04 May 2004Attack of the Cybermen, by Sarah Tarrant
04 May 2004Attack of the Cybermen, by Paul Clarke
15 Nov 2005Attack of the Cybermen, by Tom Prankerd
15 Nov 2005Attack of the Cybermen, by Ed Martin
15 Nov 2005Attack of the Cybermen, by Paul Clarke
24 Mar 2006Attack of the Cybermen, by Ewen Campion-Clarke

It is difficult not to come to the conclusion, in my opinion, that for all its good intentions and some fine cast members, ‘The Twin Dilemma’ was a poor start for the Doctor’s sixth incarnation and a disappointing end to one of the best seasons of the eighties. Despite this I could certainly see potential in the direction the regular team of Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant were taking the series. I can vaguely recall the excitement I felt regarding entering 1985 with the series not only returning to Saturdays (I feel the time is rather immaterial, although I suspect amongst others, fourth Doctor actor Tom Baker would probably argue the point on that) but weekly episodes extended to forty-five minutes.

Now I have to confess that the Cybermen are my all time favourite Doctor Who monster so although biased I always approach their story appearances with a detached and objective perspective. Apologies to all you Dalek fans out there but I feel that Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis’ creations are the best long term adversarial race that the Doctor has ever encountered. Through their many appearances in the series we have seen them evolve from the cloth faced figures in their first ‘The Tenth Planet’ story through to the streetwise look as featured in the rather poor ‘Silver Nemesis’ adventure but whatever they look like the overriding menace that they present remains. They must certainly have influenced the development of the obviously successful Borg race which have featured in many episodes of the various Star Trek series and of course, in my opinion, the finest spin off film from the franchise, 1996’s ‘First Contact’. It is their close association to humans, further heightened by the truly excellent, and for me most disturbing, cyber-origin Big Finish release ‘Spare Parts’ that puts this race above the Daleks. So therefore, for me at least I still have very fond memories (despite its faults) of when I watched ‘Attack of the Cybermen’ on its original transmission, purely due to the escapist adventure nature it presents. On the one hand it was obviously important to herald the new series with the return of a popular adversary however I suppose it would have probably had greater and more memorable impact if the Cybermen’s return to the series had been more of a closely guarded secret. That point aside there is much to enjoy in what is, in essence, a rather fast paced action story whose plot is mostly steeped in Cyber history. Admittedly it is a violent piece of drama (typical with much of this seasons stories), lots of character deaths and of course the eventual brutal treatment of Lyton at the hands of the Cybermen (crushing his hands till they bleed and his eventual cyber conversion) but this is truly in keeping with the true nature of this evil unfeeling lifeform.

‘Attack of the Cybermen’ opens with the mystery surrounding underground sewer tunnels located under London’s Fleet Street. We first observe two workmen (their yellow hardhats clearly indicating that they work for Thames Water) who are clearly mystified about the identification marks they find on the walls in relation to the maps they are carrying. Their presence clearly does not go unnoticed, and something, out of the darkness rushes forward and kills them.

Also showing an interest in the area, albeit for an entirely different reason is a sharp suited shady character called Lyton who pulls his Ford Granada saloon car to a halt on the side of a busy road whilst peering out towards a modern office block nearby. The plan, as he outlines to the three men travelling with him, is to commit a diamond raid (£2 million in uncut gems apparently) on said establishment. Whilst it is certainly a pleasure to have Maurice Collbourne’s former Dalek taskforce leader return one briefly wonders how much time has elapsed between this story and the previous ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’ tale. From his dialogue and character’s posture you can gain the impression that he is clearly tiring of his continued time on the Earth and he enters this story clearly with some hidden agenda of his own in which to leave. Griffiths (played by broad Yorkshire actor Brian Glover who works well primarily in conjunction with Maurice Collbourne’s character) and Russell (the former Council labourer) are clearly the criminals they appear to be although by his nervous disposition James Beckett’s Payne character is certainly less trustworthy and suspicious of the groups mysterious leader. This is, we later discover, with good reason, as having been asked to, at very short notice, obtain a large amount of explosives for the job, he leaves the group. On making a phone call from a near by call box his real identity of police officer becomes apparent from his conversation.

On his return the four men enter the sewers unaware that their presence below ground has been observed. Similar stalking techniques to that which was used by the androids used in ’Earthshock’ are employed by an equally darkened figure which leisurely takes its time and picks off Russell. The activity of knocking a wall down clearly appears to be a way for Lyton to announce their presence to not only the Cyberman sentry but also the Cyber base. With only the shaven headed Yorkshireman by his side (Payne evidently having used the Cyberman diversion to flee), Lyton shows little surprise as a wall slides back and numerous Cybermen filter out. At this point a Cyberman is apparently killed by machine gun bullets, quite unthinkable! Well my thoughts on this is that this Cyberman must be a newly converted being from the underground Cyber base and therefore his ability to withstand this form of attack had not been completed. Naturally showing no emotional sense of concern, the Cybercontroller asks how Lyton, a mere human, managed to locate their base. Much to Griffith’s surprise (illustrating how easily taken in he can be) he replies he is not from Earth and is infact from Vita 15 (Riften 5) in the star system 690 (not from Fulham as he’d previously said). It is the signal detection point in the story which is noteworthy as this two way transmission between Earth and the Cyberman’s (adopted) planet of Telos is what leads to the Doctor and Peri’s involvement in the story.

Quite wrongly the Doctor assumes that the ‘Intergalactic Distress Call’ received in the TARDIS is from a stranded friendly alien and, being the good Samaritan, he sets out to locate and rescue whatever being is sending the signal. It is only when, having encountered a seemingly lost Payne wandering the sewers coupled with running into a Cyberman patrolling the entrance of the base that the situation becomes clearer. From this point the simple mystery element of the story slowly fades, the story changes pace and begins to make references to Cyber series history. This subtle change of pace primarily as we enter the second episode is good for long term fans and should not unduly perplex the casual viewer to the series due to the comprehensive manner in which the historical ground is covered. With their eventual capture on their return to the TARDIS, the Doctor and Peri encounter Lyton and Griffiths which leads to an interesting Cyber series history conversation briefly recalling the events of William Hartnell’s ‘The Tenth Planet’ story and the planet Telos history. The reacquaintance of the Doctor and Lyton following onto their (supposed (unfilmed(?)) encounter in the previous season’s ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’ is also enjoyable as Colin Baker conveys his character’s contempt of the former Dalek mercenary, something he would later come to regret.

