Doctor Who: Revisitations 3: Part1 (UK - DVD R2)
The Wilson Bros dig up the classic Troughton story, Tomb of the Cybermen
Fresh from seeing the Daleks meet their "final end", The Doctor (Patrick Troughton), Jamie (Fraser Hines) and new TARDIS crewmember, Victoria (Deborah Watling) find themselves on the planet of Telos, where an where a team of archaeologists from Earth, led by Professor Parry (Aubrey Richards) are on an expedition to find the legendary tomb of the Cybermen, but the motivations of one or two members of the team will put not only the lives of the rest of the expedition in danger, but also those of the TARDIS crew and ultimately many worlds in many galaxies if the Cybermen are released from their cryogenic slumber...
Patrick Troughton's time during Doctor Who had fared particularly badly when it came to the junking of episodes, meaning that master-tapes had been wiped by the BBC and that none of the film prints sold to foreign territories had been returned. One would have assumed that because William Hartnell's time came before Troughton, the archive of his stories would have been more complete than those of his successor, but this was certainly not the case. Until the early nineties, Troughton's 1967 epic, Tomb of the Cybermen, was one of five stories from his tenure that were completely missing, as with all of the missing episodes, the audio still existed and had been circulating amongst Doctor Who fans for years, building up a mystique all it's own - it's safe to say that only Fury From the Deep surpassed Tomb of the Cybermen in terms of fan adulation based upon the surviving audio.
Sometimes, miraculous things can happen. In late 1991, Hong Kong-based television company, ATV, returned prints of all four episodes of Tomb of the Cybermen to the BBC - it was the last time a whole story was returned and will probably never happen again. Many Doctor Who fans who were too young to see the original broadcast (or weren't even born when it first went out) were finally able to watch this Patrick Troughton epic in all its glory...
Patrick Troughton is wonderful in this story, not only showing his commanding presence when trying to impress upon the group that trying to get into bed with the Cybermen is a really silly thing to do, but also showing a touching paternal side when comforting new companion, Victoria starts to dwell upon her recently-deceased father. He even gives some tantalising little hints about his own family and how he remembers them - it's a beautifully-written and performed scene, as The Doctor and Victoria bond over their shared loss. Oh, and the fact that Troughton wears a very fetching black cloak in this story and lending him a more commanding air than usual is also works in his favour.
Fraser Hines is as good as ever, displaying all of the chemistry he had with Troughton, and developing a close bond with Deborah Watling; Jamie McCrimmon can be looked upon as one of the definitive companions in Doctor Who, as he was Patrick Troughton's constant companion - apart from one story - during his time on Doctor Who in the sixties. Simply being around most of the time isn't enough for Hines to be looked upon as the definitive companion; Hines imbued the character of Jamie with many different qualities, including more than his fair share of bravery, not to mention being chivalrous to the female members of the TARDIS crew. Jamie also served as the butt of some jokes regarding his intelligence and social sophistication (or lack thereof), but it's simply that Jamie McCrimmon comes from a time long before the mid 20th century and such cultural and developmental shortcomings are to be expected. Having another companion from quite so far back in time before the 20th century was something of a gamble, coming so comparatively closely after the disaster that was Katerina, but it ultimately paid off.
This was only Deborah Watling's second story - and her first as a proper member of the TARDIS crew - but she fits in rather nicely and the chemistry that she shares with Troughton and Hines is immediately apparent. Padbury also gets to share what is one of the most touching and well-played scenes that Doctor Who produced in the late sixties, with The Doctor and Victoria speaking about their families and their personal losses; both actors are wonderful, with Troughton shedding a little more light on his enigmatic character and endearing him to an audience more than ever.
George Pastell was an actor who had made a career playing "funny foreigner" types in television shows, such as The Saint and The Avengers, not to mention appearing in the odd quickie by Butcher's Films - also playing "funny foreigner" types, as Butcher's loved to include Middle Eastern intrigue in many of their films. Here he is Kleig, cunning and ruthless member of the expedition who, along with the equally cold-blooded Kaftan (Shirley Cooklin), seeks to pervert the reasons of the expedition for their own ends. Pastell and Cooklin made for a great villainous duo, as they scheme and plot behind the backs of the more noble members of the group. Like many megalomaniacal villains in Doctor Who, their belief that trying to make a deal or control evil forces such as the Cybermen or the Daleks is doomed to failure and - much like the reign of an alpha-male in a group of primates - rarely ends without a bloodthirsty demise.
