Thursday, October 15, 2015

Raiders of the Lost Tomb


Cybermen awaken from their slumber in one of the most iconic sequences in DOCTOR WHO's history. Presumed lost due to the BBC's infamous wiping process, telerecordings of all four parts of THE TOMB OF THE CYBERMEN were miraculously returned in 1992 by the Hong Kong-based Rediffusion company.

"OUR brains are just like yours, except that certain weaknesses have been removed ... you call them emotions, do you not?" This is how the Cybermen are introduced in their premier outing THE TENTH PLANET. Even though the 1960's saw the development of the pacemaker and spare part surgery, the notion of cybernetics was not new to the realm of science fiction. In her celebrated 1944 story No Woman Born, C. L. Moore tells of a famous dancer whose mind is transferred to a robot after being horribly burned in a theatre fire. This highly influential piece is considered one of the first fully realised portrayals of cybernetic consciousness, a level of "body-horror" the Cybermen have rarely achieved. However, unlike THE TENTH PLANET and THE MOONBASE, where the Doctor's second favourite foes are basically pitched against isolated humans, THE TOMB OF THE CYBERMEN is the first Cyber-story that exploits the real fear of cyborg conversion.

Five hundred years after the Cybermen were believed dead, a group of Earth archaeologists explore the cyborg's adopted ice planet of Telos. The Doctor (Patrick Troughton), Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Victoria (Deborah Watling) join in the exploration led by Professor Parry (Aubrey Richards), and after the Doctor helps to solve a logic puzzle, the gateway to an underground tomb is unveiled. Awakening the Cyber race from their honeycomb cells, the Time Lord realises that the tomb was a trap, designed to lure superior intellects for the Cybermen to convert. Yet it is also revealed that two members of the archaeological party - Kaftan (Shirley Cooklin) and Klieg (George Pastell) - have an ultimatum of their own, planning to merge the Cybermen and Brotherhood of Logicians to form an invincible army.

Gerry Davis' Target novelisation of THE TOMB OF THE CYBERMEN was released in May 1978, which sported a cover Cybermen design actually from THE INVASION.

The opening serial of DOCTOR WHO's strong fifth season, THE TOMB OF THE CYBERMEN depicts several advances in Cyber lore: it has the first appearance of the Cyber Controller (Michael Kilgarriff), and also introduces the Cybermats, silverfish-like devices that feed on human brainwaves. There are also technological improvements as they can now hypnotise, yet this drains the Cyber Controller who needs to retreat to his sarcophagus-like revitaliser. Strikingly visualised and effectively directed by Morris Barry, the story is also memorable for its creepy discordant music and a beautiful moment between the Doctor and Victoria - where she laments the loss of her father during THE EVIL OF THE DALEKS - and the tale also features for the first important role for a black actor in the form of Roy Stewart’s Toberman, loyal manservant of the treacherous Kaftan.

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