The cold sterile atmosphere of Telos is established straight away as we shift to watching an escape by two men from a work party that the Cybermen have assembled on the surface of the windswept, barren world. Stratton is clearly a hard embittered figure, tired of working for the Cybermen and all too aware of their master plan for the planet. His companion Bates is a timid follower who is easily lead and follows Stratton with the hope that he can deliver the long term survival and freedom from the Cybermen he desires. During his emotional conversation with his fellow escapee we learn from Stratton that the Cybermen are lining the surface of the planet with explosives which they intend to detonate once they have left with no regard for the human workforce which had been arduously working in their service. The chances of success of the Cybermen’s plan to deflect Telos in an attempt to prevent the destruction of Mondas (their home planet) rather depends on the amount of explosives used and their positioning but that doesn’t really concern the viewer. Stratton is seemingly unique amongst the assembled workers in his desire to escape before this happens. Choosing his moment the intention was to escape with two colleagues and then launch an attack on Cyber Control to attempt to capture the Cybermen’s time capsule. However as the plan goes wrong with only Bates joining him, following venting his anger on his timid follower he quickly decides on an alternate plan. Whilst enjoyable to see the brutal attack of a lone Cyberman, smashing off head of said adversary the plan of using Bates to wear the cleaned out receptacle and proceed to their target as prisoner and escort seemed ultimately flawed and smacks of further desperation. It was only their seemingly unexpected meeting up with Lyton and Griffiths that greatly improved their chances of success, something that I will touch on later.

Obviously on their arrival on Telos the seemingly legendary tombs realised for this story do not meet the splendour presented in the previous highly rated Patrick Troughton adventure ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’ which is naturally disappointing but, due to budgetary considerations are not entirely surprising. The use of this simplistic setting does allow for the customary splitting up of the four characters to aid the progression of the plot. It therefore falls to Peri and, more importantly Lyton and Griffiths, to encounter the native Cryon lifeform. With bulbous heads, rippled glass flat unbroken collars, matching half arm/wrist adornment with long thin nails wearing white plastic jumpsuits these aliens are certainly a curious creation. On encountering them it struck me as noteworthy that this was a female race and with the Cybermen being clearly male we once again have a battle of the sexes conflict similar to the Hommiks and Seska primarily featured in the season four episode of Blakes Seven entitled ‘Power’ evidently with a similar outcome.

Having learnt that Lyton is infact working for the Cryons it is their subsequent attempts to reach Cyber Control using a Cryon created ‘safe route’ map which is one of the more interesting plot developments in the second half of this story. With Griffiths acting as bodyguard this leads to their emergence onto the surface and the memorable meeting of Stratton and Bates whom are clearly known to the Cryons. It is chilling to discover that humans like Stratton are infact Cyber rejects, beings whose Cyber conversion was not successful. The scene where Stratton removes his right glove, pulls up his sleeve revealing a metallic appendage which he then coldly and dispassionately proceeds to grip Griffith’s hand with is both most effective and memorable in conveying what he (and presumably many others) have been through at the hands of the Cybermen.

The Doctor has his own initial encounter and conversation with a Cryon, albeit an elderly one during his initial imprisonment in a cold storage room but these scenes are I find, largely forgettable. Presumably this individual, identified as Flast was played by noted comedy actress Faith Brown although such was the nature of the Cryon head gear it is impossible to detect the identity of the individual. This is similar for children’s presenter Sarah Green although their voices can give some clue to their identity.

Despite the seriousness of the plot ‘Attack of the Cybermen’ does present viewers with some lighter moments. The relationship between the Doctor and Peri has subtly evolved although Peri is still showing concerns about the Doctor’s mental state (attempting to do so much work on the TARDIS and the amusing street scene (‘I suddenly feel conspicuous’) shortly after they first land in a London scrapyard in glamorous(!) Acton). To my knowledge I believe this is the only story (apart of course from ‘Logopolis’) where the Doctor makes a serious attempt to repair the TARDIS chameleon circuit which, to a degree, is temporarily successful. I particularly liked the pipe organ coupled with the Doctor showing some musical skill, however ultimately you can’t beat the blue police box appearance which makes its welcome return at the stories conclusion. There is a surprise nod to the past with the TARDIS initially materialising at 76 Totters Lane and whilst it’s pleasing to see the Doctor’s brief reaction when he sees the sign proclaiming the address and ‘I.M.Foreman’ sign on their return to the TARDIS the location bears little resemblance to that which appeared way back in ‘An Unearthly Child’.

Although possibly weighed down with the events of ‘The Tenth Planet’ (the destruction of Mondas) and The Tombs of the Cybermen’ and a plot which undoubtedly has its faults there is much to commend in a story that stands up well with others featured in this twenty-second season. I know that its not exactly perfect and the story does falter the further it develops over its total length but viewed overall it must surely rate better than their next appearance in the series, the unsatisfactory mess that was ‘Silver Nemesis’. If the rumours are true regarding Colin Baker recording a commentary for a possible DVD release (don’t you just love these rumours?) I feel it would be a fine addition to BBC Worldwide’s growing collection of highly regarded titles representing the series and a further indication of how great an adversary the Cybermen have become.

Filters: Television Series 21 Sixth Doctor

After the diabolical 'The Twin Dilemma', Colin Baker really needed a good, strong story to open his first full season. What he got was 'Attack of the Cybermen'. To be fair, it is better than its predecessor, since it benefits from decent direction from Matthew Robinson and generally fine acting; the sewer scenes in Episode One are especially creepy, as a mysterious figure stalks people in the dark brick-lined tunnels. The revelation that the mysterious figure is in a fact a Cyberman is an extremely exciting moment for anyone who isn't aware of the title of the story that they are watching (Okay, okay, it's a problem common to many Dalek stories, but I couldn't resist the cheap shot…). Unfortunately as the story progresses, a variety of factors conspire to betray the promise offered by the opening scenes and 'Attack of the Cybermen' swiftly degenerates to a point where it becomes one of my least favourite Doctor Who stories. 

