Saturday 7 January 2023


(aka 'They Just Won't Let It Lie') 
First transmitted: September 1967
Written by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis
Plot spoilers happen!

“We know the Cybermen died out many centuries ago.” 
- Viner
“No they didn't, you daft twit!” 
–Every child in the land

Going Gothic

'Tomb of the Cybermen' is one of those iconic 'Who' stories. Iconic enough in fact for the review site 'Tomb of the Anorak' to be named in its honour. (After the immortal line “will you please see about the anoraks?”) As with its predecessor Cyberman story, 'The Moonbase’, it pushes the action forwards by setting things further in the future – in a time where the silver darlings are believed to be extinct. But it's unlike its predecessor story... well, in about every other way.

We've already seen how the show was already casting its net wider – borrowing from movies as much as other TV shows. The Cybermen's original appearance, for example, fed from both Brit TV's 'Quatermass' and Hollywood's 'The Thing From Another World'. Yet 'Tomb of the Cybermen' ups the ante and plunders a whole genre for source material.

As John McElroy wrote in his intro to the published script (Titan Books, 1989), this story “had no basis in factual science and took the team into a new genre”. Which one? That was helpfully telegraphed in the title. There's a reason why this one isn't called 'The Cryogenic Chambers of the Cybermen' or 'The Freezer Units of the Cybermen' - beyond those not being terribly snappy titles.

While 'The Moonbase' part-paved the way, this is the point where the Cybermen nudged out some mummies to fully embrace the Gothic. They don't so much borrow as strip-mine. Extensive research reveals Gothic fiction took the term from a previously existing architectural style, and titles often came from settings - as in perhaps the first Gothic novel, Walpole's 'The Castle of Otranto' (1763). And even with Walpole his first excursion into the gothic had been architectural, building Strawberry Hill. 

None of which is surprising. For, in a genre which prized mood above plot, setting was often integral. A frequent Gothic trope was to have architecture stand for psychological states; ruins for insanity, secret passages duplicity and so on. Consequently settings are commonly given as much significance as characters or plot.

And notably here the sets for the Tomb, where the story almost exclusively takes place, take on almost exactly this function. Viner, the inevitable 'canary' character whose function is to fall prey to superstition first, cries “It's this damned building! It's alive, it's watching us, it'll get us!” The surprisingly good design provides much of the story's effectiveness, giving him and the others something they can react against.

The Gothic might initially seem a strange step to take for Pedlar and Davis, whose first act had been to take the show in a more Science Fiction direction. At times described as Dark Romanticism, it originally set out to repudiate the Enlightenment, scorning the supposed advances brought by reason and scientific enquiry to revel in the supernatural. Even when Gothic tales weren't set in the past, before the over-bright illuminating light of the Enlightenment had been switched on, they demonstrated how the past never really was past. Just like the dark, it never actually went away.

Of course Gothic monsters continually erupt in SF, but normally in a more managed way. Traditionally, Science Fiction doesn't incorporate the Gothic so much as pick up the gauntlet thrown down to the Enlightenment, then counter-attack with a laser gun. The Gothic's disruption to consensus reality rises only to get slapped down by reasonable scientific explanation and techno-fixes, to become dissipated by the tale's end like shadows before the dawn. To misquote Goya, the slaughter of monsters produces reason. 

(And this was more true of the SF of this era, before 'Alien' made popular SF almost a sub-genre of horror. We've already seen how 'Quatermass and the Pit' tried to “swallow horror into SF”.)

And yet it proves itself quite a potent ingredient, for a show which was never 'proper' Science Fiction. And just as the Cyberman are part (but only part) machine, the Doctor (in his Victorian attire) is part (but only part) Gothic. When, for example, he cracks the code to open the Tombs there's little pretence that he isn't actually reciting a magic spell. (Troughton doesn't even fluff the term “integer”, it was mis-written in the script.) The electric cable he lays to keep the Cybermats at bay is also a magic circle. The Doctor is a wild card, an alien set against the aliens, the weird against weirdness.

Overall, the Gothic works in 'Who', and in SF in general, precisely because it isn't a neat fit with a clearly defined function. It works because it jars, because it disrupts. It’s like an awkward plug fitting, providing spurts of sparks rather than a smooth flow of power. In fact it works so well that it's surprising it took this long to be embraced. (Unless you count the Haunted House section of 'The Chase’. Which we don't. That was more flirtation than embrace.)

