, and in any case the serious defects in this story have more to do with context and continuity than anything inherent in what we actually see on screen, if we see that without unecessary prejudgement. I loved this story as a child, and the cybermen were a very memorable image in my pre-teen imagination. I found them utterly chilling, with a very palbale sense of threat, far more than say the Wirrn, the Sontarans, Magnus Greel, the Taran Capel robots, or even the Daleks, even though all of these appeared in more critically favoured stories in the early Baker era. I believe that early fan responses to this serial were extremely favourable, and this gels with my first (and indeed last) viewing. I say, why not buck the trend and allow this much maligned classic of the Baker-Hinchcliffe-Holmes era to stand on its own merits. Even if the herd are all travelling in the opposite direction.
A Review by Thomas Cookson 21/1/06
The Cybermen were the second most popular of the Doctor Who villains after the Daleks - touted by Doctor Who fans as being easily in league with the Daleks' massive scare factor. The Cybermen have appeared in Doctor Who since the early years of the 1960s when the show was still in black & white, appearing in ten stories in total. In fact, the black & white Cybermen stories are considered the best of their adventures and the rest of the colour Cybermen adventures are often judged against them.
I bought a rare copy of Revenge of the Cybermen recently from the Doctor Who Exhibition in Blackpool (which is now closed for the season) partly because I remembered viewing it as a child, and also because I wanted to complete my Season 12 collection. I did not expect to enjoy this a lot, beyond a nostalgic tickle, but upon viewing, I did enjoy it quite a lot and am baffled as to why the story picks up such major flack.
Despite being the conclusion of the Nerva Space Station/Time Ring story arc running through Season 12, and being the first appearance of the Cybermen for over five years, the story leaps immediately into action without any ponderous exposition in sight. The time ring is simply a tool to get the Doctor into the setting, and the Cybermen are simply defined as "the enemy" who are simply metallic and hell bent on conquest.
So how does it fare as a Cyberman story? Well on the negative side of affairs, the Cybermen have seen better days. The Cybermen voices are probably at their weakest here, by which I mean they sound bland and lack edge. The distinctive psychology of the Cybermen is absent here; the focus is more on the action and the Cybermen are simply a two-dimensional opponent. In fact a lot of fans are of the opinion that the writer Gerry Davis had forgotten that the Cybermen are supposed to be emotionless whilst writing this script as we see a few scenes where the Cybermen seem to become angry and easily riled; but there again I think quite a few Cybermen episodes were guilty of that. Most of the Cybermen stories are exclusively about humans against the Cybermen and making a contrast of the two races, and one thing this episode does well is to emphasise some of the human elements that are alien to Cybermen, such as humour and nobility, which Tom Baker's Doctor as usual delivers in massive doses, as do his blundering companions. But part of the reason that I think the Cybermen aren't explored well as villains here is because the story makes the untypical move of introducing a third race of aliens into the mix in the form of the Vogons, the inhabitants of Voga, leaving no room for that villain's introspective or keeping the contrast balanced.
One thing that has only ever been achieved by the black and white Cybermen stories is a sense of technophobia. Taking place in futuristic settings with a lot of focus on technology and computers and spaceships, the black and white film footage made it all seem ominous, it made the technology as threatening and malevolent as the Cybermen themselves. As this is filmed in colour, of course that atmosphere is missing here.
On the positive side, what this story has over the later Cybermen stories of the 80s is that it treats the Cybermen as a threat that's very hard to kill. Apart from Earthshock, the Cybermen stories of the 80s that follow on from this see the Cybermen suddenly being very easy to kill and becoming cannon fodder and dropping like flies. Here we only have a small band of Cybermen here as opposed to armies (which in a way makes the final victory rather more plausible than usual), but they are tough as nails and can easily scatter the Vogon soldiers like sticks. The Cybermen themselves are impervious to bullets and can only be killed by the most sudden and concentrated violence. They also are allergic to gold, but to kill a Cyberman with gold you have to break down the gold into dust, get very close and embed the gold dust into their chest plate, and given the strength of a Cyberman, you'll have one hell of a struggle on your hands. In fact it is very likely that the Cyberman would rip your arms out of your sockets before you got the chance, or they'd blow your head off with their inbuilt cannon above their head. We see a few scenes of physical combat that are actually very well choreographed and directed, with plenty of point of view shots to give it that up close and personal intensity and threat - and that's something exceptional for Doctor Who.
