Attack Of The Cybermen: Doctor Who: Season 22
Attack Of The Cybermen SYNOPSIS:
The TARDIS lands on Earth in 1985 and the Doctor searches for the source of an alien emergency beacon. Elsewhere Lytton leads his three accomplices into the London sewers to assist him in a bank robbery. It's a ruse as Lytton instead hands his gang over to the cybermen for cyber conversion as payment for a way back to his planet but Russell escapes and meets Peri and the Doctor.
Discovering the cybermen are in London, the Doctor returns to the TARDIS but his ship falls captive to the cybermen. On Telos, the Cyber Controller and the cyber tombs have been re-built and the cybermen have captured a time vessel. The vessels former crewman, Stratton and Bates have been partly cyber converted but escape and plan to recapture their ship. Beneath the surface the native of Telosions, the Cryons are hoping to recapture Telos.
Once the TARDIS lands on Telos, the Doctor and Peri find out that Lytton is actually a double agent working for the Cryons to help them retake Telos and as payment they will assist him to the time vessel with crew members Stratton and Bates. The Doctor learns the Cyber Controller plan to use time vessel to preven their original planet Mondas from being destroyed in 1986 by destroying the Earth with Halleys comet the year before in 1985.
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Attack Of The Cybermen DETAILS:
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Attack Of The Cybermen CAST & CREW
Colin Baker (Sixth Doctor)
Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown)
Maurice Colbourne — Lytton
Brian Glover — Griffiths
Terry Molloy — Russell
James Beckett — Payne
Jonathan David — Stratton
Michael Attwell — Bates
Stephen Churchett — Bill
Stephen Wale — David
Sarah Berger — Rost
Esther Freud — Threst
Sarah Greene — Varne
Faith Brown — Flast
David Banks — Cyber Leader
Michael Kilgarriff — Cyber Controller
Brian Orrell— Cyber Lieutenant
John Ainley — Cyberman
Production Staff for Serial 6T:
Writer - "Paula Moore" (Paula Woolsey)
Director - Matthew Robinson
Script editor - Eric Saward
Producer John Nathan-Turner
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Attack Of The Cybermen REVIEWS
From the bitter cold quarry pits used for Jaconda to some more cold quarry pits used for Telos...oh and Earth, England, London circa 1985.
The new season starts off with a blast but Attack Of The Cybermen is like a soggy Christmas cracker, it's more a muted thump with maybe a flashy spark or two and it's all over. It's overly reliant on continuity and although all the gloss and action is there, something is not quite right about the whole scenario. Firstly the Doctor & Peri, well Colin's settled down a bit and isn't as unlikeable but still wants to squabble with Peri constantly over nothing which does tend to grate a bit. Plus he has this annoying habit of walking up to everyone he meets and introducing himself as the Doctor, a Time Lord from Gallifrey in the constellation of... Now if you met anyone in real life introducing themselves like that you'd think them a bit of a wanker. But at least he is diving into the fray and behaving like the Doctor of old when tackling his enemies.
Peri is getting better again but there seems to be times when she's sick of the squabbing dialogue between them. She seems to be the constant henpecked wife, if he'd been like this after two stories why not leap out of the TARDIS back into 1985? She seems to have stacked on the pounds in between series (maybe eating constantly was a way to get over being upset about the Twin Dilemma?) Also why oh why was he trying to fix the Chameleon circuit? Admirable to try but at least last time it had something to do with the story.
Now to the story, this is like Planet Of The Daleks but for the cybermen. Attack Of The Cybermen is a sort of greatest hits but unlike Planet there's no totally cohesive plot. Far as can be made out it's about the cybermen, having awoken from their ice tombs on Telos set about redecorating them, then go off and capture a time vessel at the behest of their repaired Cyber Controller to go back in time to Earth in 1985, and prevent their original home planet of Mondas being blown up. Who knows what that would do to the time line and you'd have the wibbly wobbly timey wimey problems of that probably meaning they wouldn't be on Telos in the first place to capture the vessel etc. So it seems the Doctor's mission is to stop them getting time travel and causing this problem but this is never explicitly stated.
So lets look at the Attack Of the Cybermen references - we have the plot being set around Mondas (Tenth Planet) the cyber controller and the Telos ice tombs (Tomb Of) and cybermen in the sewers of London (Invasion). Unfortunately all these past stories are referenced too much in the plot so the casual viewer would have a hard time following them without a handy dandy DVD collection of old episodes. Then there's Lytton - great villain why bring him back so soon? Then kill him off so quickly? Least we got a view into his background and an explanation as to why he was working for the daleks and then the cybermen (although he's a double agent for the Cryons) he's a highly paid intergalactic mercenary. So how did the daleks interview him for the job originally? Although he's made a bit weaker in this appearance and his cunning and manipulation were so good, it seemed a bit lame for him to suddenly get caught, maimed by the cybermen and then converted into one. He could've easily taken over from the Master (who was supposed to burn to death last year) as a much more interesting recurring villain.
