Welcome to the Twenty-Second instalment of Who Review, my ongoing quest to review all available episodes of SF classic, Doctor Who. This week, Earth comes under threat from the Cybermen in The Invasion.
The Invasion (8 Episodes)
2 November – 21 December 1968
Materialising in space near the moon, the TARDIS is fired upon from an unknown spaceship. The Doctor attempts an emergency re-materialisation and lands in the countryside outside London. He discovers that the TARDIS’ visual stabiliser circuits are damaged and the time machine is now invisible. The Doctor and his companions decide to seek out Professor Travers, their ally from The Abominable Snowman and The Web of Fear, for assistance in repairing the circuits.
Hitching a ride in a lorry, the Doctor and his companions learn from the driver that they have materialised on land belonging to International Electromatics (I.E.), the world’s largest electronics manufacturer. I.E. is heavily guarded, but the driver manages to smuggle the TARDIS crew out of the compound. Noticing that two I.E. security guards on motorcycles are following them, the driver pulls over and lets the Doctor and his companions out. The driver is later stopped by the security guards and murdered.
Meanwhile, the TARDIS crew reach London. There, they discover that Professor Travers has taken a trip to America, leaving his home in the care of his associate Professor Watkins and Watkins’ niece Isobel. Watkins, an employee of International Electromatics, has recently disappeared. Naturally, Isobel is concerned for her uncle and the Doctor agrees to help her find out what has happened to him.
The Doctor and Jamie travel to I.E.’s head office to investigate, but they’re refused entry by the building’s automated receptionist. Attempting to find another entrance to the building, they are arrested by security and taken to Tobias Vaughn, I.E.’s Managing Director. Vaughn attempts to allay their concerns by telling them that Professor Watkins has reached a delicate stage in his research and is refusing any visitors.
The Doctor is suspicious of Vaughn, noting his inhuman qualities. Despite this, Vaughn persuades him to leave the damaged TARDIS circuits with I.E. for testing. Once the Doctor and Jamie have departed, Vaughn unveils an alien computer. The computer recognises the Doctor from ‘Planet 14’ and declares him to be a threat that must be destroyed.
‘Planet 14’ is the subject of much debate amongst Who fans. This seemingly throwaway comment establishes 14 planets in our solar system, including Mondas (as revealed in The Tenth Planet). The identity of ‘Planet 14’ isn’t firmly identified, although it may be Telos (from Tomb of the Cybermen) or even Marinus (from The Keys of Marinus).
Leaving the I.E. offices, the Doctor and Jamie are abducted by two strangers who escort them to a military transport aircraft. Inside, they are reunited with Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, a British army officer who had battled alongside them in The Web of Fear. Lethbridge-Stewart informs them that he has been promoted to the rank of Brigadier and is now in charge of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT). UNIT’s mandate is to combat extra-terrestrial and paranormal threats. They are investigating I.E. due to reports of mysterious changes in visitors once they leave the company’s offices. Furthermore, the lorry driver the Doctor encountered was actually an undercover UNIT officer and is now missing.
UNIT would soon become an integral part of upcoming seasons of Doctor Who, and The Invasion was seen as an introduction to what would become the show’s new cost-cutting status quo – adventures set entirely on Earth, with the Doctor serving as advisor to the organisation.
Meanwhile, Zoe and Isobel travel to the I.E. offices in search of Jamie and the Doctor. They are also denied access by the automated receptionist, but Zoe refuses to take no for an answer and sabotages the machine. This sets of an alarm and Zoe and Isobel are captured by I.E. security. They are brought to Vaughn, who reveals that Isobel’s uncle is his prisoner. Vaughn decides to use Isobel as a hostage to force her uncle to co-operate.
Studying the TARDIS circuits, I.E.’s chief scientist realises that they are clearly products of an extra-terrestrial civilisation. Vaughn concludes that the Doctor may possess certain knowledge that Professor Watkins lacks that could aid him in his plans.
Meanwhile, the Doctor and Jamie discover that Zoe and Isobel have been kidnapped by Vaughn. They return to I.E. and discover signs that their missing companions have been smuggled onto a train. Unfortunately, they are again captured and brought before Vaughn. Confronting the I.E. Manager, the Doctor accuses him of kidnap, which Vaughn denies. He invites them to meet the train at its destination, an I.E. facility in the countryside.
Travelling to the country site, the Doctor and Jamie finally meet Professor Watkins, who shows them his invention – The Cerebration Mentor, a teaching device capable of inducing emotional changes in its wearer. The Doctor notices a deep space communications antenna on the compound and grows suspicious. He queries Vaughn about it, and the businessman in turn questions him about the TARDIS circuits and their origins. The Doctor and Jamie manage to escape without revealing information about themselves.
Hiding from I.E. security, Jamie finds a strange cocoon. Before he can investigate, he and the Doctor learn of Zoe and Isobel’s location and manage to free them. The Doctor uses a radio transceiver to contact UNIT, who dispatch a helicopter to airlift them to safety
Meanwhile, Vaughn imparts valuable information on his overall plans to Packer, and we learn that an invasion is looming. Vaughn hopes to use Professor Watkins’ Cerebration Mentor to control “his allies” in the invasion, and use the TARDIS to escape if his plans fail. Realising the threat that UNIT poses to his plans, Vaughn hypnotises Major General Rutlidge, the Brigadier’s immediate superior, and orders him to cease UNIT’s investigation.
