Thursday, 31 March 2011

Good Who - Exhibit C

It's a love story, it's a war story, it's got stunning music and awesome makeup.  It looks the 80s equivalent of a million dollars and I can't begin to say how much I adore "The Leisure Hive".  Yes, it's stupidly short.  Out of the four episodes (three of which only just break the twenty minute barrier) there's about an episode's worth of recap (along with nearly two minutes of audacious panning shot across Brighton beach).  The Doctor doesn't really get involved in any meaningful way till about 17 minutes in to episode one.  Yes the foamasi are a little ridiculous but I don't care.

This is a true triumph of style over substance.  I just wish I could have been a fan when this was first shown, to see the stunned look on other people's faces when the music slammed its way through a starfield.  To see how others responded to the glorious computer effects (I don't really remember much Who after this ever looking so wonderful). To witness the rising madness of Pangol first hand.  Every performance is glorious.  Tom isn't too insane (his "Arrest the scarf then" is delivered brilliantly, a season or so previous and it would have been so over the top), Lalla oozes charisma and every guest artist seems to really believe in what they're doing.  Did I mention the music?  Not just the high energy opening theme but the drum heavy score that lifts this story from being just plain wonderful to being simply gorgeous.  The science in the story is openly presented as being beyond anything we could possibly understand and therefore makes brilliant sense within the story itself. The randomiser from the previous season has a purpose. We get fat aliens in thin bodies with no fart jokes.  K9 blows up at the slightest drop of sea water and guards are defeated by high mathematics. 

I adore this story.  I love every daft fleeting moment of it and, the sign of a truly wonderful Who in my opinion, I want to go back.  I want to see how things turned out.  I want a sequel.  I already want to watch it again.

Attack on the Cybermen 07 - Earthshock

Too much Who is bad for you.  At least that's what I'm starting to think about the cyber stories.  Watching them in a row really doesn't seem to be doing them many favours. However, this could just be these particular stories as, if I think about it for a bit, the dalek ones have a lot more variety (but no, I'm not doing the dalek ones after these, that would just be masochism in the extreme). Tonight's viewing was Earthshock and boy does this story make me schizophrenic.  There are times when I've enjoyed watching it (such as on the recent twitter based view-a-long) but tonight it wasn't fun.  Partially because it's so damn repetitive (more of which to come), partially because in the "larger picture" it doesn't work and mostly because it's pretty crap.

Of course, the one off shock of the episode one cliffhanger can't ever be repeated (without lethal doses of alcohol anyway) so a lot of the viewing is done in the knowledge that the cybermen are turning up. I did try and put this out of my mind though, honest!  However, in doing so episode one became something of a cliche ridden drag.  People start getting killed, Doctor and co turn up and are accused.  Doctor charms his way out of it, real monster turns up, sting into theme. In the 24 and a bit minutes we've got clunky looking technology (even by 1980s standards some of the gear looks old fashioned), the obligatory soap opera TARDIS scenes (actually they're not too bad here but they do add to the rather padded feel of the story), cave sets less realistic than those in The Silurians (and by trying to explain away the whole lighting issue they just draw attention to it and make their explanation seem even more implausible than it might have been) and lots of sniggering like a schoolboy from me at all the talk of "going down" in the opening sequences.  The music's lovely though and people do seem to be taking it deadly seriously.  Sadly, once the cybermen turned up, I couldn't join them in doing so.

Having only watched Revenge of the Cybermen the other night it's very difficult not to spot the parallels plot wise.  Bomb in a convenient cave system that the Doctor manages to diffuse so the cybermen turn to plan B which is to turn a space ship into a giant flying bomb to blow it up instead. The problem being, Revenge did it better in my mind.  In Revenge there was the charm of the double agent, a vaguely realistic scenario where a geologist went down to Voga to map it out and presumably started the discussions and planning. Here there seems to be an absolutely huge plot gone on in the background that my mind can't quite fill in.  So, the Earth's on red alert so the cybermen went down to the planet to blow it up.  Presumably though they must have done it before it was put on red alert so how far in advance was the gathering announced and how quickly did the cybermen act? More importantly, how did they then also put together plan B which involved  finding a freighter with a bribeable crew member and getting it to pick up 15,000 shrink wrapped cybermen.  Unless, of course, plan B was the original Plan A and then the bomb thing just occurred to them when they found out about the conference? Though if it was only done when they found out about the conference, how did they get down there to plant the bomb in the first place?  The Doctor sort of asks these questions in episode two but they're never actually really answered...

