22×1. Attack of the Cybermen
Writer: Paula Moore
Director: Matthew Robinson
Script Editor: Eric Saward
Producer: John Nathan-Turner
Synopsis: The Doctor and Peri travel to 1985 London, where they discover a former adversary, the mercenary leader Lytton who was last seen working with the Daleks, entangled in a plan by time-traveling Cybermen to prevent their defeat at the Doctor’s hands the following year.
Review: While I offered some mild praise for the introduction of a tense new dynamic between the Doctor and Peri in “The Twin Dilemma,” I’m not feeling so generous towards “Attack of the Cybermen” even though it continues down a similar path. By leaving it ambiguous as to whether the Doctor is still suffering from post-regenerative instability, the serial risks making him simply unlikeable as opposed to unpredictable at times. A scene in which he orders Peri to shoot an uncooperative police officer does neither of them any favors, as it’s not entirely clear if he’s bluffing and Peri responds somewhat anemically when I’d have preferred to see her stand up to him. He’s also noticeably more comfortable being surrounded by, and sometimes participating in, lethal violence than his predecessor. By the end of the serial, “Attack of the Cybermen” has come to resemble “Resurrection of the Daleks,” and not in a good way, namely by running up the body count and the general level of mayhem as most of the guest characters come to an unpleasant end. Still, there’s something to be said for the way the script ties into past Cybermen serials and for the notion that the Time Lords actually want the Doctor to get involved to prevent the Cybermen from changing history, and I might have rated it **1/2 if not for two significant missteps towards the end. The first is the introduction of the Cryons, who could have been interesting for their stoic acceptance of their unhappy fate, but whose singsong voices and exaggerated hand motions demonstrate that there can be a fine line between appealingly strange and distractingly goofy when it comes to the portrayal of aliens. The second is the Doctor’s lament that he supposedly never misjudged anyone as badly as Lytton, which it seems we’re meant to take at face value despite Lytton’s ruthless behavior in the first episode and the fact that he’s presumably still picking up a paycheck from the Cryons. I don’t mean to judge the serial negatively simply for being bleak – I loved “The Caves of Androzani,” after all – but while “Caves” drew out its bleakness through solid characterization for both leads and guest characters, “Attack” just throws a lot of action and gunplay at us and overreaches with its approach to Lytton and the Doctor’s reaction to him.
Rating: ** (out of four)
One thought on “Review [DW]: “Attack of the Cybermen””
This was one of the few Colin Baker stories I watch with any regularity. The Cryons were a bit terrible in their realisation. The continuity from Resurrection was a nice touch.