Stupid Things About “Attack of the Cybermen"
(And 17 1/2 Cool Ones)
(But we're not telling you which is which)
(We're expecting you to work that out for yourselves)
By Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore
Originally published in Celestial Toyroom Issue 390
1. Peri’s horrible pink leotard (which tends to strobe out on VHS). Note for viewers under the age of 25: people in the 80s did not actually dress like this.
2. On the other hand, it seems oddly prescient of the present-day chav fashion for ludicrous amounts of bright pink lycra.
3. The scenes with the gangsters are fantastic, viewing like some kind of 1980s police-and-criminals drama with a science-fictiony twist. Likewise the sequences with Stratton and Bates have a great post-apocalyptic feel.
4. By contrast, the scenes with the Doctor and Peri are like something out of Bonekickers, albeit with even worse dialogue. Likewise the sequences in Cyber Control.
5. Not too surprisingly, the scenes with the Doctor and Peri improve a hundredfold once they pick up Russell.
6. The Cyber Conversion process apparently leaves the adipose tissues intact, so that Cybermen, particularly the Cybercontroller, can gain weight.
7. The Cybermen can also evidently lose weight, as indicated by the Cyberman wandering around in the very baggy costume.
8. True Fact: Although the Cyber Controller’s appearance led to him being dubbed the Fat Controller in certain circles, Michael Kilgariff was actually fairly slim in 1985.
9. David Banks.
10. The idea that the Doctor should stroke his cat lapel badge for luck was suggested by director Matthew Robinson.
11. The score vacillates from the excellent to the appallingly corny (e.g. the Steptoe and Son tag which accompanies the appearance of I.M. Foreman’s yard, or the comedy “wah, wah, waaah,” accompanying Stratton’s donning of the Cyberman head).
12. The Doctor appears to be very familiar with Commander Lytton, despite the fact that the pair only met briefly on two occasions in “Resurrection of the Daleks,” and at neither point did they actually talk to each other.
13. Brian Glover was, at the time, well-known for appearing in a series of milk adverts containing the slogan “got a lot of bottle,” giving an added humour to Griffiths’ line “lost your bottle?”
14. In the novelisation, Lytton knows full well that Russell is working for the police, and is using him to obtain the necessary explosives. As nothing appears in the televised story to contradict this, it’s fun to watch those scenes with that in mind.
15. I.M. Foreman’s scrapyard at 76 Totters’ Lane looks nothing like I.M. Foreman’s scrapyard at 76 Totters’ Lane in “An Unearthly Child,” nor like I.M. Forman (sic)’s scrapyard at 76 Totters’ Lane in “Remembrance of the Daleks.” We suspect that Mr Foreman is some sort of eccentric scrap tycoon, who insists on establishing his many and varied scrapyards only on streets named Totters’ Lane, and who has a numerological fixation with the number 76.
16. The Doctor knocks one fake policeman out and handcuffs the other to a rail, meaning that he alone is responsible for their subsequent capture and conversion by the Cybermen.
17. The scene where Griffiths shoots a Cyberman and it dies in a gush of green fluid was widely criticized at the time; however, when one considers the actual destructive power of a bullet, it’s very believable..
18. Among the less obvious references to “The Tenth Planet” are: the Cyberleader snapping the barrel of a gun, and the shot of Telos wreathed in clouds (the depiction of Mondas in the earlier story).
19. The Cyberman in Cyber Control wiggles when he talks, like one of those novelty dancing-flower radios. Wasn’t doing a closeup on him enough indication that he’s speaking?
20. The Cybermen consider soldiers who fight only for money untrustworthy, which suggests they have an ethical system which includes the concept of abstract loyalty.
21. We also learn that the Cybermen react to the distress of their own kind, although why the Doctor, Mr “Smelling a flower, watching a sunset, eating a well-prepared meal” himself, considers this a weakness is never explained.
22. Stratton’s passive-aggressive attitude exasperates Bates, but entertains the rest of us.
23. The location footage for Telos was filmed in the same quarry, Gerrards Cross, used to represent the same planet in “The Tomb of the Cybermen.” Not that it matters, but it’s a nice touch.
24. The line “I shall beat it into submission with my charm” sums up the entire Colin Baker era. No really, it does. Think about it.
25. When Russell asks the Doctor where he got the revolver, the Doctor replies “its former owner will have no further use for it.” Russell’s subsequent assumption that the Doctor is a murderer is thus surprising to no one bar the Doctor himself.
26. Riften 5 is apparently a future colony of Earth, rather than one of the many planets in the Doctor Who universe with a dominant species indistinguishable from humans, as Lytton remarks that looking at Griffiths makes him wonder why “our ancestors” bothered to crawl out of the primordial slime.
27. During the final scene of episode one, Peri’s dialogue consists of the word “No,” repeated five times.
28. Terry Molloy was instructed to fall onto the cable which snaked across the set to power the TARDIS console. In fact, he misses it by three feet.