Another thing it has over the 80s stories is that it maintains its settings well. Its locations are the space station and the underground caverns of Voga and it sticks to them rather than abandon one for the other halfway through. In that way the setting and atmosphere is invested in, and that's why for me it has more staying power than Earthshock or Attack of the Cybermen where we keep jumping ship. The space station is the least fun of the settings it must be said, very bland and lacking the ominousness that the set conveyed in The Ark in Space, but in that way it works as a safe location under siege. The dark caverns on the other hand give the episode some bare bones, icy and gritty atmosphere. But together they make me appreciate the story as a whole well. And I think that's an opportune moment to get into the story's thematic content.
Doctor Who has a reputation for being morally challenging, but to be honest most of the series was very much black & white, good versus evil sci-fi pulp. Those were the roots of the series and that was how it was played in its formative first two decades of the 60s and 70s. But the series was also one that occasionally experimented with more morally challenging ideas. That's how we got thought provoking moral tales like The Sea Devils and Genesis of the Daleks, which were the exception to the rule that marked the highlights that the show became remembered for, and which were often homaged when Doctor Who expanded beyond the formative period into its post-modern era in the 80s and which continue to be homaged in the show's revival today.
This story and its morality is pretty much as pulp as they come and I suppose that's true of most of the Cybermen stories, because at their root, Cybermen stories bear a lot in common with zombie tales and body horror, which is all very pulp. We see here all the manly heroism conventions where men like the Doctor and Harry and the crewmen of the space station (who have noblely accepted a life in quarantine amidst the deadly plague to safeguard the rest of the solar system) are brave and have fighting spirit against all the odds, who never break a sweat or a tear as their comrades die around them, who never co-operate with the enemy when under their captivity, who gladly sacrifice their own lives for the greater good. Whereas the more cowardly or duplicitous men meet sorry fates indeed. I can't deny that the knighthood chivalry and fighting spirit is something I find myself lapping up enormously here - the sense of making a stand and making a difference.
The sense of fighting spirit even sees Harry, the Doctor's bumbling companion, get to be more heroic than usual. Throughout Season 12, Harry had started as a comic relief buffoonish character. But in the latter end of the season he had managed to become more of an actioneering hero, and here he engages in a few fights, escapes and danger dareings. But of course he is still very much the comic relief and is often belittled by the Doctor for his clumsiness. Harry had a great rapport with the characters of the Doctor and Sarah, a well-meaning and good-natured idiot who we could perhaps identify with for his fallibility, and very well performed by the late Ian Marter. For me it was a shame that Harry had such a short run as a companion to the Doctor; he'd had his season in the limelight and would only appear in two more stories, but to be fair that was probably because Doctor Who was moving into the kind of subversive stories and serious, mature territory where Harry's comic relief character would be obsolete.
The content of this episode is certainly not amongst Doctor Who's most intelligent or thought provoking, but its dialogue is still very eloquent and really makes the story a galvanising one; concerning the discussions between the Vogon leaders of opposing political parties who live underground on the planet Voga. Since the Vogons have long been menaced by the Cybermen, they have had to retreat underground and have lived this way for centuries; now the Cybermen have returned to the solar system and Vorus plans to finally fight back using human mercenaries to lay a trap for the Cybermen. The leader of the Vogons however objects to Vorus' risky plans, believing it would expose them all to the Cybermen. The result of this disagreement sees the Vogons descend into civil war over the episodes. With the Doctor's intervention, their people and their planet are saved and the Cybermen are defeated. The Doctor finally brings hope and victory to a surrendered people, which is especially reassuring given how the previous story Genesis of the Daleks saw the Doctor fail in his mission to stop the relentless, all-destroying expansion of the Dalek menace. You win some, you lose some.
Now, my reasons for choosing this story to review are because the coming next year, the new Doctor Who series will enter into its second season, and I can tell you now that among the things to look forward to in the coming season, will be the return of the Cybermen, and not only that, but the return of the Doctor's companion Sarah Jane Smith as well. The latter point I am really looking forward to as Sarah was one of the great companions of the old series. She had many great moments in the old series, very outspoken, very spirited and confident and intelligent as well.
