Thursday, September 22, 2005

'The Invasion'

8 episodes: 6 remaining.

Lying awake with flu-like shivering last night, feeling ill and unable to drop off, head alternately full of depressed thoughts and big dreams, I finally got fed up at about half past five and came downstairs to see if I could get through all six remaining episodes of 'The Invasion' on no sleep...Three hours and only a few momentary dozes later (plus a twenty-minute interlude where I did conk out and had to rewind the tape), I seem to have made it. Good, polished if unremarkable Doctor Who that benefits enormously from a great bit of Bond-style villainy courtesy of Kevin Stoney as Tobias Vaughan, all suave menace and twitching rage, complete with a demi-psychotic henchman in Packer. His finest moment is perhaps the scene where he calmly taunts the distressed Professor Watkins to kill him, placing his gun in the other man's hand - only for it to become evident that Vaughan's body has already been Cyberised! Stoney's appearance seems appropriate, as he had already turned in an acclaimed performance as Mavic Chen in 'The Daleks' Masterplan' and here effectively reprises the role as a misguided megalomaniac who foolishly attempts to ally himself with a race of implaceble alien monsters. That in this case these are the Cybermen is interestingly held back right until the end of Episode 4 - halfway through the story - and hence Vaughan rather than the Cybermen is the main threat for much of the narrative. Curiously, while as in 'The Wheel In Space' they are largely reduced to the role of generic bad guys, the Cybermen don't seem to suffer from this in the same way as they had in their last outing; partly this is because Vaughan takes on a great deal of the evildoing workload and partly because they look so damn cool regardless - their costumes have had yet another overhaul to create perhaps the absolute 'classic' look, with the big 'earmuffs' and five-fingered gloves and an overall more powerful appearance. The scenes where they loom, gleaming out of the darkness of the sewers are superb, and despite obvious plagiarism of the Daleks' 22nd-century sightseeing trip (I swear I spotted the Albert Memorial again) the iconic shots of them descending the steps of St. Paul's and swarming through London are great too.

In a similar vein to 'The War Machines' acting as a First Doctor 'dummy run' for the Earth-based early years of the Third's tenure, so 'The Invasion' does the same for the Second Doctor. This is the first appearance of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT) under that name, with Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart returning from 'The Web of Fear' now promoted to his familiar rank of Brigadier. We also see future UNIT regular Corporal Benton, who I couldn't help but notice sounds remarkably like Alan Partridge... That the Brig can command squads of soldiers into immediate action and fire off Russian missiles into space (in a nice bit of international cooperation) means the good guys have some seriously heavy-duty backup this time out, and it is also nice to see the Doctor establishing a friendship outside his TARDIS companions. A good touch, too, is the use of Nicholas Courtney to narrate the linking sequences to cover the gaps left by the missing episodes 1 and 4.

Some good use of location filming and a particularly satisfying mass firefight in the final part help make the serial look a bit more expensive than usual - although the incidental music for the UNIT men arriving to get shot was implausibly jaunty, considering, and I think it was more than a little irresponsible of the soldiers to allow the two civilian girls into their front ranks for the battle... And it's a shame that they obviously only had three stock clips of missile silos manoeuvering into position, made clear through the trio being used in the same sequence on no fewer than three separate occasions! The regulars get to do their bit, Patrick Troughton's Doctor especially excelling in his scenes with Vaughan. One thing that's bugging me, though - when Zoe isn't doing anything (i.e. looking straight ahead with face at rest), she appears to be all huge eyelashes, button nose, cheeks and lips to such a great extent she unavoidably reminds me of a Thunderbirds puppet. Strange but true... Anyway, quibbles like this aside, 'The Invasion' is good, solid fun.


Episodes watched: 124
Episodes still to watch: 598

The earliest completion of my daily quota on any day yet - and there's now less than 600 episodes left to watch!!

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