Sue: Is there anything I should know about this one before we begin?
Me: Only that this story was the first one to be released on video cassette by the BBC.
Sue: Any particular reason?
Me: Well, fans who attended the very first official Doctor Who convention at Longleat in 1983 were asked to suggest which story they’d like to see released first. And this one won.
Sue: So it must be a good one, then.
Me: The video cost £30 quid to buy in 1983. That’s over £100 in today’s money.
Sue: It’s a bloody good job it isn’t 1983 now or our relationship would be in serious trouble.
I press ‘Play’.
Sue: So what are the Cybermen revenging against? Is it revenge for what the Doctor did to them the last time they met? It seems like a long time ago. I can’t remember what happened so I hope it’s not important.
The episode begins with the Doctor, Harry and Sarah floating through space, superimposed over the Nerva Beacon from The Ark in Space.
Sue: Oh, it’s that inflatable beach toy again. At least they got their money’s worth out of it.
Safely back on Nerva, Harry attempts to keep the Time Lord’s Time Ring as a souvenir but it disappears before he can pocket it.
Sue: Poor Harry. He collects antique bracelets, you know.
The Doctor opens a door and a human corpse falls into the room. Sue assumes the dead man must hail from Liverpool if his hair style and tache are anything to go by.
Sue: Is this place cursed or something?
In the corridor are piles of… well, er…
Sue: Is it the Autons? Have the Autons joined forces with the Cybermen?
Sue: Wait, don’t tell me they’re supposed to be human bodies! Don’t be ridiculous.
I apologise. Like it’s somehow my fault that the director thought he could get away with littering mannequins all over the floor.
Sue: They must have run out of money at this point. Either that or the Cybermen can turn people into shop window dummies.
When we finally meet Nerva’s surviving crew members, Sue is drawn to William Marlowe as Lester. She vaguely recognises him from The Mind of Evil, or The One in the Prison, if you happen to be Sue, but his pockmarked face reminds her of someone else entirely.
Sue: All I know is he looks like Mark Hamill does today.
Sue also recognises the Cybermats.
Sue: I like the Cybermats. Cybermats are cool. The cats would love a Cybermat to play with. The doors are very impressive in this story, too – they are swishing together very fast, which makes for a nice change.
Meanwhile, on the planet Voga, two aliens are discussing the threat posed by Cybermen.
Me: I love the way the Cybermen are just dropped casually into the conversation like that. There’s no attempt at all to hold them back as a surprise.
Sue: Er, the clue is in the title, Neil.
When the Vogan named Magrik refers to his companion as Vorus, Sue completely mishears him.
Sue: Did he just say “your arse”? I’m sure he just mentioned his arse… Then again, it’s very hard to hear anything behind that stupid plastic mask. I’m not impressed with this lot, I have to say.
Meanwhile, back on the Nerva one of its crew, a man named Warner, is attacked by a Cybermat.
Sue: Bloody hell! It’s the size of a snake! They’d make wonderful draft excluders.
With Warner dying on the floor, the Beacon’s exographer, Professor Kellman enters the room with a satisfied smirk. He removes a tape that recorded contact with the planet Voga.
Sue: Isn’t it amazing that in the future tape will make a sound when you touch it even when it’s not touching the playback head. Incredible.
Me: There are threads on Gallifrey Base for people like you.
The Doctor and his companions make their way to Nerva’s forward compartment. It looks exactly like its rear compartment.
Sue: They are taking the recycling of sets to ludicrous extremes now.
Meanwhile, Kellman is in his quarters, playing with heavily concealed technology.
Sue: He’s watching old episodes on Doctor Who on his iPhone Netflix app. And he isn’t half keeping his hand steady while he does it.
Me: That’s because –
Sue: Yes, I’m not stupid, you know.
The Doctor describes the Cybermen as “total machine creatures”.
Sue: No they aren’t.
That made me smile.
Sue: And where the hell are they, anyway?
The Doctor and Commander Stevenson debate current events in this part of the galaxy while Warner dies from the Cybermat’s deadly bite. The Doctor only wishes that he could have reached the poor man sooner.
Sue: The Doctor should have spent less time chatting about the episode’s back story and he should have spent more time looking for a bloody cure.
It’s around this point that Sue starts to rebel against the story’s incidental (or is it accidental?) music.
Sue: This isn’t Dudley. This is dreadful.
And talking of dreadful music, when the Doctor describes Voga as the planet of gold, Sue just can’t help herself:
Sue: Gold! Always believe in your soul! La-la-la-la-la-la. You’re indestructible! La-la-la-la-la – Gold!
The episode concludes with Sarah attacked by a Cybermat.
Sue: Not bad. I’ve seen worse.
I’m trying to stifle my giggles. This scene looks atrocious! But no one cares about what I think, so I’ll shut up.
Sue: I’m enjoying this. It’s just the music that’s letting it down.
Sue: I had a shirt just like Sarah Jane. It’s a Ben Sherman, I think. She suits the combat look.
