Classic Doctor Who: Tomb of the Cybermen (1967)

Thank goodness for DVD. I just love DVD. Everything seems to eventually show up on disk, including classic old episodes of Doctor Who that are nearly 40 years old. Thanks to my pal and fellow Whovian Craig Fernandez, I now have an episode of Who featuring the second Doctor, Patrick Troughton. And even better, it’s the episode called by John Kenneth Muir in his A Critical History of Doctor Who on Television the very best episode in the 26-year run of the series. High praise indeed.
 
Is it that good? In a lot of ways, yes it is. The plot is fun and involving and the perfect length at four episodes. The human villains are appropriately villainous, but when confronted with more arch villains, are appropriately repentant. The arch villains, the Cyberman, are as scary as they ever have been. The Doctor’s companions, especially Jamie, are a lot of fun. And Patrick Troughton’s Doctor is as good as advertised: tough against the villains, but really and truly appreciative and caring of his companions. I see why this episode is so well remembered, because it was admirably thought-out and well-executed.
 
There were a few things I didn’t expect. At one point in the episode, the Doctor remembers his family, who traveled with him in the earliest episodes. It was a wonderful touch to see this man who has always been a solo adventurer suddenly remember his emotional roots. That was very special. There’s also a nice scene where the Doctor mentions his age, 450 years old. The on-screen commentary tells us that the pervious Doctor was said to be 650 years old and that the Troughton Doctor was intended to be younger. So he was! What a nice time paradox.
 
But the best suprise was how nice the show looked in black & white. The cheesy special effects and often cheap backgrounds just looked better in b&w. I guess the lack of color makes it all seem more forgiving, more able to hide defects. There’s a wonderful scene, for instance, where the Cybermen break out of their tomb. If it were a color episode, the cheapness of the set would have been obvious. In b&w, however, it looks fresh and interesting.
 
The story isn’t perfect, of course. There’s a scene where one of the villains is thrown by a Cyberman, and the cord holding him couldn’t be more obvious. There’s a lot of characters playing possum, which is silly. And, most importantly, one has to wonder why the Doctor sets all these events in motion in the first place. Why should be want the Cybermen to be free if they’re that evil?
 
But overall this episode is a revelation. I really want to spend more time with the second Doctor.
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One Response to “Classic Doctor Who: Tomb of the Cybermen (1967)”

  1. Unknown Says:

    Hey – glad to see you that you\’ve gotten your hands on the DVD of "Tomb of the Cybermen." It really is a fantastic serial, and downright creepy. Your comments really nailed the elements that make the serial special, even today, particularly Troughton\’s emotionally-touching interpretation of the Doctor. And the black-and-white does hide a lot of seams, but it\’s important to remember too that those set-designers and special effects men from that age were really inventive – they could weave gold from absolutely nothing. It\’s for these reasons and more (and you can tell from my book…) that Tomb of the Cyberman is my number # 1 Who serial. And Troughton is really my favorite Doctor. May not be the *BEST* doctor, but he\’s still my personal favorite. A couple months back (and you can find the post in the archives section of my blog, ), I did a Retro TV Cult Flashback of another classic Patrick Troughton adventure (unfortunately, not one yet available on DVD) – "The War Games." As time goes by, hope to add more Who serials there (of all eras.)Anyway, nice blog, and it\’s great to see another Whovian discovering (and discussing…) the Patrick Troughton era. Keep up the greeat work!

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