Rise of the Cybermen

Rise of the Cybermen

What happened?

The Time Vortex, it’s gone!  That’s impossible.  It’s just gone.

Rose and the Tenth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor, Rose and Mickey land on an alternate version of the Earth where Rose’s father is still alive.  However, one of the Doctor’s greatest enemies have been reborn and are waiting to strike.

Review

After the success of Dalek, it is perhaps easy to see why the production team wanted to bring back the Cybermen in a big way.  Normally thought of in the same breath as Skaro’s finest and the Master as one of the Doctor’s Grade A antagonists, the Cybermen had started to become a bit of a joke towards the end of the original run, and so a clean break is a good idea in theory.  Sadly, where Rise of the Cybermen falls down is in this attempt to essentially tell the same story twice.  Lloyd Pack is essentially this iteration of the Cybermen’s Davros, even confined to a wheelchair and the fact that the story feels less than original.  The returning Graeme Harper does sterling work, but he can’t improve on what feels like a lacklustre story.

Lumic

One of the major problems with Rise of the Cybermen is that many of the characters are so damn unlikeable or unbelievable.  Whether this is Roger Lloyd Pack ensuring the scenery remains thoroughly chewed throughout as a pseudo-Davros, the marginally more unpleasant Jackie or the unnecessary Ricky, there’s nothing compelling enough about them to care enough about them or their eventual fate.  Lumic feels as though he has come straight out of a Bond film, a feeling which is not helped by some thoroughly unconvincing dialogue, but it takes a villain who should be relatable as someone who is afraid of death and makes them completely one dimensional.  Ricky seems to be characterised solely by scowling, meanwhile, the parallel Jackie Tyler seems to be pretty similar to the Jackie we’re supposed to like, but with money.  The story attempts to use this as shorthand to make us feel something for these characters, but it ultimately falls down.  There is a potentially much more interesting story to be told here, but it seems to fall into the same old trappings and perhaps the fact that it is set on a parallel world numbs some of the stakes.

The story is a strong one for Mickey but also contains some of the worst characterisation for the Doctor and Rose.  We finally get to delve into Mickey’s backstory, finding out that he was raised by his grandmother after his dad left and his mother “couldn’t cope”, see the basis of his insecurity and the fact that Mickey feels guilty for his grandmother’s death  The story does effectively show how much Mickey has developed since Rose.  However, we also see the Doctor and Rose treat him pretty shabbily throughout – highlighted by the way they leave him holding down a button on the TARDIS console, whilst they reminisce about past adventures.  Additionally, the moment where the Doctor has to choose whether he follows Rose or Mickey, he seems utterly incredulous that there might be something on this alternative Earth that might tempt Mickey, and of course there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that he’ll follow Rose.  In many ways, Mickey is the modern series’ Harry Sullivan.  Billie Piper does her best here with Rose, but she feels as though she is ultimately treading water until the ultimate conclusion of her arc at the end of the series.  The jealousy that she shows when the Doctor even mentions talking to another woman is really ugly and is perhaps symptomatic of writers not being sure what to do with her beyond her being the companion to see viewers through the first regeneration of the modern era.  The story does feel like a retread of a lot of the issues that were a central narrative surrounding Father’s Day and the ultimate conclusion seems very predictable.  David Tennant’s performance is largely good, but he is affected with the smugness that seems to be insidious in series 2.

The Cybermen are perhaps the best part of this story.  They are used very sparingly in this first part of a two part story, with the story and direction keeping them out of focus or out of sight.  They are shown to be quite effective and a serious threat, even if I’m not a massive fan of the stomping boots and the Cybersuits.  The shots of the Cyber Conversion are fantastically creepy, even if they do feature some of shaky CGI.  I think that the benefit of having an experienced returning hand like Graeme Harper is that he really knows how to handle enemies like the Cybermen.  However, I am not a fan of how the story deals with the basic concept of the Cybermen.  One of the scariest things about the Cybermen in the classic series is how humanity has been given the agency to make the choice to become more and more synthetic.  In this depiction, the choice is taken away by Lumic exploiting the vulnerable of society to be amongst his first converts.  Even despite the more privileged members of this alternative society have purchased Cybus tech which will ultimately be used to convert them, there is no suggestion that they were aware of this.  Despite the fact that the Cybermen are well used here, this does make their threat seem lessened somewhat.