Not only am I looking forward to seeing the Doctor and Sarah reminisce on times past and what's happened in their respective lives since their parting, but I'm especially looking forward to seeing what kind of rapport Sarah will have with the current companion, Rose (played by Billie Piper). Sarah being a mature woman whilst Rose is a teenager, Sarah being fiercely independent whilst Rose is still reliant on her family roots, Sarah being middle class and fond of the rural life, whilst Rose is as urban as they come, Sarah being very intelligent whilst Rose is streetwise - not well educated but she puts the knowledge she does have to good use. To be frank, I'm mainly looking forward to Sarah's return because I think Rose as a character has frequently been milked for her strengths too excessively too quickly and I foresee the character drying up very soon, whereas to me, Sarah as a character is a fountain of refreshment to the series.
When looking for Sarah's great moments of being outspoken, budding well with others and even challenging the Doctor's actions, you're looking at episodes like her debut, The Time Warrior, at most episodes of season 13 - Terror of the Zygons, Pyramids of Mars, Brain of Morbius, Seeds of Doom - and I'd also say Genesis of the Daleks is an important Sarah episode on the pretext that the undisputedly great and famous "Do I have the right?" scene in the story belongs just as much to Sarah as it does to the Doctor.
This is perhaps not Sarah's strongest material as the character is relegated to the role of the damsel in distress, in keeping with the pulp conventions. Her few outspoken moments see her complaining at the ineptness of her companion Harry at trying to rescue her, and in doing so she comes across as simply bossy and at her most bitchy. Then again she does bitchy so well, and for all sorts of reasons, her smile and the confidence of her voice and the adventurer's twinkle in the eye, she is such a delight to the episode, bringing a natural spirit to the role that's so comforting.
She also does the damsel in distress wonderfully in the moment where she is struck down by the plague that the Cybermen have created. We watch her limp and dying in Harry's arms, breathing hoarsely and sweating, with her curves well displayed, looking so helpless and vulnerable and it's exciting: at once harrowing and somewhat sexy too, and it's wonderful to imagine yourself as the manly hero who's going to save her life and how romantic it could be. And that's another thing: the writers pull out all the stops to really make that moment suspenseful. They even have a scene where the teleporter that is supposed to transport Sarah quickly to treatment fails to work because of sabotage, and so the Doctor has to repair it whilst all the time Sarah is dying. It's great suspense and yet fans still write this story off as a dud.
Well, that said, the story is not without its faults and some of the criticisms are justified. There is no escaping the fact that this was basically a cheap story run on a budget at its most shoestring, since it was the season closer. That is why the space station setting from Ark in Space is recycled here. The most disappointing special effects are towards the episode's end where we see rockets being launched with very obvious use of stock footage from NASA, and we see the surface of the planet Voga up close and it looks very plastic and the horizons don't match at all; very unconvincing. The makeup on the Vogons is also obviously made of masks but this didn't bother me as much. Also towards the end the episode's events became very routine and predictable with obvious plot devices to bring about the climactic victory, and yet I still enjoyed it. Oh and there's a lovely continuity error whereby the Vogon's parliamentary hall bears the Seal of Rasillon (or something that happens to mlook exactly like it), a Gallifreyan insignia which doesn't belong with such a primitive people. The thing is of course, us Doctor Who fans can generally chill out about such continuity errors in a way that your Star Trek/Star Wars/Buffy fans often couldn't.
One fan criticism that I refute concerns the Vogon soldiers battling the Cybermen. The planet Voga is rich in gold and the Cybermen have an allergy to gold and yet the way the Cybermen wade through the bullets suggests that the Vogons were either too stupid to load their guns with gold bullets or they were collectively all very lousy shots. At least that's the official fandom view, which seems to overlook the fact that the Doctor stresses in this episode that gold is only effective as a weapon if it's broken down to the size of small gravel and embedded into a Cyberman's chest unit where the gold dust acts like a spanner in the works since it is an uncorrodeable metal. Therefore gold bullets would have no effect, only the unseen "glitter gun" that the Doctor refers to would work. And for the record I really like the way they make the Cybermen appear invincible here.
I couldn't pretend that this was one of the highlights of Doctor Who. I couldn't honestly say that every minute of it was sheer bliss, but then again there are only five Doctor Who stories that I actually could say that about, which would be The War Games, Genesis of the Daleks, Seeds of Doom, Talons of Weng-Chiang and Horror of Fang Rock. And it's not a story I watch often but it's one I do find entertaining and motivating when I put it on.
So there you have it, Cybermen and Sarah Jane Smith - and we don't have long to wait before they return to our screens again.
