Doctor Who Review: The Invasion

Image result for Doctor Who tHE iNVASION

The fifth Cyberman story of the Classic era, the Invasion was also a story of many firsts and helped to introduce a formula to the series that would endure for many more decades to come. It would also mark the Cybermen’s final appearance for five years in the show.

Synopsis

Escaping from the land of fiction, the Doctor, Zoe and Jamie arrive near the moon in the latter part of the 20th century. After evading an alien missile fired from the earth, the trio arrive in the English countryside. In their escape the TARDIS is damaged, causing its exterior to turn invisible.

The Doctor decides to contact his old friend, Professor Travers (who had earlier helped him deal with the Great Intelligence in two seperate instances.)

When the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe arrive at Travers place however, they discover that he is away with his daughter Ann, and has left the home in the care of his colleague Professor Watkins and his neice Isobel.

Isobel informs them that Watkins has gone missing whilst working for International Electronics which has quickly become the leading electronics company worldwide.

The Doctor and Jamie decide to investigate its main office, but are quickly discovered and brought to the company’s managing director Tobais Vaughn.

Though Vaughn ensures the Doctor that the Professor is simply dedicated to his work and has no time to see anyone, the Doctor quickly becomes suspicious. After the Doctor leaves it is revealed that Vaughn is working with a Cyber planner.

The Doctor and Jamie are soon captured after leaving the meeting by two strangers and taken to meet their commander, Alistair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart, who had previously helped the Doctor defeat the Yeti’s in the underground. They discover that since the Yeti invasion, Lethbridge Stewart has been promoted to the rank of the Brigadier of UNIT, a special taskforce designed to track down alien or paranormal threats.

The Brigadier asks or the Doctors help in investigating International Electronics, with the previous UNIT operative who investigated the company having gone missing.

Isobel and Zoe soon decide to investigate the company themselves after getting fed up of waiting for the Doctor and Jamie to return. They are quickly captured however after Zoe destroys a robot receptionist, whilst the Doctor and Jamie are also abducted after trying to rescue them.

The Doctor and Jamie are taken to the company’s countryside base where they meet Doctor Watkins who informs the Doctor that not only is Vaughn working with mysterious allies, but that he is forcing him to help build a weapon of some kind.

The Doctor is able to summon UNIT for help, as well as locate Zoe and Isobel. A UNIT helicopter then rescues the Doctor, Zoe, Jamie and Isobel, though doing so alerts Vaughn to the danger UNIT poses to his plans.

Back at UNIT HQ the Brigadier shows the Doctor pictures of alien space ships outside of Vaughns base, conforming that he is working with aliens. When the Doctor and Jamie later investigate they discover that Vaughn is working with the Cybermen.

Vaughn is able to halt UNIT’s investigation by forcing, (through mind control) a retired general at the Ministry of Defence to impede UNIT’s plans.

The Brigadier briefly leaves for Geneva control to try and get help. Meanwhile it is revealed that the device Vaughn has been forcing the Professor to build is a weapon against the Cybermen, with Vaughn hoping to control them after their invasion of earth.

The Cyberman he tests the weapon on however is driven insane and flees into the sewers, where the rest of the Cybermen are beginning their invasion. Zoe, Isobel, and Jamie are almost killed by the Cybermen in the sewers after they go there to try and obtain proof of the monsters existence, but they are saved by UNIT in the nick of time.

UNIT meanwhile are able to rescue the Professor from International Electronics. From the Professors accounts, the Doctor is able to deduce that the Cybermen intend to send signals through devices produced by International Electronics which will pacify the human population, allowing the Cybermen to convert the entire population easily.

The Doctor is able to shield his companions and the UNIT staff  however from the Cybermen’s mind control device using depolarizers, which block the Cyberman’s signal.

UNIT are able to overcome the Cyber invasion force in London, which prompts the Cybermen to cut their losses and destroy the earth using a Cyber megatron bomb.

Vaughn agrees to help the Doctor after the Cybermen betray him and uses his weapon to help the Doctor and UNIT battle the Cyber forces on earth. Vaughn is killed in the final battle, though the Doctor and UNIT are able to destroy the Cyber megatron bomb after which the Russians destroy the Cyber mothership with their rocket.

With the invasion foiled, the Doctor, Zoe and Jamie depart in the Tardis.

Review

The Invasion is I feel a somewhat overlooked story. Its arguably the most important serial from the late 60s alongside The War Games. Whilst the War Games may establish the exiled to earth story arc, The Invasion sets the template not just for Pertwee era UNIT stories that were to follow, but the majority of invasion earth stories as well. Even up to the revival. The Sontaran Strategem/The Poison Sky for instance essentially recreates the dynamic between Vaughn and the Cybermen, with the Sontarans and Luke Rattigan.

The Invasion also marks the first time in Doctor Who that modern technology is utilised by an alien menace to take over the earth. Other stories to explore this theme include Spearhead from Space with the Autons, and The Sontaran Strategem/The Poison Sky.

Whilst a lot of the stories tropes and basic plot may seem somewhat basic to modern viewers as a result of being emulated so frequently. Overall I think the Invasion still holds up due to how well its realised.

Douglas Camfield who directed the Invasion was definitely one of the series strongest directors (if not the strongest) and The Invasion plays to many of his greatest strengths as a director.

Douglas had a real talent for action and the Invasion has some of the most over the top and creative action scenes for Douglas to work with. From the Doctors escape via helicopter (which is sadly missing) to UNIT’s showdown with the Cybermen in the streets of London, which rivals the Yeti’s fight in Covent Gardens in terms of how explosive it is.

