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Beyond the Sofa

Livin' La Vida Voga

Al and Pete do the Vogamotion with Revenge of the Cybermen

By Peter Adamson and Alistair Hughes

Welcome to another instalment of Beyond the Sofa. In this chapter, Peter Adamson and Alistair Hughes review the only Fourth Doctor Cyberman story.

The odd interruption occurred, not least of which was a hunt for the tape itself (given that Peter's remote was lost last time, such hunts are rapidly becoming a tradition), so half an hour's viewing was lost as Al ran back to his house to pick it up.

Roll cameras, roll audio, roll Voga...


The regulars, mysteriously in different clothes from their previous adventure, float slowly toward the wheel-like Nerva Beacon.

A: Looks a bit like 2001...

The Doctor, Harry and Sarah ‘beam’ into the ‘transporter room’.

P: “Nosiree, not influenced by Star Trek at all...”

Cut to Beacon Crewmember Warner, warning an Earth supply ship that they are under strict quarantine due to a ‘space plague’.

P: There's a nice use of colour in this story, and I'm not talking about the uniforms, they're... crap. But the use of lighting to suggest particular colours and locations is very good. You'll see it later on.

Unfortunately, the bad costumes inevitably distract us from the good lighting.

A: Space ties! You'd really need a tie pin in Zero-G, wouldn't you?

P: Hey - they've got Kit-Kats on their shirts!

A: Those uniforms really suck!

P: No wonder everyone looks stiff and bored.

We return to the TARDIS crew.

A: Do you think they'll get captured and blamed?

What about Sarah's camouflage trousers - phwoaah!

P: I was just thinking they don't work. I can still see her legs.

A ‘new-look’ Cybermat appears. It's a real departure from the cute little Cybermats of old, looking this time like the result of an unholy coupling between the Terminator and a French loaf.


A: It's the worst Cybermat I ever saw!

Cut to Warner on the flight control deck, who has an unfortunately placed microphone behind him. The microphone may be the least of Warner's concerns, though, as he's stalked by the Cybermat.

When Harry and Sarah free the Doctor's arm from a rapidly sliding door, he shoots them a strikingly caustic look of exasperation and a muttered, sarcastic thanks.

A: That was very good actually! I think that performance was more Tom Baker than the Doctor.

P: Would you say there's more emphasis in this story on physical humour and slapstick rather than verbal wit? I don't suppose the Cyberleader's ever going to provide a Noel Coward-styled diversion, but maybe with a character still being established, like Tom's, slapstick is an easier form of humour to peg on?

Meanwhile on Voga, the fabled planet of Gold, the Vogan/Prydonian seal makes its first appearance. We can't help stating the obvious...

A: It's that strangely familiar seal...

P: Oh come on! They had no idea...

Back on Nerva the Cybermat finally, embarrassingly, attacks the hapless Warner...

A&P: here we go...!

Warner wrestles unconvincingly with the limp prop.

P: That's it... work it...

A: He's putting up a brave fight!

Kellman appears over Warners body, in a less than menacing posture, and then rips the magnetic tape, upon which Warner had recorded his transmission to Voga, off its computer spools.

P: Whoops! There goes the 4-track!

A: Purged from the BBC Archives...

P: Yes! Mission to the Unknown! “That takes care of Marco Polo...”

A: Oh the villain!

The Nerva Beacon Logo catches Peter's eye, just as the Commander and Lester finally catch up with the Doctor's party.

P: That's an interesting logo. It's just a shame they use it in such an obvious way.

Kellman draws everyone's attention to the near-dead Warner. The Cybermat neurotoxin has manifested in the usual way, as grossly exaggerated artery lines on his neck and face. But it's also glowing with the very best that BBC technology of the day can offer.

A: So that's front axial projection then?

P: Still quite effective though. I've never seen it used in an American series.

Al can't resist commenting on the attractiveness of the Nerva crew.

A: He's a seriously ugly man, isn't he?

P: They all are - that's why they were shot into space. No, that's unfair...

Kellman returns to his quarters and assembles a spying device in Bond-like fashion, using, among other things, his hairbrush.

A: There goes the cyber-brush!

P: It's nice to know that some things don't change - brushes will always look like my granddad's.

Kellman has a perfect view of the others on a tiny view screen.

P: It's a good thing he's got that one camera positioned - being able to zoom in and out and everything.

A: ...with sound and incidental music....

The Doctor's group, Lester and the Commander try to save Warner.