The Ungrateful Dead

Despite their protestations, locking themselves in a vault without an escape hatch might not make the Cybermen sound like the most logical of races. But it's a fitting objective correlative for their role in the story. As was first brought up in 'The Moonbase' but now comes into its own, they are the dead. The dead who will not stay dead. The length of time elapsed since the previous story allows them to pass into folklore for the human protagonists, the same role Pharaohs played in the classic Gothic. On one level, ‘Tomb’ is a successor to those folk tales about the fool who thought he could make a deal with death – and the fairly inevitable consequences which ensue.

The two conversations the Doctor has with Victoria about his age might seem like general characterisation, incidentally placed inside convenient gaps in proceedings. In fact they fully reflect this story's themes. Firstly, look at their context. As we never see inside the archaeologists' rocket ship, the Tardis becomes the only interior other than the Tomb. And, just as she does with the Tomb, Victoria sees inside the Tardis for the first time. There's even a similar emphasis on the two sets of swing-doors opening, and on her as she steps through them. The two become opposite poles.

The Doctor tells her first his age, then that he can remember his long-gone relatives “when I want to. And that's the point really: I have to really want to... the rest of the time they... they sleep in my mind and I forget.” Of course this is the dead as they are supposed to be, living on as our memories. It contrasts with the Cyber Controllers anti-nature assertion “to die is unnecessary”.

Logic plays a large part here, a surprisingly large part when you consider it’s entombed in a narrative which makes no sense whatsoever. The bad guys, who've secretly come to awake the Cybermen, are members of the Brotherhood of Logicians. Their credo is “everything yields to logic”. And of course the Gothic surroundings make this into a curse. For in Gothic tradition rational thinking is always a curse, and curiosity kills archeologists as easily as cats. When the Doctor claims “some things are better left undone”, he's virtually reciting the Gothic credo that counters the Brotherhood.

In a neat twist, the code-barriers and traps that keep the explorers out of the Tomb turn out to be filters – like aptitude tests in job interviews. The Cybermen only want the brightest and best to gain access, the choicest goods for conversion. The hypnotic target wall found by Jamie symbolises the whole Tomb. It's the place that pulls at your attention like a magnet, until you've lost control of your own will. The Cybermen are ostensibly short on power. (Though they seem to have a rejuvenator ray in that very tomb. Perhaps it’s their best one so they don't like to use it much.) But there's an equivalence between power and curiosity, as if it's human curiosity which gets them up and running around again, as vampires gain sustenance from our blood.

However, this leads on to a point where the Gothic tradition and science fiction do not spark creatively so much as bumper crash. The Doctor cries to the Logician as he opens the vault “You fool! Why couldn't you leave it alone?” Perhaps an odd thing to say, seeing as he's just helped him do that very thing. He clearly suspects the man's motives, and has surmised the Cybermen still live, yet goes along with the whole thing anyway.

There is something half full/half empty about this. Of course it has to be the Doctor who performs such a vital story function; in a genre show he has to look like the protagonist. But let's generously go with the half full side. Moments before, the same man has shown the Doctor his notepad, and the Time Lord's curiosity cannot help but be aroused. The Doctor is as caught in the honey pot as everyone else, unable to heed his own warnings. (Though we lack a scene where he expresses regret over any of this.)

As logic and science are, in the Gothic tradition, the problem it stands to reason they cannot be part of the solution. The transitional 'Moonbase' Cybermen were offed by the appliance of science. Yet this time Polly's patented anti-Cyberman recipe is quite forgotten. This time the only thing that stops them is sheer brute force. (Luckily they have a forceful brute to hand. More of that anon.) There were even complaints on broadcast at the level of violence.

Though the Gothic exists to be a disruptive force its at root a conservative genre – quite literally, it wants to make things how they were. Inject it here and you turn everything almost completely upside down. In 'The Moonbase' its unquestioned that humans should have built the base and controlled the world's weather. It's just unlucky the Cybermen show up to misuse them. While in 'Tomb' the archeological expedition, before even asking whether it should have accepted funding from such shady sources, should never have set out. The rocket should not have landed, or even taken off from wherever it came from. Everyone should have stayed home and closed the curtains. The dead should have been left to lie, all doors left unopened. Just accept things as they are.

