Sunday, 28 May 2017

The Time Monster

Chapter The 54th, it's once, twice, three times Atlantis.

The Master disguises himself as a scientist and spends months hiding in the home counties working on government-funded research into the important work of sending cups from one room to another without touching them. This is project TOMTIT, as in 'what the tom-tit would you want to do that for?!' No, I'm joshing, it really stands for Transmission of Matter Through Inter, er, something. Oh dear, I seem to have got bored before the end of the acronym. Anyway, The Master's really using the experiments to power a crystal from ancient Atlantis to summon an all-powerful being that eats time, a Chronovore, because loony. This causes all sorts of temporal leakage, meaning people age decades in seconds, or get regressed to babies, or window-cleaners fall off their ladders in slow motion. Nasty. This activity in turn alerts the Doctor and he arrives with Jo; UNIT troops follow on in force with anti-tank guns, for all the good that'll do. The Master travels to Atlantis, in search of a larger version of the crystal, and the Doctor and Jo pursue. After some intrigue in the Atlantean aristocracy, a fight with a Minotaur, and an interminable moment of charm from the Doctor banging on about an old hermit he knew on Gallifrey, the Chronovore is released. The Doctor pleads for clemency, so it stops short of punishing the Master, and it nicks off. As does the Master.

Every so often a story comes along which causes the blog to grind to a bit of a halt. Looking back at  the past two years of blogging (the anniversary was a couple of days ago!) there are purple patches where I'm rattling off stories at a rate of one a week, and then a long gap before,for example, The Armageddon Factor struggles into the light. This isn't writer's block, it's rarely being busy with other important life events, it's mainly because, as in this particular instance,  it takes so long to watch the thing. I don't think I've watched The Time Monster with the family before. Maybe my eldest (boy of 10) might have been old enough when it was last released to buy, seven years ago, but his siblings (boy of 7, girl of 5) were not, and I can't see what circumstances would have arisen for me to suggest it for a viewing since. Despite this, nobody was interested in sitting down with me this time, even though they'd heard nothing but the title, which should sound quite exciting to their ears, I'd have thought. The story seems to give off a bad smell somehow. [Or maybe it's the curse of the word 'time' in a Doctor Who story title - see Deeper Thoughts section below.] The upshot was I had to find 25 minutes here and there when everyone was abed or out, and watch it on my own. This took a couple of weeks, all told.

First-time round:
After the giddy rush of the early years of Doctor Who on VHS in the late 1980s - when releases were rare, the date of the next one a complete mystery, and you never knew what shop a tape would turn up in next - there followed a few solid years of collecting in the 1990s. The range had established itself, you could reliably find the tapes on the day of release in lots of stockists, and a regular two stories every two months were made available. This was a great time for many old sci-fi titles. Volume One in Worthing in those days had an entire wall of tapes including Doctor Who, Red Dwarf, Blake's 7... Star Cops, Doomwatch, Moonbase 3, Survivors. We'd never had it so good. In 1996, the range was paused to clear the shelves for the Paul McGann TV Movie's release, and - we maybe dared to hope - all the regular releases of Paul's new stories thereafter when the show got picked up. But that was not to be.

Instead, there was a big relaunch of classic titles in 1997. There was now a slight issue, however: the plenitude of those boom years had left not much of Doctor Who's archives left to plunder. For the remainder of the range, which was eked out another 7 years by the application of a drastically reduced release rate, there were reissues, a few problem stories (with missing episodes or missing colour) and, well, quite a lot of the dross. By the turn of the millennium, the DVD range had got going in parallel, and I was buying the old titles - the better ones - again, with restored picture and extras. Meanwhile, the VHS range was jumping through hoops of desperation packaging up two infamous 6-episode Pertwee bore-fests, Colony in Space and The Time Monster, in deluxe packaging as the 'Master Tin', just in time for Christmas 2001. I watched all 12 episodes, probably alone in my flat in Brighton as I doubt I would have persuaded anyone to watch with me, and afterwards promptly forgot all about it. I'd love to say that I at least use the tin for something useful, but it's in a cupboard with a few other Doctor Who tins, gathering dust. I bought The Time Monster again on DVD in 2010 with restored picture and extras; I will never learn.