Worth noting here is that Tomb of the Cybermen features the first appearance of the Cyber Controller; literally standing head and shoulders above the other silver residents of the tombs on Telos, the Cyber Controller has a similar-yet-different design to the others and the visible organic matter in his glass cranium literally shows that he is the brains of the outfit. Actor Michael Kilgarriff would later return to the role in the Colin Baker story, Attack of the Cybermen, but sadly the intervening couple of decades took its toll on Kilgarriff's waistline and his appearance in that story led to fans taking inspiration from the writings of the Reverent V W Awdry and referring to him as The Fat Controller...
One of the problems that the Cyberman had around this period was that they were pretty hard to understand; the electronic gadget used to distort the voices of actors were such that words could be not fully sounded out and the result was something that was on the borderline of being unintelligible. Though what was heard in the earlier Cybermen stories in Troughton's era was fairly hard to make out, it was certainly a step up from the bizarre Zippy-like timbre of the Cybermen in William Hartnell's swansong, The Tenth Planet. The Cybermen were in a constant state of evolution during Troughton's time as The Doctor and Tomb of the Cybermen showed them in a mid-way period of their development, starting to look somewhat sleeker, but still with many of the remnants of their first encounter with the Second Doctor during The Moonbase - if we were to pick our favourite incarnation of the Cybermen, we'd say that it had to be the ones seen during The Invasion, as they look so damn cool in that story.
There have been accusations of racist stereotyping in Tomb of the Cybermen - the Cybermen can't help being silver, they were born that way and we're sure that they wouldn't want to change that. Seriously, the character of Toberman (Roy Stewart) is essentially Kaftan's muscle, but eventually sees the evil in her employer and decides to do the right thing at a crucial moment. What is interesting is that the previous story, Evil of the Daleks, also featured an almost mute, dark-skinned heavy that is initially a threat but becomes an ally only to sacrifice himself near the end of the story; it's pretty strange that story editor Victor Pemberton didn't pick up on this and ensure that two such similar characters/story devices weren't used so close together. For what it's worth, we think that such characters aren't necessarily racist, as both Toberman in this story and Kemmel (Sonny Caldinez) from Evil of the Daleks were essentially positive and shows that that the capacity for good (and even the concept of self-sacrifice for the greater good) can exist in anyone. We just think if you want to put labels on such characters, we'd use "clichéd" and "stereotypical".
As mentioned earlier, the rediscovery of this story allowed many fans, who had previously only heard the audio of it - courtesy of the die-hard fans who were armed with tape recorders during the original broadcasts - and for many, the images that the atmospheric soundtrack created in their minds were far more potent that the ones that the BBC were able to muster back in 1967 and quite a number of these fans actually wish that the tapes of Tomb of the Cybermen had remained missing. We strongly disagree with this opinion, as the ambitious script is realised pretty damn well by the production designer. There a couple of questionable parts, such as the use of stop-motion animation to depict the tombs freezing and unfreezing, the all-too-obvious dummy as Toberman picks up the Cyber-Controller and one or two other things, but these are only minor criticisms - Doctor Who has rarely produced a flawless story in terms of production values, so Tomb of the Cybermen is no worse in that respect. Irrespective of some of the gaffes, there is bags of atmosphere as the Doctor and the others enter the eerie tombs, and our first experience of watching this story occurred many moons ago in the early hours of Sunday morning on UKGold and the suspense was palpable and certainly stayed with us, so when it was released originally released on DVD, it was a must-buy for us.
The thing that most of you are reading this review for is to find out just how much of an improvement Tomb of the Cybermen is with a new digital upgrade - well, let's find out...
On the original DVD release of Tomb of the Cybermen, an Easter egg could be accessed that showed one scene of the story that had been VidFIREd and the results were pretty impressive. Unfortunately, this clip was only an experiment and was not applied to the whole story.