Sarah: “I make his pulse 120...”

A: Well stop doing that to him!

Piecing together the evidence, the Doctor identifies the Cybermen as the villains of this story.

The Doctor: “They're utterly ruthless total machine creatures”

A: No, they're not total machine creatures!

P: They're partial machine creatures...

A: ...partially ruthless -

P: “Partially ruthless, totally - I'll come in again.”

Our first shot of the ‘new look’ Cybermen swiftly follows, waiting impassively on the deck of their ship.

A: Oh, they're revealing them pretty soon, aren't they?

The Cyberleader dramatically motions them to advance.

A: “Step on it!”

Back on Nerva, Harry deduces that Warner “Hasn't got long to go.”

P: What a great doctor Harry must be to say things like that over a patient.

The Doctor has been investigating Kellman's room, and hides under the bed as the traitor returns.

A: Yes, I'd be scared of being discovered by someone like Kellman.

Kellman is onto the Doctor, though, and activates a poison gas / electric floor current / overheating device before quickly leaving

P: It must be really handy to have those in your room.

A: The novelisation goes into more detail about the way the Doctor discovers Kellman's involvement, when he places a book on his desk and notices the slightly spongy texture of the gold dust between the book and the desktop. Here he just opens up the hairbrush.

Back to Lester and the commander on the Bridge, and their awful uniforms.

A: When were those little short jackets trendy?

P: Dunno... never?

A: It's a classic Sarah costume though - a bit like the Andy Pandy outfit.

On the flight control deck, Sarah watches a video, and yawns...

P: Yeah, I'm bored too.

The Cybermat slides quietly up behind her, rears unsteadily, and attacks Sarah.

A: Oh no! I sense an embarrassing episode ending coming up!


The Doctor arrives to rescue Sarah with some gold-dust, but he's too late - she's been infected!

Al notes that the initially mistrusting Beacon crew are now best friends with the Doctor.

A: He's won them over pretty quickly hasn't he?

Lester and the Commander break into Kellman's room by shooting the lock off, revealing a totally unmarked door.

P: It wasn't even screwed in! Where's the barrel of the lock? That door healed itself!

Harry and Sarah materialise on Voga. The transporter globes stand out starkly against the rocky cavern floor.

P: I liked the globes better in The Sontaran Experiment where it looked like they'd aged - they were all green and birds had crapped on them. Here it just looks staged, which is a shame because it's on location.

Sarah recovers, and looks a little peeved at still being held in Harry's arms.

A: Oh, she's okay then?!

P: Yeah I could never work this thing out. So where's the toxin gone? Maybe it's still on the station?

The Vogans appear, skimming across the subterranean pool in their little boats.

P: Adventure holidays on Voga. Have you noticed with alien races, that if they lack hair it's always longer in the places they do have it?

Harry and Sarah are seated in the little Vogan trolley and trundle rapidly down the tunnel.

P: They sped that up! It's like a Vogan Ghost-train.

Back on Nerva Beacon, Kellman is questioned by the Doctor.

P: Tom looks very intimidating...

The Doctor activates the Cybermat. Kellman cringes most unconvincingly and the incidental music increases in volume...

P: He's almost laughing!

A: So that controls the music as well?

P: “Stop it - I can't take it anymore! And take that Cybermat away as well!”

Meanwhile, Harry and Sarah find themselves chained to a wall on Voga. Harry tests the strength of his chain by pulling on it.

P: It looks like that plughole is about to come out!

A Vogan skirmish ensues, as Vorus and Tyrum's factions fire upon one another. Tyrum's militia are dressed impracticably in long robes.

A: “Pick up your skirts, lads!”

A little Vogan ghost train enters the fray....

P: Harry's bloody spot on - they are Dodgem cars!

A: With little baskets on the front.

P: Well at least they're ornamental. I mean all the other stuff you quite often see in other episodes is functional, functional, functional...

A: Yes, quite.

P: So at least this is indicative of a culture of some kind. Still, you'd think to be so ornamental they'd make it from something that wasn't so common as gold.

A: Well, yeah.

P: Papier mache. And that's where a BBC budget could really work -

A: “The fabled planet of paper mache”?

P: A fear of paper mache!

A: Clogs up a Cyberman's breathing apparatus!

P: Confetti guns!

A: The Cybermen terrified of weddings!

P: Rice warriors.

