‘Doctor Who’ revisited: 50 years since ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’

The earliest Doctor Who serial starring Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor known to exist in its entirety, ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’ is the first serial of the show’s fifth season.

The four-part story originally aired from 2 September to 23 September 1967

Buy ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’ on DVD on Amazon here.

 

The story

The Doctor and Jamie, accompanied by their new companion Victoria Waterfield, arrive on Telos, where they encounter an archaeological survey group from earth, who are determined to locate the legendary tomb of the deadly Cybermen.

Unfortunately, when they find the tomb, they soon discover that the Cybermen are not as dead as they initially thought.

 

Best moments

The Cybermen begin to awaken from their long sleep and start breaking out of their tombs, to the horror of the Doctor and the archaeologists.

The reveal of the Cyber Controller – imposing and simply terrifying!

The Doctor consoles a frightened Victoria, who just recently lost her father in the previous story (‘The Evil of the Daleks’, 1967). He talks of his family, and tells her that when he wants to, he can remember them. It’s still one of the most intimate and lovely scenes between a Doctor and his companion in the show’s fifty-year history.

 

 

Trivia

Producer Peter Bryant’s then wife Shirley Cooklin appears in the role of Kaftan, a role that was written specially for her.

The role of the villainous Kleig was originally written for Vladek Sheybal, who would later go on to star in Gerry Anderson’s UFO (1970-71).

Lost for almost thirty years, all four episodes were discovered by a Hong Kong-based company and returned to the BBC in 1991.

 

Best quotes

The Doctor: “Our lives are different to anybody else’s. That’s the exciting thing. Nobody in the universe can do what we’re doing.”

The Doctor: “You look very nice in that dress, Victoria”.
Victoria: “Thank you. Don’t you think it’s a bit…”
The Doctor: “A bit short? Oh, I shouldn’t worry about that. Look at Jamie’s”.

The Doctor: “The best thing about a machine that makes sense is you can very easily make it turn out nonsense”.

The Cyber-Controller: “You belong to us. You will be like us”.

 

 

The verdict

‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’ perfectly sums up not just the Second Doctor’s era, but also Doctor Who as a whole. It’s the perfect formula for a barnstorming adventure – put a bunch of well defined characters (some good, some evil) in a base or tomb, add the Doctor and companions, insert monster, let action and scares commence.

That’s not to say ‘Tomb…’ is lazy. Far from it. In fact, it’s because of this regular formula that the story truly shines. Why? Because it does it so damn well! Perfectly paced, occasionally creepy, and packed with enough twists and turns to keep the story from dragging even once,

Patrick Troughton is nothing short of excellent here – a master of comic timing and a powerful screen presence, its easy to see why even to this day his Doctor is so fondly remembered by fans and actors alike. Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling ably assist Troughton as his companions Jamie and Victoria, whilst a brilliant guest cast including cult TV regulars Cyril Shaps and Bernard Holley deliver excellent performances all round.

With superb direction from Morris Barry, some great comedic ad-libs from Troughton and Hines, and a gorgeous score made-up of some well-chosen and effective stock music, ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’ is a perfect slice of ‘60s Doctor Who – brave, ambitious, scary, funny, and incredibly entertaining.

 

Buy ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’ on DVD on Amazon here.

What’s your favourite moment in ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’? Let us know below…

  • Nicolas

    I know I’m going to get pilloried for this, but I’ve been watching several Patrick Troughton stories recently, and on the whole I don’t think they’re actually that good. :-

    This is certainly not the fault of Patrick Troughton, who turns in a wonderful comedy performance that is constantly making you wonder just how much of the Doctor’s clowning is genuine, and how much is merely intended to lull the enemy into a false sense of security. And the speech in “Tomb of the Cybermen” mentioned in this article where he’s comforting Victoria about the loss of her family is a superb moment – easily the best bit in the whole story.

    But on the whole the stories are just too slow – not enough actually happens; and (with the exception of Troughton) the performances, the dialog and the visuals are not interesting enough to compensate (in sharp contrast to many of Jon Pertwee’s or Tom Baker’s stories, which are very exciting and beautifully scripted). I’m afraid “Tomb of the Cybermen” is no exception.

    There are several more Troughton stories I’ve not yet seen, and a number that (sadly) I can’t see because they’re entirely or almost entirely lost; I’ve not yet seen “The Invasion” or “The Web of Fear”, but they’re supposed to be good. Of the ones that I have seen, my favourite by a significant margin is “The Mind Robber”, which is very imaginative; and its first episode in particular is brilliantly creepy.