Doctor Who - The Tomb of the Cybermen

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Doctor Who: Tomb of the Cybermen - Evil from beyond the GRAVE!

Apr 27, 2004 (Updated Jan 15, 2008)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Very Good

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Pros:Classic villains with a Doctor at the peak of his game = fine stuff indeed.

Cons:Wooden sets, bad acting and plot holes taint this would-be Patrick Troughton classic.

The Bottom Line: Savor the few second Doctor stories we have left - a great era mostly lost to us forever.


Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.

Welcome to Tomb of the Cybermen, the last resting place of a race of cybernetic giants that want to add to their numbers by making you into them, and the team of scientists that want to let them out.

"What the hell are you talking about?" I hear you say. Ok, let me bring you to speed. . . .

From 1963 to 1989 (and a couple of false starts thereafter) the BBC ran an immensely popular family program called Doctor Who. The main character is called The Doctor, a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. He travels the universe in the TARDIS, a wondrous spaceship that can go anywhere in time and space - provided that the Doctor can steer it correctly. During his adventures, he and his companion (usually a young human female with weak ankles and good lungs) combat evil and injustice wherever they find it. Key to the longevity of the series - Doctor Who can do what the James Bond movies have done several times. When fatally injured, Time Lords have the ability to regenerate, totally changing their faces and personalities, allowing the ability to swap out the lead roll when the actor wants to leave the series. So there have been several Doctors with different faces (ten, so far), but all of them the same character.

Oh, and the name of the show is Doctor Who. The main character is simply called The Doctor.

Tomb of the Cybermen is a classic second Doctor story from 1967 that proves series producer John Nathan-Turner correct: Tomb of the Cybermen is evidence that "The memory cheats". Or in this case absence makes the fanboys grow fonder. You see, there are two very different versions of Tomb of the Cybermen.

The first version is the Tomb of the Cybermen lost to the mists of time. This is the version that was first broadcast back in 1967, scary and exciting, chilling and atmospheric - a truly unforgettable episode. Clearly this was one of the best Doctor Who stories of all time. However, since the BBC destroyed the original broadcast masters in the early 70's, very few people had actually ever SEEN it. Still everyone knew that it was an all time classic.

The second version is the Tomb of the Cybermen that was found in 1992 at a Hong Kong television station. This version is rife with tiny wooden sets, over the top acting, and bad special effects with Cybermen hanging from wires. "What happened!" everyone said after the BBC video release. "We've been had!"

What happened indeed?

Yes, there are plot holes. Big, gaping plot holes - like why are the Cybermen putting themselves away in deep freeze? How does everyone know where to find them? Why would anyone want to wake them up? If Klieg was all that intelligent and logical, then surely he must have anticipated the Cybermen not wanting to cooperate with him and his organization of Super Geniuses? Why is the switch to open the Tombs outside where the entombed Cybermen can't get at it?

For a story driven by intelligence and emotionless logic, there is sure a whole lot of stupidity flying around.

And yes, the sets have a decidedly wooden 'thump' sound to them as the actors walk about. Yes the Cybermen is held up by wires as Toberman throws him across the room. Yes, some of the acting is complete crap. Yes there are all these problems and more - but then - what Doctor Who story doesn't have it's share of production flaws.

What Tomb of the Cybermen DOES bring to the table is Patrick Troughton at the height of his powers as The Doctor, giving a masterful (sic) performance. You can see the intelligence in his eyes, standing quietly in the background as the plot unfolds around him. And it does have Cybermen - real Cybermen that are true to the concept and not just some generic robot bad guy like they were portrayed later in the series run. Here survival of the Cyber-race is foremost in their minds - survive and increase their numbers. Really scary and unearthly monsters, and not some tin-plated knock off.

It also brings a claustrophobic sense of atmosphere, complimenting the story. It also boasts some touching scenes - the exchange between the Doctor and Victoria about their respective families spring to mind.

