Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 233: The Invasion, Episode Seven
There’s a moment in today’s episode where one of our brave UNIT soldiers makes a dash for Professor Travers’ house, and bursts in the door exclaiming that there are ‘hundreds of Cybermen’ outside on the streets of London. And yet, despite them putting the human race to sleep and bursting out of every manhole cover they could find at the end of yesterday’s instalment, we don’t actually see any Cybermen in this episode outside of the cliffhanger reprise.
In some ways, it’s just continuing my complaint from yesterday. Whereas I couldn’t get the idea of a bustling city outside of these sets to sit right in my mind, I now struggle to imagine a city infested by the Cybermen. It feels like this story should be taking place against this vast canvas - The Web of Fear taken out of the underground and scaled up massively – but it all falls a bit flat. We seem to simply move through the same few sets, from Vaughn’s office (which is the same in both his London HQ and his complex outside the city, with the backdrop replaced behind the window), via the sewers, to Travers’ house.
The Invasion has always been down in my mind as the Troughton-era Cyberman epic; his equivalent to Hartnell’s Daleks’ master Plan. Actually though, it’s not really about the Cybermen, it’s all about Tobias Vaughn. In some ways, I’m quite pleased by this. Kevin Stoney puts in such a brilliant performance throughout the story that it’s great to see him given the space to really showcase his talents. Throughout, he’s been built up as the upper hand in the deal with the Cybermen, but it’s all beautifully undercut today when the Cyberplanner simply drones (and that voice really is a drone) ‘we no longer need you.’
It’s similar to The Wheel in Space that the Cybermen are kept in the background, keeping the attention of the kids while the story really follows a completely different narrative strand. It worked well enough in that situation, with the Cybermen finally making their real attack in the sixth episode, but here we’re stretched out another two. It’s not losing my interest yet (and since this is the longest story since The Daleks’ Master Plan, I did worry that it might), but I do hope we get some good Cybermen scenes in our final twenty-five minutes. As much as I love Tobias Vaughn, this is their final appearance for ages, and I’d love to see them go out in style.
Something else that’s carried across from The Wheel in Space is Zoe’s character in this episode. She’s been a little sidelined in places so far (trying on feather boas and posing for photographs while the Doctor and Jamie head off to do the real work), though she’s more than made up for it by charging out with Isobel and getting stuck in wherever the opportunity arises. Be it hunting for her friends at the IE building, or heading down into the sewers to catch a Cyberman, Zoe’s been willing to take part when needed.
Today, though, we get to see her intelligence shine through again. It’s a great scene when she asks for the missile launch to be delayed for just thirty seconds while she makes her calculations to knock out as many of the Cyberships as possible, and it’s very reminiscent of the Doctor bounding around the computers back in The Ice Warriors working out his own calculations. There’s a glimmer of her own arrogance turning up again, too when she’s told that she’d better be right with the numbers and she simply replies ‘I am!’
(But surely we could have had some Cybermats in the sewers? It seems so obvious!)