Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Tomb of the Cybermen — Blogging Doctor Who

A tomb? Don't you need
to be dead for one
of those?
At the end of “The Moonbase,” the Doctor expresses his wish that he not deal with the Cybermen again for a very long time. Had the BBC actually released the reconstructed “Underwater Menace,” there would have been a small break between “The Moonbase” and “The Tomb of the Cybermen.” Ironically, just after I finished watching “The Tomb of the Cybermen,” Amazon sent me an e-mail that “The Underwater Menace” was available for pre-order, but although they list a price, they don’t have a release date for it. I think we’ve heard this one before. So, instead, “The Tomb of the Cybermen” is the third of a sequence of Cybermen stories. The next serial I blog about will not have Cybermen in it (it’s an easy promise; I’ve already started watching “The Ice Warriors,” nothing’s showing up on my shelves that will make me say, “gotta watch this first”).

Our first encounter with the Cybermen was set in 1986, although it was a 1986 in which technology hadn’t much progressed beyond 1966. Then, we jumped forward to the only slightly more advanced time 2070, and everyone has assumed that the that the Cybermen were wiped out more than a century before with the destruction of Mondas. Now we’re at some unspecified future time when it is again believed that the Cybermen were wiped out years before. We’ve got a group that going to find their tombs. They have landed in the dorkiest-looking spaceship imaginable. On the other hand, we get a group shot of captain and crew, and I have to wonder if Captain Hopper chose his crew for looks, but I’ll get to that later. He clearly didn’t choose his spaceship for looks.

It’s not made clear why anyone thinks that the Cybermen have tombs. Lets’s just figure that they’re looking for the remains of the Cyberman civilization, and they just happen to hit upon the right building (they didn’t simply land where they were by chance), which was buried. How the Cybermen managed to bury this entrance is unclear. It would have been better, perhaps, to have the bunker discovered in the decaying ruins of the Cybermen city. But that’s just a quibble.

The Doctor and his companions are mistaken for a rival group of archeologists (are there university departments of Cybermen Studies in that future?), but they get to come along anyway (all without signing nondisclosure agreements). The group has three heads: there’s the aforementioned Captain Hopper, whose word is law on the ship, and control of the expedition is split between its academic head, Professor Parry, and Eric Klieg, who is the financial backer. Professor Parry should have been warier of private support than he was, since it turns out that Klieg’s group is backing the research for reasons that are not what Professor Parry anticipated. Too late now, Professor, you took the cash and they own your findings, despite that they want to turn them to an evil purpose.

Klieg probably never took Cybermen Studies, or he flunked, since his plan is somewhere between absurd and suicidal. Really, who in their right mind pokes around the Cybermen? As a minor plot spoiler, this is the first time someone attempts to turn the Cybermen into an invincible army under their control end spoiler, an idea that seems to be as tempting as it is monumentally stupid. Perhaps that most recent iteration of this idea was an attempt to put it into the hands of someone where you’re not looking at the action and thinking, “your best-case scenario is cyber-conversion.”

Parts of this story lag a bit, but there are plenty of surprises. It’s a nice little plot twist that, even in suspended animation, the Cybermen are in control all along. The whole thing was a plot to ensure their continued survival. And we get some threats to our safety. The first episode has barely started when a good-looking crew member dies. Then at the end of the first episode, a good-looking expedition member (since he works for Professor Parry, I’m going to assume that Peter Haydon is a grad student; not gonna finish his Ph.D.). The deaths continue throughout. That spaceship is going to take off a lot lighter than when it landed.

The archeological party pretty much talks with British accents, but Hopper and his first mate (?) Jim Callum talk with those gawd-awful accents that Brits used to use to show that they were playing Americans. Note to scriptwriters, the captain should not be saying “well, golly.” I’m sure Americans playing Brits used accents that made British viewers think “what planet are these people from?” No explanation is given why the two speak like this, when everyone else has a British accent.

[Update: A thought on cybermats.
I haven't seen this alleged anywhere, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who looks at cybermats and thinks "silverfish," those nasty little insects that scuttle about ruining books and things like that. Yuck.]

Eye Candy for Gay Time Lords
As I noted above, Captain Hopper seems to have selected his crew for their looks. He, his first mate (?) Jim, and the unnamed crewman who dies are all pretty good looking. It’s a nice looking crowd, preeminent among them Roy Stewart who plays the large and striking Toberman. This is, of course, in addition to our recurring eye candy of Jamie.

So, Is This a Must-See?
Yes. It’s a better story than “The Moonbase.” With each story the Cybermen just seemed to get better and harder to stop. The stories just get better (this does not continue indefinitely).

Next: A villain who isn't a half-organic, half-cybernetic monstrosity, but is from another planet.
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