“The Tomb of the Cybermen” is the first adventure of the fifth season of “Doctor Who” classic series, which aired in 1967. It’s a four parts adventure written by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis and directed by Morris Barry.
The Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) brings Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Victoria (Deborah Watling), who has just joined them, on the planet Telos. There they find an archaeological expedition who is doing research on the Cybermen to find out why they vanished about five centuries before. The two groups meet when they have just found what appears to be the Tomb of the Cybermen.
When one of the members of the archaeological expedition tries to open the main gate to the tomb, he gets electrocuted and dies. The Doctor manages to deactivate the electric mechanism but the tomb seems to contain various traps. Professor Parry thinks it’s better to abandon the expedition to return with more people and more resources but the captain of their starship has discovered that it’s been sabotaged and it will take a few days to fix it.
The original edition contains a good amount of extras while the Special Edition is rich in extras. In both editions there are typical contents such as production subtitles and a gallery of pictures from this adventure. The Special Edition also contains the Radio Times Listings and a promo of the “Doctor Who” DVDs soon to be published.
There are various comments in the adventure alternative audio track of both editions by protagonists Frazer Hines e Deborah Watling. The Special Edition has a further alternative audio track with comments by actors Bernard Holley, Shirley Cooklin and Reg Whitehead and script editor Victor Pemberton moderated by Toby Hadoke.
The original edition contains:
Tombwatch. A meeting that took place in 1992 when this adventure, recently rediscovered, was presented to the audience.
Restoration. A short extra that shows the cleaning of the movie for the DVD edition.
Both editions contain:
Morris Barry Introduction. In 1992 director Morris Barry introduced this adventure.
Late Night Line-Up: ‘Special Effects’. A show from 1967 in which the designer of special effects Jack Kine talks about his work for “Doctor Who” also showing the Cybermats.
The Final End. A reconstruction of some of the final moments of the adventure “The Evil of the Daleks.”
Title Sequence Tests. Some test versions of “Doctor Who” titles.
The Special Edition also contains:
The Abominable Snowman Audio Trailer. An audio recording of the trailer for the adventure “The Abominable Snowman”.
The Lost Giants. A documentary on the production of this adventure.
The Curse of the Cybermen’s Tomb. An examination of the influence of ancient Egyptian history in the creation of this adventure.
Cybermen – Extended Edition. A history of the Cybermen.
The magic of VidFIRE. A look at the VidFIRE technology, used to improve the picture quality of this adventure with a further cleanup for the Special Edition of the DVD.
Sky Ray Advert. An advertisement of the ’60s connected with “Doctor Who”.
Both editions include some small “Easter eggs” but nothing particularly interesting.
The success of the Cybermen led to the decision to get them back in a new adventure but with a structure different from the base under siege that had characterized “The Tenth Planet” and “The Moonbase”. Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis, who had invented the Cybermen, were inspired by archeology but also to the horror movies with mummies to write the script that became “The Tomb of the Cybermen”.
Personally, I’ve always seen the Cybermen as techno-vampires but the metaphor of the mummies makes sense for an adventure such as “The Tomb of the Cybermen”. It’s clear that the authors were inspired by a lot more by horror movies than by real archeology stories because the members of the expedition encountered by the Doctor look like amateurs exposing themselves to danger.
“The Tomb of the Cybermen” is set in a future where the Cybermen are vanished and Professor Parry has organized a scientific expedition to look for their traces on the planet Telos. A tomb is found but is explored with no rationality and the only recordings that are made are hand-written notes. In such a situation it’s not surprising that a member of the expedition dies even before they enter the tomb, killed by one of its traps.
In fact, Kaftan and klieg, the expedition sponsors, have a very different agenda that has nothing to do with scientific research. From the beginning we begins to understand that they’re hiding something because they send their henchman Toberman to sabotage the starship they arrived on to force everyone to stay in the tomb.
Toberman is the main object of the most recent criticism because he fits into the stereotype of the “ebony giant”. That shows that past television programs weren’t politically correct but at least at the end of the story Toberman goes beyond racial stereotypes.
If the beginning of “The Tomb of the Cybermen” doesn’t seem very promising when analyzed rationally, the story works anyway in the course of the exploration of the tomb thanks to the growing tension. The discovery of a trap on the entrance gate showed everyone that there may be a mortal danger in every corner.
Nevertheless, at least some members of the expedition seem to behave more like children with a new toy than as scientists but all is forgotten when the Cybermen are awakened. Despite the low budget, the sets that form the tomb are really good and the scene of the Cybermen coming out from their niches is extraordinary.
The costumes of the Cybermen in their first adventures were cheaply produced but that’s exactly why they give the idea that these aren’t robots but were once people. This makes their desire to convert humans even more disturbing. Too often in the adventures of the following years these basic elements of the Cybermen were neglected.
There are many characters in “The Tomb of the Cybermen” and very few are somewhat developed. Even Victoria, who however had just started traveling with the Doctor, alternates moments when she’s terrified with others when she wants at all costs to throw herselves into dangerous situations. It’s perhaps for this reason that some performances aren’t really very good.
“The Tomb of the Cybermen” is an adventure believed completely lost for several years but at the end of 1991 in Hong Kong the complete episodes telerecordings were found. Before its discovery, this adventure was considered a “Doctor Who” classic by those who had the chance to watch it on TV. However, when it was finally released on video, a debate started because some of the fans considered it to be overrated.
Personally, I think that “The Tomb of the Cybermen” has various flaws but I find it entertaining and overall a good adventure but not a “Doctor Who” classic. There are few complete Second Doctor adventures available so this is a must-have for all the people interested in “Doctor Who”.
The original edition of the DVD was all in all a good product, the Special Edition contains the episodes in a slightly better video quality and some new interesting extras that enhance the overall quality but it doesn’t include “Tombwatch” and I think it’s a shame because it would’ve made it really excellent.
In Region 2 nations, the Special Edition is part of the “Revisitations 3” box set – available on Amazon UK – so a global judgement of that box set must necessarily be given only at the end of the reviews of the adventures it contains.