Reviewed By: Guiannos
Review Date: 4/24/19 11:18 pm
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The first Cybermen story is important. Not only does it introduce one of Doctor Who's most iconic villains but it is the template for the "base under seige" stories that would be the norm for the next few seasons. It is also monumentally influential for including the Doctor's first on screen regeneration (*ahem* "renewal") and pioneering one of the defining aspects of both the character and the series to come. But, for all its importance does it stand the test of time as a story? Absolutely.
The plot is pretty hard sci-fi for its time centering around a rocket exploration of the solar system that reveals a mysterious planet on a collision course with Earth. At first glance the Cybermen could be Robomen (from the Dalek Invasion) in snowsuits with a few extra hoses and mechanical bobs. However, once they start speaking in that eerie singsongy mechanical voice they stand out. This is my favorite version of the creatures despite the cheap look of the costumes- the fabric coverings over the faces that have mechanical components but still an element of flesh and blood emphasize the lost humanity rather than inhumanity that the Cybermen represent. There's a stronger representation of mechanical augmentation to the flesh at play here that is lost with some of their more motorized chrome upgrades to come over the years. The result is creepy and memorable.
Cybermen aside, this is a slow burner of a story that builds a lot of quiet tension and makes good use of the remote and desolate setting. There is nowhere to escape and very limited options to try to resist the invasion. The acting of the main cast is strong with interesting characters in General Cutler and Dr. Barclay but the many supporting characters leave a lot to be desired, especially in the first part. It's a gripe that fades by midway through the story, though, as the Cybermen steal the show and a good portion of the screentime. By the countdown cliffhanger ending part 3 (easily a top 10 all time best for the show) the drama and sense of dread are palpable and the entire cast is on point. The end resolution of the threat is a bit of a fizzle after the build up but it's worthwhile for the ride.
It's a shame that the fourth part is lost. The animated reconstruction does a much better job of conveying the action in some of the quieter scenes than the old Loose Cannon reconstruction but it's still not quite the same as seeing the real thing, especially considering how iconic Hartnell's exit is.