Me: Look! A complete story! On DVD and everything! Our first complete adventure starring Patrick Troughton! How exciting is that?
Sue: The last time I was this excited about Doctor Who was when you showed me a trailer for Matt Smith’s next episode a few minutes ago.
Me: Remind me to tell you a story about Matt Smith and The Tomb of the Cybermen later. I don’t want to prejudice you before we start. Although having said that, most fans didn’t see this story until 1992, when the common consensus was…
Sue: I don’t care. This is heaven compared to watching a bloody recon. And it’s only four parts, too. It doesn’t get any better than this. Now hurry up and stick it on.
Victoria is introduced to the TARDIS.
Sue: “Look at all those massive knobs!” It’s suddenly turned into Carry On… Doctor Who.
Meanwhile, a party of intrepid explorers are stumbling around on a planet called Telos.
Sue: They look like a bunch of beatniks. Are they on holiday, or is this a team-building exercise? That guy with the beard could be David Brent’s dad.
And then Sue claps eyes on Toberman.
Sue: (Sighing) It’s going to be Kemel all over again, isn’t it?
When the explorers detonate some impressive-looking explosives, they reveal a mysterious structure hidden in a cliff-face.
Sue: Oh look, they’ve discovered a bus shelter.
The doors to the tombs are electrified, as a poor grey-shirt discovers to his cost, and it’s left to the Doctor to disable the booby-trap.
Sue: Hang on a minute. Why does the Doctor want to open the doors? This lot would probably give up and sod off if he just left them to it. It’s not as if he doesn’t know what’s in there. He’s practically encouraging them to enter a tomb full of Cybermen. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Hartnell would be halfway back to the TARDIS by now.
Sue loves the moment where Jamie and the Doctor accidentally end up holding hands, but it’s slim pickings.
Sue: I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark and say the foreigners are the baddies. They may as well be carrying white cats under their arms. And they have a slave, as well. In the future. How progressive of them.
Victoria discovers a huge machine pointed at a Cyberman-shaped sarcophagus.
Sue: Is this where the Cybermen spray themselves silver?
But it’s the tombs’ interior design that really catches Sue’s eye.
Sue: The Cybermen are like Banksy – they can’t stop tagging themselves. They have to stencil everything. These Cybermen have a huge ego, if you ask me.
Me: And a brilliant graphic designer.
Sue: I don’t understand this at all. Why is the Doctor leading everyone to their doom? He should be warning them off, not encouraging them. There had better be a good explanation for his shiftiness in this story. Come to think of it, he was a sneaky bastard in the last one as well.
When Kaftan traps Victoria in the Cyber-sarcophagus (“Maybe it’s a tanning booth?”), a nervous-wreck named Viner believes that pure logic is the only answer to her predicament.
Sue: I don’t see anything logical about banging on the door and crying like a baby, mate!
Sadly, the cliffhanger doesn’t elicit much joy, either.
Sue: Oh, look – an anorexic Cyberman. What’s that all about?
Haydon is dead (“The only one I liked”), shot in the back by a gun, which appeared when a Cyberman model suddenly slammed into view. And yet nobody saw a thing.
Sue: Are they all blind? They were looking straight at it at the end of the last episode! What is it with people’s peripheral vision in this programme? There were five of them in that room, not counting the dead guy. Someone must have seen something. I’m starting to lose my patience now.
As the Doctor frets about the explorers gaining access to the tombs, he surreptitiously helps them to do just that. At which point Sue can’t contain her frustration any longer.
Sue: WHY DID YOU OPEN THE ****ING DOORS IN THE FIRST PLACE?
The explorers discover a honeycombed vault packed with dormant Cybermen.
Sue: There aren’t that many, are there? Six or seven, maybe? I was expecting hundreds, if not thousands.
Me: In 1967?
Sue: Fair enough. But seven?
Me: Imagine this is one chamber, and there are thousands of these things down that corridor over there.
Sue: Okay. I can do that. Thanks.
As the Cybermen begin to stir, Sue begins to fidget.
Sue: This is quite good, I suppose, but it’s very slow. Has the director never heard of editing?
Victoria shoots a Cybermat in the face.
Sue: I like Victoria. She’s not as soft as I’d feared.
The reanimated Cybermen awaken their leader.
Sue: Is he sitting on the loo?
The Controller strides menacingly towards the humans.
Sue: What a dickhead. Seriously, he literally has a dick for a head. And why hasn’t he got an accordion on his chest like all the rest?
Me: This is one of my all-time favourite cliffhangers. Don’t you like it?
Sue: It’s a good cliffhanger, I just didn’t understand a word the Cyberman said. The close-up was pretty scary, though.
Sue: The Cybermen’s plan is a bit mad, isn’t it? Are they too ashamed to be rescued by idiots or something?
Me: They’re shit out of luck if they are.
It’s not all bad news, though.
Sue: I’m warming to Victoria. She’s very proactive. I like her nurse’s watch, too. It’s cute.
The Controller threatens to turn his human captives into Cybermen.
Sue: You can see where the Borg get it from, can’t you? What a rip-off. And why do the Cybermen have wah-wah pedals installed in their throats? Seriously, what is that dreadful noise? What are they supposed to be saying as they waddle down these corridors? It’s bizarre. They sound like demented Donald Ducks.
When we reach the scene where the rope that’s holding up Toberman manages to exude more screen presence than the actor it’s supporting, Sue’s verdict is damning:
Sue: Oh. My. God. That’s the worst effect in Doctor Who so far. Why did they keep that in the transmitted version? Surely they could have edited that out? That’s just incompetent.
