Doctor Who reviews: The Moonbase

On more than one occasion Colin Baker, who played the sixth incarnation of the Doctor, has observed that if it was not for Patrick Troughton’s portrayal of the Second Doctor, the Doctor Who series as we know it might never have existed.  If Troughton had not been able to sell the audience on the idea that the Doctor could completely change, taking on not just a totally new appearance but an entirely different personality, yet at the same time still be the same character previously played by William Hartnell, then the show would never have lasted half a century.

I believe that Baker is absolutely correct.  Nowadays the concept of regeneration, of a new actor coming in to play the Doctor every few years, is taken for granted by fans of the series.  But back in 1967, if Troughton had not given such a brilliant performance as the new Doctor, and won the audience over, the show probably would have been canceled.

For a number of years Troughton’s crucial contributions to Doctor Who became overlooked due to the fact that the majority of the serials he appeared in were either missing or incomplete.  Fortunately within the last quarter century a number of those previously-lost episodes have been rediscovered, and others have been recreated using the original audio tracks (recorded back in the day by avid fans) combined with brand new animation.  Younger fans now have the opportunity to view stories which have not been seen in decades.

Moonbase DVD

One of the recent DVD releases to feature Troughton’s Doctor is “The Moonbase,” a four episode serial written by Kit Pedler & Gerry Davis broadcast in early 1967.  It is only the fourth story to feature Troughton, and I think that it marks a major turning point in the series.  Episodes two and four have been in the BBC archives for quite a number of years, and I’ve viewed them a few times previously on the Lost In Time DVD set.  With episodes one and three now recreated via animation, it is finally possible to view the story in its entirety, which gives a much better feel for its significance.

It can still be a bit difficult to understand the evolution of the Second Doctor.  However, going by the soundtracks, photographs, surviving footage, and novelizations of his first three stories, it seems that Troughton did take time to find his feet.  Early on his Doctor was very comical, wearing strange hats and assuming oddball disguises.  With “The Moonbase,” Troughton finally settles into the role.  It is here that the Doctor solemnly states his now-iconic mission statement:

“There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things. Things that act against everything we believe in. They must be fought.”

From this point on, the Second Doctor is still humorous, but it is more often with the goal of distracting people or making villains underestimate him.

Looking back on my review of the Matt Smith episode “Cold War” last April, I see that I described the Eleventh Doctor as “an oddball with a steely determination beneath the babbling and flippancy.”  That also sums up the Second Doctor very well indeed.  Smith really did find quite a bit of inspiration in Troughton.

So, what is “The Moonbase” about, anyway?  Unexpectedly landing the TARDIS on the Moon in the year 2070, the Doctor and his companions Ben, Polly, and Jamie find that the weather-control center for the Earth is experiencing both a mysterious plague and unexplained technical difficulties.  They soon discover that the Cybermen are behind this crisis, with the goal of seizing the weather-manipulating Graviton and using it to wipe out all life on Earth.

“The Moonbase” is something of a retread of Pedler & Davis’ inaugural Cybermen story, “The Tenth Planet.”  However in most respects this serial is a marked improvement.  Morris Barry’s direction is top notch.  One of his most memorable sequences is the opening of episode four, with an army of Cybermen marching across the surface of the Moon.  The pacing of this story is much stronger.  The characters are better developed.  Unlike the unhinged General Cutler from “The Tenth Planet,” the Graviton’s commander Hobson (the excellent Patrick Barr) may be stern and short-tempered, but in a crisis he knows how to keep his head and rally the staff working under him.  The Cybermen costumes, while they do look rather more robotic, unfortunately betraying much less of the creatures’ organic origins, are better designed and built, at least from the practical aspect of actual actors having to wear them in a hot, cramped studio.  And unlike “The Tenth Planet,” which saw the Doctor unavoidably sidelined for much of the action due to Hartnell’s ill health, in “The Moonbase” the time traveler is front & center in the story.

Moonbase Polly animated

I also found that “The Moonbase” made much better use of the character Polly (Anneke Wills).  Yes, in the first half she is relegated to tending to the injured Jamie in the medical unit and serving coffee.  But in episode three it is Polly who figures out a way to fight the Cybermen, mixing together a cocktail of chemical solvents to spray at their chest units, which destroys their artificial organs, killing them.  When Ben (Michael Craze) attempts to convince Polly to stay in the medical center, arguing that fighting the Cybermen is “men’s work,” she has none of that, and charges into battle with a fire extinguisher full of chemicals.

