Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Reviews


List:
07 Jan 2004The Invasion, by Paul Clarke
14 Dec 2006The Invasion, by Eddy Wolverson
14 Dec 2006The Invasion, by Robert Tymec
30 Apr 2016Cybermen - The Invasion (Audio Book), by Martin Hudecek
02 Nov 2018The Invasion - Original Television Soundtrack, by Chuck Foster

‘The InvasionÂ’ is an unusual story for its era, but and impressive one which sets the tone for things to come. The contemporary Earth-bound setting is used to great effect and is a logical successor to the highly successful ‘The Web of FearÂ’. With a large cast, a returning ally, a superb villain and one of the eraÂ’s most popular monsters, it is a triumph on many different levels. 

Production wise, ‘The InvasionÂ’ feels for the most part very polished. The sets are very convincing especially VaughanÂ’s offices, the ProfessorÂ’s house, the sewers and the UNIT HQ on board an aeroplane. The relatively large budget allows for excellent location work, most notably the scenes set in London during the Cyber invasion; the sight of the Cybermen marching impassively down the steps of St. PaulÂ’s cathedral are iconic and easily as memorable as the Daleks gliding around London landmarks in ‘The Dalek Invasion of EarthÂ’. The final battle between UNIT troops and Cybermen in VaughanÂ’s compound, filmed around a Guinness factory is also excellent, benefiting from the large cast of UNIT soldiers and Cybermen. Douglas CamfieldÂ’s direction is exemplary, giving the story a sense of scale; although we only really see London, VaughanÂ’s compound and the airfield housing UNITÂ’s temporary base both feel as though they are several miles away, an effect achieved by simple use of vehicles and the different painted backdrops in VaughanÂ’s offices. Although VaughanÂ’s offices are blatantly the same set slightly redressed, the script directly addresses this, with Vaughan smugly announcing that reproducibility and uniformity are the keys to his success, and this is just one example of the story papering over its limitations. Inserted film footage of missiles being launched is also used very effectively in the last two episodes, as the Brigadier directs the attacks on the orbiting Cyber fleet. Having said all that, the story is not perfect in this regard; as has been noted by several reviewers, the off-screen rescue of Professor Watkins is conspicuous, which I think is largely due to the fact that captain Turner announces his intention to rescue him, followed immediately by a cut to a scene directly after the rescue with the luckless Gregory explaining the loss of Watkins to Vaughan. An interim scene with the Doctor or the Brigadier hearing a report of the assault would have made this far less jarring. In addition, the model work is dire, with the Cyber ships looking like they are made out of cotton reels and bits of wire, and the shots of missiles crashing into them utterly unconvincing. Nevertheless, these are minor quibbles. 

The cast is exemplary, most noticeable Kevin Stoney as Tobias Vaughan, making his second memorable impact as a Doctor Who villain. Vaughan is a superb villain from the start, his air of avuncular charm in episode one never quite masking the underlying threat he represents. The DoctorÂ’s comments to Jamie about his blinking pattern hint that he is not quite human, but even without this, he seems menacing. The scene in which he tells Gregory to “take time. Take one hour” highlights this beautifully, since Gregory is clearly terrified of his superficially charming employer. In addition, Packer is clearly a thug from the beginning, raising the question about the sort of man who would employ such a person as his lieutenant. As the story progresses, VaughanÂ’s ruthlessness is gradually unveiled, especially during his scenes with Packer and Watkins, the former of whom he explains his plans to thus exposing his megalomania to the viewer (or listener, in the case of episodes one and four), and the latter of whom he bullies mercilessly, threatening to hand over WatkinsÂ’s niece to the tender mercies of Packer. By the end of episode four, we learn just who VaughanÂ’s allies are, and the true extent of his schemes becomes clear. In some ways, Vaughan works better than Mavic Chen, StoneyÂ’s previous Doctor Who character. Chen seemed in some ways weaker, never adequately preparing for the fact that the Daleks would betray him, often seeming to need the guidance of Carlton, and ultimately descending into madness when his plans went astray. Vaughan seems much more in control of himself, despite periodic outbursts of rage. Most significantly, he realises from the very beginning that the Cybermen will betray him, and he always plans to betray them first, hence the cerebraton mentor machine. Finally, when his plans fall apart and the Cyber Planner announces that they will launch a megatron bomb and destroy all life on Earth completely, his reaction is not the deluded madness of Chen, but rather a desire for revenge as he is consumed by hatred. Another key difference is that whereas Chen was ruthless and callous, he never seemed particularly sadistic. Vaughan is also ruthless and callous, as his manipulation and dispatch of Rutlidge attests, but is sadistic as well. The scene in which he forces Watkins to shoot him and then stands laughing as the bullets ricochet off his cyber-converted chest is filled with a gleeful malice; he is simply proving that Watkins can do nothing to harm him, whereas he can easily harm Watkins. 

