THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE TV
STORIES "THE MIND
ROBBER" AND THE
'THE INVASION' SPECIAL
EDITION DVD (BBCDVD
1829) RELEASED IN
disappearance of an
eminent scientist, the
Doctor and his
his trail to the
global supplier of
run by the formidable
Teaming up with the
Taskforce - UNIT -
under the command of
Stewart, it soon
that Vaughan is
working to his own
sinister agenda. As
Cybermen invade in
all cities all over
the world, can the
Vaughan to help him
defeat their plan for
THE ORIGINAL LIVE
ACTION VERSIONS OF
EPISODES ONE AND FOUR
ARE BOTH MISSING.
HOWEVER, IN NOVEMBER
2006 THEY WERE BOTH
RELEASED ON DVD
HAVING BEEN ANIMATED
BY COSGROVE HALL.
2ND NOVEMBER 1968 - 21ST DECEMBER 1968
What can I say? Doctor Who fans are being completely and utterly spoiled
rotten! As if the new television series and the Big Finish audio plays are not enough to be getting excited about, BBC DVD and Cosgrove Hall bring us The Invasion - an incomplete classic, now completed.
Everyone has been asking the same question for years - Why don’t they just animate the lost episodes? - but deep down we all knew the answers to the question. It takes time, it costs money, and it wouldn’t generate a great deal of profit. However, thankfully for Doctor Who fans, times have changed...
The significance of this DVD cannot be overstated. Gone are the days of fiddly MP3-CD telesnap reconstructions and narrated off-air soundtracks. Here we have two episodes that were junked - presumably lost forever - brought back from the dead and made available to watch on DVD. Obviously they are not live action, and some would argue that they are no match for the original episodes. Some, however, would probably argue that they are even better than the real thing.
I never bothered to purchase the 2004 CD release of The Invasion purely because I had
six perfectly good episodes on VHS and I thought the BBC trying to get me to fork out the best part of fifteen quid for two audio-only episodes was pushing it a bit. Moreover, with just two episodes missing from the BBC archives, I never considered their absence all that tragic. The VHS release of the story had Nicholas Courtney (the Brigadier) filling in the blanks with a little bit of narration and, as harsh as it may sound, the links did not make the missing episodes seem all that important or exciting. For the most part, I had no problems following the story by watching just the existing episodes (although to be fair, come the end of the story I had absolutely no idea why the TARDIS was invisible – that’ll learn me!) and by the time the fifth episode came around I didn’t feel like I had missed a thing. Of course, I was completely and utterly wrong.
The first half of The Invasion may be slow-moving, but it is no less compelling for it. Watching Cosgrove Hall’s animated episodes, I was astounded at the layers of plot that I simply had not been aware of previously. More importantly though, I was blown away by the stylistic animation; the episodes are absolutely beautiful in every way. They have the look of something like Sin City. It’s weird; it sounds and feels like 1960s Doctor Who, but it also
has the feel of something new and exciting... and a bit different. Certain characters - the Doctor, Captain Turner, Vaughan, Packer etc - look so much like the actors it’s frightening.
In terms of the actual quality of the animation, I would not say that it is all that much better
than that seen in the Scream of the Shalka webcast. There are more frames per second here, so it is much smoother, but even so it still is not up to the quality of say, The Simpsons, as it still has a very shaky / disjointed feel to it. This is not a criticism of the episodes though; like I say, the distinctive animation really gives them a sense of identity. In fact, I enjoyed them so much that I actually felt a bit deflated when the original episodes came around.
That said, I do not agree totally with some of the choices that were made during the animation process - in some cases the animators were allowed to use a little bit of artistic license, but in others they were held back. For example, in the first episode they have the space ship flying past the TARDIS. Great! In the fourth episode, they have Jamie lose his grip on the helicopter's rope-ladder and they also switch the position of the Doctor and Jamie around in the canoe. Hmmm. The latter two hardly seem like the most vital of changes to me, yet they were kept in whilst the ingenious idea of having Vaughn's image broadcast on a giant Big Brother style monitor outside International Electromatics was vetoed! Whilst I fully understand the reasons why these decisions were made, and I also understand how frustrating it must be to have to animate something without much room for manoeuvre, I do strongly feel that the animators involved should have been allowed to exercise a little bit more flair, even if the finished product would have come across as looking unachievable by the standards of the day.
Above: Chris D'oyly John, Wendy Padbury, Nicholas Courtney and Frazer Hines record the DVD commentary
The big gimmick of the recreated episodes aside, this two-disc set has a hell of a lot more to offer. Most impressive by a mile is the 50-minute, in-depth documentary on the making of the serial, entitled Evolution of the Invasion. With the likes of Nicholas Courtney and Frazer Hines involved the documentary (and for that matter, the commentary) could not be anything but entertaining, however for me it is Terrance Dicks that steals the show. As always, he is funny and clever and arguably has more behind-the-scenes knowledge of Doctor Who in the late 1960s and early 1970s than anyone. Nevertheless, here it was his forthrightness that really made me laugh. Talk about telling it like it is!
