Monday, 20 May 2013

The Tomb of the Cybermen

The tombs

So nice to view a story with no missing episodes. ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’ is again supposed to be a ‘classic’ Doctor Who story, and was found in the early 1990s – in Hong Kong I am told! My friend Andrew remembers when it was found and very quickly was available to buy at Melbourne sci-fi/collectables shop ‘Minotaur’ in video form. How exciting it must have been! It seems unlikely whole stories will ever turn up again, but I guess Doctor Who fans can only hope.
The Doctor meets Cleeg.

I will start with the DVD presentation. The remastering and vid-firing of ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’ is absolutely brilliant! I can’t remember a story that looks so clean and sharp! The DVD crew have done a magnificent job with this one. Generally, with the exception of ‘The Moonbase’, I have found the (existing) Troughton episodes to be clearer and sharper than the Hartnell episodes, but this is glorious!
Enough of that though. It’s great to see a Cybermen story which is not a clone of ‘The Tenth Planet’, although there are still some trade-mark concepts ingrained in this story reminiscent of the previous two Cybermen stories. It’s a twist on the ‘base-under-siege’ storyline used twice already. Again people from various countries with various degrees of convincing (or not so) accents are stranded fighting the Cybermen. This time though, it’s not the Cybermen coming to Earth, rather the humans have travelled to the new Cybermen home planet, ‘Telos’, to seek out the Cybermen.
We open on Telos, (a gravel pit somewhere in England naturally) and an exploration group finds a couple of doors in a cliff face – this is the tomb of the Cybermen. It starts with a rather B-grade science fiction opening, with stock music to match. The Doctor, Victoria and Jamie arrive and into the tomb they go.
Michael Kilgariff as the Cyber-controller
The Doctor (Patrick Troughton) has some curious motives in this one. He could have left well alone, but decided not only to join the party, but to solve the logic puzzles that allow the Cybermen to be found and consequently woken by Cleeg. Cleeg (George Pastell) has an East European accent, and is the quintessential mad scientist. All the logic stuff went right over my head, but I presume it all makes sense as Kit Pedler felt it was important that this sort of stuff did.
Thereafter there is much to comment on plot-wise. The Cybermen get thawed out, and declare to the humans ‘you will be like us’. A wonderful line, and the Cybermen voices are much clearer than they were in ‘The Moonbase’, but this may be because the audio has been cleaned up to a higher standard.
It’s very well done really, for the time period. It’s only four episodes as well, which means it moves a lot faster than ‘Evil of the Daleks’ ever did. Morris Barry was the director and he did a fine job of conveying the feeling of claustrophobia that visiting a tomb in a cliff face must give. We have the introduction of the cute little Cybermats, who don’t seem to do all that much but get shot by some very accurate shots (well done Victoria!).
Deborah Watling (Victoria) gets a chance to get some proper screen time in this story, and shares a wonderful scene with Patrick Troughton’s Doctor where he talks about his family. Troughton is wonderful too in the whole story. Jamie (Frazer Hines) is strong as always. The guest cast are a mixed bunch. The two American characters, played by George Rubicek and Clive Merrison quite frankly are a bit poor. Their acting appears to be better suited to the stage, and their accents are less than convincing. Cyrill Shaps, in his first Doctor Who story, is the neurotic Professor Viner, nails the part perfectly.
The Doctor and Jami are, as always, great in this one.
Then we have Shirley Cooklin, Peter Bryant’s (the Producer at the time) wife, as Kaftan, another good performance. As for George Pastell as Cleeg, it was a wonderfully wonderfully over-the-top performance. I think.... Or did he go too far? He does have the classic evil-villain line in episode four, when he is about to kill the Doctor. ‘No wait! I have a better idea! A much better idea!’ How he delivered that without corpsing I do not know.
A lot of the story comes across as quite clichéd, I feel. I ask myself whether that’s only because I was viewing it more than forty years after it was made. I doubt the children watching in 1967 has seen anything like it at all!
The atmosphere is perfect, and despite the odd obvious appearance of Styrofoam, the sets and design, on the budget they had, is outstanding.

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