The Monsters Behind the Curtain

Review of The Invasion (#46)
DVD Release Date: 06 Mar 07 (Out of Print)
Original Air Date: 02 Nov - 21 Dec 1968
Doctor/Companion: Two, Jamie McCrimmon, Zoë Heriot
Stars: Patrick Troughton, Fraser Hines, Wendy Padbury
Preceding Story: The Mind Robber (Two, Jamie, Zoë)
Succeeding Story: The Krotons (Two, Jamie, Zoë)

My decision to review The Underwater Menace last time was not in the original plan for the year, but it turns out to have made for a nice segue into this month's installment in my continuing series. Having just refamiliarized ourselves with the Second Doctor, we can now watch him in action against the Cybermen.

Many fans may be more familiar with Troughton's clash with this enemy on their native Telos in The Tomb of the Cybermen, but that doesn't mean this final encounter (of his four) is unworthy of fans' time. Although it runs twice as long as Tomb, at eight episodes rather than four, there are qualities of the story that, for me at least, make the investment worthwhile.

To be clear, two episodes of The Invasion are still missing from the archives. However, in this release those missing episodes (numbers One and Four) have been animated by Cosgrove Hall, the same studio responsible for Scream of the Shalka. As someone who struggles with audio-only versions (as with the missing episodes of Menace, discussed last time), I really loved these animations. While I don't know whether director Douglas Camfield left any camera notes nor whether any such notes were consulted in the animated reconstructions, these episodes don't feel (to my untrained eye) out of place.

Another strength of these bridging episodes is how well they depict the various players. In particular, the cartoon Troughton feels true to form; he fiddles with his fingers as he considers his words, and squints his eyes in a particular, recognizable way at the appropriate points in the narrative. Similarly, even when they're just silhouettes crossing the screen in a split second, Jamie and the Doctor are recognizable by their gaits alone. The quality of the reconstructions help to keep the story moving forward at a respectable pace.

Granted, "respectable" is relative. It's difficult to avoid huge swaths of narrative padding in any eight-episode story, and The Invasion has plenty of those moments. For me, though, they were not egregious or difficult to sit through; perhaps it is Camfield's vaunted direction or the sparse but tense score that lend more of a sense of tension than of killing time.

While the modern viewer will know going in that this is a Cybermen story, viewers at the time would have had to piece it together themselves until the big reveal at the end of Episode Four. With hindsight, I can see exactly where all the clues to the identity of the Big Bad appear, but they are actually relatively subtle.

These are still the emotionless, ruthless Cybermen intent on subjugating Earth. While early signs point to a tendency toward cooperation, once the viewer is aware of the identity of the mysterious "partners" of our other antagonist Tobias Vaughn, the villainous head of world economic power International Electromatics, it is clear both to viewer and Vaughn that the Cybermen are not to be trusted. The twists that lead to the climactic showdown among all the relevant parties are convoluted but entertaining, and true to form for the Troughton era of Who.

Further, this story is early enough in the show's run to contain some elements of historical significance. To wit, we are introduced to Corporal (later to be Sergeant) Benton of UNIT, and we we meet Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart for the second time—promoted to Brigadier from Colonel since our last encounter with him in The Web of Fear (four years in story time; some nine months in the real world). For anyone who loves the UNIT family, that's an extra reason to enjoy The Invasion.

Though some viewers will find the story too drawn out for the amount of action, and others may not appreciate the rubber-suit version of Cybermen, fans of early Mondan/Telosian Cybermen or Troughton stories in general should find it entertaining enough to counter the stylistic drawbacks of the era. For my part, I find it quite enjoyable. Besides, nothing beats the iconic image of Cybermen stalking down the stairs outside St Paul's Cathedral in London—even a Capaldi episode referencing it.

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Comments

I notice you haven't been getting a lot of comments about these reviews of classic episodes. I've been enjoying them. But so far I either haven't seen the episodes reviewed or (for Tom Baker) it was so long ago that I don't remember it well. Therefore I feel I have little to contribute to a discussion.

I was told that Amazon Prime had classic Doctor Who episodes but found in practice that they had only a handful. Which is a shame. I was looking forward to the opportunity to see classic episodes I hadn't seen or had seen so long ago my memory of them was fuzzy. So far this has not happened.

But do know that as a loyal reader I am interested in your take on these episodes and continue to look forward to your reviews and confessions.

By Kara S (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

Thanks, Kara! :) I'll keep up with them for a while, and see how it goes. Hopefully some day soon I'll review one you know well enough to comment on! :)

By mrfranklin
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