The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe arrive in London, where they find a mysterious company where International Electromatic seem to dominate and people are disappearing. They encounter Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and a newly minted United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, who are also investigating the mysterious company and its leader, Tobias Vaughn.
I’ve tried to watch The Invasion at least twice since I’ve had the DVD, but never made it past the end of the second episode. I’m not sure why – maybe because I’ve never had enough time to watch it to its completion – as when I watched it this time for this review, I really enjoyed it.
As much as I love it though, it’s not without a major flaw – the story is long. To its credit, it doesn’t feel long and very rarely drags, not a lot happens in Episode 2. It sets up a lot of important information and reintroduces the Brigadier, but it does not really set very many wheels in motion. Instead, it gets trapped in chasing its own tail, with Zoe and Isobel deciding to follow the Doctor and Jamie to International Electromatics, then the Doctor and Jamie having to follow them back in.
Five years…and in less than five seconds…Tobias Vaughn
The extended run time does benefit this story in some aspects, as it gives the audience almost a unique insight into the villain of the piece, as we spend a lot of time with Tobias Vaughn, played by Kevin Stoney. Stoney is one of the great components of this story, lending charm and menace to this man who believes that he will be able to keep control of the Cybermen once they have completed their invasion, and fights to stay relevant as it progresses. He rarely loses his temper, except when confronted with the incompetence of his subordinate muscle, Packer, who repeatedly struggles to stop the Doctor and his allies, even when they seem to be in the tightest of tight corners. His frustration as his schemes and plotting with the Cybermen break down as the story progresses, and one of the best moments is when Vaughn calls for Packer, only for the face of a Cyberman to appear on screen, which is definitely pretty scary. He does ultimately turn face to the Doctor’s side, which is ultimately a short lived one, as the Cybermen kill him.
I feel like I’ve written extensively on the positive impact of director Douglas Camfield, which gives a lot of stories a massive advantage. Camfield is a crucial figure in episodes like this one, with his previous military experience and creating new and dynamic shots, around the International Electromatics compound and the railway carriages. The low angle shots of the Cybermen marching through the streets of London from the gutters make them look really menacing, and the shots of the Cybermen marching down the steps outside St Paul’s Cathedral are rightfully iconic in the show’s history. The scenes set down in the London sewers really ramp up the tension and feel claustrophobic and scary, combined with the villanous Cybermen who look creepy in black and white. In the opening parts, Douglas Camfield gives the story a feel of a spy thriller, complete with men in dark suits surveilling our heroes in cars – a truly suave introduction for Sergeant Benton – soldiers clad all in black on motorcycles and the escape from the compound in the first episode. His directions makes the location filming work organically with the work on sets, and as with other Doctor Who stories, he makes it feel much more cinematic and expensive than it was to produce.
Ultimately, the success story of The Invasion is that it proved that Doctor Who could work in an Earthbound setting. Sowing the seeds of the Pertwee era, and invoking other science fiction shows like The Quatermass Experiment ultimately allowed Doctor Who to survive into the 1970s and beyond. This story brings us an introduction to the organisation that has been set up since the ‘Yeti business’ in The Web of Fear, UNIT, which also sees us revisit now Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and introduces us to Benton, evocatively clad in a black suit and Levene looks incredibly suave. The return of Courtney as the Brigadier is a strength that would carry through in the show’s history, and the respect both the Doctor and the Brigadier have for each other is evident. The Brigadier is a little old fashioned in his world view, insisting that one of his men take photographs of the Cybermen in the sewers rather than Isobel because he sees it as not being a place for a woman. The story is perhaps even more notable for being Terrance Dicks’ first credited contribution as script editor, a role that he would continue until the end of Jon Pertwee’s tenure in Doctor Who, and would remain associated with the programme through his Target novelisations of televised stories for years to come after that. Dicks did not like the Cybermen, which might be why this story doesn’t really feel like a traditional Cyber story – they are largely absent from the first half of the story.
Even if Patrick Troughton was tired during the filming of this story, it does not show up on screen. He is in sparkling form here, and I particularly enjoy it when he starts playing Patience when he realises he and Jamie are surrounded by the black suited UNIT operatives. Whilst it may be all too easy to paint the Second Doctor as a comedic figure, as shown in his run away from the Cybermen in the final part, he is also capable of great bravery, as shown by the way he enters Vaughn’s office to confront the villain. Troughton is emminently watchable in the role, and it is often impossible to take your eyes off him.
