Doctor Who – The Tomb of the Cybermen Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Tomb of the Cybermen
  • Story #: 37
  • Episodes: 4 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 9/02/1967 – 9/23/1967
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“New race of Cybermen? But we’re humans, we’re not like you.” – Jaime
“You will be.” – Cyber Controller

“The Tomb of the Cybermen” is one of the very few Patrick Troughton stories that was sold to PBS in the 1980s. I saw in on PBS, albeit in movie format, I had a copy on VHS, and I bought the DVD when it was released. So I have seen this story a few times. But it is still quite the classic.

The story begins with the Doctor showing Victoria around the console room of the TARDIS, then he asks Jaime to show her to the wardrobe room to find more appropriate clothing. Victoria remarks that the TARDIS is quite big inside. Later, the TARDIS lands and the Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria meet an archaeological expedition led by Professor Perry and financed by Kaftan and Klieg. Perry remarks that the Cybermen “died out” but no one knows why they died out. Kaftan and Klieg insist one of the others on the expedition try to force the doors – and the man is electrocuted. The Doctor and TARDIS crew arrive. The one-time-use-only burglar alarm now deactivated, the Doctor, with help from Toberman gets the doors open. Inside they find they are definitely in a Cyberman location, as there are Cyberman illustrations everywhere. The crew starts to explore. Jamie and another two men find a weapons testing room, but unfortunately one of the men is shot in the back when Jamie accidentally triggers the weapons test. Others find a control board with a door leading below ground. The scientists and expedition members know the Cybermen will be below ground and it will be cold.

They expedition plans to return to their rocket for the night, and explore more the next day, only to have the captain of the rocket return with his co-pilot and report the rocket was sabotaged. Everyone now has no choice but to stay in the Cyberman installation.

The Doctor works out, partially, how to open the hatch to the lower level, and Klieg finishes the calculations and gets it open. Everyone but Victoria and Kaftan go below. Kaftan seals the hatch, which angers Victoria. When the pilot and co-pilot return again, she asks them to get it open. Meanwhile, everyone else is exploring below. They find the tombs of the Cybermen, which are storage facilities. Klieg turns on the power and revitalizes the Cybermen. They are released, including their controller.

Victoria manages to convince the pilot to open the door, everyone and the Cybermen go to the main level. But the Cybermen are run down and continuously need to be revitalized from an outside power source. Kaftan and Klieg try to use this to bargain with the Cybermen for power, it does not go well.

More or less, one by one, the expedition is killed, including first Klieg and later Kaftan. The Doctor with help from Klieg (who later dies) and Perry manage to seal the Cybermen back in their tombs. The pilot, Perry and Tobermen prepare to leave with the TARDIS crew, and the Doctor says he will seal off the installation, electrifying not only the door but the control panel and the hatch to the lower level. But one of the thought dead Cybermen revitalizes. Toberman sacrifices himself to shut the door. In the end, only the pilot and Perry escape, as well as the TARDIS crew.

“The Tomb of the Cybermen” is a great story – the sets are incredible, very big and impressive-looking. This is one of those stories where one-by-one all the guest actors are killed off (Only Perry and the pilot survive, even the co-pilot is killed by a Cyberman). The villains, other than the Cybermen, of course, are Klieg and the woman Kaftan. They are both rich, having financed the expedition together, and both want power and think the Cybermen will give it to them. This story features the Cyber-Controller, a Cyberman with a clear head covered in black vein-like designs who leads the Cybermen and both a miniature and full-sized Cybermats (which are adorable). The Cybermats are supposed to be scary and threatening, but I immediately wanted one because they are so cute! But the story is excellent, and has some truly well-designed and impressive sets, especially considering the budget.

Now on to the negatives. For no apparent reason, the pilot and co-pilot are American – and have terrible accents. The pilot, especially, sounds just like John Wayne and I just wanted to slap him every time he opened his mouth. Plus he’s not that smart. Perry, on the other hand, is smarter than many other scientists or expedition leaders we’ve seen on Doctor Who. When the first expedition member is killed – he considers leaving and is talked out of it by Klieg and Kaftan, especially after the Doctor shows up and opens the door to the Cybermen’s installation. When the second man dies, he orders everyone to leave. The only reason they don’t is Kaftan had Toberman sabotage the rocket when no one was looking. Since they can’t leave for 72 hours anyway, Perry agrees to continue their investigations. This shows remarkable common sense, and it’s not his fault the rest of his expedition dies.

Secondly, Toberman is Black and is introduced as Kaftan’s servant. He says very little and is portrayed as being remarkably strong. Basically, he’s a “strongman” stereotype. This isn’t good, at all.

Overall, you have a villain that’s a woman, and her partner, Klieg (but it’s clear Kaftan and Klieg are equal partners).

Previously, when I’ve watched this episode the scene of the Cybermen being re-frozen in their Tombs always bothered me because it’s painfully obvious they simply reversed the film. This time though I didn’t find it nearly so annoying!

Still, this is an excellent Patrick Troughton story and I highly recommend it.

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