If “The Tenth Planet” was the first “base under siege” story in Doctor Who, then it was “The Moonbase” that refined the formula.  Heck, the word “base” is actually part of the title, and in episode three Hobson tells his staff that they are “under siege.”  So there you go!  In any case, the basic structure would be repeated throughout Troughton’s tenure as the Doctor.  Even in modern Doctor Who this formula has been effectively utilized from time to time, namely in “The Waters of Mars” and “Cold War.”

A humorous aspect of this story comes out of the scripts having been written before the last minute decision was made to have Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) join the TARDIS crew at the end of “The Highlanders.”  This meant that Pedler & Davis had to write Jaime in at the eleventh hour.  Their solution was to have Jaime suffer a concussion early on in the story, and then spend the next two episodes lying semi-conscious in the medical center. And whenever a Cyberman pops into the room, the delirious Jamie thinks it is the ghostly “Phantom Piper” come to claim his soul!

There are, admittedly, a few faults to “The Moonbase.”  The Doctor supposedly conducts an incredibly thorough investigation in an attempt to find the cause of the plague.  He examines everything: food, water, clothing, boots, hair, and I don’t know what else.  The result is that he comes up completely empty-handed.  Then five minutes later another crew member dramatically keels over after drinking a cup of coffee and the Doctor realizes the Cybermen have poisoned the sugar.  Um, if he tested everything, how did he miss that the first time around?

I’m also trying to figure out what the deal is with the Cyberman who every so often pops out of the closet in the back of the medical center, snatches up a plague-infected crewman, and drags him back inside.  Each time this happens, a few moments later when someone goes to search the closet it’s empty.  Where the heck do the Cyberman and his captive go?  It’s like they vanish into thin air.  Yes, the Cybermen have dug a hole under the lunar surface into the underground storeroom of the base.  But we never find out how they do their disappearing act in the closet.

I’m also not too keen on the notion that the Cybermen are somehow inordinately affected by gravity, forcing them to infect the staff with a virus, take control of their minds, and use them to operate the Graviton.  So, tallying things up, that already gives the Cybermen three major vulnerabilities in just two stories: radiation, chemical solvents, and gravity.  (At least we’re still a couple of decades off from the point where you could kill the Cybermen by bouncing gold coins off their chest units!)

It’s also stated at a few times that all of the Cybermen died nearly a century ago when their home planet Mondas was destroyed, which is why initially Hobson doesn’t believe Polly when she says she’s seen them.  Apparently there was going to be dialogue in episode three where the Cybermen explained they were part of a group that departed from Mondas some years before its destruction.  Supposedly the scene was filmed but was then cut because the episode was overrunning, even though there was other less vital material that could have been edited out instead.  The result is that viewers are never told how the Cybermen survived.  At least Gerry Davis restored that piece of exposition when he novelized “The Moonbase” as Doctor Who and the Cybermen in 1974.

Doctor Who and the Cybermen

Well, aside from a few weaknesses, this is a solid story.  And the DVD extras are of a high quality.  First off, the animation used to recreate the two missing episodes looks fantastic.  I was watching this with Michele, and she was impressed, especially with the lifelike, nuanced animated versions of the characters.  Her specific comment was “Nice facial expressions.”  Troughton did much of his acting with his features, expressions and body language, so it is a lovely detail that the animators were able to restore that aspect of his performance.

There were, regrettably, only a few participants available for the making of feature “Lunar Landing” due to the fact that many of the cast and crew are no longer among the living.  Nevertheless, it is still an informative segment with some revealing information.  All these decades later Anneke Wills possesses very detailed memories of the production.  It was interesting to hear her explain that director Morris Barry, who she describes as “tough” and “highly disciplined,” played a crucial role in getting Troughton to tone down the comedic aspects of his performance and portray “the darker, more serious side of the Doctor.”

