Classic Doctor Who: The Tomb of the Cybermen, The Three Doctors and The Robots of Death

Tomb of Cybermen

The Tomb of the Cybermen (1967 – Second Doctor with Jamie McCrimmon and Victoria Waterfield)

Landing on the planet Telos, the Doctor and his companions find an archaeological expedition from Earth who are searching for the last settlement of the supposedly extinct Cybermen. Successfully getting inside the abandoned base, the Doctor unsurprisingly discovers that the Cybermen aren’t as dead as everyone thought – and that some of the human team have ulterior motives in coming to find them.

I’d only previously seen the Second Doctor in The Five Doctors; this was the first time I’d seen an adventure devoted to him. Perhaps one adventure wasn’t enough to get a total feel for his character, but you could definitely see the differences between him and the First Doctor: he’s much lighter in tone and more energetic, while still maintaining his intelligence and sense of superiority, like some middle-aged professor. I particularly liked the part where he goads the villain Kleig into a megalomaniacal rant and then says, “Well, now I know you’re mad. I just wanted to be sure.” The current companions, Jamie and Victoria, are likeable enough but nothing special.

Obviously special effects in 1967 were not what they are today, but that doesn’t detract from the story. It manages to have a surprising amount of action and tension in a limited set, and is certainly never boring. As costumes go, the Cybermen look less convincing than modern Comic Con cosplayers, but they must have been pretty scary for the time. They still retain a fair amount of menace, particularly with their harsh, computerised voices which are uncomfortable to listen to.

Meanwhile, I found the main human villains, Kleig and Kaftan, to be distractingly stupid; considering they’re supposed to be logicians, their plan to form an alliance with the Cybermen is not terribly logical, and Kleig in particular seems to be incapable of learning. After his initial suggestion that the Cybermen just do what he says because he revived them falls flat, he decides he needs to be in a better position to bargain with them – and concludes that getting his hands on one little Cyberman gun will surely do the trick against an army of the damn things. I suppose the point is supposed to be that Kleig is insane – but like I said, he’s supposed to be a logician!

Some good elements, but only average overall. Rating: 3/5.

Three Doctors

The Three Doctors (1972 – Third Doctor with Jo Grant, plus First and Second Doctors)

Initially asked to provide an opinion on a cosmic ray monitor producing some peculiar readings, the Doctor finds himself under attack from a bizarre blob that causes anything it touches to vanish. At the same time, an unknown force within a black hole is draining all energy from the Time Lords’ homeworld: only the Doctor is in a position to solve the problem, but with the Time Lords unable to spare anyone to help him, they cross the First and Second Doctors’ time streams with his. As a result, the Third Doctor is partnered with his previous incarnation, while the First Doctor – trapped in a space-time eddy – provides occasional guidance from a viewing screen. (This was actually done because William Hartnell was in poor health and not up to any filming on set with the others.)

All three Doctors do well and form an entertaining triangle. The earliest instance of the Doctor meeting himself, and showing the contrast in his incarnations’ differing personalities, is certainly used to its full potential, with the Second and Third Doctors repeatedly clashing and bickering with each other, and the First Doctor having to step in and keep them in line like an old schoolteacher, even though he’s technically the youngest of the trio! I got more of a feel for the Second Doctor’s character in this adventure, through such things as his preoccupation with finding his lost recorder, and his tactic of annoying the villain to test his self-control.

Omega, the Time Lord who is the villain of the piece, is appropriately intimidating, and also a little hilarious given how hammy he is – he very much enjoys shouting to the whole universe how powerful he is. You expect to see bite marks in the scenery whenever he’s around. His backstory also provides some interesting background on the history of the Time Lords. The story, which is relatively straightforward overall, has some poorer elements like the distractingly dated special effects on the antimatter blob, and some better ones like the Third Doctor’s bizarre mind-based battle with Omega’s dark side, which allows the Third to give another good demonstration of his action man side.

A fun story most worth watching for the chemistry between its multiple Doctors. Rating: 3.5/5.

Robots of Death
The Robots of Death (1977 – Fourth Doctor with Leela)

The Doctor and Leela materialise on a large mining vehicle collecting minerals from an uninhabited wasteland. The vehicle is crewed by humans and robots, with the humans being used to having the robots do most of the hard work. Soon after our heroes’ arrival, however, the human crew start turning up dead one by one – the robots are apparently rebelling, but how and why?

The story is a bit slow at first, but does pick up as it goes along. At first, the conflict seems simple: we’re shown early on that it’s the robots killing people, and it’s easy to assume that they’ve become self-aware or something along those lines. In fact, there is another party involved, and the story takes on something of a murder-mystery element.

The episode does a good job creating a clear culture for its world: the resident people are so used to robots that they find it very difficult to believe robots could possibly kill, while at the same time, there is such a thing as robophobia in this world. It’s understandable, as the robots’ voices, movements and expressionless faces combine to make them pretty darn scary. Luckily, there is one good soul among them in the form of D84, who provides some assistance to the Doctor: it’s interesting how subtle differences from the other robots, like in his voice, are used to convey that he’s a good guy.

Leela (not to be confused with the purple-haired Cyclops from Futurama) is apparently meant to come from some wild, tribal race of people; this certainly comes through in her capability in dangerous situations, but it’s difficult to buy her as a savage warrior when she’s speaking in a refined British accent and often not sounding much different from many other companions. One wonders how much of it wasn’t just an excuse to dress Louise Jameson in revealing outfits and bring in the male audience.

Rating: 3.5/5.

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About velociraptor256

Hi, my name's Richard. I created this blog to talk about my interests - and I have quite a few of those. I love zoology in general, herpetology in particular (especially snakes!), writing (have won National Novel Writing Month seven times so far, plus three Camp Nanowrimos), reading, astronomy, palaeontology, and travel. Thank you for coming to my blog, and I hope you find something that interests you here!
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