The 4th Doctor – Season 12, Episode 5 – “Revenge of the Cybermen” – Vogans and the Cybermen

       It has been a while since I’ve reviewed an episode of “Doctor Who.” I have two bigger “Doctor Who” posts coming up with a reflection on the Capaldi Era and my thoughts of Series 11, with Jodie Whitaker as the 13th Doctor. I hope to review her episodes individually at some point too once I get back into the swing of things with my “Doctor Who” reviews. Tom Baker as the 4th Doctor is one of my 4 favorite Doctors. The others being Capaldi’s 12, Tennant’s 10 and Pertwee’s 3. Each of them captures the alien nature of the Time Lord while still having that genuine love of adventure, fun and humanity. They are the balance and this episode is a good example of that for the 4th Doctor.

The story was written by Gerry Davis and Robert Holmes and directed by Michael E. Briant.

The story follows the Doctor as he and his companions Sarah Jane Smith and Michael Sullivan find themselves on Space Station Nerva, separated from the TARDIS, which will eventually catch up to them in time. They find the station full of dead bodies and under quarantine from a myseterious plague. From here they unfold the mystery as factions on and off the station seek to commit genocide upon their enemies.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Plague Mystery – The plague mystery is great as it automatically creates stakes in the episode. Our introduction to their arrival on the Nerva Station is the Doctor and his companions finding the dead and this adds to the feeling of uneasiness that pervades the episode. You can understand why the humans are distrustful of the Doctor and his companions and as the mystery of the plague being Cybermen killing people is revealed as they wish to take control of the Station in order to take on their enemies, the Vogans who live on a planet of gold, a mineral that is one of their greatest weaknesses.

The Vogans – The Vogans are an interesting people. You can see that they’ve cut themselves off from the wider galaxy and because of it you have people who are willing to go to any ends to protect that secrecy. This isolation and radicalization is the arc that they deal with as the Cybermen’s arrival on their planet and near extermination is only stopped by outsiders (the humans on the Station and the Doctor and his companions) and as their arc ends we see them open to changing from the people they were before. I like their design as they look like regal Dwarves as most are bearded and they have strong ridges on their foreheads. This fit their look as an underground people living in secret and they didn’t feel like the make-up department was barely trying. Effort was put into creating this race and I like what we learned about them in the process.

The Cybermen – This is the first time the Cybermen were back as main villains since “The Invasion” where the 2nd Doctor faced them in 1968. Knowing that history and how iconic they’ve become as one of the Doctor’s main villain their reappearance alone was really cool. In this they don’t upgrade others, just exterminate them. We see this as it is them who are killing the people on the Station with their Cybermats (a metallic snake like creature that bites people, killing them). Their whole deal is self defense in their minds as getting rid of the Vogans and their planet of gold will make them the prominent force in the region.  They are winning through most of the episode and their invasion of Vogan goes as plan until the Doctor and the human survivors begin using the gold against the Cybermen as well as the Doctor destroying the Cyber-Leader on the Station and keeping it from slamming into Voga.

Sarah Jane Smith -Sarah Jane Smith is one of my favorite classic companions. Here she gets captured a few times but she always manages to get free (usually always on her own) and is easily one of the Doctor’s most proactive companions who isn’t a Time Lord. In this we get glimpses of just how much the Doctor and Sarah care about one another too as at one point they are trapped together and not only have to free themselves but stop the Cybermen and the Vogan rocket that is going for the Station. Besides the Doctor and the human survivors from the Station who work with the Doctor she is the closest thing this episode has to a main protagonist.

The Doctor – Tom Baker once again shows why he is one of my favorite Doctors. Here we see him figure out that the plague is Cybermen at play and with the help of Sarah Jane Smith, saves the Vogans and stops the Cybermen. He is his usual aloof self taking control of situations and his times of vulnerability really show too. When he is captured he can think his way out but he still depends on others. In this we see his humanity and that he isn’t some super hero always one step ahead. I love Tom Baker and this is a good episode to showcase why he is so memorable as the Doctor, especially since he is facing such a classic foe in the Cybermen.

Okay:

Harry Sullivan – The reason I’m putting him as okay is nothing he did really stood out this episode. I know he helped the Doctor and humans but I’d have a hard time describing any one thing he did. Sarah Jane Smith was the one who was far active this episode. Harry is also a companion I’m pretty nuetral towards. I never hated him as a companion but I was never really that much of a fan either. This episode is a good example of why. He’ll always do the right thing but he rarely questions the things around him and most of what I remember him doing in other episodes is being the muscle. I could also be selling him short but he didn’t stand out to me at all this episode and wasn’t needed in the story.

The Humans on the Station – There is the evil human who tries to kill the Doctor, who is also a professor working for a faction of Vogans who want to lure the Cybermen to the station to destroy them with the rocket and is doing it all for gold. He does change sides but only due to survival. There is the commander who stays good the entire time and is the one who redirects the Vogan missile to destroy the Cyber-Ship rather than the Station and there is one other survivor killed earlier on by the professor. The two of them are not bad characters but they don’t really grow fully beyond the stock characters they are written as.