There are many kinds of sequels; most commonly, a sequel continues the story of the first in some way (as in Broadchurch series 2), some create a wholly new story for the same protagonists (as in Broadchurch series 3); occasionally, one gets a sequel that just takes the rough story beats of the primary source, and repeats them in a new context: arguably, The Force Awakens does this with the story of the original 1977 Star Wars movie, and Prometheus and Alien Covenant are to a certain extent remixes of the first couple of Alien films. The Time Monster is such a retread, taking the overall shape of The Daemons, which everyone was very pleased with from the year before, and presenting it again, like reheated leftovers.

Instead of Azal the Daemon, there's Chronos the Chronovore; instead of a heat barrier, there's a time field; the start of both stories sees the Doctor and Jo racing to stop an event (opening a barrow, running an experiment) about which the Doctor has had a unexplained doomy premonition at the top of the episode, but arriving just too late as terrible forces are unleashed and the credits roll. Even little moments recur, such as finding an object that's so heavy it feels like it's been fixed down, and countless other echoes. Also, Atlantis is mentioned in both. It's the third and final explanation given - so far - for the destruction of Atlantis in the series (the very first is in The Underwater Menace, and coincidentally all of three stories have now been covered now for the blog). Doubtless nobody knew or cared about contradicting continuity from The Underwater Menace, but contradicting something from a script only twelve months old, and written by the same people, is a bit different; the topic seems to have been a minor obsession of Barry Letts (producer and uncredited co-writer) at the time, which might have made him forget about its previous use. If only Barry and co-writer Robert Sloman hadn't also forgotten to include empathetic characters, or any kind of plot at all.

The Daemons is the root of the trouble; it has been somewhat overrated, particularly by everyone involved in its making, who clearly had (too much of a?) good time in so doing. The Time Monster script picks up on the regular cast's comic dislocation from usual context, but ends up forcing it: Benton in civvies or watching the rugby is okay, Benton in the nude is not funny; the Brigadier shooting five rounds rapid at a gargoyle is stupid but memorable; the Brigadier talking about consulting the entrails of a sheep, is just stupid. As such, it loses any of the charm of its predecessor, and magnifies its flaws. As I waded through the first four episodes, I started to think I was going through the different stages of grief: denial - it must be better than I remember - was followed by anger, sometime around when the Master's mesmerised institute manager sidekick dies and the script doesn't think to mention it, and the director doesn't aim the camera at it. I realised that the guy, dead or living, hadn't actually contributed anything to the story apart from padding, and neither had the MP and civil servant characters, and neither had Ruth and Stu, the Master' technical team. It sort of looks like they should, when Stu becomes an old man, and Ruth's a bit sad. But then that's reversed, and has no impact on the story again. In fact, in the first four episodes, only one character - the Master - actually does anything of any significance. Everyone else is bereft of agency. And they're all a bit smug.

I had started on the third stage of grief, bargaining - maybe I could just skip the final two episodes - when an unexpected thing happened: the story improved (fractionally). I double-checked, and it definitely wasn't depression or acceptance affecting my judgement. Don't get me wrong, it's not perfect: the dialogue is the worst kind of declamatory cod-Shakespearean guff, and Ingrid Pitt delivers all her lines like Jean-Claude Van Damme on Mogadon. But the Master recast as seducer is something new, and Delgado plays it perfectly. Various points in the last two episodes come close to actually being dramatic: Galleia's outgrowing the King, but still being loyal to him; her spurning and using of her former sweetheart, from when she was a commoner not a queen, and his death, actually have meaning. Yes, the Minotaur is the Green Cross Code man in a silly fake head, and yes Hippias wears more eyeliner than Siouxsie Sioux. But I cared, just a bit. Then everything gets exploded, and there's a coda riffing on themes from the Daemons again: a being with godlike powers is featured (didn't Terrance Dicks always complain that beings with godlike powers were powerfully undramatic? He should have had a word with his boss); this being can't understand human behaviour, and a self-sacrifice from Jo Grant saves the day.

