Doctor Who – Attack of the Cybermen

Attack_of_the_cybermen_uk_dvdHere’s the Doctor that divides Whodom right down the middle.  Personally I like Colin Baker, it took me time to appreciate his style but I find he grows on me the more I watch.

There are plenty of places which will give you the back story of the plan the writers had to evolve Baker’s character through his three seasons and how they couldn’t put it into play. That’s not the point of this post though, so moving on:

The TARDIS is lured to Earth in 1985 by a distress call sent by Lytton, who has made contact with a group of Cybermen based in London’s sewers. The Doctor and Peri are then captured and forced to take Lytton and the Cybermen in the TARDIS to the Cybermen’s home planet Telos. The Cybermen have stolen a time vessel from another race and plan to change history by crashing Halley’s Comet into Earth and obliterating it before it can bring about the demise of their original home world, Mondas, in 1986.

(I should explain Commander Lytton first appeared in the Fifth Doctor story Resurrection of the Daleks working for the very same titular nemesis to rescue the creator and all round  nefarious wheelchair bound bad guy Davros)

Colin Baker’s incarnation, not long regenerated, is still a bit manic because of this literally life changing event, as is usually the way with these things.  To me he comes across as grammatically correct as well as a bit unhinged, a larger than life character as befitting the role,  I like that though as it brings back echoes of the first Doctor.

In fact there are lots of references to past adventures which help to flesh out the plot and enhance the enjoyment for fans of earlier adventures whilst just adding future layers of appreciation for newcomers of the series.

Of course there are changes to the usual formula, as well as a new feel to the show through the new doctor.   Two 45 minute episodes were aired instead of the class four parter and the chameleon circuit was repaired (kind of) which really threw me for a while.

Happily the classic quarry setting that the BBC seemed to visualise most alien planets to look like (either that or rural England) is still there. The late Brian Glover (who later played Superintendent Andrews in Alien 3) provides a strong comedic turn as a confused and way out of his depth jewel thief in what is quite a dark adventure.

Genocide is tackled but its a bit hard to care when the disappointingly realised Cyrons are involved,  they feel like a throwback from a 50’s B-movie, a bad one and not bad in a good way.  The wispy and somewhat whimsical and whiny voices make it hard to feel sympathy for them, or perhaps I am just heartless…deserving a special mention also are also some delightfully gruesome hand crushing special effects which are worth taking the time to watch this story

With its iconic and sinister baddies and slow but strong build up together with having the Doctor use a gun brings to the fore a(nother) different type of Doctor, one who has less scruples about violence and using it sometimes.  Once again showing the rich picking grounds each actor has when crafting their own version of the character.  No review of this type would be complete without a reference to companion Peri’s cleavage…and there it was.

The story does have its downsides as well though,  The cyber controller – who I can only describe as portly – seems to be awfully emotional for a robot who is devoid of all human feelings.  The music is irritatingly catchy as well, but in a bad way, it’s very 80’s synth and doesn’t really fit in with the feel of the show,  it does aid in the downing of many beers though.

The ending is great but the last scene, which could have been a real classic, should have been a little longer and is one of those rare times when the Doctor has a truly introspective moment on camera and something more could have been done with it.  In the modern show this would undoubtedly be the case  The abrupt cut to credits does feel like a missed opportunity but one that can be dwelled upon to the typically catchy theme music.

19 Replies to “Doctor Who – Attack of the Cybermen”

  1. This was why I didn’t like Colin Baker, and why I stopped watching it with him. Well, that and I was working and living at home so my parents had control of the TV. I felt that the Doctor, being more violent, was against the way the doctor is. Eccles-Cake was almost a weapon wielding worker of … wobbly … wombat … war in Bad Wolf if I remember correctly. He had the gun and couldn’t bring himself to do it, but had to be stopped by Rose in Dalek. Although he must have done at some point in the Time War as he would have killed, being the only survivor … well, supposed.


    1. Pertwee was a ninja though, always throwing people around. It is an interesting and rarely seen aspect of the Doctor, perhaps this story was a little bit more violent for the Doctor but everyone else has a gun usually lol. It is good to see him occasionally losing his no guns cool and getting involved when his life is at risk…sort of a beast (in bright clothes) not quite tamed feel.


      1. Maybe I should go back and look at the Colin Baker ones. He is a fantastic person though. I have seen him on several things recently, including the Jungle and a TV Game show Tipping Point. Mind you, thinking about it, doesn’t Tennant use a gun in The Doctor’s Daughter and The Waters of Mars?


