C046 The Invasion

Browse Classic Who reviews


Raunchy photoshoots, the return of UNIT and a Cyberman plan as epic as it is absurd

classic scene of cybermen at st pauls london in the invasion doctor who back when

The Second Doctor and his companions, Zoe and Jamie, materialise in the TARDIS on the wrong side of the moon, only to discover an alien presence that they’ll ignore for four episodes and then head off to the 1970s and (less) swinging London.

There they encounter the perfectly reasonable conglomerate of International Electromatics, lead by Tobias Vaughn, who’s played by Kevin Stoney, who previously portrayed the similar character of Mavic Chen in The Daleks’ Master Plan. They also bump into UNIT, lead by now Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, whom we last met in The Web of Fear, and who is now backed up by the also legendary Sergeant Benton (played by John Levene, who can be seen hanging out with Ponken in the pic here below).

Vaughn has struck an accord with an old foe of the Doctor’s, though — the Cybermen — and as the title of this serial would imply, they’re planning an invasion.

Have a listen to our review as we ask, and attempt to answer, the important questions, such as:

  • Is Toby Vaughn a robot?
  • Did Isobel and Turner do it?
  • Would yoghurt survive the Cyber Megatron Bomb?
  • … and much, much more!

Here's what we think







Here's what you think

5 Responses to “C046 The Invasion”

  1. A truly larger-than-life story that drags just a little bit at times. This story serves to both establish the need and might of UNIT as well as give the cybermen their epic invasion story like we’ve already seen with the Daleks. UNIT delivers on the action on all fronts. To top it all off, we are introduced to the 2nd UNIT essential in Sargent Benton. This guy is great both on and off screen (seriously if you ever get a chance to meet this guy, don’t pass it up). Like Mr. Courtney, when Mr. Levine is on the set you just can’t ignore the ease with which he portrays his character. Additionally this story gives us epic shots of cybermen coming out of cybersewers shooting their cyberflashlights at a quite empty London. There’s rocket launches, there’s mobile command carriers, there’s even fashion photography. What didn’t this story have?

    Just 3 serials away from the previous cyberman episode, one might think the viewers might be a little Cybered-out, however they take a back seat here to cyberized humans who at times seem every bit as pitiless as their allies. Tobias Vaughn is a great villain in true James Bond style. Presumably he got his cyber body from the cybermen at some previous cyberpoint in time, and presumably many others did as well, (remember the human forklift?) But other than a failed assassination attempt this sub-plot serves no purpose and should have been deleted. While we’re at it, let’s retro-rewrite the plot of the cybermen themselves who still can’t seem to figure out their way to Earth from the moon without Google Maps. It’s a good thing they never invented the “Cyber-navigator” or they’d be a real threat indeed. They should have removed that whole beacon signal thing. The Dr and Vaughn could have just as easily set out to destroy the ground relay for cyber communications or something like that.

    Hands down, most-missed footage of the week goes to the cow in the field (just kidding)… goes to the helicopter rescue scene. However the animation for episode 4 is so good that minus full movement one might as well be watching the original footage. I desperately need to find the money to buy the DVD/Blueray releases someday.

    Minus Jamie getting really shagged out from his helicopter rescue and missing the last half of the story, all the actors are brilliant in their roles. It’s obvious that Watkins and Isobel were supposed to be Travers and his daughter at one point but for some reason this changed at the last minute. Still they were welcome substitutes, and Isobel should have gotten a job as UNIT photographer instead so she could stay with her solder toy.

    There’s a bit of slowness at times (or is it a slow build) and a bit of repetition here and there, but ultimately this story stands up as the grand adventure they set out to achieve and gets a well-deserved cyber 4.4

  2. Trenton Bless | @trentonbless

    Hello, once again, podcast land, I’m back once more for another review, and today we’ve got “The Invasion”. I’m happy to have this serial on DVD (due to the fact that it’s currently out of print in the US) and I’m ready for this review. A serial of this magnitude deserves a review befitting of such a serial. Here we go!

    The Invasion is one of the pinnacles of 1960s Who – an exciting, elaborate adventure that placed extraordinary demands on cast and crew, and, despite its length, it still holds our attention today.

