Welcome to the Nineteenth instalment of Who Review, my ongoing quest to watch and review all available episodes of SF’s longest running television series, Doctor Who. This week, we move into a new era as Patrick Troughton takes over as Doctor Who in Tomb of the Cybermen.
Tomb of the Cybermen (4 Episodes)
02 September – 23 September 1967
No Doctor suffers more from missing episodes than Patrick Troughton. Of the 21 stories featuring Troughton as the Doctor, only 6 remain intact, five from his final season. There is nothing from his first season but audio recordings and a few scattered episodes.
There are several key stories missing. In The Highlanders, The Doctor is joined by a new companion, Jamie McCrimmon. Jamie appears in a total of 116 episodes, making him the longest-running Who companion.
The Faceless Ones sees the departure of Ben Jackson and Polly, who return to Earth circa 1966 and decide to stay.
The Doctor and his companions encounter the Daleks twice, in The Power of the Daleks and The Terror of the Daleks. Both storylines are highly praised and considered among the best of the Dalek tales. They also encounter the Cybermen for the second time in The Moonbase, a story that features the first redesign of the Cybermen after their initial appearance in The Tenth Planet.
Terror of the Daleks was meant to be the final Dalek storyline. Creator and co-owner Terry Nation was trying to sell the Daleks to American television producers, so Terror was written to give the villains an epic, dramatic send off. It would be almost 5 years before the Daleks appeared again.
Terror also introduced a new companion, Victoria Waterfield. Victoria was the daughter of an 1860’s scientist whose experiments in time travel result in his death at the hands of the Daleks. His dying wish is that the Doctor takes care of his daughter…which brings us to The Tomb of the Cybermen.
On the planet Tellos 500 years in the future, a human archaeological expedition uncovers the entrance to a hidden tomb inside a mountain. Their attempts to gain entrance to the tomb fail and one of the expedition members dies from electrocution from the booby-trapped door.
The TARDIS lands near the dig and the Doctor and his companions encounter the expedition members. The expedition leader, Parry, explains that the purpose of the expedition is to uncover the remains of the Cybermen, who died out five centuries earlier. The expedition is being funded by Kaftan, a ruthless businesswoman accompanied by her companion Klieg and her giant manservant Toberman. It’s clear that Kaftan is up to no good.
With the Doctor’s aid, the archaeologists are able to deactivate the booby-traps and gain entrance to the darkened inner chamber of the tomb. There, they find a control panel controlling several hidden doors and a sealed hatch. The Doctor determines that the controls operate on a symbolic logic and manages to open the doors. The hatch remains sealed however.
The Doctor’s deciphering of the control system brings the distain and distrust of Klieg, who is unable to work out the controls himself and is resentful of the Doctor for figuring it out. Slowly but surely, tensions are starting to mount amongst the group, and the slow undercurrent of distrust is beautifully handled by writers Kit Pedlar and Gerry Davis and their cast. It’s clear that Kaftan and Klieg are untrustworthy, but their overall plan is merely hinted at.
Unable to open the hatch, the TARDIS crew and expedition members explore the rest of the tomb. Victoria and Kaftan discover a Cyberman revitalisation chamber and Kaftan attempts to trap Victoria inside. She is saved by the Doctor, who believes she has accidentally locked herself in. Later, she finds a strange metallic worm-like creature, which the Doctor reveals to be a deadly Cybermat, a Cyberman creation. He tells her to leave the creature alone but she takes it and places it in her handbag instead.
Meanwhile, Jamie and expedition member Haydon stumble upon a Cyberman training room and Haydon is accidentally killed.
It is soon revealed that the expedition’s rocket ship has been sabotaged, and the implication is that Toberman is responsible. The rocket’s pilot Captain Hopper reveals that they won’t be able to leave the planet until repairs are made.
Finally, the Doctor and Klieg manage to open the hatch. Leaving Victoria and Kaftan behind, the Doctor, Jamie and the expedition members descend deeper into the Tomb. There, they stumble upon a huge multi-storey structure housing an army of cryogenically frozen Cybermen!
In the control room, Kaftan drugs Victoria and seals the hatch. Down below, Klieg finds a control panel and activates the tombs, melting the ice holding the Cybermen inert. He then holds the others at bay as the Cybermen return to life.
The image of the cryo-chambers filled with Cybermen is haunting, but the shots of them emerging from their stasis and breaking through the chamber casing is terrifying. It’s one of the most memorable visuals in any Doctor Who episode and one that would be repeated many times in future Cybermen appearances.
With the Cybermen awakening, Klieg finally reveals his plans. He and Kaftan belong to the Brotherhood of Logicians, a society of highly intelligent scientists that possess little power or influence. Klieg is convinced the Cybermen will be grateful to him for restoring them and that they will ally themselves with the Brotherhood. You know this isn’t going to end well…
In the control room, Victoria awakens and confronts Kaftan, who threatens to shoot her if she tries to open the hatch. The Cybermat from Victoria’s purse comes to life and attacks Kaftan, rendering her unconscious. Victoria grabs Kaftan’s gun and manages to shoot the Cybermat. Unlike the Cybermen and their tomb, the Cybermats look truly bizarre. There’s really nothing menacing about their silly design, and this impacts on the supposed menace of this scene.