Delgado is excellent, but then he always is.  And, although a misfire, this story is a stepping stone: as part of Letts and Sloman's gradual shaping of what the Doctor Who season finale template should be, it prompted work that's been taken forward in the 21st century and is still ongoing today. Their next attempt, The Green Death, learns from all these mistakes and manages to be much better, and better remembered, than even The Daemons.

The main set-up for both stories is slightly unusual compared to the majority of Doctor Who in that the cast are temporarily based on Earth within an institution (university, army base) with only occasional forays into time and space, this being one of their mainly Earth bound adventures, but which does include a hop in the TARDIS partway through the running time.

Deeper Thoughts:
It's about the word 'Time'. One of the unwritten rules of Doctor Who fandom is that you should never trust any story with 'Time' in the title. It's always thought a reliable sign that the story will be a duffer. From memory, with my viewing of The Time Monster still fresh as a wound, I'd go along with the theory. But to be objective, I dug out the results of the official magazine's last survey of every Doctor Who story, from 2014, to examine this phenomenon further. This poll covered the first 50 years of the series, and listed 241 stories from most popular to least. There aren't many stories in the list with the word 'time' in the title; taking just the classic series, there are but eight, and you can't argue with the psephological significance that three, three, of that total are in the bottom five stories of the 2014 poll: Time-Flight, Timelash, and Time and the Rani. The Time Monster doesn't fare much better, teetering atop the bottom 20. The other half of the 20th century stories, along with five from the new series, take up odd spots in the lower-to-middle range, with not a single one troubling the top 50.

Generally, the new series 'time' titles fare better in the popularity stakes, but stories like The End of Time, Last of the Time Lords, and even Closing Time, have proved contentious based on anecdotal internet discussion to which I've been witness. So, why should this be? It's not to do with subject matter. True, getting too wrapped up in the mechanics of time travel is rarely as interesting as not getting too wrapped up in the mechanics of time travel; as someone wise once said, "Kids want Narnia not the wardrobe". That person was Steven Moffat, who since making that pronouncement has been responsible for more timey-wimey scripts than anybody else. But to give him his due, he does it very well, and perhaps the epitome of this style, Blink, is at number 2 in the same poll. If he'd called it 'Time not to Blink' would it have been lower? Anyway, a story like Time and The Rani is barely timey-wimey at all. Maybe putting the word 'Time' in the title might hint towards an overly portentous tone, and that might grate, but it's not something you could level at all thirteen stories. Perhaps the word is just cursed. Take as an example two stories made one after the other with the same lead actor and production team, and only one word different: The Day of the Doctor (at number 1 position), and The Time of the Doctor (dropping right down to number 95).

Since the poll, there's only been one new example, Time Heist, which hardly set the world alight. There's another soon to come, though: the first part of this year's season finale is called "World Enough and Time". Definitely portentous, and a high-falutin' literary reference to boot. Are we worried yet? It will be interesting to see how it lands. Screw the Radio Times, though, maybe it's not too late to change it. But to what? Is there an inverse example, a word that can be added to any title that would ensure its success? In the top ten of the 2014 poll, 'Daleks' is the only significant repetition. In the top 11, 'Death' appears twice. Clearly, Death to the Daleks would have to be a world beater, wouldn't it? Let's check... no, it's languishing at number 148. Bang goes that theory. 

In Summary:
Like the wine bottle experiment the Doctor assembles in episode 3, The Time Monster is silly, ugly, nonsensical, and falls apart at the slightest touch. Avoid.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Knock Knock

Chapter The 53rd, in which everyone gets wood.

