Friday, 2 March 2018

Inspirations - The Invasion

For many years the second longest Doctor Who story, The Invasion was written by script editor Derrick Sherwin, from an idea by Cyberman co-creator Kit Pedler. It was originally conceived of as a four part story, but was extended to eight episodes after another four-parter, "The Dreamspinner", fell through. The draft title was "Return of the Cybermen", but the aliens were dropped from the story title to hide their involvement, as they don't turn up until the mid-way point. As it was, publicity would reveal their presence long before they appeared on screen. As Sherwin is writing this story, his assistant Terrance Dicks gets his first on screen credit as script editor.
You'll recall that the Daleks were not available to the programme at this time, and the Cybermen had taken their place as the big event monster for each season. Derrick Sherwin wanted to bring the programme down to Earth, and had been impressed by the set up of The Web of Fear, in which the Doctor arrived in contemporary London and allied himself with the army to defeat an alien invasion.
This story acts as a sequel to that Yeti tale, though this time it is the Cybermen who are invading instead of a rematch with the Great Intelligence. Problems with The Dominators would mean that such a rematch was unlikely. What Sherwin took instead from the earlier story were the incidental characters. It was originally hoped that Professor Travers and his daughter Anne would be brought back, and once again the Doctor would ally himself with the military. In interviews Sherwin has quoted the Quatermass serials as an inspiration for the new format he wanted to introduce to the series. In those the Professor was very anti-military, but was forced by circumstances to co-operate with the army. In particular, it was actually Anne Travers whom Sherwin really wanted to see back, and he would revisit this character when planning the companion who eventually became Liz Shaw..

In the end, it wasn't possible to get Jack Watling or Tina Packer back, so Sherwin looked instead to the character of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart. Nicholas Courtney was one of director Douglas Camfield's favoured performers and, as he was hired to direct this story, it was he who became the one to return from The Web of Fear. Rather than have the regular army get involved once again, Sherwin devised UNIT - the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce. This would be a specialist, globe-trotting military organisation, and would allow writer and director more leeway in how they acted. Lethbridge-Stewart was given a promotion to Brigadier to lead the British contingent. At one point Jamie asks if they are some sort of world secret police. The Brigadier dismisses this, but keeps their actual role relatively vague. They simply investigate the strange and unusual.

The Travers' roles in this story are taken up by the mostly absentee Professor Watkins and his niece Isobel. She is not a scientist, however. Isobel is very much a character of the era, reflecting London's growing cultural and artistic domination. She's a photographer who is interested in fashion, as we see when she gets Zoe to pose for her. She writes messages on walls, and shops for antique bric-a-brac in the Portobello Road. The first half of the 1960's had seen Liverpool become the capital of cool, but it was now firmly eclipsed by London. Film-makers from the USA and the Continent were queuing up to film in the city, employing actors such as Michael Caine, Terence Stamp, David Hemmings and Julie Christie. Carnaby Street and the King's Road, Chelsea, were the fashion hot spots. The Beatles were still making records, but people were listening more to The Stones, The Kinks and The Yardbirds these days.

As we've said, the Cybermen don't actually make an appearance until the end of Episode 4, so for the first half of the story the Doctor has a very human enemy to work against. This is the industrialist Tobias Vaughn, played by Kevin Stoney. He had been the human villain in the longest story to date - The Daleks' Master Plan, also directed by Camfield. He turns in another marvelous guest star turn. Vaughn's chief interest in is in electronics. He has cornered the market and his products can be found in most of the world's technology. It is never stated, but presumably his success is in part due to help from the Cybermen, but he must already have been pretty powerful for them to have located and allied themselves to him in the first place. He has his own private army stationed at his London HQ and at his factory compound out in the English countryside. The appearance of his guards owes something to the uniforms of the French riot police who had been seen fighting the students of Paris that year, and of the Firemen who had featured in the film version of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, released in 1966.

When we looked at the growth of computer technology when considering the inspirations for The War Machines, we noted how many of the advances came about as a result of research commissioned during wartime. It was the same with the growth of electronics, as radar technology prompted the development of the transistor. Vaughn has installed micro-monolithic circuits in all of the goods he manufactures. Try Googling this phrase, and the top search result actually takes you to this story. Other results concern modern computer operating systems, where you either have micro- or monolithic, not both. (Very, very simply put, you can either have one big thing doing the work - monolithic - or lots of smaller ones adding up to achieve the same thing - micro).
The Cybermen plan to use these circuits to disable the world's population, placing it in a catatonic hypnotic state. They have tried to invade the Earth three times now. In the last two attempts, the action was concentrated on an isolated location which they planned to use as a staging post - the Moonbase and the Wheel. Only in their very first story did the Cybermen actually invade the planet itself. What we saw of this was simply a number of dots on a radar screen, then a Cyberman walking in to a room which we were assured was in Geneva. This story tries to show a proper invasion, but as with The Dalek Invasion of Earth, the budget and VFX still don't really allow for it. The Invasion does what the Dalek story did and opts to show the Cybermen marching in front of a well known landmark, as a signifier for their wider invasion - in this case St Paul's Cathedral. Well, Big Ben had already been done.

Camfield ensures that the climax does at least have an epic feel, as he enlists the help of real soldiers to bulk out the UNIT extras, and we have the Brigadier send his captain off to Russia to co-opt one of their rockets. This takes place off screen, however. Sadly, a lot of the final episode makes use of rather grainy stock footage of the same couple of missiles being fired off. We could be kind and say that this is a deliberate homage to many of the classic alien invasion movies of the 1950's, which make liberal use of stock footage of tanks and aircraft, from the cheapest Ed Wood spectacular to the bigger budget films of George Pal.
We should at this point mention the very first appearance of John Levene in the programme unencumbered by a monster costume. He had played a Cyberman in The Moonbase, and a Yeti in The Web of Fear, and it was during the making of the latter that Camfield had encouraged the insecure Levene to take up acting seriously. He plays Corporal Benton here - his role boosted by the sacking of another actor who kept turning up late. You'll notice that Sergeant Walters suddenly disappears from the story, with only a mention that he is manning another radio link off screen.

Apart from the poor use of stock footage, the story's climax also suffers from some dreadful model work. The Cyberman spaceships get hit by some fireworks, which mostly seem to bounce off them, and the final destruction of the mother ship and the Cyber Megatron bomb occur off camera. Vaughn's demise is also a little lackluster, as he dies as a result a small explosion at his feet.
The story proves to be the lst contribution to the series by Kit Pedler, and the Cybermen won't be back for several years, being entirely absent from the Pertwee era save for a brief cameo in Carnival of Monsters. They were due to have featured in Frontier in Space, but were replaced by the Ogrons.
Lastly, clips from this story are often used to illustrate the casual sexism of the early series. We have the Brigadier suggesting Zoe make everyone a cup of tea, to her obvious annoyance, and Isobel can't photograph the Cybermen in the sewers because, well, she's a girl. Later we see the soldiers at the missile base ogling Zoe's backside, and talking about how she is prettier than a computer. All perfectly true, but Isobel ignores the Brigadier's chauvinism, and Zoe does single-handedly blow up the entire Cyberman fleet using her brain, so the characters are never allowed to perform to the stereotypes.
Next time, we venture back out into outer space and an alien planet. It's not just in Paris that students are rioting. It's 1968, so acid is being dropped, and the monsters are definitely not the winners of a Blue Peter design a monster competition, even though they might look like it...

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