“The Moonbase” may not be the best Cybermen story of the 1960s.  I consider their next appearance, “The Tomb of the Cybermen,” to hold that honor.  But, as I’ve said before, I think Pedler & Davis were on a learning curve, and you can see the improvement from one story to the next, with “The Moonbase” improving on “The Tenth Planet,” and then “Tomb of the Cybermen” improving on that.  Certainly “The Moonbase” was a vital step in establishing the characterization of the Second Doctor, as well as setting the stage for many of the now-classic serials that would be produced over the next two and a half years.  And all that, in turn, helped to propel Doctor Who into a long and successful series that still resonates with today’s viewers.

Doctor Who: The Missing Episodes UPDATED

As I’ve blogged before, I started watching Doctor Who around 1983 or so.  Back then, being a fan of the show could be frustrating.  This was in the days before the BBC began releasing the show on videotape.  The only episodes one could see here in the States were those showing on the local PBS channels.  In my case, that was WLIW Channel 21, which was airing the Tom Baker and Peter Davison stories.

As far as obtaining information on older Doctor Who, sources in the 1980s were limited.  I had to rely on the Target novelisations, the occasional issue of Doctor Who Magazine that showed up in the comic shops, and the odd sci-fi reference book containing a few black & white photos offering tantalizing glimpses of 1960s and early 70s stories.  Oh, yes, a couple of years later I got my hands on the two-volume Doctor Who Programme Guide by J.M. Lofficier.  That was an invaluable wealth of information in those pre-Internet days.  I read those two books so many times that my copies are totally dog-eared!

In 1985, another PBS channel began airing the Jon Pertwee stories on Sunday mornings.  I was thrilled to be able watch those early 1970s serials, many of which had been alluded to in the Peter Davison stories.  But the material from the 1960s still remained beyond my grasp.

Adding to my frustration was word-of-mouth from older fans who had seen those stories when they first aired.  Those fans had such nostalgic memories of the material, and many held the opinion that then-current Doctor Who stories of the 1980s could not hold a candle to the William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton stories from two decades earlier.

(I’ve mentioned before the phenomenon of “the memory cheats” cited by John Nathan-Turner, which of course turned out rather truthful.  But back in the mid-1980s I had no choice but to rely on the opinions of people who had actually grown up watching the series in the 1960s).

The difficulty with being able to view many of those early stories was that throughout the 1970s the BBC systematically erased or destroyed the majority of their master tapes for the early Doctor Who episodes, along with numerous other television programs.  There were a few reasons for this.  The BBC wanted to save on storage space.  Also, contracts with unions typically prevented shows from being broadcast more than once or twice, as the feeling by organized labor was that reruns would rob actors of new jobs and income.  Finally, no one had any idea that DVDs and Internet downloads would one day exist, providing the BBC with completely new distribution outlets, not to mention a huge source of revenue.

So, back in the mid-1980s, it was commonly believed that the majority of the Sixties stories no longer existed.  I resigned myself to the fact that I would never be able to watch “The Daleks’ Master Plan” or “The Evil of the Daleks” or “Tomb of the Cybermen,” serials which older fans decreed were The Greatest Doctor Who Stories Ever.

What I didn’t realize was that, behind the scenes, both the BBC and fans of the show had begun searching for copies of the many missing episodes.  By the 1990s, quite a few had been recovered, either from various foreign countries (many of the shows had been sold overseas by the BBC) or from really unlike locations such as church basements and the trunks of old cars.

Hmmm, missing episodes, missing episodes.... I was sure I wrote down where I put them somewhere in my diary!
Hmmm, missing episodes, missing episodes…. I was certain that I wrote down where I put them somewhere in my 500 Year Diary!

In my blog post Unearthing the Tomb of the Cybermen, I related how huge a deal it was when all four episodes of that story were discovered in 1992 in the archives of a Hong Kong television station.  And by that time, I’d also had the opportunity to see a number of the other complete Sixties serials, which finally started airing on PBS around 1990.  And I realized something: some of them truly were classics, but others were of variable quality, with a few being very mediocre, padded-out efforts.  Which, really, is something you can say about most periods in the show’s history.  Yes, even present day Doctor Who, which can range between the brilliant and the underwhelming.  That said, it is a shame that such a significant number of early Doctor Who episodes are lost.  I would like to be able to view them, and make up my own mind.