The ever-loyal Packer is well acted by the underrated Peter Halliday (if anyone can get access to a copy of ‘The Andromeda BreakthroughÂ’, I strongly advise them to do so to see why I think heÂ’s underrated). He is basically VaughanÂ’s lapdog, but he is also his confident. Whereas Vaughan clearly considers Gregory disposable, there is always an impression that he thinks more highly of Packer, whose mistakes outnumber GregoryÂ’s considerably. There is never any hint that Vaughan will kill Packer if he continues to let the Doctor get the better of him; this is possibly because Packer is also hinted to be partially Cyber-converted (although since Jamie twists PackerÂ’s ankle in episode one, IÂ’m somewhat dubious about this) and has been a part of the conspiracy with Vaughan from the start. In short, he is the closest thing that Vaughan has to a friend. Packer works as a villain because he is thoroughly dislikable, lacking the charisma possessed by Vaughan; he is brutal and sadistic, and there are truly unpleasant hints about just what he would do to Isobel and Zoe if given free reign. Even more than VaughanÂ’s, his death at the hands of the Cybermen is thus rather satisfying. 

When I reviewed ‘The Wheel in SpaceÂ’, I criticized the fact that the Cybermen in that story are little more than generic robots from outer space. Slightly hypocritically, I think this approach works rather well here. Again, the Cybermen are said to be after the mineral wealth of Earth, and whilst Vaughan and his men are partially converted, there is very little emphasis placed on the CybermenÂ’s need to proliferate by converting the human population. Indeed, the Cyber PlannerÂ’s announcement that, having been betrayed, they must “destroy life on Earth completely” seems to be a little panicky for a supposedly logical race. In addition to this lack of emphasis on their cybernetic nature, with Vaughan to speak for them they have little need to actually say anything. A Cyberman speaks in episode five as the UNIT soldiers face them in the sewers, but this is an isolated incident, a fact for which I am grateful since the voices used for the Cybermen here are even worse than those used in ‘The Wheel in SpaceÂ’. So the fact that they work so well here regardless is testament to the direction; they seem more threatening here than ever before. Their bulkier look compared with their appearance in ‘The MoonbaseÂ’, ‘The Tomb of the CybermenÂ’ and ‘The Wheel in SpaceÂ’ is impressive and makes them more intimidating than usual. The superb incidental music is sublimely creepy and the use of sudden stings whenever a Cyberman appears is suitably dramatic. From the moment a Cyberman bursts from its cocoon at the end of episode four, they just seem scary, and their impassive silence only emphasizes this. The scene in the sewers is absolutely gripping, with Jamie, Zoe and Isobel all seeming convincingly frightened. 

The weakness of the Cybermen exploited here by Vaughan is a novel one, as he causes one to feel fear. The sight and sound of a normally emotionless Cyberman screaming and lurching is disturbing and the crazed monster seems even more unstoppable than its comrades since it literally cannot be reasoned with. The Cyber Planner (as IÂ’ve chosen to call it) adds very little to Cyber mythology, but is of course used to maintain the surprise of who VaughanÂ’s allies are. And its voice is memorably alien at least. Douglas Camfield milks every drop of tension from the build up during the first four episodes, as the mystery of VaughanÂ’s operation mounts. Knowing in advance that the Cybermen are the villains certainly doesnÂ’t detract from the thoroughly spine-tingling ending to episode three, as Jamie finds himself in a crate with a mysterious cocooned figure that starts to moveÂ…

