5.1 – “The Tomb Of The Cybermen”

DW Series 5 - The Tomb Of The Cybermen

The Doctor and Jamie welcome Victoria to the TARDIS and begin a new adventure on the planet Telos. What dark secrets does Telos hold and what evil will be unearthed by the archaeological group that has landed there?

I go into this review with a slight bias on two levels. First is that my favourite Doctor is Patrick Troughton, even if I did grow up with Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy. Troughton’s Doctor always spoke to me more than the other classic Doctors. The second bias is that this also happens to be one of the first stories of Patrick Troughton’s era that I saw (the VHS came out in 1992) so it will always have a special place in my heart(s), just like “Day Of The Daleks”, “Death To The Daleks” or “Revenge Of The Cybermen”.

After the events of “The Evil Of The Daleks” and the loss of her father, Victoria is welcomed into the TARDIS crew and for their first adventure together, The Doctor takes her and Jamie to the planet Telos. There they meet Professor Parry and his team who are searching for the fabled tombs of the Cybermen. So far they’ve only found the entrance to what they believe is the tomb, but all is not as it seems. Three members of Parry’s party, Eric Klieg, Kaftan and Toberman, have their own agenda; to find and use the Cybermen in their plans for world domination, using any means necessary, including using Toberman to sabotage the spaceship they arrived in. With The Doctor trying his best to keep control of the situation, they descend into the tombs via the large hatchway and Klieg puts his plan into action. However, the Cybermen have set a trap of their own and plan to use these intruders to build up a new force of Cybermen. Thanks to the quick thinking of Captain Hopper they all manage to escape, except for Toberman. Klieg and Kaftan are locked away in the weapons room, where they manage to grab hold of one of the test guns to regain control. The Cybermen have returned to their tombs to conserve power except for the Cyber Controller, who is summoned to the control room with Toberman. The Controller is allowed to re-energise but then uses his power to take control with the help of a partly converted Toberman. Kaftan is killed while Klieg is knocked unconscious.

The Doctor uses the death of Kaftan to remind Toberman of his humanity, who fights the Controller and appears to kill him. The Doctor, Jamie and Toberman then return to the tombs to activate them and seal the Cybermen into their sleep, but Klieg has other ideas. His plans come to nothing though as he is killed by a lone Cyberman. The Doctor manages to freeze the tombs again and his plan of sealing them is almost complete until the Cyber Controller comes back to life and the end struggle to close the doors is only won by Toberman sacrificing himself.

“The Tomb Of The Cybermen” is one of the classics of the Troughton era. The Cybermen return for their third outing in two years (previous stories being “The Tenth Planet” and “The Moonbase”) and are used to great effect. They don’t detract from the story, being utilised only as the underlying threat to our main characters, even though they themselves are divided. One of the strengths of this story is that the Cybermen are used sparingly; they do not appear until the end of the second episode and, when they do finally arrive, they’re not then used as an action tour de force as they would be in later stories (though this wouldn’t happen until the 70’s/80’s stories). They sit back, analyse the situation and then use their ingenuity to their advantage. We also get to see them deploy the Cybermats for the first time, who would become an iconic creature in their own right and used in many future stories (“The Wheel In Space”, “Revenge Of The Cybermen” and “Closing Time”).

Patrick Troughton had found his feet early on in Doctor Who and with the start of Season 5 his characterisation of The Doctor was going from strength to strength. His team work with Frazer Hines as Jamie came to represent the iconic double team of the Second Doctor era, with both knowing how to play off one another with perfect comedic timing (see the holding hands moment when they enter the tomb). Deborah Watling was new to the team, having only been introduced in the previous story, but she plays Victoria just as you would expect; someone who was from a bygone age, unsure of herself yet showing great confidence when faced with danger. Also of note here is the touching scene between her and Troughton where they talk about The Doctor’s family, both sharing the kinship of two people who are alone in the universe and only have each other. Of the guest cast, Aubrey Richards (Professor Parry), Cyril Shaps (JohnViner), Shirley Cooklin (Kaftan) and George Pastell (Klieg) put on a fine display, treating their parts in a serious manner and selling the moments of horror that make this story so memorable. There genuinely isn’t a cast member who feels out of place and the direction by Morris Barry gives the story a cinematic quality, despite a budget that would barely pay for a taxi ride in London nowadays. It is Barry’s direction that gives us one the most iconic Cyberman moments in Doctor Who history with the awakening and exiting of the tombs at the end of episode 2.

“Tomb..” was fondly remembered as a classic while missing but, once it was found again in the early 90’s, many said that it loses some of the atmosphere that one could imagine when listening to the audio version. However as time has gone on (it is now just over 20 years since it was found and returned), people can see just why this story was so beloved and held in such high esteem by those who saw it the first time around. Hell, Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith puts this story as his favourite! Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis managed to write a well-rounded story with enough humour, horror and action to keep the viewer glued to the screen. It may have some flaws, some wobbly and fake sets and a couple of issues with guide wires (the first Toberman fight with a Cyberman) or obvious dummies (Toberman throwing the Cyber Controller), but the story behind it is strong, memorable and in many ways timeless. And that’s what makes a good Doctor Who story.

Personally, this has always been a perfect 10 for me but, as I have to be subjective, “Tomb…” does have some minor flaws that detract from the story. But everything else represents one of the finest moments of Classic Who. A suspenseful and exciting 9/10.

Written and edited by Alexander James Wilkinson


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