Actually, a quick side comment about the androids... why are they different heights?  Do you think the cybermen ordered a tall one and a shorter one, or was the shorter one cheaper as it had a manufacturing defect?

My next issue is the sudden knowledge the cybermen have about the Doctor, the TARDIS and the time lords.  They seem to know EVERYTHING. They saw the TARDIS briefly in Tenth Planet but seemed to make no comment about it.  In the Moonbase they might have seen it on the surface of the moon but at no point did they go "Oi, you've got a time lord in there".  They never left their Tomb, it was invisible in Invasion mostly (even though there was the random missile fired from the dark side of the moon) and absent in Revenge.  Did they get up to serious investigation whilst the rest of us slept through The Wheel in Space?  Mind you, they have the advantage that they have all the adventures somehow recorded to be played back on their viewing screen.  And how convenient that they started with a first Doctor clip, then showed the second when, chronologically, they would have recorded Patrick Troughton first of all.... The clunkiness of the technology continues through the story as well, with the cyberbomb having a convenient set of seven segment displays to indicate a timer and a big red button for them to push to detonate the device.  I can, in part, understand why there's a padded leather chair on the freighter but are moon boots really the most practical footwear for a cyberman? 

Side note number two:  The cybermen see the TARDIS dematerialise and are able to track it through space through to the freighter where it rematerialises... have we got space flight TARDIS again?

Once the "action" reaches the freighter things start to become painfully padded and confused.  We get lots of corridor action (along with TARDIS based padding scenes for Nyssa) and talk of the "anti-cybermen" gathering which is vitally important.... even though no one seems to actually recognise the cybermen when they see them or when the Doctor names them.  Then there's the fortunate sci-fi convention that even if something's from another universe it's exactly the same as though it was from ours, in this case the gold edge to Adric's badge. In case you didn't remember 7 years back, we get the reminder that the gold effectively suffocates them.  Followed by the Doctor dismissing the suggestion to pump the air out of the hold because the cybermen don't need air.  Right.  Okay. 

Episode four seems to want to break the record for the most stupidities in one story.  We've got magic time travel that has no ill effects for anyone or anything.  Yup, just attach an alien device to your navigational computer and suddenly you can time travel (something that the ultra advanced cybermen don't seem to realise).  There's the sci-fi convention that if you travel back in time then the Earth is conveniently exactly where it was when you started your journey (rather than being millions of light years away), you've got the nearly destroyed cyberman who just makes it to the bridge in time to blow up the computer and then expire.  The ship develops mood lighting just in time for Adric's death and the cyberleader also seems to know the details of how to fly the TARDIS. 

The worst thing about Earthshock, other than being a retread of Revenge of the Cybermen without the funness, is that the cybermen aren't really cybermen.  There's no threat of conversion, there's no spare part nature to them, they're a bunch of "more than robots" who come across as silvery thugs who try and hide the fact they do really have emotions by passing them off as scientific research.  It's a mess of a story that really doesn't deserve any sort of "classic" status.  Oh well.  At least when I did it as the tweetview I was doing it with others so had lots to distract me from its crapness.  On a concentrated viewing.... ho hum.

Friday, 25 March 2011

More Geek than Who... the song book

Okay, so I get bored easily and my mind wanders.  Sometimes it wanders on a large scale (which ended up with the Doccy Horror Show) and sometimes it's just on a smaller, low key level.  This one was sketched out on a train journey the other week and I never got round to neatening it up but... well it's just an indication of what's likely to be ahead.

Why Can't the Banks Be Run Like Physics?
(In the style of Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man from "My Fair Lady")

Why can't the banks be run like physics?
So charges couldn't randomly appear
If Kirchhoff ran a bank
He'd say borrow, but if you thank,
What you take out all comes back this time next year.