[Warning: This is a current episode, and there will be some spoilers ahead.] Bill Potts moves in to a house-share with five other students from St. Luke's University; the rent's cheap as there is no central heating, and it has a major problem with woodlice. Plus, it eats people. The landlord is clearly a Norman Bates type (ooh, what a giveaway), but these kids are desperate not to have to deal with letting agents any more, and who can blame them, so they sign the contract anyway. Then, on a dark and restless night, when the Doctor's there too to embarrass Bill / help her move / investigate, they're picked off one by one, sucked into the wooden fabric of the house. The landlord hides a dark secret in a tower in the house, a secret that has meant the deaths of six tenants every twenty years: so, eighteen students have been killed in the last seventy years; now, that doesn't sound that high a death toll when you spell it out, and - yes - statistically this house is safer than the M4, but it's creepy, okay? Sheesh. Nobody explains why it's only six tenants required each time, or why every twenty years exactly, but it was getting a bit hectic at the end there, and there was definitely no time for a lengthy info dump. Oh.

Before Doctor Who came back on TV this Easter, I used the random number generator to pick which episode I would blog; it came up with a 4, which meant I would be posting about The Haunted Hub, as the story was rumoured to be called then. I wonder if that was ever a proper title, though, as the house is not a hub, unless the idea was that it's the central base for the Dryad creatures to roam about to infest the trees in the area. It was shown that this was the case a couple of times, but that was early on before it was clear what the nature of the threat was exactly. It's not haunted either, come to think of it. A few days after the original broadcast, I watched the special version of the story formally known as The Haunted Hub on the BBC iplayer with binaural 3D special sound. I couldn't tell any difference to be honest, but I enjoyed the fun intro with an announcer doing a Peter Serafinowicz Darth Maul voice telling me to make sure my headphones were on the right way round. I suppose it could have been Peter Serafinowicz himself doing the Peter Serafinowicz voice, that's a thought.

First-time round:
We watched the first three episodes of this current series live on BBC1 on Saturday night, with all the family together; but, the trailer after Thin Ice made Knock Knock look pretty scary, so myself and the Better Half screened it, timeshifted using the PVR, on the evening of broadcast. We thought it was borderline, so prepped the kids and they watched it with me in the middle of the day when it was bright outside, to take the edge off it. All three (boys of 10 and 7, girl of 5) enjoyed it, and thought we were making a fuss about nothing.

The big draw of this story is the special guest star: David Suchet is excellent throughout: a subtly malignant presence as he slides in and out of the action during the earlier part of the narrative ("For a man such as myself, discretion is second nature"); he doesn't play it as Rigsby from Rising Damp, so much as an actual patch of rising damp, spreading creepily over every scene he's in. He's pitch perfect doing the traditional bad guy act (and, of course, it is an act) in the middle, with a nice change of tone at the end when the true nature of the character is revealed. Perhaps he pushes on that last note a little too hard in places during the conclusion, but it's a minor quibble. It's been a while since a guest actor has been served so well by a script; this year's other contenders so far - Ralf Little, Nicholas Burns, Mina Anwar, Jennifer Hennessy - have all had little more than cameos.

This is doubtless deliberate. These early stories have all been about showing off the new TARDIS duo, and the dynamic between them. This explains why no-one - including the other regular cast member, Matt Lucas - has got much of a look in until now. Pearl Mackie and Capaldi have a natural and effortless chemistry that's presumably the result of lots and lots of effort, not just from the two actors, but from the writing, and from every one of the crew too: the production is showcasing something new here, the engine for the show's new direction. The stories so far have been enjoyable because of this, but perhaps a bit low-powered - there's a definite tension felt when watching that events have yet to shift into a higher gear. It seems that's going to happen soon, with hints about regeneration being dropped, and whatever's locked in the Doctor and Nardole's underground vault - this year's MacGuffin - looking like it (she?) will be escaping before too long. Unfortunately, most fans at least will know none of this can last. At least one, if not both, of these main two actors is not going to be employed on the show after Christmas, and that's a shame - it's working so very well.

