REVENGE OF THE CYBERMEN
First up is the Tom Baker four~parter from 1974 and you would think that a story which boasts the lines "Who's the homicidal maniac?" and "Harry Sullivan is an imbecile!" paraded out by Tommy B would be a lot of fun. Sadly not (though the Cybermat does induce some larfs). The return of the Cybermen should have been a much more interesting affair but Revenge
is let down by the sheer dullness of the story.
The actors don't help either, specifically those inhabiting the costumes of the Vogans and the Cybermen themselves. Too
stagey and, as Philip "The Guv'nor" Hinchcliffe would describe it, too "Shakespearian shouty". And there's too many opposing sides, too many deceptions and not enough clarity to make it work. Which is a pity, because the production team neatly finish of the mini~Ark (ho~ho) started a number of stories earlier on the Nerva Beacon. Using the same set again was an inspired move and connects the series very well (a trick which is common now but not so much then).
Other positives include the relationships between The Doctor, Harry and Sarah who are all never less than brilliant. The plague special effect is well realised though one has to question the decision to render the Cyber helmets as guns, not convincing (and why the Cyber leader has his hand on his hips all the time is beyond me). Thankfully the Cybes would return in the 80s with more of a bang and more of a threat so best to forget this one and remember the good times.
Ruefully, the good times aren't to be found in the accompanying Cybermen tale, Silver Nemesis,
it's worse. Although it doesn't have the familiar stink of Eighties production values (being filmed entirely on location certainly helps), it does suffer from poor effects, jarring acting and a story that still has McCoy perplexed (well that's what he said on the commentary anyway).
Again the Cybermen come off as useless and, ironically, a bit wooden. Most of the time they skulk about in the background while the leader proclaims how "excellent" everything is. Particularly galling is the scene where The Doctor and Ace manage to outwit the chunky robots by literally walking between and around them, evading capture. Their menace is less than impressive.
I could go on. But I shan't. Enough has been written on Silver Nemesis
to let passers~by know that this is to be avoided. Though, if you like your stories to feature three sets of opposing villains and a plot that's lifted from Remembrance of the Daleks
(Ace evens says so much at the end) but subtly shifted so that any sense is rendered null, then perhaps this is for you. It does feature the sight of the Seventh Doctor wearing a fez, so that should account for something.
Usually the commentaries prove to embiggen
even the lamest of stories but I regret to report that this is not the case for the Revenge of the Cybermen
commentary. Featuring Elisabeth Sladen, David Collings and Phillip Hinchcliffe, it's a largely dry affair though I did chuckle when Collings (so brilliant in Robots of Death
and Mawdryn Undead
, but no so much in Revenge
) refers to The Doctor's weapon of choice as the "singing screwdriver." Also interesting to hear is Hinchcliffe talking about how highly he regards the way in which RTD brought back the Cybermen in the new series.
Thankfully the commentary for Silver Nemesis
proves to be a much more enjoyable affair. Sophie Aldred is on top form, sparking with a slightly mellow Sylvester McCoy. Andrew Cartmel (script editor) and Chris Clough (director) also provide much insight and humour (the area used for filming on Nemesis
is now the car park of the David Beckham Academy at the Dome fact fans), without being too precious about the story, even referring to it as "a bit iffy." An immensely enjoyable listen.
The VAM for Revenge of the Cybermen
prove to be the best of the bunch with three mini~docs. First up is a rather pedestrian look at the production of the story entitled The Tin Man and the Witch
, in which we get presented with a most ridiculous ghost story from director Michael E. Briant. Utter tosh, but Philip Hinchcliffe is on call to calm down matters with hard facts admitting they "didn't get it [Revenge
] quite right". He's blunt and frank in equal measures when it comes to the score, writing and acting. Most refreshing but this feature suffers from character. Or characters as none of the main cast comment in any way on the story leaving it to all the behind~the~scenes boffins to yarn on. And on.
Much more entertaining is the contemporary Location Report
where we find Tommy B and Co. in the caves of Wookey Hole. He's on top form describing himself as a "quiet living bachelor who likes a bit of fun" and even asking the interviewer "Would you like a jelly baby?" Short but tremendous fun and one you'll come back to time and again.
The highlight of the two disc set by far is Cheques, Lies and Videotape
, a look at the lengths some fans went to in the Eighties to get their hands on videos of Doctor Who
adventures. This could have been a very 'specialist' affair but the fillmmakers should be heartily congratulated on their choice of subjects - each one with their own unique tale to tell, filled with lurve
, nostalgia and, best of all, bags of personality. For example, their joy at remembering when The Five Faces of Dr. Who
was advertised (a series of repeats of past~Doctor adventures before the Davison era started) was sublime and reminded me of the joy I felt whilst watching those past stories for the first time (having only read the Target
books for reference).Cheques
is an affectionate yet humurous piece that many fans perhaps won't fully appreciate as it's possibly "too easy" to watch Who
these days. A lot of money was spent in obtaining the copies (and it was a lot!) but these fans would not have had it any other way and I salute them! Also worthy of a mention is the comparison of deteriorated copies that fans would have had to watched. Man, and you think YouTube
can be a bit poor quality at times!Silver Nemesis
doesn't have quite so much to accompany it with only one feature, Industrial Action, the usual Making Of
doc. It's far better than the accompanying disc's equivalent with all the actors chipping in, giving it a great sense of fun (even jazzboy Courtney Pine gets to chat!). There's also some amusing insight to the stories origins with the author of the story admitting he had no idea what he was going to do before he went to pitch it to JN~T (it does show). Kevin Clarke also states that The Doctor is God - so that answers that question then. And I thought he was meant to be Jesus...?
Those familiar with the extended version of Nemesis
that popped up on VHS in the Nineties will be glad to see the numerous deleted and extended scenes viewable here on their own (not as an extended version though). It's good to see so many off~cuts kept and in such good condition. There's also a Trails and Continuity
section which features a rather neat season trail with a specially filmed intro and outro from McCoy and Aldred.
As always there's the essential production text but I'll highlight the PDF extras that include a Radio Times
feature from the 25th anniversary. Combined, all these extras surely do make up for two rather dismal stories but if reference materials aren't your thang, then The Cybermen
box set won't be worth shelling out your hard earned bucks for. So here's to the release of the 3D versions in 2026, which will be the next time I watch these particular outings for The Doctor.