Why can't the banks be run like physics?
Not by criminals who currently are at large?
There would be no sliding scale
Or the threat of pauper's jail
Just one single and fundamental charge.

So why can't we run our banks like physics?
Though I think they're already on fuzzy logic
With what's current in their vaults
They blame us for all their faults
And their resistance is enough to make you sick.

More, and I do mean MANY more, to come over the following months.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Attack on the Cybermen 06 - Revenge of the Cybermen

Okay, okay, the effects are terrible, the music "different", the science absolutely lousy but... do you know what... I really enjoy watching Revenge of the Cybermen.  I will now wait a short while for you to recover from shock.  Yes, that's right, I said it.  I actually enjoy watching Revenge.  Goddess only knows how I'm going to be able to put this one into words as it's just one of those "things" but I've just spent a very happy (and quite a fast moving) 100 minutes or so wishing that every story could use the words "glitter gun" or maybe even have one on screen.

It's also quite weird writing about this as, by my own "criteria", I should loathe this one.  So let's get the negative out of the way first of all.  You'll know most of these already as it's one story that everyone seems to spout off the problems (probably because it's so easy and they're not up to the challenge) but there might be a few new ones in here as well.  There's Voga, asteroid with an atmosphere and gravity.  And water.  And plants.  And hell, sod all about it seems to follow any physical laws (something that the story itself points out near the start).  Then there's the unlikelihood of actually having a planet type thing mostly made of gold.  Then there's the rocket that's a cheap model kit in some shots and carries the American flag in others.  The planet at the end which looks like what it is, a knobbly brown stick being rotated very fast.  The cybermen seem to have emotions or some kind of emotional response.  They have projectile weapons on a space station.  The technology looks old fashioned even by the standards of the early seventies.  Oh, and the dead bodies in the corridor are shop dummies.  That's at least eight major problems that should make me end up wanting to throw things at the screen, shout obscenities and grind my teeth so hard that they break.  Yet none of these happened.  I just wish I understood why as, if I did, I might be able to write stuff myself that could get away with things.

Let me try and put down a few ideas, some of them total fanwank and others with at least a hint of support in the story.  Firstly, Voga.  Near the start of episode three we get told that it was once a survival chamber.  Now this doesn't sound like the sort of thing that would normally crop up on a regular planet.  Given that no-one really knows where Voga came from, could it be that it's actually the result of some other catastrophe and it's a chunk of planet that got converted into a habitat in its own right?  This might also explain the gravity and atmosphere, if you've got a survival chamber then you're going to want to make damn sure that it's worth surviving and it's clear that, in the not too distant future, even mankind has artificial gravity (just look at the difference between the inside and outside of The Moonbase, everyone inside acts as though they're on earth).  Taking Moonbase as our guide, it must be quite simple to create localised gravity as it does seem to be very much a "step over a certain line and the gravity fails" type scenario.  So could there be pockets of gravity created (and might that be why shafts were widened etc?).  Next we have the mystery of the cybermen.  By this stage in their history they've been pretty much totally defeated and they're skulking around the galaxy trying to survive. To survive they would need to adapt.  Could the basic emotions in this story be an admittance that being emotional isn't a complete weakness after all and they're toying with new things?  Or perhaps they're so beaten up that their emotional inhibitors have failed?  Actually, in this story they come across as being pretty much pure machine creatures (rather than a converted human or two) so perhaps it's a programming thing to fake emotions and put their enemies off their guard?

One thing that this story has a lot to answer for is the whole cybermen/gold thing.  However, in this story it's no different to (say) radiation in the Tenth Planet or gravity in The Moonbase.  They're a different type of cyberman, they work in a totally different way (in The Moonbase they didn't need to breathe yet here gold clogs up their breathing apparatus. In overcoming other weaknesses (in The Invasion the UNIT troops shot them down "easily" but here they shrug off bullets) have they introduced new ones? To me, gold is just the gimmick of the week here.  Nothing for Who to be ashamed of and vaguely sort of just about explainable.

