It's been seven years after the 1968 story The Invasion that the Cybermen put in a full appearance, apart from a cameo in The Mind Of Evil and Carnival Of Monsters. As the Cybermen were overused in the Troughton era, coming out in four stories in three years, perhaps a long absence was necessary. But guess what? It would be another seven years until Earthshock in the Peter Davison era.
The adventure starts aboard the space station from The Ark In Space, where the TARDIS crew are waiting for their wayward time machine. The Doctor opens a door and a body leaning on the other side falls toward him. But in a sterile atmosphere, with "no sign of injury" and "nothing to indicate a cause of death," what could have happened? The Doctor, Harry, and Sarah have to tiptoe through a trail of bodies sprawled along the corridor. Captured by Commander Stevenson and his second-in-command Lester, they learn that a plague is responsible. With the discovery of a Cybermat, the Doctor realizes who's behind the deaths of 47 crewmen.
Key to this is Voga, the legendary planet of gold instrumental in wiping out the Cybermen in the Cyber Wars centuries ago. Two factions, the long-haired Councillors wearing tatty fishnet robes, and the Guardians, with clipped shorter hair and wearing black vests with gold pinstripes, are at odds with each other, although the cautious but kindly Councillor Tyrum is clearly the wiser as opposed to the audacious and ruthless Guardian leader Vorus.
A Cyberleader makes his first appearance here and this is one of the most curious ones ever. He has an obvious non-British accent and speaks of Voga in a hateful tone. How can creatures of logic use words like "unhappily," and "it is good"? Even the Doctor says, "For a moment, I thought he was going to smile."
The Doctor also has fun taunting the Cybermen: "You have no home planet, nothing. You're just a bunch of tin soldiers skulking around the galaxy in an ancient spaceship." And thanks to the glittergun, Cybermen were nothing but "gold-plated souvenirs that people used as hat stands." Ouch and double ouch!
The Cybermen are the same as in The Invasion, with the handlebars on both sides of their heads, but with slight modifications.
One item of curiosity: the Seal of Gallifrey is apparent in Councillor Tyrum's chamber, appearing on his table, and on Vorus' uniform. Was there a Gallifreyan influence on the Vogan civilization, i.e. a time agent of the Celestial Intervention Agency? The symbol later appears in The Deadly Assassin so I wonder if the series producer coopted it to become the Seal of Gallifrey. Interesting. Another is Sarah's remark of travelling for weeks, meaning that there were further adventures after Genesis Of The Daleks, the previous televised story.
Michael Wisher who plays the worrying Magrik, has an offscreen role as crewman Colville. Busy guy, considering he was Davros in the previous story, Genesis Of The Daleks. Kevin Stoney (Tyrum) also appeared in another Cybermen story, The Invasion, playing Tobias Vaughn.
Goof: English words on a Cybership's screen? Uh, hello?
Revenge Of The Cybermen is a perfect season closer and was the last story of Tom Baker's debut season, but as the second Nerva Beacon story, was filmed back-to-back with The Ark Of Space so they could continue using the same set before it was taken down.
Some have criticized this for story weakness, but in terms of story entertainment, it works.
Okay, I admit I gave this episode four stars just to catch your eye. I'm that kind of deceitful, attention-grasping loser. But now that you're here, I'll be honest and say that I do indeed consider this an episode scorned by vengeful fans, who hate it for all the wrong reasons. I would give it a solid three and a half stars, or better.
"Cybermen" is Tom Baker's only tangle with this staple villain of the Dr. Who series; the clanking, droning, mechanical men bent on...gasp!...conquest of the universe (why do machines always want to conquer the universe?) He twice battled both the Daleks and the Sontarans, and crossed swords with the Master at least three or four times, but for the tin men, this his is his sole contribution. Apparently, fans of previous doctors found the Cybermen as they are portrayed in this episode to be extremely lame and toothless, and felt a good villain had been wronged with a weak portrayal. I have admittedly little interest in the other doctors, being a Baker freak, so I can't really say, though I admit the more mobile (and combustible!) versions I saw in "The Five Doctors were more threatening.