Patrick Troughton seems to relish having a single villain figure for the Doctor to pit his wits against from the start, and his scenes with Kevin Stoney are great. Vaughan knows that the Doctor is more than he seems thanks to the Cyber Planner, and the Doctor knows that Vaughan is more than he seems because of his blinking rate, and the two play a game of metaphorical chess for the first half of the story, as they try to manipulate each other. It is also good to have a villain who has a genuinely good reason for not just killing the Doctor outright, since Vaughan is after the TARDIS. The contrast between TroughtonÂ’s slightly anarchic Doctor and his military friends is also rather charming, as he generally bumbles happily around whilst the Brigadier seems to regard him with a mixture of amusement and respect. As in ‘The War MachinesÂ’, it makes a refreshing change for the Doctor to quickly gain the support of the establishment. With the respect of the Brigadier established by the events of ‘The Web of FearÂ’, the Doctor need waste no time proving himself, which from a dramatic point of view allows him to play with helicopters and canoes and try and rescue Zoe and Isobel with the aid of military backup, resulting in something of a romp. As a break from the norm, the result is highly entertaining. Jamie fulfills his normal action role, and good use is made of his double-act with the Doctor in the early episodes, as they chase around after Zoe and Isobel and confront Vaughan. Their bickering over JamieÂ’s free radio prompts some nice character moments, emphasizing yet again just why the Troughton and Hines combination is a winning Doctor and Companion team. Zoe, having been largely responsible for the destruction of the Land of Fiction in the previous story, here helps to save the world, since her calculations allow the destruction of most of the Cyber fleet. Her cheerful destruction of VaughanÂ’s computerized secretary is another great Zoe moment. 

Nicholas Courtney makes a welcome return as now-Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, and really makes his mark here. In ‘The Web of Fear’, the constant paranoia about who the Intelligence was using as a pawn meant that all of the supporting characters were questionable right up until the end; here however, the viewer knows that the Doctor can trust the Brigadier from the start, thus skipping the need for the Doctor to earn everybody’s trust. Apart from the benefits of this as described above, it’s just rather pleasant to see the Doctor able to rely on an old friend aside from his companions. UNIT of course makes its début here and is an interesting, and indeed sensible, concept in a world in which aliens invade Earth in a contemporary setting. Overall, ‘The Invasion’ provides UNIT with a baptism of fire and sets the tone for things to come.

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After five wonderful episodes showcasing the more fantastical side of Doctor Who, the somewhat blandly titled story “The Invasion” sees the TARDIS crew in the more familiar setting of contemporary Earth and in the more familiar position of battling some good ol’ fashioned baddies. There are certain images from Doctor Who that have almost subconsciously become part of British culture. The Daleks parading around London in “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” is one of them; the Autons smashing their way through the shop windows in “Spearhead From Space” is another. Before the recovery of “The Tomb of the Cybermen,” the scene that the Troughton era is most famous for was without doubt the Cybermen emerging from the sewers in London in this story. Monsters on the doorstep? Arguably nothing works better, and that’s what “The Invasion” is all about. For all intents and purposes it’s a dummy run for a completely Earth-based Doctor Who; a Doctor that liases with the military in battling alien threats to Earth… sound familiar? Well in 1968, it wasn’t.

The previous season’s London underground classic, “The Web of Fear,” introduced us to a certain Colonel Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, a stiff-upper lipped English soldier; a man of action, a man of honour. “The Invasion” sees Lethbridge-Stewart return, duly promoted to Brigadier and placed in charge of the UK branch of the United Nations Intelligence Task Force (UNIT). In a refreshing change from the 60’s norm for Doctor Who, this story sees the Doctor and his companions actively work with the authorities in investigating the strange goings on; they aren’t arrested and locked up for two episodes or even quizzed about who they are and where they come from! The production team’s plan (as Patrick Troughton was scheduled to leave at the end of the season) was to establish the Brigadier and UNIT properly in this story, ready to become regulars in the forthcoming Earth-based season(s). From watching the surviving six episodes of “The Invasion,” it is clear that a lot of time, money and effort was put into creating UNIT. Their H.Q. that we see in this story, for example, is better than anything that we ever see in the Pertwee era; it looks almost like something from the lair of a Bond villain! The design is absolutely superb. There are also far more extras than usual used (many of them stunt men no doubt), plus a lot of military equipment and vehicles are also seen on screen. Unfortunately, every time UNIT show up in force their presence is marred by the most appalling incidental music imaginable; this sort of jolly whistling tune; I can’t even begin to describe how awful it is!