What else went through my mind whilst watching?  Well it moved along really quickly (I got through all four episodes in the time that the first two of The Invasion seemed to take) and the cyberplot mostly made sense.  Find something that could be used as a weapon, use it as a weapon to destroy things that could be used against you.  If you're low on numbers, get someone else to do the dirty work for you.  Use the virus that you've used effectively before (the links with Moonbase were appreciated in this one as that aspect of their plan worked well, so why not re-use it in some form... plus it's a really neat effect again) and learn from your mistakes.  Kill the unwanted humans rather than hypnotise them.  It's a simple, basic and almost logical plan.  And when something unforeseen forces them to change it, they simply come up with a new one.  I loved the cliffhanger to episode two (and also weirdly appreciated the fact that the cybermen were talked about right from episode one, thus sparing us the "...of the daleks" cliffhanger where the shock cliffhanger is the appearance of the daleks) and even the new look cybermat doesn't offend me. 

It's just one of those stories I guess.  You can write out great long lists of why it shouldn't work.  You can even fumble your way through trying to explain why it does (even though it doesn't).  Yet at the end of it... I feel happier than when I started.  How could Who be better than that?

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Attack on the Cybermen 05 - The Invasion

It's weird to start a Who based post with a gym comment but ho hum... I'm not really a cardio person at the gym.  Running, cycling etc are more of a mental challenge to me than a physical one.  I know I can do it but it's such a chore.  After work today I did a three mile run followed by twelve miles on the bike.  And yet I still found that easier to get through than "The Invasion".

Opening remark which might take you by surprise.  I like the cybermen in this one.  I have no real issues with their plan (get some gullible fool to do the hard work on the earth and then just slope in at the last minute to take over) and think it's a fairly cunning way to do things.  There, I've said it, I like a cyber plan.  Sadly it's buried amongst a load of other crap that means "The Invasion" isn't a tightly gripping Who story, it's a chore. I felt as mentally drained at the end of it as I did at the end of 40 minutes on the bike. If you could somehow edit it down then this could possibly be one of the best cybermen stories.  As it stands... well 99% of the world is put to sleep in this story and I'm left with a feeling of envy.

So you've got 8 episodes to fill.  You've only got, at most, five episodes of story.  Never mind, there are sewers, tunnels and helicopters to pad it out and padded it definitely is.  There's a "tradition" in science fiction that you reveal tantalising glimpses of the monster till the big reveal in the final shot of episode one.  Here we don't get cybermen till the end of episode four.  Until then we've a charming megalomaniac and his sadistic servant, lots of corridor shots and eerie sounding music.  I just really needed someone to wake me when it was over.  The way I do this, by the way, is I've got a word file open that I type random comments into as I watch and then bring them all together at the end.  For the first four episodes I seem to have jotted down less and less as the episodes go on.  There's a whole load of stuff about "when" the dark side of the moon business is set, some stuff about cows and, for the first episode, very little else.  Admittedly it's all very atmospheric but, as I watched it, I realised that very little happened in episode one that was picked up on in the remaining seven episodes.  Episode two has a few jottings about computers that blow up when not programmed properly (to the best of my knowledge, what Zoe spouts isn't Algol in any real form), some comments on when the story is set (it's four years since the yeti incident) and some foreknowledge comments that the workmen have clearly been cybertised but there aren't visible signs of it.

Because I knew I liked the cyber plan in this one I really wanted to like the whole story but it just dragged so much.  I've just been through an Ofsted inspection and this felt long and arduous even by that standard. I started playing non-alcoholic drinking games whilst watching, looking out for criteria such as Packer and Tobias referring to the cybermen as "they" to try and disguise their appearance even though it sounded completely unnatural. That is, of course, till episode four when suddenly we start getting brick like subtlety in announcing their arrival in the cliffhanger.  What really baffled me though was how the cybermen sent the world to sleep without millions of cars crashing, planes falling out of the sky and general chaos normally caused by the world falling asleep.  At least they've made it feel like a truly international story, with talk of Russians and Americans helping out but, at the end of the day, the story gets summed up by the statement "cybermen, and there's hundreds of them out there".  No, there aren't.  There's half a dozen and no amount of cutting around shots will disguise that.

