Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 227: The Invasion, Episode One
It's almost a shame that we can't trade the two missing episodes of this story for two episodes of The Mind Robber. The idea of that story being made up of animated episodes just seems so right, doesn't it?
That's not to say that the animation here doesn't work, mind. Let's be honest, it's gorgeous. When The Reign of Terror first came out on DVD, several people complained that they preferred the style used on this release, and I thought they were mad. I'd just seen Reign and thought it was brilliantly done, whereas I remembered The Invasion looking a bit more static. In my mind, for some reason, I'd almost imagined this as a bit of a flash cartoon, like the ones done for the Doctor Who website back in the day.
But actually, this really is beautiful stuff. The shot of the TARDIS console, its central column gently rising and falling as we emerge from the titles is absolutely stunning. I know it wasn't quite like that on original broadcast, but now it's one of the best shots of the 1960s. Elsewhere in the episode, the animation really captures the noir style that I've always associated with this story (and looking at some shots of the Doctor and Jamie being escorted from the IE building made me realise that it was this I was thinking of back in The Enemy of the World) and simply sicks you in. I think it's always a good sign when you stop focussing on the fact that you're watching an animated fill-in for a missing episode and start just enjoying the story itself.
That's not hard to do with The Invasion, really. It's always been a story that fascinated me, even back when I was taking my first steps into the world of Doctor Who. For me, it was this mythical eight-part Cyberman story: their last appearance in the 1960s and featuring what many hold up as one of the greatest TARDIS teams of all. The fact that there were two episodes missing didn't even really factor in for me at the time, because I wasn't all that aware that there even were 'partially-complete' stories. I think I thought that it was either in the archive in full… or it wasn't.
The point was moot anyway, because my first experience of The Invasion came in the form of the soundtrack. When I think of all the missing episode soundtracks I've been through now in the course of The 50 Year Diary, it seems bizarre to think that I'd ever bothered to experience an existing story in this way. But back then, new to this world, I didn't know all that much better. Coming across the VHS tapes was a rare burst of excitement, but it was the newer merchandise that was easier to get my hands on.
Imagine, then, my thrill at discovering the 'Cyberman tin' in a shop on one shopping trip to Norwich. Back then we used to visit a couple of times a month, and I'd save up whatever cash I could for the trip. I can actually remember standing in Kulture Shock (I think the shop still exists, but in a severely reduced form. On a recent visit back home I noticed that the bridal shop which took over the premises has now closed too, and it sent an odd, nostalgic pang down my spine), picking up the tin and reading the list of contents: The Tenth Planet soundtrack (brilliant! Not only was this the Cybermen's first ever story, it was the First Doctor's last!), a CD featuring a reason of David Bank's Cyberman book (I've owned that book for years, but I don't think I've ever read it. Or listened to the CD, for that matter…), and… no? Surely not?
The soundtrack for The Invasion. I'm surprised I didn't pass out in shock, to be honest. At the time I was still living at home, and I spent the next week rationing the episodes of the story out to strictly one a night (hah! Some things never change…) while I made my way through. I can't remember much about my reaction to the story - I think I was simply too busy being excited to hear it. This was the big one. In the same way that the First Doctor had that big, epic adventure with the Daleks in the middle of his last season, the Second Doctor got a massive showdown with his enemies in the middle of this one.
What I can remember is that I was a bit surprised by the absolute lack of Cybermen for the first half. I think I was probably a bit miffed by that. For me, it was all about this being some big Cyberman epic, a big farewell to them as they departed the series for the foreseeable future. Older and wiser (stop laughing in the back), I can appreciate the way that the story builds up to the big reveal, and I think it's probably going to be all the better for it.
I always assumed that the appearance of the Cybermen at the end of Episode Four would have come as some big surprise to audiences back in the day (although, of course, the Radio Times had blown it right at the start of the story), but now that I'm making my way through, I can see how the reveal of the Cyber-planner here is a great hook for them - it only turned up a few stories ago, and we know it's a bit of Cyberman technology. It's another perfect example of why the series really is better enjoyed chronologically - it adds a whole new context that you miss when watching in DVD release order.