Sue’s patience is tested even further when Hopper returns with the news the explorers’ spaceship is effectively the total opposite of a deux ex machina.
Sue: I can’t take much more of this guy. He’s a bad actor with a bad accent in a bad part. Please tell me he dies horribly, Neil. Or at least let Jamie punch him in the face. He has such a punchable face.
She still doesn’t warm to him when he’s lobbing smoke grenades around.
Sue: It’s the direction that lets this down. The dialogue-heavy scenes are fine – there are some nice touches here and there – but it’s all very basic multi-camera stuff. However, when it comes to the action sequences, it seems to be a case of “let’s film the mayhem and hope for the best”. It doesn’t cut together at all.
A Cyberman follows the Doctor through an open hatchway.
Sue: And yet that was genuinely exciting. If only they’d remove the ridiculous wah-wah sound effect.
The Cybermen respond by unleashing their secret weapon.
Sue: The Cybermats look like cuttlefish. Or a dustpan brush with fish-eyes stuck on it, finished off with a nice felt fringe.
The Cybermen line up their Cybermats, ready to unleash hell.
Sue: Are they going to race their new toys?
Me: The build-up to getting these things started is almost as long as your average Grand Prix.
Sue: How long is it going to take these things to get up that ramp? We could be here for months.
The Doctor and Victoria share an intimate moment together in the calm before the storm.
Sue: Aww. That was really sweet. Troughton’s great. I loved that.
But when a phalanx of Cybermats move in for the kill, Sue struggles to take them seriously.
Sue: They’re not exactly facehuggers, are they? Although the principle is pretty much the same, so maybe this is more influential than I’m giving it credit for. Oh, for pity’s sake – just kick them! A good hard kick into a wall will sort them out.
In fact, the Cybermats are so ineffective, they don’t even feature in the cliffhanger.
Sue: So what’s the Matt Smith story you alluded to earlier?
Me: Well, Matt Smith watched some old episodes before he started playing the Doctor, and when he finished this one, he telephoned Steven Moffat in the middle of the night…
Sue: Was it to make sure that the people who wrote this story weren’t still working on the programme?
Me: No, he loved it. He raved about it.
Sue: Well, nobody’s perfect. He should have watched The Faceless Ones instead.
Klieg makes a pact with the Cybermen.
Sue: I’d ask for something in writing if I were him. Good grief, now he’s talking about arousing the Cybermen. How do you arouse a Cyberman? Oh, that reminds me, if they ever decide to remake this story, Krieg should be played by Armando Iannucci. I just thought I’d throw that in.
Toberman starts throwing an empty Cybersuit around the set.
Sue: It’s like The Goodies throwing dummies of themselves off rooftops. Or was that Monty Python? Or maybe it was Benny Hill? It doesn’t matter. The director is out of his depth. There are lots of striking images in this story, but it doesn’t hang together. I haven’t got a clue what the Cybermen are up to any more. It’s a bit of a mess.
But what really winds her up is the way in which the Doctor provokes Toberman into switching sides.
Sue: So it’s okay to be a slave, as long as you’re a white man’s slave. I’m getting a bit irritated now.
The Doctor fawns over Krieg so he can ascertain just how insane he is.
Sue: I can definitely imagine Matt Smith doing something like that.
Toberman reverts to doing what he does best – protecting the white man – but Sue is too distracted by a Cyberman’s frothing innards to kick up a fuss.
Sue: I didn’t know the Cybermen were made of marshmallow.
The Cybermen return to their tombs to be refrozen. In other words, we’re back to square one.
Sue: I can’t stop thinking about how it’s the Doctor who caused all this grief. If he hadn’t opened those doors in the first place, those people would still be alive. Especially the one who was quite nice in the first episode. Was it a deliberate decision to make the character more dangerous and unpredictable, or are the writers just oblivious to the consequences of his actions?
The Doctor rigs the tomb’s door so it will deliver a deadly electric shock to anyone who comes a-knocking.
Sue: They should put a warning sign on the door at the very least. The next bunch of clueless beatniks will lose a crewmember as well, now. He isn’t thinking this through. I’m very disappointed with the Doctor in this story. He’s usually better than this.
At least there’s one small crumb of satisfaction.
Sue: “When I say ‘run’, run” is a very funny catchphrase. I’ve noticed the Doctor says it a lot. It’s a very odd thing for a hero to say. It’s the sort of thing you’d expect a coward to say. It’s very Doctor Who.
Before you can say ‘noble sacrifice’, it’s all over. Victoria finds some time to annoy Hopper, which Sue appreciates, and then it’s back to the TARDIS for tea and cakes. Probably.
Sue: I hope the Doctor can live with himself after all the misery he’s caused. Does Toberman come back as a Cyberman to take his revenge in another story? Does he team-up with a Cybermat and come after the Doctor? He bloody better had.
Sue: I’m disappointed. It just didn’t do it for me. It was great to see a moving story all the way through, but the plot was terrible. Patrick Troughton was excellent, though. He’s making the whole thing worthwhile, even if I don’t approve of the way his character is being written.
Sue: It could have been worse. It could have been six episodes. So what’s next?
Me: I won’t lie to you, Sue, Season Five is going to be tough. Coming up next we have six six-part stories…
Sue: Oh, wonderful!
Me: And 27 of those 36 episodes don’t exist.
Sue: You’re joking.
Me: I only wish I was.
Sue: Remember when you climbed the submit of Mount Kilimanjaro, Neil? You did it in the dark, because if you saw how high it was, you wouldn’t have tried. Well, you just turned the lights on for me. Thanks for that.