This new transfer has had the VidFIRE process applied to it and the results are wonderful; the original release looked great compared to the VHS copy, but this really IS a quantum leap over all previous versions.
Even though there is not all that much that can be done with the sequences that were shot on film, apart from manually painting out debris and specks, etc, - there are only really a few minutes at the start of episode one anyway - the new transfer begins to shine when the action switches to the studio, as the VidFIRE process tries to faithfully recapture the look of the original broadcast and does so in a way that ranks alongside some of the most successful uses of the process seen in the Doctor Who DVD series (the sole remaining episode of Enemy of the World is - in our opinion, anyway - one of the best).
No problems to report here - as usual; it all sounds great and there is little in the way of serious hiss or distortion issues.
Note: Many of the extras included in this special edition have been ported over from the original DVD release. The newly-created extras for this release are clearly indicated. Oh, and those of you who are in possession of the previous release of Tomb of the Cybermen might wish to hold on to their copies as the main extra, the documentary, Tombwatch - which was essentially a question-and-answer session from a public screening of the story back in 1992 - is missing from this release; apparently the guy who made the thing refused permission for its inclusion here.
Morris Barry Introduction: When Tomb of the Cybermen was miraculously rediscovered in the early nineties, it was quickly released on video to capitalise on the interest generated in the press. An introduction to the story by Director Morris Barry was recorded, with him explaining about Tomb of the Cybermen, how it was lost and how it was subsequently found. Though this is explored in greater depth elsewhere, it's still great to have this included, as it gives younger Doctor Who viewers a little taste of the excitement felt by fans as the time when a complete story came back from the netherworld.
Title Sequence: These are a series of tests and the various elements that were put together to form the Patrick Troughton title sequence; it's a pretty fun thing to watch, as it's accompanied by the theme music and shows you just how many separate elements were used to create the opening titles, and just how they were able to fish out certain elements and use them out of the many they had to choose from.
Late Night Line-Up: This little segment comes from the late sixties and gives Doctor Who fans the chance to see some Doctor Who monsters in colour, as Jack Kine goes behind the scenes at the BBC Visual Effects. The jazzy intro gives way to some genuinely fascinating footage of some of the creations that have appeared on the show, including the Cybermats.
The Final End: The story that preceded Tomb of the Cybermen was Evil of the Daleks and - apart from episode two - was a casualty of the short-sighted junking policy. What is included here is a compilation of various in-studio shots and footage from Tony Cornell's The Last Dalek short put together with the original audio to give a rough approximation of what the climax of Evil of the Daleks looked like, as the Dalek Emperor tries to stop the two Dalek factions from fighting, with predictably explosive results.
Abominable Snowmen Audio Trailer: Those same good eggs who recorded the audio of the missing sixties Doctor Who stories also managed to tape a load of the trailers for them, too. Included for your delectation is the audio to the story that follows Tomb of the Cybermen, The Abominable Snowmen. It's a very atmospheric trailer, meaning that there isn't much in the way of dialogue and mostly consists of the sounds of howling winds - it's a pity that the trailer couldn't have been reconstructed, as the first episode of this story exists, but this is still a nice piece of period advertising to have included.
Coming Soon Trailer: The end of Classic Who releases on DVD is nigh and the next story on the now very short list is the story that introduced Leela to the show and Doctor Who to dads across the land in the mid-seventies - The Face of Evil!
Production Subtitles: These are the original production subtitles that were included on the original release. These are as informative and as packed with information as ever, but it is fascinating is to watch them and see how Info-Text on Doctor Who releases have evolved over the years, as more recent ones aren't quite so dry and have a certain degree of wit injected into them.
