In a vision of ‘Doctor Who’s Future…
Recenserad i Storbritannien den 1 februari 2016
…Patrick Troughton meets UNIT meets the Cybermen for a true classic that brought Outer Space to Earth and launched a new era... 5*
Made at a time when the future of our favourite show was in some doubt, ‘The Invasion’ was and is a thrilling eight-part epic, the deliberate prototype story for the new format, placing the Doctor firmly on present-day Earth and bringing the alien monsters here. Written by Derrick Sherwin from a story by Kit Pedler, co-creator of the Cybermen, the Second Doctor’s ‘enemy of choice’ clash with him for the fourth and final time - eventually... There’s only the merest hint of things Cyber-y for the first half of the story – four episodes before the monsters show up! Could you imagine that today?
In fact, the first four episodes are almost a story to themselves, and an excellent one, even though two of the episodes (1 and 4) are ‘lost’ and had to be replaced with animation and the original soundtrack, recorded off-air by fans. The result is really good, tells the story well and has the right ‘feel’ to match the rest of the story. In fact, some of the action sequences have been made even more dramatic in the animations (episode 4 especially) as the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe investigate far-too-powerful ‘International Electromatics’ and its sinister boss, Tobias Vaughn.
Kevin Stoney is simply magnificent as the charming, silky megalomaniac who reveals his true nature in bursts of desk-pounding, raging fury. But is that his true nature or is there more beneath…? His chief henchman is another fine creation and so well played by Peter Halliday; Packer is a vile thug, full of self-confidence while he has the upper hand, it’s great to watch him crumble as the Doctor and Jamie run rings round him and leave him comically dishevelled and the subject of Vaughn’s sarcastic anger. Together they make an evil human duo who almost make you forget the headline villains of the story – and doing that to the Cybermen is quite something!
Ninety minutes without actual ‘monsters’, watching Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines sneaking around buildings and railway sidings might sound too much – until you see it. They’re a superb combination, mixing moments of comedy into the exciting action and character drama, in four episodes that solidly establish the Doctor’s partnership with UNIT that would become so important later – with John Levene now as Corporal Benton and terrific Nicholas Courtney promoted to Brigadier for the first time (but not wearing one of his better moustaches!)
Swinging Sixties London is represented by Isobel Watkins (Sally Faulkner), aspiring photographer. Her performance is as excellent as all of the guest cast, but the character is oddly divided by the writing, being part feminist and part glamorous “dolly bird”. Isobel gives Zoe the chance to explore a strange culture by being a Sixties girl for a while; they do have to get themselves captured (twice) so the Doctor, Jamie and UNIT can come to the rescue in some memorable action sequences (one now sadly lost in episode 4, but the animation of this is excellent.) But Wendy Padbury also has two great moments as Zoe the computer genius, talking a computer to destruction with her logical brilliance and later seeing off the Cyber-fleet with mathematical warfare (and a missile battery!)
Douglas Camfield’s direction is, as always, fabulous to watch and keeps the interest up in the studio sections as well as the extensive location filming, at this time a record amount for any ‘Doctor Who’ story. The incidental music by Don Harper is excellent and distinctive and adds to the filmic quality of this adventure, as does the ‘gritty’ nature of the human story – people are threatened, terrified and shot at close range by other humans in a way that wouldn’t be shown in the new series. Professor Watkins (Edward Burnham) and Vaughn’s scientist Gregory (Ian Fairbairn, with a quite brutal death scene that drew special praise from the Director) are ‘persuaded’ to work on a strange device that can transmit fear, even to those who don’t usually have emotions…
And so, enter the Cybermen… emerging from the sewers, pacing the streets of London and marching in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral in some truly iconic ‘Doctor Who’ moments. With a ‘triple-jeopardy’ plan (Cyber-hypnotic control, invading fleet, Earth-destroying bomb) they need Vaughn (for a while) and he needs them (for a while) to help *him* take over the world. He doesn’t trust them for an instant, but thinks he can control them – a sure sign of his delusions of grandeur, even his thick-as-two-short-planks henchman Packer knows enough to be scared stiff of their alien ‘allies’. The trouble is, Vaughn needs Watkins’ invention to control them (it works, watching a Cyberman being made terrified is surprisingly horrible) but there’s only one machine because (a nice twist) the Doctor has unknowingly disrupted Vaughn’s plans to produce more.
So it’s up to the Doctor and his friends to save the world three times over, with a mixture of brainpower and firepower. The final UNIT battle with the Cybermen is justly famous, featuring a detachment of the real Army to great effect. UNIT and the regular forces are portrayed seriously and respectfully, as they always were in the classic era; after some recent new series stories I doubt that ‘Doctor Who’ would get the same assistance from the MOD that they did back then.
Equally excellent is the Doctor’s verbal showdown with Vaughn, two great actors in top form, as Vaughn finally realises the madness of his scheme and decides to help the Doctor before it’s too late… UNIT can handle the Cybermen already on Earth, but there’s a fleet and a main ship to deal with - looking forward from the depths of the Cold War in 1968 to imagine cooperation in a much more hopeful (presumably post-Soviet) future, a combination of British and Russian hardware does the job and the Earth is saved. And if any more aliens try to invade, a united Earth and UNIT will be ready for them!
Growing up in the early 70s with Jon Pertwee as ‘my’ Doctor, UNIT and alien invasions of Earth were the essence of ‘Doctor Who’, so for me this story has always been a novelty for the chance to see wonderful Patrick Troughton’s take on the same scenario. For audiences in 1968, it must have been a different, exciting style of adventure – and it proved a popular one… so the style of the Pertwee years was born with this five star Troughton classic…
Thanks for reading.
DVD Special Features:
The commentary is excellent; Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury and Nicholas Courtney are enjoyable audio company as usual and Chris D’Oyly John (Production Assistant (Assistant Director to Douglas Camfield)) is a mine of information about how this complex story was made. For episode 1, James Goss, Steve Maher and Mark Ayres discuss how the animated episodes were created.
On disc 1:
‘Flash Frames’ (15 min) looks at the creation of the two animated episodes, while ‘Character Design’ shows some of the designs used for the Doctor, the Brigadier, etc.
‘Love Off-Air’ (15 min) is a very enjoyable tribute to the fans who recorded ‘Doctor Who’ soundtracks from the original broadcasts. Without them, the ‘lost’ episodes would be lost indeed; we all owe those ‘60s fans a debt of gratitude. It’s also delightfully nostalgic for everyone who tried to capture the magic of ‘Doctor Who’ on (audio) tape, back in the days when most episodes were broadcast once, never (we thought) to be seen again…
On disc 2:
‘Evolution of The Invasion’ (50 min) - an excellent ‘making of’ documentary with a really top set of contributors.
‘VHS Links’ – familiar to all who bought the VHS release; Nicholas Courtney explaining the two missing episodes, with a *huge* book!
‘Photo Gallery’ (7 min) – an especially good gallery, mostly location pictures showing the actors and the production team at work.
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