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.

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