When I wrote an earlier version of this post, back in January 2010, of the 253 episodes filmed in the Sixties, 108 were still missing from the BBC archives.  The odds seemed slim that any more would surface.  But the most recent discovery of a lost episode before that was only six years earlier, in 2004.  So I observed it was conceivable that a few more episodes might be floating around somewhere in the world.  And I was much relieved when, in December 2011, it was announced that two more episodes had been found, “Galaxy Four” part three and “The Underwater Menace” part two.  At least now my earlier forecast didn’t seem quite so foolish!

Fast forward to 2013.  For months now, rumors have been circulating that a number of missing episodes had been unearthed.  I really did not give these much credence because, let’s face it, the Internet is full of unverifiable “information.”  But the gossip really gathered steam in the past month’s time, claims that the BBC had located a significant number of episodes and was sitting on the news in order to make a huge announcement.  I totally dismissed out of hand the claim by UK tabloid The Mirror that “over 100 episodes” had been recovered.  Not only was that number really unrealistic, the supposed source of this information was someone who heard it from a friend… who, in turn, probably heard it from another friend, and so on.  And, y’know, The Mirror isn’t exactly known for its journalist excellence!

Then, on Monday of this week, it was announced by the BBC themselves that, yes, an unspecified number of episodes had been recovered.  However, the details would not be revealed until Wednesday.  No, make that Thursday!  At this point in time, I wanted to bang my head against a wall in frustration, and I started referring to this whole sequence of events as “The Great Doctor Who Missing Episodes Cock-Tease of 2013.”

Last night I arrived home from the New York Comic Con and immediately went online to see if the BBC had finally spilled the goods.  Yes, at last they had.  Eleven episodes had been located, lying forgotten in the storeroom of a Nigerian television station, and of these, nine were previously missing from the BBC’s archives.  What was recovered was the entire six episode serial “The Enemy of the World” and five of the six episodes comprising “The Web of Fear.”  Both of these starred Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, and Deborah Watling, and were originally broadcast during 1967-68, the show’s fifth season.

I have got to say, this is really great news.  Due to the manner in which the BBC sold Doctor Who abroad, there were far fewer copies of the stories from the third, fourth, and fifth years made and distributed.  There is an excellent two-part article in Doctor Who Magazine #444 to 445 (March & April 2012) written by Richard Molesworth that explains the whys and wherefores of this situation in great detail.  Suffice it to say, the end result of this was that much of William Hartnell’s third year on the series, and nearly all of Patrick Troughton’s first two years, have been lost for several decades now.  So to locate two of Troughton’s stories, one totally intact, the other nearly so, is a huge discovery.

Many older fans (as in, even older than me!) have long regarded Season Five, featuring Troughton, Hines, and Watling, to be one of the all time greatest years in the series’ history.  Of course, always hearing this would drive me nuts, because I could never actually watch the majority of it!  But now, of the seven serials from 1967-68, two are known to exist in full, namely “Tomb of the Cybermen” and “Enemy of the World,” and two more are nearly complete, specifically “The Ice Warriors” and “The Web of Fear.”  The two missing episodes from “The Ice Warriors” were recreated via animation and the story was just released on DVD.  Hopefully the BBC can provide the same treatment for that one still-lost installment of “The Web of Fear.”

Optimism aside, I honestly thought it was unlikely that the missing episode count would ever dip below the 100 mark.  But now it actually stands at 97.

Look, Victoria, I'm telling you, I spotted some missing episodes over there. Or would you rather ask the Yeti that's chasing us for directions?
Look, Victoria, I’m telling you, I spotted some missing episodes over there. Or would you rather ask the Yeti that’s chasing us for directions?

In any case, there are now even more opportunities to view the existing material from the Sixties.  All of the complete stories have been digitally restored and released on DVD.  Many of the episodes from incomplete serials are collected on the three-disk set Lost in Time, released in 2004.  The nine newly found episodes are already available for digital download on iTunes, and apparently are racking up very impressive sales figures.  Complete audio tracks exist for every episode due to fans copying them off their televisions with tape recorders during the original broadcasts.   Several have been animated.  And the majority of the episodes have various still pictures called “telesnaps” taken by John Cura in the 1960s.  So it is possible to reconstruct the lost stories in one way or another.

