Thursday, 9 June 2011

Attack Of The Cybermen (Part 1)

Originally Broadcast 5th January 1985
Written by: Paula Moore

In a nutshell: Commander Lytton is planning a bank robbery by going underneath the sewers as the Doctor and Peri, in the TARDIS, answer a distress signal leading to the same place. The Cybermen happen to be there too.

Review: Whenever I come to ‘Attack Of The Cybermen’ I’m never sure if I like it or love it. There are so many points I could easily criticise but I can’t help liking a lot of the story in this first episode. I mean, the Doctor does bugger all for the entire episode, yet Colin Baker acts and makes the hard-to-love sixth incarnation loveable. I really don’t get the attraction to his character and I understand how Baker is often cited as the ‘worst’ Doctor but I fail to hate him in his appearance in most episodes, certainly not here. Yes he’s a bit angry and a bit ‘full on’ but at the same time he’s the Doctor and this thing of loving him despite his characterisation being horrible is solely down to Colin Baker and furthers the argument (made by somebody associated with the show a long time ago, I’ve forgotten who!) that no Doctor has ever been miscast.

Lytton and his bank robbery scenario is quite a good one as well, as it gives way to location shooting and scenes that look really out of place in Doctor Who and you just wouldn’t expect, which, actually, is a really nice change and gives Doctor Who’s 22nd season a lot more to it. Easily the worst part about this episode, which begins in the first Lytton scene, is the music. It’s absolutely terrible and so boring and repetitive, I don’t know how many times the same four notes of music are relied on throughout this episode but it gets tedious and sticks in your head (and then becomes more annoying).

The Doctor and Peri spend too long in the TARDIS
The chameleon circuit is the part of the Doctor’s TARDIS that’s meant to make it change appearance from a telephone box to blend in with its background, but has, thankfully, been broken since ‘An Unearthly Child’ (1963). In this episode the Doctor repairs it (or tries) and I’m very glad it only stuck for this serial, as it provides a bit of fun between the Doctor and Peri but gets irritating, especially if it lasted for a series (or forever!), taking away that iconic blue phone box for good. But just for one story, it gives a bit of fun and something new to the show. I seem to think newspapers at the time were running a story about Doctor Who axing the TARDIS so maybe this sense of fear was heightened in fans hearts at the time?
One part of ‘messing with the series’ that I don’t really like, however, is the Doctor landing in ‘An Unearthly Child’s’ junkyard, only to pop his head out saying “This looks familiar”. I don’t think there’s any need for it and, unlike some parts f continuity, this isn’t one that myself (as a fan) immediately get excited for and think “Wow, that’s good”. In one instance it’s great how that junkyard is such an important part of the mythos yet to the Doctor it’s unmemorable, but at the same time I want him to remember it, but overall, this part should have been left well away.

The Cybermen have to be talked about here, after all, it is their episode! I think the biggest problem with the 45-minute format is when to introduce the villain. ‘Cybermen’ is in the title, yet it takes almost thirty minutes for them to make a ‘proper’ appearance and the Doctor only gets a small scene with one Cyber in this first episode. The same problem arose in 2006 with ‘Rise Of The Cybermen’/‘The Age Of Steel’ with the Cybermen only turning up in time to provide us with a (rather obvious) cliffhanger moment. I’m glad this isn’t the case here, but they should get an earlier introduction, as we already know they are coming.

Something that worked about this serial, in regards to the Cybermen, is seeing some goings-on on Telos. The cut-aways work because it completely changes our location and scenery for something new, making it look more interesting. Although for a robot, a Cyberman doesn’t half look like a man when he’s trying to climb up a sand dune.

Not Peri's most flattering cliffhanger
I’ll wrap this review up with a brief mention of the cliffhanger, which was very poor. There’s some very dodgy acting with Terry Molloy and Nicola Bryant at one point taking it in turns to see who can shout ‘no’ the loudest. I also don’t get how the Cybermen have made it into the TARDIS (again), the Doctor shut the doors and I can’t imagine them being able to even find the doors now the chameleon circuit is at work again. Perhaps I’ll find out in part two, which, hopefully, will be as enjoyable and interesting to watch as the first.

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