KIT PEDLER &
THE CYBERMEN PLANET & THE ICE TOMBS OF TELOS
'REVISITATIONS 3' DVD BOX SET (BBCDVD3003) RELEASED IN FEBRUARY 2012.
FOR CENTURIES, THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE CYBERMEN FROM THE UNIVERSE HAS BEEN A MYSTERY. THE DOCTOR, JAMIE AND VICTORIA ARRIVE ON TELOS - ONCE THE CYBER HOME WORLD - JUST AS AN EARTH EXPEDITION UNCOVERS THE ENTRANCE TO A LONG-LOST CONTROL CENTRE FILLED WITH BAFFLING TECHNOLOGY.
WITH THE DOCTOR'S HELP, THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARTY DISCOVER THE LAST OF THE CYBERMEN, FROZEN AND ENTOMBED IN A VAST UNDERGROUND CAVERN. BUT BY ENTERING THE TOMBS, THE HUMANS HAVE SPRUNG A FIENDISH TRAP. ALL AROUND THEM, THE CYBERMEN BEGIN TO RISE FROM THE DEAD...
The Tomb of
2ND SEPTEMBER 1967 - 23RD SEPTEMBER 1967
Having spent decades shrouded in myth, The Tomb of the Cybermen unexpectedly found its way back to the BBC in late 1991 via the Hong Kong-based Asia Television Company, who had unearthed recordings of all four episodes. Its subsequent release on VHS created such a profound buzz that it would become the only Doctor Who title to top sales charts in the UK until the revived series appeared on DVD in 2005, but due to the hurried nature of the release very little work was done on the returned telerecordings, and as result Tomb had a weathered, filmic look that didn’t fairly represent the broadcast serial – not that anyone cared at the time, such was their elation.
However, by 2002 the Restoration Team had set themselves the task of restoring the serial for release on DVD, and as evidenced by the Restoration featurette that would accompany the four spruced-up episodes on the disc, they did a terrific job of it. But back then the VidFIRE process was still in its infancy and so it wasn’t practical to use it on a whole serial, which meant that the remastered DVD version of Tomb retained its faux-film finish. The Restoration Team were able to put a snippet of the story through the VidFIRE process, however, which they included on the disc as a tormenting easter egg; teasing fandom with the prospect of a Tomb of the Cybermen restored to its original videotape glory. It wouldn’t be until a decade later that this prospect would become a reality, as part of 2|entertain’s latest Revisitations box set.
“An eternal image that no-one will ever forget.”
– Victor Pemberton
Watching the four episodes as they must have looked on transmission – if anything, they probably look a lot better now, thanks to digital technology and the miracle of upscaling – imbues them with a whole new lease of life. The Tomb of the Cybermen is abounding with powerful imagery that would unwittingly become a part of the very fabric of the series; the Cybermen’s iconic emergence from their ice tombs, for instance, only needs to be seen once to be burned into a person’s brain, but its stature is so great that it’s been replayed time and again – and rightly so.
The serial is also notable for its luscious fusion of the ancient and the ultramodern. As Sir Christopher Frayling and Dr Debbie Challis explore in the special edition’s fifteen-minute featurette The Curse of the Cybermen’s Tomb, Gerry Davis and Kit Pedler’s script borrows much from ancient Egypt. Besides the obvious use of the eponymous tomb and a surprising similarity between the bulbous head of a pharaoh and that of the Cyber Controller, the script explores the fickle nature of history of memory; of how a race can be a tremendous force or threat only to fade from public memory within half a dozen generations of its (apparent) extinction. Emphasising the fact that George Pastell, who plays clinical villain Klieg, was notorious for playing mummies in Hammer films was probably labouring the Egyptian link a little too much though, on balance.
Despite what its title implies, The Tomb of the Cybermen’s principal villains are not the silver giants, but the aforementioned Mr Klieg and his Brotherhood of Logicians. There’s no arguing that it’s the Cybermen that provide the serial’s true terror, but it is Klieg’s Brotherhood of Logicians that carry the plot, particularly in the first two episodes. Pastell is spellbinding here, his cold but fanatical demeanour evoking a sense of passionate fascism that neatly counterpoints his treasured Cybermen’s blank absolutism. His followers make for an intriguing bunch too, although whether the BBC would get away with promoting such racial stereotypes today is open to debate. Roy Stewart’s Toberman is a particularly prominent example of this, as is Shirley Cooklin’s exotic Kaftan, albeit to a lesser extent. I think it’s interesting though that it’s been claimed that the characters weren’t written this way – the strong and silent Toberman, for instance, was intended to be deaf and reliant on hearing aids, with the aids intended to foreshadow his upcoming merger with machine.
These four episodes are particularly strong for Patrick Troughton’s Doctor, whose appearance here reportedly inspired eleventh Doctor Matt Smith’s costume – and, I dare say, aspects of his portrayal too. The Tomb of the Cybermen epitomises the second Doctor, depicting him at his most grave as well as his most frivolous. In one scene, Troughton’s solemn features appear to have been hewn from rock, while in another he and Frazer Hines have decided to have their characters unwittingly reach for each other’s hands, when in fact both meant to take one of Victoria’s. In a rare melancholic moment, Troughton’s Doctor even discusses his family, whom he says sleep in mind, and reflects on (what he claims to be his) “ancient” age.
The Revisitations 3 edition of The Tomb of the Cybermen also includes all of the 2002 release’s bonus material, which by the standards of the time was extremely impressive. The Final End was a much anticipated feature that, while short in length, would finally allow viewers to witness a close approximation of the last few minutes of the preceding Evil of the Daleks, which saw the Dalek race apparently perish in civil war on Skaro. Tombwatch, meanwhile, saw the cast and crew of the serial quizzed about it at the 1992 unveiling of the recently-unearthed telerecordings. Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling also provided a lively commentary track, bickering like siblings throughout, and the disc was nicely rounded out with a photo gallery, some title sequence tests and a terribly dated clip from Late Night Line-Up. Even director Morris Barry’s introduction to the story, recorded for the VHS release, was included for posterity.
Above: Frazer Hines defends himself in the Lost Giants documentary
Revisitations 3’s new bonus disc includes a most welcome ‘making of’ documentary, Lost Giants, which features all the surviving key players. It’s an insightful and entertaining half hour, enlivened by some amusing anecdotes (such as the one concerning a lascivious young Frazer Hines and his producer’s wife). Additionally, Big Finish writer Matthew Sweet presents an extended lecture on Cyber history, which threatens to steal the disc with its sumptuous synthesis of wry humour; cutting edge CG imagery; and (misleading) Target novelisation readings. The disc is then completed with the abovementioned Curse of the Cybermen’s Tomb, while the original disc is expanded to encompass a second commentary track moderated by Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf’s Toby Hadoke and featuring Hines and Watling again, this time alongside fellow actors Bernard Holley; Shirley Cooklin; and Reg Whitehead, as well as Tomb’s script editor Victor Pemberton.
Above: Are you sitting comfortably? Matthew Sweet gives a lesson in Cyber history
Producer Peter Bryant couldn’t have hoped for a better to serial to test his mettle as series producer. The Tomb of the Cybermen is epic, iconic, intelligent and on occasion rather fun, and whilst it is admittedly let down a little in parts by its unconvincing Cyber Controller and some questionable pacing, its reputation as one of the second Doctor’s finest stories is one that’s by and large deserved. Anyone with even a passing interest in the classic series should really make a point of checking out the Revisitations 3 box set’s Tomb of the Cybermen DVDs, which aren’t so much a special edition, but an ultimate one.
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