Reviewed By: Mercury
Review Date: 2/9/19 1:23 pm
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This two part story in my opinion has a decent but flawed first episode and an unsatisfactory second episode. There are lots of good bits to the first episode. The performances of Maurice Colbourne and Brian Glover as Lytton and Griffiths are great. There is some gritty dramatic build up. There is some atmospheric sense of menace and the promising appearance of the Cybermen. There are some nice references to Doctor Who lore right back to the first ever episode and to The Tenth Planet and Tomb of the Cybermen. It should be a great story. The problems are already there right from the start though. Early scenes in the TARDIS have pointless aspects of the Doctor working on circuits and the TARDIS going out of control which all is for no importance in the plot. It has Peri questioning the Doctor as to the stability of his regeneration which could have given them the opportunity to say he WAS unstable and was going to mellow but instead they reiterate this is the 6th Doctor's personality. I find that a missed chance to move in a better direction. Colin's acting is usually really good but his characterisation is not good. He is often unlikable, egotistical, pompous, obnoxious, loud and aggressive. This is mostly the fault of Showrunner John Nathan Turner but also partly Baker's own fault and that of writers and directors. It is no good people defending it saying he would have mellowed if given longer in the role because two whole series is long enough to expect a much faster and more successful improvement of the character. That could have started here but they preferred to say "this is the new Doctor - get used to it!" which I think was a mistake. The first part also shows some signs of the Doctor's violent streak (which is way beyond any other incarnation of the Doctor) as he fights a fake policeman and threatens people.
The Cybermen when they appear are sadly given very inadequate voices. They do not sound good and the delivery of dialogue is lame, sounding far too human and emotional. An emotionless mechanical voice would have vastly improved all the Cybermen scenes as would having a Cyber Leader who was not clearly a bit chubby around the waist!
There are poorly executed action scenes throughout as fights appear like bad amateur dramatics. One or two such scenes in episode 1 are followed by numerous inadequate scenes in part two where people look unconvincing as they fight and fall over unnaturally. Peri (Nicola Bryant) sadly is also, as usual, very wooden and comes across as a whining annoyance. She is used as pretty window dressing but rarely gives anything to add quality to stories apart from sub par acting.
The music for this serial is also poor.
At the end of part 1 things are already missing the potentially great standard but are still reasonably OK. Episode 2 goes downhill a lot though. The complicated plot does not come through to conclusion in a coherent way and things become very violent. Darkness and scares are great and what I want from Doctor Who most weeks but this is just heavy handedly done at times and involves the Doctor shooting Cybermen with guns, blowing things up with a sonic lance and threatening to kill people. I object to making the Doctor use violence in such an aggressive and easy way. The character has always used brains over brawn and found clever ways to deal with things. The 3rd Doctor did his Venusian Aikido to unarm or temporarily disable but the 6th Doctor is shown to happily engage in physically attacking, shooting, threatening and killing those in his way. It is too much and is the biggest problem with this story (and others which followed).
In part 2 we also get the arrival of the poorly designed and cheaply put together Cryons. Their alien behaviour and reliance on cold are good ideas and they could have been a good addition. As it is, they are embarrassingly bad in appearance and end up as a negative aspect.
Things come to an uninspired anti climax and overall this story was, for me, a disappointment. Good ingredients and scenes of gritty atmosphere are wasted with a poorly developed production and bad choices in the Doctor's behaviour.
Episode 1 - 6.5/10, Episode 2 - 4/10, Overall story - 5.25/10.