By the way, the online piece Snapshots in History is a very informative profile on Cura and his important work.  Definitely take a look.  And I must offer a big “thank you” to Vivian Fleming, who writes the excellent, entertaining WordPress blog The Mind Robber, for having posted a link to it.

Anyway, in a dream world, what missing episodes would I like to see resurface?  At the top of my list of Hartnell material would be the last episode of “The Tenth Planet,” which has the Doctor’s very first regeneration.  That episode has been reconstructed via animation, but one day it would be nice to see the original.  It would also be great if at least one of the seven episodes from the lavish historical serial “Marco Polo” from the show’s first season was discovered.  It is very odd that none are currently known to exist, when practically the rest of the entire first year of Doctor Who is intact, except for two episodes from “The Reign of Terror.”  I would also like to be able to see another completely missing historical story, “The Massacre,” which gave the spotlight to companion Steven Taylor, portrayed by Peter Purves.  It also features an amazingly moving monologue by the Doctor in the last episode.  And the final apocalyptic episode of “The Daleks’ Master Plan” sounds like it was amazing.

Concerning the Troughton era of the show, I’d certainly be happy if any episodes surfaced from his debut adventure, “The Power of the Daleks,” as well as his second run-in with the fascist mutants from Skaro, “The Evil of the Daleks.”  Also topping my wish list is “Fury from the Deep,” another story from season five.  It is the only serial from that year of which no complete episodes are known to exist.  Based on the very creepy, atmospheric novelization written by the original writer, Victor Pemberton, plus looking at a handful of very brief surviving clips & behind-the-scenes footage, it was probably a heck of a story.  Finally, “The Highlanders,” which introduces long-time companion Jamie McCrimmon, played by Frazer Hines, would be a nice find.

It is extremely unlikely that we will see the recovery of every single missing episode.  I am sure that there are many that have been irrevocably lost.  For instance, several different sources all agree that “The Daleks’ Master Plan” part seven is gone for good.  Because it was a one-off Christmas interlude set in the middle of that mammoth twelve-part epic, the BBC considered it a throw-away episode.  Consequently it was never offered up for sale anywhere in the world and it was wiped soon after it was broadcast in 1965.

So, no, it really would be absolutely impossible to find every one of those 97 remaining missing Doctor Who episodes.  That said, I still hope that a few more are out there, waiting to be discovered.  But, in the meantime, let’s enjoy the ones we do have.

Doctor Who reviews: The Tomb of the Cybermen

In the Doctor Who story “The Tomb of the Cybermen,” the Second Doctor and his companions, Jamie McCrimmon and Victoria Waterfield, arrive on the planet Telos.  There they come across an archeological expedition, led by Professor Parry, to uncover the remains of the once-feared Cybermen, who vanished 500 years previously.  The expedition is being funded by a mysterious couple, Klieg and Kaftan, who have their own hidden motives.  The Doctor, who has encountered the Cybermen before, is immediately alarmed.  He suspects that his old cyborg foes may not be nearly as dead as Parry believes.  And he intends to keep an eye on Klieg and Kaftan, to discover what they are up to.

Unearthing the entrance to the Cyberman’s tombs, Parry’s expedition soon finds itself in perilous danger, both from within and without.  The body count slowly begins to rise.  And, as the Doctor predicted, the Cybermen are far from dead, instead lurking in suspended animation, ready to once again come to terrifying life.

“Tomb” is a very exciting, intelligent, atmospheric production.  It is rightfully considered one of the all-time great Doctor Who stories.  Kit Pedler & Gerry Davis’ scripts are top-notch.  The direction by Morris Barry is extremely effective at creating a very tangible mood.  The sets are stunning and ambitious, especially when one considers the budgetary limitations the crew was working under.  One of the most memorable scenes in the series’ entire history comes towards the end of the second episode, when the Cybermen slowly emerge from their tombs.  The Cybermen themselves are imposing figures, looming over the other actors.  Even more impressive is their leader, the Controller, with his glowing, brain-like domed head.