The Cybermen

Verdict: Rise of the Cybermen, sadly, is somewhat underwhelming.  Mickey gets some nice moments, but the story is largely flawed. 5/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Shaun Dingwall (Pete Tyler), Roger Lloyd Pack (John Lumic), Andrew Hayden-Smith (Jake Simmonds), Don Warrington (The President), Mona Hammond (Rita-Anne), Helen Griffiths (Mrs Moore), Colin Spaull (Mr Crane), Paul Antony-Barber (Dr Kendrick), Adam Shaw (Morris), Andrew Ufondo (Soldier), Duncan Duff (Newsreader), Paul Kasey (Cyber-Leader) & Nicholas Briggs (Cyber-Voice)

Writer: Tom MacRae

Director: Graeme Harper

Behind the Scenes

  • Russell T Davies wanted to reintroduce the Cybermen but was aware of the complicated backstory they had in the Classic series and decided to set the story on a parallel Earth.
  • The idea of the Cybermen being a response to fears of organ replacement was viewed as being outdated, with Davies wanting the story to focus on the idea of humanity wanting to constantly upgrade instead.
  • The story is loosely based on and inspired by Spare Parts written by Marc Platt.  Platt received a credit and was paid a fee for using the basic concepts.
  • The story aired during the 40th Anniversary of the broadcast of the debut of the Cybermen, The Tenth Planet.
  • Graeme Harper became the first director to work on both the original series and the new series by working on this story.
  • Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?: Colin Spaull previously played Lilt in Revelation of the Daleks (which was also directed by Graeme Harper), Don Warrington played Rassilon in several Big Finish audios. Helen Griffin later appeared in Cobwebs, while Paul Antony-Barber appeared in The Magic Mousetrap.

Best Moment

The direction when the Cybermen enter Jackie’s birthday party is really nicely done by Graeme Harper.

Best Quote

I just gave away ten years of my life.  Worth every second!

The Tenth Doctor

The Preachers

Revenge of the Cybermen

Revenge of the Cybermen Cybermen

Harry Sullivan is an imbecile!

Fourth Doctor

Synopsis

Arriving on Space Station Nerva in its distant past, the Doctor, Sarah and Harry find its crew threatened by a mysterious plague. Discovering that things are not what they seem, they stumble upon a plan to commit genocide devised by the Doctor’s old enemies, the Cybermen.

Review

Revenge of the Cybermen is a bit of a bizarre story really and a lacklustre end to Tom Baker’s largely strong first season. Having held a cult statement due to being the first story to be released on VHS, it demonstrates some poor writing and feels like a 60s era story. The direction is largely strong from Michael Briant and generally, the story feels as though it has quite high production values. I really struggle with this story, especially the Vogan Civil War element, which really failed to grab my interest.

Revenge of the Cybermen Doctor

I will start by talking about the positives of the story. I feel like the direction, is for the most part, quite good and Briant is very competent in his shots. I particularly like the contrasting uses of light on Nerva Beacon and on Voga, as it makes the scenes on the planet feel significantly different to those on the space station. This is not to say that everything works well, although the blame cannot solely be laid at Michael Briant’s door. The writing and some of the performances do him no favours and small things like the Cyber Leader having his hands on his hips when interrogating Sarah seem like contributing factors as to why the story doesn’t really work for me – the Cybermen seem to have too much emotion. Additionally, scenes like the fight between the Cybermen and the Vogans lack any kind of visual flair to keep them interesting, which feel especially necessary when they drag like they do here. Like I say, it would be unfair to blame the director solely for this, and he does do the best he can with an admittedly poor script. Briant does a good job considering the fact that he is working with a limited budget and it is fair to say that I think that Spielberg, or, to use a more achievable director for the modern series, Rachel Talalay, would struggle to make scenes involving that Cybermat look good.