Bang! Bang! Bang! Vorus' guards pursue the escaping Harry and Sarah, who have managed to escape their golden bonds. Interesting footage of extras running around the dramatically lit caves ensues.

A: They're making the most of the location - at least they're running and not lumbering.

The Cybership has finally come into view.

P: That looks like a Cointreau bottle.

A: I've a horrible feeling it could be.

Lester: “They're moving into docking orbit!” Commander: “The fools!”

P: The fools! Docking in the Docking Level - what were they thinking?

On the Beacon, the Cybermen have landed.

P: It must be okay because the lighting is green. I mean if it was really dangerous the lighting would be red.

The Cybermen have gunned down the opposition, and stand over the Doctor, ready to deliver a final shot, as he writhes curled-up on the floor.

P: It's going to get you in the head or the bum, Tom!

Cyberleader: “All resistance is overcome”

P: “This series is finished”.


[Nerva Beacon]

We find that the Cybermen have only stunned the good guys. Lester, the Doctor and the Commander are sitting cross-legged on the floor, and we suddenly notice an extremely audacious visual gag which must have been deliberately instigated.

P: Brilliant! Shall we rewind it just to see if it was intentional?

A: See? Look at that - it's got to be!

The three captives are respectively covering their ears, eyes and mouth - the ‘Three Wise Monkeys’: hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil!

Peter notices another prominent piece of set design.

P: It must be really warm up there what with that 3-bar heater...

Cyberleader: “So, ‘Dahktur’...”

A: So that's what they mean by the transatlantic Cyberleader.

P: I thought Christopher Robbie was supposed to be South African? Or was that in his Karkus phase? I should know, really.

Cyberleader: “Voga is almost pure gold!”

P: Almost pure gold, partially deadly, totally ruthless machine -

A: They are fashionable belts, aren't they?

P: The Cybermen? Yeah, I like the way they sling them low to make them look... nonchalant. Nonchalant and emotionless - yet seeking revenge...

A: With their hands on their hips.

Back on Voga, the retinue Vogans shoot their tinny little guns. Peter notices something distinctive about the shape of the large circular gun-sights.

P: “Armaments by Mercedes”.

A: They're going to miss each other to death.

P: “Stop! This is senseless - we're basically all crap shots...”

On Nerva Beacon, Tom delivers the famous “Pathetic Tin soldiers” speech to wind up the Cyberleader.

A: It's the Earthshock speech.

Doctor: “The Glittergun. It was the end of the Cybermen”


P: So gold is introduced here as the bane of Cybermen - though it's still very hard to kill them. You can't just wipe them out by spelling out the word in semaphore, like in Silver Nemesis.

The Cyberleader steps back, as the Doctor threatens him with one of the Cyberbombs.

P: “I'm just popping off for a bit - bombs make me nervous”.

The incidental music reaches an unexpected electronic crescendo.

P: Oh wow! Music by John Carpenter!

Back on Voga, a Vogan faction conceals themselves, waiting to ambush an opposing group. The intention seems to be to give them a damn good scare, as no Vogan seems capable of hitting a target.

A: They're quite sadistic, aren't they?

On the Beacon, the Cybermen fit the Doctor, Commander and Lester with back-mounted Cyberbombs, to ‘fragmentise’ Voga.

P: “Trust me - in twenty years' time these little backpacks will be all the rage.”

A: Back-mounted thermos flasks!

Each of the hostages is harnessed to a bomb, with an additional belt made of explosive materials. The Cyberleader warns that upon “any attempt to undo the buckle and -”

P: “The buckle will explode and the harness will fall off.”

The Doctor, his two bomb-carrying friends and two Cybermen transmat down to Voga. Inexplicably, the Doctor decides to play with his yo-yo in transit.

The two groups materialise, standing in a rather posed and still way to facilitate the effect.

P: I like the way the Cyberman cocked his head - curiously.

A: “And everyone smiling...”

A melee between Vogans and Cybermen breaks out, with the invulnerable Cybermen administering a sound kicking to the Vogans, despite being hugely out-numbered.

P: They could have done with more than two Cybermen.

A: The Cybermen were much tougher in those days...

P: Well the casualty rate's rather high - probably not as high as Earthshock.

Critics have also commented, of course, that the inclusion of the Cybermen in this story is a cynical move - that they could have been any warrior race, like the Sontarans. It's no secret that their appearance here is a ratings push, but is their lacklustre treatment an indication of how restricted Holmes felt by their potential as interesting villains, or how slight the production team's interest was in bringing them back long term?