Sadly episodes 1 and 4 of this story are missing from the BBC archives, though in this case their absence isn’t as tragic as in some other cases. The BBC Video release of the story has Nicholas Courtney (the Brigadier) filling in the blanks with a little bit of narration, and as harsh as it may sound I was thankful that I wasn’t viewing the whole thing! The first four episodes of “The Invasion” are incredibly slow. Following Courtney’s brief introduction to the story, the video begins properly with episode 2 and it feels like nothing has been missed (although to be fair, come the end of the story I had absolutely no idea why the TARDIS was invisible – that’ll learn me!) That said, there is much to enjoy about the slow-moving story. Sherwin’s script allows a lot of time for the Brigadier to develop, and also to introduce one of the serial’s main guest stars, Isobel Watkins (Sally Faulkner) – a character that would have made a great companion in my reckoning. Moreover, the longer story gives the principal villain, Tobias Vaughan, even longer to be… well villainous, really. Vaughan stands out as one of the best human antagonists of the Troughton era; he’s right up there with Theodore Maxtible and the like. Kevin Stoney brings a deadly earnestness to the part and a frightening sense of self-righteousness which pre-empts iconic characters like Davros and Omega. I also found his henchman, Packer, incredibly amusing in that stereotypically ineffectual henchman kind of way. Peter Halliday plays it completely straight that works perfectly, particularly in his scenes with the more offbeat Pat Troughton.

My hat really goes off to Derrick Sherwin for some of the subtleties in his script. For example, I enjoyed listening to Vaughan rant on about how he believes in “uniformity” and “duplication”, all the while thinking to myself, “aha, he’s dropping clues about who Vaughan is in league with.” Well yes, of course he is – but he’s also getting away with using the same office set for several different locations! Genius!

However, on top of their slow pace, the first half of the story is also completely devoid of Cybermen. I assume that their appearance in the cliffhanger ending to episode 4 (very similar in nature to the emergence of the silver giants in “The Tomb of the Cybermen”) would have been a surprise to the audience, otherwise surely the story would have been called “Invasion of the Cybermen”? Surprisingly, this works rather well. Not only does it give the episode 4 cliffhanger that “Oh My God!” shock-factor, but I think it also makes for a better story. So soon after six episodes of “The Wheel In Space,” I seriously doubt that the over-used Cybermen could have sustained an eight-part serial. In fact, for the most part the Cybermen in “The Invasion” are little more than foot soldiers for Vaughan; visually striking and very intimidating, but without a charismatic villain like Vaughan the story wouldn’t be half as good as it is. Likewise, as exquisitely evil as Vaughan is, without the Cybermen to back him up his own plans of world domination would be rather laughable, even with his high-society connections. His little talking computer is hardly all that menacing either, especially from a 21st century perspective!

Nevertheless, the pacing of the story suddenly becomes much faster in the fifth episode. Not only do we have Cybermen lurking about in the sewers beneath London, but also we learn that Vaughan is planning to double-cross them. He has forced Professor Watkins (Isobel’s kidnapped Uncle) to build him a ‘Cerebration Mentor,’ a machine that generates emotional impulses. It’s just the sort of thing an android like Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Data would have been eager to get his hands on, but to a Cybermen it’s as lethal as gold. Moreover, aside from the action there are some brilliantly written character moments. I particularly enjoyed watching the Brigadier utter the immortal line “Well, you’re a young woman. This is a job for my men,” to Isobel which sent her running for the nearest sewer just to prove him wrong, and Professor Watkins’ emotive speech to Vaughan. The Professor says that he will help Vaughan because he knows he wouldn’t be able to stand up to torture and he certainly doesn’t want to die, but if he ever gets chance he’ll kill him – an incredibly brave and bold move by the Professor in my book. It also sets up a fantastic scene where Vaughan gives Watkins a gun and dares him to shoot. The bullets don’t harm Vaughan; he has the body of a Cyberman!