Certainly this is one of the best stories to feature the Cybermen.  Later writers on the show sometimes made the mistake of downplaying or ignoring the Cybermen’s background.  But “Tomb” fully embraces their horrific origins, that they were once human-like beings who gradually began replacing body parts with mechanical substitutes, in a misguided effort to ensure their survival.  Eventually the Cybermen became almost entirely machine, in the process losing their capacity for emotions, their very humanity.  Worse yet, the Cybermen saw this as an actual “improvement.”  And it is an improvement they wish to share with the rest of the galaxy.  In “Tomb,” the most terrifying thought facing the human expedition is not that they will be killed, but instead transformed into emotionless mechanical monsters.  The Cyberman Controller, in his eerie electronic voice, informs the captive humans, “You belong to us. You shall be like us.”  It is a horrific pronouncement.

The Tomb of the Cybermen DVD

I’ve always been especially impressed with Patrick Troughton’s performance as the Doctor in “Tomb.”  Before I saw this story, I never really understood why older fans had such reverence for Troughton’s depiction of the Doctor.  This was completely down to the fact that I had only seen him in such serials as “The Dominators” and “The Krotons,” neither of which, let’s face it, will ever probably make the list of Top Twenty-Five Doctor Who Stories Ever, to say the least!  But watching Troughton in “Tomb,” a very well-written, well-produced story from when he was at the top of his game, wow, I was amazed.  He was electrifying.

There are so many facets to Troughton’s performance.  At first glance he seems to be scrambling about frantically, in a state of near-panic, events totally beyond his control.  But if you pay closer attention, you’ll notice that the Doctor, despite his repeated admonishments that Parry’s group is in grave danger, is the one who ends up solving all of their obstacles.  Each and every time the expedition hits a brick wall, the Doctor is the one who comes up with the solution, and at least once without their even realizing he’s done it.  In a way, he is manipulating people and events.  The fact that the Cybermen do get awakened in the first place would probably not have been possible if it wasn’t for his actions.

I remember when “Tomb” was first recovered in 1992, it was a few years after Doctor Who had gone off the air.  Right before the original series ended in 1989, the Doctor had been played by Sylvester McCoy, who had given a darker, more mysterious spin to the role, portraying the Doctor as a figure who worked on the side to set in motion events towards a specific outcome.  This was carried over in the New Adventures novels in the early 1990s, where many of the writers cast this Doctor as a cosmic chess player, maneuvering living pawns across the field of battle.  For myself, this seemed very strange, and it served to make the Doctor unlikable.  Then I viewed “Tomb,” and I realized that the Doctor as a manipulative, enigmatic figure was nothing new, that Troughton had been doing it a quarter century earlier.  Indeed, I subsequently learned that other stories such as “Evil of the Daleks” and “The War Games” also saw the Second Doctor cast in an ambiguous light, where you weren’t quite clear about his motives, and were left uncertain if he might not sacrifice others for the bigger picture.

At the same time, Troughton is capable of giving the Doctor a great deal of warmth & tenderness, as demonstrated in a scene with Victoria, who is played by Deborah Watling.  The previously-sheltered Victoria is still mourning the loss of her father, who was killed by the Daleks just a short time before (in the aforementioned “Evil of the Daleks”), and being abruptly uprooted from 19th Century England to travel through all of time & space.  The Doctor very much takes on the role of a father figure here, and it’s a very touching scene.

Also apparent is the chemistry Troughton had with Frazer Hines, who played Jamie.  As I understand it, the two actors had a wonderful rapport, and it is obvious how well they work together here.  It’s not surprising that Hines chose to stay on playing Jamie for the duration of Troughton’s stint of the Doctor.  I love the scene in episode one that they improvised where they each go to take Victoria’s hand to lead her inside the Cybermen’s control room, accidentally grab each other’s hand instead, quickly realize their mistake, and frantically shake loose from one another.  It’s a lovely bit of comedy that helps to lighten the tension.

The Cybermen awaken from suspended animation

Mind you, I am not saying that “Tomb” is a flawless production.  If you really want to be picky, a few of the special effects have not aged well.  In one scene where Kaftan’s servant Toberman is lifted up by a Cyberman, you can clearly see the wire pulling him up.  Later, when Toberman throws the Controller across a room, it’s obviously an empty dummy costume.  But those are minor quibbles.  I guess the most obvious problem is that the Cyberman’s tiny metal servants, the Cybermats (sort of metallic silverfish) are supposed to be terrifying, but end up coming across as silly.  Ah, well, they were kinda cute.

