2 out of 5
Directed by: Morris Barry
Well I am fairly baffled as to this series’ status as a classic. It was an impressive reappearance – set-wise, redesign-wise – of the Cybermen, and certainly helped to solidify their “all must become us” ridiculously elaborate plans charm (like freeze yourself inside a mountain baited with a couple traps, reckoning that only quality C-Men stock will seek it out and make it through) – but the dialogue is mostly atrociously dumb, and its littered with the kind of stupid and pointless character decisions that were common during Hartnell’s run – this feels like a Hartnell episode – but which, thus far, Troughton’s eps had been thankfully lacking. It’s also completely bereft of any real thrills. The stupid decision making is part of this – certainly tying up this super strong robot with a single loop of rope is fine! – but also just in scripting terms of making the Cybermen feel like a credible threat. Move slow; get confused by smoke; telegraph your actions by announcing them; send out little ‘cybermats’ to crawl around the floor. I grew up on Who; I appreciate the cheap and quick vibe of the show – and can see that a lot of budget must’ve gone into the main sets – but the lively cast just can’t dress up the forehead slapping script and incredibly stiff direction.
Outside of all of that are the noxious sexist and racist tones of the era. This stuff happened over fifty years ago and times were different and yadda yadda; again, I’m not new to this. But the ‘put baby in the corner’ sexism in this episode stacks up pretty high – both on team evil and with new companion Victoria, helpless around all these bustling men – and we just got past one super-strong foreign black slave stereotype in the last serial, but okay, that was in the past, in Victorian times, so certainly when we jump to the far future things will have changed… …Or maybe we’ll just re-cast another super-strong, foreign black guy in another servant role. Yes, he dies. Kudos!
So whatever way you slice this one, I have to imagine it’s a ‘classic’ through rose-tinted glasses, or perhaps as one of the few complete surviving Troughton serials. But beyond some good evolution of the Cybermen agenda, and the initial episodes sense of discovery, this one was really a stinker to me.