It is episode 6 which features the timeless scene of Londoners collapsing to the pavements, each of them trying to shield their ears from the Cybermen’s powerful hypnotic signal as the silver giants slowly emerge from the sewers and begin their invasion. Jamie has an immortal line at the end of the episode: “Doctor! The Invasion has begun!” I was half-expecting the Doctor to turn around and say something like “What? Already? But there are still two episodes left!”

The penultimate episode sees Zoe use her technical skills to blow up the CybermenÂ’s invasion fleet using British missiles, causing the surviving Cybermen to double-double-cross Vaughan and decide to just wipe out humanity full-stop with their ‘CybermegatronÂ’ bomb! I have to say, for all my whinging about the story being slow the final episode has to be one of the most action-packed episodes in the history of Doctor Who. Whilst UNIT valiantly try to hold off the Cybermen, the Doctor manages to persuade Vaughan to use his Cerebration Mentor against the Cybermen. Vaughan agrees, not to save the Earth but because heÂ’s angry with the Cybermen for double-crossing him before he had chance to double-cross them! He takes enough of them out to allow the Doctor and UNIT to destroy the remaining Cybership, bringing “The Invasion” to its fiery climax. 

I think the scene of the Doctor running down the alleyway as fast as he can, his coattails only the tiniest distance ahead of the Cybermen’s gunshots, is the perfect finale to the story. The Brigadier shouts “Down!” and the Doctor hits the ground. Suddenly the threat is over, and the Doctor is still on the floor, amusingly tidying up his hair because Isobel isn’t wasting any time in taking photographs of ‘the hero’! Brilliant stuff!

Since their introduction two seasons earlier in “The Tenth Planet”, throughout the Troughton era the Cybermen made more appearances than the Ice Warriors, the Yeti or even the Daleks. “The Invasion” marks their last appearance in the series until 1975, and also the first appearance of their new design; the basic tenets of which would remain part of their make-up right up until 2006’s “Rise of the Cybermen.” Their voices (when they utter their one line in the entire story) are atrociously bad, and the story’s rather unimaginative ‘conquer or destroy’ plot both go some way towards explaining why it would be nearly six years before they would appear on television again. “The Invasion” is a completely mixed bag. The simplicity of the plot is rescued by the brilliance of the characters; the over-used Cybermen are saved by their juxtaposition with contemporary London and for once, keeping their traps shut. Love it or hate it, “The Invasion” is one of the most important cornerstones in the history of Doctor Who. It’s a little glimpse of the Doctor’s near future, a teaser of what is to come…

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Possibly one of the most "referenced" stories in the series' history.

Seems like almost every other episode of any story featuring UNIT mentions "that business with the Cybermen". Of course, the "Web of Fear" is mentioned quite frequently too in this context, but somehow I've always been more fascinated with "The Invasion". Probably because it's got the Cybermen in it and they're still my all-time favourite monster. So, imagine my delight when a copy of the story was finally released with episode 1 and 3 missing and some linking narration from good 'ole Nick Courtney (who almost seems wheelchair-bound or something since he never rises from his seat!) thrown in to fill the gaps. 

But, even as I purchased this release, a slight shade of hesitancy passed over me. What if this was another notorious example of JNT's famous addage: "the memory cheats"? What if this story really wasn't all that it was cracked up to be and that all the talk that has revolved around it is really "just talk"?

Turns out my concerns were largely unfounded.

"The Invasion" is a thoroughly enjoyable epic. It's got that really "clunky" moment towards the end with ProfessorWatkins getting rescued and some pretty dodgy-looking model work with the Cyber-fleet. But, otherwise, it's a really enjoyable eight episodes. Well, technically six episodes - which means that maybe there was some awful padding in the two parts that no longer exist but I'll never be the wiser!

