Our Doctor Who expert, Tony Cross, is journeying through all of time and space to bring us his thoughts on every available Doctor story. Today is the Sixth Doctor adventure Attack of the Cybermen...
Attack of the Cybermen annoys me. It has an excellent cast playing - generally - interesting characters, the dialogue is generally pretty good & I like the Cryons. But...but it has the same bleakness that Resurrection of the Daleks does (& is directed by the same director, Matthew Robinson) & to me doesn't feel 'right'.
I understand the arguments often trotted out by Eric Saward - the then script editor - that violence has to be shown to hurt but there's a difference between that & a desire to kill everyone to prove a point about making things seem realistic. Doctor Who isn't meant to be realistic or pessimistic, at least to me. And as character after character is killed off it just seems gratuitous & cruel. I suspect that's might be the point but I don't like it. It’s just nasty. Particularly so in the case of the deaths of Bates (Michael Attwell), Stratton (Jonathan David) & Griffiths (Brian Glover), which are totally unnecessary. What harm would it have done to the story if they'd got into the timeship & escape? Eric Saward talks about it as 'poignant' but it isn't. It's just nasty. The bathos comes from Lytton's death & the Doctor's misjudgement of him (although as Lytton spent most of his previous meeting with the Doctor killing people is that really unexpected).
Anyway that's my rant over.
Actually there's another little rant: Peri's costume at the beginning of the story. A bright pink leotard & shorts. It's not exactly practical, even if it is pleasant to look at. Indeed for once you find yourself NOT looking at Colin's jacket. However you do think someone in the production team - JNT I'm assuming - is trying to work out how little clothing he can put Nicola Bryant in before someone complains. It's almost a relief when on reaching Telos the Cybermen get her some warm clothes to wear. [This may be a sign I'm getting old.]
Overall though this story isn't bad. The Cryons could have been better designed: the plastic is all a bit too obvious but I quite like the idea of them, even if their nails seem a tad impractical for guerrilla warfare. Their addition to continuity (after all where were they in Tomb?) actually doesn't seem to harmful and the actresses playing them all do a fine job. They get some good lines.
The cast is excellent: Maurice Colbourne is magnificently dry & nasty as Lytton; Brian Glover as Griffiths seems surprisingly 'real' for a minor Doctor Who character. He sounds like a normal bloke, if a bit dim & his reactions to Lytton's insults are lovely. Terry Molloy does a good job playing the slightly bland Russell. Michael Attwell is quite scary as Bates, bullying the slightly wet Stratton & shouting a lot. But effectively. There's a difference between the Attwell type of shouty acting & (to pick an example at almost random) the Prentis Hancock style.
Colin Baker is great again. I don't have a problem with his killing various Cybermen because what was he supposed to do, talk to them sternly? He to gets some great scenes with Colbourne & the Doctor's reaction to his misjudgement of Lytton is nicely played.
Peri - costume aside - is a bit annoying in Part one being a bit whiny & Tegan-esque but improves as the story goes on.
Oh a quick mention of the terrible cliff-hanger at the end of Part One. All that no, no no is really silly & badly directed.
Actually I should also mention that we're now in 45 minute episode territory, rather than 25 minutes and it does feel quite nice. There's no desperate dash for a cliff-hanger all the time, which allows the writers to develop characters more, especially as unlike 'New' Who the stories are always more than one episode & can breathe a bit.
I was about to say that this is a good script but not that enjoyable to watch but then I remembered the amount of continuity. Did the general viewer understand all the references to Telos-Mondas? Did you really need to cast Michael Kilgariff as the Cybercontroller just because he'd played the part in the 'Tomb of the Cybermen'? In the decade or so that had passed the Cybercontroller has put on a few stone, obviously & it looks silly. It's like being force fed the history of Doctor Who, especially early in Part Two when the Doctor, Peri, Lytton & Griffiths take part in a lecture on Cyberhistory. I'm surprised David Banks didn't take part.
So too much continuity, too bleak & one silly cliff-hanger but not terrible. Just annoying. To me.
Tony Cross is the creator of the wonderful Centurion Blog's found HERE and HERE.
Image – BBC.