As this story featured the return of the Cybermen after a seven-year absence, it does seem as though both Gerry Davis, one of the creators of the Cybermen, and Robert Holmes seem not to understand how they work. I think that Holmes, like his predecessor as script editor Terrance Dicks, did not like the Cybermen and so his interest was probably not too high when he came to do his extensive rewrites on this story, but there are some really ridiculous moments that smack of laziness on both men’s behalf. The Vogan Civil War is really uninteresting, rather extraordinary when you consider the calibre of actors under the prosthetics, and just feels like padding to get the story up to the required length. Each part feels as though it has a massive amount of exposition in There are also massive plot holes in this story, the most irritating of which being that the Vogans at no point consider using the gold as a weapon against the Cybermen, despite it being one of their weaknesses and Voga is the planet of gold. I really dislike the idea of gold being a weakness for the Cybermen anyway as it adds to a list of weaknesses for this supposedly continually upgrading race established over the course of 1960s Doctor Who, but this plot hole bugged me, especially as two Cybermen slaughter a load of Vogans in the overlong battle scene.

Sadly, unlike other stories of this era where the elements feel a bit lacking, this story suffers from coming early in Tom Baker’s era, and it is clear that he has not got to grips with the part during the production of this story. There are hints of the direction that Baker would take his incarnation and he isn’t helped by the fact that this story feels as though it was written for any of his three predecessors. It’s hard to say for certain, but the moments that feel most in character for this incarnation of the Doctor are likely ad-libbed moments and reactions. Equally, Sarah Jane feels very poorly written and lacking any agency. The scene where she is interrogated by the Cybermen in the concluding part really shows how disinterested Holmes was in this story, and it is a shame Sladen doesn’t have more to sink her teeth into. I do feel that both Sladen and Baker deserve a huge amount of credit for getting through the scene talking about heading towards the “biggest bang in the universe” without absolutely corpsing though. The only one of the TARDIS team who feels well written in this story is Harry, continuing to show his usefulness to the Doctor, combined with his occasional bumbling.

Verdict: The return of the Cybermen is really rather underwhelming, with a poorly written story which doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny. It does contain some lovely direction and the use of Wookey Hole Caves does raise it slightly. 3/10

Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan), Ronald Leigh-Hunt (Commander Stevenson), William Marlowe (Lester), Jeremy Wilkin (Kellman), Kevin Stoney (Tyrum), David Collings (Vorus), Alec Wallis (Warner), Michael Wisher (Magrik), Brian Grellis (Sheprah), Christopher Robbie (Cyber-Leader) & Melville Jones (First Cybermen)

Writer: Gerry Davis

Director: Michael Briant

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The symbol hanging in the Vogan audience chamber would be re-used in The Deadly Assassin and would be retrospectively named as the Seal of Rassilon.
  • The story was largely rewritten by Robert Holmes. The original story was set on a deserted space casino and Davis rewrote it to be set on the Nerva Beacon. This story carries Gerry Davis’ only writing credit on his own.
  • Terror of the Zygons was originally shot as the season finale for Tom Baker’s debut season, but was held over to start the following season.
  • The first Doctor Who story released on VHS.
  • The location filming took place at Wookey Hole Caves, where production was beset by bad luck. An electrician broke his leg and Elisabeth Sladen’s motorboat went out of control. Terry Walsh rescued Sladen, but was taken ill shortly afterwards.
  • First major appearance of the Cybermen since The Invasion. They had previously made a cameo appearance in Carnival of Monsters, their only appearance in the Pertwee era.
  • During the transmission of the story, William Hartnell passed away.
  • This story marks the reappearance of the TARDIS, which was last seen on screen in The Ark in Space.
  • The first occasion where the Cybermen’s voices are provided by the actor inside the suit.

Best Moment

The entrance of the Cybermen at the end of the second part is one of my favourite parts of this story.

Best Quote

Then what is it? You’ve no home planet, no influence, nothing. You’re just a pathetic bunch of tin soldiers skulking about the galaxy in an ancient spaceship.

Fourth Doctor

Revenge of the Cybermen TARDIS

The Moonbase

moonbase cybermen

Everything’s got a weak point.  It’s just a question of waiting until it turns up, that’s all.

Second Doctor

Synopsis

The TARDIS lands on the Moon in 2070, where the crew are becoming infected with a strange alien virus.  With Jamie unconscious, the Doctor, Ben and Polly become aware of a mysterious silver menace.

