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Cybermen - The Early Years

Video review by Phillip J Gray

For me this is the best of the BBC's recent releases because it allows us to see exactly what the fuss was about in the sixties when the Cybermen first made their impact. As well it allows those of us without huge video collections to see four rare episodes of Doctor Who. There are also clips from The Tenth Planet Episode 3 (excellent), which show us the early, cloth-faced Cybermen.

The Moonbase Episodes 2 and 4 are astonishingly good quality considering their age. What really impressed me was how scary the Cybermen can be when they don't talk and when they move very quickly. I got a great shock (probably the first time ever for me in Doctor Who), when the Cyberman appeared beside Polly and then very quickly ripped the bedclothes off a man, grabbed him and lunged away without saying a word. This is genuinely frightening because it is deadly silent and it is all over so fast.

The characters at the Moonbase did not overly impress me; they all seemed rather wet, I'm afraid. Polly and Ben were interesting - spot the 'Polly could you do the coffee' scene. They were quite credible; I had my doubts having never seen them before, but they were well acted and motivated. The last scenes of Episode 4 with the Cybermen floating away were also very good, and don't believe cynics who say that any wires are visible - they aren't.

After The Moonbase, The Wheel in Space came as something of a disappointment, probably because the Cybermen don't actually do very much. Nonetheless, the humans are much more convincing in this story. Pat Troughton and Frazer Hines turn in good performances, but Zoe is a bit obnoxious! Obviously some aspects of her original character were toned down for Season Six.

The various other sections of the video were well handled too. Roy Skelton made an interesting appearance, as did Wendy Padbury - nice to see what she actually looks and sounds like live, even if she did tell the same old stories she always tells (except about the casting, which was of interest).

The only thing that bugged me was Colin Baker's silly narration. Why do actors feel that they have to over-act when they do these videos? Every sentence he uttered sounded as though it was his last. Although I enjoyed seeing him, it was a patronising and unnecessary style and it spoilt an otherwise-fascinating and worthwhile video.

Unlike some other BBC releases recently, this one is worth getting, for a chance to see original Cybermen before they were corrupted by chronic miscasting and silly overacting in the seventies (where they had South African accents!), and eighties which were definitely not 'excellent'. JNT done good (at last!).

This item appeared in TSV 34 (July 1993).

Index nodes: The Moonbase, The Wheel in Space