At the end of the story, Tobias gets shot down by the cybermen (same as he did when he was on the side of the daleks), Zoe acts as a pretty computer and the Brigadier doesn't see the TARDIS take off (sorry DWM).  By the end of the story I should have been feeling all buzzy at a James Bond style Doctor Who story but it just goes on too damned long.  There's too much padding, not enough dramatic music and villains that refer to nothing but "they" until we've seen a cyberman on screen at which point they just call them cybermen.

For The Invasion, I can't fault the cybermen... it's just the story itself that lets things down.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Good Who - Exhibits A and B

Sorry for the break.... for those who want to know why I've been a bit tied up for the last few weeks I'll simply say "Ofsted" and leave it at that.  Anyway, I'm now back to having a life and can get blogging again.  What better way to start (especially as I've been accused of being negative in the past) than by putting together a few comments about some good Who stories.

The science in Doctor Who can, despite what some people think about me, be complete tosh and I can still enjoy the story. Step forward Exhibit A, "The Three Doctors".  It's a complete load of cobblers scientifically about anti-matter, black holes and faster than light travel.  The plot is a little weird, Omega draining the energy from our universe into his, first laws of time, multi-coloured Time Lords and Jo Grant's knickers but do you know what?  I LOVE watching it.  It rolls along at a cracking pace with only one obvious scene of padding (Tyler's corridor runaround) and the gell guards are so hysterically bad that my mind fills in a zillion and one reasons why they look so awful (involving Omega having been on his own so long he's forgotten what a practical animal looks like).  Omega rants like a loon but that's completely likely given how long he's been on his own.  The Brigadier (Nick Courtney always 100% brilliant) flips and turns into silly Brig BUT look at what he experiences in the story... multiple Doctors, the TARDIS interior, a monster made from a feather boa, naturally his mind's going to go a little loopy.  The relationship between Pertwee and Troughton is an absolute delight (Troughton playing the comic side of the 2nd Doctor rather than the serious side) and Jo blondes her way through the story with complete charm.  It's nonsense, it's loony and it's brilliant.

Exhibit B is "Kinda", freshly released on DVD.  There used to be an unwritten rule that no story could be perfect.  There always had to be at least one element that made fans curl up and die from embarrassment.  The rat in Talons, the fly in Green Death... the snake in Kinda.  However, thanks to a mix of CGI and serious talent from all those involved in it, Kinda doesn't have a giant plastic snake in it anymore but one that whizzes around the screen, twisting reality as it struggles to pass mirrors and looks damn fine.  Throw in pitch perfect performances from pretty much every member of the cast (yes, even Adric does reasonably well out of this one), a spine chilling set of cliffhangers (all three of them are utter corkers and episode three was one of only two times the show ever gave me nightmares) and high concept story telling.  I'm not a huge fan of the new CGI in old Doctor Who but in this release it's been done so superbly and keeping in the spirit of the story that it's the only time that I've even entertained the idea that it should have been the main version.

We'll pick up with Exhibits C onwards in future posts with some classics that I like and a few more surprising ones en route...

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Attack on the Cybermen 04 - The Wheel in Space

I might have been a bit hasty in my last blog where I said that Tomb should have remained lost forever.  I think I should have saved that comment for the next cyber story, The Wheel in Space.  Having just put myself through the six episodes (over the course of three days, I just couldn't face it in one sitting) I've come to the conclusion that if you want to have an example of really bad Doctor Who then you should probably select Wheel. On so many levels it's a complete and utter failure.  In a rare mood of charity I will perform a partial defence of the story.  It's six episodes (always difficult to pull off without using the 4+2 format) and only two of them survive.  One of these is episode three (that's the padding episode in a story that's largely padding anyway) and all six episodes seem to have windows with very little dialogue that have lost their impact by being audio only.  But even taking this aural aspect into account, the story still sucks.

