Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Story 46 - The Invasion

In which the TARDIS is fired upon from the dark side of the Moon. The ship makes an emergency landing and some circuits burn out. When the Doctor removes them, the ship is rendered invisible. They are in the English countryside. A lorry driver who gives them a lift appears very nervous, and explains this is part of a huge restricted compound belonging to International Electromatics. After they have left him, the man is killed by armed guards in black uniform. The Doctor and his companions go to the home of Professor Edward Travers, to seek his help in repairing the damaged circuits. He and his daughter are away in America and the house has been let to fellow scientist Professor Watkins. His niece, Isobel - a budding photographer - tells them that her uncle has not been seen since he went to International Electromatics. The Doctor and Jamie visit the firm's London HQ and meet the director, Tobias Vaughn. He is extremely interested in the TARDIS circuits. The Doctor distrusts him - due to his low blink rate. Fed up with waiting, Zoe and Isobel follow, and are captured by Vaughn's security man, Packer. The Doctor and Jamie, meanwhile, have been picked up by members of UNIT - the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce - and taken to a cargo plane which houses their mobile HQ. Here they are reunited with Lethbridge-Stewart, now a Brigadier.

UNIT have been keeping Vaughn's business under observation. There have been UFO sightings at their various premises. They have a virtual monopoly on a range of electronic equipment. People who have gone into their offices have either never been seen again, or have emerged strangely changed. The lorry driver was a UNIT agent. When they learn that Zoe and Isobel went to the I.E. building, they return to find them. The girls have been sent to the rural compound, so Vaughn agrees to take them there. They meet Watkins, and he tells them of a teaching device he is being forced to develop - the Cerebration Mentor. It works by generating emotional impulses. The Doctor is curious about hundreds of huge metal pods, which he had seen back in London as well as here at the compound. Jamie sees something move in one of them. Zoe and Isobel are rescued, and everyone escapes when a UNIT helicopter arrives. The Doctor and Jamie break back into the London HQ and discover that the pods contain Cybermen in suspended animation. Vaughn has been reanimating them and they are massing in the city's sewer system. When the Brigadier claims he needs proof of all this before he can take action, Isobel, Zoe and Jamie go to the sewers to take photographs. UNIT troops have to rescue them. Vaughn needs the Cerebration Mentor as a weapon to control the Cybermen, as he doesn't fully trust them. His body has already been cybernetically enhanced.

Each piece of I.E. equipment has a tiny micro-monolithic circuit which, when activated, will render people comatose - enabling the Cybermen to invade unopposed. Vaughn expects to be able to run the planet on logical and rational lines on behalf of his alien allies. In his office, behind a panel, is a Cyber-director by which he communicates with them. The invasion begins, but the Doctor has UNIT troops protect themselves with small metal neuristers placed on the back of the neck. Watkins is rescued. The Doctor goes alone to see Vaughn to try and talk him into turning against the Cybermen, whilst the Brigadier and Zoe travel to the missile base at Henlow Down. Captain Turner travels to Russia where a rocket launch was about to take place. He will organise fitting a warhead. Missiles destroy the initial Cyberman invasion fleet, thanks to Zoe's calculations. The Cybermen turn against Vaughn and kill Packer. The Cybermen decide that if they cannot invade, they will destroy. They launch a massive bomb. The Doctor and Vaughn go to the compound to destroy the Cybermen's homing beacon. A further missile strike destroys the bomb, and the last Cybership - forced to come into range to launch the bomb - is blown up by the Russian rocket. Vaughn is killed, and UNIT wipe out the remaining Cybermen. The TARDIS circuits repaired, the time travellers depart.

This eight part epic was written by Derrick Sherwin (from a story by Kit Pedler) and was broadcast between 2nd November and 21st December, 1968. Sherwin was able to take a writer's credit as he had stepped down from script editing - to be replaced by Terrance Dicks. The story is most significant for the introduction of UNIT - and the first contribution by Dicks to the programme.
Episodes 1 and 3 are missing from the archives but have been animated, with the original soundtrack, for the DVD release.
The director is the exceptional Douglas Camfield - known to run his shoots with military precision.
This story very much acts as a rehearsal for the next season - where the Doctor would be exiled on Earth and forced to work with a military outfit against a variety of terrestrial and extra-terrestrial threats. Elements  from The Web of Fear are reused - especially the Brigadier, now commander of a fictitious UN force set up specifically to deal with unorthodox situations like the Yeti invasion. It was originally hoped that Jack Watling would have returned as Travers, but the production team were still wrangling with Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln in the aftermath of The Dominators problems. Edward Burnham's Prof. Watkins takes his place. He's not on screen much, but is in one of my favourite scenes - see below. (He will be back in the programme as another scientist - Prof. Kettlewell - in Robot).

Returning as Lethbridge-Stewart is, of course, Nicholas Courtney. It is reported that he impressed a squad of real soldiers - Coldstream Guards, who took part in the closing episode - with his performance. He is joined for the first time by John Levene - playing Corporal Benton. He is in plain clothes initially, but later appears in uniform when seen dropping off the younger members of the cast at a manhole so they can descend to the sewers, and then again in the tense final episode.
Those uniforms were a bone of contention - especially with Courtney, who hated them. They were designed to differentiate UNIT from regular army forces. Fortunately future producer Barry Letts would agree with Nick and make changes.
Isobel is played by Sally Faulkner, and she is superb. It is such a pity we don't get to see her again.
Packer is Peter Halliday, in the first of several appearances in the programme (worthy of a post all of his own). He is unpleasantly sadistic - vocalised and implied only - but this is tempered by a comedic ineptitude. You wonder why on Earth Vaughn puts up with him. Probably for some perverse entertainment value.

