Sunday, 7 June 2009

Doctor Who: The Invasion

Part One

"England in Summer, I should say. Do you see the rainclouds?"

At last I'm seeing the famous Cosgrove Hall animations for the first time. Magnificent indeed, a triumph. Although, er, surely Zoe is wearing the wrong clothes?

I love the bit with the cow on the scanner! And watching the series in sequence, with all these recent fluid links issues, I'm glad to hear Jamie saying the TARDIS "keeps going wrong all the time."

This is an excellent first episode, the device of the hitchhiker-friendly bloke in the lorry really helping to portrat International Electromatics as Sinister Big Corporate Baddies and setting up some asmosphere before the story starts to pull back with next episode. it's quite a powerful moment when he's killed. Again, this is a bit Quatermass II.

Isobel's fantastic, scribbling on the walls indeed! And the Doctor's diatribe against the automatic answering device has such a contemporary resonance! The Doctor's dislike of computers harks back to The Ice Warriors and seems to stem from the same impulse as his hatred of mind control, odd though the link may seem today.

Part Two

"They may look like amateurs, but that man has the knack of being one jump ahead of everyone."

The Doctor and Jamie are being followed by two sinister men in a car! And the fact that one of them is played by John Levene and was named in the credits to last episode as "Benton" in no way reveals who they may be. Oh no.

Once again we get to meet the man I can now finally refer to as the Brig! It's been four years, and he's now part of what he's apparently happy to hear described as a "world secret police". Um, okay.

The Doctor and Jamie are known from "Planet 14". What's all this then? Of course, the different voice doesn't mean anyone has any doubt over what that thing in Vaughn's wall happens to be!

I love Zoe's "Algol" antics. So, apparently does Vaughn. More technological amusement comes as the Brig hands the Doctor an enormous mobile phone in the most dated scene for a while.

It's just struck me- this story sees the first credit for one Terrance Dicks!

Part Three

"Yes, Parker. Our clever Doctor has outwitted you. Oh, that wouldn't be too difficult, would it?""

Not that it's surprising or anything, but Kevin Stoney's great, isn't he? And Vaughn gets a most revealing line: "That's the secret of my success, you see- uniformity, duplication". Not only is he thematically linked with what we know full well to be this story's monster but both he and them are partly representative of the conformist side of corporate mass culture. Diametrically opposed to this we have the Doctor, what with his "I hate computers and refuse to be bullied by them."

It's great to see the Doctor's recorder again, this time being used as a telescope!

This Vaughn / Packer double act is shaping up to be great. Especially as it's a reason for Kevin Stoney to keep saying dastardly things in that great voice of his. And now he wants the TARDIS! Still great stuff.

Part Four

"Don't worry, Packer. You've blundered again. But fortunately it won't really matter."

Animation again, looking superb, and Klieg Vaughn's plan comes into focus- to use Professor Watkins' machine to betray his, er, anonymous allies, and to escape in the TARDIS if it fails. Yes, that'll work.
I love the stuff with the helicopter and canoe. It's almost as though the Doctor's due to turn into a lover of all things vehicular...

We get the big reveal at the end. But of course, we were pretty much told it was the Cybermen at the start of this episode. It's suspense, not surprise, that gives the cliffhanger its point and its impact.

Part Five

"Is that all gibberish or do you really know what you're talking about?"

These new look chunky Cybermen should look great but there's something lacking. They look very tough but a little less human in their shape, a little too tough, a little less prone to remind you what they once were. Still, this continues to be great. I love Isobel's attitude to finding out the Earth is under attack from aliens, and the battle of wills between Vaughn and the Cyber Planner. In fact, I care not a jot that this episode is entirely filler as it's full of entertaining characters doing entertaining things.

It's true, though: the plot treads water pretty much through this whole episode. UNIT's need to prove to their superiors in Geneva that what the organisation was apparently set up for is finally happening, while Vaughn and the Cyber Planner do nothing but talk. But we get some of the best stuff yet in this episode, from the charmingly dated feminist bit ("Oh you... you man!") to the chilling revelation that Vaughn has been partly Cybernised. And arguably Vaughn's hubris officially pushes him over the point of no return with the line "Nothing has been overlooked."

More good stuff includes a bit more of this Benton chap- wonder if we'll ever see him again?- and the comedy sixties policemen with his chinstrap and silly moustache. Who gets killed, naturally. Although I couldn't help noticing that his death is essentially Isobel and Zoe's fault.

Part Six

"The invasion could come at any moment."

More good stuff this episode, plus some actual plot. It's a nice twist that Isobel's photos look like fakes- there goes the last vestige of plot relevance for last episode then! But who cares when it's this much fun? Professor Watkin's speech to Vaughn, and his bullet bouncing off Vaughn's chest, is another great scene. Kevin Stoney here is surely putting in the best performance for an actor playing a baddie we've had yet.

After getting two people killed, Isobel's making the tea to make amends! An interesting stance on sexual politics there...

The last few minutes with the transmissions starting and Cybermen emerging from the sewers are truly iconic and show just how great a director Douglas Camfield was.

Part Seven

"Well, don't look so worried. Fancy a cup of tea?"

By my calculations, if The Abominable Snowmen took place in 1935, The Web of Fear was forty years after that, and this is four years after that, it must be 1979, give or take a year or so either side. So this takes place before The Tenth Planet in 1986. This being the case, these Cybermen can't be from Mondas, which is at present heading towards Earth with an ETA of about seven years. So what's the story behind these "Planet 14" Cybermen? It's all very mysterious.

Meanwhile, in the actual episode, we get stuff happening in Russia, giving the story a globetrotting element, although of course we don't actually get to see any scenes happening there. But there's loads of good stuff pointing us toards the climax- his conversation with the Doctor sees Vaughn's hubris finally explode, just before the Cybermen casually swat him aside. And Zoe's calculating the rocket's trajectory is great.

Part Eight

"They destroyed my dream!"

Oddly enough for such a fantastic story with such a real sense of threat, not much of it comes from the actual physical presence of the Cybermen, whose fight here with Packer, killing him, is the first real physical threat they pose. And they don't say much either. Which is odd, because in a non-physical sense they pose a very real threat indeed with the threat of Cybernisation being a significant part of the danger until they switch to destroying all life on Earth with a bomb. I suppose it's the Cyber Planner and loads of stuff in the sky that provides the threat, with the individual Cybermen, who obey Vaughn until this episode, oddly irrelevant.

There's lots of energy and excitement now, and we constantly know action type stuff's about to happen because so much of this is on film. It's a great finale, and a great showpiece for UNIT. It's a shame the Doctor's not more involved though. And Jamie's hardly in this episode at all. It's a great ending though, as Isobel and Captain Turner see the TARDISeers leave. I think this is the first time we've seen this type of ending, in which the last thing we see is the reaction of some guest characters to the TARDIS vanishing.

Well, that was an action-packed and exciting bit of fun and no mistake. 5/5 again. Suddenly Doctor Who feels like a very different programme.

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