"Revenge" is an underrated episode for several reasons. First off, it makes excellent use of the underground caves in which it was primarily shot; given the show's modest (meaning pathetic) budget, Dr. Who episodes were generally stronger when shot on location than when they were entirely confined to sets. The costume design is very good, the script clever and full of double-crosses, the villains suitably evil (excluding the admittedly boring Cyberleader), and the plot imaginative and well-developed. I also thought the regular cast (the Doc, Harry & Sarah) and the guest starts worked very well together.
The story is, I think, one of the better and more inventive of the series, since it does not depend on the standard formula of A) the Doctor delivering some or other race from oppressive masters or B) the Doctor foiling yet another conquest of Earth by aliens. "Revenge" is about an earth beacon designed to monitor space traffic around Jupiter is quaranteened when a plague breaks out on board. Only three crewmen and a smarmy scientist named Kellerman, who is on board to study a newly discovered moon of Jupiter, remain alive on the dismal space station. Cue the Doctor and friends, who as usual arrive just in time to be blamed for causing the plague. Of course, the Doc quickly figures out that the plague is not a plague at all, but a poison delivered by a nasty mechanical slug which, as it turns out, answers to Kellerman, who controls it like a homicidal radio-controlled car (but then he's a homicidal guy). The Doc recognizes the technology as that of the Cybermen, and when he realizes Jupiter's new moon is in fact the blasted remains of planet Voga, whose population are the Cybermen's natural enemy, he puts two and two together: the tin men, still smarting from the beating they took in their last war with the Vogans, have arrived to wipe them out once and for all. Unfortunately, he does not do his addition in time to stop the Cybermen from showing up and knocking everybody cold with their silly head-mounted stun guns, and then forcing them to carry into the planet core the bombs which the metalheads plan to use to blow the planet to bits, thus eliminating the universe's most ready supply of gold (which said Cyberman find lethal) and allowing the Cyber army to, well, conquer everybody.
The story moves to the planet, where it turns out a scheming Vogan bigshot named Vorus has been planning all along to lure these last remnants of the Cybermen back to Voga and then blast them into tin foil with a big ass rocket. This is the story's nicest twist, and features a very unexpected double cross, but Vorus' scheming backfires all the same, and now it is a race to see which side's ultimate plan will carry the day.
This episode has some silly moments (those head-mounted guns are as intimidating as slingshots that shoot marshmallows), the Cybermen are indeed dull villains with their plodding gait and monotone voices, and there are some logical inconsistencies you can drive a truck through (if gold kills Cybermen, why are guns which fire gold bullets useless against them but handfulls of gold dust thrown into their chest apparatus fatal?...why isn't the gold-dust-laden air poisonous to them? Why don't the Vogans, the arch-enemies who defeated them in the space war, have weapons that would kill them?) But I feel none of these things does enough to drag "Revenge" down. It is a good, solid, fun episode from, if you will pardon the pun, the show's "golden age" and it deserves a second chance.
REVENGE OF THE CYBERMEN has always struck me as one of those "almost an epic". All the elements were there- variety of locations, complexity of plot, plenty of action, and of course, Cybermen! Yet the story cohesion never seems to stay intact episode to episode. Interestingly, the producer, Hinchcliffe, mentioned in an interview (present on TERROR OF THE ZYGONS Story 80) that the original intention was to make REVENGE OF THE CYBERMEN a 6 episode adventure, yet season scheduling forced them to cut it to four episodes. Perhaps the story was simply too grand to fit comfortably in four episodes, over spilling the time constraint boundaries and losing important immersive details.
Another side interest, this story was also specifically aired to "scupper" a competing channel's new SciFi show, "Space: 1999" and was rather successful in doing so.
Nevertheless, when it comes to the grand spectrum of Dr. Who adventures, REVENGE OF THE CYBERMEN just doesn't quite make the "Best of" list... yet it is fairly close enough to consider purchasing anyways to keep GENESIS OF THE DALEKS company.
on November 11, 2010
Here are the DVD Features for The Revenge of the Cybermen. With the release of this story, the whole of Tom Baker's debut season is now available on North American DVD.
