One of the many treats for Doctor Who fans this Christmas, particularly those who appreciate the original series is the release on DVD of The Invasion an eight part adventure for Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor featuring the Cybermen.
As the story opens, the Doctor is having problems with the TARDIS, which materialises above the dark side of the moon. Unfortunately it’s presence is not welcome, and a missile is launched at the time machine, with the the Doctor evading it just in time. The TARDIS comes to rest in a cow filled field, and with the Doctor needing parts to fix the fault, the TARDIS crew have to go off to find someone to help. The Doctor and his friends head for London to look up an old friend, but find that he has gone away, leaving his home in the care of a Professor Watkins and his niece – but Professor Watkins has disappeared whilst working for International Electromatics. The Doctor goes to investigate, and discovers that Tobias Vaughn, the sinister head of International Electromatics is working with the Cybermen to conquer the world. Vaughn believes that he can use the Cybermen, who he believes want only the natural resources of the Earth in order to gain power, and has been using Cyberman technology to infiltrate key government roles in order to keep his plan secret. Over a number of months he has been bringing the Cyberman army to Earth and hiding them in the London sewers. However the Cybermen have other plans, and want to convert the entire human race to Cybermen, and tell Vaughn that he can only lead the Earth once he has been converted. Ultimately Vaughn realises that he cannot control the Cybermen and joins with the Doctor to defeat them.
If that plot seems somewhat familiar, it should, as it is remarkably similar to the plot of Rise of the Cybermen, a similarity I commented on at the time that episode was first shown. Aside from the difference that John Lumic the sinister head of Cybus Industries creates the Cybermen in the later story, a significant number of plot elements are the same. The take-over in both stories is by means of secret circuits in electronic devices, in both stories the wealthy industrialist believes he can control the Cybermen but ultimately can’t, there are even quite subtle similarities, for example in both stories the industrialists have a loyal assistant who doesn’t want to be taken over, and in both the industrialists whilst having been augmented by cyber-technology, ultimately do not want to be fully converted. The production team for Rise of the Cybermen acknowledged the similarities between the two stories by naming the transport company that move the Cybermen International Electromatics after the company in the original story.
The major selling point of this DVD though is that this is the first release of the complete story. Whilst The Invasion was released on video in 1993, the missing first and fourth episodes were replaced with Nicholas Courtney explaining the missing plot, this time, as I mentioned a few months back the missing episodes have been recreated using the original soundtracks of the episode which have been preserved, and animation produced by the team at Cosgrove Hall.
I have to say that the new animated episodes look great. Ironically in certain respects I think they look better than the original episodes. For example the strange alien machine that Vaughn uses to communicate with the Cybermen first appears at the climax of the first episode, so appears animated, and looks decidedly better than the shot of the actual prop that appears in episode two. Having said that, the big disappointment for the animators I bet was that they didn’t get much opportunity to animate Cybermen, as their first appearance in the story is in the final scene of episode four. Certainly you can understand why the animators chose the scenes they did for the initial trailer now.
That actually serves to highlight one of the big differences between The Invasion and modern Doctor Who – this is very slow burn. The presence of the Cybermen is not revealed until the very end of episode four, with the first four episodes being the Doctor investigating International Electromatics, and whilst you subsequently discover that he gets pretty close, the monsters don’t actually appear. Episodes four to eight are the Doctor dealing with the actual invasion, complete with creepy encounters with Cybermen in the sewers, and the iconic images from the story with Cybermen on the steps of St Pauls. Strangely enough though for such a long story, elements of these episodes seem decidedly rushed – on several occasions you get key moments in the defeat of the invasion which are referred to but not seen, and even the final scene where the Doctor and his friends leave to a new adventure seems very quick. Maybe I’m just getting rather used to the longer character moments we have in the new series.
Having said that, it is an excellent story, and it is great to be able to see the whole thing once again. The story came at a key moment in time for the series. Patrick Troughton had decided to leave, and with the advent of colour TV, the producers had decided to make the series more Earth based, because they believed (rather as the team does today) that they didn’t have the budget to do alien worlds justice. As such The Invasion can be seen as a pilot for the UNIT stories that followed during the third Doctor era. So as both a key point in the development of Doctor Who, and a great story in it’s own right, it is a definite must own purchase for a Doctor Who fan.