Retro ‘Doctor Who’ Review – Volume 2.1
Hi ho regular readers – since we’re entering the era of the second Doctor we’ve revised the numbering system for this series so it’s easier if you’re scouring the archives looking for a particular Doctor. Now without further ago…
The Tomb of the Cybermen
The most glaring omission from the early episodes of the Doctor Who is ‘The Tenth Planet’. This lost episode featured not one but two major debuts. Firstly, the Cybermen make their first appearance before going on to become second to the Daleks as the most familiar of The Doctor’s enemies. More importantly this episode showcases the first instance that the Doctor dies and regenerates. Following ‘The War Machines’ we speck ahead multiple stories to find a new, younger Doctor, and terrible new threat and a new couple of companions. Fortunately Patrick Troughton as the second Doctor makes this transition very easy for viewers.
Whilst the switch from Christopher Eccleston to David Tennant or David Tennant to Matt Smith requires some time to make the mental adjustment for the new version of the character, Troughton is remarkably easy to accept from the outset as The Doctor in spite of being closely linked to William Hatnell’s performance. Many of the traits introduced by the original performer carry across, yet Troughton makes them much more personable. He has a fantastic sense of comedic timing that gives him more in common with more recent incarnations of the character. Overall he’s a much more likeable character than what we’ve seen thus far.
This first (available) adventure with the new Doctor sees him, an energetic young highlander named Jamie and a gentle souled Elizabethan era girl named Victoria arrive on the long deserted home world of the Cybermen shortly after a mixed group of human explorers have located a crypt thought to contain the lost technology of the advanced race. Together they all obtain access to the tomb only to find that it isn’t a burial chamber by a stasis storage for the last of the Cybermen. After solving several complicated mechanisms and avoiding a range of booby traps it is revealed that the Cybermen have arranged their tomb so that when a race proves smart enough to get past the obstacles the Cybermen would be reanimated in order to assimilate them.
Compared to other stories of the era, this is a damn fine example of what kind of qualityDoctor Who had to offer in the early years. The story is imaginative and well paced with twists and turns around every corner. The Cybermen, in spite of looking a bit silly, are still a genuine threat and while the humans are trapped with them the Doctor is forced to rely on his wits to defeat them. The group of humans are just as interesting being a diverse bunch with their own distinct personalities and conflicts. It becomes clear before long that some are not all that they seem, making them just as dangerous as the Cybermen.
Of the companions who have traveled with the Doctor none have had the same kind of banter with The Doctor as Jamie seems to have. Although they are worlds apart they riff of each other very well with The Doctor being sly and thoughtful while Jamie is headstrong and impulsive. The dynamic is further enhanced by Victoria as the more naive traveler, getting into situations that the others need to find a way around to save her.
Even though this isn’t the original introduction to the 2nd Doctor and his companions (nor is it even close) this is such a good set of episodes that it’s very easy to get into the grove of things and enjoy the adventure.
As we drop into a new adventure there’s been a slight change in the TARDIS roster. Victoria has since departed to be replaced by Zoe, who was picked up sometime during Earth’s future. At times she almost rivals The Doctor in her knowledge of the advanced technology that they often encounter and is much smarter than Jamie. This creates a different, yet just as effective, dynamic between the main group.
Looking for some R&R the crew land themselves on Dulkis, a planet reputed for its peacefulness. While they are quick to break out the beach ball (literally) things go awry with the arrival of The Dominators, an alien race who visit worlds who can supply slave labour and radiation for power supply. The two Dominators are accompanied by a group of robotic Quarks who function as miners and soldiers to assist the invaders in their plan. When the peaceful people of Dulkis become aware of what’s happening they struggle to deal with the single minded drive of their new opponents.
Another great story featuring the second Doctor and his companions. Unfortunately it is marred, like some early episodes, by some rather atrocious design work. The Dominators seem to be dressed in over-sized life vests and the Quarks strongly resemble the Blorgons from ‘Inspector Spacetime’. The people of Dulkis’ fashion sense only looks reasonable compared to the giant foam shoulder pads of the Dominators and some their planet features from depressingly dull landscape.
Aside from these issues the story does hold up pretty well. The Dominators are in just as much conflict with each other as the people they’re invading and the Dulkis’ reluctance to get involved in combat to prevent slavery has some interesting scenes. The eventual pay off is very cool indeed.
The Mind Robber
Following on from the nail-biter at the close of The Dominators the Doctor and friends find themselves in a slight bind (involving being in the path of a stream of deadly lava) and hid the emergency button to escape. The emergency button takes the the TARDIS outside of the time stream. Strange images begin to taunt the crew and lure them out the craft before it falls to pieces. The three find themselves in a surreal world where they encounter odd puzzles that seem to be testing their creativity and intellect. Some of these puzzles are downright bizzare such as the Doctor having to reassemble Jamie’s face from an identikit – leaving the highlander with a different appearance when The Doctor gets it wrong. The mystery is further compounded when they start crossing paths with fictional characters such as Gulliver.
This stands out as one of the oddest stories of the time, stepping more into the realm of fantasy rather than science-fiction. The different encounters that each of the three face are interesting and there’s something very Wonderland-esque about the setting that helps compound the sense of mystery. Everything builds up to the reveal of what is going on behind the scenes with just enough new information given in each episode to keep viewers guessing. It’s kinda like Lost if it had a purpose.
As imaginative as the overall story is the big reveal doesn’t quite pack the punch it’s built up to be. That isn’t to say that it isn’t a clever twist – it is – but there’s a force controlling things that doesn’t get any explanation whatsoever. It feels as though it was skimmed over in favour of adding more wackiness later. An extra episode would’ve gone a long way to wrapping things up a bit more neatly.
We’ll be back soon to review the next three Doctor Who stories, the remaining three available from the 2nd Doctor’s run. Also keep an eye out for the upcoming Top 10 Lost ‘Doctor Who’ Episodes We Want to See!