Doctor Who – Revenge of the Cybermen

Doctor Who - Revenge of the Cybermen
Doctor Who – Revenge of the Cybermen

“Revenge of the Cybermen” is the last adventure of the twelfth season of “Doctor Who” classic series, which aired in 1975. It follows “Genesis of the Daleks” and it’s a four parts adventure written by Gerry Davis and directed by Michael E. Briant.

The story

The Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) and Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) are brought back to the space station Nerva but the TARDIS isn’t there. The Doctor says that the TARDIS is traveling back in time and sooner or later it will reach them. Meanwhile, the travelers go to explore the station but they find several corpses.

When the Doctor and his companions are found by the only survivors, they discover that on the station Nerva there was a strange epidemic and no one can find its cause. Nearby, there’s the asteroid Voga, where gold is the most abundant element. Its inhabitants and the station Nerva are going to be the target of an attack by the Cybermen.

Extras

This DVD contains a decent amount of extras. There are typical contents such as production subtitles, the Radio Times Listings, a promo of the “Doctor Who” DVD to be published soon and a gallery of pictures from this adventure.

There are various comments in the adventure alternative audio track by protagonist Elisabeth Sladen, actor David Collings and producer Philip Hinchcliffe.

The Tin Men And The Witch. A documentary on the production of this adventure. It includes the curious story of the problems they had during filming in the Wookey Hole Caves.

Location Report. An interview with Tom Baker during the filming of this adventure.

Cheques, Lies And Videotape. A documentary about the times in which finding tapes with “Doctor Who” episodes was an adventure. An interesting analysis of the situation of a period not very distant in time which really seems another era.

There’s also an “Easter egg” but nothing special.

“Revenge of the Cybermen” marked the return of the Cybermen, who had appeared for the last time in “Doctor Who” in “The Invasion”. The decision to bring them back in the show was made by Barry Letts, who had seen the success of the return of the Daleks and had planned the twelfth season before leaving the role of producer to Philip Hinchcliffe.

To write this new script, Barry Letts turned to Gerry Davis, one of the creators of the Cybermen. To save on the budget, he asked him to set the story on the station Nerva, in order to reuse the same sets of “The Ark in Space”. The screenplay was heavily altered more than once because Davis, still tied to the adventures of the Second Doctor, addressed to a younger audience and because at some point incredibly it turned out that there was some money available to shoot part of the adventure on location.

Eventually script editor Robert Holmes made yet another series of changes to the script greatly expanding the part set on the asteroid Voga. It could be an opportunity to anticipate the debut of the gothic horror stories that characterized especially the next season exploiting the metaphor of the Cybermen as techno-vampires. Instead, the result doesn’t even contain the brilliant elements typical of Robert Holmes.

Originally, the Cybermen were disturbing because they were humanoid creatures turned into quasi-robots without emotions. In “Revenge of the Cybermen” the new model of these cyborgs is rather emotional and I think this change is negative because it eliminates one of their fundamental characteristics.

The Vogan society could be an interesting element in “Revenge of the Cybermen”. In some ways script editor Robert Holmes teases us by showing us a society with a certain complexity with internal conflicts but in the end what could be the most interesting element of this adventure is not developed enough.

The part of the story set on the asteroid Voga ends up being too often a run-around. The setting is evocative but in the classic “Doctor Who” series this was a typical way to fill some time. Considering that Robert Holmes had put his hands on the script I’d have expected better.

Another element present in several adventures of the classic “Doctor Who” series are the characters with convoluted plans. The classic adventures could be very long, so there was the need for complex plots, however sometimes they were stretched to the limits of absurdity. In “Revenge of the Cybermen”, perhaps because of the many changes made to the original story, it’s in particular the character of Kellman who acts in ways that lead to twists but in the end seem to have little sense.

“Revenge of the Cybermen” is saved in some way due to the good performances by most of the cast, who help build the tension in the story. In fact, despite the fact that the plot is far from extraordinary, the actors convey the sense of threat that exists in many moments of this adventure.

“Revenge of the Cybermen” seems worse than it really is because it follows an extraordinary adventure such as “Genesis of the Daleks” and is a weak end for a season that overall has a really high level. Curiously, despite having a not very good fame it was chosen to inaugurate the publication of “Doctor Who” on VHS.

In the end, “Revenge of the Cybermen” is an adventure far from brilliant but all in all it’s a decent entertainment. Among the extras, the documentaries are interesting, one with its curious story of witches and ghosts and the other that recalls the problems for the fans in the past to find “Doctor Who” adventures. In essence, it’s a product for the show’s fans.

In Region 2 nations, this DVD is part of a box set – available on Amazon UK – together with “Silver Nemesis” so a global judgement of that box set must necessarily be given only at the end of the reviews of the adventures it contains.

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