But of course, the Gothic appropriations tell only part of the story. The Gothic intrudes, but doesn't entirely over-write. The 'Tenth Planet' Cybermen, the Cybermen created to exemplify the growing influence of the machine, do not entirely go away or yield to their successors. While in 'meaning' terms the new Gothic might dilute the clarity of their earlier appearance, in story terms combining the two ingredients makes for a more-potent cocktail. The Cybermen become both undeath and unlife, the dead who won't stay down and the revolt of the machines.

And where the two unite is in the Cyberman motifs that fill the tomb walls (example above). For almost half the running time that's all we see of the buggers, but the story is made more effective for that. As described in the script, “the unchanging faces of the Cyberman motifs stare down at them from the walls” - and it serves to steep the atmosphere. It's the King's seal, the sign that proves we are in his domain, but at the same time the corporate brand. And both draw their power from the force of repetition, seen until they become both ubiquitous and near-subliminal. And have not corporate brands replaced Kings' seals, occupying our lives so prevalently that we stop noticing they are there?

This uniting is also exemplified by the much-celebrated bravura sequence of the Cybermen's emergence, their hatching mixing the organic with the metallic. They are literally switched on, by the pulling of a lever. But the dialogue also likens them to drone bees in a honeycomb, clustering round the Cyber Controller as their Queen.

The Return of the Living Racists

If there is less taken from 'Quatermass' than previous Cyber-instalments, there's something else borrowed from Nigel Kneale – the 1957 Hammer film 'The Abominable Snowman'. Kneale's interest lies less in the elusive Yeti themselves than in the varying motivations of the expedition members. Essentially, the British scientists are contrasted against the American financiers, one group wanting to study the creatures, the other to capture one and put it on show for bucks. It's a morality play, almost a kind of Tibetan pilgrimage, in which these different motivations lead to very different outcomes.

Pedler and Davis take this scenario, but split the American party into two. One group essentially become the military, the rocket ship crew who remain off-stage for much of the running time. (They mostly work like the cavalry in reverse, buggering off at the first sign of trouble.) But there's a third group, who (following Kneale) have financed the expedition for their own ends. Except what had been petty-minded greed here becomes lust for power. And, most infamously, instead of Americans - they’re now all non-white.

Hence the ongoing debate over whether this story is racist. Though quite why there has to be one is a bit of a mystery. Let's spell out what should be obvious. I do not imagine... I shouldn't think anybody is imagining that Pedler and Davis were secret white hood wearers determined to port their supremacist agenda onto teatime TV. The racism is almost certainly unthinking. Some have tried to use this as some sort of defence, as if unthinkingness exonerates the unthinking. It doesn't. It's not the intent that makes racism racist. It's the racism that makes racism racist.

What's more its sweepingly racist. Klieg and Kaftan (yes, really, Kaftan, see above) are some unspecified form of Arabic or Asian. (Kaftan, see above, is introduced in the script as “a dark-haired Middle-Eastern woman”.) As if that were not enough, they're then given a giant, monosyllabic black “manservant” - Toberman. Whose main duty seems to be to impose. (Though he branches out into a bit of lurking every now and then.) Why offend someone when you can just offend everybody?

And as for the widespread fannish defence that 'Tomb' was merely “of it's time”... This airy excuse ignores that these episodes were broadcast in 1967, where (just one example) the Black Panthers had formed the previous year. Who were both aware of racism and opposed to it, as I recall. But not only do these blithe references to “the past” blindly disregard any actual consideration of those times, not only do they ignore previous developments in 'Doctor Who', they even ignore previous developments in 'Doctor Who' made by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis!

Of course, we've already seen how both their previous Cyberman stories indulging in ludicrously stereotyped Frenchies and Italians. Of course, they took the 'Star Trek' supposition about pluralism – that in the future we're all be past racism, but someone British or American will naturally remain in charge.

Perhaps you could even argue that this was a reconsolidation of power, a tactical retreat in the face of Civil Rights demands. (“Okay, you can have one black woman aboard. But she just does the phones, okay?”) But this is where the phrase “of it's time” can be used genuinely - in those times such baby steps arguably were advances. And when even so limited advances are followed by a 'don't trust the darkies' plotline, we've gone from “I have a dream” to “still stuck in the same nightmare” in one easy trip.

Comments on the storyline's racism normally focus on Toberman, a stereotype almost the gargantuan size of the actor playing him. And this may initially seem the most egregious example. But the depiction of Klieg and Kaftan, if less in your face, is actually worse. For they mark the point where the storyline breaks most from its Gothic inheritance. And its at that point the story loses even its threadbare semi-defence of merely regurgitating racist cliches, of reflecting outdated notions past their sell-by.