There are things to enjoy in 'Attack of the Cybermen', but most of them are in Episode One. Maurice Colbourne is once again excellent in the role of Lytton, recapturing the air of restrained menace that he brought to the role in 'Resurrection of the Daleks'. Brain Glover is also very good as Griffiths, an underused but memorable character; he is essentially a thug, but surprisingly likeable nonetheless, and he works well as a foil for Lytton. Glover's sharp delivery of lines such as "No I'm not!" when Griffiths is accused of being allergic to nylon work to the character's benefit, as does his increasingly bad tempered but rather stoic reaction to aliens. In addition, the idea of the rejects of the Cyber conversion process is rather effective, and serves as a reminder of the most horrific aspect of the titular creatures; indeed, this aspect is illustrated throughout the story, with various luckless humans undergoing conversion, as well as Lytton. The Cybermen's crushing of his hands, often criticized for its brutality, is nevertheless an effective indication of the inhuman nature of the creatures as well as their monstrous strength. Then there is the Doctor and Peri, who as in 'The Twin Dilemma' continue to bicker incessantly. Again, whilst this is not to everyone's taste, their spiky relationship works for me, and I continue to find it entertaining. The Doctor dismisses most of Peri's cares and worries, increasing her tendency to worry, and this is reflected in her mounting bad temper throughout Episode One, typified by the sequence in which the Doctor emerges from the sewer entrance wearing the helmet of one of Lytton's policemen; Peri angrily snaps "Never do such a stupid thing again! I could have killed you!" to which the Doctor glibly replies, "I believe you", eliciting a sharp "Don't patronize me" from his companion. Baker and Bryant handle this very well, showing the tension between them but maintaining the impression that beneath it all they are still friends. I also rather like the daft sequences with the chameleon circuit, which rather than being an intrusive and alienating example of excessive continuity is if anything a timely reminder to the casual audience of why exactly the TARDIS is shaped like a police box. 

A note here on the subject of continuity; one accusation often leveled at 'Attack of the Cybermen' is that appreciation of this story depends far too much on knowledge of past stories which the casual viewer would not have. In fact, this is untrue; the main stories referenced by 'Attack of the Cybermen' are 'The Tenth Planet' (the destruction of Mondas) and 'The Tomb of the Cybermen' (the tombs on Telos and the Cyber Controller), but any information derived from those stories and relevant here is adequately reiterated. Additionally, references to I. M. Foreman and various companions are gratuitous, but unlikely to actually alienate anyone new to the series. Ironically, one of the most obvious uses of continuity in 'Attack of the Cybermen' is the return of Lytton. I say ironically, because casual viewers might indeed remember Lytton from the previous series and might therefore realize that script-editor Eric Saward completely buggers things up, since Lytton didn't actually meet the Doctor in that story. Fan revisionism has suggested an untelevised adventure to bridge the gap, but it would have to take place before 'Resurrection of the Daleks', but whilst Lytton is working as a Dalek Trooper (the Doctor claims that he was working for the Dalek taskforce the last time they met) which would be something of a contrivance and the fact remains that it is obviously a whopping great mistake. The most offensive nod to continuity is the casting of Michael Kilgarriff as the Cyber Controller. He is recast simply because he played the role nearly two decades earlier, despite not having spoken in the part and despite having been completely encased in a costume, as is also the case here. The only possible reason that I can think of for such a ludicrous piece of casting is that it allowed unofficial series advisor Ian Levine to pleasure himself at the thought of the painfully anally retentive link to the past that it represented. For the viewer, the benefits are rather lacking, as the result is of course the Fat Controller. Defenders of 'Attack of the Cybermen' have tried to claim that the Controller's copious girth is to accommodate additional processing power and data storage: if so he must literally be a smart arse. 

The main problems I have with 'Attack of the Cybermen' concern the Cybermen and the actual plot. After being restored to their former status as a credible threat in the flawed but effective 'Earthshock', here the Cybermen continue their decline back down to the depths plumbed by 'Revenge of the Cybermen'. They may not be used as mere cannon fodder as they were in 'The Five Doctors', but their effectiveness is undermined by a number of things. For one thing, the fact that they can now be killed by bullets is very disappointing; admittedly, Russell's shots are into a Cyberman's mouth, but it still adds yet another vulnerability to them. Then there is the Cyber Controller; as mentioned above, the return of Michael Kilgarriff to the role is utterly unnecessary, and the result is a Controller that lacks any of the impact it had in 'Tomb of the Cybermen'. In that story, the Controller was an imposing figure, filling the role of leader of the Cyber race and thus acting as a focal point for the creatures. Here, it looks ridiculous due to Kilgarriff's girth, and the design of its head, a nod to the enlarged cranium it displayed in its debut story, creates the impression of a balding pate. As a result, the supreme leader of the Cybermen looks like a fat, bald old man. Furthermore, it steals the limelight from David Banks' emotional but watchable Cyber Leader, and yet seems superfluous as a result of the presence of the Leader. Episode One focuses on the Leader, but as soon as events move to Telos it is discarded in favour of the Controller; I can't honestly find a logical objection to this (it is obvious that the Controller is supreme commander, with many Leaders subordinate to it), I simply get the feeling that one or the other, preferably the Leader, would have focused the story more. 

In addition to all of this, the Cybermen continue to display a ridiculous amount of emotion; Banks' can just about get away with this as the Cyber Leader, as 'Earthshock' proved, but Brian Orrell is embarrassingly bad as the shrill and vocal Cyber Lieutenant, and the Controller is little better as it bellows orders and gets angry. A particularly bad scene concerns the resolution of the cliffhanger; having decided to kill Peri, the Cyber Leader is persuaded otherwise by the horrible contrivance of the hitherto unseen TARDIS self-destruct system. This in itself smacks of bad writing, although it could be a bluff on the part of the Doctor; what really annoys me about the scene, is the fact that Cyberman, a creature supposedly of pure logic rather than, say, honour, not only gives its word but also keeps it, Peri's execution not mentioned further. The Cryons are a further sticking point; their dependence on sub-zero temperatures for survival is potentially interesting, although in practice they are almost as dull as the Vogans were back in 'Revenge of the Cybermen'. But what I object to is what they represent, as it transpires that the Cybermen are apparently unable to build their own fridges. It isn't a plot hole, it isn't even inconsistent with past stories, but it does further cheapen them. 

And then there is the plot. The Cybermen have stolen a time ship and want to crash Halley's Comet into Earth so as to prevent the destruction of Mondas. Let us charitably ignore the fact that a race dependent on logic should be able to spot the obvious paradox that would result if they succeed and instead ask, what are they actually doing in the sewers? How can this possibly aid their plan? Do they perhaps want to convert as many humans as they can before Earth is destroyed? If so, why lurk in a sewer converting the odd workman? Speaking of which, how do the Cryons communicate with Lytton when he's in the past? Ah yes, Lytton; much of the finale of 'Attack of the Cybermen' concerns the Doctor's fretting over the fact that he's misunderstood which alien race Lytton is working for purely in return for money. Lytton, a man responsible for several cold-blooded killings in 'Resurrection of the Daleks' and a couple here (oh, of course - they didn't meet in 'Resurrection of the Daleks', so he wouldn't know about those…). Why does he think that he's never misjudged anyone as badly as he did Lytton? Why does he care more about Lytton than, say, Russell? Erratic the Sixth Doctor may be, but this just seems like dodgy writing and a certain script-editor's obsession with mercenaries. 