"Loved it!" by Nathan Mullins 7/1/09
Or so said my brother, who absoloutly adores this episode after he was terrified of it when he first saw the episode as a repeat on BBC2 once from his childhood. He said that this episode made him literally hide behind the sofa because of the cybermat that made for Sarah's neck. Plus, it gave him nightmares for weeks on end so when I got the chance to watch it for myself, I must say that the Cybermat is one of the creepiest things in it. The Cybermen too, who have changed slightly since The Invasion, with their handlebars and the gun, now placed in the top of thier helmets; I much prefer this to the Cybermen with the hand guns in Silver Nemesis but that's a minor quarrel, nothing to get excited about.
My opinion of this episode is that, for one, it's got an atmosphere that makes you shiver because the planet Voga, where half the episode is set, is a dark, menacing planet with political views running amok. The beacon is a structure that's filled to high heavens with death and destruction. And that's before the Cybermen themselves have stepped foot on either planet. The Cybermat has already done half of the work they had set out to do and thanks to a double agent working on either side of the Vogans and the Cybermen, what he hopes to get as his reward is far from what he expected. Kelman is the traitor who for so long operated and the Cybermat and carried out the crews deaths, tricking them into thinking that a plague had infected them all. Nothing could be further from the truth after the Captain realises that the Cybermen are involved, thanks to the Doctor.
It's the whole adventure that grips you. You sit through knowing that the Doctor's bound to get involved and, when he does, things start to get under way. Though, there's one thing that I don't get and that's how come the Cybermen here don't know the Doctor? They've encountered him plenty of times before and yet they treat him as though he's one of the crew.
Also, I must say that the regular cast are splendid in this solid episode. I love the fourth Doctor; Tom Baker is splendid as the Doctor and he's only into his first season. Here, though, he proves he can be quirky, like in his first episode and others among the first season, he has already proven how good he is and nothing rains on his parade. I enjoy watching Sarah and Harry and how they play off one another. Like for instance when Harry and sarah are sent to Voga and have an argument about the gold they've found.
Lots of fans argue that the Cybermen here show far too much human emotion, like for instance, when the Cyberleader becomes hostile, he has his hands on his hips to show this. Fans say that this is one quirk that just doesn't work here but I disagree, as we know that humans were converted into Cybermen and so therefore, they must display some human emotion. Also, before the Cybermen had become the finished article they are here, they only began to upgrade themselves because they hated their existence and wanted to sustain themselves over a longer period of time. In that respect, I don't think there's anything wrong here.
The costume department have done the Vogans justice and their masked faces remind me somewhat of the Exilons (well, just a bit). The adventure is well paced throughout and picks up speed considerably when the Cybership begins to dock at the beacon. This adventure truly is among some of the greats of that season and so is one of the many highlights also of the fourth Doctor era.
Remarkable, unfairly trashed by Konstantin Hubert 9/2/09
In this defence I'll advocate for Revenge of the Cybermen (RofC, abbreviation), a very remarkable and unfairly trashed title of the classic series, despite being at times flawed. I first saw RofC several years ago and saw it again recently, and my view of it has not changed. I continue to appreciate it and include it among my favorites. I'll advocate it by first pointing out striking strong aspects of the serial and then giving my reply to arguments/statements of criticism directed at RofC. The term "striking strong aspects" means striking positive features of the serial that set it apart from most other Doctor Who stories.
Striking strong aspects (in no particular order)
a) Every setting, every place shown in RofC is threatened with destruction: Planet Voga is the target of the Cybermen, who seek to blow it up, while the Cybership and Nerva Beacon are the target of the Vogans. This delicate situation results in a very tense, suspenseful story in which any blunder/careless action from the Doctor's part may entail disastrous consequences. If he saves Voga but not the Nerva Beacon, the TARDIS will be gone forever, since it was to materialize in the Nerva Beacon, and as a result his team will be stranded on Voga, perhaps forever... If, on other hand, he saves the Nerva Beacon, but not Voga, members of his team may die. The TARDIS team is in a very difficult, stressful situation, sandwiched between the Vogans and the Cybermen, without being any place that is not under imminent destruction, without any alternative solution. In other words, the team accidentally found itself trapped in the heart of a battlefield to be annihilated soon without any chance of avoiding the collision of the two conflicting parties (the TARDIS is not available, it has not come from the future!). The "between Scylla and Charybdis" element usually makes great adventures and in RofC it truly shines! This is the most important strong aspect of RofC and no one can question its significance, its ingenuity.
