An imbecile, a Glitter Gun, and not the Seal of Rassilon
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Having floated through time and space using the Time Lord Time Ring, The Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan arrive back on Nerva, except they’re thousands of years too early and the TARDIS hasn’t caught up with them yet.
To top it off, the station’s full of dead people and rather than being used to house the frozen remains of humanity, Nerva’s 30-year mission is now to warn passing ships of a new addition to the bodies orbiting Jupiter, namely, the asteroid/planet/moon of Voga.
That’s not enough plot, though, surely! Voga’s also made of gold and inhabited by a race of dudes with white hair. And then there are the Cybermen, of course, and the traitor aboard the Nerva.
Now the Doc & Co have but four episodes to thwart the Cyber-plan to destroy the one thing we never knew was the only thing the Doc knew all along could destroy the Cybermen.
Also, check out Richard Tarrant’s article in the WBW blog: Tin Soldiers: Nostalgia and Revenge of the Cybermen
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Gerry Davis’ script for ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’ included nods to each previous Cybermen story. An astronaut’s inquiry about his brother recalled General Cutler and his son’s relationship in ‘The Tenth Planet’. An alien plague like the one attacking Nerva Beacon was central to the plot of ‘The Moonbase’. Davis’ previous story, ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’ introduced the Cybermats spreading the disease here. Once it was fixed, Nerva’s sabotaged transmat enabled Sarah Jane to live as the disabled laser on ‘The Wheel in Space’, upon repair, enabled its crew to survive a meteor storm. Nerva’s transmat needed its missing pentalium drive in the same way the Wheel’s laser depended on bernalium rods. Like ‘The Invasion’, this story’s climax involved changing the course of an airborne rocket. Kellman dressed like the previous story’s human antagonist, Tobias Vaughn. Like Vaughn, he was the Cybermen’s ally before changing sides and losing his life.
Actor Kevin Stoney played Vaughn and previously played Mavic Chen in ‘The Daleks’ Masterplan’. In our story, he was Tyrum, the gold planet Voga’s leader. Like Michael Wisher, who played Davros in ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ and Vorus’ assistant here, Stoney’s talents were largely wasted. Vorus preferred forming alliances with interplanetary neighbors and engaging in trade to Tyrum’s approach to remaining safe from Cybermen, hiding underground on Jupiter’s newest moon. Vorus wanted to lure the Cybermen to Nerva and blast them with a rocket he’d been slowly, secretly building. Their conflict was consequential and political, but never should have led to the skirmish padding episode two.
Other veteran DOCTOR WHO actors appeared including Ronald Leigh-Hunt as Captain Stevenson, who played Commander Radnor in ‘The Seeds of Death’. William Mailer, was Lester in this story and convict Harry Mailer from ‘The Mind of Evil’. Cyberleader Christopher Robbie portrayed the Mighty Karkus, a comic book superhero from the year 2000, in ‘The Mind Robber’. The Cyberleader’s gloating and this story’s title mischaracterized Cybermen’s devotion to logic and lack of emotion.
As usual, the monsters evolved between appearances. Here, they had weapons on their heads and a color scheme denoting rank. The story looks great, too, reusing Designer Roger Murray Leach’s amazing studio sets from ‘The Ark in Space’ for Nerva Beacon and the Wookie Hole caves doubling for the underground sequences on Voga. Kellman’s hair brush was also familiar. James Bond used it in ‘Live and Let Die’ before Sir Roger Moore gave the prop to the BBC. The Vogan’s symbol would also become famous as the Seal of Rassillon.
The story’s main problem, introducing gold as the Cybermen’s weakness, would materialize years later. The Doctor recalling human ingenuity weaponized gold dust and enabled Cybermen to be defeated in the Cyberwars works and was used in the story. The Vogans inexplicably never exploited their advantage over their enemies and seems as nonsensical as gold becoming Cybermen’s kryptonite.
Davis’ script isn’t horrible, but pales among the stories around it, despite catering to fans without detracting from the story. The strong cast emphasizes the importance of script and well defined characters to DOCTOR WHO. The sets and locations are fantastic while props are familiar and functional. Nevertheless, Script Editor Robert Holmes hard work couldn’t save this story. The Cybermen seemed to enjoy their revenge without knowing they stood atop a slippery slope.
After the masterpiece that was “Genesis of the Daleks”, we were due a bad one. And goodness, is this one pretty bad.
After seven years on the shelf, the Cybermen return from nowhere. They look pretty much the same, except now they just sound like guys speaking into a tin. And their weakness is gold? I get the point, it’s non-corrosive and it clogs their ventilation, but come on! Even the Cybermats look awful (But Liz Sladen can definitely sell one attacking her).
