Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Doctor Who made it's bold return to Saturday nights for Season 22, but in the new and unfamiliar format of 45-minute episodes. Everything new takes a bit of getting used to, but the classic series of Who just doesn't seem to come to grips with the format in the short time that it was used.
Defenders of the format state that without having to build up to an obligatory cliffhanger 25 minutes into the story, the plot could breathe a bit more and could be given the room to develop properly. This is true in some respects - the storyline about Lytton (a welcome return by the brilliant Maurice Colbourne) and his gang of bank robbers trots along at a nice pace and dominates the early proceedings to the point that it looks like Lytton will be the main focus of this story.
The Doctor and Peri, on the other hand, are kept out of the action for even longer, left to bicker in the TARDIS (although this story is easily their most familial of the whole season). Sure, there were two weak cliffhangers less to have to worry about in each story now, but most cliffhangers involve The Doctor and/or the companion in extreme peril. Without having to put the lead characters in danger by the 25-minute mark, The Doctor and Peri roam around the streets and sewers of London, at least one or two steps behind the rest of the story.
That doesn't seem to matter to writer Eric Saward, though (yes, Saward, not Paula Moore, Paula Woolsley, or even Ian Levine, apparently, although the latter has his fingerprints all over this story, as I'll address later). Saward is much more interested in his own characters, particularly Lytton, than he is with The Doctor. This isn't surprising, given what we would later find out were Saward's impressions of Colin Baker's portrayal of The Doctor. What scribe would want to write for a character he doesn't like in the first place? Saward keeps The Doctor well out of the way, only thrusting him into danger at the end of the episode when a group of Cybermen ambush him in the TARDIS (how do they get in there in the first place? Obviously the "organ" disguised version spit out by the TARDIS's wonky chameleon circuit doesn't come with a lock).
The Cybermen themselves still look good, particularly the black camouflaged Cybermen that skulk about in the sewers. However, their increasing vulnerability continues, as Russell's gunshot to the arm of a Cyberman is enough to kill him, as is a shot to another's mouth (although this is less surprising). Their heads are also knocked off quite easily, with escaped prisoners cranking Probably the best part of this episode is Brian Glover as Griffiths, who gets all the best lines and provides a great foil to Lytton.
Episode One of this story still holds up for me after all these years. Some background - Attack of the Cybermen remains (and will probably always remain) my most watched Doctor Who story ever. In my youth, this was the only story I had on tape for several months, and so while I played with LEGO in my basement for countless hours, Attack of the Cybermen looped endlessly on the TV nearby. Not only could I have done this review with watching it again, I could have almost recited the dialogue, word for word...
Posted by Steven at 2:55 PM