Episode 172 – “Tomb of the Cybermen” – Part 03

Here we are in episode three, where the real challenge is understanding a damn thing the Cybermen say.

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“Gersabge biddle doot squee [static, static]”
I’m not even joking, really. The voices really are hard to understand. They’re modulated to make them sound alien and mechanical and stuff, but they’ve been distorted so much I really cant get most of what they say.

But one must soldier on, so here we go.

It turns out that Telos is basically a trap. The Cybermen set everything up with the grand plan of capturing really smart people. Logical, I suppose (see what I did there?).

Vic(toria) is spending more time hanging out with our resident “Americans”. Their accents continue to a source of much mirth.

And back down below we learn that the Cybermen have a plan to “assimilate” our various heroes into their “collective” intelligence. Naturally Jamie, the Doctor, and company can’t have that, so they fight back. Most of the fight takes place off-screen and seems to be scored with shouting and mouth harps.

We get an extended fight scene between Toblerone and one of the Cybermen. The severity of this fight is somewhat lessened by the fact that we can clearly see a cable in place ready to lift up our resident token.

One of the “Americans” goes down to rescue our heroes, and manages to rescue all but the black one. Well, then. At least he didn’t die first.

Everyone else makes it up to the surface, and there’s a rather nicely done, rather intense struggle between Victoria and one of the Cybermen. It ends with the hatch being lowered down, blocking the Cybermen from the surface.

Kleig and Kaftan have been locked up in the weapon-testing room. This was a smart course of action. The weapons that were being tested were left inside the room. This was not a smart course of action.

The Cybermen dispatch some of their larger-sized Cybermats up to wreak havoc. Then we cut upstairs to the best scene in the whole story, and one of the better ones in the entire early series.

Victoria’s father died in the previous episode, and she’s still dealing with the grief. Her and the Doctor have a wonderful heart-to-hearts about the subject of grief and loss. It’s really very well done, and quite touching.

Unforunately, we then go to a rather cheesy scene of the Cybermats trying to attack people. I have to say that I’m not quite sure why these things are such a menace. First off, one could kick them. Second, one could shoot them, as happens. Hell, I’m pretty sure you could mess-up one of their days by stepping hard into it. They’re really not impressive.

The Kleig pops up and fires his gun.

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Episode 171 – “Tomb of the Cybermen” – Part 02

So here we are in a tomb. You know what we need now?

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Incorrect.

So the not-a-twink has been shot, and we’ve had our first glimpse of a Cyberman, albeit one that’s basically a targeting dummy.

The Doctor tries to re-create the events leading up to the death of Jamie’s new friend. After that, they decamp, and Victoria finds “a fossil”; the Cybermat. The Doctor is sensibly concerned, but not enough so to stop her from putting it into her purse.

With the deaths of two people, the guy running the expedition has decided it’s time to go back. This is…sensible. You just know that it’s not a choice that’s going to last long. Sure enough, we find out that the fuel pumps for the rockets have been destroyed. Well, then. Not even a single scene.

Kleig continues to be obsessed with the idea of getting into the tomb itself. He spends some time trying to work out a logical way to get in. Eventually he does so, with some help from the Doctor.

We head into the tomb itself. It’s a scene that’s all potential and no payoff, at least not yet. Meantime, upstairs, Kaftan drugs Victoria, for reasons, and then locks the door behind our heroes.

And then we get one of the creepier, better-staged scenes in the entirety of early Doctor Who as the Cybermen begin to emerge from the tomb. One of the expedition tries to stop the process, only have to Kleig kill him. So the Cybermen are on the way.

We cut back to the surface, where Victoria is waking up. As she stands, I notice, within the holes along the base of the lid, that there’s a stagehand or something inside. I never saw that before!

Now the Cybermen begin to come out in earnest, and it’s a very well-done scene. Creepy and interesting, with a rather cool score.

Upstairs, Kaftan is holding Victoria at bay when she’s attacked by the Cybermat. It…knocks her out somehow. I guess? Victoria shoots it and goes running off for help.

Then we cut back downstairs and, oh, hey, the Cyber-leader has put in appearance. He’s quite interesting to look at, and obviously someone spent a lot of time and effort designing the character.

Such a pity we can’t understand a damn word he says…

Episode 170 – “Tomb of the Cybermen” – Part 01

Queue up that music, turn on the subtitles, and brace for the most…er…interesting…American accents this side of “The Gunfighters”!

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Also, look! A black guy!

Our story opens with the TARIDS, and inside we find Jamie, the Doctor, and…Victoria! Yes, she’s joined the team. As I’ve skipped the previous story, for now, I didn’t see her introduction. For the un-educated, she’s a young woman from Victorian England. Her father was killed by the Daleks, and now she’s with the Doctor.