Examining UNIT photographs of UFOs seen over I.E. factories, the Doctor determines that the vehicles must be transporting the cocoons to Earth. He and Jamie break into an I.E. warehouse in London where they witness the emergence of a Cyberman! Suddenly, Vaughn’s plan is clear; he’s joined forces with an army of Cybermen that are planning to invade Earth!
While a little slow and plodding at times, the build-up to the Cybermen revelation is an effective one. Subtle clues are scattered throughout the story, but the first appearance of a Cyberman bursting out of its cocoon is a powerful and surprising moment with incredible impact.
Their enemies now revealed, the Doctor and Jamie warn the Brigadier of the imposing threat, but they are too late; under Vaughn’s control, Rutlidge has already shut down UNIT’s investigation. The Brigadier wants to take his case directly to Geneva, but he needs proof. The Doctor determines that the Cybermen army are probably hidden in the sewers and Jamie, Isobel and Zoe head underground to find the proof the Brigadier needs.
Back at I.E., Vaughn tests the Cerebration Mentor on an awakened Cyberman. The alien is is driven mad by the experience and escapes into the sewers. Now convinced he has the means of controlling the Cybermen, Vaughn orders the invasion to begin at dawn. The attack will be aided by mind-control microcircuits built into all I.E. consumer products. A hypnotic signal sent to the circuitry from a Cyberman ship in space will enslave humanity.
Discovering the existence of the microcircuits in an I.E. radio, the Doctor works frenetically to create a device to block the Cybermen’s hypnotic signal.
Down in the sewers Jamie, Zoe and Isobel find the Cybermen, but are captured. They manage to escape when the insane Cyberman appears and attacks his compatriots, and UNIT troops sent to find them wipe out the surviving aliens.
Refining his Cerebration Mentor, Watkins delivers the device to Vaughn then tries to kill him. He is shocked to learn that Vaughn has already been partially subjected to cyber-conversion, possessing a human brain inside a cyborg body. Fortunately, UNIT troops descend on I.E., rescuing Watkins before Vaughn can dispose of him.
The Doctor, meanwhile, has completed a depolariser that will block the hypnotic signal. The Brigadier has all UNIT troops equipped with a depolariser on the back of their necks.
Unfortunately, it is too late to stop the hypnotic signal being broadcast. At dawn, across the globe, most of humanity collapses as the signal shuts them down. With humanity rendered unconscious, an army of Cybermen emerges from the sewers, invading London.
There’s something quite horrifying about the emergence of the Cybermen onto the streets. These scenes are beautifully shot, implying a massive invasion force of hundreds while showing less than ten Cybermen at a time. This is one of the best examples of superior filmmaking overcoming the small budget of a Doctor Who serial.
With the invasion underway, UNIT coordinates their efforts with Russian military forces to try and destroy the I.E. broadcast signal and the arriving Cybermen invasion fleet. The Brigadier and Zoe travel to a missile base in the hope of launching a missile attack on the fleet, but they discover that there aren’t enough missiles to hit all the ships and the base computer is too slow to calculate an adequate plan to destroy the entire invasion force. Utilising her mathematical genius, Zoe calculates and executes an attack plan that creates a series of chain reactions that successfully obliterates the Cybermen fleet.
Zoe has several moments the shine in The Invasion, but this is the most impressive, illustrating her value as a companion and her strengths as a character. This is her finest scene to date in the series and solidifies her as one of the Doctor’s best companions.
Meanwhile, the Doctor confronts Vaughn, trying to convince him to change allegiance and aid humanity. As the fleet is destroyed, the Cybermen blame Vaughn and initiate plans to destroy Earth with a Megatron bomb. To guide their missile, they home in on a radio signal from the I.E. factory. Betrayed, Vaughn agrees to help the Doctor and save humanity, and together they head to the factory.
Using Watkin’s device, they battle the Cybermen gathered at the factory. Vaughn is killed in the fight, but the Doctor manages to shut down the radio signal. The Megatron bomb is destroyed by a missile, while a rocket launched from Russia destroys the last Cyberman ship, shutting down the hypnotic signal. With the crisis averted and the TARDIS circuitry repaired, the Doctor and his companions depart.
The Invasion is an excellent storyline that could have been another Who masterpiece. Unfortunately, it suffers from being too long and unnecessarily drawn out, especially in the build-up to the Cybermen revelation. Script editor Terrence Dicks states on the DVD that the story would have worked better as 6 episodes, and I agree.
Patrick Troughton continues to impress as the Doctor and has really made the character his own.
Zoe is the standout character in The Invasion, stealing several scenes, most notably her interaction with the automated receptionist and her efforts in destroying the Cybermen fleet. Not only do we witness firsthand her incredible intelligence, but we also see her headstrong personality and independence comes to the forefront.
The Cybermen receive their most menacing showing to date, finally achieving the potential as worthy successors to the Daleks. Their plan is ingenious and comes incredibly close to succeeding, establishing them as a genuine threat to the Doctor.
Tobias Vaughn is an excellent addition to the storyline, perfectly portrayed by actor Kevin Stoney. Vaughn is the archetypal ruthless businessman, setting a precedent that would become more prevalent in 80’s SF movies like Robocop.
The Invasion is an excellent story, but at 8 episodes, it suffers from too many lulls.
With the release of The Krotons DVD still one month away, we jump ahead to the Doctor’s second confrontation with the Ice Warriors in The Seeds of Death.