In short, 'Attack of the Cybermen' is a mess. In addition to all of the above, we have the sudden deaths of Stratton, Bates and Griffiths, which lends credence to the theory that Saward wrote most of this because as in 'Resurrection of the Daleks' the impression is created that in the last twenty-five minutes the writer suddenly remembers that he or she needs to do something about the characters that he or she has forgotten about or can't think of anything interesting to do with. And of course to top it all off we have the crowning flatulence of the Cybermen locking the Doctor in a room filled with high explosives. Fans of this story argue that since vastial is safe at sub-zero temperatures this isn't really a problem, but if even if that was a convincing excuse for locking a notoriously resourceful prisoner up with, in effect, bombs, it should be obvious even to an imbecile that locking someone in a room full of the stuff without searching him for, say, something that might possibly be used to warm it up, is NOT EVEN REMOTELY LOGICAL!!! AARGH! It is a horrible excuse for a plot contrivance, a sloppy and unconvincing way for the Cybermen to be finished off and for the story to end with a bang, and just the worst example of why 'Attack of the Cybermen' is so bad. Fortunately however, the next story is a considerable improvement…

Filters: Television Series 21 Sixth Doctor

You can see a clear progression with Eric Saward's Doctor Who work. 'The Visitation' is a nice, textbook straightforward romp. 'Earthshock' is an action movie-type story, with a fairly easy to follow plot for the most part until it all goes a bit mad at the end. 'Resurrection of the Daleks' was a slickly-directed collection of set pieces linked by a somewhat schizophrenic narrative. And 'Attack of the Cybermen' is a mess of indistinct plotlines, continuity references and two-dimensional cyphers. And yes, it is a Saward script. If Paula Moore did have any input, Saward script-edited this one to the extent that it's very much his story.

When dull Hinchcliffe fans bleat on about how dependant the JNT era was on past continuity, they often don't really have much of a case. Generally, the references were harmless. It's fandabbydozy if, say, you can name which stories the clip reel in 'Mawdryn Undead' references, but if it's about all you've seen it doesn't overpower the plot. However, 'Attack of the Cybermen' is something of an exception. To full appreciate what's going on, you could do with knowing that Mondas was destroyed in 'The Tenth Planet', that the Doctor thought the Cybercontroller dead from 'Tomb of the Cybermen', that there are Cybermen in the sewers most likely left over from 'The Invasion', and that Lytton was in 'Resurrection of the Daleks'. And that's not to mention the references like 76 Totter's Lane...

But the biggest problem 'Attack of the Cybermen' has is it's horribly dull. The thing takes until nearly the end of the first episode before it threatens to really get going. Until then, we have to put up with Lytton and his bunch of Sweeney rejects bumbling around, and the Doctor and Peri mucking around looking for a distress signal. The running joke of the 'fixed' chameleon circuit is amusing for about nine seconds of its' first appearance, while the references in the score to Steptoe and Son and Phantom of the Opera are cring-inducing. Colin Baker, having been hammy and fun in 'The Twin Dilemma', is hammy and irritating early on, having to deal with the clunky mood-swings in the script - notable the dreadful "Unstable?!?" moment. He settles down a bit later on, though the script lets him down, notably the overwrought scenes with Vlast and when he orders the shooting of Russell. I always got the impression that the violent overtones of Season 22 were not so much Saward's attempts to subvert the gentle fifth Doctor, but in fact his belief of how the character should be, turning the Doctor into some sort of revenge figure.

Still, Colin does well from the script compared to poor Nicola Bryant. While I don't think she's as bad an actress as is sometimes made out, she certainly can't save bad scenes. She also suffered from a part that was heavily underwritten. Here, Peri's largely superfluous, simply nagging and whinging at the Doctor for the most part.

Saward is far more concerned with Lytton. While Maurice Colbourne gives an efficient performance, the character's scripting is odd. We have the Doctor's moral quandry about misjudging Lytton [who he never met in 'Resurrection, but still...], but the character does very little to show he's any different than he was - remember, the Cryons are paying him to help them. Colbourne is never quite able to imbue the character with any more depth than that of a well-spoken heavy.

However, Lytton does better than most of the guest cast. Brian Glover's much-praised performance as Griffiths isn't actually all that much cop, the character being a standard slightly-squeamish henchman. Terry Molloy is similarly bland as Russell. The idea of getting Michael Kilgariff to reprise his role as the Cybercontroller is inexplicably bad seeing as the role basically entails being quite tall, wearing a costume and shouting a bit. That he's fat seventeen years on hardly helps the menace factor. David Banks does fairly well as the overshadowed Cyberleader, but the Cryons are a faceless bunch, not helped by silly costumes and cod-alien dialogue. But by far the worst element are Stratton and Bates.

It doesn't help that they're in the most superfluous of many pointless subplots which Eric seems to have crammed into the story for no readily apparent reason. We're subjected to these two idiots legging it from a work party, indulging in disguise japes, meeting up with Griffiths and Lytton and then being sharply killed off. Of course, the alleged characterisation hardly breathes life into this strand of the story. Stratton is shouty, Bates is a bit wet. Eat your heart out Bob Holmes. What really seals it is that the chap playing Stratton [he doesn't deserve me actually checking to see who played him] gives what's probably the worst performance in the series' history. That's a history that includes turns from Christopher Robbie, Dolores Grey, Leee John, Rick James, andJon Pertwee in the second half of Season 9. The chap seems to have decided to simply shout his lines at poor Batesy at all times in the hope this will work. It doesn't, and the result is excruciating.

By the second episode the plot is ludicrously contrived. We have the Cybermen planning to blow up Earth using a comet to save Mondas, but to help their cunning plan they lock up the Doctor in a room stacked with explosives, not even bothering to remove his sonic lance first. It must be some sort of Cyberarrogance programming, as they don't bother taking Lytton's knife off him later either.

But then this is the worst bunch of Cybermen we've ever had. Worst than the chaps with the balaclavas and silly voices in 'The Tenth Planet', and worst than the Monty Python and the Holy Grail-inspired squad that spend most of 'Silver Nemesis' running away from a bow and arrow. Cybernetic monsters from the future aren't very scary when ninth-rate London hoods and labourers take then out with pistols and spades. I smoke twenty cigarettes a day and eat junkfood constantly, but I'd quite fancy myself in a fight against an 'Attack' Cyberman.

It's all based on coincidences and large lapses of logic. It's stupid and boring. Thankfully, it was to be the rough nadir of the show in the 1980s, and very gradually the show would bounce back. Thank God.