Review

The Moonbase is perhaps notable for being the first episode to launch the “base under siege” style of Doctor Who stories, as well as cementing the Cybermen as a true A list Doctor Who villain.  Whilst the story is not perfect, it does a lot of things well, but there is some incredibly shaky scientific basis, surprising as the writer, Kit Pedler, was a scientist.  I think this story gives us Troughton’s first definitive performance as the Doctor, encapsulated by his delivery of the famous “corners” speech.

One of this story’s real strengths is that it definitely shores up the feeling of the Troughton era.  Troughton seems to have learnt where his strengths are and what sort of person the Second Doctor is.  Aside from the obvious moment, he really nails it when he realises how the Neurotrope virus is affecting the crew via the sugar, as well as the look of abject horror on his face when he realises that the crew didn’t search the medical bay.  Troughton’s face is so expressive, and he really uses it to sell the sense of impending dread.  Whilst it’s a shame that Jamie is unconscious or feverish for much of the story, the story does demonstrate the dynamics within the TARDIS team.  Both Jamie and Ben seem to have a bit of hostility towards each other, whilst it is nice that the story allows Polly to come up with a solution to defeating the Cybermen.  It’s also nice to see Ben and Polly discussing their past encounter with the Cybermen, which helps to turn the tide here, as well as bringing Jamie up to speed on their threat.

Polly Doctor Ben

Another of the strengths of the story if how it deals with the Cybermen.  By us only seeing them fleeting in the first two episodes, it effectively allows tension to be built until they are finally seen by the majority of the crew at the end of the second part.  It also allows for Hobson’s distrust of the Doctor and his companions to feel legitimate and it is a good performance by Patrick Barr.  I initially found the new voice of the Cybermen jarring and a bit irritating, but as I got used to it, actually found it more menacing and sinister than the sing-song version we get in The Tenth Planet. The use of music here also helps give the Cybermen a feeling of real dread and I particularly love the shots of the Cybermen moving across the lunar surface.

The Moonbase is definitely an episode that I’d recommend watching when looking at the development of the Second Doctor’s era as a whole, as well as seeing how the Cybermen became a classic villain.  That is not to say that it is not without flaws.  Some of the direction seems quite flat, especially whilst on the titular Moonbase, although some of the shots on the lunar surface are spectacular.  The story in places does stretch credibility, especially when the Cyber-controlled Dr. Evans is able to gain access to the controls of the Gravitron despite the base supposedly being on red alert and the fact that he is covered in black lines and wearing a Cyber control helmet.  Additionally, the conclusion to the episode feels a bit too silly for a story that by and large is a serious story that packs a lot of a threat. The Cybermen’s plan to destroy the surface of the Earth by using the Gravitron also feels pretty ridiculous and convulted plan.  None of these issues massively affected my enjoyment of the story, though I do feel as though they need to be mentioned.

Verdict: A fun, if flawed, introduction to the base under siege style of stories.  The Cybermen really have a decent second outing. 7/10

Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Michael Craze (Ben Jackson), Anneke Wills (Polly), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Patrick Barr (Hobson), Andre Maranne (Benoit), Michael Wolf (Nils), John Rolfe (Sam), Alan Rowe (Voice from Space Control), Mark Heath (Ralph), Alan Rowe (Dr. Evans), Barry Ashton, Derek Calder, Arnold Chazen, Leon Maybank, Victor Pemberton, Edward Phillips, Ron Pinnell, Robin Scott, Allan Wells (Scientists), Denis McCarthy (Voice of Controller Rinberg), John Wills, Sonnie Willis, Peter Greene, Keith Goodman, Reg Whitehead (Cybermen), Peter Hawkins (Voice of Cybermen)