I know lots of you folks go on endlessly about how great the "old" Cybermen were. I've seen all the existing footage in "Tenth Planet", "Moonbase" and "Wheel In Space" and the unearthed complete story of "Tomb of the Cybermen" and I honestly think these stories have as many flaws to them as any of the Cybermen stories from the 80s. And, in some cases, I'd even take "Earthshock" or even "Silver Nemesis" over some of these older stories any day. But "The Invasion" is the exception to this rule. This really is a fantastic Cybermen story. Mainly because of the way the plot actually uses them. Their involvement in the adventure is kept a secret for the first four episodes so that when they finally break out of the cocoon, it's one of the best entrances a recurring villain ever makes. Also Tobias Vaughn and the Cyber Planner serve the same purpose Davros did in Dalek stories of the 70s and 80s. They handle the bulk of the expository dialogue, thus leaving the Cybermen to do what they do best: lumber around menacingly whilst being really hard to kill. The sewer sequences are an excellent example of this. And the march in front of St. Paul's Cathedral, for my money, is far more effective than when the Daleks coasted around London way back in the "Dalek Invasion of Earth" (if nothing else, we didn't have to endure that endless drumbeat pounding away over and over!). More superficially, this particular "look" for the Cybermen was also one of the better costumes they ever designed. And, it was nice to finally see Cybermen toting around rifles. Not sure why I like that so much, but it was still cool!

Another great strength to this story is the magnificentportrayal of the evil Tobias Vaughn. Kevin Stoney knows how to play his villains. So well, that it almost makes you wonder what the man is like in real life. And it's impressive to see that Vaughn isn't just a copy of Mavic Chen, but rather, a completely different interpretation. He's far more charming, if anything and considerably more calculating. But, like Chen, Stoney allows himself just enough OTT moments to make the villain fun in places. But he never goes too far with it. And there are definitely some really chilling moments for Stoney to sink his teeth into. Particularly the sequence where Watkins shoots him and we see the smouldering bullets in Vaughn's chest as he smiles evilly. Magnificient stuff. 

I suppose, like many fans, I do find it a bit hard to believe that Vaughn would use somebody like Packer as his second-in-command. He seems a bit too incompetent and panics too easilly. Although, I have found that the complaints about Packer are greatly exaggerated (as is the case with many of the things fans like to "niggle" about in the series). The only time Packer really seems like a boob is during the whole "escape through the lift shaft" sequence with the Doctor and Jamie. Otherwise, he does handle things fairly well, overall, and it's not entirely ridiculous that Vaughn would employ such a blatant sadist. Packer is there to handle Vaughn's dirtywork so that he can look "squeaky clean" in his public profile. This seems a logical set-up and doesn't push plausibility too far. 

And then, of course, there's UNIT. A good first story. Although I do feel that Nick's portrayal of the Brigadier is still a bit rough in places. It's tough though, really. The Brig did become such a well-crafted character that it is a bit difficult to see him still a little unpolished in his early days. Even the first Pertwee story has a bit of this going on in it too. But it is nice to see the Doctor able to get some millitairy might to back him up. And, unlike a lot of later UNIT stories, the back-up is actually somewhat instrumental in resolving the conflict. 

Which leads me neatly into commenting on the effectiveness of the final two episodes. These are the ultimate testament to Douglas Camfield's directorial skills. Aside from the afore-mentioned poor model work, I consider the execution of these last two episodes virtually flawless. Especially when you consider how much of the action had to be handled through just actors standing around in control rooms pretending to react to events being announced on radios. Somehow, we feel as though we are still part of all this action and tension and we can suspend our disbelief adequately as Douglas cuts away to stock footage and bad models. It's all rather impressive, really. 

And when Douglas is able to handle some legitimately visual action, it's truly breathtaking. The Doctor and Vaughn sneaking through the compound and the attack from UNIT on the Cybermen are breathtakingly well-done. Particularly when you consider the budget limitations and the time period in which this was all shot. Camfield really surpasses himself here - and we can see why his status as a director for Who has become a bit legendary.

Finally, we hear a lot about how wonderful Season Five of Who was. But I'm still more impressed with what I've seen of Season Six. This might simply be because I've seen a lot more footage from this season, but I'm more inclined to believe that there is a better variety and quality to the stories of this season. We have the wildly imaginative "Mind Robber", the fun little runarounds in "The Dominators" and "Seeds of Death" and the climactic grand finale of "The War Games". Sitting, quite beautifully, in the middle of all this is fantastic little contemporary epic called "The Invasion". Easily, one of the best Cybermen stories - and an excellent Troughton tale to boot! Even with the conveniently written-in "break" that Frazer Hines gets in the last two episodes!

