The Seven Faces of Doctor Who: Attack of the Cybermen

April 11, 2015 in Dr Who, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782

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Colin Baker is probably the most controversial actor to ever play the Doctor. He was of course the Sixth incarnation of the beloved Time Lord and was much more unstable than his predecessors ever were. It was originally intended that over the years his character would grow and mellow but unfortunately his time came to a premature end and thus he never had the chance to do this. There are many different reasons as to why this period of the shows history was such an unstable one. It is common knowledge that the higher-ups in the BBC at the time were not fond of the programme and were on the look out for any opportunity which would allow them to cancel it. Eventually they got that chance at the end of Colin Baker’s first full year as the Doctor but the outcry of fans managed to get this revised to a hiatus and when the series did return it was put on trial in more ways than one. The trial had proved successful enough for the series to continue but unfortunately it was not successful enough for Colin Baker to be allowed to stay. The classic series never quite recovered from this turmoil that had plagued it at this time and it was eventually cancelled three years later. So then, what story have I chosen to represent this period of unrest? Well I choose none other than Attack of the Cybermen which was written by Paula Moore (or so the credits say) and was directed by Matthew Robinson. For those who are interested it was Colin Baker’s second story in the role of the Doctor and Nicola Bryant’s fourth in the role of companion Peri Brown. Now then, something tells me you all know the drill by now so let’s not waste anytime and get on to the synopsis.

Continuing on from where the last story left off, this one begins with the Doctor still in the process of recovering from his regeneration. The TARDIS picks up an alien distress beacon and the Doctor heads to Earth to investigate. Following the distress beacon leads him and Peri into the sewers of London where they discover the presence of the Cybermen. They then return to the TARDIS but are followed by the Cyber Leader who orders the Doctor to take them to Telos, the adopted home world of the Cybermen. He also informs the Doctor that the Cyber Controller, who was once thought destroyed, is very much alive and is waiting for them on Telos. Once on Telos Peri manages to escape and runs into the native Cryons who were almost wiped out by the invading Cybermen. Meanwhile, the Doctor learns that the Cybermen have captured another time vessel and intend to use it to change time so that their original home planet, Mondas, was never destroyed. He then realises that the Time Lords must have manoeuvred him into this situation to protect the web of time. The Cybermen then imprison him within a refrigeration unit which contains a highly volatile substance which explodes at high temperatures. He uses a bit of it to destroy the guard outside and rigs the rest up to take out Cyber Control itself. The Doctor then meets up with Peri and the Cryons who help him destroy the Cybermen guarding the TARDIS. They then escape just as the substance self ignites, destroying Cyber Control as well as the Cybermen’s stolen time vessel. With the web of time now safe the Doctor and Peri continue with their travels.

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Now then, this story is about as polarising as the Sixth Doctor’s era itself, making it the ideal choice to represent this era. On the topic of the story itself it used more than a few elements from the show’s past and in my opinion it used way too many. The return to the scrapyard in Totters Lane was simply an unnecessary call back to An Unearthly Child; the plot links with The Tenth Planet are both forgivable and forgettable; the return to Telos makes the story seem like a poor remake of The Tomb of the Cybermen; the Cybermen in the sewers is actually a nice reference to The Invasion simply because it’s subtle; and finally there’s the return of mercenary Lytton who last appeared in Resurrection of the Daleks and I quite like what they did with his character here. Now one or two of these in a story is a nice reward for long term viewers but when there’s this many all it does is alienate most of the casual viewers and annoy most of the long term fans. Now the idea behind all this was that those who didn’t like the Sixth Doctor in his first story would come back to see all the familiar elements in his second and hopefully warm to this new incarnation in the process. And in that respect it did kind of work as the viewing figures were fairly high but unfortunately a lot of people felt that the quality, especially in the second part, was low. Another major complaint a lot of viewers had was the level of violence shown, and I can’t help but sympathise with this complaint even if I don’t agree with it. There is a scene where two Cybermen completely crush Lytton’s hands as a way to get him to talk and as a one off it works quite well. So while I see why people have a problem with this scene I personally don’t. It’s a bit like the “don’t cremate me” line in Dark Water where I can understand why there are complaints it’s just that I don’t have a problem with it myself. In fact even when I was younger I didn’t have a problem with this scene. The scene I did have a problem with though was when the Doctor gunned down a group of Cybermen in the control room. Since then I have grown to accept this but at the time I felt that it just wasn’t a thing the Doctor would just casually do. However, this is far from my biggest flaw in the story as you’ll soon learn.

However, before I reveal my biggest flaw with the story I first wish to talk about the characters involved. Now we’ve already talked a bit about the Sixth Doctor so why not start with him. As previously mentioned he wasn’t the most popular of Doctors for a lot of reasons and none of them are really Colin Baker’s fault. Now since this story is so early in his era it doesn’t show him in the best light as he has still yet to mellow out at this point and is very brash at times. Now to be honest I don’t mind him in this and while it took a while for me to warm to this initially prickly portrayal it wasn’t long before I learned to appreciate him for the Doctor he is. Next up is his companion Peri Brown who is supposed to be American but unfortunately Nicola Bryant’s accent sometimes noticeably slips back into her natural British one. I’m sure there are some out there who’ll probably find the accent offensive but she certainly didn’t have the easiest of jobs and this was quite early in her time before she was able to perfect and refine the accent. But on the whole her character is quite likeable and a suitable character for the Sixth Doctor to bounce off of. Then we have Lytton who’s character is nicely expanded upon here and who’s death actually means something to the Doctor because of how badly he initially misjudged him. Lytton himself is also a lot of fun and has a great double act with Griffiths. There is some wonderful dialogue between the two and in fact one thing this story does very well is dialogue. There are some real gems of it in this story, especially in the first half and Lytton gets almost all of the best ones. Unfortunately not all of the characters are great in this and one in particular is the Cyber Controller. He’s a little on the tubby side which makes it hard to take him seriously but he also pales in comparison to the Cyber Leader who is supposed to be him subordinate but nevertheless has a much more powerful presence in all of his scenes. On the whole this story doesn’t do the Cybermen justice but that’s not its biggest flaw in my eyes. The biggest flaw is that the story lacks focus. There’s far too much going on and while some people like that I personally do not as it distracts from the main story line. So much so in fact that I’m not even sure what that is.

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Overall, Attack of the Cybermen is not one of my favourite although I have heard people say that they love it and so I thought I’d include it because of that. However, that’s not going to stop me from giving it a five-out-of-ten which is by far the lowest rating up to this point. However, you’ll be happy to know that we’ll be ending on a much higher note next week with the Seventh Doctor story Remembrance of the Daleks where a Dalek civil war is raging in nineteen-sixties London but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the story in the comments below.