The Doctor mentions that he’s 450 years old, and I think this is possibly the first time we’ve had the Doctor tell us his age.

We flash to an alien planet where we see a silent black guy that it amuses me to call Toblerone. We then go to the rest of the party, which includes a pair of “Americans” played by actors who clearly has only ever seen John Wayne films. Fantastic.

The party detonates some explosives and uncovers a set of doors with the Cybermen logo on them. One of the party, a woman named Kaftan, offers money to the first person who opens them. Someone tries, and is electrocuted. Fun!

At this point someone else in the party mentions seeing something land, as others notice the sound of the TARDIS. I think this is the first time anyone has seen the thing actually coming down. When they find the Doctor and friends, they mention that the Doctor speaks English, and I think it’s also the first time that’s happened.

There’s some discussion about the doors and what’s going on here. Eventually the Doctor recruits Toblerone to open them. The electrical charge that had been in the doors before has apparently dissipated. Which…makes sense, I suppose?

There’s a very amusing scene after that where the Doctor briefly takes Jamie’s hand, thinking he’s Victoria, and then favorably compares her new dress with that of Jamie. I do rather like that.

The party splits up, always an annoyance to any DM, and they start exploring the tomb. Kaftan and her crew, which includes Victoria, find a Cyberman recharge station. Jamie and the twink he’s wandering around with find a “dead” Cybermat. Meantime the Doctor gets into an argument with Kleig, the man who seems to be the head scientist on the expedition.

Kaftan turns out to be a bit of a bitch when she seals Victoria up in the recharge chamber. I don’t know what she does this. Jamie and the twink start playing around with what turns out to be a Cyberman hypnosis chamber. Yes, they’re basically looking at Hypnotoad.

Ok, the twink isn’t really a twink, and it turns out the hypnosis chamber might be more of a targeting system. Yes, things perhaps are not as they appear!

Our boys continue to screw around with technology, which seems to be an unwise notion. That is unwise is proven when, moments later, the not-a-twink manages to get himself killed.

Character Profile: Ben Jackson and Polly Wright

And so the last vestiges of the First Doctor’s era are swept away as Ben and Polly depart the TARDIS and, eventually, apparently, wind up in India.

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Ben Jackson and Polly Wright were two characters who were very much of their time and place. Polly was a swinger in the 1960s term, working at a swinging bar, and living in swinging London, in 1966. Ben was a Royal Navy sailor who thought of himself as a bit of a ladies man and was happy to get into a scrape or two.

The two made a very excellent pairing, and played well together, especially when alongside Hartnell’s more dowdy and dour First Doctor. They presented a very youthful and vibrant contrast to him; even more so than previous younger companions, like Steven and Vicki, or Steven and Dodo.

Sadly, they weren’t as much of a fit with the more wonky and crazy Second Doctor, and once Jamie turned up in the Second Doctor’s second story, they were relegated to near-permanent background status. This is a shame, as there was still much that could be done with the characters. But perhaps the TARDIS was simply too crowded; it wouldn’t have this many passengers in it until late in the Fourth Doctor’s time.

The real shame is the way the characters exited the show. They were shown the door at the end of episode two of “The Faceless Ones”, and though they did appear briefly in a farewell at the end of the story, it was still kind of annoying how much they were gone in that story.

Anneke Wills largely retired from acting after playing Polly, as did Michael Craze with Ben. Both had a few minor roles in TV, but nothing major. Wills went on to become something of a spiritual-type of person, even spending time living at Rajneespurum, a name familiar to anyone in the Pacific Northwest in the early 1980s. As for Craze, he spent time managing a pub and appearing at various conventions before dying surprisingly young in 1999.

Wills has turned to the role of Polly through Big Finish. The character of Ben continues with Big Finish as well, having been recast. I must say it’s nice to have them both back.

In the end Ben and Polly aren’t given quite as much love by the fans as they might have been. The fact that only a couple of their stories remain intact is, I feel, a large part of this. But what we have of them shows two rather wonderful characters that I can’t help but like.

My Thoughts on Story 035 – “The Faceless Ones”

There’s a very good story hidden carefully in this six-part tale. It’s a story about a race of dying aliens who come to Earth, steal people’s identities, and try to use that to live. It’s something revisited in the new series with the Zygons, and it’s not a terrible idea. But there are two things that hold this story back from greatness. One of those things is built-in, and the other, an accident. You can probably guess what they are.

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Chemtrails not included.

As was so often the case, this was a great four-part story stretched to six. It suffers less from this problem than some other stories from the early years, but it is still an issue.

The other major problem is that it’s a reconstruction, and we all know by now how fond of those I’m not.