I could be verbose and highlight just how dull this story is, I could go into great detail about how slow moving and padded it feels or how it could probably have been condensed into a three parter without dropping anything significant but, quite frankly, I'm not sure I want to waste my time on that.  I could also say how little the Doctor actually does (unlike in Tomb where he's indirectly responsible for all bar one death, in this one he does so little that he's not really responsible for anything) but instead I'll try and focus on the two really REALLY awful things about this story, namely the science and the cybermen. Seriously, it's as though the presence of cybermen instantly drops the plausibility of the science down several powers of ten.

Firstly, we have the return of the cybermats (though sadly not the really cute small ones, just the adult versions).  This time around they seem to have picked up the trick of being able to pass through solid objects.  It might just be the fact we don't have the footage but I've always understood it that the eggs that they're launched from the Silver Carrier in somehow pass through the hull of the Wheel. There's an associated pressure drop (oh the memories of The Moonbase) but it's not something I've ever really seen picked up on.  It's one of those talents that make you think "so why don't the cybermen do this at the end?".  The cybermen's return was signalled in the trailer, even if it's not really suggested until episode two which does remove some of the mystery from the story.  What wasn't signalled in the trailer was the absolute insanity of their plot.  The cybermen ionise a star in the Messier 13 cluster which somehow causes it to go nova.  I'm not entirely sure how this works as it's usually gravitational collapse of an absolutely massive star that causes this.  To go nova, a star usually burns its way through its hydrogen supply to become a red giant and then burns its helium to the extent that it implodes so violently that the energy released is approximately the same as that released by an entire galaxy (only for a few days mind you). You could almost see that as a valid threat if it weren't for one absolutely tiny problem.  The Messier 13 cluster is just over 25,000 (twenty five thousand) light years from the Earth.  The whole cluster is barely visible with the naked eye from the earth, so if one star in it goes nova then we'll see a glow in the sky but not much more.  Still, somehow the energy from this star that's been forced to go nova diverts a cluster of meteorites into the path of the wheel.  If the star going nova explodes with such force that it can effect the path of meteorites 25,000 light years away from it, then I think the wheel has got other issues to worry about along the lines of it getting smashed to pieces itself.  Still, not to worry.  The cybermen have engineered the Silver Carrier to be 87million miles off course and carrying a handy supply of the fuel rods for the wheel's X-ray laser to replace the rods that the cybermats ate.  All this so that two cybermen can be smuggled on board the wheel to repair the laser and then provide a homing signal for the smaller cyberships to... sorry I think at that point my brain completely gave up and went on holiday.

The cybermen, by the way, are now in a three fingered design but with blunted tips which must be hell to try and pick anything up with.  They still have their chest units (which glow to kill people in this one) but the purpose of the rather cumbersome devices eludes me (especially as, in Tomb, the cybercontroller didn't wear one).  One cyberman is killed off by having his chest unit covered in the spray plastic that Jamie uses to damage the laser.  However, the other cybermen are seemingly quite capable of space walking (and, of course, we saw the cybermen on the moon's surface in Moonbase) which suggests that these units aren't there to enable them to breathe.  Their exact purpose will be questioned further in future stories.

Where I REALLY object to this story though is that no-one seems to know who the cybermen are, inspire of every kid knowing about them in The Moonbase.  We later learn that Zoe's a 21st century girl, so how come everyone knew about them in 2070 but not in this story?  It's a kick in the teeth for the cybermen who, so far, only really have the claim to fame that they were Earth's first contact.  I still don't find the cybermats particular menacing (even if episode three has one of the weirdest attack scenes ever in Doctor Who's history when they gang up on Kemel) and the "metal plate + transistor = protection" goes completely over my head.  Sadly we've got that again in The Invasion so I'll deal with it then.

The Wheel in Space is a total mess and, most offensively, it's a tedious slow mess.  This could so easily have been a snappy three parter but no, it's six episode of dull dialogue (where there even is dialogue not long shots of people in corridors) and a plot that makes absolutely no sense.  There's no threat of cybertisation and the cybermen are just generic baddies in this with nothing to make them particularly memorable.  What's more it presents us with a future where we still record onto tape, giant lava lamps make up essential parts of space wheels and people wear outfits that look like they're made from sleeping bags.  Perhaps man kind really shouldn't go into space after all...

