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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Adventure > Time Travel > British TV > Doctor Who: Revenge Of The Cybermen (Story No. 79/BBC DVD)

Doctor Who: Revenge Of The Cybermen (Story No. 79/BBC DVD)


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: A+     Episodes: B+



How do you bring a relatively newly minted Doctor more firmly into his role?  Make him face an enfilade of some of his deadliest enemies!  The story preceding this one matched the Doctor against the Daleks (in the classic Genesis of the Daleks).  Writers Gerry Davis and Robert Holmes were keen to continue this trend by next matching the doctor against another of his most dangerous and implacable enemies, the Cybermen! 


The Doctor and companions Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Slayden) and Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) arrive on a deserted space station some 1,000 years in the past from their previous position.  Still far in “our” Earth’s future, the trio discover that the advanced station is beset by a seeming plague that spells doom for any who contact it.  Of course, nothing is what it seems, and Tom Baker’s Doctor thrusts himself into the thick of the action to get to the bottom of things.  Soon it’s revealed that the alien Vogons maintain a refuge on a nearby asteroid, and that the plague deaths are actually killings perpetrated by a strange mechanical snake.  And how does a human traitor figure into all of this?  And when do the Cybermen themselves enter the fray?


Once Sarah Jane suffers an attack at the hands of the cybernetic serpent, the action kicks into high gear.  This story occurs early on in Mr. Baker’s run in the role, and he is still a bit raw, but his frenetic energy shows through in nearly every scene.  Once the action shifts down to the asteroid, the BBC crew treats the audience to some excellent location shots courtesy of a local network of British caves.  Mr. Baker seems quite at home mucking about on the cave floor and leaping from walls in ambush.  The makeup and effects work represent yeoman efforts from the perpetually overworked and understaffed BBC crew.  The Vogon projectile weapons, though sounding a bit like cap guns, look especially convincing, but ultimately prove useless against a small cadre of invading Cybermen. 


The return of the Cybermen to the show after a long hiatus sees them receive a much needed makeover.  Although unable to match the menace conveyed by the modern Doctor’s version of his metallic foes, these Cybermen still look scary enough to send British children to seek cover behind the couch pillows.  This incarnation still features a curious weakness to all things gold, providing the Doctor with the ideal means to engineer their undoing! 


This disc contains the normal bevy of excellent extras, including commentaries from cast and crew, a great documentary on shooting in the misadventures and hazards of shooting in the cave complex, and the jewel of the entire disc, a feature called Checks, Lies and Videotape.  This amazing documentary details the trials and tribulations of videotape-seeking Doctor Who fans during an era when copies of the show were neither cheap nor widely available.  Through a host of interviews and firsthand accounts, the feature shows the lengths Who fans were willing to go to watch their beloved show.  It also tracks the development of business end of the Who empire, as it slowly dawns on the BBC higher-ups that fans really do want to watch and own older shows--who would have thought it? 


Despite some  uneven spots in plot and action, Revenge of the Cybermen builds nicely on the momentum of the previous story’s Dalek tale, re-establishing an important who foe in the Cybermen, and re-visiting a lesser light in the Vogons.  Baker fans will not be disappointed by his frenetic performance, but even if the episodes fall a bit short for some, the extras alone are worth the price of this disc.



-   Scott Pyle


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