It’s always nice to see Sue getting her priorities right as Sarah lies dying on the floor.
Meanwhile, Kellman is back in his pad, up to no good as usual.
Sue: I bet if you made an iPhone case disguised as a silver hairbrush, Doctor Who fans would buy it. The BBC are missing a trick.
The Doctor orders Harry to take Sarah to the surface of Voga via the transmat beam, as this will cure her. If only he could have thought of that before Warner expired.
Sue: I really like this location. It would make a good base for a Bond villain.
Me: It’s Wookey Hole. It’s right next door to Stumphole Cavern.
Back on Nerva, Lester decides to take Kellman from behind.
Sue: Blimey, he’s strong, isn’t he? Look, he’s actually twisting the nozzle of his gun out of shape.
The Doctor explains that the Cybermen are susceptible to only one thing – gold.
Sue: Since when? It’s the first I’ve heard of it. And how can gold suffocate you? Do you have to ram a bullion bar down its gob? And speaking of Cybermen – where the hell are they?
Right on cue, a strange spaceship appears.
Sue: It looks like a fat, happy seal.
Just thank God this is the only seal that Sue mentions in this story.
And then – finally! – we get to see the occupants of the ship.
Sue: Why has that Cyberman got black handles on his head?
Me: He’s in charge.
Sue: Really? He looks unfinished.
The Doctor threatens Kellman with a Cybermat unless he tells him what’s going on.
Sue: The Doctor has gone all Jack Bauer on his ass. And is that a sound effect or is that supposed to be music? It’s never a good sign when I have to ask that.
When Kevin Stoney turns up as an elderly Vogan named Tyrum, Sue doesn’t recognise him.
I know! I can’t believe it either. So I tell her.
Sue: Packerrrrrr. Why on earth would they bury an actor as good as him in all that plastic crap?
As the Vogans continue to bicker among themselves, Sue begins to lose patience.
Sue: I can’t keep up with who is who and who wants what and why and when and where and how. I just don’t give a shit. I hope the Cybermen turn up soon.
And then, completely out of the blue, Sue is actually impressed by something. It occurs when Sarah Jane runs from a hail of Vogan bullets and they ricochet off the walls around her. It does look spectacular.
Sue: It’s all over the place, this one.
Back on Nerva, the Doctor and company watch nervously as the mysterious spaceship continues to approach the Beacon. Who could it possibly be?
Sue: It’s the ****ing Cybermen, you idiots! You’ve been chatting about them endlessly for hours and you are surrounded by Cybermats. Who the **** do you think it is? The ****ing Master?
The ship docks and the Doctor rushes off to the airlock shouting the word on everyone’s lips: “Cybermen!”
Sue: They are laying the marimbas on a bit thick. It must be serious.
The Cybermen emerge from the airlock and they appear to kill everyone, including the Doctor.
Sue: Good cliffhanger. Terrible episode.
Sue: They really should be playing accordion music right now.
Me: That’s very cruel.
The Cyberleader immediately takes control of the Beacon. And he isn’t in a good mood.
Sue: He sounds very angry for a Cyberman. They usually sound very monotone and unfeeling. This is a bit of a departure but I think I prefer it.
Me: What? Are you insane?
Sue: I can understand what he’s saying!
Me: I give up.
Sue: I admit that they aren’t as scary but at least he makes sense. Nice arse, too.
Me: Now I really give up.
The Cybermen tie bombs to the Doctor, Lester and Stevenson. They will take them to the center of Voga and crack the planet in half.
Sue: So they are suicide bombers?
Me: Only if suicide entails being blown up by somebody else and you don’t want to die, yes.
Meanwhile, on Voga, the planet of gold.
Sue: I couldn’t give a shit about these Vogans. I tune out every time they appear. I don’t know who’s who, which ones are good, which ones are bad and what the hell they are trying to achieve. And I don’t really care either. And considering that this planet is supposed to be made of gold, it’s a bit of a shit hole, isn’t it? It should look like Lady Ga Ga’s apartment.
The Doctor accuses the Cybermen of being a pathetic bunch of tin soldiers skulking about the galaxy in an ancient spaceship.
Sue: Even the Doctor thinks they’re crap.
We are told that the Cybermen were defeated by something called a glitter gun.
Sue: That’s very glam.
The Cybermen are unimpressed by the Doctor’s bluster and he is sent to Voga with a bomb strapped to his back. Lester and Stevenson follow and they are escorted by two Cybermen.
Sue: When the Cybermen are in dark caves and they don’t say anything, they are pretty good. But shouldn’t these Cybermen be dead already? They don’t like gold because it kills them, and yet here they are, standing in the middle of a planet made of the stuff. This should be like Superman visiting a planet made of Kryptonite. Why haven’t they keeled over yet?
Meanwhile, Harry, Sarah, and what we think are some friendly Vogans, are pinned down by some not-so-nice Vogans.
Sue: They couldn’t hit them and they were standing less than TWO FEET AWAY! Good grief!