Filters: Television Series 21 Sixth Doctor

Imagine if you can the most annoying, pedantic, anally-retentive fan you can: the kind who harasses strangers when they hear their kids humming the theme tune, whose heads explode every time WOTAN calls the Doctor “Doctor Who” and who have to shield their eyes from the Seal of Rassilon in the Vogan control room. Now imagine what happens when you give this fan a degree of creative control in how an episode is made. Alternatively, instead of imagining it, you could just watch Attack Of The Cybermen. I know that Ian Levine bashing is so commonplace now that it can be boring to read, but I’m not letting that deprive me of my share – it’s really the writing and Levine’s insular continuity references that bring this episode down. It’s generally well made (apart from the score), as with the case with any episode it’s the writing that’s make-or-break.

When not wallowing in its own filth, this episode borders on the average. The introduction is well shot (even though the Cybermen’s P.O.V. shots are so heavily distorted it makes them look nearly blind) and the sewer set is large and impressive, although very often characters are brightly illuminated even when their torches are switched off. Oh well, I’ll put it down to creative licence and dramatic necessity.

The location filming is also good, and it also introduces the terrific Maurice Colbourne as Lytton, the one continuity reference I’m actually happy with (he had only been in it the last season, after all). Terry Molloy is reasonable outside of his Davros mask and Brian Glover puts in a good performance that saves his comic-relief character. Payne’s comment that Griffiths is allergic to nylon is funny, an example of the flash of wit that occasionally permeates the episode. 

The regulars come off less well though, having to endure the same self-conscious banter that the Davison team had to endure as introductory material. The Doctor’s comment of “here we go again” is ironic, but Colin Baker’s overacting is rescued by his final, sweet coda to Peri of a promise not to hurt her. In general though they are very poor; I don’t know if it was Levine or Paula Moore responsible for their scenes, but they come off as being written by amateurish fans. While original characters get some decent lines the Doctor is portrayed as the self-conscious eccentric that we (OK then, I) used to be when playing Doctor Who when we were little. His pompous, facetious dialogue sounds like Adric’s from Earthshock, and the worn-out ‘distress call’ routine is the oldest cliché in the book.

The policemen serve no function other than to look mean; their purpose is never explained either here on in their previous story Resurrection Of The Daleks. The Totters Lane scene is extremely annoying, potentially a nice nod to the fans ruined by the fact that the Doctor actually has to make something of it – his excited “look!” when pointing to the sign must have come off to the casual audience like a child showing off their snappy new socks. Also, Malcolm Clarke’s awful score grates, here sounding like an electronic version of the Steptoe And Son theme. There is no point in changing the TARDIS either; Levine was simply indulging himself. The Doctor referring to Peri by a multitude of other companions’ names must have also seemed very odd: “why would he call her Jamie?” asks Mr. Jones from down the road. This is so annoying, as parts of this episode have real potential.

Payne’s death is quite creepy, scary without being too intensive (that comes later). It is shortly followed though by the Doctor gleefully duffing up a fake policeman; the Doctor goes against the series ethos so much I wonder if it was worth having that ethos in the first place.

There is little point in hiding the Cybermen from shot as their name appears in the opening credits (in capital letters, no less) and I would imagine that they were what the 8.9 million viewers were there to see (a significantly higher figure than the rest of the season). However, there is some seriously nifty direction keeping them out of sight and that’s always good to see, however worthless it may be. Their proper introduction is very good, as one is seen coming towards Lytton and his team Tenth Planet style – although the ‘March Of The Cybermen’ theme from Earthshock seems a bit cheesy and melodramatic when there’s only one of them on screen. There is a sense that this was written for the ordinary four-part format, as their reveal comes about halfway through the episode and would make for a good cliffhanger. Bullets kill Cybermen here, but this can be reconciled with the knowledge that they are being severely weakened by Cryon interference. In any case, it’s better than their usual aversion to gold which is one continuity reference mercifully absent. Their voice modulation here muffles their speech, and Brian Orrell is annoying as the Cyber Lieutenant. Their ship on the dark side of the moon is a smug nod to The Invasion (as is their presence in the sewers in the first place) but at least in this case not one that affects the understanding of the story.

There is a pleasing interlude with some good location shooting for Telos, and Stratton and Bates are a good duo that provides some actual quality for a moment. After that though we come to probably the worst derivative indulgence of them all: Michael Kilgarriff as the Cybercontroller. Nobody considered that even though the character had been great in The Tomb Of The Cybermen (and that was due more to Sandra Reid’s costuming and Peter Hawkins’s voice) that hiring a middle-aged actor with a beer gut (no disrespect) as opposed to an actor actually suitable for the role twenty years on. They hired a person no longer right to play the part of a Cyberman and all because he’d been in it before – and what makes it doubly pointless is that The Tomb Of The Cybermen was at the time completely missing, making Kilgarriff’s prior performance entirely irrelevant anyway. Back on Earth though, there is some reasonable back-history delivered and I have to say that the black Cyberman looks incredibly cool.

I’ve always said that the great thing about a good cliffhanger is that you get to see it twice, while the dreadful thing about a bad cliffhanger is that you have to watch it twice – and this is the worst cliffhanger I’ve ever seen. An amazingly inept scene shows Russell shooting at a dummy Cyberman, followed by him shouting a half-hearted “no!” and making no effort to dodge a Cyberman’s fist. This is followed by Peri’s appallingly-delivered final words, although in fairness to Nicola Bryant I don’t thing even Meryl Streep could have made the line “no! NO! NOOOOOOOO!!!!” work.

After the break, it goes on to talk about The Tomb Of The Cybermen as if all the people watching had seen it. Such a busy story necessitates here a large expositions scene and while it does help a little in explaining what is going on to the audience – and it’s the non-fans who are the show’s bread and butter – what is going on, although it does create a rather boring plot for them as the Cybermen’s plan revolves around rescuing a planet that is only ever mentioned in passing. I feel that they would care more about the idea of it attacking Earth in one year’s time; in fact they’d be better off just avoiding this story altogether and watching The Tenth Planet instead.

The rogue Cyberman is again from The Invasion, but it isn’t so bad as it doesn’t have to be to work – and the scene where its fist bursts through the doorway decapitating another Cyberman is a genuine jump moment; one thing you can’t call this story is badly directed (apart from that cliffhanger, obviously). The Cryons sound good and have some nice lines but are conceptually clichéd, and they would have been less cheesy if they were simply called Telosians. A good theme in this story though is the aliens’ difficulty with Griffiths’s Cockney dialect.

The hatchway taking Lytton and Griffiths to the surface is an old fork-lift truck pallet that I used to carry about when I worked at B&Q, which spoils the illusion slightly. I’d also say that the hatchway echoes the one in The Tenth Planet but it might be a coincidence and in any case I’m getting bored of all these continuity references. 

The Doctor has a decent scene with Flast, even if it does concern that stupid plot. The revelation that the Cybermen can’t time travel properly is interesting despite meaning very little. Also Rost and Varne have a good rapport, the line “you never were very bright” reminding me of the twins Cora and Clarice from Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast novels.

