Wednesday, February 22, 2012


"Is there a tomb?  Are there cybermen within it?  I rest my
"If you are 450 years old, you need a great deal of rest."
"Well, that's very considerate of you, Victoria, but between you and me, I'm really quite lively."

1) While this is during the period where Doctor Who was being made on a broken shoestring of a budget, this is an example of how economically clever the production crew were. Yes, lots of the sets are obviously cheap, but there are touches in the titular Tomb--the strange clockfaces made of stained glass that lit up at seemingly random times, the strange honey-comb-like cryogenic chamber, the weapons-testing range with the hypnotic pulses projected behind the targets--that give the story a strange, otherworldly feel to it.

2) ...and that's for the best, since the story is, at its core, an Old Dark House horror story. In atmosphere and gruesomeness, this serial can be seen as a precursor to the Phillip Hinchcliffe neo-gothic era.

3) It's a pity that so little of the Patrick Troughton era doesn't exist anymore, since I can't tell if the handful of stories we can see are typical of how Troughton played the Doctor. If it is, then Troughton was masterful, a manipulative and clever type not beneath gleefully playing weak to get the upper hand. It's this ability to play games without seeming to, to change his temperament and his strategy literally from moment to moment that makes this Doctor so compelling.
"And here is the staircase that leads to the tomb of an half-
robotic race meant to erase humanity...don't you just love it?"

4) Of course, he wouldn't be nearly as fun to watch if he didn't have Frazier Hines' Jamie as his good right hand.  I'm positive Hines lasted longer than any companion (he pretty much was around for the entire Troughton era), which contributes to the exceptional chemistry he has with Troughton, but the two are one of the greatest give-and-take acts in the series history. And on top of that, Hines has this amazing comic timing, able to expertly drop a laughline and use body language to add a little relief to the relentless suspense of the serial.

5) You know, the cybermats may seem rather ridiculous at times--but the moment where these lil' crittiers seem to skitter across a room at blinding speeds to attack make them unnerving.

6) As for the Cybermen themselves....they're still in their primitive phase (the bagginess of the Cyber Controller's jumpsuit is particularly notable throughout), but there is some creepy about them. The way their every movement is accompanied by a weird electronic keening, the exposed brain of the Cyber Controller, the weird way they break out of their tombs all conceal the fact that they're little more than catalysts in this story, stomping around and acting like movie monsters. That they're frequently cowed and delayed by the show's real villains, Kleig and Kaftan, is overlooked due to the way they carry themselves.

7) And speaking of Shirley Cooklin and George Pastell, who play Kaftan and Kleig--Ye Gods, these people are on an all-scenery chewing diet. They're both so over the top in their evilness that it's hard to take them seriously. It's to Troughton and Hines' credit that we are able to--because they treat these two like a credible threat, we end up treating them thusly. And even if we didn't, the moment where Troughton goes off on this slavish 'praise Klieg The Mighty' monologue, only to remark 'Oh, I know you're crazy now,' when Kleig buys into it is priceless.
"They're called boobs, Jamie...stop staring so intently at

8) A lot of people look down on Deborah Watling's Victoria with contempt, and to be fair its her girl-school-scremer-y ways that has been a black mark on the original series whenever lazy fans of the new series want to tear it down. But based solely on this serial, Victoria has her moments. She has a couple of scenes where she pulls rank on Kaftan, a wonderful discussion with Troughton about missing her father...and a weird chemistry with George Roubichek's Captain Hopper than I found laugh out loud funny. Sure, as she progresses, she becomes a useless scream machine, but here I can see what the creators had in mind bringing her aboard.

9) If I had my way, the Doctor would have 'misplaced' Victoria and gotten Roy Stewart's Toberman to come on board the TARDIS. The guy doesn't talk much--his longest speech is at the very end when he closes the door literally on the Cybermen threat, but he is a hoot-and-a-half with his physicality and his cyber-ass-kicking

10) Here's another strength of this period of the series--this serial is populated by fun and distinct actors who give their all to their parts. No one is phoning it in, and many of the actors--in addition to Roubichek and Stewart, who I mention above, Aubery Richards plays the thankless task of scientist dupe well, and the Cyber Controller would not be half as menacing if it wasn't for the physical acting of Michael Kilgariff (an actor who so impressed the Who offices that he reprised his role as Cyber Controller in later Cybermen serials).

Overall....even though its budget is showing, this is an exceptional serial. So many elements of its story and atmosphere carry over into future episode that it's absolutely essential viewing.

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