The Love Off-Air featurette is also an entertaining little feature; I never realised just how
many big-name Doctor Who fans grew up making off-air recordings - Gary Russell, Justin Richards, and Mark Ayres to name but a few. The rest of the special features are geared more towards the completist - Flash Frames and Character Design both offer a fascinating look into the animation of the missing episodes; the two spectacular animated trailers
(which actually feature Cybermen, unlike both the animated episodes themselves) are also on the disc and the VHS links from the anniversary-year release are also included.
With all the hype surrounding this DVD - which is, admittedly, totally justified - it easy to overlook The Invasion itself. I would not say that this markedly blandly titled story is the best of the Troughton era by a long way, but it is definitely one of the most memorable. After five wonderful episodes showcasing the more fantastical side of the show, The Invasion sees the TARDIS crew in the much more familiar setting of contemporary Earth and in the more familiar position of battling some good old fashioned monsters. There are certain images from Doctor Who that have almost subconsciously become part of British culture. The Daleks parading around London in The Dalek Invasion of Earth is one of them; the Autons smashing their way through the shop windows in Spearhead From Space is another. Before the recovery of The Tomb of the Cybermen, the scene that the Troughton era was most famous for was without doubt the Cybermen emerging from the sewers outside St Paul’s Cathedral in this story. Monsters on the doorstep? Arguably nothing works better, and that is what The Invasion is all about. For all intents and purposes it is a dummy run for an Earth-based Doctor Who; a Doctor that liaises with the military in battling alien threats to Earth… sound familiar? Well in 1968, it was all new.
The previous season’s London underground classic, The Web of Fear, introduced us to a certain Colonel Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, a stiff-upper lipped British soldier; a man of action, a man of honour. The Invasion sees Lethbridge-Stewart return, duly promoted to Brigadier and placed in charge of the UK branch of the United Nations Intelligence Task Force (UNIT). In a refreshing change from the 1960s norm, this story sees the Doctor and his companions actively work with the authorities in investigating the strange goings on; they are not arrested and locked up for two episodes or even quizzed about who they are and where they come from! The production team’s plan was to establish the Brigadier and UNIT properly in this story, ready to become regulars in the forthcoming Earth-based seasons. And from watching this lengthy serial, it is clear that a lot of time, money and effort was put into creating UNIT. Their HQ that we see in this story, for example, is better than anything that we would ever see in the Jon Pertwee era; it looks almost like something from the lair of a Bond villain! The design is absolutely superb. There are also far more extras than usual used (many of them stuntmen no doubt), plus a lot of military equipment and vehicles are also seen on screen. Unfortunately, every time UNIT show up in force their presence is marred by the most appalling incidental music imaginable; this sort of jolly whistling tune. In the commentary Courtney describes it as more naval than army. I wouldn’t even be that gracious...
Sherwin’s script certainly allows a lot of time for the Brigadier to develop too, and also to introduce one of the serial’s main guest stars, the young and beautiful Isobel Watkins (Sally Faulkner). Isobel is a character that would have made a great companion in my reckoning; she works wonderfully in tandem with Zoe and, of course, it’s twice the eye candy for the Dads!
Moreover, the longer story gives the principal villain, Tobias Vaughan, even longer to be… well villainous, really. Vaughan stands out as one of the best human antagonists of the Troughton era; he is right up there with Theodore Maxtible and the like. Kevin Stoney brings
a deadly earnestness to the part and a frightening sense of self-righteousness which pre-empts iconic characters like Davros and Omega. I also found his henchman, Packer, incredibly amusing in that stereotypically ineffectual henchman kind of way. Peter Halliday plays it completely straight that works perfectly, particularly in his scenes with the more offbeat Troughton.
My hat really goes off to Sherwin for some of the subtleties in his script. For example, I enjoyed listening to Vaughan rant on about how he believes in “uniformity” and “duplication”, all the while thinking to myself, “aha, he’s dropping clues about who Vaughan is in league with”. Well yes, of course he is – but he is also getting away with using the same office set
for several different locations! Genius.
However, on top of the slow pace, the first half of the story is also completely devoid of Cybermen - something that really must have frustrated the animators at Cosgrove Hall no end. I assume that their appearance in the cliffhanger ending to the fourth episode (very similar in nature to the emergence of the silver giants in The Tomb of the Cybermen) would have been a surprise to the audience, otherwise surely the serial would have been called
Invasion of the Cybermen? Surprisingly, this works rather well. Not only does it give the mid-way cliffhanger that “Oh My God!” shock-factor, but I think it also makes for a better story. So soon after six episodes of The Wheel in Space, I seriously doubt that the over-used Cybermen could have sustained an eight-part serial on their own. In fact for the most part,
the Cybermen in The Invasion are little more than foot soldiers for Vaughan; visually striking and very intimidating, but without a charismatic villain like Vaughan the story would not be half as good as it is. Likewise, as exquisitely evil as Vaughan is, without the Cybermen to back him up his own plans of world domination would be rather laughable, even with his high-society connections. However, novelist Andy Lane would probably dispute that point...