In Gothic fiction, Arabs would have been custodians of the Tomb. They might have died loyal deaths, fled in superstitious fear or treacherously set the party up for undead ambush. But in all those roles they would have seen those reawakened tomb dwellers as their natural masters. The old Gothic narrative of great immortal kings served by successive eras of retainers, like an earthbased equivalent to a generation starship, at least paid ancient civilisations some kind of compliment. The most backhanded of compliments, true, but a compliment nonetheless. To misquote the Wu-Tang Clan, that Ancient Egypt ain't nuthin' ta fuck with.

But 'Tomb' arose in a post-imperial era, so they get their roles reassigned. The Suez crisis had been a generation before, but the show was still broadcast to the country it had changed. In which the new African and Asian nations were endlessly presented as the upstarts of the world stage, destabilising influences, dissatisfied with the constraints of merely formal independence and now ungratefully after some actual agency. This is the moment of truth in the “of its time” defence. Yes, the racism is of its time and not some completely different time. They’re right. But they’re describing a racism they imagine they’re exonerating.

And how do Klieg and Kaftan try to establish this agency? With money. Their role in funding the expedition, and their belief this puts them in charge, is established almost straight away. Kaftan's offer of a cash bonus leads someone to rush into becoming the first fatality. It gets almost endlessly reiterated after that, in ructions with reassuringly well-spoken and white-skinned expedition leader Parry. (A direct successor to Doctor Barclay in 'The Tenth Planet'.) The script also states that Kaftan “speaks with an almost aristocratic air,” and you've probably already guessed which word I'm focusing on there.

True, this in some ways does go back to Victorian fiction, where heroes were decent sorts from noble birth, adventurers unshackled to day jobs. The aristocratic Doctor himself is an inheritor of this tradition, an inheritance which allows him to continue his personal adventures without Parry's need for backers.

Whereas, what was the Asian stereotype of the day? Of course it was the shopkeeper, the pennywise small businessman, the avaricious bean-counter. Money was at this time often seen like some equivalent of the psychic paper in later 'Who', getting people in positions where they had no natural right to be. Here, some quite contemporary ingredients are being used to thicken that old recipe for Gothic racist stew. And they sour an already unpalatable taste.

In short, Klieg and Kaftan's lust for power is predicated upon their being people in whom power would not naturally reside. So they attempt the unnatural, they try to usurp power. And after they've given up flashing money, they appropriate a Cyber-gun. Indeed, there's almost an equivalence found between the two. (“I am invulnerable with this. I shall be the master!”)

This isn't the earlier poster image of all countries pulling together, to staff scientific bases on the moon. This is the impoverished nations of Africa and Asia trying to escape Western domination by running to the only other show in town, the Soviets, and realising too late they've stepped into a still-deeper tar pit. (“You belong to us,” the Cybermen flatly tell them. “You will be like us.”) In this analogy the Cyber-gun would of course be the Bomb, the short-cut to getting noticed on the world stage. (“Now they will have to listen,” exults Klieg.)

It’s important not to take these two readings of the story – a metaphysical tale of how we face death and a geopolitical analogy – as rival or even separate explanations. Instead, each is effectively catalysed by the other. Many of the story elements resemble the vastly inferior ‘Daleks’ Master Plan’. The alliance hopelessly reliant on honour among thieves, the MacGuffin as bomb analogy. But the Daleks of ‘Master Plan’ are merely the baddest of a bad lot. The Cybermen of ‘Tomb' are a whole other thing, clearly beyond their ostensible allies.

Similarly, parables about death are so universal they can feel removed. You can’t bargain with death to just strike down your enemies, of course you can’t, it would be like trying to reason with a storm. Compounding them with a political analogy, giving characters the drive and fanaticism to pursue such a thing, it gives the theme a purchase in our lives.

And yet other elements undermine that reading. For one thing, as we've seen, the closer you get to them the less the Cybermen look like stand-in Reds. Moreover, for it to work Klieg and Kaftan would have to be the poor relations of the expedition, Cinderellas awaiting their chance to shine. But it's almost the opposite. The script gives them power solely to suggest they shouldn't really be holding it. Instead of being the servants they, and they alone, have a servant. (See how they’re willing to exploit the labour-power of black people. Why, they aren't like us at all...)

If they're like anything from the Third World they're like the elites of those countries, demonised for doing what the First and Second Worlds do routinely, just on a smaller and more immediate scale. Their problem is that the Cybermen are more like them than they are, more ruthlessly driven by the pursuit of logic and power.