b) The Vogans are exceptional non-human aliens. In the old DW TV stories, non-human aliens are usually depicted as being malicious or of animal intelligence (predators). RofC presents intelligent non-human aliens which are not evil, but in the end negotiate, ally with the Doctor. They are an interesting and peculiar DW alien race.
c) The Vogan symbol. RofC belongs to those DW stories which have had an impact on the show's mythology: the Seal of Rassilon, the symbol of the Time Lords introduced in The Deadly Assassin, was first seen in RofC but it appears here as the symbol of the Vogans.
d) The great twist. Much to the viewer's astonishment, Professor Kellman turns out to be a traitor of the Cybermen and an ally of the Vogans, which is arguably one of the greatest twists in the show's history, albeit rather far-fetched. Kellman planned to lure the Cybermen in the Beacon, leave them there, then go to Voga alone and finally launch the rocket that will annihilate the Cybermen. But his plan goes wrong, when the Doctor arrives on the Beacon as if from nowhere and because of the Vogans' civil dissension.
e) Two of the most tense action moments of the series are seen in RofC (a result of the first described strong aspect). On the one hand, the climax, with the Doctor piloting the bomb-carrying station over the surface of Voga to avert the collision and the commander on Voga trying to direct the rocket to the departing Cybership. On the other hand, the sequence with the Doctor, Lester and the Commander in the asteroid's caves at the mercy of the Cybermen, with a bomb on their backs, while the launch of the Vogan rocket is imminent and the Doctor is unaware of the whereabouts of his companions, one of whom (Sarah) had been poisoned earlier. The action flows so thrillingly, so brilliantly. The TARDIS team's task is particularly hard and delicate.
When it comes to the music (very good), the acting, the direction etc, are adequate or effective, but I prefer not to focus on them, lest this review becomes much longer. It is worth however mentioning that the TARDIS team once again steals the show: on the one hand, Tom Baker, who delivers some of his funniest lines ever, "Careful, careful I might explode!", "Harry Sullivan is an imbecile!" (unforgettable Harry) etc., while Sarah Jane and Harry make up a great duo of assistants.
Critical arguments/statements (in no particular order)
1) Why don't the Vogans use gold against the Cybermen?
Gold damages the Cybermen, but it is said that in fact their chest unit is vulnerable to gold, not their entire body. In Terrance Dicks' novelization it is written: "It (Gold) plates their breathing apparatus and in effect suffocates them." The chest unit is their Achilles' heel. Using gold on their legs, on the back or any other part of their body may not have any effect, or it may have but not an immediate effect required in battle conditions to suffocate them within seconds. Moreover, Vogans could have used gold on their chest units, but they were badly organized, given their civil conflict and dissension, and also they didn't expect Cybermen to enter Voga's interior. The Cybermen attack was a surprise attack, even Kellman was unaware of their bomb plan. However, I admit that writer Gerry Davis could have included in the script the killing of a Cyberman by Vogans for the sake of realism or of not humiliating the Vogans, a nice alien race.
2) Cybermen and Cybermats are lame. I disagree, because in RofC Cybermen were simply depicted in a different manner. In Tomb of Cybermen and other previous Cyberman episodes, they were shown as robotic zombies, mummies. In RofC, they are shown as senseless sharks who seek to destroy Voga and are not zombie-like. Some will prefer zombie-like scary Cybermen, others will prefer more energetic Cybermen in fast-paced stories, while others, like me, will like both. It's a matter of taste.
Some have inconsiderately criticized the appearance of emotional Cybermen in RofC: frankly speaking, I didn't detect emotion in these Cybermen and if it escaped my attention, to demonstrate a tint of emotion when you have demonstrated again and again a lust for destruction, power and conquest is reasonable and should not be not condemnable. Besides, Cybermen are cyborgs, not robots.
With regard to the Cybermats, methinks they are better, larger and seem more threatening than the toy-like Cybermats of Tomb of the Cybermen and The Wheel in Space.
