Tuesday, 13 September 2011

37: The Tomb Of The Cybermen - Base-Under-Siege Reversal.

Written by: Kit Pedlar and Jerry Davis.
Companions: The Doctor, Jamie McCrimmon, Victoria Waterfield.
Monsters/Villains: The Cybermen, Cybermats, Cyber Controller, Kaftan, Eric Klieg.
Brief Synopsis: On the planet Telos an archaeological team penetrates the lost Tomb of the Cybermen.
Rating 9/10.

Well, Ladies and Jellyspoons, we've actually made it. Only eight stories in and we have finally arrived at Troughton's first story that actually exists in it's entirety, The Tomb of The Cybermen. I won't lie it has been a tough slog through some of the audio only stories and there are still quite a few to go, but do not loose heart, we shall not be halted. In honesty we are very lucky to have the audio for every missing story.

The episode, and indeed the Season, establish with a great newcomer-watcher's jumping on point as the Doctor and Jamie introduce Victoria to the TARDIS. The Doctor reveals that he is 450 years old in earth terms.

On the surface of the planet Telos an Earth archaeological expedition arrives and blows some explosives revealing a large pair of doors. The team consists of: Professor Parry, his assistants John Viner and Peter Haydon, the ship's captain, Captain Hopper, his crew including Jim Callum and Ted Rogers, the expeditions financier Kaftan, her colleague Eric Klieg and her manservant Toberman.

Kaftan promises £50 to the man who opens the doors. A crewman tries to open the doors but gets electrocuted. They hear the TARDIS land and see the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria appear around a corner. At first the group thinks the Doctor is a rival, Parry even notes that the Doctor has got "archaeologist written all over him." The Doctor proudly retorts, "Oh really, does it show?" Which is somewhat of a departure from what Tennant's Doctor says when he first meets River Song in the Library. 

Professor Parry.
Parry admits that they are searching the universe for the last remains of the Cybermen. Telos became their home after Mondas was destroyed in The Tenth PlanetCaptain Hopper, along with his terrible American accent and his men return to the ship. The Doctor claims that he can open the door, and touches it. Toberman opens the doors as the Doctor reveals that the man who died drained all the electricity. It's an interesting and fairly uncharacteristic decision for the Doctor to precipitate the group's access to the Cybermen. Later he will claim he knew all along and just wanted to reveal Klieg's plans. Personally I think he just let his curiosity get the better of him.

Past the giant door the only exits are a large hatch and two smaller doors. Parry recommends that they split up to cover more ground; rookie mistake. Viner, Kaftan and Victoria find a room for revitalising Cybermen. Meanwhile, Jamie and Haydon enter the other room and find a Cybermat. The Doctor and Klieg remain at the hatch. The Doctor explains that the base is controlled via symbolic logic and thus enables Klieg to crack the code and reactivate the power.

Eric Klieg
In the Cyber revitalising chamber Victoria stands in the place where a cyberman would to be reinvigorated and Kaftan pulls a lever trapping her inside. In the other room Haydon pulls a lever on a control console and the lights go out and mesmeric shapes congregate on the wall. Jamie starts to become hypnotised. Haydon saves him, and against Jamie's better judgement they continue to experiment with the machinery. The Doctor frees Victoria and begins to distrust Kaftan. Following Haydon's curiosity Jamie presses a big button on the console, the Doctor and co burst into the weapons testing room, but too late. A fake Cyberman target and a large weapon are revealed. The weapon discharges, killing Haydon instantly.

Peter Haydon.
Everyone begins to leave the room when Victoria picks up the Cybermat thinking it's a fossil. The Doctor pulls out his 500 year diary and finds that it is called a Cybermat. Victoria stupidly puts it in her bag. 

After Haydon and the crewman's death, Parry is ready to abandon the expedition when Hopper arrives and says there is something wrong with the fuel pumps on their ship and that it will take 72 hours minimum to fix the ship. The Doctor implies that Toberman could have been strong enough to cause a fair amount of damage.

Klieg continues to crack the symbolic logic codes and manages to open the hatch. Everyone goes down except for Kaftan and Victoria.The group stand in awe as they realise the have discovered the Tomb of the Cybermen. Kaftan slips something in to Victoria's drink causing her to fall asleep. Kaftan closes the hatch. Klieg operates a sequence pretending to try to open the hatch, but as he is well aware it is actually to defrost the Tombs. 