For the moment, we have to put that out of our minds and enjoy what we have. A new twist is given  in Knock Knock with the Doctor being forced into the role of embarrassing older relative dropping off his charge at college, hanging around too long, and showing her up; Bill doesn't mean to be ashamed of him, she just wants to be independent. I recognise this, as I'm sure anyone would, from when I was young and starting at university, and I'm also preparing myself for the day - soon to come - when I'll be the old buffer having to make myself scarce. The script milks so much out of this simple set-up: as well as the recognition factor and the deepening of the central relationship, there's humour with the Doctor's vanity that he only looks old enough to be Bill's father, and a magnificent fan frisson at the companion calling the Doctor 'grandfather'. Most of all, it foregrounds the counterpoint between the two different big adventures Bill is embarking upon, which I suspect is the thematic touchstone of the whole series, encapsulated in the little moment of Bill talking to herself: "Stop it - there's no living puddles, or weird robots, or big fish. It's just a new house. And people you don't know. Not scary at all."

Capaldi is at his best here, with Suchet bringing out his A-game: there's some great moments, such as when the Doctor crunches a prawn cracker to disrupt the tension, or later when he challenges the landlord to name the Prime Minister. The remaining cast is also good, with each of the students nicely drawn in a few quick strokes, believable and sufficiently different from one another. I'm confused by a few details, though: is Bill enrolled properly in college now, or is she still just being tutored privately by the Doctor? If there's a freshers' party happening, then it must be September or early October, which means that Bill and the Doctor have known each other for the best part of a year at least (The Pilot covered a stretch of time that encompassed Christmas). Consciously being aware of this - which admittedly wasn't until after I'd finished watching the story - did damage it a bit, as they still feel like they've only known each other a limited time. And it seems either very generous or very cruel of the university to be kicking Pavel out of halls at the start of the Autumn term: they'd have kicked him out before the Summer vac, or not at all. These minor details aside, first time Who scriptwriter - but massive TV and theatre talent - Mike Bartlett has delivered a fine story, and he can definitely come again (though he may well be too busy).

Both stories follow the template that's commonly tagged 'Base Under Siege' in Doctor Who critical writing, but in the wider world is known more simply as 'horror': a group of characters are trapped somewhere, and stalked by an unknown - and possibly supernatural - assailant or assailants, who do for them, one by one.

Deeper Thoughts:
Not just a London (or Bristol) Hopper. On the Saturday evening after watching Knock Knock, I read some fans on an online forum bemoaning that the companion in Doctor Who never fully commits to the adventure anymore, and always ends up coming back home every three or four episodes. There are dramatic reasons for this, grounding the audience identification figure to throw the extra-terrestrial shenanigans into sharp relief, and creating further options for story texture within "the part of my life you're not in”, as Bill refers to it when talking to the Doctor. The show could prosper without this, of course: Ian and Barbara were perfectly well grounded, but the Doctor never managed to get them back home once, and we knew very little of their personal lives. It's telling, though, that even in 1963 it was felt necessary for there to be a reason for the characters not to go home (the wonky steering of the TARDIS) or else they should want to, or at least the production team must have thought the audience would question it if they didn't.

The new series has generally taken the 'pop back home' approach, but the classic series also did this, starting in the 1970s, with the Doctor's companions returning periodically to their normal lives as he returned to his Earthbound mission with UNIT; this is very similar to the set up now, with the vault needing to be guarded and the Doctor doing a bit of lecturing on the side. Companions both old and new have been kept linked to the Earth by a strong vocation (medicine, teaching, journalism, being an air-hostess). Even when not applying this approach, the classic series usually got its excuses in; there were a few orphans, a few 'professional' adventurers like Leela or Steven, and even a reintroduction of the TARDIS's navigational issues for a while. Tacitly - subconsciously, perhaps - the series is putting forward the idea that being rootless, travelling without some sense of a place of your own, is not a good thing. Travel broadens the mind, but endless travel maybe flattens it out, removing all the individual features. This is even more explicit in the new series; the following is probably the strongest example, but representative. From 2006's Army of Ghosts:

JACKIE: Do you think you'll ever settle down?

