Doctor Who – The Invasion Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Invasion
  • Story #: 46
  • Episodes: 8 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 11/02/1968 – 12/21/1968
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury, Nicholas Courtney, John Levene
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“He’s a ruthless man, without moral or principles, his object is to get complete control of the electronics industry of the world.” – Professor Watkins describing Vaughn

“Now all I need is my cameras from the house and I’m all set.” – Isobel
“Now wait a minute, this is hardly a job for you.” – The Brigadier
“Why ever not?” – Isobel
“Well, you’re a young woman. This is a job for my men.” – The Brigadier
“Of all the bigoted, anti-feminist, cretinist remarks.” – Isobel
“This is no job for a girl like you. Now that’s final!” – The Brigadier
“Oh, you men!” – Isobel

“I’m sorry, Doctor, but I think those crazy kids have gone off to the sewers to get photographs of the Cybermen!” – the Brigadier

“The Invasion” is eight half-hour parts, spread over two DVDs (parts 1-4 on DVD 1 and parts 5-8 on DVD 2), and it feels really long. Parts 1 and 4 are animation and the rest are the original film/video. There is some very nice monochrome animation here, especially the shading. This story brings back Col. Lethbridge-Stewart, now Brigadier, and introduces Sgt. Benton and UNIT. The titular invasion is the Cybermen, working for Tobias Vaughn of International Electromatics.

Although “The Invasion” is long, and at times a bit clunky (there is a lot of our team getting split up, captured, escaping, comparing notes etc) what the story seems to be, more than anything, is a pilot for the early Jon Pertwee years when the Doctor is stranded on Earth and working for UNIT to stop alien invasions and plots week after week. That’s not a bad thing, or a criticism – but the long length, the modern-day on Earth setting, the invading force, the human in league with aliens – all of that will become very, very familiar in future years (and even in modern New Who it’s a pattern that’s followed occasionally).

The TARDIS is in space on the Dark Side of the Moon when a missile nearly hits forcing the Doctor to materialize – he does, and finds out he is on Earth, in “The Community” a network of factories, living quarters, hospitals and stores, where everything is owned by International Electromatics. Anyone not working for “The Company” is exiled. And the company’s security forces use lethal force against anyone they perceive is breaking company rules, regulations or policies. The Doctor and TARDIS crew are smuggled off corporation property, by a man we learn much, much, much later is an undercover UNIT operative. Although the Doctor doesn’t realise it, the man who helped him is killed by IE security troopers. The Doctor and company then catch a lift to London.

In London, they go to Professor Travers’ house hoping to replace or repair some damaged TARDIS components, only to meet Isobel, a flighty photgrapher. Isobel’s uncle is Professor Watkins, a friend of Travers’ (who has moved to the US). Isobel states both that she thinks her uncle could help, and that he’s working for IE and she hasn’t seen him for a while. Zoë poses as a model for Isobel and the Doctor and Jaime head to International Electromatics to find Professor Watkins. And thus begins a very long story.

The first four episodes are really focused on IE – who are they? Who is their mysterious manager-controller, Vaughn? Just what are they doing? And are they more than an autocratic electronics firm? The Doctor and Jaime meet Vaughn and the Doctor senses something is wrong with him. They meet Professor Watkins, and also run in to the Brigadier and UNIT – who are also investigating IE (it seems people go in but never come out, or they come out oddly changed). But because the Doctor and Jaime run in to UNIT they are away for a long time. Zoë and Isobel decide to try to find out what is going on themselves – and Zoë feeds an impossible equation to the reception computer, causing it to blow up. they are arrested by Vaughn’s private troopers and locked up. In episode 4, the Brigadier organizes a helicopter and the Doctor and Jaime perform a daring rescue. This is one of the animated episodes, unfortunately, but it’s still impressive. It’s also Jaime who discovers some crates in the warehouse on IE property actually contain Cybermen!

The second half of the story is a Cybermen story. Vaughn is working with the Cybermen, but plans on betraying him, leaving himself sole dictator of the entire world. The Cybermen have a ship in space, capable of launching ships and bombs at the Earth. They also have a hidden army in Vaughn’s facilities. But also, for some reason, they are planning on using mind control to take over Earth. They have a beam that can debilitate and control people that is amplified by the micro circuitry in all of International Electromatics products. So episodes 5-8 are really an elaborate chess game between Vaughn and the Cybermen on the one side, and the Doctor and UNIT on the other. UNIT is able to conveniently order attacks (such as one on a prison convoy that frees Professor Watkins), and work with other nations (they have the Russians launch missiles to destroy the Cyber fleet and later knock out a massive cyber bomb and the Cyberman mother ship.)