The Cyberman that flaps aimlessly at its burning arm damages their credibility still further and shows how far they fell outside the black and white years. The hand-crushing scene is undermined by the old cut away – cut back directorial trick and by the fact that the blood is very obviously painted onto some undamaged hands – but it’s the thought that counts and the thought is very unpleasant indeed. Thank you Mr. Saward, shining light of narrative justification. The other surplus characters are polished off in quick succession, showing Saward’s stupid philosophy that if there aren’t x number of deaths per episode then it won’t be any good. While I’m on the subject the mortality rate in this story (not counting Cyberman extras or the regulars) is 85.7%, which is very excessive considering the numbers involved; it’s not that they die (Horror Of Fang Rock had a mortality rate of 100% and was superb), but that they die pointlessly through a sense of requirement that it should happen regardless of circumstances.

The TARDIS changes back to a police box (why change it in the first place?), and Lytton’s death is actually quite poignant. The action scene with the Cybercontroller is reasonable but standard, and I’m getting tired of seeing empty Cyberman suits exploding. The end is very annoying also, as the sonic lance (why get rid of the sonic screwdriver if you’re just going to replace it with something else that does the same thing?) being used to detonate the vastial – to reiterate, a made-up gadget is put into some made-up powder and everything goes boom. And the lead Cyberman’s gesture of “run, lads!” doesn’t help either.

When I was young I used to like this; I’d seen the stories it references so that didn’t worry me, and I just rode the wave of pyrotechnics. Looking at it objectively though this is a silly, inward-looking and very anal episode that probably put more nails into Doctor Who’s coffin than any other. The Cybermen can be such good monsters when written well, but when put in the hands of people who forget that the programme’s audience might not be as knowledgeable as them they become what any other monster would be in such circumstances: mediocre at best.

Filters: Television Series 21 Sixth Doctor

Some dates are indelibly etched on our minds. For me, one such date is 5th January 1985, a time pregnant with possibilities if you were a Doctor Who fan. Me, I was a music fan and I was into girls, That day I hooked up with my new girlfriend, Sarah, hit the town, bought U2's Unforgettable Fire. Oh and I was looking forward to watching Attack of the Cybermen. What a title! I still love it. Cybermen. Attacking. What more could you want? Twin Dilemma was a false start, wasn't it? Colin Baker was great in it, a little theatrical, perhaps but he boded well and made a dramatic contrast to Peter Davison. The story was complete tosh, the production values were poor, the twins were... Best not to dwell on the inadequacies of this tale, everything would be put to right in ATTACK OF THE CYBERMEN! 

Yes, Attack of the Cybermen. This got 9 million viewers, you know. I'm sure Mr and Mrs Joe Shmoe and little Jimmy looked in the paper to see what was on TV and came across Doctor Who and one look at that title and, well, you'd have to check it out, wouldn't you?

Doctor Who - he's back and it's about time. An apposite description for this story, but first lets go back to 1982 and Earthshock. It was a revelation. Episode 1 is still premium Who. Anyone watching it for the first time was genuinely enthralled by the time the closing credits began. The Cybermen were back and we'd had no warning! (If the 2005 series can deliver a similar coup then I'll eat all the celery you can set before me.) Unfortunately the remaining 3 episodes don't really live up to the 1st. The fact that it is virtually plotless doesn't really matter. it's simply a vehicle to reintroduce an old enemy and kill off a hapless companion. The dinosaur twist is neat but there are roughly 60 minutes of meandering narrative and chatty, boastful Cybermen. I reckon the more they talk, the duller and more ridiculous they become. For my money, The Invasion represents the Cybermen at their best, keeping them in the background, tantalisingly. All the talking is done by the Cyber-Planner. The Cybermen look great: sleek, functional and with blank, impassive faces (no 'scary' grimaces here). Revenge of the Cybermen doesn't muck up the design and the 'head-guns' are a GREAT idea, think about it, it makes total sense - it's logical However they have become rather talkative, not Gerry Davis' fault, I feel but it's obvious that Robert Holmes dislikes writing for them. He was the wrong (re)writer for the story because he likes to create CHARACTERS and that's not a trait the Cybermen truthfully have as The Invasion (and Tomb of the Cybermen) nicely demonstrates.

Attack of the Cybermen represents the nadir of a self-destructing series. The seeds were sown with the re-introduction of the Master in Keeper of Traken. A perfectly fine story, as was the atmospheric Logopolis. At a pinch his presence in Castrovalva was acceptable, but Time Flight? The King's Demons? The Five Doctors? Etc, etc... Overkill. This exercise had already been tried from Terror of the Autons onwards and to dubious effect but at least it was novel at first. Season 20 brought back an 'element from the past' for every story and in the process alienated casual viewers and didn't exactly enthrall the fans either. A year later, and we had some reason for optimism:The Awakening, Frontios and, of course, The Caves of Androzani. Otherwise there was a worrying preoccupation with old villains and, increasingly, unwarranted violence. The blood and gore was laid on even thicker in the following season (Lytton's torture, general torturing in Vengeance on Varos, rat-eating and an inappropriate stabbing in The Two Doctors. Revelation of the Daleks at least had the black wit of it's script and the sheer verve of Graeme Harper's direction to carry it along. It's Colin Baker's best story by a country mile.

Michael Grade wasn't the enemy of Doctor Who. The main problem with the latter Davison, early C. Baker stories lay squarely with the production team. There is no unifying vision for the voyages of the Doctor. Whether we like them or not, we can see what Hinchcliffe/Holmes, Letts/Dicks, Williams/Adams, Lloyd/Davis, et al, were trying to achieve. They set an overall tone; they aren't necessarily trying to be original but they ARE trying to tell good Doctor Who stories. John Nathan-Turner presided over some great (or at the very least, interesting) stories: Warriors' Gate, Kinda, Enlightenment, Caves, Revelation, Greatest Show in the Galaxy and most of Sylvester McCoy's last season. But there is no overall tenor to the seasons that contain them, no direction (well, not until Andrew Cartmel came along...). Shock tactics are employed - virtually everyone dies in Resurrection of the Daleks, some horribly. The aim of Eric Saward and Nathan-Turner seems to be to make the series more adult. Inferno showed how this could be done without resorting to needless violence. The Green Death has a great, topical story and some chills but no gratuitous injury or maiming. The Dalek Invasion of Earth is surprisingly grim, even now, but Verity Lambert and co. doesn't smash the viewer in the face with it. Don't get me wrong, I've nothing against violence, per se, in Doctor Who or any other drama but just using it for effect is an empty and somehow degrading gesture. Nathan-Turner didn't seem seem to be interested in scripts, just recurring monsters, guest stars and strait-jacketing, inappropriate costumes (all his Doctors, Tegan, Nyssa, Adric, Turlough, Peri...). His best script editor was Cartmel.. He made the series more cohesive. You can argue the pros and cons of his version of the Doctor but at least he gave it some thought, and with Ace he brought character development into the series. Again, it's arguable whether or not you agreed with the way he did it but he tried and, more or less, succeeded. Saward simply wasn't reined in enough and in any case he shared Nathan_Turner's desire to make the series great by simply apeing the past. It's a shame because he showed a flare for dialogue and witty one-liners ("mouth on legs") and his debut, The Visitation, is a sound, traditional tale. 

