Friday, October 21, 2005

'Revenge of the Cybermen'

4 episodes

Oh dear. After the grandeur of the last adventure, this one brings us back down to Earth with a squelchy bump. Not literally to Earth, mind you - in a neat cost-saving scheme, we see 'The Ark In Space''s marvellous sets reused as the Nerva Beacon, the same (in story) place at a different stage of its history. The crew include Ronald Leigh-Hunt's Commander Stevenson, who comes across rather similar to his Radnor in 'The Seeds of Death' - which, I discovered today in the midst of watching 'Revenge of the Cybermen', I watched just twelve days after the actor's death at the age of 88 - and William Marlowe's likeable Lester; the latter's interesting fact is that he previously appeared as Mailer with the Master in 'The Mind of Evil' and subsequently married Roger Delgado's widow Kismet, who herself provided spider voices in 'Planet of the Spiders'. They also have in their midst a traitor in the form of Jeremy Wilkin's Kellmann, who thanks to the title's massive giveaway is to no-one's surprise revealed to be working for the Doctor's old enemies the Cybermen. It's a little more surprising when later on he's revealed to be a triple-agent working for the inhabitants of the nearby tiny world of Voga, but this is cancelled out by it being correspondingly harder to care by that stage. The Cybermen are coming to destroy Voga, the 'Planet of Gold', as (despite this never having been hinted at before) the metal is their one weakness and the planet is hence a rather large thorn in their collective side. The Vogans are unfortunately such a dull bunch it is hard to care whether they live or die despite the above-average quality of the actors playing the principals. The most arresting feature of their decor is the prominent Celtic-knot-esque design of the circular logo that appears everywhere on Voga, but which is (later) famously known throughout the Whoniverse as the Seal of Rassilon, father figure of the Time Lords - more fun can be had speculating exactly how the Vogans come to be using said design as well as the Gallifreyans (not to mention wondering at which point they'll demolish Earth to make way for a hyperspace bypass) than actually watching this story, truth be told...
The singular achievement of the race, who are confined below the surface on a world that seems to be no more than a large comet, is to apparently maintain air and gravity despite the odds astronomical physics would suggest against such circumstances being likely. Ah well, they're still better than the Cybermen, who are uncharacteristically emotional, use Cybermats that need to be hugged to the neck to attack effectively and have as their leader a posing fool who struts across the room with hands on hips in the heat of debate with the Doctor at one point... and, amusingly, whose 'earmuffs' and 'handle' headpiece are distinctively black rather than silver, which has the unfortunate effect of making him look like the Cyber poster boy for Grecian 2000. Actually, scratch that - despite Voga being so ridden with gold they make jewellery, home furnishings and decorations, and even guns out of it, the Cybermen nevertheless launch an attack on the planet (evocatively filmed in Wookey Hole caves, where I had the willies scared out of me on a school outing aged ten) and effortlessly mow down the Vogan soldiers - evidently the formidable natural defences against the Cybermen availed to them have dulled the Vogans' wits to the extent that they didn't think to make their actual bullets out of gold too; a minor but strategically ill-advised oversight... Still, they've got a big rocket to launch in defence - which, comically, is stunt-doubled by a Saturn V in NASA stock footage... Meanwhile, there is a plan to crash the whole beacon into Voga, with a rolling drum of landscape brilliantly standing in for the surface terrain whizzing by the windows.

Feel I can't leave this review without touching on The Discontinuity Guide's expose of a sizeable plot hole - after Sarah is infected by a Cybermat, the Doctor transmats her to expel the toxin from her system as it 'can only transport human tissue' - which leads to the interesting quibble of why it doesn't leave people as naked as the day they were born and totally mangle a travelling Cyberman. Well, sort of interesting. Ah, sod it, I've had enough - I'm outta here.


Episodes watched: 293
Episodes still to watch: 429

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