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Attack on the Cybermen 03 - Tomb of the Cybermen

I think I've had my moment of realisation.  Sadly it's not the one I'd hoped for.  I'd hoped that it would be "Wow, yeah... the cybermen really are great" and that I could post something glowing tonight.  However, I've had the next best thing I guess. I know where my dislike of the cybermen has come from.  It's not a brilliant thing to realise, because it's probably going to make me stand out even more from fandom with my opinions than I already do.

I don't like the cybermen because of "Tomb of the Cybermen". It's four episodes that should have remained lost forever, soundtrack included.

Right then, more than usual, this post is going to act as therapy for me.  It'll probably open up all kinds of other cans of worms but hey, that's the great thing about therapy sessions, you never know what you'll end up hating.  Errrrr, so I'm told.  At its heart, I'm sure there's a good story here.  The cybermen, weakened through lack of resources, set a trap with the intention of luring the greatest minds there, pinching their bodies and slowly rebuilding the cyber race.  I'll admit that, simplified down to that level, it's a reasonable idea.  The problem comes when you expand it to include the detail of their precise plans and then it REALLY goes pear shaped (not, unlike, the cyber controller).  It doesn't help that what we get in this story doesn't really then tie in with Attack of the Cybermen, a story which I'll reach soon enough.  Throw in some very dodgy production values (yes, I know, it was the 60s, shoestring budget and all that), a Doctor that doesn't feel overly Doctorish and you end up with a story that let me down on so many levels that it couldn't help but put me off cybermen for a very long time.

I'll happily admit that the first 16 minutes or so of episode one aren't too bad. The production clearly wants to be a feature film, the TARDIS console room even has an echo (which doesn't quite tie in with the visuals as in some shots it still looks very small) and the music sounds vaguely cinematic. The explosion looks semi-decent (though when we get to the studio footage it doesn't really look like a set of doors that's just been blown into accessibility) and, in a nice piece of continuity to The Moonbase, the TARDIS seems to "land" rather than materialise.  We've got the stylised cybermen on the walls (which does tie in well with the whole trap aspect of it) and the inside of the main room in the tomb looks...  okay, so once we're inside the tomb itself then a certain element of cheapness starts to enter the production.  Cheapness I can forgive if the story's half way decent but, sadly, once the plot proper starts up then my ability to watch without wanting to throw something at the screen starts to drop.  It's a story based, allegedly, around logic.  Yet nothing in it seems in any way, shape or form, logical to me.  Maybe it's just the story's attempt to be wrong with authority.  All of the dialogue involving the mathematical sequences sounds, to my slightly mathematically inclined ears, as though someone's given the writer a scientific dictionary and told them to just use words at random without bothering to look at what they mean.  The first one to make my teeth grind was when we're told that the logic sequences are based around a binary to digital conversion.  Given that binary is basically digital logic, yeah... my brain probably should have taken a holiday at that point but instead it stayed to be told all about sequences and logic functions.  It really, really should have taken a break.

Then there's the cybermen's plan.  They freeze themselves in a huge tomb (which seems to contain less than a dozen of them) and hide the controls to it behind "logic" puzzles.  Luckily for us, there's a convenient "reverse" function to pad the plot out.  Now, one huge problem that I do have with this (on the science front), is the whole freeze thaw process.  Every substance has something called a specific heat capacity.  This is the energy that you have to put in to raise the temperature of one kilogram of it by one degree.  The cyber tomb is a fairly sizable affair, several levels high and quite a few cells wide and the ice over it looks fairly thick.  So there's got to be a good few kilograms of ice covering it up.  Throw the lever and, kapow, the ice all melts in seconds.  What's more, the floor isn't covered with water all of a sudden (oh how I would have loved to have seen a health and safety risk assessment for that in the 60s) so there is, presumably, extra energy put in to change the water into steam (calculated using a slightly different concept called specific latent heat).  Basically, there must be a HUGE power source needed to get all that done in about 5 seconds.  Even weirder is that when the system goes into reverse, the ice magically forms over the tombs once more which means that there's probably some sort of water wall that has to pour down over them and a huge heat pump to take the energy away from the water to get it to turn into ice.  So, apart from wasting huge amounts of energy on the thawing process, the cybermen also have a recharging room where they can recharge one cyberman at a time.  Still, there only seem to be about 9 of them on Telos so it doesn't matter, the queue won't be that long.