NEW - The Lost Giants: This runs for just shy of half and hour and is a breezy look back at the making of Tomb of the Cybermen, featuring contributions from the cast and crew, including Fraser Hines and Deborah Watling (interviewed together and still make a great pair), along with the very entertaining Victor Pemberton (who looks like Terry-Thomas' secret lovechild). Tales of the quarry pit location, Fraser Hines' as a would-be lothario getting the better of him whilst trying to chat-up the producer's wife and the constraints of the Cyber-Controller's costume are all touched upon in this entertaining examination of this classic story. It's great to hear Hines confirm that the moment where he and Troughton "accidentally" hold each others' hands was an unscripted and improvised moment that they decided to try and sneak by director Morris Barry, who would have instantly vetoed the idea if it had been suggested in rehearsal. Speaking of Mr Barry, the first few minutes of this documentary are spent reminiscing about the late director and he is not really painted in the most flattering of lights, as many of the cast and crew try to be tactful about the decidedly dictatorial manner he had; one or two of the interviewees mentioned that Barry would take a music stand and a baton to rehearsals and tap the baton on the stand when he wanted people to pay attention - we're sure that such an irritating and demeaning method probably had several members of the cast thinking up various orifices in which to painfully insert Barry's glorified swagger-stick...
NEW - The Curse of the Cybermen's Tomb: The parallels between the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb and the story of Tomb of the Cybermen are examined by Sir Christopher Frayling and Dr Debbie Challis. This fourteen minute history lesson is one of the joys of this special edition, as we have a LOT of time for Sir Christopher Frayling, who effortlessly manages to be simultaneously entertaining and informative. Frayling gets the lion's share of screen time in this featurette, but Dr Challis also throws in some interesting observations on the similarities between the real life and fictional events. The evidence is pretty compelling, with Frayling and Challis presenting drawing numerous comparisons, such as the supposed curse of Tutankhamun and the demises of several characters in the Doctor Who story, not to mention that the layout of the fictitious tombs is eerily similar to the last resting place of the young Egyptian Pharaoh. The points brought up by the two academics are superbly illustrated by clips from Tomb of the Cybermen, which also serve to make the subject a little less dry that it might have otherwise been. The Curse of the Cybermen's Tomb is undoubtedly the highlight of this release and links the historic and futuristic in a manner that Sydney Newman could only have dreamed of.
NEW - Cybermen - Extended Edition: The half an hour look at the history of Mondas' and Telos' most feared residents is presented by historian Matthew Sweet and attempts to chart the histories of both the classic series Cybermen and the campy Cybusmen from New-Who. The history of the Cybermen has evolved and mutated over the years, with accounts of their origin differing more wildly than the wedding day of Marge Bouvier and Homer Simpson, so trying to tie them all together would be a pretty foolish task (rather like the concept of Intelligent Design), so at least the classic and New-Who Cybermen are treated essentially as separate entities, but with their stories intertwined during the this documentary. There is a nice little mention of the origin of the Cybermen that was used in many of the novelisations that differs quite radically from what had been touched upon during the television series; this just seemed to serve as a handy primer for those Doctor Who fans who were too young to see some of the older Cybermen stories and were curious to know how that particular adversary came to be - whilst we're on the subject of the Target books, was it just us, or could you be virtually guaranteed to have the phrase "...said The Doctor ruefully" pop up in every one?
This is a fairly breezy documentary, with plenty of clips from the original series and the new to illustrate what Sweet has to say on the subject, not to mention some fairly nifty CGI footage of the assembly of a Cybusman that bears a striking resemblance to the teaser trailer of Terminator 2: Judgement Day. No wry look at the Cybermen could possibly pass up the chance to gently mock the "eating a well-prepared meal" line from Earthshock and Sweet certainly takes the opportunity to poke fun at it here. All this documentary really lacks are interviews with some of those directly involved with Cybermen stories, be it from writing, producing or acting; apart from this, it's an entertaining look at what many fans see as "the thinking-fan's adversary".
NEW - The Magic of VidFIRE: This is an all-too short a look at how the VidFIRE process came into being and how it was able to restore the original videotape look to old film prints of Doctor Who episodes. The rich and appealing voice of Philip Kelly takes us through the history of VidFIRE, from its humble beginnings when Peter Finklestone noticed that watching videotapes speeded up slightly made things look smoother, to the initial test and applications, to the refinement of the process and how successful it is today. As we noted, this is all-too brief and we'd have loved to have seen a more in-depth featurette on this most wonderful of technological breakthroughs, but this is still great to watch for those of us interested in learning more about such things.