3) Rubbish special effects. Let's be frank, cheap, very low-budget special effects and sets are a trademark of the old series, a striking feature that sets it apart from other series. After all, the vast majority of the old episodes (1963-1989) appear dated, if not too dated. Of the effects of RofC, the only ones that would make even a DW fan cringe or laugh are the Vogan civil battle (the really silly close combat), the use of a NASA stock footage of Saturn V to demonstrate the launch of the Vogan rocket, and perhaps the detonation in the caves in part 4. All other production aspects are respectable, decent within a DW framework and typical of the series. Finally, noteworthy is especially the wonderful depiction of Voga's surface in the end of Part 4. Nevertheless, the DVD release of RofC should include CGI effects like the DVD of Ark in Space and other serials. This will give RofC a modern touch and make it more appealing, especially to those fans who are more demanding in terms of special effects.
4) Since Kellman serves the Vogans, what was the point in killing so many members of the Beacon's crew?
I admit that this is a plot mistake, an extravagant plan and outcome, but the vast majority of DW TV stories have a plot hole and RofC was not an exception. Besides, it allows RofC to start off as a whodunnit and contributes to the formation of a nail-biting atmosphere.
But we could answer this critical question and make Kellman's plan much less far-fetched, if we assume that Kellman was totally reluctant to request the consent or the support of the Beacon's crew. Kellman's plan involved, among others, the blowup of the Beacon. Which member of the crew would accept Kellman's crazy plan and ambitions? Even if he told them that he aims to annihilate the Cybermen, who would believe him? Cybermen were supposed to have been exterminated centuries ago. Besides, who would accept to suspend the crew's ordinary mission, destroy the station for the sake of Kellman's plan? So killing the other members seemed the best way to get rid of them. Besides, Kellman executed orders of the Cybermen, who might have told him that they will come to the Beacon only if he kills almost all humans, thus eliminating any chance of human threat/malicious interference during the Cybermen's operation. Moreover, we may assume that greedy Kellman did not want to share his Vogan reward (gold) with others. Kellman is presented as a two-bit, contradictory and very secretive plotter and murderer who fails to rise to the occasion when his plan falls to pieces: without doubt a unique villain.
5) The Cybermen are expected and yet the Doctor and the crew are slow to react, when a ship (Cybership) is detected.
Only Kellman and the VIEWERS know of the Cybermen's imminent arrival. Viewers think in this way during Part 2: since RofC is a 4-parter, Cybermen are bound to arrive in a few minutes. A thought not shared for obvious reasons by the Doctor and his allies: Cybermen may arrive days/weeks/months after the events in Part 2, they don't know when, how and if the Cybermen will arrive. To them, the ship may have been an allied ship, they don't know about the ship's identity and intentions. But since extraordinary coincidence of events is common in Doctor Who, viewers are led to believe that the Doctor and his allies are undoubtedly aware of its identity, of which they are not, hence they try first to contact it. Moreover, the Doctor isn't supposed to immediately identify the Cybership. Finally, Nerva Beacon is a space station, not a battleship or a spaceship equipped with phasers or other types of guns, so they couldn't have fired against the Cybership.
Enjoyable, clever, absorbing, funny, action-packed, RofC has been unfairly maligned, despite some flaws, which are outweighed by its merits. Bear in mind that they don't make science-fiction serials like this anymore and in the high-tech age of iPhones and Blu-ray discs I doubt they will ever do again. It is a great science-fiction example of old merry, low-budget Doctor Who, which may have inspired to some extent Robert Holmes while writing The Caves of Androzani (consider the various similarities between RofC and this serial: the caves, the poisoned and dying companion etc). I am glad some of the previous reviewers enjoyed it and I believe that RofC will be more appreciated by future generations of DW fans.
Star Trek has usually been more serious and profound than Doctor Who, but the latter has succeeded in usually being more enjoyable and entertaining, more fun to watch. Revenge of the Cybermen is a very notable title of this enjoyable, merry Doctor Who.
Fields of Gold by Joe Briggs-Ritchie 5/3/10
There's something that I'd quite like to get off my chest:
I LIKE REVENGE OF THE CYBERMEN! REALLY LIKE IT! I DON'T CARE WHAT ANYONE SAYS ABOUT IT BEING CRAP, I LIKE IT AND I DON'T CARE WHO KNOWS IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
There. I feel better now.