Evidently Robert Holmes had a part to play in the reworking of the script initially written by Gerry Davis. You wouldn’t notice because of how uninspired this story is. The Vogans are lacklustre if not awful. They look terrible and are just very bland. And they were added by Robert Holmes!
The story’s saving grace is the location shoot at Wookey Hole, which, although plainly devoid of gold, provides an unusually convincing setting for subterranean Voga. Only here does the drama occasionally gleam with life.
Overall, what do I thi- it’s awful. It’s bloody awful. As a self proclaimed Cyberman fanboy I hate revisiting this serial because my favorite monsters were done so dirty here. It’s basically Ark in Space but with Cybermen! Thank goodness they were done so much better in the future, and oh, we’ll get to that. The story was so uninspired and it could’ve been great. But it wasn’t. Can we get on to a better story now? 1.8/5
Things I liked:
• The Horror! The Horror! Bodies littering the corridors. A robotic killer snake and it’s veiny victims. Traitor Kellman and his deathtrap bedroom. Cyberman storming Nerva. The massacre of the Vogans. A Cyber-bomb strapped to the Doctor! All burned horribly into my seven year old psyche.
• The little golden cave train!
• Best line: “HARRY SULLIVAN IS AN IMBECILE!”
• I have no beef with the Cybermen’s new aversion to gold. But why aren’t the Vogans slaughtering the Cybermen? Where is the ‘Glittergun’ we were teased with? Why don’t the Vogans just lob gold at the Cybermen? There’s f**cking gold everywhere! Why aren’t the Cybermen dying from the gold all around them? Or at the very least getting the sniffles?
• “Gold is the only thing that is effective against cybermen”. Horseballs! What about the defeats of the Cybermen pre gold retcon?
• Is the Doctor enjoying torturing Kellman a little too much in episode 2? Who’s side is Kellman on anyway? I’m totally lost.
• Why is the Doctor so surprised to see Cyberbombs despite their being banned under ‘The Armageddon Convention’? Would theCybermen realistically abide by such accords, or even be signatories in the first place?
Summary: this story was my first ever Classic Who (the Seventh Doctor being New Who at the time). Like a middling voter in the EU referendum who ended up supporting leave, my brain tells me this story is dumb whilst my heart shouts “Take Back Control”, “Blue Passports” and “Fish”!
4.2/5 stupid Vogans getting mown down by Cybermen because they left their Glitterguns at home. Idiots.
Here’s another story I really want to love, but ultimately it’s just okay. The problem is a lackluster execution of an amazing plot idea. Plot holes abound. Why does the cyber leader keep tying people up instead of (quite literally) using his head and killing them? How can two cybermen take over a planet holding the race that invented the ultimate weapon to kill them? Why doesn’t the cyber-scanner pick up the the bombs as they move away from the core? How do the Vogon’s reproduce? There’s so many more essential details that are just neglected.
Despite this there’s some great elements. The “respectful” way the two Vogon factions fight is wonderful. The double agent using the station as a missile, the backstory of the cyberwar and the mere mention of a weapon known as a “glitter gun” are all enough to make this a great series. #ProudDavidBowie.
The regulars are in such top form you often forget they’re acting and just watch them live their lives. The effects (minus the stock rocket footage) are enjoyable. Design and costuming are all well conceived (though the cyber leader has some pretty tight pants in the back). Note the symbol that later becomes the seal of Gallifrey.
The story is fairly directed, but dips in pacing, while bouts of illogic reduce a great story to a middling one. We’ll rate it at a 2.9. At leat now we know why there’s so much bad poetry from the Vogons.
The original idea was strong: a space casino is besieged by Cybermen with a Cymbermat-spread plague, and the Doctor defeats them with the casino’s gold reserves. Yes, it’s basically the plot of “Moonbase”, but it’s stronger that what we get. The casino setting was vetoed and so is replaced by a good-mine asteroid This version was heavily re-written by Robert Holmes and somewhere along the line lost its way!
There is little which is good here. The acting, even from Kevin Stoney, David Collins and Michael Wisher, is unremarkable to poor. Voga might have been presented as an analogy to Mondas, but is instead just dull. The Cyberman plot makes no sense (why can the Cybermen wander about on Voga, and if so why can’t they plant the bombs?). The Vogans don’t have “glitter-guns” and so get massacred by the Cybermen. Their rocket plot is also rubbish. And so on.
There are moments: episode one has some atmosphere as the TARDIS crew wander about the empty space-station; the caves generally look good; the regular cast are as good as ever, even if Harry’s character suffers. It is watchable in a way that some other Who stories are not (I’m looking at you: “Space Museum” and “Timelash”!). But it is a disappointing end to the season.
Is it worse than “The Sontaran Experiment”? Maybe not, but it is twice as long, so I mark it down for that.