There is a major plot hole to the story, namely that the Cybermen did not think to put any controls in their tombs to open the hatchway to the surface, leaving the only switch up in the main control room.  That results in them getting locked up in their own tombs not once, but twice.  For a species based on logic, that seems like a major oversight on their part.  Come to think of it, how the heck did they close the hatch in the first place once they were all down in the tombs if the only control was upstairs?

The other problems are really more to do with the period when “Tomb” was made.  There is the chauvinistic attitude of Professor Parry, who attempts to sideline Victoria and Kaftan in order to keep the women out of harm’s way.  By today’s standards, this is very sexist, but undoubtedly the writers did not foresee how far the Women’s Lib movement would come in just a few decades, much less several hundred years in the future.

Another issue is the human villains.  Klieg and Kaftan are both foreign (i.e. non-British) and although not identified, the audience is presumably meant to infer that they are either Eastern European or Arabic.  Also, Toberman is a big, strong, mostly silent black man.  Once again, this was probably a non-issue in 1967.  But if the story was made today, it would be done very differently in handling the characters’ ethnic backgrounds, as well as the attitudes towards women.

Of course, even the villains aren’t completely black & white.  Yep, Klieg is a megalomaniac.  But Kaftan, despite being an icy bitch, regards Toberman as more than a servant, and shows genuine affection & concern for his well-being.  You also see her becoming more than slightly wary as she observes Klieg’s gradual descent into madness.  In portraying Kaftan, actress Shirley Cooklin adds a certain amount of depth to what could easily have been a one-dimensional villain.  Likewise, when Toberman is partially converted into a Cyberman, the Doctor breaks through his brainwashing to his humanity by appealing to his concern for Kaftan.  In the end, Toberman plays an instrumental role in stopping the Cybermen.

Shirley Cooklin as the lovely but treacherous Kaftan

There are two audio commentaries on “The Tomb of the Cybermen” re-release. The first, featuring Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling, is from the first DVD release.  The second one is new and, in addition to a return by Hines and Watling, features actors Shirley Cooklin, Bernard Holley, Reg Whitehead, plus script editor Victor Pemberton.  I enjoyed the new commentary much more, both because it had more participants, and because it was moderated by Toby Hadoke, who did an excellent job.  I’ve found that on the Doctor Who DVD commentaries, it is a very good idea to have a moderator for the stories made in the 1960s and early 1970s, someone who can help jog everyone’s understandably foggy memories of working on a television series several decades ago.

The picture quality on this DVD edition of “Tomb” looks fantastic.  The images have really been cleaned up magnificently with a computer program called VidFIRE.  There is a short feature about the process on the second disk which attempts to keep the explanations as simple as possible.  For a non-technical person such as myself, I appreciated that they did not try to go into too much detail, because it would have gone all over my head!

There are several other items on the second disk.  The most informative for me was “The Lost Giants” making of feature.  The two participants who recall events most clearly are Victor Pemberton and Shirley Cooklin.  Pemberton worked closely with Pedler & Davis on the scripts, and he observes what an unlikely yet incredible effective collaboration they had.  Pedler was “the scientist” and Davis “the dramatist,” and they managed to successfully mesh their two chosen disciplines together to create highly effective stories such as “Tomb.”  Cooklin explains how she came to be cast in the role of Kaftan, and recalls a number of very humorous anecdotes relating to the production of “Tomb.”

My only major complaint concerning this new release is that it did not include among its extras “Tombwatch,” a panel discussion with the cast & crew filmed back in 1992, which was included on the first DVD.  It is true, some of the information from “Tombwatch” is repeated in either the commentaries or the new feature “The Lost Giants.”  But there was more than enough that was unique to “Tombwatch” that merited it being retained on the new DVD edition.  So now I’m not sure if I should give my old copy of “Tomb” to a friend like I had originally planned, or hang on to both releases.  Decisions, decisions!

That said, I really did enjoy this re-release of “The Tomb of the Cybermen” on DVD.  If you do not already own the story, it is well worth picking up.