NEW: Sky Ray Advert: Now this really IS something of a curio - the 1960's advert for Walls Sky Ray ice lolly. Taking the wise moves of not only filming it colour, but also featuring the Daleks, this thing would have had kiddies eagerly pestering their parents for the multi-coloured frozen treats (which were probably loaded with colourings that have been banned nearly fifty years on and would have led to hyperactive kids being given a clip around the lughole). Even the least observant of Doctor Who fans would have spotted that Patrick Troughton wasn't actually in the commercial (he apparently asked for too much money), so they decided to employ the least convincing double since Dr Tom Mason stood in for the deceased Bela Lugosi in Plan 9 From Outer Space a decade earlier; dressing him in something approximating Troughton's early outfit, complete with recorder and short-lived stovepipe hat, actor Gerry Grant covers his face in horror when confronted by the deadly dustbins so as not to shatter the illusion. The colour picture cards that were being given away with each Sky Ray lolly depicted battles that could never have been fully realised on television (and in the movies, come to think of it!) and are almost certainly collector's items now. It's a fun little commercial and it's inclusion in this set is more than welcome. It should be noted that the copy presented here looks absolutely fabulous, with strong, vibrant colours and only a few bits of print damage to be seen - after having to endure so many dodgy, nth-generation bootleg copies over the years, fans can finally see this Doctor Who curio in stunning quality!
Photo Gallery: This is something of a treat, as not only are you presented with the standard array of black and white images for your amusement, but also presented and correct are a series of colour pictures that show the tombs themselves and the occupants emerging from them. The silver Cybermen against the silvery-white tombs wouldn't immediately lend themselves to colour photographs, but the subtle bluish hues add an almost magical quality to them.
Radio Times Listings: The listings for all four episodes of Tomb of the Cybermen are included here for your delectation. Tomb of the Cybermen also made the front cover of one issue and that is included here, along with a feature on the story, which also has a rather nice excerpt from The Doctor’s diary (presumably the 500 year one), written from his own perspective. A most welcome inclusion!
As if all this wasn’t enough PDF goodness, also thrown in for good measure is pretty much everything that exists on the Walls Sky Ray promotion, including reproductions of all of the cards in the set, along with wrappers, booklets, print campaigns, concept sketches for the cards, information about the television commercial, not to mention various other bits and pieces. There are also notes about the promotions and also mentions the parameters set by Terry Nation about the use of the Daleks - this pretty much confirms what we have thought about him for a while - we’re not going to express our true opinions about the late Mr Nation, because even though the dead can’t sue, his estate probably very well might. This is absolutely jaw-dropping stuff and whoever was able to pull together such a wealth of remarkably rare material should be commended - if we ever meet the guy, we’ll buy him a drink!
Tomb of the Cybermen may very well be our favourite Patrick Troughton story; it's tense, atmospheric, exciting and contains great performances from pretty much everyone involved. It was almost a miracle that all four episodes managed to come back from the void and the Doctor Who Restoration Team have finally been allowed to give this classic story the treatment it so richly deserves. The new supplementary features are extremely entertaining and the whole thing makes for a fine entry this new Regenerations collection.
Review by Wilson Bros
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 13th February 2012
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Extras: Audio Commentary, Morris Barry Introduction, Title Sequence, Abominable Snowmen Teaser Trailer Audio, Late Night Line-Up, The Final End, The Lost Giants, Cybermen - Extended Version, The Curse of the Cybermen's Tomb, The Magic of VidFIRE, Sky Ray Advert, Information Subtitles, Photo Gallery, Coming Soon Trailer, PDF Materials
Easter Egg: No
Director: Morris Barry
Cast: Patrick Troughton, Fraser Hines, Deborah Watling
Length: 100 minutes
Follow our updates
OTHER INTERESTING STUFF
Hot Easter Eggs
Pluto Nash, AU - DVD R4 Legion Of The Dead UK - DVD R2 White Chicks UK - DVD R2 Orphan US - BD Star Stories: Complete Season 2 UK - DVD R2
Mist, The US - BD Ghost House Underground: No Man's Land - The Rise of the Reeker US - DVD R1 Maniac Cop UK - BD The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 and 2 US - BD RA Fog, The UK - BD RA/B