1.5 out of 5
I think the idea of a space casino was pretty daft and I am glad it was scrapped and never get into script form and the original script with the Cybermen taking over space station to destroy a planet of gold with no name in the original script and also populated by human miners left down on the asteroid by Kellman was IMO billions of times better than the transmitted story and even better than the idea of a space casino with gold in . I am glad that Big Finish are releasing the original script for Return of the Cybermen on cd and I shall look forward to getting it when it comes out next year.
Following Genesis of the Daleks was always going to be tough, and Revenge of the Cybermen suffers in relative terms as a result. The story raises all sorts of questions, including:
• Why do the Cybermen want revenge if their emotions have been removed?
• Why does gold, one of the least reactive elements, clog up their respiratory units?
• Why do they even have respiratory units, given that they can survive in a vacuum?
The Cyberleader also loses his temper on several occasions, but that’s understandable given that he’s trying to destroy an entire planet with only three troops, because the BBC could only afford that many costumes.
Cybermen aside, at least we have a decent guest cast, including a link back to the previous Cybermen story with Kevin Stoney as Tyrum (Tobias Vaughn in The Invasion). The regulars are on form again, although it does feel to me like Harry is being squeezed out, with more screen time devoted to Sarah and the Doctor. The special effects are variable, but it’s always fun to watch the actors attack themselves with a Cybermat.
Overall, the plot is decent and there are no problems with the cast, but the Cybermen are a shadow of their former selves from The Invasion. Fortunately they pick up in their next appearance, although that’s some way off. 3.5/5
I love how cosy Kellmans room is.
The return of the Cybermats is a welcome one even if they’ve more than doubled in size. The effect of the poison in the vein like patterns has to be one of my favourite special effects in Classic Who.
The Cybermen are pretty ominous when they are silently killing the Vogans in the creepy, dimly lit, atmospheric caves.
The mannequins posing as dead bodies.
So the Cybermen are going to blow up a planet with three bombs, but one bomb barely took out a couple of Cybermen?
The Vogans while a cool concept have to be some of the most boring aliens on the show so far.
Why don’t the Vogans use gold in their guns? 300 years ago, gold wiped out the Cybermen. Now they walk around in caves made of gold and the Vogans use conventional bullets?
Biggest missed opportunity in all of Doctor Who. They don’t use the sleeping humans. A direct sequel to Ark In Space could have had the Cybermen with an entire race of humans to convert but its clear Robert Holmes thought they were just robots as the Doctor calls the Cybermen “total machine creatures”.
‘They don’t have a rocket’
‘Kellman said they do’
‘So, they do have a rocket’
Cybermen logic is impeccable
First Cyberman story in five years and last one for another nine. May not be the best, but I still love it.
3.5 / 5
Re the cyberbombs and just blowing up the two cybermen
I’m 99% certain it is said that there is a secondary charge which is presumably what blows up the cybermen. The bobytrap aspect would be dumb if it used the main charge. A courageous person could set it off while still on the beacon and thus destroy the beacon and the cybership. A secondary charge detonation probably wouldn’t do that.
Thousands of years before some green bubble wrap Snuggied its way into our hearts, The Doctor, Sarah and Harry find themselves back at Nerva Central where people seem to be dropping like flies. Again. For the very first time.
As it’s clear the budget ran out, and because all the good words were used up in “Genesis of the Daleks”, this story first introduces us to some moderately-invested-in-the-plot humans, some hidden-in-plain-shiny-knob-sight Cybermen, and some guys who look like they want to tell you about the Droid attack on the Wookies who are big pimping the Seal of Rassilon before it was a thing.
Theres some mild genocide, a lot of phallic symbols. and all kinds of stuff with the word cyber in front of it. But if there is anything you can take away from this sub-par shitfest of an episode, it’s this:
All of Time and all of Space, and there is apparently only one asteroid with gold running through it.
But Harry Sullivan is an imbecile.
So long, and thanks for all the cybermats.
Steaming muck in four parts. Carry on.
The original script had the cybermen take over space station Nerva beacon to use, as a base to destroy a nearby planet of gold which was initially inhabited by human gold miners who have been trapped on the asteroid for 25 years and the human villain Kellman is the only crewmember of the Nerva who knows about the human gold miners on the planet of gold and Kellman is seeking to betray the miners to the Cybermen. I am however glad the bloody awful space casino idea was scrapped very early on and it never got into script form thank the lord, the idea of a space casino is shite and it was no good for a Cyber story, dalek story or any good for a Dr Who story in general that ghastly idea of a space casino was only some whim that would have never been a storyline thank the lord. I think in billions of ways it was a shame that the miners were replaced with an alien race, and also in the Gerry Davis original script the planet of gold was nameless and it was during Bob Holmes ghastly and rewrite of Gerry,s original script that the asteroid got a name and we sadly lost the human gold miners and got those bloody awful alien Vogans instead who were crap.