I watched these two stories from Patrick Troughton’s last season as Doctor Who partly because they fit into my Speshul Prodjekt but, in the case of The Invasion, also because of the new DVD release.
It’s difficult to believe that this is from the same authors who brought us the Yeti (and in the case of one of them, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail). The list of missed opportunities is huge, including the failure to convince of the chemistry between the two Dominators themselves. According to the documentary on the Invasion DVD there were huge problems with the scripting process, and one does sense it as the characters run pointlessly from place to place.
There are a couple of interesting points none the less. Arthur Cox is good as Cully the dissident Dulkian. The shapeless Dulkian costumes are not at all flattering to the figure but none the less rather fascinating (also interesting that the writers had little hesitation about killing off the bit-part female characters as ruthlessly as the men). Troughton excels as always despite the thin material. And Wendy Padbury as Zoe – cor!
Poor Jamie doesn’t get to do a lot, apart from canoeing and climbing up the liftshaft, but the other main characters are all great – Troughton as ever brilliant, but also Wendy Padbury as Zoe sparking a very very watchable rapport with Sally Faulkner’s Isobel Watkins – and incidentally saving the day and blowing up the Cybermen’s fleet with her Mental Powers of Calculation. And of course this is the first UNIT story, with the return of Lethbridge-Stewart (now a Brigadier) and the first appearance of Benton. Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier in particular gets some really good material to work with, a far cry from the cartoonish character of the Pertwee years. Again, the DVD reveals just how much fun the cast were having, especially thanks to the hospitality provided by the Guinness brewery where a lot of the action scenes were filmed.
Some reviewers have expressed bitter disappointment with the Cybermen, either that they don’t have enough screen time, or that they don’t look good, or (inconsistently) both. I don’t completely share those feelings. The Cybermen aren’t seen until the end of episode 4, but that’s really because we have not been told who is behind the invasion of the story’s title. It is a bit unfortunate that much of the action of blowing up spaceships, etc, happens off screen – but of course mediated through that new-fangled radar stuff. I also have the controversial view that the Cybermen redesign is better than the original version – I think supporting evidence is that the new version has survived through to this year.
The only other thing that really annoyed me was the cheery music accompanying the arrival of the soldiers for the final battle (apparently real soldiers from the real army). But the rest of the music is very good, and the whole thing is a jolly good package.