Writer: Kit Pedler

Director: Morris Barry

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The Moonbase was commissioned very quickly after the broadcast of The Tenth Planet, due to uncertainty about the availability of the Daleks for future appearances and the success of the Cybermen.  Dalek creator Terry Nation was looking at opportunities to launch the infamous villains in televisions and movies in the United States.  The Cybermen would go on to reappear several times in Troughton’s run as the Doctor.
  • The first story to feature the Earth’s Moon, and the first redesign of the Cybermen.  It also marks the final usage of the original title sequence until 2013’s Day of the Doctor.
  • Episode 1 and 3 are missing, but have been animated in the BBC’s DVD release.
  • According to a story told by Anneke Wills, Patrick Troughton was nearly crushed when the Gravitron prop fell from the rigging whilst he was exploring the set.
  • Victor Pemberton, who plays an unnamed scientist, served as the show’s largely uncredited script editor from The Evil of the Daleks until The Ice Warriors, and wrote Fury From The Deep.  This makes him both one of the five people to write and act in the show and the only person to appear in a story before a story of his was broadcast.

Best Moment

I really love the moment where the Cyberman is found in the stock room.  It’s really effective and quite scary, and the story really uses shadows effectively.

Best Quote

There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things.  Things which act against everything we believe in.  They must be fought.

Second Doctor

Moonbase crew

The Sword of Orion

Synopsis

Arriving in the midst of a Human – Android war, the Doctor and Charley find themselves trapped on a star destroyer facing summary execution. However, a believed vanquished foe is stirring in the Garazone system…
Review

It would be lovely to say that the Eighth Doctor’s first meeting with the Cybermen is a complete success. Sadly, this story does suffer from a somewhat generic feeling story, as well as some particularly one dimensional guest characters and a sense that this could have been a story for any Doctor and companion pairing, rather than feeling like it furthers the dynamic between the Eighth Doctor and his new companion. That being said, the performances of McGann, Fisher and Michelle Livingstone as Deeva Jansen deserve credit in a rather forgettable story. Fortunately for Big Finish, their Cybermen stories would get better!

Potentially due to the fact that the story was adapted from an Audio Visuals story, the biggest problem here is that there is nothing that relates directly to this incarnation of the Doctor and his companion. Tonally in places it feels as though it belongs in the 1980s era of stories, while the score seems to hark back to 1960s Patrick Troughton stories. This makes the Eighth Doctor feel all the more out of place, especially as there is none of this incarnation’s charm as demonstrated in the previous story. That being said, the story does evoke a sense of palpable tension during the first two parts in the build up to the reveal of the Cybermen, which I feel works really well and is impressive considering that it only has audio to do this with. The story never really grabbed me as it seemed almost too generic of a Cyberman story, although the information of the Orion War is quite an interesting idea.

Furthermore, the story does struggle with some particularly one dimensional guest characters. I feel as though Grash is probably the best example of this, as he seems to be a standard Doctor Who villainous secondary character with an itchy character We are not given enough information to really care about the crew of the Vanguard as they meet their fates, which feels like poor management of the time given. The one character who really does stand out amongst these is Deeva Jansen, played by Michelle Livingstone, who is the one character who gets anything really meaningful to contribute to the story. Livingstone plays the part of the Android double agent really well, and when she tells Charley “We learn from our creators”, it is a line delivery that is completely chilling.

Despite some limitations in the characterisation, Paul McGann continues to be a great Doctor. This story is notable for giving us this incarnation of the Doctor without any charm or twinkle, but despite this, it doesn’t feel as though McGann is giving this any less than 100%. I feel like this story wastes the opportunity to develop on the promising relationship between the Doctor and Charley, started in Storm Warning, however, despite having little or nothing to in the first part of the story, India Fisher also puts in a great performance. The Cybermen work really well on audio, despite the other limitations of the story in general, as they feel properly scary and a real threat. It sounds obvious to say now, having had Nick Briggs provide the voice of the Cybermen for nearly 13 years on television, but his vocal work really helps them feel like a genuine foe to contend with.

Verdict: Sadly, the Eighth Doctor’s first meeting with the Cybermen is a rather forgettable affair. Strong central performances from McGann and Livingstone alike save this from being awful. 3/10
Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charley Pollard), Bruce Montague (Grash), Michelle Livingstone (Deeva Jansen), Helen Goldwyn (Chev), Ian Marr (Ike), Hylton Collins (Vol), Toby Longworth (Kelsey), Barnaby Edwards (Digly), Mark Gatiss (Thinnes), Nicholas Briggs (Cybermen/Cyberleader), Alistair Lock (Cybermen)
Writer: Nicholas Briggs
Director: Nicholas Briggs
Parts: 4
Behind the Scenes

  • This is the first Big Finish story to feature the Cybermen, and features the first meeting of the Cybermen and the Eighth Doctor.
  • This story was adapted from an Audio Visuals production of the same name.
  • Sword of Orion marks the first performance of Nicholas Briggs as the Cybermen, a role he reprised in the revived series.