Where does all this leave Attack of the Cybermen? It's akin to a dodgy Easter egg: thin, tasteless chocolate - hollow - wrapped in crinkly tin foil and containing sweets that leave a bitter taste in the mouth. Could you sustain yourself on such a diet? Colin Baker couldn't and neither could the viewers. Attack of the Cybermen is no better or worse than most of the stories that surround it and that's not a good thing.

Attack of the Cybermen - such a good title, promising much and delivering nothing. I haven't seen Sarah for years and The Unforgettable Fire saw U2 slide into bombast and self-importance. Ring any bells?

Filters: Television Series 21 Sixth Doctor

It didn't go very well, did it?

Decisions, decision. Is Attack of the Cybermen are decent story with a few plot holes, or a terrible waste of space with several moments of brilliance? Hard to tell.

What's wrong with the story? (I'm doing Season 22 in 25-minute episodes because that's how I saw it)

1) No unity of action. The first two episodes are set in the London sewers. Which have no bearing on the rest of the plot. All the important stuff is happening on Telos, which we don't see until episode two, and the TARDIS doesn't arrive until half way through episode three. The whole trip to London is irrelevent, and the Doctor might as well have landed straight on Telos and given the story a chance to breathe. Or maybe set the whole story in 1985 London for Lytton's attempts to leave the Earth, a kind of homocidal Ford Prefect, and his diamond hiest. Has there ever been a story like that? Seeing the Sixth Doctor and Peri caught in a bank robbery would be intriguing... But it's a throwaway plot, which leads us to...

2) Too many ideas, not enough interest. Like Resurrection of the Daleks, Attack throws in a mass of ideas, plots and characters and after juggling them for a moment, gives up and ends in a massive explosion. The return of Lytton and his policemen isn't the epic it's supposed to be simply because the Doctor barely met the former and never met the latter. Peri's met neither! The idea that the Time Lords have manipulated the Doctor into getting caught in the plot are nonsense, as the TARDIS arrives in 1985 because the Doctor was already heading there, and any other manipulation was down to Lytton. Speaking of Lytton, why does he send out the distress signal before going on the raid? Why does he decide to aide the Cryons instead of just trying to hitchhike his way off Earth? If Halley's Comet is so crucial to the plot, why is it only ever mentioned in two scenes involving the Doctor? How are the Cryons responsible for all the Cybermen dying while frozen in the tombs? Who are Bates and Stratton, how do they have access to a time machine, and how do the Cryons know what they're up to? Why do the Cybermen leave the policemen's helmets on when converting them? If the Telos scenes are, as they appear, set in the far future, how did Lytton contact the Cryons from 1984? If the Cyrons have a spy camera in the cold room, how come they don't realize that Flast is in there as well? And how has a bimbo like Rost lived so long in a guerilla war?

3) Wasting Lytton. Now, out of the disparate elements of Ressurection of the Daleks, Lytton was worth coming back for. A cunning warrior capable of surviving a bloodbath that at the time seemed to have wiped out the Daleks and Davros and still take a potshot or two at the Doctor, I can see at least one person considering him a replacement to the Master (who was, after all, dispatched eight episodes ago). Who can forget the brilliant bit where Stein reminds Lytton that the Daleks will ultimately turn on him, and Lytton doesn't do anything but smile knowingly - he's already prepared for that. Doctor Who needed a recurring villain, and Lytton definitely passed the audition. Imagine if The Mark of the Rani had featured Lytton trying to get a lift off the evil Time Lady, or if it was Lytton out for revenge, not Orcini out for honor, that hunted down Davros in Revelation of the Daleks. But no, instead, he dies here, in his second appearance, with his sidekicks gone by the end of the second episode and forgotten. I thought this was written by Eric Saward who, after all, created and rather liked the character.

4) Wasting Lytton (b). At the end of the story, the Doctor discovers Lytton was working for the Cryons and suddenly he's a good guy. Uh, no, he isn't. In his debut, Lytton happily allowed a bunch of unarmed civilians and a passing tramp to be shot dead, deliberately gassed and shot helpless prisoners, slaughtered his own men and did with a smile. He threatens to have Russell killed and ultimately betrays Griffiths, Stratton and Bates. The only-in-for-it-for-himself Lytton clashes harshly with the big-bleeding-heart Lytton who condemns Peri for not having any compassion, and the one the Doctor mourns for at the end. The Doctor, despite his complete lack of on-screen evidence that Lytton was a bastard, did not misjudge him. Lytton could have told him what was doing and got the Time Lord on his side, could have sweet talked his way round the Cybermen. If the Doctor wants to feel guilty, it should be because he was prepared to leave Lytton on Telos, not because he ultimately failed to save him.

5) Decapitating Cybermen. It beggars belief that Saward wrote this story after Earthshock. The earlier Cybermen story showed them to be near indestructible, ruthless, powerful and was only able to defeat them by making it part of history. Take out the extinct dinosaurs and the Cybermen would have won. But here they can get stopped by bullets. Bullets! That's the one thing that has never effected the silver giants till now - but one shot from Griffiths can make one bleed to death, and Russell can blow another's head apart with a single round! Not to mention the endless scenes of Cybermen getting their skulls smashed from their soldiers by metal poles, laser blasts and bare fists... Worse, like Resurrection of the Daleks, Attack shows this classic monster race on their last legs, with one overcomplicated time-travel-bomb-involving plan to stop them being wiped out... And it fails! Did Saward feel he had to kill off every character he enjoyed writing for? Only the regulars and two Cryons survive this story...