Some aspects of this story are impressive: the helicopter rescue, the Cybermen walking down the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the fight in the sewers. But others really show the show’s lack of money (Isobel and Zoë are jailed by IE and disappear for a few episodes; Jaime is injured during the fight in the tunnels with the Cybermen – and does the same thing, etc.), the UNIT men discuss attacking the IE convey, later we see Vaughn’s head security goon reporting the attack and that UNIT made off with Watkins, and we see him reuniting with Isobel – but we don’t see the attack itself. But in a way, we don’t need to – your mind fills in the gaps, and Doctor Who shows it’s stylistic roots in British theatre.

“The Invasion” is a good story, but like most Doctor Who episodes that are longer than six parts, it just feels long, and like it needed a good once over by the editor’s pen. If it was tightened-up to even six episodes instead of eight – it would be a great episode. The animation for parts one and four is good, and I think this is one of the first if not the first story to be released on DVD with animation reconstructing the original episodes that were missing. Recommended.

Both disc 1 and disc 2 have special features as well as the actual episodes.

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Doctor Who – The Web of Fear Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Web of Fear
  • Story #: 41
  • Episodes: 6 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 02/03/1968 – 03/09/1968
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling, Nicholas Courtney
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“Web of Fear”, like “Enemy of the World” is one of two stories that was found in 2013, but whereas “The Enemy of the World” was even better than expected, “Web of Fear” is somewhat disappointing. Episodes 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 are the original black and white film/video episodes. Episode 3 is a telesnap reconstruction. There are no special features on the disc, except a trailer for “The Enemy of the World”. However, the film and video were beautifully restored and the episodes do look really good.

The story opens where we left off at the end of “The Enemy of the World”, with the TARDIS door open. Jaime is able to force the doors shut. Victoria shows off her new outfit, which looks awful – she looks like a Native American “princess”, complete with beads, the outfit is distracting throughout the story because it doesn’t fit at all with her character. Jaime points out the flashing light indicating the TARDIS has landed, but the Doctor insists they are still in flight. Victoria later points out the same thing. Checking the scanner the Doctor finds that the TARDIS is hovering in space. It’s caught by some sort of web. The Doctor frees the TARDIS with some gadgetry and they land.

The TARDIS crew exits the TARDIS and discovers they are in a subway tunnel (the London underground) but everything seems to be abandoned and even the electricity in the rails is turned off. Jaime and Victoria head one way and the Doctor heads a different way. Jaime and Victoria are picked up by some soldiers, taken to HQ and interrogated. When asked if there is anyone else in the tunnels, Jaime insists there isn’t – so the soldiers blow-up the tunnels, but the explosion never goes off.

Jaime insists the Doctor was in the tunnels as soon as he hears about the planned demolition. Soldiers are sent to look for the Doctor. Meanwhile, Professor Travers and his daughter, Anne, arrive. Victoria recognizes the Professor immediately from their previous adventure in Tibet. Travers soon recognizes her and Jaime as well, though he’s surprised they are no older (the previous adventure was in 1935 – 40 years ago, meaning this adventure actually takes place in 1975), Travers concludes the Doctor was telling the truth about being able to travel in time.

The Doctor meets Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart in the tunnels (a character we will come to know as the Brigadier) and they return to HQ, athough, along the way, several of the soldiers die.

From here on in “Web of Fear” gets a little confusing – the Doctor doesn’t take over or even make suggestions for defeating “the menace”. The soldiers go back and forth from the tunnels to HQ to the tunnels – with more men dying each time. The fungus or web that the Yeti create with pyramid-shaped hand guns advances down the tunnels, trapping the soldiers and everyone else in HQ. By episode 6, even HQ is engulfed in the stuff. After they are trapped by the fungus, Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart learns that the Doctor has a craft and he can get everyone out – but the TARDIS is stuck at Covent Garden. The Colonel leads the rest of the soldiers above ground, in an attempt to get the TARDIS from the other side. They are all annihilated by the Yeti. While the colonel leads his fruitless mission, the Doctor also heads above ground to a store house to get electronic parts. The soldier guarding him is killed. The Doctor makes it back to the lab.

The Yeti kidnap Professor Travers and Victoria, and deliver an ultimatum to the few survivors – turn over the Doctor in 20 minutes, or else. The Doctor and Anne Travers, a scientist work on getting the control box and sphere working so that they can control a Yeti (they succeed, but tell Col. Lethbridge-Stewart they failed, since he could be working for the Intelligence).

