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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Doctor Who: Attack of the Cybermen
Doctor Who: Attack of the Cybermen
BBC Worldwide // Unrated // July 7, 2009
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted August 15, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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The Show:
 
Colin Baker starts his first full season as the space-traveling Time Lord with    While this adventure has one of The Doctor's most popular villains and also features a lot of in-jokes for old time fans, the show isn't as good as it should be.  With a new format for the show as well as a relatively new Doctor, the program makes several stumbles which make it only a mediocre story overall.
 
If you're not familiar with Doctor Who, check out one of my older reviews (like this one) for a brief overview.
 
The 22nd season starts off with The Doctor (Colin Baker) fixing the Chameleon Circuit on the TARDIS at last.  It malfunctioned in the very first episode back in 1963, but hasn't worked since.  After mucking about with the circuits, an alien distress call is picked up... but it's coming from Earth in 1985 where there should be no aliens.
 


Investigating, The Doctor and his companion Peri (Nicola Bryant in very skimpy clothes... it looks like the BBC was trying to appeal to adolescents and their fathers) discover a bank robbery led by Lytton, an agent for the Daleks who was left on Earth in the story Resurrection of the Daleks.  Of course Lytton isn't really trying to rob a bank... he just needs his accomplishes in order to contact the Cybermen who are living in the London sewers.  They're upset that their planet Monad was destroyed (way back in their first appearance,) and they've stolen a time machine to change history.  (How the time device was stolen is never explained.) 
 
So they (The Cybermen) take Lytton, The Doctor, Peri, and a goon, steal the TARDIS, and take everyone to Telos (the planet featured in Tomb of the Cybermen) where they all meet the Cryons, the indigenous people of Telos who are nearly extinct by trying to fight the Cybermen.  Oh yeah, then there's the subplot where two cybermen slaves escape and try to escape in a space ship which for some reason means they have to storm the main Cybercontrol headquarters.  Got all that?  I didn't think so.
 


If the synopsis is confusing, you should see the show itself.  While it has a lot going for it the script just gets out of control and becomes baffling quickly.  
 
One of the things in the show's favor is that the Cybermen are back, a race that I always felt was much superior to the Daleks.  Heck, if they Daleks captured you that fate was just torture and death, for the Cybermen though they'd operate (without anesthesia) and turn you into one of them.  That's a fate worse than death, but I digress. 
 
Colin Baker plays his role very well in this story.  He's recently regenerated but he's also grumpy and a bit violent.  Viewers aren't sure whether it is just temporary effects from the regeneration or if that's just the new Doctor's personality.  The first time I saw this story (decades ago) I was a little worried when The Doctor pocketed a gun he took off a crook.  Would he really use a gun?  Turns out he doesn't, but the question had me in suspense for a while.
 
There are a lot of small continuity nods to the long time fans that are fun too.  Not only is the Chameleon Circuit repaired, but the TARDIS lands at 76 Totter's Lane, the same place it was originally seen way back in the first episode.
 
That continuity is also the show's downfall.  They try to tie up all of the loose ends in every Cyberman story since the beginning and in the process just make everything confusing.  Yeah, it was fun seeing Telos again (though it looking NOTHING like the original... a good reason to skip that aspect of the story in my opinion,)  in order to get there they had to twist the plot way past the breaking point.  The Cybermen have time travel?  Okay, then why do they need the TARDIS?  Because they have a time machine but they don't understand how it works so they need another one.  Whatever.
 
The story is filled with so many plot devices it isn't funny.  The Cybermen are invading Earth, they're on Telos, they are trying to save Monad, they're going to use Halley's Comet to destroy Earth, they're fighting again the Cryons, is Lytton good or evil? etc. etc.  In this story The Doctor is only a supporting character in his own show.

The final gripe I have (well, that I'll discuss... I hated the music which I though was trying to be funny, but I'm running out of steam for this review) is that the Cybermen were much too weak.  They were more fragile than a human, twice a guy hits a Cyberman in the head with a metal bar, and the head goes flying off.  Yeah right.


 
One kudo I'll give this story however is the increased level of violence.  The slight increase made the show darker and much more suspenseful.  When they Cybermen torture someone by crushing his hands I was surprised.  It showed that they really mean business.   
 
The DVD:

 

This story contains two 45-minute episodes (all of the episodes from this season were 45-minutes long.  They reverted back to the 30-minute format with the following season.)  They are presented on a single DVD-9 disc in a keepcase.  The cover matches the other US releases of Doctor Who.
 
Audio:
 
This show comes with the original mono soundtrack that fits the show just fine.  The dynamic range is nothing to write home about, but the dialog is generally crisp and clear and there is no background noise, tape hiss, distortion or dropouts.  There are optional subtitles in English.
 
Video:
 
The full frame image looks good, though not outstanding.  The Restoration Team has done their magic and this show looks as good as can be expected given the age and videotape origins of the program.  The color is good though not quite as intense as I would have liked.  The fine detail is good but the show is a little on the soft side.   This looks very comparable to the other Who releases from this time frame so if you've seen Timelash for example you'll know what to expect.
 
Extras:
 
The Doctor Who discs generally have a good selection of bonus items, and this one is no different.  The there is a commentary track with actors Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant accompanied by Terry Molloy for the episode and Sarah Berger (Rost) for the second.  This was an entertaining track with no one taking the story too seriously be not being disrespectful either.  Colin admits that the story isn't that good (he calls it "a bit of crap" if I recall correctly) but doesn't rip it apart like he could. 
 
There's also a very nice 27-minute documentary about this story, The Cold War which looks at the production but also focuses on who actually wrote the adventure.  (It turns out that the script editor, Eric Saward, did under a pseudonym because he wasn't supposed to buy scripts from himself.)   The next featurette is a 23-minute history of the Cybermen entitled The Cyber Story which is a bit of fun, especially if you're not familiar with the background of this menace.  The Cyber Generations is an brief look at how the Cybermen have changed over the years, and Human Cyborg an 8-minute interview with a cybernetics expert.  It was dull, dull, dull, and can be easily skipped. 
 
There's also a pop-up informational text option, which is very informative as always.   It does give some dry statistics, like how many people viewed each episode, but there are also some interesting notes such as script changes that were made and background information on the supporting characters. 
 
There's also a photo gallery, an isolated score, and the listing from the Radio Times in .pdf format.
 
Final Thoughts:
 
This story has a lot of problems mainly that it's confusing and poorly paced, but it's not a total waste.  Colin Baker gives a good performance (when he's actually in the show) and the slight nods to older fans were a nice touch.  It's just too bad the story became so convoluted over the course of these two 45-minute episodes.  Still, when all was said and done, I enjoyed revisiting this story again.  It gets a light recommendation.
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