The TARDIS brings the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria to the wasteland of the planet Telos, where they spot a human expedition on a journey to unearth the lost tombs of the Cybermen, a threat thought to be long extinct. Despite the Doctor’s vocal misgivings, Professor Parry and his fellow explorers insist on breaching the enormous doors and venturing into the apparently vacant tombs. But when automatic defense systems begin to pick off Parry’s team one by one, the expedition begins to look like a doomed one. When someone in the expedition reveals their true purpose – to reactivate and take control of the Cybermen – the entire galaxy begins to look doomed unless the Doctor can confine the Cybermen once more.
Guest Cast: Roy Stewart (Toberman), Aubrey Richards (Professor Parry), Cyril Shaps (Viner), Clive Merrison (Callum), Shirley Cookin (Kaftan), George Rubicek (Hopper), George Pastell (Kleig), Alan Johns (Rogers), Bernard Holley (Haydon), Ray Grover (Crewman), Michael Kilgarriff (Cyber Controller), Hans De Vries (Cyberman), Tony Harwood (Cyberman), John Hogan (Cyberman), Richard Kerley (Cyberman), Ronald Lee (Cyberman), Charles Pemberton (Cyberman), Kenneth Seegr (Cyberman), Reg Whitehead (Cyberman), Peter Hawkins (Cybermen voices)
Broadcast from September 2 through 23, 1967
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
“This story,” said so many of the books written on Doctor Who over the years, “is a classic.” Those same volumes of knowledge also lamented the fact that all four parts of this 1968 black-and-white adventure featuring Patrick Troughton as the second Doctor were lost forever, so we’d have to take it on trust from those who professed to be there when it happened – “This story is a classic.”
In 1992, all four 25-minute episodes were located in watchable condition in, of all places, Hong Kong, and of course, being the year before Doctor Who’s 30th anniversary, the whole thing was rushed into release as quickly as possible. Not everyone, upon finally getting to see it for themselves, thought it a classic. They were spoiled by video releases which had, for the most part, made the full-color episodes available, and by the splashier special effects, sets and costumes of more recent Who episodes. Not everyone is right, however – this is a classic, and it’s a classy one.
Let no one give you the “old cheap black-and-white show” argument – Tomb Of The Cybermen draws most of its tense atmosphere from that very factor. The suspense and shock value ranks up there with some of the best horror movies of the pre-slasher era, and in terms of science fiction, it reveals that the Doctor Who production team thought up the Borg idea well over 20 years before Gene Roddenberry or Maurice Hurley ever did.
The Cybermen of old are a menace to be reckoned with. Their mummified faces and bodies, their swarming numbers, their computerized voices, all lend an unearthly terror to the silver giants. Unlike the posturing Cybermen of many later stories, there are a lot of them, and they don’t give a flip if they have to break the neck of every non-Cyberman in the room to ensure their command of the situation. Only in 1982’s Earthshock did the Cybermen even come within shouting distance of the ability to evoke this kind of terror. And why are they out to ensnare human expeditions? Why, to assimilate them, of course – eat your heart out, Locutus.
And let’s not forget the Doctor and his traveling companions while we’re at it. Patrick Troughton turns in easily the best performance as the Doctor which is still on record, and the combination of Frazer Hines’ unflappable Jamie McCrimmon and Deborah Watling as Victoria – who had, in Who terms, only joined the TARDIS crew in the previous story – makes for some memorable moments. In one of the best scenes between any of the Doctors and any of their companions in the show’s 26 years on the air, Victoria confides to the Doctor her protectiveness of him if he is indeed an elderly 400+ years old, a rare and touching exception in comparison to the norm of Doctors and companions arguing at one another. The supporting cast isn’t shabby either, with George Pastell standing out as the maniacal logician Kleig, whose motivation for reviving the Cybermen is to control them – and who better to do such a thing but a logician?
All in all, there’s something to be said for diverting the funds being used to restore Buckingham Palace to search for further missing Doctor Who adventures instead, particularly those starring Troughton, whose reign as the Doctor is still missing many entire stories – others which will, if we’re lucky, turn out to be as good as Tomb Of The Cybermen when they’re found…because this story is a classic.