The Doctor wanders right into a Cyberman scheme to alter their own history. When he first encountered them, the Doctor engineered the destruction of the Cybermen’s home planet in order to save Earth. Now, the Cybermen – operating from their base on Telos – plan to divert the course of Halley’s Comet circa 1985, so Earth won’t be there to interfere in Cyber-history. Left behind after the attempted Dalek invasion, Lytton is up to no good on Earth, but his attempt to curry favor with the Cybermen in exchange for a ticket off of Earth turns into a deal with the devil that he can’t survive. And on Telos itself, a pair of renegade slave laborers tries to steal a Cyberman timeship, and the original inhabitants of Telos, who cannot survive in anything but sub-zero temperatures, enlist help in their own fight against the Cybermen.
written by Paula Moore
directed by Matthew Robinson
music by Malcolm Clarke
Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Maurice Colbourne (Lytton), Brian Glover (Griffiths), Terry Molloy (Russell), James Beckett (Payne), Jonathan David (Stratton), Michael Attwell (Bates), Sarah Berger (Rost), Esther Freud (Threst), Faith Brown (Flast), Sarah Greene (Varne), Stephen Churchett (Bill), Stephen Wale (David), Michael Kilgarriff (CyberController), David Banks (CyberLeader), Brian Orrell (Cyber Lieutenant), John Ainley, Roger Pope, Thomas Lucy, Ian Marshall-Fisher, Pat Gorman (Cybermen)
Broadcast from January 5 through 12, 1985
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: In this bizarre and often confusing tale (a frequent happening during the 1981-86 reign of script editor Eric Saward), the Doctor wanders right into a Cyberman scheme to alter their own history, and the viewer needs a crash course in Doctor Who history to understand the most basic points of the plot. None of the B-stories are given any time to develop. In fact, the main story isn’t given time to develop either. It’s all smashed together into a kind of plotline pate and it’s up to the viewer to digest it – whether or not you’ve got the pre-requisite Doctor Who continuity memorized is up to you.
Some stories with several complex plot threads running simultaneously can bring it all together at the end, giving the viewer a satisfying conclusion. But Attack Of The Cybermen keeps all of its disparate storylines at a huge distance from each other, and the juxtaposition of scenes, whether this happened at the writing or the editing stage, doesn’t give the viewer a chance to keep up, much less catch up.
Colin Baker does the best he can with the role of the Doctor in his first full post-regeneration story, but that’s not saying much. I also feel sorry for Nicola Bryant – in this segment, more than any other, she spends half of the show wearing an embarassingly tight leotard, and several scenes of her running after the Doctor through London, and then having to run ever faster to catch up when the Doctor makes a U-turn without warning, seem to exist for no other reason than to meet some kind of “jiggle” quota. Though Ms. Bryant had to endure a couple of other skimpy costumes in this season, this had to be the worst example.
The idea of the Cybermen trying to better their own history using Halley’s Comet – then a big news item in 1985 – is very intriguing. And it certainly should’ve gotten a better treatment than this.