Best Quote

Is this where you start getting all superior and mysterious with me?

No. This is where, at last, I get to put the kettle on.

Charley Pollard and the Eighth Doctor

Attack of the Cybermen

attack of the cybermen

Your regeneration has made you vindictive, Doctor.

Not at all. I’ve never found it difficult to despise people like you.

Lytton and the Sixth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor attempts to fix the TARDIS chameleon circuit at 76 Totter’s Lane in 1985, where the Cybermen are planning to change history by having Halley’s Comet crash into Earth.
Review

With so many references to past episodes of Doctor Who, Attack of the Cybermen rarely has time to form a coherent story of its own. The story also seems to be symbolic of the major problems of Doctor Who of this era – script editor Eric Saward’s bloodthirsty storytelling, as this is a story in which no-one other than the Doctor and his companion survive. This being said, it is still quite an entertaining episode, bogged down perhaps by too many ideas, especially when it comes to the second part of the story and it does feel like, whoever wrote it, struggled dealing with the new format of 45-minute episodes.

6 gun cybers

My main issue with this story would be the violence and the nastier tone. Littered throughout the episode are moments of such sadistic cruelty and they feel quite troubling. The most horrific incidence of this comes towards the end of the story, where the Cybermen crush Lytton’s hands, which just feels gratuitous and wrong. The Doctor is not exempt from this as he urges Peri to shoot Russell and brawls with one of Lytton’s policemen in the sewers. The fact that the fight takes place off screen and finishes with the Doctor saying that the policeman is “having a little lie down” feels all the more problematic. This is symbolic of the new direction the production team were trying to take Colin Baker’s Doctor away from the affable Peter Davison incarnation, but they overstep on too many occasions. I feel so sorry for Colin Baker because he is giving it his all but he is let down by decisions by the production team to make this Doctor darker than his predecessors. All this whilst wearing a multicoloured dream coat. Fortunately, Baker has had his chance to shine through working with Big Finish in more recent times, which has been seen to redeem his Doctor in the eyes of many fans. However, Colin Baker does deliver a good performance. Eric Saward is well known for saying that he does not rate him as the Doctor, which is something that bothers me as Baker is clearly doing the best he can do with some pretty ropy material at times. The dynamic between the Sixth Doctor and Peri is really well played by Baker and Nicola Bryant, and I really like their relationship. They both seem to get on the other’s nerves, but there is a shared fondness for each other.

The story also suffers from evoking nostalgia a bit too much at expense of doing anything new. When it comes down to it, the Cybermen’s scheme is actually a pretty good one. They plan to alter the course of Halley’s Comet to crash into Earth in 1985, which would in turn prevent the events of The Tenth Planet and the destruction of their home planet, Mondas. This is quite a good “timey wimey” idea but it is sadly not allowed enough time to develop properly. It only really gets introduced halfway through the second part, and due to other subplots like fixing the Chameleon Circuit, which doesn’t really serve any true purpose to the plot except ensuring that the Doctor and Peri don’t have an easy escape. It does feel as though the writer struggled with the reduced running time, as they had thirty minutes less to play with. That being said, the heist set-up is quite well done but also ultimately feels broken up by scenes with the Doctor and Peri, which really kill the pace. Elements like the scrapyard that they land in being 76 Totter’s Lane or the quarry being the same one that was used for Tomb of the Cybermen end up just feeling like fan-baiting cameos that add nothing to the story.