- All 4 episodes of the story, digitally remastered and restored.
- Graphical menus, episode and scene selection features, and subtitles for the hearing impaired.
- Optional commentary track by actors Elisabeth Sladen and David Collings(Vorus), producer Philip Hinchcliffe and production designer
- Information Text subtitles option. Displays pop-up production trivia throughout the story.
- "The Tin Men and The Witch" A new 25-minute featurette about the making of the story featuring interviews with producers Philip Hinchcliffe and Barry Letts and director Michael E. Briant.
- Location Report. A 6-minute segment from a contemporary news magazine program that interviewed Tom Baker during the location shooting in the caves for this story, before he'd debuted to the British public. This interview was also seen on the DVD of The Ark in Space.
- "Cheques, Lies, and Videotape" A 28-minute featurette about the Doctor Who "black market" of videotape trading during the 1980s in Britain when repeat showings of older episodes were few and far between.
- Photo Gallery. 5 minutes of still photos taken during the making of the story.
- Coming Soon Trailer. A 40-second trailer for the forthcoming release of Time and the Rani.
- PDF Materials. Place this disc into your computer and you'll have access to PDF files containing the original 1975 Radio Times TV listings for this story.
- 1 Easter Egg. Go to the Special Features menu, highlight "Cheques Lies and Videotape" and press the left arrow. A Doctor Who logo will appear. Click on this and you'll see the outgoing animated BBC Video logo from the original 1983 VHS release of this story (the first ever Doctor Who VHS).
on November 11, 2010
There are probably two types of people that watch this episode: those who saw it before and cherish it, and those that never saw it and have to decide if they like it or not.
Of all the old serials, this one had a special place in UK Doctor Who history, because it was well liked enough to be the first video tape of Doctor Who to be sold in stores. In America it was one of the first serials seen on our screens in 1979. Naturally it was always well known because it was the one serial with the cybermen between the two eras of the monsters' popularity and regularity on the program: none had been shot for 6 years previous and for 7 years after. Once they came back they never really left, even being introduced into the new series soon after it began.
However, typical of most all cybermen stories, the monster could have been replaced by almost any other monster. They are a good marketing tool, but little else; all writers since the creators never fully exploring the ideas of the "mechanical mind" and its relationship to organic thought and natural biology, especially relating to a zeitgeist or larger context in society. However, such strictures are pretty much crap when pertaining to this obviously serial-adventure story written for pure enjoyment.
It was a show crammed into the budgets and schedules of the time, and ultimately was a kind of red-head-reatarded-step-son "shoved under the stairs" in terms of production. They reused some sets of the Ark In Space, obviously. Everything was evidently wood and pool tubes and silver spray paint and mannequins for dead people. People in the cybersuits were clumsy and bumping around. Some of the dialog was odd and still makes this story better than forgettable.
But what does it ultimately come down to? Fun. It's a fun story. If you followed this season from beginning to end, this wasn't a brilliant end, but it works. The season starts with a robot and ends with "robots", though the episodes between the bookends were far better.
On the DVD is a great commentary with Hinchcliffe, Sladen, Collings, and Murray-Leech. Some of the stories are fascinating, especially the ghost stories from when they filmed down in Wookey Hole caves where people had died and a "witch" (oddly shaped stalagmite) cursed the tourist trap. There is a special about the making of the episode, and another about the history of Doctor Who on video tape in the UK.
If you like/love the show: great DVD.
If you don't like the show: go away.
on November 2, 2012
As others have said, this is one of the weaker of Tom Baker's early episodes. Baker and his companions are in good form, though, and the episode has some choice bits of dialog, neat gadgets, a very good space station set, and cave scenes shot in actual caves. The Cybermen costumes are somewhat weak (look, vacuum cleaner hoses!), and they aren't using their best shtick ("You will be made like us!") but they are still fairly effective villains. Mainly it is the alien Vogans, with their unconvincing masks, overacting, and tedious subplot, that bog the story down.
