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The Invasion

Reviewed by Graham Howard


'In a few hours time the invasion will be complete. There cannot possibly be any serious opposition ... In a few hours we shall control all of that.'

If I was to judge The Invasion solely on its merits as a Cyberman story, then I would have to say it leaves quite a bit to be desired. Fortunately, The Invasion is far more than just a Cyberman story. For me it is the overall mix of characters, plot and setting, along with the menace posed by Vaughn and the Cybermen that make this, to my mind, a classic Troughton tale, and one that I can watch over and over quite happily.

The usual criticisms, that at eight episodes it is overlong and padded, are probably true, but then The Invasion was not designed as a 200 minute story, but as eight 25 minute segments (sadly only six remain). As with the unjustly maligned The War Games, The Invasion needs to be viewed as an unfolding tale in which the pieces of the puzzle are gradually revealed, culminating in the climax (or in the case of this story, cunningly split into two climaxes). Yes, there is padding, but it lets us get to know the characters that much better, and by the end there is almost a feeling of regret that it is all over.

This is the Second Doctor's third visit to 'present-day' Earth, and being a slightly less helpless and claustrophobic situation than that faced in The Web of Fear, The Invasion demonstrates even more effectively the ease with which the Second Doctor fits into the present-day Earth environment. It is somewhat refreshing for the Doctor to be working with the authorities right from the outset, rather than have to go through the usual tiresome accusations that the Doctor and co. are the cause of whatever calamity the other characters in the story are facing. The introduction of UNIT as a concept was certainly proven successful with The Invasion, and it is a pity that this fully staffed and well resourced portrayal of UNIT became somewhat watered down in some of the later UNIT stories. It may not be the 'UNIT family' yet, but there is a definite cosiness between the characters, and it would have been a delight to have seen Troughton in further adventures with UNIT.

In terms of the story's villains it is really Vaughn and his henchman Packer, who are the main stars, rather than the Cybermen. Kevin Stoney is impressive as the obsessive mastermind behind the Cyber-invasion, mixing total ruthlessness with a cultured, but somewhat unpersuasive, charm. As Professor Watkins noted, he is 'a man without morals or principles'. One could note that as the chief executive of a large multi-national company, Vaughn seems to have far too much free time on his hands, and he seems more pre-occupied with trifling security matters than in running such a large company! As Vaughn's head of security, Peter Halliday's Packer does not appear to have morals or principles either - but his is a more physical ruthlessness, and he might perhaps best be described as a thug. At times both Vaughn and Packer exhibit quite sadistic tendencies - portrayed in a quite a disturbing fashion - that clearly emphasises the evil of these two men. But why, in the scene where Vaughn orders Watkins to shoot him, doesn't Watkins shoot Vaughn in the head?!

For most of the story the Cybermen are rarely glimpsed. Not counting the Cyber-planner, it is not until the end of Episode Four that the Cybermen make their first proper appearance. And unlike previous stories, the general impression they give - until the final episode - is not of a race of independent thinking alien beings (albeit cybernetic), but more as robotic automatons acting at the behest of human masters. And their voices have deteriorated from the toneless metallic grating of the previous three stories into something that is almost comical. However, in later episodes there are some classic scenes of the Cybermen in action that, to an extent, make up for these shortcomings.

If you are a fan of the Second Doctor and sixties Doctor Who, the Cybermen and/or UNIT, then The Invasion shouldn't disappoint.

This item appeared in TSV 49 (November 1996).

Index nodes: The Invasion