Again, various parties head into the tunnels – to scout, to try and find Victoria and Travers, etc. They meet Evans – a Welsh soldier who had been the driver of an ill-fated truckload of munitions (the soldiers were killed and the supplies destroyed by the Yeti). Evans, who first appears in the first or second episode, is portrayed as dumb and a coward. Every chance he gets he tries to run off – only to get lost and turn-up again. They also encounter Staff Sgt. Arnold, a good man and a good soldier, presumed lost in the mission to recover the Doctor’s TARDIS. Finally, they encounter Chorley, a journalist, who had run off at some point – only to get lost in the tunnels. Anne and the Doctor are able to take control of a Yeti but don’t tell anyone. The Doctor gives the control microphone to Jaime.

Everyone goes to the Yeti’s hideout at Piccadilly Circus. Anne is happy to see her father is unharmed, and Jaime is glad to see Victoria is all right. The Doctor agrees to give himself up, and gets in the Intelligence’s machine which will drain his brain. Jaime however uses the microphone to send the Yeti he controls in and attacks the other Yeti, then destroys the Intelligence’s machine.

The Doctor is genuinely upset though, he had reversed the settings on the machine, so instead of it draining him, he would drain the Intelligence. Further, he knows the Intelligence will escape, and again be formless cloud in space. The TARDIS crew leaves – heading through the tunnels to the TARDIS.

“Web of Fear” is a bit disappointing. The Yeti, though not as roly-poly as in the surviving footage from “The Abominable Snowmen” are still not that threatening, with a rolling gait that seems to be very slow. Their attacks are not precise either, and often, the soldiers appear to be throwing themselves at the Yeti rather than actually being caught. Most of the plot involves various people going from the HQ to the tunnels on pointless missions and then either dying or going back to HQ having accomplished nothing. When the Colonel leads the mission above ground, not only is it pointless because everyone dies – but one really has to wonder why he took the risk in the first place. Yes, the few survivors needed to escape – but why not just lead everyone above ground and run like heck? Instead, the Colonel instantly believes the Doctor has a time-space craft that will rescue them all so he risks everything and every one to get to it. Later on, when the Brigadier had known the Doctor for years and several regenerations, this would have made sense – but it makes no sense when they have just met.

Most of the extra characters die in this story, especially the soldiers, though Anne, Travers, Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, Chorley, and Evans survive. Staff Sgt. Arnold had died on that earlier mission, when they encounter him it’s only his corpse, animated by the Intelligence. When the Intelligence speaks through Professor Travers, a communication box, and finally Arnold – it is spooky, but this story doesn’t have the tension of a “who is working with the Intelligence” plot it should. People mention it, but it doesn’t feel like a real threat or as paranoid as it should.

Overall, “Web of Fear” is a pretty standard story, I’d give it a 3 out of 5. It’s not helped by a telesnap-only reconstruction in the middle. With 5 out of 6 episodes of the story remaining, it’s a good candidate for animated reconstruction, and it might improve the story a bit (Part 3 is very confusing.) I don’t normally re-buy things I own, but if a special edition came out with animation and special features, I would purchase it.

 

Book Review – Doctor Who: Old Soldiers

  • Title: Old Soldiers
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: James Swallow
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, Third Doctor
  • Cast: Nicholas Courtney, Toby Longworth
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/04/2014

The Big Finish Companion Chronicles is fast becoming one of my favorite lines published by Big Finish. They are not full audio plays like most Big Finish Productions, but rather narrated stories by the Doctor’s companions, in this case, Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, with Toby Longworth performing the part of Konrad Schrader. Having two actors almost turns this into a two-handed play, but much of the story is narrated rather than performed. There are some effects, but not as many as in a full audio play. However, the Companion Chronicles format allows for stories featuring previous Doctors. This is a story of the Third Doctor (played on Doctor Who by Jon Pertwee) and his companion, the Brigadier. It takes place shortly after The Silurians.

The story involves an old friend of the Brigadier’s, who’s now a commander at a UNIT base in Germany. He sends a desperate message for help to the Brigadier. When the Brigadier arrives, he find his friend extremely ill, a commandant in charge who’s a bit of an idiot, and an honest-to-goodness haunted German castle. And the ghosts – are armed.

It’s a good story. The only thing that prevents me from giving this a perfect 5 stars is that I found the very end a bit depressing. It made sense but it was still a tad depressing.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com

Click this link to order Old Soldiers on download or CD.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!