totters lane

The Cybermen return after we last saw them in Earthshock, where they killed Adric. The highlight of any Cybermen episode in the 1980s is the performance of David Banks as the Cyber-Leader, and he doesn’t disappoint here. However, as the story is designed to tie into Tomb of the Cybermen, it also sees the return of Michael Kilgarriff as the Cyber Controller, which feels unnecessary as the actor has sadly put on weight since the 1960s and it looks a bit bizarre to have a portly Cyberman. There’s also a Cyber Lieutenant, which also makes this story feel overcrowded with Cyber leadership, especially when Banks is so capable of leading the Cybermen effectively. The Cryons also look fantastic and as they are a race of all female aliens are worthy of note, but the voices are really irritating! The plot with Bates and Strutton on Telos attempting to escape also feels as though it was a distraction from the main plot, and I never really felt any empathy for these characters or their plight.

peri cybermen

The story does benefit from some great direction by Matthew Robinson, who previously directed Resurrection of the Daleks, and the scenes in the sewers in the first part particularly stand out as establishing a good creepy tone. The best moments demonstrating this are when the Cyber-Leader emerges in the sewer scenes, and the cliffhanger at the end of part one is also quite good. There is a good jump scare moment towards the end of the second part when Lytton’s ankle is grabbed by a Cyberman, which really made me jump. Additionally, the story does benefit from a strong performance from Maurice Colbourne as Lytton, playing him as a suave and canny operator. It does bother me that the story seems to make more of their prior relationship – the Doctor seems to know a lot about Lytton despite the fact that they don’t spend much time if any actually directly interacting in Resurrection of the Daleks. It’s strange that this episode closes with the Doctor regretting the death of Lytton specifically considering the death count in this story.

Despite the story’s issues and the fact that it seems more keen about the idea of recycling plot ideas from stories like An Unearthly Child, Tomb of the Cybermen and Resurrection of the Daleks, I have to say I did enjoy Attack of the Cybermen. It’s by no means a classic story, and not one that I will be racing to revisit any time soon, but I think it is better than its reputation suggests.

Verdict: A well-directed episode with an interesting idea for the Cybermen, but the reliance on strong stories from the show’s past really damages this one. The overly violent story is also problematic. 6/10
Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Maurice Colbourne (Lytton), Brian Glover (Griffiths), Terry Molloy (Russell), James Beckett (Payne), David Banks (Cyber Leader), Michael Kilgarriff (Cyber Controller), Faith Brown (Flast), Sarah Greene (Varne), Michael Attwell (Bates), Jonathan David (Strutton), Brian Orvell (Cyber Lieutenant), John Ainley (Cyberman), Stephen Churchett (Bill), Stephen Wale (David), Sarah Berger (Rost), Esther Freud (Threst)
Writer: Paula Moore (A pseudonym – disputed authorship)
Director: Matthew Robinson (2nd story)
Parts: 2
Behind the Scenes

  • This is the first episode to be produced as 45-minute episodes, a practice which finished with Revelation of the Daleks.
  • The story sees the return of Lytton, played by Maurice Colbourne, who had appeared in Resurrection of the Daleks, as well as marking the only time Terry Molloy appeared not under the prosthetics required to play Davros. Michael Kilgariff also returns as the Cyber Controller, a role he originally played in Tomb of the Cybermen.
  • Authorship of this story is highly disputed by Eric Saward, the script editor, and Ian Levine, a “fan advisor” to the show at this time. Eric Saward would have been forbidden from commissioning himself to write a story under contemporary BBC rules, so he commissioned Paula Woolsey to write elements of the script and submit them to him. Another theory states that it was a collaboration between Levine and Saward, submitted under a pseudonym, while yet another states that Woolsey wrote the story using plot ideas from Levine and Saward aided in the development and rewrote elements. Ian Levine himself claims full authorship of the story.
  • This story introduces the sonic lance, a successor to the sonic screwdriver, however, it never reappears on television after this series.
  • Following on from the poor response to the new Doctor after The Twin Dilemma, the production team decided to bring back an old foe to test the Doctor. Gerry Davis was initially commissioned to write a script but this was deemed unsuitable.
  • Director Matthew Robinson went on to create Byker Grove and cast Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, launching their careers.

Best Moment

The reveal of the Cyber-Leader in the sewers beneath London.
Best Quote

Who are you?

I’ve already told you. I am known as the Doctor. I’m also a Time Lord from the planet of Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous.

You’re bonkers!

That’s debatable.

Russell and the Sixth Doctor