Doctor Who: Attack Of The Cybermen by Paula Moore (DVD TV series review).

May 16, 2019 | By | Reply More

I often wondered when ‘Doctor Who’ was turned into 2 * 45 minute episodes that producer John Nathan-Turner was trying to stay a step or two ahead of inquisitive fans by doing something unexpected. The biggest step was giving more storytime per episode because there were fewer recaps which confirms my suspicions in the first of the extras. Even so, back in the day, it did feel like I was being short-changed a bit from having an adventure on two days than four or more episodes.

There are several strands to this ‘Doctor Who’ story. In the London sewers in 1985, two surveyors are killed underground.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor (actor Colin Baker) is attempting to repair the chameleon circuit although Peri (actress Nicola Bryant), eating a fresh apple she found somewhere, is trying to convince him he needs to rest after his regeneration as he still keeps calling her different companion names.

On Earth, Lytton (actor Maurice Colbourne) is leading a gang into doing a diamond raid on a bank via the sewers while his two policemen guards look on. What they don’t know is there is a real undercover police officer is in the gang. Lytton’s also tripped an intergalactic SOS, unknowing that it would attract a certain Time Lord. Actor Terry Malloy plays Russell the undercover detective and one of Lytton’s gang and one of the rare times you see him as human than as a Sontaran or Davros.

The TARDIS arrives at 76 Totters Lane (the second time in his long life) and the Doctor is determined to locate the SOS. His attempts to get the chameleon circuit to work has some unusual results. Realising that the signal is beaming beamed all around London, he uses the TARDIS to locate the signal.

On Telos, there is a rebellion of sorts of two human prisoners who are planning their own escape. Incidentally, the Cyber Controller (actor Michael Kilgarriff) seems to have eaten too many doughnuts compared to the rest of his team.

Meanwhile, Lytton’s group encounters the Cybermen and he surrenders to them and saves Griffiths (actor Brian Glover) life. The latter doesn’t really believe the Cybermen are real but mostly behaves himself. Lytton and the Cyberleader (actor David Banks) realises they have a mutual enemy in the Doctor. They get into the TARDIS and do a surprise attack on the Doctor and Peri, whom they deem expendable. The Doctor saves her by saying he will pilot the TARDIS to Telos for them. During the trip, he slowly discovers that Lytton’s loyalties are not quite what they seem.

How much more to say without going too spoiler. The Cyber Controller has problems reviving his people from deep freeze, not realising that that its original inhabitants, the Cryons, who live in sub-zero temperatures, have been sabotaging things. The Cybermen have already acquired one time machine but haven’t mastered it enough for their plan to stop their original home planet, Mondas, being destroyed the following year. An event that that an earlier regeneration of the Doctor was involved in and a major event in history that shouldn’t be changed. How, you’ll have to watch for yourself.

The audio commentary for the first episode is with actors Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and Terry Malloy. Information given includes just who was writer Paula Moore and the explanation dismisses any idea of ‘her’ being the first female writer on ‘Doctor Who’. Baker received 150 cat badges from fans and used each of them in his performance in the ‘Doctor Who’ stage play. There’s also a comment on how did the two tired escapees on Telos so easily behead two Cybermen. Without getting too spoiler, considering what they were, they would certainly have the strength to do it.

The second episode loses Terry Malloy and has actress Sarah Berger, who played the Cryon Rost in his place. Colin Baker reveals he’s not keen on people who are taller than himself, a 6 footer himself, and also a fear of clowns. I can answer a couple questions they posed that they didn’t know the answers to. The Doctor’s tolerance to lower temperatures is largely because he also has a lower body temperature at 12C (80F) although even he shows his limits in the story.

Likewise, the reason why he was locked up with Flast (actress Faith Brown) with some deadly explosive was because it needed to be kept at low temperature and they didn’t think he had any means to raise its temperature. Considering that the Doctor didn’t even know what it was meant had he tried to escape, he would have died in the explosion. Sarah Berger explains that it was director Matthew Robinson who decided that the Cryons were to be feminine. Their ‘moustaches’ were to hide the fact that the plastic around the lips had to be cut out to allow them to speak.

Baker points out that he received a lot of flak for shooting the Cyber Controller but considering how many people the Davison Doctor shot, it does seem a bit late in the day.

Nearly 28 minutes is devoted to ‘The Cold War’ which examines the story from several points of view as well as the problems of dust and violence.

The 23 minute ‘Cyber Story’ focuses on the Cybermen and especially their creation and how extra budget made all the difference to their appearance.

The 8 minute ‘Human Cyborg’ is an interview with Professor Kevin Warwick who thinks upgrading to becoming a cyborg is likely to be changes to the brain and senses than limbs. As this was filmed in 2008, I think the latter is ahead at the moment.

There’s also 8 minutes of a ‘Photo Gallery’, which oddly doesn’t feature anything behind the scenes. There is also a 7 minute ‘Cyber Generation’ looking at photo stills from their first appearance in ‘The Tenth Planet’ to ‘Silver Nemesis’. Objectively, I always thought their look in ‘The Tomb Of The Cybermen’ was their best and probably why it sustained itself over so many series.

As Colin Baker points out, this was his first real story against a popular ‘Doctor Who’ villain and in a new story format back on Saturday night. I think it holds together well even today with an interesting balance of humour and action.

GF Willmetts

May 2019

(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC. 1 DVD 88 minutes 2 * 45 minute episodes with extras. Price: £ 6.99 (UK) if you know where to look. ASIN: BBCDVD2436)

cast: Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Maurice Colbourne, Brian Glover, Terry Malloy, Michael Kilgarriff, David Banks, Faith Brown and Sarah Berger

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Category: Doctor Who, TV

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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