Which leads to an interesting element to this story, which further derails the notion that its racism is in any way incidental. While the Cybermen hog the title, and clearly are more monstrous, its Klieg and Kaftan who are the actual villains. Kaftan suggests early they split up to shadow the Doctor and his companions, and in many ways they become those shadows. The megalomaniac Klieg is the opposite of the wise but softly spoken Doctor, whose MO is “keeping my eyes open and my mouth shut”. Notably, that staple 'Who' scene, the clash-of-values conversation the Doctor has with evil, is held with Klieg rather than the Cyber Controller.

Kaftan, meanwhile, is cunning and alluringly duplicitous against Victoria's wide-eyed innocence and trust. While for their part the Cybermen become almost like the shadows to Klieg and Kaftan. When they are inevitably killed by the Cybermen, it’s almost literally their own greed and arrogance killing them – merely given humanoid form.

While Toberman (above) is strong like Jamie only more so. But then Toberman is different all round...

Toberman's status as a servant, the fact that formally speaking he has no agency, ironically gives him a unique significance in the story. While Klieg and Kaftan's role has been to get everyone deeper in trouble, he revolts against his Cyber-conditioning to get them out of it. Most commenters see this as stemming from their killing Kaftan, his “mistress”, rather than over the conversion thing they've done to him.

More worryingly still, it also seems to stem from the Doctor's urging. He's told “they've tried to make you their slave”, as if something different was happening before. He even repeats the Doctor's words as if in some hypnotic trance (“Evil!... Destroyed!”), as if he's less being de-conditioned than re-conditioned. Which of course leaves us with that hoary old cliché of a black man sacrificing himself for some nice white folks, because he's been told to. How noble, how heroic. How fortunate it didn't have to be to one of us.

Nevertheless, there is one aspect to all this which, while continuing to foreground Toberman as someone black, is perhaps less problematic. As mentioned earlier, even in their new Gothic incarnation the Cybermen still represent the power of the machine. And Toberman is the only character in the story to suffer conversion. As Tomb of the Anorak points out, he has a name only two letters away from 'Cyberman'.

His climactic fight with the Cyber Controller, his wrecking of the control panels, in some ways recalls Frankenstein's rebellious Creature. This comparison of course underpins the racist notion – perhaps the ultimate racist notion – that he's somehow less human. Yet it also recalls John Henry, the strong black labourer who raced against a steel drill, a machine built to do a man's job, and died in victory. Here the steel drill is merely given humanoid form.

Notably, virtually the final shot is of Toberman lying dead on the ground, while the Cyberman icon remains on the upright tomb doors. (The only place where the icon is a full figure.) It's the brand, the exemplifier of the machine, which remains. The Cybermen aren't dead, because they can’t be, the Doctor's merely switched them back into stand-by mode.

Admittedly, when considering the racism, it should be conceded no-one here gets what you'd call a developed part. If the Gothic showed an interest in human psychology it zeroed in on flaws and rarely attempted anything approaching characterisation. Mostly what we get served here are stereotypes, you know pretty much everything about everyone from their first scene. There's no development, rites of passage, character 'journeys' or anything remotely similar. The situation at the end is almost the very same as at the beginning, except that more people are dead.

This doesn't matter so much for the story-specific guest cast. But Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling struggle with badly underwritten parts for both Jamie and Victoria. In one particularly absurd scene, Victoria obligingly steps into a death trap of her own accord. (Will there be a future episode where she offers to tie herself to a railway line? “Which knots would you like me to use, Doctor?”)

As alluded to earlier, even the introductory scenes for Victoria tend to really be about the Doctor. And by this point, conversely to all else, Troughton is taking to his role as the Doctor with relish, dominating every scene without ever seeming to. And he has one line which seems his disruptive credo - “the best thing about a machine that makes sense is you can very easily make it turn out nonsense”. It's almost an exact inversion of Klieg's “everything yields to logic”. Perhaps ultimately that's what the Doctor managed to do to science fiction, take one of the most post-Enlightenment of genres and switch its lights off.

When Good Art Turns Bad

Truth to tell, when something is this racist it grates more than a little to simultaneously be saying how nice the set design is. Yet when good art has bad content we do need some variant on the old saying “hate the sin, love the sinner”. The racism cannot be overlooked, explained away or excused, and those that try are part of the problem. But at the same time the racism is not the sum total of the episodes. How can it coexist with the things we may want to engage with?