29. The Cyber Controller says “whatever in their wisdom the Time Lords decide, they will be too late. Telos will have been destroyed and we shall have the Doctor’s TARDIS.” However, as the Time Lords are clearly able to overcome the Blinovitch Limitation Effect, this isn’t much of a problem for them.
30. The indigenous species of Telos can survive only in temperatures below zero. The fact that the average temperature of Telos, outside the Tombs, is visibly rather well above zero, is often cited as a flaw in the story; however, Telos could have been a cold planet rendered hot through some form of environmental disaster or degradation, rather like the fate of Aridius in “The Chase.”
31. When the Cyberlieutenant comes to take Peri away, the Doctor is holding his sonic lance quite prominently, and yet, although the same implement was earlier used to destroy a Cyberman, the Lieutenant makes no move to take it off him.
32. One might equally ask why the Cybermen allowed Lytton to pocket the lance in the first place.
33. Later, the Cybermen lock the Doctor in a roomful of heat-sensitive explosive, and still neglect to take the lance off him, with utterly predictable results.
34. The Doctor says, when he sees the Tombs on Telos, that he had forgotten how big they were. As they look nothing like those seen in “The Tomb of the Cybermen” (which were considerably smaller than these), this lapse isn’t particularly surprising.
35. Peri’s jumpsuit in episode 2 has some interestingly-placed zips. It, too, strobes horribly on VHS.
36. When the damaged Cyberman bursts from the tomb, the Cyberleader grabs one of his tubes, with the visible intention that he should pull it free and initiate another round of death while spraying green goo everywhere (what is this, Doctor Who or Ministry of Mayhem?). The tube fails to come free, but the Cyberman dies anyway.
37. The Cryon stilted dialogue and flitty hand-movements recall the Menoptera to a credibility-harming degree.
38. The Cryons were originally all-male, and Robinson suggested making them all-female. Which may explain some of the rather homoerotic subtext to their scenes with Peri.
39. Koo Stark was originally supposed to play Flast, but dropped out at the last minute. It is tempting to speculate that she was put off by the confining nature of the costumes (for which she had taken a fitting by that point), or, perhaps, given some of her other activities, the presence of any costume at all.
40. This is the first time since “The Tomb of the Cybermen” that we see an unclothed, as it were, Cyberman limb.
41. When he is informed that Bates and Stratton have escaped, and asked if he wants them captured, the Cyber Controller says that he would rather let them run as there is scientific value in observing their actions. When he is later informed that they have killed a Cyberscout, he seems rather distressed. What did he expect two escaping prisoners intent on breaking into Cyber Control to do?
42. Originally the story was to take place partly on Halley’s Comet, then, in the next draft, a reason was found why the Cybermen could not go there; since by the final draft Halley’s Comet’s presence is largely redundant, it comes across as a bit of shoehorned-in topical astronomy.
43. The Cybermen plan to crash Halley’s Comet into Earth to kill all life on the planet, and thus avoid the destruction of Mondas. However, in “The Tenth Planet,” the Cybermen of Mondas discover that their planet is absorbing too much energy from Earth and they must use the Z-Bomb to destroy the Earth to save Mondas. If all life had been destroyed before their arrival, they would have no way of finding out about the Z-Bomb’s existence, and so would have been destroyed anyway.
44. Lytton’s point-of-view shot of the Cybermen when he is captured is impressive.
47. The Cyberman guard trying to beat out the flames on his arm with the gun. It’s been pointed out before, and must be pointed out again, so that all may laugh at it.
46. The Cyber Controller has Lytton’s hands crushed to get him to tell how he plans to capture or destroy the time vessel. Seriously, why go to all that trouble? The Cybermen’s response to the information he presumably gives offscreen is just to electrify the launch pad door and post a guard, something they would have done anyway had they not had Lytton’s confession.
47. Why is a Cyberman lying down in one of the Tombs? Also, why is the room so big, and why are there cobwebs on the walls? Are these in fact the Studio Flats of the Cybermen?
48. The Cyber Controller tells the Doctor that emotion is a weakness, and, as it has brought him back for his friend, it will cost him his life. Coming right after the sequence in which two of the Controller’s own Cybermen are shot dead through being compelled to respond to the distress of their own kind, he’s got a nerve.
49. The first thing that explodes on the Cyber Controller is his stomach.
50. The Doctor’s final line may be nicely dramatic, but it’s completely wrong. As Lytton is in fact a hired mercenary who just happens to be working for the (ostensible) good guys on this occasion, the Doctor hasn’t actually misjudged him in the slightest. Had Lytton survived the episode, he might have turned up next time working for the Sontarans, leading one to wonder if the Doctor’s reaction would have been something along the lines of “ooh, that Lytton, can’t trust him an inch…”