Something that is very present in this story is the threat of being turned into a cyberman.  You belong to us, you will be like us, we now have a catchphrase.  For the time being though, I'm going to hold off on commenting on the threat for one very good reason.  I don't actually understand it and want to know more about it.  I don't, for one moment, expect I'll learn much about it in future stories but it's a nice idea.  All we really know from this story is that it seems a fairly mess-less process to give Toberman a three-fingered cyber-arm instead of his own.  Just why this design of cyberman thinks that three fingers is a good idea I'm not too sure.  Sadly the costume budget doesn't stretch to much past a silver glove with three pointy fingers but I know that in future stories we learn there's a reason that the cybermen look like normal men in baggy silver suits.  Still, a man in a baggy suit is still better than the really rough looking one we see at the end of part one (though, admittedly, part two gives a non-sensical reason for this, just why would a cyber weapon be designed to destroy a cyberman?).

Then there's the cybermat.  Forerunner and far superior to the modern series' cyber-shayde, this first appearance of the cybermat raises a huge number of questions that never really get answered in this story.  Firstly, why are there two sizes?  Is the implication supposed to be that these are organic devices that actually grow and mature? Secondly, why is everyone so frightened of them?  I used to have pet rats (I miss them terribly at the moment) and to be honest I was more afraid of Psycho at feeding time than I ever have been of the cybermats.  They just look so fragile that one encounter with a cheap Doc Marten knock off and they'd be history.  Or, at the very least, you could jump over them.  Finally, the Doctor knows about them, another part of this mythology that I'm building up in my mind that the cybermen are "significant".  I'm starting to wonder if there isn't a "missing" Hartnell story that features the Doctor's first encounter with silver style cybermen and cybermats, it would explain a lot.  (Dear Big Finish....)

Okay, so the cyber plan sucks, the cybermats aren't a plausible threat in this one and they'd be better off as heating engineers than galactic invaders.  But there's another reason why I truly dislike this story.  With the exception of the poor guy who died trying to open the doors in episode one, every other death in the story is thanks to the presence and actions of the Doctor.  He opens the doors into the weapons testing room, he presses the button that opens the hatch to the tomb, he's the idiot who puts the cybercontroller into the revitalisation chamber without a decent plan for not letting him out... Yes, Doctor, you are responsible for a LOT of deaths in this one.  You're also seemingly responsible for the magic production of a cloak but that's a minor crime compared to the blood on your hands in these four episodes.  You opened the tombs, you caused the deaths.  It's your fault.

Finally, some other random things I really don't like about this story:
- the weird gurgling noises the cybermen make in the battle scenes.  Wha???  Did they cybertise Bill and Ben?
- Toberman being one of the few instances in Doctor Who where someone being hypnotised doesn't make their acting more wooden
- Victoria, the victorian, selecting a mini skirt
- the cybermen saluting the emergence of the cybercontroller seems a rather emotional response
- the cybercontroller not having a chest unit (yes, it makes him look different, but it leaves you wondering why the rest have them in the first place)
- locking the baddies in the weapons testing room along with the ummm weapons.

When I was younger I remember all the hype about this story.  Second to Tenth Planet this was the other holy grail.  DWM had comments from the uberfans telling us how wonderful this story was, how it was an absolute classic... then the wretched thing turned up on video.  Take one teenage fan, tell him that the world's best Who story has just been found... then show it to him and make him realise that it's a pile of kak, a nonsensical mess of a story with production values that didn't even let it fall into the style-over-substance category.  Tomb of the Cybermen, you let me down.  And you ruined cybermen for me for the next few decades.  I despise you.