Lytton's crew were good but we don't learn much off them before each one is bumped off. Russell is likable then is killed, so suddenly the nasty, whiny Griffiths is suddenly made the likable support character. Didn't buy him as a pudgy bodyguard for Lytton. Why not get someone who actually looks physically imposing? Despite what's done with them at least everyone is acting really well in Attack Of The Cybermen compared to the last episodes.
Then there's the cybermen, who are made as weak as piss here. They are supposed to be very difficult to kill but even humans are shown as more resilient than them. They resisted bullets, survived grenade and rocket launcher attacks and even concentrated laser fire in Earth shock. The Raston got the better of them by being the finest fighting machine around. So why are they killed by a single handgun bullets at long or short range? Or a sonic lance? Or screwdrivers? Or go round knocking each others heads off? Their weakness really ruined the story.
Think it was just to up the action but still...Director Matthew Robinson does really well in trying to cover the pitfalls of Attack Of The Cybermen with his fast paced, energetic, and action oriented style but it doesn't work, almost but not quite. Eric Saward's script under his girlfriend's name doesn't really do much for me anyway. Think he was getting tired by this point two massive script re-writes in a row would make you jaded, plus being lumbered with an actor he opposed being cast as the Doctor, why wouldn't you 'sabotage' things a bit by not doing ones' best? Think the entire production team was becoming a little tired by this point. Plus the Cryons - Awful! They look like Star Trek original series monsters! Plus they all sound and look exactly the same and are all female, how do you tell them or their characters apart? Still haven't managed it.
In fact no characters, especially the half cybermen Stratton and Bates are well served in the script and you don't really care when they're bumped off. Ok maybe Lytton. But the whole thing is a bit of a mish mash and why get in the same bloke to play a character he played 20 years ago when he's obviously so fat? A fat cyberman didn't go down well. This one tries to be as violent and have a bigger body count as Resurrection of the daleks but with less reason, had they not turned the TARDIS back into a Police box by the end idda got mad!!. But still give Attack Of The Cybermen a 5.1/10 for being a vast improvement on it's predecessor.
Continuity stories in Doctor Who only work well if a) the references are spelled out clearly for the casual viewer to understand what is going on b) the references actually WARRANT a follow-up storyline c) are so small that the casual viewer won't notice them as they are "kisses to the past" that only fans would get and that will not detract from the ongoing story. Having said that, the reason why something like THE THREE DOCTORS and THE FIVE DOCTORS worked so well was due to the high level of publicity that was generated at the time.
THE THREE DOCTORS celebrated the series tenth anniversary so Hartnell and Troughton were still reasonable fresh in everyone's minds anyway, while the publicity for THE FIVE DOCTORS was immense in 1983 thanks to JNT, combined with the recent screenings of THE FIVE FACES OF DOCTOR WHO which showed one story from each Doctor per week, ending in LOGOPOLIS which featured the regeneration of Baker into Davison. So Mr and Mrs Casual at home could sit down watch the story and say things like "Ah, yes, I remember that Doctor....." or "Oh, there is such and such, she travelled with Doctor number....." So these were stories that celebrated the past and built up a scenario that people could watch and not feel left out.
ATTACK OF THE CYBERMEN is a different matter. This is a story so mired in the series' own continuity that it almost impossible for the casual viewer to coherently understand what is going on. ATTACK OF THE CYBERMEN has built a thinly-veiled plot around events that happened in the series' past dating back to the very first story. And for what reason? None whatsoever. Other than to say "hey look at us; we're fans and we know everything about this series and we don't have a life!" Now, if this isn't bad enough it is also the story that launches the new series of Doctor Who with a new Doctor and a new look. A Doctor, by the way, that was so badly written and unlikeable and appallingly portrayed by Colin Baker in the final story of the previous season that you would be forgiven for thinking that no one would bother coming back to watch the continuing adventures.
Here is SOME of the references that any new viewer would have to get their head around when watching ATTACK OF THE CYBERMEN - references by the way that aren't explained in any major detail.
We have a trip to 76 Totters Lane - for no reason. We have the Doctor changing the Police Box exterior - for no reason. The destruction of Mondas (from THE TENTH PLANET) is continually brought up - for no reason. We have cybermen in ice tombs on Telos but its not explained why the Doctor entombed them there, or how, or when, or why it was important at the time. We have cybermen in the sewers from THE INVASION - still. Lytton and his policemen buddies are back from RESURRECTION OF THE DALEKS with little to no explanation as to who he is, or why he's there. Now out of all this comes a plot about the Cybermen wanting to prevent the destruction of Mondas so Telos can survive. Ask yourself this; why would anyone at home give a shit about any of this?
To add more insult to injury,ATTACK OF THE CYBERMEN was written by Eric Saward in conjunction with sweaty fat-arsed whinging fan wanker Ian Levine who at the time was serving as the series unpaid "continuity adviser". In addition to this, Eric Saward's girlfriend at the time Paula Moore also had something to do with ATTACK OF THE CYBERMEN. Of course she had never actually written anything before (for television or otherwise) but somehow she had secured the job of writing the season opener. Go figure.
Perhaps ATTACK OF THE CYBERMEN's one saving grace is that there are some interesting characters here. But not interesting enough to do anything with as they are just discarded by the writer when they are no longer needed. This is the case of Griffith who is actually a central character who just gets shot for no reason and then dies in part two. Likewise, well anyone else really.
