50 for 50 — The Greatest Stories in Doctor Who History — #39

Perhaps the best out of the remainder of Patrick Troughton’s era that still exists, The Invasion is the catalyst for the next six, maybe seven series that would follow it.

Although, Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart had already been introduced in the previous season’s The Web of Fear, he is quickly brought back and as Brigadier of the newly established UNIT, the perfect reason for the Doctor to be earthbound in forthcoming stories…

This tense, taught adventure is excellently directed by Douglas Camfield, whose sadly occasional stories seem to be classics mere minutes into them. Here we learn quickly that the Cybermen have returned, for the fourth and final time in Troughton’s era, but here they seem to be merely metal soldiers, there to be gunned down or blown up. Their design here though, by Bobo Bartlet, is the best looking classic Cyberman.  They don’t look cheap, and look more chilling than ever. The sight of them shredding their cocoons or roaming the sewers, and rising from manholes, is as memorable and scary, as the still (rightly) famous St. Paul’s images, iconic even now, 45 years later.

Villains don’t come any more villainous than Kevin Stoney, he turns the perhaps cypher (Cyber?) bad guy Tobias Vaughan into a believably insane megalomaniac, totally consumed with power. Controlled and almost muttering his quips one second, then screaming his orders to Packer the next. He doesn’t see what’s coming, even if we do(and the Doctor, of course!), but by then it’s too late, his ambitions ruined, it’s so cleverly played by Stoney, that you almost feel sorry for him come the end. Troughton’s brilliant talk with him, trying to make him see reason, so blinkered by it all, is such an excellently acted scene from both men.

Music plays a key part in my enjoyment of The Invasion, so different to any other story, Don Harper makes this feel like it’s a movie almost.  Zinging it’s way throughout the best bits, along with its jolly UNIT theme, it also seems so removed from it’s other surrounding stories, it’s like it’s from another series altogether. This is still the best invasion story they ever did, claustrophobic, but world-changing also… If there is a template for Who, The Invasion does what it says. — Andy

Alan’s #39 – The War Machines
David’s #39 – The Time Meddler
Steve’s #39 – Invasion of the Dinosaurs

Alan offers a comment…Excellent review Andy, but guess what: ‘The Invasion’ was my #2 !!  – and of course I’m a bit disappointed to see it so far down the list. I agree with everything you wrote and just want to say that I consider these to be very best ever incarnations of the Cybermen. The design is an inspired refinement of previous versions and, as a 6 year old, I still remember being genuinely frightened by them bursting out of their cocoons, climbing out of sewers and appearing in familiar places on my own planet and in my own country!  I really DID hide behind the sofa when ‘The Invasion’ first aired!  Although the early Pertwee era was set on Earth, with the definite intention of trying to create a sense of fear because the threats were ‘so close to home’, I don’t believe that any of those stories ever managed to convey the concept of a ‘local’ threat quite as skilfully as ‘The Invasion’.  As for Tobias Vaughan, ‘The Invasion’ mainly wins my vote and my #2 spot because I believe he remains the best human adversary that we have ever seen on Doctor Who! Only a few of the classic 007 films have ever created more memorable villains than Vaughan and, whenever I’ve had a moment when I’ve really felt sick to death with the attitude of my boss, I’ve just thought about poor Packer and then realized how lucky I was that my boss wasn’t Tobias Vaughan!

The march into March begins with #38 next week.