This is an interesting story for Jamie, as he clearly feels like that he is in charge of the group of companions, but Zoe and Isobel run circles around him constantly and ultimately acts as their muscle as he trails behind them for most of the story. Zoe gets some nice moments to show her computer genius side, but does disappear for large swathes of the story, and really comes into her own when helping UNIT shoot down the Cybermen ships in the concluding parts. Meanwhile, Isobel is a character who could so easily have become a companion as she certainly isn’t backwards in coming forwards. She does get a neat resolution with her burgeoning relationship with Captain Turner, and I liked their interactions as the story went on.
Verdict: The Invasion might be a bit too long, but it is a gripping and compelling story, helped along by the performance of Kevin Stoney, who is superb as Tobias Vaughn, Patrick Troughton and Nicholas Courtney. 9/10
Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Wendy Padbury (Zoe Heriot), Sally Faulkner (Isobel), Kevin Stoney (Tobias Vaughn), Peter Halliday (Packer), Murray Evans (Lorry Driver), John Levene (Benton), Geoffrey Cheshire (Tracy), Walter Randall (Patrolman), Ian Fairbairn (Gregory), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), James Thornhill (Sergeant Walters), Robert Sidaway (Captain Turner), Edward Burnham (Professor Watkins), Sheila Dunn (Phone Operator), Edward Dentith (Major-General Rutlidge), Pat Gorman, Charles Finch, Derek Chaffer, John Spradbury, Terence Denville, Ralph Carrigan, Richard King and Peter Thornton (Cybermen), Peter Thompson (Workman), Dominic Allan (Policeman), Stacy Davies (Private Perkins), Clifford Earl (Major Branwell) & Norman Hartley (Sergeant Peters).
Writer: Derrick Sherwin
Director: Douglas Camfield
Original Broadcast Dates: 2 November – 21 December 1968
Behind the Scenes
- The working title for this story was Return of the Cybermen, which was changed to keep the reveal of the Cybermen a secret until Part 4. This is the last major appearance of the Cybermen until Revenge of the Cybermen in 1975.
- This story was originally conceived as a four-part story before the following serial, The Dreamspinner, fell through.
- This story marks the first involvement of Terrance Dicks as script editor and his first credit for work on Doctor Who. Dicks would go onto be the script editor throughout the Jon Pertwee era, as well as writing numerous Target novelisations.
- There is some question about why Professor Travers and his daughter Anne do not appear in this story. According to one account, they were replaced by Isobel and her uncle when Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln refused to grant the rights to the characters. However, the production subtitles on the DVD release suggest that although the rights were granted, their role in the story was reduced to the extent that the production team believed that it was not worth bringing the characters back.
- Derrick Sherwin would go on to produce the show, making him the only producer in the Classic Series to be credited as a writer. Other producers did write for the show, but under pseudonyms.
- This story was meant to provide evidence that Earth-based stories could be made and produced cheaply and effectively. However, this was the most expensive story produced at the time of making it, and for several years to follow.
- Another actor was originally cast for the role of Sergeant Benton, however, due to constant lateness, Douglas Camfield fired him and promoted John Levene, who as an extra and monster actor who got on well with Troughton and Hines on the set of The Web of Fear.
- Sally Faulkner would later voice Miss Tremayne in the Big Finish audio story Winter for the Adept and General Hannah Brennan in The Secrets of Cassandra, party of the Bernice Summerfield range.
- Kevin Stoney had previously played Mavic Chen in The Daleks’ Master Plan and would go on to play Tyrum in Revenge of the Cybermen.
- Peter Halliday would go on to appear in Doctor Who and the Silurians, The Ambassadors of Death, Carnival of Monsters, City of Death and Remembrance of the Daleks.
- Geoffrey Cheshire had previously played the Viking leader in The Time Meddler and Garge in The Daleks’ Master Plan.
- Walter Randall had previously played Tonila in The Aztecs, El Akir in The Crusade, Hyksos in The Daleks’ Master Plan, a Patrolman in Inferno and a Guard Captain in Planet of the Spiders.
- Ian Fairbairn previously played Questa in The Macra Terror, John Bromley in Inferno and Doctor Chester in The Seeds of Doom.
- Robert Sidaway played Avon in The Savages.
- Edward Burnham would go on to play Professor J.P. Kettlewell in Robot.
- Sheila Dunn played Blossom Lefavre in The Daleks’ Master Plan and Petra Williams in Inferno. Dunn was married to the director, Douglas Camfield.
- Peter Thompson would go on to play a Primord in Inferno.
- Stacy Davies went on to play Veros in State of Decay.
- Clifford Earl had previously played the station sergeant in The Daleks’ Master Plan.
- Norman Hartley was in The Time Meddler, playing Ulf.
It has to be the appearance of the Cybermen emerging in front of St Paul’s Cathedral.
I hate computers and refuse to be bullied by them!The Second Doctor
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