There is a an argument most often made in bad faith, but is at root genuine. If we airbrush away all from the past that now seems unsightly to us, we will be sanitising the past. We’ll be lying to ourselves, and worse - we will leave ourselves unable to see how far we have come, which only increases the risk of our falling back. There’s a balance to be struck. We don’t want ’Birth of a Nation’ broadcast to tots at teatime. But neither can we pretend that such a thing was never made.

In short, how do we react when good art turns bad? Perhaps George Orwell has some answers. Let's turn to his 1944 essay 'Benefit of Clergy' on the then-shocking art of Salvador Dali...

“It will be seen that what the defenders of Dali are claiming is a kind of benefit of clergy. The artist is to be exempt from the moral laws that are binding on ordinary people… So long as you can paint well enough to pass the test, all shall be forgiven you.”

...which is hopefully a point of general agreement. But Orwell continues...

“Not, of course, that Dali… ought to be suppressed… it is doubtful policy to suppress anything, and Dali's fantasies probably cast useful light on the decay of capitalist civilisation… He is a symptom of the world's illness. The important thing is not to denounce him as a cad who ought to be horsewhipped, or to defend him as a genius who ought not to be questioned, but to find out why he exhibits that particular set of aberrations.” 

The comparison is of course inexact. Despite the widespread wailing about ‘cancel culture’ no-one to my knowledge has suggested DVDs of ‘Tomb’ should be burnt. And unlike Dali’s carefully calculated outrage, the truly shocking thing about ‘Tomb’ is that it seems to regard its racism as perfectly unremarkable. But the comparison is there.

The route out of this impasse lies in that phrase “a symptom of the world’s illness”. ’Tomb of the Cybermen’ is a symptom of the world’s illness. And symptoms are useful to Doctors. We should worry less about what it tells us about Pedler and Davis and more about what it tells us of late Sixties British society. In short we should be taking the “of-it’s-time” defence and reversing it, turning it from a supposed shut-down into the starting point of our enquiry. How could such a thing be made at this time? Did no-one see the problems? Did audiences not object?

One possible weakness of this approach is that it is self-selecting. We are scarcely likely to start spending our spare time watching old episodes of ‘The Black and White Minstrel Show’, just to assess their role as cultural barometers. But what might be a weakness might also be an advantage.

The really remarkable thing about ‘Tomb’ is how much it jars against the Whoniverse’s self-image, which extends into the self-image of it’s fans. (Hence of course the widespread disavowals.) It’s precisely because Pedler and Davis elsewhere exhibited relatively progressive views that they exacerbate the ire in some and the excuse reflex in others. But more pertinently it tells us something about the extent of casual racism in late Sixties Britain, that it had not retreated to retrograde elements – it could still hide in plain sight.

And, rather than be a problem to overcome, in many ways this lays out what is interesting about 'Doctor Who'. Of course huge swathes of what is nominally SF merely transpose the tropes of colonial fiction into a new setting – troublesome dark tribesmen becoming equally troublesome green skins. It's just to be expected. You could point it out with your eyes closed.

But 'Who', a product of the 'enlightened' BBC, was always implicitly promising to do better than that. So it follows that its limits and inconsistencies will form a rough and ready map of the limits and inconsistencies of the contemporary liberal mind. Not to crow at their imperfections. Still less to try and outdo one another in after-the-fact indignation. But to navigate the past by that map.

So the racism is a fairly hefty hurdle to get over. Mileage may vary on it. If you do manage to get past that, then this story does genuinely become something of a classic. Pedler and Davis's stories can often feel the epitome of early 'Who', simultaneously iconic and absurd, inventive and cliched. Looked at functionally, the plot is really a whole lot of running around, in which rather predictable people do rather predictable things in order to push everything along. (The Doctor manages to be both predictable and inconsistent, surely some triumph.) But that might well be the frame rather than the picture.

What you remember is the set-pieces and images, which gain a resonance that rises above all of that. Perhaps what most epitomises this story is that no new music was recorded for it. Yet the 'Space Adventure' Cyber-theme is so best matched to the awakening Cybermen, that it always feels as if it must have been purposely written for it. It's the sequence of the Troughton Cybermen. Overall, by Gothing up the Cybermen, Pedler and Davis gave them an endurance and longevity they would never otherwise have possessed. While the show itself would return to the Gothic again and again.

No comments:

Post a Comment