Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 231: The Invasion, Episode Five
As much as I loved the animation in yesterday's episode, nothing quite beats having the actual thing to watch. It's striking right from the off - the reveal of the Cyberman is much better when you can see it properly than it was in the animation. In the cliffhanger yesterday, the odd pulsating of the 'cocoon' just looked odd whereas now it's actually creepy. One thing, though… how do they hold those electrodes onto it? They don't seem to attach anywhere!
The sight of the Cybermen ripping their way out of hibernation is fantastic, and we get a few great opportunities to see it throughout today's episode. I'll admit that it doesn't always work (at one point, the recently burst cocoon gets caught on the Cyberman's handlebars, and the rest of the scene - shot from behind our metal monster - just looks odd because of it. In another instance, you can see where someone just off camera is trying to pull the cocoon away from another Cyberman), but when it does, it really does. The best ones are the shots where the Cybermen literally burst out from storage, ripping open their pods and stepping forward into the open.
It benefits from the fact that this design of Cyberman is gorgeous, too. There's no wonder that Big Finish tend to use them as the default model, because they're so brilliant. I've said before that the Tomb models are my favourite 60s version, but d'you know? I think it may be these ones. There's something about them - and the fact they look more like the 'standard' Cyberman model, with the addition of the 'ear muffs' - that just really works. The sight of one being inflicted with emotion and crying out in pain is pretty striking, and it relies on our former knowledge of the creatures. Admittedly, it doesn't look quite as effective in the closing seconds, when the creature lurches out of the darkness down in the sewers…
Some praise really does need to be reserved for the Cyberplanner: it's always been a slightly odd design, as though the leader of their invasion fleet has been built from assorted bric-a-brac, and even in this story, the Direction hasn't always done it the best of favours. When we see it in close up, it really does look cobbled together, and the effect is completely lost. Today, though, in a long-shot and towering over Vaughn, it works! We've got a few shots from behind the structure, too, which also make it look better than it has done.
I think one of the things that I'm enjoying most about this story at the moment is the fact that we've reverted to having three companions again. For a while, I was thinking about how much I'd rather Anne Travers turn up in the story than Isobel, but now that we're thick into the action she's fitting right in. I love that she and Zoe plot to go into the sewers and find the evidence the Brigadier needs, and then tempt Jamie into coming along, too. It makes for a nice dynamic, the likes of which we've not seen since Ben and Polly departed. I also love how normal it feels that a policeman thinks they're just a bunch of kids larking about in the sewers - the scale of what's going on is growing by the episode (especially now that the invasion has been moved up to tomorrow!), but for most people it's just a load of fantasy. No wonder the Brigadier needs to get hold of some evidence pretty sharpish!
The policeman is the second casualty of this story to come completely from nowhere. Back in Episode One, the poor driver that gives the Doctor and his friends a lift gets shot down in cold blood without the Doctor even realising (a few episodes later, he even muses to the Brigadier that the chap's probably fine), and here the policeman meets his fate simply by touching the outer fringes of the Doctor's life. The series has a gritty edge to it when we come back down to Earth, and it packs far more of a punch to see an innocent policeman meet his demise than it does some random scientist on the high-tech base-of-the-week.