A: It's no secret that he didn't like the Daleks, either. Did Holmes try to title this story ‘Death to the Cybermen’ I wonder? Certainly more appropriate than the actual title we got landed with!

The incidental music accompanying the Cybermen is effective.

A: I like the tolling bell sound - it's like a Western stand-off.

P: High Noon. Though, not much of a stand-off.

Vogans perish by the dozen.

A: This is so much better than I remember it!

P: Procedure when hit by a Cyberman is this: thrust out the stomach as much as possible.

A: It distracts them. Oops - he hit the wall!

Meanwhile an inter-Vogan battle wages near Vorus' Chamber.

A: Why don't they ever hit anyone the first time?

A: How much ammunition do you think the Cybermen have?

P: Well they've got big heads...

A: They probably keep the ammo in their ears.

Sarah escapes by transporter to the Beacon.

P: Make a wish - “There's no place like home!”

A: “And smile...”

Back on Nerva, the use of lighting excites Peter...

P: There! There! Marvel at the striking way the director plays hitherto unseen coloured lights upon the silvery costumes of the Cybermen! This is a real atmosphere builder...

A: Oh, look at the colour!

Sarah steals past a Cyberman.

A: His hearing isn't very good, is it?

P: It's those great big earmuffs.

Back on Voga, Vorus reveals his Skystriker rocket.

A: They use the Apollo footage in this, don't they?

Vorus: “The plan would have worked, I just needed more time!”

P: (a la Scooby Doo)”If it wasn't for those pesky kids!”

Meanwhile, the Doctor's party continues their backpacking trip through the tunnels of Voga.

P: They're using a heartbeat track - clearly not the Doctor's though.

More cyber-massacring is in progress, but unlike the 1980s, here it's the Cybermen doing the massacring. Vogans fall all over the place...

P: Roll forward... even though you've been hit in the chest, roll forward...

A: Boy the Vogans really are getting their arses kicked, aren't they?

The Commander is exhausted -”Sorry Doctor, I'm whacked”.

P: It's good to see some phrases survived the 20th Century.

A: He did say “Whacked”, didn't he?

P: His heart rate hasn't increased though. If he's anything to go by they're taking this bomb thing pretty easily, aren't they?

The Doctor clambers up a precarious rocky slope, with his bomb on his back.

P: He's just a bit reckless, isn't he?

A: At the time he was still the ‘new Doctor’; everyone was commenting: “ooh, I don't know about that ‘new’ Doctor... he just walks into danger!”

Suddenly there's a rockfall, caused by Harry and killing Kellman, (and almost the Doctor).

P: Hang on... ooh! Clearly they weren't being too serious about being careful then.

A: Kellman's died a terrible death. Neck twisted in the novelisation, it said.

P: Oh I think I could do that. It's hard to tell under a polo neck of course. Could be a virtual reef knot under there.

Harry begins to unharness the unconscious Doctor's bomb: “Can't breathe - maybe if I loosen this harness...”


He is stopped in time, however, and the Doctor recovers.

The Doctor: “Harry Sullivan is an imbecile!!!”

P: I never really understood that scene.

Harry explains Kellman's disappearance.

P: Saves him being in that episode. They've paid him off.

The Cybermen approach.

A: They look very effective against the rocky background.

P: Yeah, but possibly done too much in the distance...

Lester removes his buckle, sacrificing himself to destroy a Cyberman in the explosion.

P: Ooh. That was quite good.

A: So the Cybermen wipe out half the planet, but when Harry and Tom jump on them they flail about and let them run away without any injury?

A nice(ish) shot is created utilising some back-lighting, stone steps in the caves, and a Vogan. Film buffs might appreciate the nod, but all the same...

P: It's hardly Battleship Potemkin, is it?

Finally meeting with Tyrum and his council, the Doctor swings into action, planning to rescue Sarah and defeat the Cybermen - in some order.

Tom gets given a bag of gold to provide ‘protection’

A: Do you think that's the same bag Chang-Lee got?

A brief shot of a Vogan running down a back-lit, water-logged tunnel...

P: Hey look! It's The Third Man!

Arriving on the Beacon, the Doctor performs surgery on the inert Cybermat.

P: So that's what the insides of a Cybermat look like!

Inevitably the Doctor is discovered, and the Cyberleader greets him with:


A: Hey, the Cyberleader sounds like Eric Roberts!