This is one story that has always come in for a thorough slamming, hated and reviled by about 99% of fandom who instantly write it off as the bad egg of Season Twelve. It doesn't even seem to be in many people's "guilty pleasures" lists. I have to wonder how many people genuinely dislike it and how many simply say that they dislike it because it's become fashionable to bash it. There are some fans out there who are prepared to admit that they like such awful stories as The Time Monster, Warriors of the Deep and even Delta and the Bannermen, but not this one. I mean, come on, are you seriously telling me that Delta and the Bannermen is better than Revenge of the Cybermen? The only gripe I can find with this story is the special effect used in episode 4 as the beacon is skimming the surface of Voga but quite frankly, if you care about dodgy special effects then you really are watching the wrong show. The thing that bothers me is the fact that Voga should be utterly incapable of supporting life, it's just an airless rock floating in space. Still, never mind. I'm prepared to overlook it.
The regulars are all doing a great job. Tom Baker has completely settled into the role by this point and his chemistry with Ian Marter and Elisabeth Sladen is evident. He's very flippant and amusing when dealing with the Cybermen yet deadly serious when trying to save Sarah's life. Ian Marter and Elisabeth Sladen are also great together. Since they spend part of the story separated from the Doctor it allows us to see how they bounce off each other and they have a nice sense of loveable bitchiness between them. The rest of the cast are entertaining to watch. Kellman is an absolute shit and clearly having the time of his life, judging by the constant grin plastered across his face. David Collings always turns in a good performance and this is no exception. Then there's Michael Wisher. In the previous story he was playing a thoroughly evil megalomaniac with a penchant for ranting and here he plays a somewhat timid and put-upon sidekick with a bit of a sniffle. What a range.
And then there's Kevin Stoney, another magnificent actor who seems to be able to turn his hand to any role. This is the first appearance of the "talky" Cybermen. Before now they were monosyllabic lumbering killing machines and all the better for it. The Cybermen of the 80's were fairly pathetic really. Far too talkative, too easily damaged, always too eager to gloat. The Silver Giants of this story represent the transition between the two. I think they're very effective, their costumes give a real sense of bulkiness and power. They look spectacular lumbering through Wookey Hole and Carey Blyton's music in these scenes is excellent.
As locations go, Wookey Hole is pretty good for this story's requirements. It's a pity the production team didn't take this into consideration when they made Underworld. Combined with the effective Nerva Beacon sets, it gives the story an impressive visual quality which is an integral part of its appeal for me. It isn't the usual budgetless, end-of-season story, it looks like just as good as anything else from Season 12. The ending is also nicely done with the TARDIS finally catching up with our heroes and bringing this season's story arc to a close.
Another popular flogging point of this story is the music. Poor Carey Blyton has really come in for some stick for his contributions to the series and I really can't see why. I like the Electronic Kazoo of The Silurians (even though it was actually a crumhorn). I adore the Saxophone of Doom from Death to the Daleks. In Revenge of the Cybemen, he creates a sense of ominous menace with the slower themes as the Doctor and co explore the Beacon in episode 1 and a heavy, slow march like theme for the Cybermen. I can understand why people find his previous two scores somewhat difficult to take, they're very different from Dudley Simpson's scores but Revenge of the Cybermen is easily his least experimental score. And let's be honest, although Dudley's music did the job and fitted the series very well, most of it wasn't particularly distinctive. A couple of his scores stand out from the rest but a lot of it is very samey. You can't really say that about Carey's music, each of his scores has its own unique character.
This is a great story. It's about time it had some revisionist thinking applied to it because it certainly doesn't deserve to be treated as the compost heap of Season 12.
The scenery is golden... but I pity the scripting by Richard Evans 6/3/11
Tom McRae certainly has a lot to answer for. In delivering the triumphant 2006 revival of the menacing Cybermen, he provided me with an undisputed favourite Doctor Who adversary and left me determined to investigate the creatures' classic series appearances. I wrote Revenge of the Cybermen and Earthshock on my Christmas list that year, but the former had yet to be released on BBCDVD, so Earthshock was the first pre-2005 serial I ever watched. Part Two of that story showcases Tom Baker's hilarious on-screen presence in Revenge of the Cybermen (in the form of a flashback), so I found it shocking that it seemed to have received such disgusting criticism. Over Christmas 2010 and New Year 2011, I finally got around to sitting through the Season 12 finale and, I must say, its mauling is mostly undeserved.