6) Too much continuity! As Gareth Roberts pointed out, building a sequel plot out of The Tenth Planet, The Tomb of The Cybermen, The Invasion and Resurrection of the Daleks is almost but not quite as pointless as building a sequel plot to The Smugglers, The Evil of the Daleks, The Mind Robber and Frontios. Worse, you can tell the really obvious padding of the scenes with the Doctor and Peri where they discuss his regeneration. Oh, and Totter's Yard. Why the hell was that there? Why? In Remembrance of the Daleks, it was there because it was one of the few places we saw the First Doctor visit in the first episode, and it also contrasts him with the Daleks - he used the yard as a home and spent most of his time in a police box, the Dalek uses the yard as shelter and spends most of its time killing people from the safety of a shed. There's no reason for the TARDIS to land there, in fact, all I could think of was that the chameleon circuit still thought that a police box looks good in a scrapyard... And imagine! Without all the pathetic scenes about the Terrible Zodin and the chameleon circuit and the Doctor running around London, he could have got straight into the plot. Is it a crime to have the TARDIS land in the action nowadays? And worse, the continuity is WRONG! The tombs don't look the same as in Tomb, which begs the question of why do it then? Why get the guy who played the Controller to come back when all the actor had no dialogue and was brought into wear a massive silver suit that hid his features? Not only does he make the Controller fat, twitchy and robotic, I can barely understand a word he says. Bring him back to play the Giant Robot (as Big Finish did), but not this! The Controller in Tomb was a creepy queen bee of the Cybermen, and this one is a jowly moron you get bored waiting for someone to attack!

Hmmmm. Pretty damning evidence. But there are good sides to.

1) The Sixth Doctor. For the last three years we had a Doctor who behaved realistically when a gun was pointed at him, being prone to panic, desperation and not being believed by people in authority. While that did have its merits, it is nice to see the Doctor have a gun pointed at him... and he beats the living snot out of his assailant, and then, for a laugh, puts on the police helmet and then wanders into the line of fire to give Peri a scare. There's also the brilliant moment where he offhandedly tells Peri to shoot the uncooperative Russell. No one can possibly believe the Doctor actually wanted her to do it, because if he did want Russell dead he would have done it himself. Like the fifth Doctor, this one is not exactly perfect as he causes the TARDIS to repeatedly malfunction, winds up his enemies to no avail and makes mistakes with fatal consequences. However, this Doctor is constantly building himself up as a genius and thus the moments he's exposed as a fraud all the more entertaining. The only downer moments are the noted 'Who cares about Lytton if he's not a good guy?' scene, and the moment when he agrees he wants the Cyber Controller and all his followers as dead as Flast. It's bloodthirsty and not the best.

2) The comedy. The Doctor's funny, and always has been, but the repartee between Lytton and his gang, not to mention Stratton and Bates who seem to have been written with Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmonsen in mind. Having seen the bloke who plays Stratton in countless police dramas as loud, psychotic overbearing fathers, seeing him young and punkish is a nice culture shock. There's lots of lovely humor moments, with only Rost's 'wit' failing. No one sheds a tear when a Cyberman punches a hole through her, so maybe it was intentional. The whole angle of fixing the chameleon circuit is a waste of time, but it's laugh out loud funny as the TARDIS assumes more and more impractical shapes so you don't notice at first that it's finally fixed. The line "time travel... in an organ!" deserves points for sheer postmodernist alone. The destruction of the Cybermen is worth a laugh too, like the panicked one that tries to pat out its exploding hand with "Naughty sleeve! Don't burn! Naughty sleeve!" or the "Oh, heavy!" wave from the Cyberman as he and his fellows jog casually away from a bomb about to detonate. And how cool is it to see Terry Molloy utterly baffled when people start mentioning Daleks?

3) The violence. Or rather, lack of it. People seem to think this story is one long bloodbath when it's nothing of the sort. Thanks to the dark and some poor pixelation, we can barely see humans getting their necks broken by the Cybermen, who kill people with nice clean laser guns. Even the Cryons dying is nothing more intense than smoke and light. All right, there is the infamous 'Cybermen crush Lytton's hands' scene, but this is after a story where the Cybermen beat the crap out of people with no blood spilt at all, making it quite clear these things are tough. When the impassive Stratton begins crushing Griffith's hand, that's to show you how powerful these things are. When the Cybermen do crush Lytton's hand, that's to show you how tough Lytton is. The small amounts of hydraulic fluid spilt during the fight scenes hardly matter, and its nice to notice the Cyber reinforcements accidentally kill themselves rather than the Doctor doing the deed.

4) The Cryons. Giving the Cybermen a foe other than humanity is always a good idea... and it couldn't be any worse than the Vogans in Revenge of the Cybermen... I mean, the Daleks get Thals, Mechanoids, Movellans and their own creator PLUS the Doctor and humanity to deal with. The Cryons look very creepy, almost like the ghosts of aliens (which ties in with them somehow surviving) and they have distinct personalities - albeit not very nice ones. They can even use the Cybermen's credo with irony. I like the way they're tactile and like to run their hands along each other, and thus visibly have to restrain themselves around Peri due to her body temperature. But the trouble is for an all-female race... why do they all have moustaches? And how can they survive in the presence of humanoids who continually raise the temperature? And just how have they been able to wipe out the Cybermen? How do they survive the destruction of Cyber Control?

5) Conversion. At last! Somebody remembers that the Cybermen can turn you into Cybermen! It's wierd, but watch their televised stories... it never happens! The closest comes in Tomb of the Cybermen, where Toberman gets a metal arm. And that's it. It's not even a background threat in The Moonbase, Wheel in Space, Revenge of the Cybermen, Earthshock or The Five Doctors. But the trouble is that the Cybermen still need to remind themselves not to kill people in order to increase their numbers (which is blatantly contradicted when one of the sewer workers is killed and later seen in a conversion booth). And the fact there are countless of Strattons and Bateses who didn't go through the conversion process... So you've got better arms and legs? So what! You can still feel, breathe, taste and do the nasty, stop complaining! Actually, these last two points are edging more towards negatives rather than positives...

6) The novelization. Truly, Eric Saward is a genius in this field. He manages to do the whole story without any real changes and yet improves it immensely. This is a good book, people. It still has the massive flaws but the characterization is improved, the violence turned down and the deaths don't seem so meaningless. The carnage at the end suddenly looks like there might be a happy ending. And the Doctor's annoyance at Lytton is a vent for his own guilt at not protecting Russell. There's also a beautiful scene at the beginning when Peri confronts the Doctor about his regeneration and threatens to leave unless her demands are met and... the Doctor agrees unconditionally, not even waiting to hear them and sending the TARDIS to a holiday destination, so delighted is he to be with her. A single paragraph makes the death of Griffiths somehow uplifting - his dying thought is the happy one that he didn't die alone and forgotten but killed by cyborg aliens on another planet while stealing a time machine with two millions' worth of diamonds in his back pocket! However, the fact is this changes are so minor... why the hell weren't they in the original?!

So, weighing up the facts... Sorry. Attack of the Cybermen is rubbish, littered with enough diamonds to make this fact all the more depressing. It could have been brilliant

Filters: Television Series 21 Sixth Doctor