Then there is the casting issue. What was the point of casting actresses of Faith Brown and Sarah Greene (and at one point; Koo Stark) and heavily publicizing them (apparently they are/were big in UK at the time, I dunno) and offering them lead roles when you are going to entirely hide their faces behind a plastic mask so you can't see them and disguise their voices? What a total waste - they may as well have cast anyone!
Then there is the re-casting of Michael Kilgarriff as the Cyber Controller - the same role he played in TOMB OF THE CYBERMEN in 1967. Why? What was the point? Only die hard fans would even give a slight shit anyway and its clear that in the intervening years dear old Michael has been grazing in a very nice paddock and has become twice the man he used to be. So we don't actually have the same Cyber controller as before, at least not the slim one with the Donald duck voice but a fat arsed one who sounds like Dennis Walter singing opera. At this point I'd like to mention the setting of the ice tombs on Telos. Attack Of The Cybermen is supposedly set there and the cybermen have been dormant, yet somehow the place has been totally redecorated with a new floor plan that is no where near as good and looks utter crap. Buts its still the same one as before.
Finally, better mention the Doctor. Colin Baker hasn't improved. He is still utterly unlikeable, far too over the top and thinks that shouting all the time makes him be authoritative. He hasn't got a clue what he is doing, but then the writers have no idea what to do with him either. He is reduced to squabbling with Peri in the TARDIS (a shithouse trait carried over from TWIN DILEMMA) and acting the coward. Two stories into his tenure and already I can see why Michael Grade should be applauded for his decision to sack him.
Often sentimentality comes into our scores... well, this is the episode that put me off Dr Who as a kid. To be fair, the bulk of the damage was done by Twin Dilemma, but I was happy to give Doctor number 6 another shot. And while he certainly wasn't as bad as he was in his first go, he still wasn't great. But the last straw for me as a kid was changing the TARDIS. I didn't know it was only going to be temporary - all I knew was that they'd changed my favourite character into a bit of a nob, and now they'd changed my favourite icon into... well... something that looked like a wedding cake... and it was probably going to keep on changing into dumb things... that was enough... besides, I think Family Ties might have been in direct competition with Who!
Watching Attack Of The Cybermen for the first time properly in the 4:30AM run, it wasn't too bad... I no longer hated Colin Baker (some of us have managed to grow up I guess!), and was glad to see the Police box come back at the end... even if it wasn't explained!
Watching it again today, Attack Of The Cybermen still goes OK... it's still confusing at times, very heavy on continuity (thanks to Mr Levine!), but it does work a lot better as 2 x 42 minute episodes as broadcast on UKTV.
I always thought that one of the main problems with Attack Of The Cybermen , and season 22 in general, was that the there were always one too many stories going on. Maybe that was cos of the new format, I don't know, but there always seems to be something totally superfluous. I'd always thought it was the Cryons in this one, but watching it again, I guess we really need to have them in there for the struggle on Telos. No, what's un-needed here is probably Lytton. Although I do like Lytton's story, the whole Telos plot would have played out the same whether he was there or not. The Doctor would still have been led to the Cybermen in the sewers, they would have still detected his TARDIS, and the Doctor and Peri would still have met up with the Cryons... and we wouldn't have the confusion of whether Lytton was good, bad or otherwise.
As I said though, Lytton's story is a good one - although Lytton's theme is bloody annoying and a massive contrast to the haunting Cybermen theme - it just may have been better to explore his story not in Attack of the cybermen but in a less "big" story - ie. one not including a big monster. And it also probably wasn't the best of ideas to kill him off just when he was getting interesting too. The Stratton and Bates story is kind of pointless too considering they both get killed so easily... but I guess we need them to explain some of the time machine plot. And I think my favourite part of this one is when we see Stratton's (?) cyber hand... that's cool.
I guess we have the problem of the TARDIS' "temporal grace" again too... looks like the Cybermen are immune!
All performances are fine - although has the cyberleader tubbed up a bit? Maybe that's how he earnt his new big hat. All the guest cast are fine - I particularly like Brian Glover's Griffiths - even if only for the line "I thought you were from Fulham!". And Lytton's very good too - so good that he deserves his own story. And OK, Colin Baker. His Doctor is still not great - but the thing that gets you in this one is his use of violence. Should the Doctor resort so often to guns, lances and bombs? That's not Colin's fault though - that's the way he's been written... they still don't really know how they're writing for him. It is an improvement though - the Doctor's scenes with Flast (I think that's the big boobed Cryon) are really good. He shows a lot more control and reason. His final scene with the death of Lytton isn't bad either.
Production wise there's nothing hugely wrong with Attack Of The Cybermen. It ticks along OK after a dodgy start - the only thing that stands out as poor for me is the incidental music. Love the Cyber bits - even if they are just copied from Earthshock - but hated the rest of it... seemed to work against the drama.
OK, a score. It's a definite improvement, but too confusing in parts as it tries to do too much. Attack Of The Cybermen definitely improves in the 2 part format though - I'll give it a 6, but take off 0.5 for sentimentality...