The story opens, as expected, with the TARDIS crew coming to the end of their time-flight by time-ring. From this, it immediately becomes clear that the well-structured season is being rounded off just as it should be, by revisiting the fancy Nerva Beacon (all right, they may never have been to the Beacon before, but they were on the same vessel in The Ark in Space). Since his regeneration, the Fourth Doctor has abandoned UNIT, taken a look at the indomitable future human race, stopped a Sontaran plot millennia in the future and rewritten the early days of the Daleks. To end all of this, here come the great Cybermen: a race depicted as being at the end of its tether, completely unlike the humans and Sontarans, and especially in contrast to the fledgling mutants from Skaro. That's Season 12 in a very neat nutshell. Revenge of the Cybermen makes a commendable effort to square the circle, but falls down a couple of times.
First and foremost, the character of Kellman sticks out a mile as someone who has not been devised carefully enough. In Part One, he plays the antiquated role of "undercover traitor", and does not even come close to capturing interest. No attempt is made to justify his character traits or how he got himself into his position in the first place. A silly Cyberman offers up an excuse, but as readers of my Monster of Peladon review will recall, I can only describe it as implausible. By Part Three, Gerry Davis has unsubtly jettisoned Kellman's characterisation and redefined the man as someone else. I appreciate the element of surprise in that, but it does not allow the story to flow, and that can only be a bad thing. The character's final end is so badly thrown in that it rivals the Sixth Doctor's death in terms of believability; Harry Sullivan is able to survive what becomes of Kellman, despite being in exactly the same position, just as Melanie Bush survives what apparently kills the Doctor. (It is at least clear from Time and the Rani that the Sixth Doctor did not die in the TARDIS crash. Revenge of the Cybermen cannot offer this reprisal, so I don't know what to say about it.) What is particularly unfortunate about Kellman is that I have known of actor Jeremy Wilkin since listening to his voice acting in Gerry Anderson cartoons as a youngster. He deserved so much more than this.
The Cybermen themselves really do look the part, being not greatly changed since The Invasion, which saw the best-looking Telosians ever. Contrary to popular belief, their head-level guns are not an embarrassment. A Conservative MP states (on a special feature of the Earthshock DVD) that Revenge's Cybermen stink, citing "What do you expect from Cybermen under a Labour government?" as a reason. I may be fiercely anti-Labour myself (apologies to David Tennant), but the honourable Conservative gentleman certainly slipped up on this appraisal, and I regrettably cannot agree with him. As far as the Cybermen's dialogue goes, it is possible to sum it up fairly concisely by paraphrasing Simon Cowell, of all people: "Three words. Hor-ren-dous."
The question of Voga, the non-planet of gold, is much easier to answer. It rocks. A terrific choice of location makes the caves of this asteroid come across extremely menacingly. When it comes to reviewing Doctor Who, it is always a great idea to take the scenery as a cause for criticism, because if it is good, the story tends to excel. On this basis, Revenge of the Cybermen comes into its own when Michael E. Briant is touring Voga. The Cybermen are genuinely scary monsters when walking around down there, and that's exactly what I want to see from them, because in 2006, they made a terrifying first impression. Don't even think about pointing out that "they should suffocate and die immediately on Voga"; it obviously needs to be gold particles shoved into the Cybermen's respiratory system before they drop dead, and this isn't possible if they are moving around unimpeded.
I cannot quite make my mind up about the depiction of the Vogans, however. It's good to know where Mavic Chen, Mawdryn and Davros can be found in the Doctor Who universe when they're not doing their day jobs (Kevin Stoney, David Collings and Michael Wisher are all disguised as members of this race), but it does not help that Mawdryn is socially isolated from most of the Vogans for a reason that I cannot explain. Nor does it help that their ultimate weapon provides Doctor Who with its most unintentionally funny moment of all time: namely, when footage of a Saturn V represents the launch of a Vogan rocket. Nor is it very helpful that the Seal of Rassilon serves as the emblem of Vogan society (although it is certainly welcome in its appearance here).
The last few minutes of Part Four are highly nail-biting, and they build to a slight anti-climax, but one that is forgivable. This is because it demonstrates why the Doctor is so versatile as a hero. In chronological terms, we also see a fitting final defeat for the exhausted, depleted Cybermen (or that is how I like to think of it), which I am not allowing myself to discuss any further. Having fulfilled my four-year goal with regards to watching Cyber stories, a suitable conclusion for me to come to would be "Fourth Doctor plus last, desperate Cybermen = definite victory", which epitomises the sadness felt at the end of Earthshock: "Fifth Doctor plus many Cybermen = painful results". It is enjoyable enough all round, but Revenge of the Cybermen just does not achieve unquestionable greatness.