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The Invasion (Credit: BBC Audio)

Original Novelisation By: Ian Marter

Audio Performances And Narration: David Troughton

Released: 7th April 2016, BBC AUDIO.

Duration: 5 hours approximately.

The TARDIS crew have overcome unpredictable and unnerving events in The Land Of Fiction and now are returnd to their familiar time/space dimension. But it is a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire. A quick control manoeuvre saves the TARDIS from an alien missile fired from the vicinity of the Moon, and the Doctor, Jamie McCrimmon and Zoe Heriot travel down to Earth.

The heroic trio have ended up in a relatively innocuous field with cows, but the ship needs some circuit repair work before further travels are possible. Ideally, help is needed from someone native to Earth. Knowing that they are in the general time zone where they last met their ally Professor Travers they set off to nearby London.

But it is a somewhat different London from the one Jamie and the Doctor last visited, when the Underground was brought to a standstill by the Great Intelligence and its 'Yeti' forces. International Electromatics has made a decisive impact on the lives of consumers from all walks of life. The head of the corporation, Tobias Vaughn, is clearly a man of great vitality and drive, but he harbours a number of terrifying skeletons in his cupboard.

Eventually the Doctor crosses paths once again with the charismatic and brave Alistair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart, who has risen up to the rank of Brigadier, and who heads a military organisation known as UNIT.

Professor Travers is absent, and instead his apartment is rented to a Professor Watkins and his photographer niece Isobel. Watkins has seemingly been kidnapped by Vaughn's men and it falls on the Doctor to try and retrieve him, as well as help UNIT's investigations into just what International Electromatics are up to.

Before long, Watkins' niece Isobel and her new friend Zoe also fall into Vaughn's clutches, and the Doctor and Jamie must employ their wits in order to save them. A far bigger problem soon manifests itself: the emotionless Cybermen are planning to invade Earth, and they know that the Doctor is one of the few things that will stand in their way..

 

One of the most confident stories of Season 6 - along with the vitally important The War Games - The Invasion was pivotal in setting the groundwork for the imminent colour era of Doctor Who. It is also one of the longest stories in the show's history at eight parts; itself an episode quota that was never seen before or since.

It could have come over as unwieldy and padded, but wonderful one-off characters such as Vaughn, Packer, Watkins, and Isobel all play their parts to perfection. Having the first four episodes feature more of Jamie, and the latter four feature more of Zoe was also an unusual aspect at the time but paid off well. Even though the story is essentially action and thriller rolled together, there are some other notable themes. These include the dangers of technological progress, the price paid for being successful at all costs, the rise of feminism and its clashes with old-school male institutions, such as the military, and the importance of friendship and loyalty. The story was of course vital to Doctor Who's long-term future, and it is good we have it largely intact, although there is still a vague hope that episodes one and four are found somewhere, one day.

David Troughton has contributed much to film, TV and theatre over the years, and still is a busy actor to this day. I myself have had the pleasure of seeing him live on stage in Stratford-upon-Avon, and he had a poise and assuredness that made him magnetic to watch. He also has appeared many times in classic Doctor Who, as well as the modern show, with The Curse Of Peladon remaining his most significant contribution. 

Troughton sounds uncannily like his father Patrick, and thus delivers a recitation of the Second Doctor that gives much of this 'alternate take' on the official story an identity and compelling nature all its own.

However a number of the voices of the original are somewhat missed. I have returned to both the VHS and DVD releases of The Invasion many times since first purchasing them, and much of the reason for that were the strong performances across the board. This meant that whatever the quality of this new audio book, I would regard the Brigadier, Packer, Vaughn and Professor Watkins as 'the original and best'. Our audio perfomer nonetheless does very well to provide a rich vein of identity and distinctive personality in his voices. His narration is also very good, and manages to keep a potentially demanding runtime pass by relatively without fuss.

As with the recent Death to the Daleks release, we have the participation of multi-skilled audio icon Nicholas Briggs, who does a fine job of updating the monster voices that Peter Halliday had provided in the original 1968 TV serial.

