Friday, November 19, 2010

Doctor Who: The Tomb of the Cybermen

The Doctor, Jamie (yay, I remember him from some random episode I must have caught once) and Victoria (I don't) land on the planet Telos, and join an archaeological expedition to the 500 year old tomb of the Cybermen. It turns out that a couple of the expedition are interested in more than just history...

The pace has picked up considerably in the three years since "The Aztecs". Although the story is still fairly slight, with plenty of plot-holes, the incidental music is not quite so jarring; the direction more ambitious and polished; and the dialogue and acting are not quite so theatrical. The futuristic elements combined with the theme of exploring history create more of a sense of mystery than the Aztecs, despite the still laughable sets and props.

The Second Doctor is more playful since his regeneration, but still often seems to know more than he is letting on. He is always very manipulative in the way he assists the expedition. In a wistful moment, consoling Victoria at the recent death of her father, the Doctor says that his memories of his family are still alive when he wants them to be. He says he is 450 years old.

Audience reaction 2010

One youngster accompanied this viewing - probably better to say "endured"! - but she enjoyed making sardonic comments on the dated production values. In particular we both found the strong-and-loyal-but-dumb black manservant rather racist by 21st century standards, and the blatant sexism rather less than futuristic.

The subject of companions loomed large, with Susan, Barbara and Ian gone, replaced with Jamie and Victoria. My own companion noted how refreshing it was to have companions from different centuries (Jamie the 18th century, Victoria the 19th century) and locations (e.g. Jamie being from Scotland) rather than from 20th/21st London, as she noted seems to have become the norm. She was astounded when I let slip that companions have come from other planets too...

Watching The Sarah Jane Adventures recently, we noted the lovely reference to Barbara and Ian, that they had married each other, become Cambridge professors, and have not aged since the 1960s. This kind of reference really enhances our enjoyment of both old and new episodes!

Although not the least bit scary, one aspect of this episode that my companion noticed was the similarity between the scene here in which the members of the expedition try to escape from the Cybermen and a scene from the modern era which takes place with the Cybermen in Torchwood Tower. "And that was scary!"

Next up in this Doctor Who education enterprise are two more stories from the Second Doctor era. I suspect that the youngsters might prefer just selected moments rather than sitting through hours of this.

Idle questions
  • Presumably the Doctor assisted the expedition out of curiosity and a concern to assess the threat posed by the sleeping Cybermen. And presumably it was for compassionate reasons that he returned the Cybermen to their slumber rather than destroying them. Did he not worry though that the security he put in place would be too limited to prevent further archaeological expeditions? Is he somehow relying on the TARDIS to take him to points in the universe at which his assistance is needed?
For an alternative view...
  • John Bensalhia at Shadowlocked has a sometimes hilarious take on this story.
  • A fair review also is available at

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