ROSE: The Doctor never will, so I can't. I'll just keep on travelling.

JACKIE: And you'll keep on changing. And in forty years time, fifty, there'll be this woman, this strange woman, walking through the marketplace on some planet a billion miles from Earth. But she's not Rose Tyler. Not anymore. She's not even human.  

I don't know if Russell T Davies believes this wholeheartedly, he's probably just having Jackie playing a part she plays well, that of Devil's Advocate; but, he must believe there is some truth in it, or else the conflict in the scene would not work. Right now, this is a charged political discussion; the incumbent Prime Minister of this country, whose name I can't bring myself to type, said in a conference speech last year “If you believe you're a citizen of the world, you're a citizen of nowhere." She had her own political reasons for saying it, and I bristled at the suggestion, just as I did when listening to Jackie Tyler ten years earlier. I examined why I felt this way: home is very important to me, for many reasons. I believe that patriotism, even nationalism, can be perfectly fine if they don't lead to intolerance and violence. It's intolerance and violence that are the problems, whatever the motive behind them. But they are two abstract nouns, whereas a Union Jack is a real physical thing. It's a concrete reality that a love of country can often cause people to do terrible things.

Also, I have to go with Ian Brown or Rakim here: it's not where you're from it's where you're at. If you're too rooted in one place, you'll never get anywhere; progress requires diversity. Bill returns to Bristol because that's where she is studying, developing herself. Everyone should have that right, that equality of opportunity, even if it takes them far from home. Any tension or conflict between the nowheres and the somewheres is a false battle; the real enemies are intolerance and violence, and those that would stoke them up. In the end, everyone and every community must find an acceptable balance between the familiar and the alien. It's possible for me to be English, and British, and European (no matter what happens); and it's even possible for me to be "a citizen of the universe, and a gentleman to boot"! 

In Summary:
Well constructed, laying foundations for building excitement to come; not at all creaky.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

The Tomb of the Cybermen

Chapter The 52nd, where some Cybermen long thought lost are located again.

The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria arrive on the planet Telos and bump into an archaeological team searching for the last resting place of the Cyber race, which has long since vanished from the galaxy. The team find the tombs but have to complete logical tests before they can be accessed. They open them with help from the Doctor (even though he thought it was a bad idea, but he can't help showing off). The tombs turn out not to be tombs, but cryogenic pods, and the Cybermen not dead, only sleeping. Two members of the team, Eric Klieg and Kaftan (not their real names but stage monikers from when they toured their magic show round the working men's clubs), plan to use the Cybermen to take over Earth, but the Cybermen are planning to convert them and the rest of the humans into new Cybermen so they can, well, take over Earth. Neither side gets to take anything over, as the Doctor refreezes the Cybs and reseals the tombs that aren't tombs.

Watched the 'Revisitation' version of the DVD, which reinstates the video look of the studio-recorded scenes using vidFIRE, which you're likely either to know already or not be interested in so I'll shut up about it now. The whole family (The Better Half, two sons, 10 and 7, and our youngest, a girl of 4) sat down to watch this enthusiastically. As has become the norm, we stripped the watch over several days during and after the Bank Holiday weekend. Everyone thought the Cybermats were cute.

First-time round:
It was Monday 11th May 1992, the day of Tomb's VHS release; it must have been - I didn't wait to buy this, and I didn't wait to play it. I probably purchased it in Woolworths in Durham, as I would have had to go in there anyway to buy The Twin Dilemma, which was an exclusive release for Woolies released on the same day. Because of the hoo-hah in college when it was first found - see the Deeper Thoughts section below - there were a number of people more than the usual crammed into my friend Mike's room to watch. It was unheard of - we had to bring in more chairs! I can't remember, but I very much doubt that many stayed after to watch The Twin Dilemma.

