Shows - Review
Doctor Who (1963-1989)
Episode: Attack of the Cybermen (Part 1)
Review by: Michael Hickerson
Watching Attack of the Cybermen, it is obvious the author, Ms. Paula Moore (who we've recently found out was long-time Who fan and collector, Ian Levine writing under a false name), has a great love for the tall metallic creations. Only a true fan could have written such a story so steeped in the backstory and lore of the Cybermen--with some many homages to the previous Cyberstories. We get nods to the Tenth Planet (the destruction of Mondas being an integral part of the story), Tomb of the Cybermen (the inclusion of Telos and the misassumption by several characters that the Cybermen come from Telos as well as the return of the Cyber-Controller) and the Invasion (the Cyber-fleet hides on the dark side of the moon and works out of the sewer tunnels). There's a lot of Cyberhistory in here--and it helps if you've got more than a glancing knowledge of just who and what the Cybermen are in order to understand the story. Which is why I'd argue it was a bad choice to start off season 22 and the first full year of Colin Baker's reign as Doctor. One of the first things any story featuring a new Doctor must do is to give the audience an inside track to understanding who the Doctor is. Most of the other Doctor's second stories do this fairly well--the biggest exception being Paradise Towers. Here, however, in addition to the viewer confusion on seeing who this new Doctor is, you've got continuity references galore to stories that, quite frankly at the time of airing, had not seen the light of day in over 20 years-- namely because large portions of them were lost. I can remember the first time I saw this story when I first started watching Who and being turned off because I literally had no idea what the story was about and that it was far too steeped in continuity for a new fan or a casual fan to follow. Remember this was in the days before the Internet so finding other fans to help answer your questions was a virutal impossibility.
So, I will admit that I've been predjuiced against Attack of the Cybermen ever since that time. That's not to say I haven't warmed up to it a bit over the years. It's gone up in my estimation on the repeat viewings I've given it. And now that we've got the virtually complete (as complete as it's ever going to be) library of Cyber-stories readily available it makes a whole lot more sense. Indeed, the idea is a fairly interesting one--the Cybermen want to destroy Earth by slamming Halley's Comet into it, thus averting the destruction of Mondas. Interesting idea and one that's pretty well done--even to the inclusion of Haley's Comet being an integral plotpoint since Haley mania was at a height when the story aired since the comet was passing near Earth. (I even remember getting binoculars for Christmas that year so I could look up and see the comet).
Attack of the Cybermen unfolds at a reasonable enough pace. There's enough momentum in the story go keep it moving fairly well and to keep the plotpoints coming fast and furious. The inclusion of Lytton is nicely done and it's an interesting development to see him on the side of the Cryons and not working for the Cybermen as we and the Doctor are led to assume. Lytton's character inclusion gives us a chance to see a bit of the new Doctor's character and how he reacts to a character he met in the past. (I'd argue that the one way that the fans really get to meet and understand who the new Doctor is is by studying the companion's reactions to him, which is one of the reasons the TV Movie failed as it did--there was no in for the audience to get to know this new Doctor).
Attack takes a page from the Robert Holmes book of scripting--namely it's got lots of pairs of characters playing off each other. The pairing off as it were is nicely done and it gives us some good character moments. The characters here are a bit one-note--the exceptions really being the Doctor, Peri and Lytton--but given that most of the characters introduced meet an untimely demise within five to ten minutes of being introduced it's not too glaring.
However, the fast and furious pace and the plot unfolding reasonably enough can't overlook a few glaring errors.
--Why were the Cybermen so concerned with destroying Telos? What overall purpose did it serve?
--Why had we not ever heard of the Cryoonnnnns before? Indeed, as it worked out they were just in there to be the "underground, rebels" of the plot so the Doctor can, once again, overthrow a totalitarian regime.
--While I like the idea that we bring back the CyberController, was it really necessary that it BE Michael Kilgariff? I say this because in the original Tomb, the voice was not supplied by Kilgariff but by Roy Skelton. Also, his Cybermen is not as sleek as the others which is a bit glaring.
--One of the general complaints about the Colin Baker years is the Doctor moves from being a character who does not employ violence to being an extremely violent character. It starts here. We see the Doctor dive into the sewer to fight one of Lytton's police guards (what useful purpose do they REALLY serve), to his attacking the Cybermen to his callous disregard to the death going on around him with the Cryons. I've got to admit I can see where the criticism comes from based on this story.
All in all, Attack of the Cybermen has it's good points and it's bad. It is definitely not a story to show new fans as they are likely to become lost and confused. It's a decent story but it's not a classic.
Last Updated: 10/25/2006
Other Reviews by Michael Hickerson
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