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Doctor Who : The Tomb of the Cybermen

BBC Worldwide // Unrated // August 6, 2002
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted August 16, 2002 | E-mail the Author
The Second Doctor and his companions, Jamie and Victoria, land on the desolate planet Telos, home of one of the Doctor's arch enemies, the Cybermen. They meet a crew on an archeological expedition and it is explained that the Cybermen mysteriously disappeared centuries ago and the expedition wants to explore the Cybermens now buried main base to try and determine why they disappeared. The Doctor decides to accompany the expedition, and lessens their paranoia of his being a strange, unwelcome presence by helping them enter the booby trapped compound. While they try to decipher the Cybermen's complex operating system, the expeditions spaceship is sabotaged and the team is stuck on the planet until repairs can be made. It seems that some members of the expedition belong to a group called The Brotherhood of Logicians, and they intend to use the Cybermens knowledge, and perhaps the Cybermen themselves, to gain control and power so they can rule the world. But, the Cybermen are in fact not extinct, only dormant, awakened by the expedition, and they are not the kind to bargain or corporate.

I really like Doctor Who. I'm not a die-hard fanatic, mainly just loving the era I grew up with, the Tom Baker years. I bristle a little more if I hear the Doctor Who theme song as opposed to Star Trek or Star Wars. Over time, especially when I was a kid, I very casually sought ought the other Doctors adventures whether it be in books or, eventually, vhs. But, this was my first time seeing Patrick Troughton Doctor Who adventure. For some reason the vhs of his shows were never stocked at my local video stores. One of the big tragedies for Doctor Who fans is that much of Troughton's run on Who was destroyed, leaving fans left with only an handful of complete episodes and a many incomplete/lost ones (like 15 lost/incomplete out of 21). So its kind of fitting that any of the Troughton vhs releases were hard for me to find.

For classic sci fi and Who, Tomb of the Cybermen (1967) delivers a very entertaining story- some humor, some thrills, and fun sci fi mumbo jumbo. It's been said a thousand times that Star Treks Borg essentially ripped off the Cybermen, a race of beings so obsessed with longevity that they sacrificed their humanity, becoming more artificial than human, and convert any beings they come into contact with. In Tomb we see the Cybermen stored in hive, very much like the Borg collective and Borg ships. But, Cybermen are also further evidence of Who in many ways reaching beyond children. The finer aspects of a race wanting to overpower any differing culture and the Cybermen catch phrase "We Will Survive" was probably lost on the little kiddies. As my first exposure to Troughton as the Doc, I really enjoyed him. He wedges in nice moments of comedy while convincingly projecting tension during the dramatic moments. Especially nice was a quiet scene, a conversation with Victoria about his age and family, a rather touching and revelatory moment not often seen in the series.

The DVD: BBC Worldwide. Originally thought to be lost along with the other Troughton episodes, all four episodes were found in Hong Kong, turned over to the BBC in 1991, and remastered due to the considerable decay of the magnetic tapes. In this age of easily recording anything you please with absolute clarity and convenience, its hard to believe the grand foul-up that results in the majority of a body of work, like the Troughton Who years, completely disappearing. So it is all the more fortunate that these episodes were found and justifiably remastered and preserved.

Picture: Okay. The two key factors in my image ratings is always- 1) source and age and 2) the technical. Naturally I don't expect a cheap kung fu movie or silent film to look as good as something that came out of a slick Hollywood production last year. If its older, done on a low budget, it can still get a four star rating with some graininess, lines, and wear and tear, but I'll still put everything under the grand umbrella of "what is the absolute best an image can look- period"... That said, Tomb of the Cybermen is Standard 1.33:1, black and white (Who wasnt broadcast in color until Doc #3), quite grainy, some minor waviness to the image, not the deepest contrast or sharpness but more than acceptable considering the state they were in- good job by the restoration team. No noticeable transfer flaws. I give the regular Who DVDs a 3 1/2, allow them many points considering their age and they are usually free of any technical defects. I'll be kind and give the remastered Tomb a 3.

Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0, mono. I'm assuming they remastered the audio too. My mantra when it comes to reviewing these Who DVDs is, considering the age, given the time and production under which they were made, the sound is good. Any flaws come from the actual recording, but dialogue and music are still all very clear and audible. Optional English subtitles as well as Close Captioning.

Extras: Episode and Chapter Selections.--- Title Sequence Tests (3:28). Various bits of swirling psychedelica for the title background.--- Late Night Line-Up "Special Effects" (2:00). A minor reporting bit from an old BBC show about Doctor Who's fx.--- Photo Gallery--- Who's Who. Cast and character information--- Text info subs. Subtitle function offers information about the production.--- The Final End (1:20). An assemblage of two things, an 8mm behind the scenes film of a Dalek battle and bits of the soundtrack to the lost episode The Evil of the Daleks.--- Tombwatch (28:42). Footage from a 1992 BAFTA convention, the key cast and crew (minus Troughton, who died in 87') give a Q&A about working on Who and the rediscovered Tomb.--- Morris Berry, the episodes director, Intro (3:07)--- Remastering Comparison (5:18). Nice featurette with informative subtitles that shows the considerable cleaning up process the episodes underwent.--- Audio Commentary with actors Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon) and Debora Watling (Victoria Waterfield). Well, this is a fairly lifeless commentary, falling prey to the pitfalls of two people wrapped up in watching the episode more than commenting on it and not offering many outstanding anecdotes. There are times when their observations are also covered in the text subs, or were tidbits lifted/recalled from the Tombwatch BAFTA footage.

Conclusion: A lost classic gets a fitting restoration and a fairly fine DVD release. Anyone who considers themselves a fan should own it.

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Highly Recommended

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