Cyberleader: “Locate and destroy all animal organisms”

P: “Just don't worry about any other kind of organisms. Leave them out of this”

A Cyberman is blundering into the Doctor's Cybermat trap...

P: “I'll just stop here for no good reason...”

A: “Now, where did I leave that Cybermat?”

The ‘Doctored’, gold-stuffed Cybermat springs at his previous owner. The Cyberman struggles valiantly, but the Cybermat gives him a hickey, anyway...

A: “It's getting harder and harder to train these things!”

The Doctor empties the Cybermat: “Out, out...”

P: Of course he's supposed to be saying “Out, out dusty death” according to The Discontinuity Guide. They misquote a hell of a lot in that book.

Nerva Beacon begins to plunge towards Voga, the Cybermen's last attempt to fulfil their mission and destroy this dangerous source of gold. Sadly, a camera zoom towards the station, sitting stationary against a star field, doesn't quite sell the effect.

A: Look! The stars are moving!

Back on Voga there is a scuffle. Vorus gets shot in the back, but launches his precious Skystriker rocket at Nerva Beacon.

The often seen Saturn 5 rocket blasts past the Vogan viewscreen.

P: N... A... S... A... Jon Preddle's probably got a theory that that's Vogan.

The Cybermat attacks another Cyberman, who hugs it to his chest.

P: “Ooh! I've missed you so much!”

As a punishment, the Doctor is treated to what looks like a vigorous massage from the Cyberleader.

P: “Ooh! That's better! That's loosened me up something grand...”

A: That's brilliant! That's worth a rewind!

The Doctor and Sarah are tied up as the Cybermen prepare to leave the station in their ship.

A: Why are the Cyberman tying them up? They could just twat them one- they've got hydraulic muscles!


The Doctor and Sarah inevitably free themselves, and the Doctor quickly contacts Voga to explain how to stop the rocket hitting the station.

The Doctor, over the radio: “There are two controls...”

P: How does he know that? He's never been there!

This isn't a dramatic cliché at all, nosiree.

Our heroes manage to aim the rocket at the departing Cybership instead.

P: The Cybership has Louvre windows - how cool is that!

The Cybership explodes, and a flaming ring-like section is blown prominently towards the camera.

P: That's the toilet seat! Brilliant!

A: A flying toilet seat!

P: Oh the pathos!

So that's the Cybermen taken care of, but Nerva Beacon is still plummeting towards Voga. We are then treated to the famous ‘Rolling Voga’ shot, very clearly a revolving drum with mountain and craters attached...

A: Luckily the planet's cylindrical.

And so this adventure draws to a close (it missed, folks), and the TARDIS arrives in front of the Doctor and Sarah. Harry still appears to be on Voga, though.

P: “Bye bye, Harry!”

A: “Loser!”

The Doctor retrieves a spool of ticker-tape from the TARDIS.

P: It's the roll of tape from the Brig.

A: That's a long message, isn't it?

P: Yeah, but he didn't read that last bit. Probably quite personal.

And so a much-maligned serial draws to a close...

A: That went a hell of a lot quicker than I remember!


Does this story deserve its lack-lustre reputation?

P: Much as I'm loathe to parrot out the phrase “style over substance”, I think the story's redeeming features - in fact, its only features - are in production instead of script writing or editing. The little nods to other genres in the soundtrack, and the effective lighting in places. It looks like there's been some ad-libbing too - the slapstick way the Doctor and Sarah struggle in their bonds, or the ‘Three Wise Monkeys’ visual gag. Otherwise I'm afraid to say we're dealing with some seriously mundane material here. How the hell could this be better than Timelash?! Golden Syrup.

A: Granted, there's a lot of running around, capturing, escaping and recapturing, but that's nothing new - in even some of the best stories. The sole intention here appears to be to try and tell a fairly straightforward story while continuing the Season 12 policy of cramming in as many old monsters as possible.

The problem could be that Revenge comes at the end of a pretty exceptional year of stories - and by comparison seems to have become the season's ‘whipping Boy’. Robot's toy tank, Wirrn wobbling about on their bottoms, Davros' joke clams and Styre's comedy robot are all glossed over, but Revenge is crucified for its every transgression.

Watch it for the location shooting, the sturdy Cybermen, the ever-watchable regulars, even watch it for the Cyber-hoovermat and Voga roller - they need to be seen to be believed!

This item appeared in TSV 59 (January 2000).

Index nodes: Beyond the Sofa, Nightmare of Eden