The Ending – The ending is alright. The Doctor and Sarah save the day and stop the Station from crashing into Voga. The Voga elder stops the militant Voga from destroying the Station with the missle and the human survivors and Voga have now made contact before the Doctor and his companions make their exit on the TARDIS which has finally caught up to them in time (last episode they traveled using a Time Ring so the TARDIS had to catch up to where they had traveled to, which in this case is Space Station Nerva).

This is an episode I’d recommend to anyone who is a fan of Classic “Doctor Who” and those who can look past budget and love a good story. There are flaws, the Vogans should have been using gold to fight the Cybermen and them overlooking this is never explained, I guess they didn’t know Cybermen were vulnerable to gold? I loved watching classic Cybermen in action and the Doctor and his companions solving the mystery of what was going on gave the story a nice hook before we got into the action of the war between the Vogans and Cybermen that the humans were caught in the middle of.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10. Nearly great. Harry Sullivan needed more to do and I would have liked the humans on the Station to be explored better in their motivations.

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12 Days of Doctors – The 4th Doctor – Season 12, Episode 1 – “The Robot” – An Attempt to Explore the Formation of Morality Through a Robot

Robot_(Doctor_Who)

We continue the 12 Days of Doctors, the count up to 12th’s first adventure with “Robot.” “Robot,” is the first adventure of and our introduction to the 4th Doctor, Tom Baker. The writer for this story was Terrance Dicks and director was Christopher Barry. How did Tom Baker do taking Jon Pertwee’s place in his first adventure? We’ll explore that in the assessment.

The story begins with the Doctor  regenerating into his Fourth Incarnation in front of The Brig and Sarah Jane Smith. They immediately get him to the doctors and Brig puts Harry Sullivan on the Doctor to watch him. Before this we see a robot infiltrate a military base and steal something. We find out from The Brigadier that Nuclear Plans for all the major powers were stolen. From here a plan is devised with Harry going undercover in “The Think Tank,” as Sarah does the same as a reporter. From here they learn of the “Think Tank’s” plan to use the Robot to destroy the Earth so that they may survive and create the race of those worthy of leading…what they didn’t count on besides the Doctor and his companions were the Robot and the Robot’s inventor Kettlewell. From here the story unfolds between the different factions and the Robot’s inner turmoil.

Robot 4

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Fourth Doctor / The 4th Doctor – Tom Baker is fantastic as the Doctor. He adapts to every situation, plays the fool, but also has a lot of fun along the way. He also has a pretty big ego since he only stays because Sarah and the Brig say they need him. He has great chemistry with all of them, and definitely some hangups over being trapped with UNIT for so long. This is contrasted with Sarah who is trusting and is a rule breaker like him versus Harry and the Brig who are military men of UNIT who are well intentioned but more traditional in their approaches. One of the best lines at the end is the Doctor’s recognition of the Robot’s humanity and all life’s capacity for good and evil and offering Sarah Jane Smith a jelly baby before their next adventure with Harry. He of course has one of the best get-ups too with his distinctive multi-colored scarf, long coat and hat.

The Companions – Harry and Sarah are both active in this story, in Harry’s case trying to figure out what “The Think Tank” wants, and in Sarah’s case, trying to convince the Robot not to destroy and that humanity is worth being saved. They both do their roles well and both need to be rescued by the Doctor and UNIT, establishing the threat of antagonists in the process. Also, Sarah Jane Smith is one of my all time favorite companions.

The Brigadier – The Brig is once again fantastic, though his cons are much more apparent as his distrust of people who are different than him (which the Doctor brilliantly mocks…I’m guessing he does learn based off past episodes) and manages to use UNIT to hold off the Robot.

k1 the Robot – K1 is the robot created by Kettlewell and is for all intents and purposes the child learning how to be good. It has built into it’s program to protect humanity and not to kill humans, but “The Think Tank” keeps having it go against it. This could have been handled much better, but that has more to do with “The Think Tank,” than the Robot, who actually has a pretty cool design and an interesting character arc where the hypocrisy and lying eventually makes it go mad. I wish we could have got more time of it exploring itself since I don’t remember it having any deep conversations with the Doctor, all those conversations happened with Sarah Jane Smith.

Cons: “The Think Tank” – This organization was so contrived, did they want to make them scientists, businessmen or Nazis? Did they want money or just to destroy the world? Why did they think the way they did about their own superiority? Gah, I hated these guys. Every time they were in they were an evil organization cliche and it wasn’t hammed up enough to be interesting. I didn’t care about any of them, even Kettlewell’s coming out as their leader and later changing his mind felt unbelievable. It felt driven by the plot and not the characters…which really brought down the episode in a major way. One of the more forgettable villains in Doctor Who for sure.

So how does the episode hold up? The companions are great, Tom Baker is great as the 4th Doctor, Harry is good and Sarah is fantastic…and the Robot is even good too. But the writing and “The Think Tank,” are just bad. I mean really really bad. The premise had so much promise but than the things that should be explored more (The Robot’s formation of morality) are left to the side for boring mustache twirling villainy from an uninteresting organization of baddies. This really brings the episode down. Because of this, I would hesitantly recommend this episode…there is a lot of good, but the bad is really bad.

My final score for this episode is 7.4 / 10

The Fourth Doctor