Kellman admits that he is a double agent who is really working for the Vogans.
Sue: I don’t get it. If he wanted to work against the Cybermen, why did he try to kill the Doctor?
Me: Maybe he’s a good bad guy. Or a bad good guy. I don’t know! Maybe he just hates everyone.
Suddenly, another Cyberman decides to pipe up.
Sue: Now this guy is playing the part with no emotions. Which just makes the Cyberleader stick out like a sore thumb. Someone hasn’t read a memo.
As the Doctor, Lester and Stevenson make their way through Voga’s cave system, the commander is forced to apologise: “I’m sorry, Doctor, I’m a bit wet”.
Sue: He’s not that scared, is he?
When I was writing this up, it dawned on me that what he really said was “I’m a bit whacked”, but it sure sounded like “wet” at the time.
What they don’t realise is that Harry and Kellman are very close. But when they accidentally set off a huge rockfall, it lands on top of the Doctor. Sue can’t believe that it wouldn’t have set the Doctor’s bomb off, but when Harry arrives to find Kellman dead and the Doctor unconscious, he tries to remove the bomb from his friend’s back – but if he succeeds it will go off in his face.
Sue: Another good cliffhanger. That’s about the best thing I can say about this.
“Harry Sullivan is an imbecile!”
Sue: You know, I could imagine Matt Smith saying that to Rory Pond.
Me: Only if he got Rory’s name wrong.
Sue: You know what I mean – that jokey shouty thing he does sometimes.
Poor Harry can’t remember what the Cybermen are called.
Sue: Harry’s just like me. I can’t keep up with this story either.
Harry and the Doctor arm themselves with fistfuls of gold and it’s at this point that we are joined by Nicol, who is waiting for us to finish so we can watch The Apprentice.
Nicol: It’s The Crystal Maze. It even sounds like The Crystal Maze. But don’t put that in the blog. I think I mentioned The Crystal Maze once before and everyone will think I’m obsessed with it.
Sue: I don’t remember you mentioning it before.
Nicol: Oh, if I did then I’m sure Neil’s readers will remember it. It’s just a hunch I have.
Sue: Do you know what annoys me the most about this episode?
Me: Go on.
Sue: Video – Film – Video – Film – Video – Film – Video – make your bloody mind up! It keeps jumping around every couple of minutes and it stops the whole thing from flowing together.
Sue: He’s showing less emotion than the Cybermen!
But he was steeling himself to be the suicide bomber that Sue always suspected him to be.
Sue: Oh, fair enough. That was brave. Hang on a minute, the Cybermen intend to blow up an entire planet with three bombs but when that one went off it barely took out a couple of Cybermen. I’m not convinced.
The Doctor arrives at the Vogans’ HQ and when he learns that they are about to blow Nerva out of the sky with a rocket, he asks for 15 minutes so he can rescue his friend, Sarah Jane.
Sue: 15 minutes won’t kill you.
Nicol: Oh, I don’t know, I’m struggling a bit.
The Cybermen decide to revert to Plan B, which involves sending Nerva careering into Voga itself.
Sue: Plan B should have been Plan A – it’s a much better plan. I bet Plan C is a belter.
The militant branch of the Vogans launch their Sky Striker rocket and it looks a lot like Apollo Saturn V rocket, a fact not lost on Nicol, who is currently laughing her head off.
The Cyberleader is so angry, he decides to give the Doctor a very vigorous neck massage.
Sue: Down a bit. Left a bit. Yes, that’s it. Just there.
I ask Sue what she makes of the Cyberleader’s habit of strutting around with his hands on his hips.
Sue: Either he’s suffering from back ache or he thinks he’s it.
The Cybermen depart from Nerva, leaving the Doctor and Sarah to face “the biggest bang in history”. Nicol is far from convinced.
Nicol: Really? Are you absolutely sure about that?
The departing Cybermen are destroyed by the Vogan’s Sky Striker.
The Doctor wrestles with the controls of Nerva, which is now on a collision course with Voga.
Sue: It’s a wood-turning lathe with some shit smeared all over it. I can see what they are trying to do but it looks stupid.
Nicol is laughing too much to get any words out.
The Doctor manages to steer the space station to safety – Nicol tries to interject but I shush her – and then the Doctor’s TARDIS turns up.
Sue: It’s as if it was hanging around waiting for this bloody story to end.
The Brigadier has called the Doctor back to Earth.
Sue: Is he going back to work for UNIT?
Me: It certainly looks that way.
Sue: Thank **** for that.
Sue: What a load of old rubbish. It started well but it rapidly went downhill. The Cybermen were rubbish, the aliens were rubbish, the locations were wasted, the direction was terrible and the plot was impossible to follow. Tom Baker had some nice moments but that was a mess.
Me: Well, that was the end of Tom Baker’s first season.
Sue: Really? Wow. It flew by. It wasn’t a great story to finish a season on, though. I hope there are some decent stories along soon.