A couple of days before we were getting ready to repel an alien invasion, the fifth season of Doctor Who kicked off what may have been it’s finest hour(s). Over the next year (1967-68) it would be on something of a roll and the opening salvo of Patrick Troughton’s sophomore season set the bar high.
Back then I might have told you that the original Doctor was better because he was sensible and this one wasn’t. Some of that ire might have faded with the closing weeks of season four. Evil of the Daleks had seen an apparent close to the saga of the deadly pepper pots (which were going Stateside for their own big budget tv show) and introduced us to an already shell-shocked Victoria Waterfield (played by Deborah Watling). That was July 67 and in these days of gap years it is a curious counterpoint that we only had to wait until September 2nd for a new wave of travels in the TARDIS. And what travels they were.
So sandwiched between Juke Box Jury and The Dick Van Dyke Show, we were back in outer space with the first part of The Tomb of The Cybermen by Kit Pedlar and Gerry Davis. For outer space read Gerrard’s Cross Sand and Gravel Quarry, but the location is well used as the TARDIS trio stumble upon an archaeological expedition seeking to uncover the lost secrets of the Cybermen. This serial was the third appearance of the Cybermen.
We get a brief recap of some basics. Not that we had forgotten, but it was cute.Victoria is introduced to the TARDIS and seems to hurt the Doctor’s feelings by suggesting he is old. “Well about 450 years in human terms.”
The expedition have a curious three-way split. There are some archaeologists keen to discover the reason why the Cybermen died out, a military contingent who have flown them in, and the backers who have their own agenda. One of these backers, Kaftan, played by Shirley Cooklin who was married to producer Peter Bryant, offers a bonus (£50) to the first man to open the doors. The first man to try is electrocuted and suffers a painful death. The first of many.
The Doctor advises caution but when he is ignored, he discharges the power allowing the group to enter. He further opens antechambers allowing them to explore further. This sets a pattern. The Doctor tells the expedition members how they can do things, “Oh, but I wouldn’t do that.” And then they do.
The caution leading to the revival of the Cybermen. Somehow Kaftan and her Logician colleague Eric Kleig (George Pastell) think this will be a doorway to power. The Cyber Controller has his own agenda. Well, we saw that coming.
This was the first appearance of the Cyber Controller and the serial also introduced the Cybermats. Look at those choppers!
Kaftan’s bodyguard Toberman, played by Roy Stewart, is subjected to a partial cyber conversion. He goes from potential menace to victim to sacrificial pawn.
It was one of those serials where the threat escalates every episode and our time travellers barely escape with their lives. In the end, the Cybermen are resealed in their vaults, not so much defeated as merely waiting for another opportunity.
The month wasn’t out and we were off to the Himalayas ...