The final story in the 12th season of Doctor Who,
Revenge of the Cybermen is a often derided by fans as
weaker effort at best and just plain rotten at worst.
I've always been surprised by that. The
two times I've seen it (the first time
being in the late 70's) I've quite enjoyed the story, and this time is
different. While it does have a few
problems (what Doctor Who adventure
doesn't?) this story has a lot going for it including some great
shooting, the Cybermen, a solid story, and Tom Baker at the top of his
Traveling back to Space Station Nerva via time ring
following the action at the end of the last story (Genesis
of the Daleks), The Doctor, Sarah, and Harry find the
station littered with the dead bodies of the crew.
There are survivors, but only four: Professor
Kellman, a planetary surveyor,
Commander Stevenson, and crewmen Warner and Lester.
They think that a plague has infected the
station, but when Warner comes down with the illness The Doctor
that it isn't an infection but a poison that has been killing the crew. Unfortunately he's too late to save the young
When Sarah is attacked by a worm-like robot, a Cybermat, and
injected with the poison The Doctor has Harry use the Transmat to beam
both down to the subterranean caverns in the planetoid that Nerva is
Voga. (Nerva is positioned there to warn
off freighters that don't have the newly discovered object on their
charts.) The Doctor's plan works and
Sarah is cured and Harry discovers something amazing:
The ground is littered with pure gold. Before
they can return to the space station
however Harry and Sarah are captured by the (heretofore unknown)
Voga. It seems they've stumbled into the
middle of an internal power struggle between Vorus leader of the
the mines and Tymun, Chief Councilor of the race.
Voga is the legendary Planet of Gold, a world that is filled
with the metal. Not only is gold
valuable, but it's also the only substance that is poisonous to
Voga was the reason that the mechanical creatures lost the Cyberwar. Once the weakness had been discovered and the
Glittergun invented, it was all over for the Cybermen.
That made Voga a target however, from both
fortune hunters and surviving Cybermen, so the Vogans retreated into
interior of the planet had hid. This has
kept them safe for generations.
Vorus is tired of hiding though, and has come up with a plan
that will make their race strong and proud once more.
Along with Kellerman, he's come up with a
plan to lure the last of the Cybermen into a trap:
Space Station Nerva. Once
there they plan to blow the station up
ridding the galaxy of the Cybermen, but the Cybermen aren't so easily
tricked. Once they're on the station the
Cybermen reveal their plan to blow up Voga.
The problem is that if either side wins, The Doctor or his
will end up dead.
This adventure has taken its share of criticism over the
years, and only some of it is warranted.
I've often wondered if the dislike of this story is due to being
familiar with the adventure. Revenge
of the Cybermen was the very
first Doctor Who story to be released
to the home video market, in October of 1983, and fans had to wait
of the following year for the second (a 60-minute edit of Brain
of Morbius) and then the schedule was just one or two stories
per year until 1990. That meant that Revenge was pretty much the only game in
town, aside from the new episodes, and was viewed over and over. (In one of the extras a woman recalls how
she'd rent the video and watch this story nearly every week!) It's hard not to spot errors and flaws that
permeate most Doctor Who stories when
put under that type of microscope. The
classic Who never had a polished
look, and that's a large part of the appeal.
It's a case of fun, innocence, and not knowing how bad things
overcoming budget and time constraints.
While I wouldn't argue that this is one of the best Doctor
Who stories, it is still a lot of
fun and well worth watching. The
Cybermen are great villains, the best to come out of the show in my
(and the obvious inspiration for the Borg from Star Trek:
the Next Generation) and while they don't necessarily
shine here, they are still menacing.
It's impressive to see a couple of Cybermen hold off the Voga
without bothering to hide behind cover during the battle, and even The
is sufficiently worried about them.
The Vogans are an interesting race that was developed very
well. Vorus wasn't an evil person; he
just had a different opinion about how their society should be run. It was easy to see both sides of the
disagreement, and what's tragic is that both sides had a valid point of
The underground caverns were done well, since they wisely
decided to shoot on location in some real caves. They
gave the show an authentic feel that
very few installments of the classic series had. The
show wouldn't have been the same if it
had been shot on a sound stage.
As for the critiques of the adventure, many of them are
valid. Harry does come across as a
bumbling buffoon, there are some plot holes (why can't the Vogans kill
invading Cybermen? They have tons of
gold), the Cybermen do take too long to show up, and the Cybermats are
silly creatures. But if you can't look
past rather minor bumps like that while watching Doctor Who, it might
the show for you. Just relax and enjoy
the ride, it'll be fun.
The mono soundtrack has been cleaned up and is very
good. It is nice and clear with no hiss
or background noise to take away from the story. Being
a mono track, there's really not much
more to say about it.
The full frame video has been cleaned up by the Restoration
Team and it looks good. The
original cinematography wasn't that
impressive, there are a few spots where whites bloom (when Cybermen
spotlight on a particularly shiny part of their suit for example) and the color design is very drab, but the
disc reproduces that well. The colors
are solid though and the level of detail is decent.
This is an average looking Doctor Who disc.
Another great set of extras are included with this
show. First off is a commentary track
with producer Phillip Hinchcliffe, and actors Elizabeth Sladen, Rodger
Murray-Leech and David Collings. It was
a nice track, with some fun anecdotes about the filming and the various
involved. Phillip Hinchcliffe is
pretty tough on the show, and seems
to hate it more than most of the fans, which puts somewhat of a damper
things. Doctor Who
commentaries are usually fun though, and this one is no
As far as video extras go, the first one is just
fantastic: Cheques, Lies and
Videotape. This documentary runs nearly
half an hour and discusses what life was like for Doctor Who fans
recorders, DVDs, and official releases of stories.
This is going to date me a bit, but I could
totally relate to everything that was discussed. (I
used to make audio recordings of Doctor
Who and Monty Python in those pre-VCR days as is mentioned. Even after VCRs were available it was tough
to get new Who
episodes. I had a friend who
knew someone in England
whom he paid to videotape his TV while Doctor Who was on in order to
the PAL/NTSC problem. Those were
great.) They interview fans who went to
great lengths to get their Doctor Who fix, and even have a great
of what various generations (dubs of dubs) of videotape look like. This is a wonderful trip down memory lane.
up is The Tin
Man and the Witch, a 25 min.
making-of featurette. This was nice,
though a bit too much time was
spent on the possible haunting of the caves where part of this
filmed. Come on guys, enough with the
silly ghost stories. The rest of it was
interesting, though Phillip Hinchcliffe takes even more
at the story.
The Location Report
was great, a vintage interview with Tom Baker on location.
It's only 5 minutes long but a great
There is also an 'info-text' option for each story.
This is something that the other Who releases
have and I'm a big fan of them. This
pop-up text options allows viewers to read about the shooting schedule,
between various story incarnations and the final version and learn
history of the supporting actors. It's
well worth watching, though it can be distracting so watch the story
extras are wrapped up with a three minute Radiophonic Workshop music
photo gallery, and the usual Radio Times listings.
I'm always surprised when fans deride this adventure.
Sure, it has some flaws, but it's still a lot
of fun and brings the Cybermen (who did not appear in the Pertwee era
back to the Who Universe. The extras are
really good this time too, making this an easy disc to Recommend.