The Cybermen start to awake ready to breakout but Viner shuts down the machine. Angry, Klieg shoots and kills Viner and restarts the defrost sequence allowing the Cybermen to begin to break free. Klieg explains that he wants to learn the power of the Cyberman to harness it and aid the Brotherhood of Logicians: an assemblage of intelligent humans who emphasise pure logic.

The Cybermat in Victoria's bag starts to reactivate. She awakens to see that the hatch is closed and tries to open it but Kaftan shows her hand and threatens Victoria with a gun. The Cybermat emerges from the bag, Victoria tries to warn Kaftan, but she doesn't believe her. It jumps to Kaftan's neck, but Victoria throws it off and shoots it with Kaftan's gun and runs to fetch help from Captain Hopper.

The Cybermen awaken the Cyber Leader, who has a bad case of camel toe. Klieg introduces himself and explains that he has resurrected them. The Cyber Leader pushes him to the ground and exclaims quite simply, "You belong to us, you shall be like us."

The Cyber Leader.
The Cybermen knew that someone would come in search of them one day, and they purposefully made it difficult to enter their Tomb in order to bring only intelligent people for conversion. The Doctor asks why they submitted to be frozen. The Cyber Leader explains that it was to survive and that they know of the Doctor, mentioning the attack on the Moonbase which took place as the Doctor had destroyed their first planet. The Leader says they will be converted into Cybermen, unhappy with this conclusion Toberman attacks. Unfortunately or perhaps comically you can clearly see the wires used to make it appear that a Cyberman is lifting Toberman with ease.

Captain Hopper.
Victoria returns to the tomb with Hopper and Jim Callum in tow. Kaftan awakes but pretends to be unconscious. She grabs her gun and orders them to keep the hatch closed. Victoria screams, looking to the destroyed Cybermat, this time Kaftan falls for it and Hopper knocks the gun from her hand and they open the hatch. Hopper goes down to investigate, whilst Jim holds the gun on Kaftan.

The Cyber Leader says that Klieg will be the first and the leader of the new race of Cybermen when Hopper arrives and throws smoke bombs allowing everyone to escape. It takes three Cybermen to hold down Toberman, and two bursts of lighting from the Cyber Leader's hands to knock him out. The group escape up the ladder and out of the hatch, closing it behind them. Toberman is still down in the tomb. They lock Klieg and Kaftan inside the weapons testing room, where Klieg finds the Cyber gun from the target model.

The Cyber Leader orders the activation of the Cybermats. The crew rest while they wait for the ship to be repaired, and Victoria takes the first watch, and lets the Doctor sleep an extra half an hour, because he is 450 and needs his rest. We then get what is all to rare in these early episodes: an emotional scene allowing the characters to reflect on what has already passed. Victoria misses her father and the Doctor comforts her, "I can remember my family when I want to. I have to really want to, to bring them back in front of my eyes. The rest of the time they... sleep in my mind and I forget. And so will you. Our lives are different to anybody else's. That's the exciting thing. Nobody in the universe can do what we're doing."

A beautiful moment of reflection...
A Cybermat enters the room, it goes for Callum but the Doctor knocks it off. They avoid the Cybermats by standing behind a power cable that looks like a washing machine pipe which gives the Cybermats a "full metal breakdown."

That was easy...
Klieg and Kaftan emerge and Klieg fires the Cyber gun at the Doctor, but Callum gets in the way of the blast. Klieg opens the hatch and the Cyber Leader and a controlled Toberman appear. The Leader claims to have released Toberman, but he is clearly still under Cyber control. Klieg plans to conquer the Earth and the Leader pledges Klieg some of their power devices. Klieg allows the Leader to enter the revival room and sends everyone else in to the room apart from Victoria who he keeps as a hostage.

The Doctor agrees to help the Leader to revive but traps him inside the machine. Jamie ropes up the machine with the Leader inside, but it still manages to burst out. The Leader sends a command to Toberman who strikes Klieg with a metal arm, allowing the Leader to capture the Cyber gun. 

The Leader opens the hatch. Kaftan tries to close it and shoots the leader with her normal gun. It has no effect and the Leader kills her with the Cyber gun. Meanwhile the Doctor appeals to Toberman's humanity, he has a change of heart and picks up the Cyber Leader and throws him at the controls. Jamie picks up the Cyber gun and shoots two emerging Cybermen.

Look Ma, no wires!
Klieg uses Kaftan's trick and awakes but pretends to be unconscious, while the Doctor and Toberman go back into the Tomb, he grabs the Cyber gun and follows them unseen. The Doctor begins to refreeze the Cybermen, but Klieg stops him, still believing he will be the new controller. 

