Thursday, November 28, 2013

"The Tomb of the Cybermen"

Aired September 2 - September 23, 1967

4 Episodes

Story 37

Written by Kit Pedler & Gerry Davis

Directed by Morris Barry


Synopsis

The TARDIS arrives on the planet Telos where an Earth archaeological expedition led by Professor Parry is attempting to uncover the lost tombs of the Cybermen. With a lot of help from the Doctor the archaeologists succeed in entering the tombs.

Once inside, the party’s financier, Klieg, reveals that he and business partner Kaftan are planning to revive the Cybermen.  He and Kaftan are members of the elitist Brotherhood of Logicians and they want to use the Cybermen’s strength to create an invincible force for the conquest of Earth.

However, the tomb is actually a giant trap designed by the Cybermen to lure humans suitable for conversion inside and augment their own forces. It’s a fate that almost befalls Kaftan's assistant Toberman but is halted before he is fully converted.

After fending off an attack by small but dangerous cybernetic creatures called Cybermats, the Doctor defeats the revived Cybermen and reseals the tombs. The Cybermen leader, the Controller, is apparently destroyed in the process.


Analysis

Thought lost for decades, The Tomb of the Cybermen acquired a reputation for being one of the all-time great classic stories. When it was found in 1991 and finally seen again, the general opinion was that it was perhaps overrated. While it does have several rather large flaws, overall the story remains the finest Cyberman story of the Troughton era, and contains more than enough essential moments to warrant its status as a "classic."

The flaws come in two major points. First there is the unfortunate racism in the story. In both The Tenth Planet and The Moonbase, Pedler and Davis had depicted an international cast. This was a noble notion, but in this story all of the human villains seem to be swarthy non-Europeans and the only servant is black. This may have been unintentional, I can't say, but it lends the story a unsavoury aspect.

The next flaw is that once the Cybermen are thawed out, they are mainly stuck in their tomb, and the whole story revolves around keeping them from climbing a ladder. This is not as major a flaw as you might think, as the added threat of Klieg above puts the Doctor and his allies between a rock and a hard place. I just wish the Cybermen had more to do.

Now for the good stuff. Troughton is positively superb here. There are numerous moments of absolute brilliance throughout, from the opening scene in the TARDIS, to his tender conversation with Victoria, to the way he manipulates Klieg into opening the tomb. He's never less than fascinating to watch. 

Additionally, director Morris Barry gives the proceedings a fast pace and creates a genuinely spooky sense of atmosphere that really works. The Cybermen are much more creepy here than their last appearance and they look incredible. While the Cybermats are cute, they also lend the story an added degree of menace. It's a shame that Barry's weakest spot seems to be the staging of action scenes, as a number of battles do fall flat, with shoddy dummies and visible wires holding up performers. One wonders what Douglas Camfield would have done with the same set pieces. Still, the first two episodes are damn near perfect, and flaws aside, this is one of those perfect stories to watch on a rainy afternoon.


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