    We’ve seen the wacky time travellers paired with the military before but here, building on the success of The Web of Fear, the production team surreptitiously put a template into place that would eventually bring the series and its menaces squarely down to Earth. And oh, we’ll get to that.

    Nicholas Courtney returns (bum first, descending a ladder) as Lethbridge Stewart and we share the Doctor and Jamie’s pleasure at this unexpected reunion. In the four years since their last meeting, he’s “gone up in the world” and is now the Brigadier, in charge of what he describes as an “independent intelligence group”.

    Credit for devising UNIT goes to Derrick Sherwin, who has also turned out eight cracking scripts. There’s scarcely a dull moment, with fast-moving set pieces and more filming than ever before – all placed in the capable hands of Douglas Camfield, a director renowned for military precision.

    The first four episodes are grippingly plotted with alien infiltration, the menace of the IE compound and mind control all shamelessly pilfered from Quatermass II (BBC 1955). Vaughn and his inhumanly strong (partly cybernetic) thugs posed the threat until the halfway point, when at last the monsters are revealed. To a pulse-racing radiophonic score from Brian Hodgson, a Cyberman rips through its hibernation cocoon. A proper behind-the-sofa cliffhanger. And it’s been a long wait – especially as their presence was heralded a month earlier in RT’s coverage for The Invasion.

    The Doctor and Jamie make a dynamic duo; Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines have by now developed a tactile, symbiotic partnership. They’re such unlikely-looking heroes, so the Brigadier’s confidence in them is cheering. “They may look like amateurs but that man has an incredible knack of being one jump ahead of everyone.”

    Wendy Padbury sparkles as Zoe. Clad in a sequined catsuit (though not shown in the animations for Episode 1), then groovy 60s gear, she forms a sisterly bond with Isobel. They may be totty, but they’re ballsy with it. Isobel defies the Brig (“Ooh, you… you man!”) and braves the sewers to photograph some Cybermen. When Zoe’s quick-fire calculations obliterate the Cyber fleet, the soldiers beg to keep her on: “She’s much prettier than a computer!”

    Kevin Stoney is another key element in the success of The Invasion. His asymmetrical face and urbane/insane manner command our attention throughout. He’s wearily amused at all the minor obstructions to his plans so that when he finally boils over in rage at the end of episode three, the effect is incandescent.

    I haven’t mentioned Packer yet, have I? I really liked him as a villain, and he was quite ruthless in his approach. Though, he doesn’t work well under pressure, as seen in Episode 3 when as he is barking out orders to his men, telling them to recapture the Doctor and Jamie, he squeaks out “move!” and it makes me crack up every time, the sound he makes when he said it. Do soundbite that if you haven’t already.

    Sadly episodes one and four are lost. The first instilled the Quatermass vibe with moody film work. And the fourth showcased impressive stunt work as a UNIT helicopter rescues the Doctor’s party from the IE compound. Zoe and Isobel in heels and mini-skirts, and Jamie in his kilt, ascend a rope ladder – under a hail of bullets. That they survive unscathed is a miracle, acknowledged in Captain Turner’s wry comment: “Fortunately Vaughn’s jackboots couldn’t shoot a flying elephant!” Vaughn’s soldiers do indeed shoot like Stormtroopers. These crucial missing episodes have been lovingly re-created with animation and original soundtrack for the BBC DVD. As I said in my review of The Moonbase, the animations done here aren’t as good as the ones done for Moonbase. Maybe that’s because these were the first ones to use animations to replace the missing episodes, and they certainly weren’t the last. *cough* Power of the Daleks *cough*

    Many of the iconic images come in the later episodes. The Cybermen, at their most silvery, stride through the sewers without a speck of rust or fleck of turd… Flinging aside manhole covers, they march down the steps by St Paul’s… Unit soldiers fire bazookas on Cybermen in a well-staged battle… Jumping and howling, the Doctor runs from a barrage of bangs, then squats and composes himself for Isobel’s camera.

    Camfield has kept faith with reliable actors. Courtney and Stoney played hero and villain for him in The Daleks’ Master Plan (1965) (Go listen to that review now on WhoBackWhen.com if you haven’t already). And he’s liberated extra John Levene from Cybermen and Yeti costumes for his first speaking role as Benton (he’d reappear in the 70s). If there’s one omission, it’s that Courtney doesn’t participate in the farewell scene. The Brig must have better things to do than wave off time travellers in a cowfield, but we leave with no inkling that the character will return as a mainstay one year later.

