Monday, March 15, 2010

Serial 46: The Invasion

Doctor: Patrick Troughton (2nd Doctor) Companions: Jamie McCrimmon, Zoe Heriot

Writer: Derrick Sherwin (based on an original idea from Kit Pedler)
Director: Douglas Camfield

Background and Significance: After William Hartnell's health forced him to abdicate the role of Doctor Who, the producers of the program (who saw what popularity the show had) sought to continue the show with a new actor playing The Doctor. A wild departure from the original, the new incarnation played by Patrick Troughton was designed as a "Cosmic Hobo" of sorts. His energy and mannerisms brought about a new life to the show in a completely different way than it had had before. The show became more action oriented, with heavy emphasis on more adventurey aspects. As such, Troughton's era saw the appearance of old favorites like Daleks and Cybermen, but also saw the creation of new alien races like The Ice Warriors and Robot Yeti.

Such is the era of Patrick Troughton. Big adventure. Big energy. Big humour. Big excitement.

Oh. And most of it's missing.

For those not in the know, the BBC had a policy in the 1960's of recycling old videotapes to save money and space, which means they wiped old episodes of Doctor Who. All of them. There has since been an effort towards extensive recovery based on lent-out screeners to foreign countries and restoration of home video recordings. This, however, has left many gaps in the original series. The hardest hit is Patrick Troughton (even though William Hartnell was also particularly affected; Hartnell's final episode doesn't even exist really at all), with all but one of the serials from Troughton's first two seasons (and he only did three) missing at least in part if not in their entirety. He has 63 episodes missing from 15 serials (out of 119 episodes and 21 serials he did in total).

The Invasion is one such story. An eight episode story, it's been reconstructed and recovered excepting two episodes (the first and the fourth). For the DVD release, the remaining two episodes were actually animated and the recovered audio was laid on top of them. Know what that's called? Badass. But more on that later.

But for now, let's talk Doctor Who!

Commentary: The Invasion starts with The TARDIS appearing on the dark side of the moon from its last adventure with Zoe, Jamie, and The Doctor on board. Also, it's animated right now, so yay! They start to collect themselves when they realize--


Now. If that doesn't tip you off that this is a completely different era, I don't know what will. Coming off "The Daleks," I didn't expect something quite so urgent and panicky, and I think the show really is better for it. There's tension and The Doctor hitting things and calling The TARDIS "a stupid machine" (and let's be honest... The Doctor and The TARDIS are probably in an unhealthy and abusive relationship at this point and she should really get out of it, but without that, we'd be nowhere, now would we, so she stays with him for the good moments even though he does have to put her in her place at times).

Good lord that's an awful joke.

MOVING ON! So The Doctor manages to de-materialize the TARDIS just before the missile hits it, and after they leave, an ominous looking space craft flies past. Creepy.

The TARDIS lands in a field in modern England, invisible. There is a cow. The Doctor, Zoe, and Jamie all have a right laugh about humourous bovine and set out to find a Professor Travers (a staple from Troughton serials) in the hopes that he can help fix the invisi-TARDIS.

The three of them reach a road and meet a truck driver who mysteriously tells them to get in. Troughton tries to be courteous, but the truck driver is all suspicious acting and a bit antsy.

Okay. Before I go on any further, look at this pic right here. My goodness, just look at it. Isn't that delightful? Simply delightful. I love this animation style, and it allows them to make it all... tonally good and stuff. It works really good in this first episode to set the stage and the tone, which it does so perfectly.

Even later, once the truck driver has driven The Doctor and his Companions off the compound and he's pulled over by these private army dudes (what private army? Don't worry! We're getting there!) this animation just.... rules. It captures the feel and the terror and the ominous creepy so effectively. Even when this dude is shot I was shocked. It just went to show the difference Doctor Who had gone through in just the few years since it had started. It was a feel of action and stuff happening in ways I hadn't felt in "The Daleks," and I love it for that. It's really awesome to see how far this show has come in those five and a half years.

Anyways... Our three heroes head into London and Professor Travers' flat, where they meet budding photographer Isobel Watkins, who is housesitting for Professor Travers with her uncle, Professor Watkins, while Travers is off on sabbatical in America. Isobel makes reference that her Uncle's gone missing; last she heard of him, he was going to work at International Electromatics (IE). The Doctor and Jamie decide to go investigate, leaving Zoe behind to take pictures with Isobel so she can practice her photography.

Isobel even gave Zoe a pretty boa!

The Doctor and Jamie arrive at IE and are watched by an ominous car. They break in and confront a silly looking 60's computer that is acting secretary and helper assistant for the company, but it turns out the computer is just really annoying and not actually helpful at all (Don't worry. The Computer will be punished for its insubordination later). The Doctor and Jamie decide to do some investigating of their own and are intercepted by Packer (the head of security) and brought before Tobias Vaughan.

Spoilers!: He's the bad guy!

There's a small verbal confrontation between Vaughan and The Doctor, with Vaughan explaining that Professor Watkins has agreed to stay on site to continue his research (yeah sure) and bids The Doctor and Jamie adieu. Once they're gone, Vaughan hits a switch and reveals a secret closet, in which is what we'll call...

The Cyber-Communicator

Vaughan talks to the warbly voice of the Cyber Communicator that is weak and warbly and sounds like a hungry old dude who has something caught in his throat. Also, this being the first time we see Vaughan talking to the Cyber Communicator, it's only right to point out how silly he looks while he's talking to this thing and how that slowly devolves over the course of the serial.