The Tomb of The Cybermen clearly had some money spent on it: large cast, lots of film both on location and in studio, lots of lovely expensive looking detailing on the sets - look at the cyber symbol spray-painted onto the cling film that the Cybermen pierce through during the justly-celebrated wake-up scene. Lovely. Some effects, which had been talked about reverentially when they were but the memories of a lucky few, turned out to be a bit ropey when they were finally aired for a mass audience (e.g. some obvious Kirby wires and empty cyber-suits used in battles). Toberman's half-conversion into a cyberman is never very clearly shot, and quite a few characters have to act in naive ways to push certain moments of the plot along. The overall impression, though, is of a highly polished production.

What it isn't, mind, is particularly scary: in a story about a descent into underground tombs, one might expect shadows, or the turning of corners in fear of what lay beyond, of sudden movements out of the corner of one's eye, or strange noises disturbing the eerie silence. There's none of that on offer from the story, which takes place in the most brightly lit final resting place money can buy, with no corridors either: probably because a fair chunk of the budget's been spent on the very impressive main hall set, there's only one scenery flat, which characters gamely race in front of and behind, pursued by Cybermen. Everything is too big and shiny to allow for menace of the creeping, cobwebbed sort. Even the aforementioned 'cybermen emerging from pods' scene, though wonderfully shot, cut and underscored with their 'Space Adventures' music, is more balletic than frightening. There are a few unsettling moments wrung from this set-up: the trippy weapons testing room stuff, for example, or the magnificent impassive face of the Cybercontroller in close-up at the end of episode 2, with his buzzing alien vocals: "Eew-ah will be like uzzzzz".

Mostly, though, it's a straightforward linear action story, with only some attempts early on to bring depth to the script by adding lots of talk about symbolic logic. It's a peculiar brew: one part Bertrand Russell, two parts James Whale Universal horror pic; when Klieg is tapping on buttons and the tomb's opening, he entones lines about "If and only if" and "Fourier series" etc. as if he's saying "It's alive! It's allliveeee!!!" It must have seemed a good fit, to introduce a fixation with logic as the driver for these emotionless beings, but it does create a rod for the cyber-back ever after. The Cybermen always manage to do something stupidly illogical in every story - here, it's not putting an opening control on the inside of their casket when they buried themselves alive. It might be better to quietly ignore the logical theme, rather than draw attention to these flaws.

On the subject of Klieg, it is somewhat unfortunate that he and his other conspirators are the only three characters in the piece with skin pigmentation any shade darker than paper white. The story's not racist, at least not intentionally so - George Pastell, who played Klieg in fantastic villainous form, had been in a few Mummy movies previously, and was cast at least partially to call back to that - but for a production team, which a season earlier were positing a future with black and white astronauts shown as equals, to include a black actor playing the silent manservant muscleman is a backward step, and one they should have avoided. But Tomb's not really deep enough to be offensive. What we basically have here is as season opener in the modern mold: a simple action-packed story to kick things off, with larger-than-life villains and monsters, and an emotional bit with the new companion. 

In The Tomb of the Cybermen, just as in Death to the Daleks, the TARDIS crew join up with another team that have arrived on a quarry-like planet, where there are lots of A-list Doctor Who monsters waiting in the wings. In both stories, this joint group, including an untrustworthy male on that other team, gains entry to and then investigates a large building on the planet where everyone faces booby traps and tests of their intelligence.

Deeper Thoughts:
A personal story: The Tale of Two Elections. The country in which I live is fast approaching a general election, followed by negotiations to leave the European Union. There isn't any probable outcome from either process that isn't miserable and difficult. In times like this, it's good to remind oneself that sometimes - rarely, and perhaps insignificantly in the big scheme of things, but sometimes - things happen that are wholeheartedly, unquestionably good. This is a story of one of those times, from back in 1992, another election year, and another time of misery for any left-leaning person like what I am. I was lucky enough to share this event with many friends, chief among them my good pal, fellow fan, and collector of many mentions previously on this blog, David, the man who provided me with my first ever pirated videos of Doctor Who.