    The Invasion had an impact that would resonate throughout coming decades. UNIT became the Doctor’s home in the 70s and has had regular assignments in New Who and Torchwood. Plot elements (hypnotic control, sewers, even IE) were “borrowed” for Rise of the Cybermen (2006). And the Brigadier himself has survived for 40 years (last seen in The Sarah Jane Adventures in 2008), with Courtney becoming a cheerfully enthusiastic ambassador for the ongoing myth.

    And with that, I’m going to give this serial a 3.99/5 (if you wish, round it up to a 4.0). I do really like this serial, but like all serials, it still has a few problems here and there. But, they are so minor. The villains were great, J, Z and the Doctor were great, UNIT was great, and the Cybermen were great, too. I’m glad this serial exists for the most part intact, and Episodes 1 and 4 are animated. The unfortunate thing is, we won’t see anymore of the Cybermen until 1975, when Tom Baker takes over. And oh, we’ll get to that!

    Next time, the Doctor and co. must use their minds against the Krotons, and stop their plans of conquest before it’s too late! Oh, I’m not looking forward to this one. I’ve heard so many bad things about this serial (at the time I’m writing this, I have yet to see this serial). Nonetheless, I still need to watch it. It must be done! See you then.

  3. Erin Zimmerman | @DoctorZedd

    Despite it being probably a bit longer than it really needed to be, I LOVED this serial, for two main reasons… Mavic Chen…. I mean, Tobias Vaughn, and the Brig.

    First off, Vaughn is a fantastic villain. Charismatic, scheming, crazy, and great at pulling a smirk-y/scowl-y face, he’s a great match for the Doctor and entertaining to watch. I loved how easily he could shift from smiling and smarmy to yelling and seeming seriously unhinged. The scene where he gives a gun to Watkins is genuinely chilling and intense.

    Second, the Brig is in fine form here. Brisk and competent and always sporting a grin and a dry sense of humour. A nice intro to the ‘best of the Brig’ that will come later on with the Third Doctor. The UNIT men seem like he hand picked them for similarity to himself. Watching UNIT episodes, I always enjoy how efficient, positive, and uncomplicated they are as a “character” in the story. They’re cool because they always seem to have their shit together.

    Miscellaneous observations:
    -mostly, I really liked the music in this serial, but the weird, upbeat music that played every time the UNIT jeeps appeared was really jarring.

    -the graffiti message “Kilroy was here” apparently has some history. It has its own Wikipedia entry.

    -was climbing out of an elevator between floors a new trick in the 60s? Vaughn and his henchman really seem to have been taken by surprise by that manoeuvre

    -if I was Vaughn, I’d get a right-hand man that didn’t question every goddamn thing I told him to do. Jesus.

    -part of the cure for the cyber-control beam is a neck massage from Zoe. Because of course it is.

    -finally, Zoe gets to be smart again in this episode. I like when she gets to show off her wunderkind skills. I also loved the glee with which she destroyed Vaughn’s computer

    -Isobelle dresses like a waitress in a 50s diner

    I give the Invasion 4.6 out of 5 for being exactly the kind of story that kept me addicted to classic Who.

  4. Paul Fauber

    Toby Vaughn is bulletproof because his body is cybernetic. He made contact with Cybermen in space and had bits of himself replaced before arranging to oversee their invasion and gain control of the Earth.

  5. I got delayed from submitting Mini’s for a while by some work stuff so in an effort to catch up I’ll make this quick:

    Isobel – a one off female who wasn’t annoying!
    Passes the The Bechdel Test – not a lot of serials do.
    The Music, the music, the music! – especially around the calvary
    BAGLE – Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart
    Benton – Not enough screen time (will come later)
    Kevin Stoney – Vaughn – did an intro & outro on my version

    Vaughn – I liked him better as Mavic Chen. He was too “robotic” here.
    They had the tech to make a cyborg but not a decent telephone switchboard
    Too Many Episodes – Could have done it in 4-6 easily



Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>