Sexy Scot: Frazer Hines looks practically edible in the first scene, he’s gorgeous. There’s some wonderful Troughton/Hines horseplay in this story – I love it when they hold hands walking into the building together and the faux insult at Jamie’s skirt. Jamie is such a hilarious wimp too, the Doctor asks if anybody wants to leave because what he is about try is very risky and Jamie is the first one out the door (or at least tries). His rope tying skills have much to be desired although he thinks the King of the Beasties himself would have trouble escaping from them when that is clearly not the case. With Victoria along for the ride the interplay has shifted once again, Jamie started off as a bit of a spare part amongst the Doctor/Ben/Polly triumvirate, then transformed into quite an agressive counterpoint to the Doctor in Evil of the Daleks but now he is cast more in the role of a protector of the Victorian priss that has fallen into their care. It's pretty much his role for the rest of the season, arsing about with Troughton and bravely stepping between Watling and any dangers but it plays to Hines' strengths superbly.
Screaming Violet: I was genuinely surprised by Victoria in this story. She has never been a favourite of mine, not because she doesn’t have chemistry with her fellow regulars (because there are so many moments of charm with the three of them together) but because her character spec seems to literally be a screaming violet and very writers bothered to get under her skin beyond having her remind us that the monsters are scary. She was a bit of a walking cliche if I'm honest, shrinking into the shadows and exercising her lungs, right up until her last story. However Tomb of the Cybermen might just be her best story, she gets to show plenty of initiative and gumption and wont be pushed around by anybody. She doesn’t even scream that much. Victoria is pretty brave considering her origins, shrugging off Kaftan’s protection and ready to go off exploring. I enjoyed her culture shock when she was offered a food cube equivalent of roast chicken. It is a nice attempt to suggest she is from the past, something that they have all but forgotten to do with Jamie of late. Victoria is pretty feisty, grabbing Kaftan’s gun and blasting away at the Cybermat (although how she is a pot shot despite having never fired one before is best skipped over in order to enjoy the scene). She chews out those two American twits more than once and I really laughed at the ‘Who’d be a woman?’ ‘How would you know honey?’ exchange. In a very sweet scene, Victoria lets the Doctor sleep because he is so old and clearly needs as much rest as possible. She is happy with the Doctor and Jamie but she misses her father who she considered a kind man and wonders if she will ever forget his awful death. She sees her father when she shuts her eyes. Victoria teases Hopper about his superior strength – why couldn’t she always be this fun? Perhaps it is the influence of Victor Pemberton (script editor) because the only other time I find Victoria memorable as a character in her own right is her finale, Fury from the Deep.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You belong, to us. You will be like us’ – a genuinely chilling statement.
‘So remember, our lives are different from anybody else’s. That’s the exciting thing, nobody in the universe can do what we’re doing.’
The Bad Stuff: Hopper is clearly supposed to be a ridiculously butch Yankie jock type but when played by a weedy, middle class British guy putting on an overdone accent it lacks any kind of convction. The opening sequences are as B movie as Doctor Who ever got – ‘fifty pounds for the first man to open those doors’ –and the dramatic music that accompanies the terrible electrifying death is straight out of Original Series Star Trek (although it hadn't even come along yet). I wont pretend it isn't deliriously enjoyable as such but for those who enjoy their Doctor Who a little less melodramatic (really?) it might be a bit much. Imagine how long a search through the universe for the Cybermen would take! Toberman is such a racist stereotype, a muscled, grunting beast of a black man and naturally the first one into the lions den. 'Go down Toberman!' - Kaftan even talks to him like he's an ape. There is some really hammy dialogue (my favourite examples are ‘It's practically wrecked our chances of getting off this crummy planet!’, ‘Especially with you insisting all over the place!’ and ‘Everything yields to logic, our basic assumption, Doctor!’). Is the Cyber Controller the most phallic thing ever seen in Doctor Who? That is a hotly contested prize but I think he might just deserve the trophy, leaving the Typhonian Ambassador and Alpha Centuri weeping in the corner. What a giant veiny dickhead! There is one exquisite sequence where the Cybermen are talking and all the second one keeps saying is 'yezzzz...' in a flat monotone - I can remember being friends with a couple that used to sound just like this when they were chatting and this scene used to instantly leap into my head whenever I was around them. Why do they lock Klieg in the gunroom? Lock him up, sure, but in the room with all the weapons? Hasn't he already proven to be as nutty as squirrel shit? He and Kaftan really are irredeemable, aren’t they? There is no depth to them beyond their irresponsible, demented villainy. Shirley Cooklin can barely control her laughter as she closes the hatch on the Controller, forgetting any pretense of fear and scurrying about chucklesomely like the panto villainess that she is. The Doctor announces 'KLIEG!' very dramatically in the final episode, when he is barely two feet away from them. Clearly it isn't only the seventh Doctor who is afflicted by this melodramatic urge ('Haaaaace!'). Anybody would think that Grotbags had just walked in.
Result: I have spent the last decade ridiculing this story so imagine my surprise when I was left spellbound on this watch. It isn't a perfect Doctor Who story and anybody who is expecting as much is always going to be sorely disappointed (every 'classic' story has narrative or production flaws of their own, their perfection comes from how we as a viewer see past them to all the other goodies on display) but it has a great deal going for it and as an example of the less sophisticated but more exciting storytelling favoured by the latest production team it is practically in a league of its own. At a blissful four parts the pace is relentless and something memorable or gripping crops up every couple of minutes to keep you on your toes. The Tomb of the Cybermen looks really expensive with great sets, moody lighting and some simple but striking effects work. No it isn't an intellectual treat but sometimes Doctor Who has to step away from it's roots as an intelligent drama and produce something blockbusting, moody and heart-stopping. As a montage of iconic imagery, an exciting adventure story, a chance to see Troughton at his dazzling best and the Cybermen at their most menacing it is absolutely unmissable. The clincher is that even Victoria gets some great material. Despite a few bumpy moments, this is as blockbusting and as magical as classic Who comes and more than lives up to its mighty reputation. Don't go into it expect something miraculous but do approach it expecting a compelling action adventure tale with more than enough spectacle and chills to keep you sated: 9/10