Those issues aside, there is indeed a decent tale here, and plenty to do for the Doctor and Jamie both. Polly and Ben are, alas, shuffled aside in what turned out to be their last on-screen appearance. They do at least get a farewell in the final episode, but otherwise their departure is as abrupt and clumsy as that of Dodo.

I did like that they did some nice location shooting at Gatwick, and the sets looked quite neat. The acting was spot-on and there were several wonderful moments of dialogue. Overall this was a decent story, and one that I’d like to see recovered.

Cast
Others
Production
Writer David Ellis and Malcolm Hulke
Director Gerry Mill
Script editor Gerry Davis
Producer Innes Lloyd
Peter Bryant (associate producer, episodes 1-3)
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Stock music
Production code KK
Series Season 4
Length 6 episodes, 25 minutes each
Episode(s) missing 4 episodes (2, 4-6) (material missing from episode 3 due to damaged print)
Date started 8 April 1967
Date ended 13 May 1967

Episode 162 – “The Faceless Ones” – Part 06

Here we are at the end, and not just the end of this story. No, we also bid a fond farewell to Ben and Polly.

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The real Fab Four.

The Doctor and the Nurse (not her actual name, but what the hell), are on the alien spaceship. They’re captured pretty quickly.

Back at the airport, a search is being mounted, and all personnel are told to report to the airport police. I…don’t quite get why we’re following this story. I mean, I suppose that maybe they’re going to find Ben and Polly, who have been MIA for some time now, but absent that it seems like pointless filler.

Up on the ship, the Doctor meets the duplicate of Jamie who, among other things, is missing his Scots accent. He then starts sowing a bit of discontent among the various aliens on the ship. As he does. It’s one of those nice little Doctor moments where he uses his brains and mouth to annoy the bad guys.

Samantha and one of the airport people are busy looking over records and stuff. Apparently Samantha was being groomed as a replacement companion. I could see her working out. Kind of a pity she didn’t cone along, but Victoria, who joins up in the next story, works out well enough.

The Doctor is about to get face-robbed, or whatever one calls it, but he manages to sabotage the machine that does the dirty deed. The baddies grouse about this, but then just install a new server blade, or whatever.

Back on the ground, one of the aliens attacks Samantha, leading to a fight that, from all the bongo music on the soundtrack, is probably very exciting. It’s somewhat less so in reconstruction form.

One of the alien duplicates is disconnected from the original, which causes him to disappear. As the Doctor had been bluffing about this eventuality, it causes considerable alarm.

Back on the spaceship, the Doctor offers the aliens a deal whereby they get to live as long as they return all the people they kidnapped. The discussions don’t go well at first, but end up ok.

And with that, our story is pretty much done. All that remains is for the Doctor and Jamie to return to the TARDIS. Before that Jamie gets a little kiss with Samantha. Ah, no love like future love!

We’re finally reunited with Ben and Polly. They appear just in time to see the Doctor ready to leave. They catch up, and we get a lovely little goodbye moment. And that’s that.

Next time: “Tomb of the Cybermen”

Episode 161 – “The Faceless Ones” – Part 05

When last we saw our heroes, a plane or two had crashed, but no one seems to be exactly sure as to what’s going on. Turns out that the alien-controlled plane is now in space.

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“Yes, fine, but I do get miles for this?”

The aliens plot and scheme and talk about how the intelligence of humans is “comparable to animals on our planet”. So…animals on their planet fly, have space travel, use radio and TV, and can split the atom? I’ve always hated the whole, “advanced aliens will see us like we see insects!” trope.

Meantime, up in space, Jamie is free and wandering around, following a flight attendant from the plane. He eventually finds a drawer full of small, doll-sized people. So that’s the Master, Jamie, and the Doctor accounted for. Still no idea where Ben and Polly are.

Well, that’s not entirely true. They’re currently on the unemployment line. I learned this just the other day. The last time they appeared in the series was in episode two of this story. When they filmed that, Anneke Wills and Michael Craze also filmed a little goodbye sequence. So that’s why they aren’t in any part of the story after episode two.

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The Doctor is continuing to argue with the people at the airport. Things come to a head when he unmasks one of the aliens who’s currently disguised as a human. The Doctor then begins an interrogation.

Turns out the aliens are stealing identities from humans because their own physical forms were severely damaged. I’m…not entirely sure how all that makes sense, but ok. I mean, surely some plastic surgery would be enough to get the job done.

Samantha is about to be de-faced when the Doctor and the police arrive to put a stop to it. The nurse who’s running the whole thing is less-than-pleased about this. She kills one of the police officers, and is about to kill the alien the Doctor has prisoner when said alien stops her.

The Doctor comes up with a clever little plan to put a stop to all that’s happening by infiltrating the alien plane and getting up to their space station. Naturally, they’re pretty quickly captured.