Sound effects and music are serviceable here. For the climactic battle scenes there is plenty of fizz and fury. The occasional melody comes along to signify a chapter of significance, as well as beginnings and ends of (the in total five) CDs. Yet otherwise, and especially for such a long run time, the audio backing side of the production can feel a bit sparse.

The much-missed Ian Marter played companion Harry Sullivan - who was himself a member of UNIT - and is the writer of the text that fuels this unabridged reading. The book is generally very faithful to the original story, with the odd extra death or variant set piece slotted in. Thus, despite this audio release's cover and title, the prominence of the Cybermen remains somewhat minimal.  The heart and soul of the antagonism is still to be found in the form of Tobias Vaughn. There is a fascinating relationship of power between him and his security chief Packer, which is developed by the story being as long as it is. The novelisation does well to make Packer a bit less incompetent and displaying some insights that are of potential use to his superior.

And as a story in its own right, Marter has made sure to move events along at a steady clip. Most of the prose is pleasant to the ear, and there is a good amount of adjectives that stand out as creative. Some extra dialogue and emotion also make this version distinctive.

Overall this is another a fine exhibit of a story with a perennial enemy of the good Doctor. A previously made narrated 'off-air' soundtrack of the story is still available second-hand. Arguably that version now adds little to the official DVD, which was complete with excellent animation by the now sadly defunct Cosgrove Hall. But this release offers all the excellent prose and urgency that Ian Marter brought to his Doctor Who novelisations, and of course the versatile acting skills of David Troughton. It is truly deserving of a science fiction aficionado's time.

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The Invasion - Original Television Soundtrack (Credit: Silva Screen )
The Invasion - Original Television Soundtrack
Music by Don Harper and Brian Hodgson
Released by Silva Screen 2018
Purchase from Amazon UK
50 years ago (to this very day!) UK viewers were introduced to The Invasion on television featuring an evocative score by Australian composer Don Harper. 25 years ago the music tapes were provided to Mark Ayres for conservation and restoration. And this year that score has been released for us all to enjoy for the story's golden anniversary, thanks to Silva Screen!

The UNIT of this story reflects an organisation steeped in covert observation and infiltration, and Harper's score does much to evoke the "spy era" of the 1960s. If Derrick Sherwin had continued a little longer as producer, and director Douglas Camfield helmed the Spearhead From Space and again employed Harper, perhaps the look and feel of the UNIT "family" would have been much different? (his final two UNIT endeavours Terror of the Zygons and The Seeds Of Doom with Geoffrey Burgon also conjure up more mystery than the "friendly" Simpson-helmed stories). Some of those early elements do crop up in later adventures (such as Mike Yates at Global Chemicals in The Green Death and Harry at Think Tank in Robot), but in general its a much watered down version of UNIT who become more 'protect and defend' as the organisation developed under Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks.

What's quite surprising is how little music Harper actually composed for the story. In the sleeve notes Ayres notes how only some eleven minutes featured in total across the eight episods, but this is down to how memorable his themes are, especially in the early episodes as the mystery is set up. This CD also presents a number of additional cues/stings that were composed for the story but were not ultimately used.

The rest of The Invasion (and the CD) features additional electronic music composed by Brian Hodgson, which mainly accompanied International Electromatics scenes and the latter episodes as the Cybermen plans come to fruition, plus some incidental 'muzak' from Radiophonic Workshop stalwart John Baker.

This is the first time the full, original score has been released on audio; a few tracks were included on disc two of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Collection, and many of the cues were reworked by Harper himself and released on an album New Decades (later included on a compilation of Harper's music released by Dual Planet in 2014, Cold Worlds).

However, the question is whether it is worth buying this new release if you have the others already? Well, as mentioned the latter album was a re-working of the orginal themes rather than hearing them as originally recorded, plus you get all the previouly unheard cues and the additional electronic elements from Hodgson, remastered under the ever-efficient hand of Mark Ayres.

All-in-all, I feel this is a worthy addition to the ever-growing collection of Doctor Who music that is now available from Silva Screen and, perhaps, a glimpse into what UNIT might have been like had it been more of a investigative organisation to what ultimately developed in the 1970s (or the eighties depending upon the dating protocol!)

 

(1968 ... 1993 ... 2018 .... so what's next for The Invasion in 2043?!!!)

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