The extras on the disc go a long way to redeem it, however. In particular, a great documentary about videotape trading in the 1980's is almost worth the price of the DVD by itself.
Overall, I would say that it is worth it to complete the story arc for the season, to get the extras, and to hear the Doctor's epic slam on poor Harry Sullivan!
on September 20, 1999
Doctor Who works on many levels, and there are many reasons why fans love it. The great scripts, the cheesy special effects or the camp quality. "Revenge..." succeeeds and fails at the same time. And I've discovered that fans either hated, loved it, or just tolerated it. The real problem with "Revenge..." is that it's tedious and contradictory throughout the whole story. "It's the end of the season and we've run out of money" budget and production nightmare doesn't help it. You could count so many flaws and plot holes in this one, but the biggest error that sticks out like a sore thumb is the Cybermen's attack(just two of them) mow down the Vogan army without getting injured. Don't the Vogans use gold for their bullets? But besides the MANY things to gripe about, there are some redeming features in this clinker. The regulars, including Tom Baker, are great. Baker's quoting from Macbeth to a dead Cybermen is hilarious! The Vogans aren't that bad(one has to wonder if this story should have been called "Vengeance on Voga"), David Collins bringing life into Vorus. The continuity from "The Ark in Space" scores big with me. And the Cybermen, return with very little fanfare after over a five year absence, really aren't that bad. At least they're given some lines, unlike earlier Cyber stories. If you're an incredibly undiscriminating Who fan, this might be the video for you, others might want to steer clear. So bad, it's good. Could "Revenge..." be the "Plan 9 From Outer Space" of Doctor Who? Hello?
on April 17, 2014
Cleverly inserted between the exceptional episode 78 "Genesis of the Daleks" and number 80 "Terror of the Zygons" is the Baker era sleeper "Revenge of the Cybermen".
Personally, this has always been one of my absolute favorites as it features the ever menacing Cybermen (in one of the more aesthetically appealing incarnations) along with the addition of a wonderfully imaginative subterranean, alien race and their asteroid planet of gold. Unfortunately in this episode, Sara Jane is kind of stuck in whiny mode while Harry continues a downward spiral into buffoonery but then Baker is at some of his problem-solving, take-control best so it all balances out. As always, the doctor's intervention in a galactic, alien war is excellent sci-fi escapism not to mention the addition of a despicable Terran traitor (very fun to hate BTW) and a mysterious and deadly plague all add up to some pretty engaging drama.
This episode has a very high re-watchability factor (in my opinion) and is almost indispensable to a well-rounded Who collection. :o)
on November 4, 2013
The Fourth Doctor and Sara Jane return to the space station Nerva (from "Ark in Space") at a later time period when it now serves as a beacon warning spaceships away from a rouge asteroid. This asteroid turns out to be the fabled Volga, planet of gold. Gold is of course the antithesis of the Cybermen, who have survived and are trying to put an end to Volga. In addition, there are two factions on Volga, who have differing approaches to dealing with the threat of the Cybermen.
The Cybermen in this episode are newly created costumes and look pretty good. Unfortunately, the Volgans don't look so good, especially their soldiers. The cyber mats make a reappearance in a new updated form, which look really nifty. However, I had a serious issue with the silly cyber bombs that were strapped onto the protagonists. Cyber bombs? Really?
The scenes shot on Volga were actually filmed a a large cave in the UK known as Wookie Hole, which was pretty cool. The scenes on Nerva were essentially recycled sets from "Ark in Space" but those were pretty good anyway, so no complaints there.
Overall, this isn't the greatest Fourth Doctor story, but it is watchable and worth the time to see this encounter with the Cybermen. My favorite part is when the Doctor smack-talks them!
on May 13, 2014
As usual the Digital Re-Mastering is quite well done. No skips audio is clear and the video is extremely sharp
I don't usually comment on the plot lines but this offering has one major oops. We all agree that only gold will stop a cyberman. The planet Voga is made of gold. So why... when the Vogons shoot the cybermen do they use lead bullets and not a Glittergun?
One disc with 4 episodes and Special Features;
The Tin Man and The Witch;
Cheques, Lies and Videotape;