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.