Friday, 29 May 2015

Know Your Cybermen No.9

Attack of the Cybermen (1985).
The Cybermen return in the opening story of Colin Baker's first full season. These are the same ones as seen in their last outing - The Five Doctors. No design changes to the basic models, and David Banks reprises the Cyber-Leader role. What is new here is the Cyber-Controller (even though played by the same actor as his previous appearance way back in Tomb of the Cybermen. We also get a "stealth" Cyberman - camouflaged to patrol the sewers of London. This is the same design as its peers - just coloured a very dark grey.

Whilst the Controller might be the same actor as before, the design is different. The helmet / neck / chest panel section is the same as the ordinary Cybermen, but the cranium is enlarged and there are no side handles. The frame is taller and bulkier. For the first time (apart from a post-op Toberman) we get to see the cyber-conversion process in action - with a number of captives in different stages of upgrading. This includes mental conditioning as well as body replacement surgery.
At one point the Doctor removes the face plate of a dead Cyberman - and it appears to be without any organic material within. He activates an automatic distress unit, then claims that Cybermen will drop everything to come to the aid of their stricken colleague - which just does not tie in with anything we know about the Cybermen.
The Cyberman plan is even more convoluted than some of the Troughton-era ones. Some parts of it seem to drop through a gap between the two episodes. The main aim, initially, is to prevent the destruction of Mondas (as seen in The Tenth Planet). These are time-travelling Cybermen (using stolen technology). The plan is to divert Halley's Comet to crash into the Earth - leaving it defenceless once Mondas shows up in a year's time. The Cyber-Leader has established a base on Earth - in London's sewer network (as previously seen in The Invasion). The Controller, in the far future, plans to move operations from Telos to the Solar System. Telos is being mined with explosives - so the Cybermen can observe its destruction. The Tomb of the Cybermen, meanwhile, is being sabotaged by the planet's natives - the Cryons. It is of a totally different design to the one seen back in 1967. The non-time travelling, non-space-faring Cryons have astonishingly managed to employ the mercenary Lytton from 500 years in their past to help them - he is to steal the stolen time-ship and prevent the Cybermen from going back in time. When the Doctor and his TARDIS are captured, the Cybermen no longer need the time-ship.
The Cybermen on Earth abandon their base and all pile into the TARDIS to go to Telos - despite the fact that they were on Earth for a reason. The whole saving Mondas plan seems to be forgotten about as the plot switches entirely to Lytton, the Cryons, and the three men who are attempting to steal the time-ship. The Doctor fails to save Lytton after he is captured and partially converted. The Cyber-Leader and the Controller are shot, and the Cyber-Control Centre (and presumably the tombs) are blown up. The End.

Story Notes:

  • Controversy still surrounds the authorship of this mess of a story. (You would have thought people would have been tripping over themselves to disown it, rather than claim responsibility). The credited writer is Paula Moore. She was script editor Eric Saward's partner at the time. The story is probably pretty much all his. (Remember the rule about script editors not commissioning themselves, and the fact that Saward was already scheduled to write the final story of the season - when he would be temporarily out of contract and so freelance). Unofficially official continuity adviser Ian Levene claims co-authorship, however. No doubt all of his stuff is just the interminable and obscure continuity references to earlier Cyberman stories.
  • The Controller is Michael Kilgariff. It does have to be said that he has put on a wee bit of weight over the nearly 20 years since he last played the part. Fans tend to call this the Fat Controller - a la Thomas The Tank Engine. You will notice that the standard Cyber-suit he was given was too small - note the additional material that had to be added to the cuffs.
  • He is not the only thing returning from Tomb of the Cybermen. The Telos exterior location is the same gravel pit at Gerrard's Cross used back in 1967.
  • The Doctor goes to great lengths to express his regret at misjudging Lytton - somewhat diminished when you recall (from Resurrection of the Daleks) that they didn't actually meet - apart from Lytton shooting at him from a distance in a dark, smoke-filled warehouse.
  • The Cryons were originally going to be all male, and to be the inhabitants of Halley's Comet.

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