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?

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