Monday, 23 September 2013

Review: Doctor Who Classic: Revenge of the Cybermen

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/ec/Revenge_of_the_Cybermen.jpg
Cybermen, it would seem, in name and appearance only.
Doctor Who - Season 12, Story Five - Revenge of the Cybermen
Written 17/5/13

The raging fanboy in me wants to scream and shout about how this story was obviously written by some quack who had no idea what a Cyberman was, what it was supposed to be about and how to write a decent story featuring them. That is, however, unfair. This unintended finale to the season (due to the real finale being moved to the beginning of Season 13 that September) was rather frustratingly written by Gerry Davis, the Cybermen's co-creator. That situation is one of many comparisons that can be made to the later story Destiny of the Daleks, which is similarly shoddy in its script and its aesthetic.
     Returning to Nerva after their excursion to Skaro, the transmat deposits them a little earlier than they expected, leaving the three to wait a while until the TARDIS can make its way back in time. They find the ship being used as the Nerva Beacon, a space station surrounding Jupiter, designed as a lighthouse to warn ships about a new moon, Voga, the Planet of Gold. A group of Cybermen, relics of a recent Cyber-War that led to their defeat due to their inherent weakness to Gold, arrive and attempt to blow up the planet to prevent their resources being used again. It doesn't work. The TARDIS arrives and the three hop off, with a message from the Brigadier asking urgently for them to return to Earth.
     The Cybermen in this story are as far from the original premise as I think it's possible to get. This is especially contentious for me; as of writing, it was only a week ago that we were given the Borgy-borg-borg Cybermen and told they were perfect again. While not as misled as that, the Cybermen here are probably even worse. Instead of their emotionless cyborg selves, we're presented with the odd paradox of more robotic creatures who simultaneously sound more human, to the extent that my immersion is totally fucked. I look at a Revenge!Cyberman and I see a shouty man in a boiler suit, because that's the way it's played. The previously stealthy Cybermats are here portrayed by silver draught exuders, too.
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8g0pJn962yY/UPxdbc3t9PI/AAAAAAAAG3w/Z-RntXniykM/s1600/vogans.jpg
The Vogans are a decent Trek-style plastic forehead species.
     I found the portrayal of the native Vogans by far the more interesting part of the story, their inner politics regarding their past with the Cybermen providing a cool segment of the story that would have done well had it been developed enough. I could possibly see the episode revolving around them exclusively, the with the Cybermen simply a fond memory. As well as the Vogans, the use of the Nerva Beacon tied the season together nicely, even if it was a move made exclusively to save on budgetary concerns.
     The return of the Cybermen after six years away is a dramatically disappointing one. As opposed to the attempt made to revitalise the Daleks in the previous story, the Cybermen here are cheapened and unloved, treated as bland megalomaniacal villains that could occur in any sci-fi setting. There could be any villain present in this story - any villain at all, and it might just be higher in my expectations as a story with a few okay concepts. But to once again take the name "Cybermen" robs the story of any grace, and it will go down in Who lore as that one time where The Cybermen were done completely and utterly wrong.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: After I sum up the season on Friday, I finish this little arc with the beginning of the next season, Terror of the Zygons.

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