Principal guest artist is Kevin Stoney as Tobias Vaughn. He had been Mavic Chen in The Daleks' Master Plan. In my humble opinion, I think his is one of the best guest performances in the whole of Doctor Who - past or present. Vaughn is utterly ruthless. Utterly charming. Often at the same time. I'll pick one scene to illustrate how good he is - the confrontation with Watkins. The professor is his prisoner, and Vaughn has threatened to set Packer on his niece, yet he acts like a gracious host. He then viciously goads Watkins - including a very real, very shocking, slap to the face - and uses the Cerebration Mentor on him, then calmly lets him have Packer's gun - knowing it won't harm him. It's a powerful scene and rarely matched - certainly in the classic series - but there are many other scenes with Stoney that stand out. He's particularly good in his scenes with Troughton. Stoney will meet the Cybermen one more time - under a latex mask - when he plays the Vogan ruler,Tyrum, in Revenge of the Cybermen.
The series regulars all have a very good outing on this story - Troughton and Padbury especially. There's a lovely scene where Zoe bamboozles the I.E. reception computer with an insoluble problem - causing it to blow a fuse. Jamie gets wounded in the penultimate episode and doesn't appear in part 8 (apart from the pre-filmed TARDIS departure sequence) - Frazer being on holiday.  

The Invasion is also one of the best Cyberman stories - if not the best. They've had another redesign - mainly the introduction of the "ear-muffs" on the side of the helmets. They are used sparingly - not seen properly until the end of episode 3 when one bursts its way out of a cocoon. They are particularly effective in designer Richard Hunt's gloomy and realistic sewer sets. The image of  them walking down the steps by St. Paul's Cathedral is a programme icon - even more than the Daleks on Westminster Bridge, as the famous photograph from that scene disappointingly doesn't actually feature in The Dalek Invasion of Earth.
Episode endings are:

  1. Vaughn opens a secret panel in his office - revealing a strange alien machine.
  2. Seeing Zoe being put into a metal pod, Jamie attacks Packer. Guards approach and the Doctor urges escape - but they are captured.
  3. In a railway wagon, hiding in one of the metal pods, Jamie finds something is moving beside him.
  4. Within each pod is a cocoon. The Doctor and Jamie see scientists attach a strange device to one and a Cyberman bursts out.
  5. In the sewers, Jamie, Zoe and Isobel realise there are Cybermen converging on them from each direction. They are trapped.
  6. Cybermen burst out of manholes and begin to march around the city.
  7. The Cyber-director announces that a bomb is about to be deployed. The Doctor asks if this is what Vaughn wanted - to be master of a dead world?
  8. The Doctor makes the TARDIS visible again and he and his companions pile inside. Isobel and Captain Turner watch, amazed, as it dematerialises.

Overall, one of my favourite stories. Excellent guest performances, a fantastic villain, the Cybermen at their best, and the regulars on top form. So nice to see the animated missing episodes on the DVD as well.
Things you might like to know:
  • This story was originally going to be called The Return of the Cybermen and would have only been four episodes long. It would also have featured Cybermats. The increase in episode length was due to the next planned story (The Dreamspinner) being abandoned. In the past I have argued that some stories would have been better as tighter, shorter stories - but in this case we would have been deprived a lot of Vaughn / Packer scenes.
  • The Cyber-director mentions the Doctor being known from Planet 14. For my views on this, I refer you to my post last month on the "Chronology of the Cybermen".
  • Just before the transmission of Episode 1, a continuity announcer said that this story is set in 1975... See my earlier posts on UNIT dating. Oh, the headaches...
  • References to this story in future Cyber-stories include - Cybermen bursting out of cocoons in Earthshock; the sewer setting in part one of Attack of the Cybermen; Van Statten's Cyberman head being found in a London sewer (even though it is the wrong design); and the reappearance of International Electromatics as a subsidiary of Cybus Industries in The Rise of the Cybermen.
  • Peter Halliday provides the Cyberman voices - and that of the Cyber-director - uncredited. 
  • Douglas Camfield's wife - Sheila Dunn, who will play Petra Williams in Inferno - performs telephone voices.
  • John Levene had a lucky break with the opportunity to appear in the final episode - at the expense of actor James Thornhill who played Sergeant Walters. Walters suddenly disappears. The actor had been late one time too often (especially for this particular director) and was sacked - so Levene was asked to fill the gap with more Benton action.
  • There is a dramatic rescue for Professor Watkins - though we don't get to see it. Vaughn's pet scientist, Gregory, merely describes it. It was supposed to be filmed but time and cash ran out. It is recreated in the documentary on the DVD.
  • For many years, this was the most expensive Doctor Who story ever produced - despite it being an attempt to show that Earthbound stories could be done cheaper than outer space ones. Oh, the irony...

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