Nevertheless, the pacing of the story suddenly becomes much faster in the fifth episode. Not only do we have Cybermen lurking about in the sewers beneath London, but also we learn that Vaughan is planning to double-cross them. He has forced Professor Watkins (Isobel’s kidnapped Uncle) to build him a ‘Cerebration Mentor’, a machine that generates emotional impulses. It’s just the sort of thing an android like Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Data would have been eager to get his hands on, but to a Cybermen it is as lethal as gold.
What’s more, aside from the action there are some brilliantly written character moments. I particularly enjoyed watching the Brigadier utter the immortal line “well, you’re a young woman. This is a job for my men”, to Isobel which sent her running for the nearest sewer just to prove him wrong; and, of course, Professor Watkins’ emotive speech to Vaughan. The Professor says that he will help Vaughan because he knows he would not be able to stand up to torture and he certainly does not want to die, but if he ever gets chance he will kill him – an incredibly brave and bold move by the Professor in my book. It also sets up a fantastic
scene where Vaughan gives Watkins a gun and dares him to shoot. The bullets do not harm Vaughan; he has the body of a Cyberman!
“Doctor! The Invasion has begun!”
It’s the sixth episode that features the timeless scene of Londoners collapsing to the pavements, each of them trying to shield their ears from the Cybermen’s powerful hypnotic signal as the silver giants slowly emerge from the sewers and begin their invasion. Jamie has an immortal line at the end of the episode: “Doctor! The Invasion has begun!” I was half-expecting the Doctor to turn around and say something like “What? Already? With only six episodes gone?”
The penultimate episode sees Zoe use her technical skills to blow up the Cybermen’s invasion fleet using British missiles, causing the surviving Cybermen to double-double-cross Vaughan and decide to just wipe out humanity full-stop with their ‘Cybermegatron’ bomb! And then, for all my whinging about the story being slow, the final episode has to be one of the most action-packed episodes in the history of Doctor Who. Whilst UNIT valiantly try to hold off the Cybermen, the Doctor manages to persuade Vaughan to use his Cerebration Mentor against the Cybermen. Vaughan agrees, not to save the Earth but because he is angry with the Cybermen for double-crossing him before he had chance to double-cross them! He takes enough of them out to allow the Doctor and UNIT to destroy the remaining Cybership, bringing The Invasion to its fiery climax.
The scene of the Doctor running down the alleyway as fast as he can, his coattails only the tiniest distance ahead of the Cybermen’s gunshots, is the perfect finale to the story. The Brigadier shouts “down!” and the Doctor hits the ground. Suddenly the threat is over, and the Doctor is still on the floor, amusingly tidying up his hair because Isobel is not wasting any time in taking photographs of ‘the hero’! Brilliant stuff.
Since their introduction two seasons earlier in The Tenth Planet, throughout the Troughton era the Cybermen made more appearances than the Ice Warriors, the Yeti, or even the Daleks. The Invasion marks their last appearance in the series until 1975, and also the first appearance of their new design; the basic tenets of which would remain part of their make-up right up until Rise of the Cybermen this year. Their voices (when they utter their one line in the entire story) are atrociously bad, and the story’s rather unimaginative ‘conquer or destroy’ plot both go some way towards explaining why it would be nearly six years before they would appear on television again. The Invasion is thus a completely mixed bag - the simplicity of the plot is rescued by the brilliance of the characters; the over-used Cybermen are saved by their juxtaposition with contemporary London and, for once, keeping their traps shut.
Love it or hate it, on television The Invasion was one of the most important cornerstones in the history of Doctor Who. It was a little glimpse of Doctor Who’s near future; a teaser of what was to come. I only hope that in years to come this peerless DVD release will be viewed as a similar cornerstone. If they can complete The Invasion, then what is to stop them completing The Evil of the Daleks? Or The Web of Fear? Or The Daleks’ Master Plan...
I bet the folks at Cosgrove Hall will soon wish they had never got themselves into this. There will be no rest for them now...
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work
When is now? Dialogue explicitly places this serial four years after “the London Event” depicted in The Web of Fear. In the interim, the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce has been formed, with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in command of its UK branch. One school of thought places “the London Event” in 1971, broadly in line with The Web of Fear’s prepositional dialogue and the Pertwee-era’s production team’s original intention, with The Invasion following in or around 1975. This also accords with how The Invasion was promoted in the Radio Times when it first aired. However, such a placement is at odds with novels like Who Killed Kennedy, which suggest that the Cyberman invasion occurred in 1969, when the serial was first broadcast.
Please see the UNIT Dating Dossier for further information.
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