At the same time however Douglas plays to the Cybermen’s strengths as villains too. The Cybermen always work best in more closed, claustrophobic environments where there’s no way you can outrun, or outfight them if they corner you. The scene of the insane Cyberman cornering Jamie, Zoe and Isobel is one of the most frightening and memorable moments with the monsters, as the main characters terror is prolonged when the monsters slowly advances towards them.

The Invasion is also responsible for one of the most striking and memorable images of the original series too, when the Cybermen march in force in front of St Paul’s Cathedral. Like the Dalek Invasion of Earth before it, the Invasion wonderfully contrasts an every day icon from a famous city with an unearthly creature.

Whilst the Invasion has plenty of action, all of its characters are given enough attention to the point where we feel like we get to really know them.

Isobel and Zoe have great chemistry with one another, though there are some cringey “women’s lib” moments between Isobel and the UNIT soldiers that come off as more demeaning to women than empowering. Its always better just to have strong female characters, than talk about it. Still overall for the most part Isobel is a likable and capable character that helps move the plot along, rather than hinder it.

Having said that however I wish that they had been able to use Professor Travers and Anne in the role of the Professor and Isobel as was originally intended. Travers had a great chemistry with the Doctor, whilst Anne was one of my favourite guest characters in any 60s Who story. She would also have been able to take a more proactive role in helping the Doctor due to her background as a scientist. Still Isobel and the Professor are adequate replacements who quickly establish their own rapport with the Doctor and his companions.

Nicholas Courtney meanwhile gives a very strong performance as always as The Brigadier. Though the character had appeared in The Web of Fear before, this marks his first time in the more familiar role as the head of UNIT (as well as UNIT’s debut as well.)

Courtney and Troughton’s chemistry is more straight forward and friendly than Pertwee and Courtney’s, which at times is actually more enjoyable to watch, though it doesn’t have quite the gravitas that the end of say the Silurians does.

The appearance of the Brigadier also marks one of the first story arcs in the shows history too. The Invasion is very much a sequel to The Web of Fear. It doesn’t just reference previous events, but shows the consequences of them too, with the Great Intelligence’s invasion having led directly to the creation of UNIT.

This wasn’t the first time that toriginal series tried to build up a story arc. The Cybermen themselves followed a story arc through the destruction of their planet, but this story nevertheless helps to build the continuity and lore of the show to a greater extent and make it feel like the one ongoing story, rather than just loosely connected adventures.

Tobais Vaughn is one of the shows most memorable villains, thanks in no small part to Kevin Stoney’s stellar performance. His characterisation is fairly straight forward. Misguided genius who thinks he can guide humanity with the help of aliens, but there are plenty of wonderfully nasty little moments, such as his torture of the Professor that really show how hateful he is.

In some ways Vaughn can be seen as a precursor to the Delgado Master. Both have the same motivation of wanting to take over the earth because they believe they can make it a better place, though deep down both are really just egomaniacal, power hungry and petty. Both ultimately just enjoy having power over other people, as seen with Vaughn’s sadistic treatment of the Professor. Both also fulfill the same role of being the devious humanoid villain working with an alien race that they think they can manipulate and then dispose of, only to be betrayed themselves.

I also love the fact that though Vaughn helps the Doctor defeat the Cybermen at the end of the story, he still doesn’t really acheive redemption as he only helps the Doctor because he hates the Cybermen. Even when he does the right thing, its for the wrong reasons.

The Cybermen are also brilliantly handled in this episode. Their designs are impressive, they are shown to be formidable in their final battle with UNIT and the story tries to do new things with the Cybermen, unlike the Wheel in Space which was sadly just a retread of the Moonbase.

The Invasion shows a much more manipulative side to the monsters, whilst also exploring the idea of their emotions being restored after conversion, which is an interesting idea and again one that would be explored in future stories.

The idea of the Cybermen taking control of everyday technology and using it to turn on people is also a nice extension of what the monsters were originally meant to represent, of our technology turning inwards and destroying us. Whilst some critics have complained about their lack of dialogue, personally I think this made the creatures more effective. For me the Cybermen always be quiet as they are meant to be emotionless cyborgs. The later bombastic Cybermen of the 80s, though fun seemed far more out of character.

Having said that is a shame that the Cybermen are once again invading the earth. Unlike the Daleks I don’t think the Cybermen where ever able to branch out and become a galactic threat, which sadly undermined their menace. The monsters are also introduced just a bit too late into the story too.

Overall the Invasion is a classic, highly influential story and definitely one of the best of Patrick Troughton’s final season.

Notes and Trivia

  • This story bares many similarities to the Daleks Master Plan. Both stories mark the final appearance of the main villain of their respective Doctors eras (The Daleks were the main villains of the Hartnell era, whilst the Cybermen were the main villains of the Troughton era.) Both fittingly are much longer than the monsters other appearances (The Invasion is 8 episodes, whilst Masterplan is 12 episodes.) Both feature the main villains working with a human villain played by Kevin Stoney who is killed by the monsters at the end. Both also star Nicholas Courtney in a heroic role, and finally both stories were also directed by Douglas Camfield.
  • This marked the final appearance of the Cybermen for 5 years. They did not appear again as Terrance Dicks, the script editor for the Pertwee era hated the Cybermen, and hated working with Kit Pedler their creator, who wanted too much control over the scripts.