Friday 19 June 2020

Inspirations - Attack of the Cybermen

Attack of the Cybermen is credited to one Paula Moore - but the true author is Eric Saward, though for years this was debated. Super-fan Ian Levine - the programme's unofficial continuity adviser - for a long time claimed to have had a substantive hand in the writing, and the story is indeed absolutely laden down with continuity. More than it can actually sustain, to be honest. Levine has claimed that Saward put dialogue to his storyline.
To complicate matters, there is no Paula Moore. It is a nom de plume for Paula Woolsey, who was Saward's partner at the time. It is believed that she had her name attached to the project just to get round the Writers' Guild guidelines, as Saward wasn't supposed to write for his own series unless permission was given under exceptional circumstances. One version of events goes that she came up with the basic plot, and Saward developed it, but Levine claims she had no input whatsoever.
Saward finally set the record straight in a recent DWM interview. He wrote the story. Later, Ian Levine came round to hear about the plans for Season 22, and was told about the opening episodes. He made a couple of suggestions, to add in some fan-pleasing continuity points, but that was as far as his involvement went. Paula's pseudonym, Moore, came from a character called David Moore, from Saward's first ever radio play.

Saward's reason for writing the story was because it was a Cyberman story. He had a strong liking for the creatures, and had been responsible for their triumphal return in Earthshock, after a 7 year absence. He had also insisted on their inclusion as the main returning alien threat in The Five Doctors.
There are a number of elements from earlier Cyberman stories included in this new story.
The Tenth Planet had seen the Cybermen's original home planet of Mondas destroyed, after absorbing too much energy from its sister world, the Earth. These events were dated to December 1986. In Attack of the Cybermen, the Cybermen have obtained a time-travel craft, and intend to use it to go back and prevent Mondas' destruction.
Tomb of the Cybermen had seen the Cybermen relocated to a new homeworld - Telos - where they had entombed themselves in cryogenic suspension after a series of defeats. They intend to ensnare others whom they can convert into new Cybermen and restore their numbers. Their leader is introduced - the Cyber-Controller - who has a larger than usual cranium. He was played by Michael Kilgariff. The main action in Attack of the Cybermen, at least in its second act, is based on Telos, and the tombs feature once again. The Cyber-Controller is reintroduced, and he is played once more by Kilgariff. Of all the Cyberman stories referenced in this new story, it is Tomb which is plundered the most.
The Invasion had seen the Cybermen hiding in the sewers beneath London, as well as having a base of operations on the dark side of the Moon. Attack of the Cybermen also has the Cybermen having a base in the London sewers, and there is mention of another on the dark side of the Moon.
Tomb of the Cybermen, The Wheel in SpaceThe Invasion, Revenge of the Cybermen and Earthshock all featured the Cybermen having a human ally, and in Attack of the Cybermen we have the returning character of Lytton appearing to fulfil that role.
There is, therefore, some element from every Cyberman story present in this one.

It's not just Cyberman stories which are referenced, however. Probably meant to help establish that this is the new Doctor - whether you like it or not - we have the TARDIS first materialising in London at 76 Totters Lane. This junkyard was, of course, the place where we first saw the TARDIS, and met the Doctor, in the very first episode of An Unearthly Child. The Doctor has been trying to fix the Chameleon Circuit - something he was last seen trying to do in Logopolis. Prior to every season, JNT used to bait the press with some idea that he never really intended to introduce - purely to provoke a reaction and some newspaper column inches of publicity. There had been the hint of a female Doctor when Tom Baker resigned, for instance, and he had axed K9 knowing full well that a spin-off series was being planned for it. This year, he had hinted that he was going to get rid of the Police Box form of the TARDIS - claiming that children these days didn't know what a Police Box was. The TARDIS does indeed change form in the first episode of Attack of the Cybermen, but a permanent change was never on the cards.
The Doctor at one point mentions the 'Terrible Zodin' to Peri - a character whom the Second Doctor had talked about with the Brigadier in The Five Doctors.
As with many stories since Colony In Space, the Doctor finds that he is being manipulated by the Time Lords - being used as their unwitting agent to stop the Cyberman scheme to alter history.
Then we have the aforementioned Lytton, who returns from Saward's last story - Resurrection of the Daleks. He was last seen wandering away from the carnage of the final battle with the Daleks, accompanied by a couple of his men, disguised as police officers. Lytton has now set himself up as a gangster, planning a bank robbery, in sequences which are clearly inspired by the grittier TV crime thrillers of the time. Actor Maurice Colbourne had first come to prominence in the crime drama Gangsters.
Another returnee from Resurrection of the Daleks is actor Terry Molloy, who had played Davros. This time we get to see what he really looks like as he takes on the role of undercover cop Russell. We should just mention that, as well as the same writer, Attack of the Cybermen shares the same director as the Dalek story - Matthew Robinson.

This is the first story to be produced under the new 45 minute episode format. Resurrection of the Daleks had been broadcast in this way as a late change, due to coverage of the Winter Olympics, but Season 22 was intentionally designed to have these longer episode lengths, which Saward greatly favoured. He disliked having to artificially manufacture a cliffhanger every 22 minutes. Fan opinion was mixed on this. They still got the same amount of Doctor Who, but the season was over and gone much faster - so there would therefore be longer to wait for the next one. (Little did they know that the wait would be an even longer one, come the end of this season).
Away from Doctor Who itself, there was one other major inspiration for this story.
1986 was to see the return of Halley's Comet, which had last been seen in the skies in 1910. The Cybermen intend to divert the comet to strike the Earth, so that it won't be in any condition to cause the destruction of Mondas when it arrives at the end of the year.
Comets were always traditionally seen as harbingers of doom. It passed over England just before the Norman invasion of 1066, and is even featured on the Bayeux Tapestry. It reappeared just before the Great Plague of 1665. In 1910 it was blamed for the death of King Edward VII. Saward had alluded to it before, in his first Doctor Who story The Visitation, which is set against the backdrop of he Great Plague and the Great Fire of London.
As broadcast, the comet plot is dropped rather suddenly, as the Cybermen decide to use their time travel craft to change history instead. The original storyline made more of it, with the Cryons actually living inside the comet, rather than being the hitherto unheard of original inhabitants of Telos.
Next time: a commentary on so-called "video nasties" itself becomes accused of being one, as the Doctor encounters torture, mutilation and cannibalism as entertainment. This most voluble of Doctors dries, whilst Peri gets the bird...

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