With the threat passed, Victoria leaves to find Captain Hopper and ask for his assistance in opening the tomb.
Down in the tombs, the Cybermen free their leader, the Cyberman Controller, from his cell. Klieg steps up to take credit for reviving them and the Controller rewards him by crushing his hand and declaring that “You belong to us; you shall be like us.” Well, it didn’t take long for Klieg’s plan to backfire. Really, what was he thinking?
The Controller is an important addition to the Cybermen. In their first appearance, the individual Cybermen had distinct names, a contradictory element that detracted from the emotionless, almost hive mentality of the villains. That’s now gone, replaced by a uniform designation, with only the Cyberman Controller having greater rank. It’s a simple change but an important one in establishing the psychology of these villains.
The Doctor comes to a startling conclusion: the Cybermen have been lying in wait within their tombs, waiting for beings intelligent enough to decipher their controls and free them. The whole tomb is an elaborate trap to find beings intelligent enough to be transformed into the next race of Cybermen and pave the way for a new invasion of Earth.
In the control room, Captain Hopper manages to open the hatch and descend into the tomb. Using smoke grenades to distract the Cybermen, he helps the others escape. Only Toberman remains, having already begun the process of transformation into a Cyberman.
Locking Kaftan and Klieg in the training room, the rest of the survivors plot their next course of action. Unfortunately, the Cybermen have unleashed Cybermats and the doctor and his companions must fend off the attack.
Locked away, Klieg finds a weapon. He and Kaftan leave the training room, once again opening the hatch again and call the Cyberman Controller. Slowly, the Controller emerges from below, accompanied by a partially-converted Toberman under his mental control. He has ordered the rest of the Cybermen to return to their tombs to conserve energy. It is clear that the Controller himself is suffering from low energy reserves.
Proving once again that he has no idea what he’s dealing with, Klieg agrees to revitalise the Cyberman Controller in the revitalising chamber in return for the Cybermen’s aid in conquering Earth. The Doctor and his companions fight back and a struggle ensues. The Controller wrests control of the weapon, shooting Kaftan with it. Her death weakens the Cyberman leader’s control over Toberman, who attacks him and hurls him into a control panel, apparently killing him.
Wanting to ensure that the Cybermen are no longer a threat, the doctor and Toberman descend into the tomb once more. Klieg follows them down and revives the Cybermen once more, believing that he can command them now that he Controller is dead. Once again, he’s wrong, and this time it costs him his life as the Cybermen kill him.
Fortunately, Jamie and the Doctor manage to refreeze the Cybermen. The doctor then creates a circuit to electrify the door and the control panels, sealing the Cybermen in forever. The Controller, still alive, tries to escape but Toberman prevents him from doing so, and they are both electrocuted.
With the threat of the Cybermen now over, the Doctor and his companions part ways with the expedition and return to the TARDIS. No one notices a lone Cybermat, moving along the ground toward Toberman’s body.
Patrick Troughton’s Doctor incorporates many of the elements of William Hartnell’s; he is highly intelligent, slightly manipulative and often bumbling and seemingly foolish. Troughton brings more warmth to the character than his predecessor and adds a childish playfulness that hides his darker, scheming side.
There is a touching moment in Tomb when Victoria asks about the doctor’s family, as she doubts he can remember them. He tells her that he can when he really wants to and that “the rest of the time they sleep in my mind” because he has “so much else to think about, to remember”. It’s a powerful scene that offers hints at the Doctor’s past and is the first mention of the Doctor’s family outside of his granddaughter Susan.
The Doctor also mentions that he is about 450 years old, the first solid indication of his age.
Jamie McCrimmon is easily one of the best companions to date. Like many of the male companions before him, he embodies the “everyman” character, complete with an adventurous nature and penchant for action. However, actor Frazer Hines adds a humorous naivety to Jamie that plays beautifully off The Doctor’s befuddled but highly intelligent character. The chemistry between Patrick Troughton and Hines is compelling, as the actors were friends in real life and that friendship is apparent on the screen.
Tomb of the Cybermen is the only fully intact story featuring Victoria Waterford, which is unfortunate as she is intelligent, competent and fascinating. Her history and reason for being with the Doctor adds depth to her character and sets her apart from the previous female companions, who usually stumbled upon the Doctor by accident.
In The Tenth Planet, the appearance, voice and culture of the Cybermen were not fully developed, with some elements (especially their voices) being simply odd. Here, many of those problems have been removed and the Cybermen have begun to take on the form more familiar to viewers of later series. The hive mentality and lack of emotions remain, but everything else has been upgraded for the better. Now, the villains are genuinely menacing and the threat of conversion into a Cyberman is a terrifying one.
Tomb of the Cybermen is easily one of the best Who storylines to date, solidifying the Cybermen as the Doctor’s second greatest enemies and creating a genuine air of menace.
We take another leap forward to the beginning of Patrick Troughton’s final season in The Dominators.