The TARDIS arrives on the planet Telos, where the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria find an archaeological team looking to enter the resting place of the last Cybermen. Amongst the party are two members of the Brotherhood of Logicians, who are looking to revive the Cybermen to create an invincible force for conquest.
I’m pretty certain that this is the first black and white story I ever watched and therefore the first Patrick Troughton story I ever saw which wasn’t a multi-Doctor special. Tomb of the Cybermen is widely regarded as one of the better serials of his era and is certainly deserving of this acclaim. It is creepy and atmospheric, and to date is definitely in the conversation relating to the best episodes to feature the Cybermen. It features great performances from the majority of the cast, and Troughton is particularly strong here and bosses every scene that he is in.
There is an elephant in the room here, which I feel that I must address and it is something that sticks out like a sore thumb when viewed by a modern audience: this story is racist. The three human antagonists, Klieg, Kaftan and Toberman are all not white and fulfil a troubling cunning foreigners trope, whilst the rest of the cast are British and “American” (there are some incredibly bad American accents amongst the crew members, but that’s par for the course). Toberman is perhaps the most glaring of these, being a servant to Kaftan and not speaking for the majority of the episode. The three antagonists aren’t really portrayed as three dimensional either, although there are moments where it is hinted at that Kaftan and Toberman care for each other. Kaftan and Klieg have financed this expedition, however, it’s never really questioned early on why they have felt so strongly about coming along with the archaeologists.
Where are we?
Oh, it’s the TARDIS. It’s my home. At least it has been for a considerable number of years.Victoria Waterfield and the Second Doctor
This story is Victoria’s official first story as companion after her debut in the Season 4 closer, The Evil of the Daleks, which gives the show a good reason to almost reintroduce the concept of the show with the opening scene depicting Jamie and the Doctor showing her the interior of the TARDIS. Victoria seems to slalom between being competent and a damsel in distress and it doesn’t feel as though she gets solid characterisation here. The most glaring moment is where, after waking up from her drug-induced sleep, she is able to destroy a Cybermat with a single shot. Deborah Watling is okay for the majority of this story and I do particularly like the moment where she tells Kaftan that she doesn’t need her to look out for her. She does get some standard screaming moments, but it doesn’t seem to be as frequent or annoying as some of her predecessors, like Susan.
The main antagonists of the story – shockingly – is the Cybermen. As the Cybermen are relatively well established by this point, there is a sense of threat and dread even being in the Tomb without us even seeing an active Cyberman from the beginning of the story. The scene with the Cybermen coming out of their honeycomb style tombs is rightly held up as being iconic and the Cyber-Controller’s voice is really creepy. Obviously the Cybermen want to convert Klieg, Kaftan and the Brotherhood of Logicians to create a new group of Cybermen, and it does stretch credulity slightly that this doesn’t seem to have occurred to Klieg. The fact that these Cybermen deal with Toberman so effectively and efficiently, whose strength has been established early on by his opening the doors to the tomb when both the Doctor and Jamie have failed. This is one of the better Cybermen stories and it is no surprise that over 50 years after the original broadcast, it will feature high in the list of stories featuring the Cybermen.
How did you know in the first place?
Oh, I used my own, special technique.
Oh really, Doctor…and may we know what that is?
Keeping my eyes open and my mouth shut!Eric Klieg and the Second Doctor
Troughton’s Doctor is superb here and he runs every scene, especially on entering the Tomb. I am particularly fond of the way that he distracts the suspicision poured on him when he and his companions arrive on Telos, quickly distracting everyone. I’ve spoken about Victoria above, but Frazer is strong here too. Jamie and the Second Doctor are so comfortable around each other now and there is a lovely moment where they find themselves holding each other’s hands by accident, each believing themselves to be holding Victoria’s hand to comfort her. From the behind the scenes documentary, I learnt that this was in fact improvised by Troughton and Hines and only done whilst filming due to concerns that the director would object if they had done this in rehearsal. Jamie, by this point, has taken on the role of older brother to Victoria and feels that he has been travelling with the Doctor long enough to be able to explain the TARDIS to her. The guest cast, aside from Klieg, Kaftan, Toberman and Professor Parry are largely forgettable or don’t spend very much time on screen for us to enable us to really care about them.
Verdict: The Tomb of the Cybermen thoroughly deserves it’s reputation as a classic Doctor Who story, despite some cast issues which would be out of place in a modern production. 9/10
Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield), Roy Stewart (Toberman), Aubrey Richards (Professor Parry), Cyril Shaps (John Viner), Clive Merrison (Jim Callum), Shirley Cooklin (Kaftan), George Roubicek (Captain Hopper), George Pastell (Eric Klieg), Alan Johns (Ted Rogers), Bernard Holley (Peter Haydon), Ray Grover (Crewman), Michael Kilgarriff (Cyber-Controller), Hans de Vries, Tony Harwood, John Hogan, Richard Kerley, Ronald Lee, Charles Pemberton, Kenneth Seeger & Reg Whitehead (Cybermen) & Peter Hawkins (Voice of the Cybermen)
Writers: Kit Pedler & Gerry Davis
Director: Morris Barry
Behind the Scenes
- The introduction of the Cybermats and the Cyber-Controller.
- The earliest Second Doctor story to survive in its entirety and, until the recovery of The Enemy of the World in 2013, it was the only serial from Season 5 to exist.
- The first ‘…of the Cybermen’ story.
- This was recorded at the end of the fourth block of Season 4, however, was deliberately held over to start Season 5.
- Toberman was originally intended to be deaf, hence his lack of significant speech and the character would have had hearing aids, however, Morris Barry was not keen on this.
- Michael Kilgarriff would go on to reprise the role of Cyber-Controller in Attack of the Cybermen and the titular Robot in Tom Baker’s debut story, Robot, and Ogrons in Frontier in Space.
- Roy Stewart went on to appear in Terror of the Autons.
- The first appearance of Cyril Shaps, who would appear in The Ambassadors of Death, Planet of the Spiders and The Androids of Tara.
- Clive Merrison would go on to appear in the Sylvester McCoy story Paradise Towers and in the Big Finish story The Contingency Club.
- A number of the actors who appear here as Cybermen also appear as Robot Yetis in the next story, The Abominable Snowmen.
It can’t be anything else than the iconic scenes of the Cybermen coming out of their tombs.
You probably can’t remember your family.
Oh yes, I can when I want to. And that’s the point, really. I have to really want to, to bring them back in front of my eyes. The rest of the time they sleep in my mind, and I forget. And so will you.Victoria Waterfield and the Second Doctor
Previous Second Doctor Blog: The Evil of the Daleks
Review of the animated The Faceless Ones here!