The Doctor flatters Klieg and pretends he want to serve Klieg, the all powerful, Master of the world to test how mad he really is. The Doctor challenges Klieg to kill them, but just as the madman decides to leave them to the Cybermen, he is attacked by one of the silver giants. Toberman uses the Cyber arm he has been given to destroy the Cyberman's chest unit. The Doctor begins the refreezing process and escapes out of the hatch.

The Doctor plans to re-electrify the main doors and also the hatch and the control panel, but the doors must be closed. The group are ready to leave for the repaired Rocket when the Leader lurches back to life. They try to close the doors but will get shocked if they touch them, so Toberman bravely closes the doors but not before a Cybermat escapes unnoticed. 

Toberman redeems himself.
The doors are closed leaving both the Leader and Toberman dead. The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria say their farewells with only Parry, Hopper and Callum left alive. Jamie tempts fate by saying "It's the end of the Cyberman" and we are left with the foreboding images of the escaped Cybermat, Toberman's Cyber arm and finally the Cyberman markings framing the tomb.

Not the end of the Cybermen.
The Tomb of The Cybermen is an interesting variation on the base-under-siege structure we see so often in the Troughton era. In this iteration the Doctor and his colleagues are the ones besieging the base of the Cybermen. Reversing the normal style. Some don't believe that Tomb lives up to it's hype, as for many years it was believed lost until it was discovered by a Hong Kong television company ATV (formerly called RTV) in late 1991. The serial was released on VHS, to much fan excitement in May 1992. To me it makes me think of Egyptian archaeology, like Indiana Jones, with it's traps, hidden passages and lost secrets. It may not have the strongest plot but it has all the staples of a classic episode of Doctor Who and for that I love it. Matt Smith, shares my praise and has stated several times that this serial is his favourite Doctor Who story.

Join me next time for The Abominable Snowmen and the first introduction of what would go on to become a classic Doctor Who villain, the Yeti.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"The Tomb of the Cybermen" could have been written by Russell T. Davies, in that it consists of a disparate number of set pieces that makes no overall sense within the narrative, and on closer scrutiny, makes no bloody sense within themselves. The only difference is that Gerry Davis was a jobbing writer who was banging out a story he thought viewers would only see the once, whereas, RTD is a long term fan of the programme, who knew very well that his stuff was going to be made available on DVD and also repeated to death on BBC Three. A clear case then of cynical short-termism from the former, and self-induced, long-term professional suicide, from the latter.

Anyway, getting back to “Tomb”. Any story that relies on its characters being thick, doesn't deserve anyone's respect. As you point out yourself, Victoria putting a Cybermat in her handbag is stupid. Also stupid is locking Kaftan and Klieg in a room that contains a Cyberweapon, putting the Cyberman Controller into the revitalising chamber, secretly correcting Klieg's calculations so he can open the Tombs and release the Cybermen, and later, re-electrifying the doors to kill members of the next hapless expedition to come along.

The Cybermen themselves are also equally dumb. For a start, why are there only one set of controls to open the tomb? If they had another set inside, then they'd be able to get out themselves, and wouldn't have to bargain with the humans at all. Also, how did the Cybermen lock themselves inside the tomb in the first place, if the controls are on the outside? Why isn't there a revitalisation chamber in the tomb itself? Why has a stealth killer, like the Cybermats, been designed to give off a very loud bleeping noise? Why have the Cybermen been frozen in ice, as surely they'd rust, and what is the Testing Room supposed to be testing?

Finally, in episode one Professor Parry says, “according to the map reference, that should be the entrance to the City of Telos.” Map reference? Where the hell did they get that from?

The Cybermen have been missing for five hundred years, with the last Cybermen encounter being in “The Moonbase,” so what are we expected to believe? That the Cybermen cunningly left behind a map of how to get to their city, in the hope that, if their plans to destroy the Earth were to be defeated, they could then lead the humans into a new trap five hundred years later on Telos? Doesn't sound very likely, does it?

Also, how does the expedition know the planet they're looking for is called Telos, when the Cybermen actually come from Mondas? Even if the line referring to the Cyberman's other planet being called Telos hadn't been cut from "The Moonbase" teleplay, how, in the vastness of space, could anyone be expected to find it? Unless, of course, Telos is a planet known throughout the universe to be the place where the Cybermen built their City, but if that's the case, then surely putting themselves into cryogenic suspension is utterly insane, as there is then nothing to stop the Daleks, or the Dominators, or the Dravhins from turning up and kicking the crap out of them?