In the end, Tomb of the Cybermen is neither fish nor foul. It isn't the undisputed classic that the hype had made it out to be, and yet it isn't quite a train wreck of a story either. It is a very solid tale with both flaws and good bits. And good or bad - we should be grateful that a complete story exists from this era. Pat is woefully the most under-represented Doctor of the nine. Barring another miraculous find, we're unlikely to see anything new from him ever.

ABOUT THE VIDEO AND SOUND:
Why do I bother recapping the video for you - each Doctor Who disc is an amazing piece of work, made even more stunning considering the broadcast masters don’t exist anymore. Yet again a top notch restoration from the Doctor Who Restoration Team.

The only thing of note is that Tomb was restored before the Vid-Fire process was completed, and was remastered without it. What's Vidfire you ask? Well briefly, Doctor Who was originally shot with interlaced studio video cameras and recorded onto Quad videotape. Film was only used for location shooting.

When Doctor Who was sold overseas, it was transferred to film - film being cheap, durable and free of the problems associated with transferring from PAL to NTSC. Since most of the recovered episodes came from these overseas locations, nearly every Doctor Who story from the 60s and most of the early 70's has that film 'look' about it.

The Vidfire process reverses that film look - or at least simulates how it should look - by inserting frames between other existing frames. It's a complicated process that I don’t completely understand, but I DO know that the results are gorgeous.

Unfortunately like I said, Tomb was remastered before this process was perfected. That being said, the disc still looks great. It could look just a touch better.

ALL ABOUT THE DISC:
* Re-mastering for DVD
A short piece featuring the raw unrestored footage of Tomb against the "After" footage post restoration. If you want to see the level of detail and love that goes into each story, watch this. You'll be amazed too.

* Title Sequence tests
The 'clean' opening sequence from the second Doctor - no title, no captions - just the howlaround effect used for the opening credits. A novelty to be sure, if only for the segments that they didn’t use. Perfect if you ever wanted to create your own Who fan film.

* Morris Barry introduction
A segment re-used from the original VHS release of Tomb featuring a brief talk by the producer.

* Audio Commentary and Production Notes
The subtitle track production notes are of course excellent as always. The commentary a little bit less so - Deborah Watling and Fraiser Hines didn’t quite have that same flair that say, Peter and Nicola had in Caves of Androzoni. It's ok, but there are better commentaries.

* Tombwatch
A half hour segment shot at the 1992 BAFTA tombwatch panel, featuring some cast and crew from Tomb. Some good stories to be found here, but a touch boring. This is why I don’t go to science fiction conventions anymore.

* The Final End
This is a recreation of the last scene from the previous Doctor Who story The Evil of the Daleks, from an 8mm film shot on the set by Who production designer Tony Cornell. Since this episode doesn’t exist anymore (CURSE YOU, BBC!), this is as close to seeing that segment as we will ever get.

* Late Night Line Up
A behind the scenes segment at the BBC creature shop, pretty cool for the props alone.

* Easter Eggs
Well, I cant very well tell you about the eggs, now can I?

OVERALL
Let see, long lost episode loving restored to pristine broadcast quality. I'd call that a big YES to the "Must Buy" question.

OTHER DOCTOR WHO EPISODES ON DVD:

DOCTOR ONE -
* The Beginning * Doctor Who and the Daleks * The Aztecs * The Dalek Invasion of Earth * The Web Planet * The Lost in Time Collection *
DOCTOR TWO -
* Tomb of the Cybermen * The Seeds of Death * The Mind Robber * The Invasion *
DOCTOR THREE -
* Spearhead From Space * The Three Doctors * Carnival of Monsters*
DOCTOR FOUR -
* The Ark in Space * Genesis of the Daleks * The Pyramids of Mars * The Robots of Death * The Talons of Weng-Chiang *
DOCTOR FIVE -
* Earthshock * The Five Doctors * Resurrection of the Daleks * The Caves of Androzani*
DOCTOR SIX -
* Vengeance on Varos * Revelation of the Daleks*
DOCTOR SEVEN -
* Rememberance of the Daleks * The Television Movie*
THE NEW SERIES -
* Doctor Who - Series One * Doctor Who - Series Two * Torchwood - Series One * Doctor Who - Series Three * The Infinite Quest*


Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 9 - 12

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