Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 230: The Invasion, Episode Four
Oh, all right then. I'm a complete convert to the style of animation used in this story. For some reason, I'd always recalled it as being a bit ropey - almost like cheap flash animation that featured characters barely moving. Actually, it's completely the opposite to all that! I think I'm actually a little disappointed that Cosgrove Hall didn't get to make any more of the missing episodes - if they could all have been to this standard, then I'd be a very happy fan.
In some ways, it's also quite nice to have Cosgrove Hall connected with Doctor Who, even if it's only in a small way (and Scream of the Shalka, their other Who project, is seeing a DVD release next month too). For many people, it's a name that's synonymous with childhood and British animation, and is as much of a treasure to UK television as Doctor Who itself. Sadly, the company was wound down a few years ago, so chances of getting them involved with the Who range again are pretty much nil*.
It's interesting, though, that when The Invasion first came out on DVD, in 2006, we were told quite simply that the cost of regular animations were beyond the budget of the DVD line, and that we'd only managed to get hold of this one because of some complicated agreement with the Doctor Who website (I think I'm right in saying that these two episodes were commissions for the web, to follow on from their various other animation pieces, but that for some reason that plan fell through, too late in the day to cancel. Thus, we end up with these two episodes here on the DVD). Fast forward seven years and suddenly animations aren't just viable - they're plentiful!
This year already, we've had The Reign of Terror (I always found it amusing that the first two stories to be released with animated instalments were the second ever story with missing parts, and the second to last story with them. There's a kind of neat symmetry to that!), and a sneak-peak of The Tenth Planet on the Regenerations set, with a full release to follow later in the year. The Ice Warriors is out any day now, and then there's The Moonbase to come in a few months, too. Here's hoping that the last few stories with only two missing episodes (The Crusade and The Underwater Menace) can also be given the treatment - it's a lovely way of plugging the gaps.
And what a gap to plug in today's episode! Helicopters are simply becoming part and parcel of the programme's format, now, so it's nice to actually see one! Both their previous appearances have been in missing episodes, too, but here we get some idea of how the scene could have looked, and it's fab. I've no doubt that the animation takes one or two liberties (the shot of the helicopter flying away while Jamie dangles from the rope ladder, for example, probably looks a little better here than it might have actually done!), but it really helps to up the scale of the whole thing.
And yet, for me, it's still in the characters that The Invasion is really shining. Particularly in Tobian Vaughn. I've already said plenty of nice things about the performance we're being given here but the way that Vaughn's facade gently slips away throughout the first two thirds of today's episode, before he eventually snaps and begins to shout is fantastic. The best bit, however, comes a few minutes later, when he demands to be put through to a government minister. He snaps at the receptionist as she appears on the video screen, before remembering himself, and slipping back into his 'charming' persona. Characters are rarely as fully-rounded as this, and I think Kevin Stoney has to take a large amount of the credit, there.
And then the cliffhanger! We all knew it was coming, yeah, but you know what? I bloody love Cybermen, so it's all good by me!
*For the record, while everyone tends to list Danger Mouse as their favourite Cosgrove Hall production, for me it was always about Count Duckula. I still get the theme tune stuck in my head now and then.