Lady Summerisle (strange_complex) wrote,
Lady Summerisle

Classic Who: The Rescue, Revenge of the Cybermen

First Doctor: The Rescue
This is an absolute darling of a story. Well-paced, thematically strong, and with a nice little plot twist that I certainly didn't spot. Its main driver is the departure of Susan in the previous story, to go and marry a human from the 22nd century called David. Clearly the production team at this stage didn't want to disrupt the established team dynamic, so the story is about the gap she's left, and the way she is replaced.

The Doctor begins the story tired out and mopey, to the extent that both Barbara and Ian comment on it. It isn't quite on the level of Ten's post-Rose angst, but it's unusually strong companion-loss grief for Classic Who - which is understandable, given that Susan is actually his grand-daughter. And meanwhile, there is Vicki, who's lost her parents and is desperately seeking a father-figure. As soon as he meets her their interactions are explicitly those of a doting father and scared little girl - to an extent which seems a bit patronising from today's perspective, but was clearly intended as sweet and touching at the time. I particularly liked the scene when he overheard her on the intercom saying how much she liked him, and puffed out his chest and gave a proud, pleased smile. And I also liked the fact that at the end of the story, the decision to ask her to travel on the TARDIS was very much a mutual team decision, not just the Doctor's prerogative. This nicely underlines how very essential Barbara and Ian have become to the Doctor, and how well they recognise and respond to each other's needs. It's the kind of Team TARDIS dynamic I like to see.

I'm pretty sure I must have seen the first episode of this story before, as I definitely recognised the plot set-up, although hadn't remembered it visually. I don't think I could have seen the second, though, as the sense of familiarity dropped away once that began. I noted that Hartnell comes across in the whole story as much more amiable and grandfatherly than I'd got used to from his first three stories - which I'm presuming is the result of a gradual character development over the course of the six stories I've missed in between. And how brilliant to call the planet they land on 'Dido' when the next story is going to be The Romans! Not, of course, that Aeneas took Dido with him when he left Carthage - but then, the relationship there was a romantic one, rather than a fatherly one, and Vicki has absolutely no reason to remain behind once the story is over. So it's a nice, appropriate little nod, but one that isn't allowed to get in the way of the actual story they're trying to tell.

Fourth Doctor: Revenge of the Cybermen
I got myself off to a bad start with this story, partly due to UKTV Drama's scheduling, and partly due to my own inattention. Problem no. 1 was that I'd expected UKTV Drama to continue straight on to the next story after screening The Sontaran Experiment, as indeed they had for the past three. But in fact, they skipped Genesis of the Daleks, and although I knew this should be coming up soon, I hadn't checked that it was actually supposed to be next, and thus didn't realise at first that I'd missed anything. This was an easy mistake to make, since The Sontaran Experiment ends with the Doctor, Sarah and Harry transmatting off Earth to return to the Space Station Nerva, and Revenge of the Cybermen begins with them arriving in the transmat pods on the space station. So you could easily assume there was direct continuity from the one to the other - although I did wonder how come Sarah Jane's clothes had changed en route.

Problem no. 2 was that I finishing off cooking and serving up my tea during the first ten minutes of the first episode, which meant that I missed some essential plot information. Why was the space station being used in such a different way from when they'd left at the end of Ark in Space? Who the hell were the dome-head guys living in the gold mines, and what did they want? What was the clearly evil blond guy doing on the space station? And why were people talking about the Cybermen? It took me until about the third episode to piece all of this together, whereas having gone back at the end and re-watched the first ten minutes on YouTube, I now see that I would have had much more of a grip on the unfolding of the whole story if I'd done so properly in the first place. Lesson learnt - pay attention!

The upshot of all this was that I found it hard to engage with the story. As with The Caves of Androzani there was just a bit too much complicated double-dealing going on for me, and once again I couldn't really follow it because I took me ages to work out everyone's names. Also, I find the Cybermen a bit hard to take seriously in this era. Their faces look a bit too much like Playmobil men to me, and I kept thinking of the cute little Cyberbaby in this Dead Ringers sketch.

That said, the way the story eventually worked itself out was quite clever, and I'd probably have really appreciated it if I'd been following from the start. I also liked the heroic suicide bombing scene when one of the crew-members from the space station deliberately blew himself up to take out two Cybermen, and help the Doctor save everybody else. It was well played out, and I liked the pained reaction which it prompted, not only from Harry but also the Doctor.

Douglas Adams Watch obviously noticeed the similarity between the name of the Vogans and that of a certain bad tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous race in H2G2. Perhaps a more significant influence, though, was the way they were keeping themselves hidden from the Cybermen by living beneath their planet's surface and letting everyone think it was deserted - a lot like the Magratheans, especially given that one example which Adams gives of the sort of custom planets they used to make is a planet with a surface made entirely of solid gold.

And although I waited and waited for an explanation as to why the Vogans had the Seal of Rassilon emblazoned all over the place, I found out in the end from Wikipedia that apparently this story pre-dates the association between that symbol and the Timelords, and it was just a design originally made for this story that later got re-used. Mind you, it creates lovely opportunities for retconning fanfic - for example, a story set far in the Vogans' past, when they had had some kind of crucial interaction with the original Rassilon. Thousands of millennia later, he could even have become a sort of half-remembered god-figure to them, and his seal a religious symbol. I wonder if anyone's ever written it?

Write-ups of Genesis of the Daleks and Terror of the Zygons, plus some Thorts about New and Classic Who, coming later, when I've done some more work.

Tags: classical receptions, cult tv, doctor who, douglas adams, four, one

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