        1. Now you’re testing my memory cells! I believe he does, even Tom Baker has a sword fight, so they all seem to get involved in it…ooo Tennant had a gun trained on the Master and Rassilon in his final episode. They are worth a watch, Revelation of the Daleks is good one to watch and the Two Doctors of course.


          1. I remember the Five Doctors when they had someone who looked just like Hartnell. Well, I vaguely remember it. Was a long time ago.

            I don’t know if you saw the “still” trailer before you scarpered, it was on again today, and I was pausing it so my daughter an I could name the Doctors and the enemies. McCoy and McGann are only viewable if you go a frame at a time. One of the stills is Pertwee with what looks like an Epee facing off against someone in the TARDIS.

            On another note, I went to pick up my daughter last night, and I mentioned what you said about River Song in her outfits. It was dark, and I said “you know the first episode River Song was in Hey, who turned out lights …” I didn’t get any further as she clung to my arm with a vice like grip and said “dad … stop it” lol


            1. I think they had to get permission from the Hartnell estate for permission for an another actor to play him in that story, I’m glad they said yes.

              There is a rather nice frame by frame look at the “stills” trailer with all the important items listed and numbered. Its somewhere in the archives on here

              I like how you have your daughter so frightened by that saying that she refuses to hear anything you have to say regarding it. I may have to find my own ‘magic’ phrase to use on people as well.


              1. I think I may have to poke my hand into her bedroom at some point, flick the switch and say “Hey who turned out the light?”

                I have posted a couple of youtube videos this morning – two minisodes of the Doctor. One is the Children in Need, and the other is the prequel to Day of the Doctor.


                1. Hehe, that is evil…I like it! Appreciate the links, I will gather the Who fans later and we will enjoy the teasing goodness. I am getting giddy and there is still a week to go!


          2. Colin Baker was always a much better actor than the show allowed him to be, with him being forced to wear that dreadful costume. I think he could have been a success in the role if they had given him more of a chane chance and some better stories.It was more violent, but so were some of the other doctors. The first doctor could be murderous with a stone (in An Unearthly Child) while the fourth doctor was quite happy to [spoiler warning] construct a gun out of bits and bobs and blow an alien spaceship out of the sky in the Horror of Fang Rock.
            I haven’t seen this one since it first came out so maybe I’ll give it go.


            1. It was a gaudy costume, lol…he stood out like a sore thumb wherever he went, not that many people seemed to notice…there were some atrocious stories though, where was the quality control for that era? I do like the odd bit of violence, gives the character a darker edge and makes him layered in whichever regeneration. I hope Capaldi has a sonic bazooka…now that would be epic.


  2. Attack is one of my favourite fun stories to watch, the Who equivalent of a dumb action film. I do think, though, that there were some misjudgements. I like the continuity references when the TARDIS lands in Totter’s Lane, as it reminds viewers that this eccentric chap really still is the Doctor.

    But the plot, regarding a story not seen since 1966 would only be familiar to die-hard fans, and there is nothing in the episode to show the approach of Mondas. We are just told that this is happening, and have to accept it.

    Also, for me, the final scene is too downbeat, especially considering it was the end of the first story of the1985 season. Eric Saward, who perhaps wrote more of this story than it first seems, famously liked killing off characters left right and centre. But i feel Attack ends with a misjudged final scene.

    I still love it though. The supporting cast are fantastic, there are some nice effects shots, and Colin Baker is neve better than when outraged by the Time Lords.

    A cracking review Steven! More, more, more!


    1. I need to watch more Baker stuff, apart from Trial, Revelation this and the Two Doctors I don’t recall watching any more. It is great to see Totters lane and the symbolic rebirth works well as a theme. I quite like a one for the fans type plot, it makes people wonder what they are missing and that can only be a good thing!

      I loved the end scene, it had a different feel to the usual so we won now lets step over the rubble and disappear. Perhaps a longer last scene would have helped. I do like how Baker looks up at the Time Lords….Gods indeed! Next stop Sylv!


      1. Revelation is the pinnacle of good Doctor Who. Varos is a must!

        Baker is always at his best when facing down the Time Lords. I adore his rage in the scene in the freezer!

        And granted, the final scene is very different. It’s showing another side to the Doctor, the fact that he was so quick to misjudge…


        1. I know you aren’t a fan of Time Lash but I may have a handle on the original Target novel for a criminally cheap price…I shall keep you informed. I do need to watch Varos though.

          I do like a Doctor that has his confidence tempered sometimes by events and learns from things, himself. His anger at being manipulated is a nice example of how others feel constantly around the Doctor.


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