In Autumn 1991, I started my fresher year at St. Aidan's College in the University of Durham. I travelled up from the beautiful South on the train for that first day alongside Zahir, a schoolfriend of mine who was starting at Durham too. Zahir was also a fan, and a mutual friend of the other schoolmates I've mentioned on the blog before: Alex, and Dominic (he who provided me with my first official purchased Doctor Who videos). By the time of starting at this seat of learning - though I didn't have all of them with me - my Doctor Who VHS collection had reached 30-odd tapes. As great as it was as a long-time fan to see those episodes, and the ones from David, no excitement could match being finally able to own and view The Tomb of the Cybermen.

Perhaps the excitement of starting a whole new chapter of my life, and studying for a degree, should have exceeded that of watching four times 25 minutes of 1960s creaky teatime TV. I was wrestling in my head on that train journey in 1991 with the notion of putting aside childish things. I'd mentioned to Zahir that there was a Doctor Who convention early on in our first term, and wondered whether it would be fun to go. He, probably quite rightly, said we'd be too busy and too poor for such a thing. I could have reinvented myself then, left all of my old life behind me, but I had the fortune (I suppose it was fortune) to arrive at a college and university that was as Doctor Who-obsessed as I was. In my first week I met David, as recounted in the 'First Time Round' section of my earlier blog post here; additionally, future Doctor Who Magazine editor Gary Gillatt was at the same college at that time, and was involved with the university paper Palatinate, which published at least one extensive Doctor Who article during my first term. In previous years there had been a weekly Doctor Who night in the JCR, which we kept going in a smaller way with viewings of every new video I obtained in my friend Mike's room, as he was the only person with a video player of his own.

In that heady environment, the news of Tomb's return was sheer Lazarus stuff: a miraculous return from the dead; and not just of any story, but the one that was top of so many fans' lists for the most desired find. Since the first big search after the gaps in Who's archive were discovered in the late 70s, early 80s, returns of episodes seemed to have dried up. Late in January 1992, though, in my second term of my first year, I got back to my room after lectures one day to find a photocopied article blu-tacked to the door. Tomb of the Cybermen was back, back, back! David had made copies from the newspaper, and stuck them up thus on every door whose owner he thought would be interested (these were in the stone age days before WhatsApp, and much more fun because of it). When I finally caught up with David in the college bar, he still had a handful of his homemade flyers. I asked him how many episodes of the story had been found - the most recent finds had been one or two orphaned ones at most, never stories in their entirety - and when he replied "All of them" we both literally danced around that bar in joy. It may seem silly to you, but I stand by the reaction, which was honest in that moment.

The video was rush released a term later, and I snapped it up on the day of release, as recounted above. But in between, there had been that general election in April 1992; I watched for most of the night at Zahir's house back home during the hols; we were the only two left-leaning people remaining in Worthing at that time, or at least that's how it seemed. It was a night where brief initial optimism turned to crushing disappointment for us. The polls leading up to the day had consistently put Labour narrowly ahead, and the exit poll showed it was a hung parliament, still leaving hope that over a decade's worth of ruinous Thatcherism could soon be rolled back. But result after result coming in gradually filled in a different picture: we had five more years of Conservative rule. I've obviously been reminded of that night a lot recently, not just in 2015 (although the exit poll had the decency to be more accurate in 2015, not getting my hopes up), but in every recent wrong-headed decision at home and abroad.

The story of The Tomb of the Cybermen tells us not to be rash enough to let loose forces we can never hope to control, but I fear it's too late for that moral. The story of its recovery shows us that, if we're patient, good things can happen at unexpected times, and we should never give up believing things that are lost can be brought back. I'll cling to that.

In Summary:
Ignore any unrealistic expectations arising from its loss and rediscovery: it's the Smith and Jones or Partners in Crime of its day, and succeeds wholeheartedly if taken as that.