He gets all squinty on one side and one side only...

Jamie and The Doctor depart and head outside and that ominous car that was watching them follows them. They run for it. And then this 30 seconds of brilliance happens.

Genius. Seriously, this is the moment that sold Troughton for me. I loved it.

They're taken to UNIT. They meet the Brigadier (a major player especially in the Pertwee era). There is exposition about IE and what's been going on with Vaughan and stuff. Blah de blah. The Doctor has some tea. La la la.

Meanwhile, Zoe and Isobel, wondering why The Doctor and Jamie have been gone for so long, head for IE themselves. They encounter the not-very-helpful-and-kind-of-a-brat computer.

Well Zoe is an astrophysicist from the 21st Century and she's not going to take any of this crap from 60's junker with reels, so she starts asking the computer ridiculously impossible computer questions and the computer starts to smoke and explode. It brings the attention of Vaughan, who has them brought up to him and then placed into crates and shipped off to his country compound.

Zoe is mean to computers and then laughs at them

The Doctor and Jamie head back to Professor Travers' flat only to find the girls gone. They find a note telling them the girls went to IE and they race over there. They break in (again!) and find Zoe's crate, recognizing that boa sticking out of the bottom of the lid. Jamie and The Doctor freak out and try to open it but are captured by Travers (lots of capturing here) and are brought before Vaughan (again!) (do we see why there's lots of repeating/padding going on here?)

What follows is lots of running around. The Doctor and Jamie are captives of Vaughan and go to the compound. Zoe disappears for an episode and then comes back after The Doctor and Jamie escape from Vaughan and rescue Isobel and Zoe via thrilling helicopter chase and elevator shaft climbing and hiding in crates with moving creatures in cocoons. Finally, after all that nonsense, they rejoin the Brigadier (I just saved you two episodes of time...)

Jamie McCrimmon: Not Understanding Helicopters Because He's From the 18th Century

Over the course of this, we find out that Vaughan has tasked Professor Watkins to create for him an emotional inducer (it instills emotions into living things) which he plans to use as a weapon against his allies should they betray him (which is a smart move).

Oh, and The Doctor and Jamie break into a warehouse by canoe (no really) and see a Cyberman bust out one of those nifity cocoons. Threat revealed!

The Cocoon got attached to his head

So here we are, now halfway through this serial. Up until now, we've kinda guessed it's been the Cybermen, but now everyone knows it's them. And this is (kinda) where the real fun begins. Also, I can't imagine being a kid and watching this serial spoiler free and getting to the end of episode four and seeing that Cyberman burst out of the cocoon would be just... thrilling. Great reveal. Great stuff.

The best ten seconds of episode five

So The Doctor and Jamie find out it's the Cybermen and decide to canoe(!) back to UNIT, where they warn them. The Brigadier springs to action saying he's going to go to Geneva to get UNIT's help in stopping the Cyberman invasion. Isobel and Zoe (after some crazy sexist remarks by UNIT personell and Jamie) opt to head to the sewers (Jamie tags along, apologizing profusely for his incurable misogyny) to try and get a picture of a Cyberman for proof. Remember how they set up Isobel as a photographer? Yeah. This is where that becomes important.

So while The Cybermen load into the London sewers in preparation of the invasion, Vaughan tries out the emotion inducer on one of the Cybermen. The machined drives the poor Cyberman insane with fear (and causing a Cyber-scream!) and the thing runs into the sewers, terrified. So now there's this hilarious Cyberman running around through the sewers and Vaughan's machine to control the Cybermen works.

Oh. And he talks to the Cyber-Communicator again.

If you divide his face in vertical halves it's not so bad, but this really can't be healthy.

So Jamie, Isobel, and Zoe run into the sewers to take pictures of the Cybermen but are cornered by two on one side and the insane Cyberman on the other. And what follows is this awesome...

(God I loved that scene...)

So they make it out alive. The Doctor figures out that all the IE products around the world (IE is basically Microsoft level of evil in an Apple amount of products) are poised to help expedite the Cyber-invasion. He requests UNIT's help in extracting Professor Watkins from Vaughan's clutches.

And they do. Off screen. Literally. The sequence of events is this: 'Let's go do this.' Cut to guy saying 'They came out of nowhere and now they have him.' and it's over. It's amazing. It's literally just completely zero action and all them telling us what happened. Genius. (And yet not so much.) Thank God they don't do that at the end. Having people tell us what happened in the end would be quite the story in its own way.

With Watkins's help, The Doctor creates helpful devices that stop the Cyber-unconsciousness wave from taking over him, his companions, and various UNIT members (oh and Isobel. Let's not forget her...), unfortunately, he can't stop the people of the world from experiencing global unconsciousness and the Cybermen invading. For realz. This comes at the behest of Vaughan, who now looks like this:

It looks like he's having a Cyber-Stroke. (It's like a real stroke, but emotionless)

And leads to the Cybermen invading like this:

Apparently they could afford six Cybermen.

Aaaaaaaand this.

Ever since I watched this, I think this might be my favorite shot in the whole serial. It's the one I tell people about.


Since when do Cybermen need shoelaces? Seriously. That's phenomenal. I can't believe Cybermen need shoelaces. Does that mean that sometimes, if one of the Cybertoddlers doesn't know how to ties his shoelaces one of the Cyberteachers has to kneel down and do it for him? Who taught the Cybermen how to tie shoelaces? Or did they come pre-tied? What happens if they come untied? Is that like a mark of Cyber-rebelry? "Hi. I'm a Cyber-rebel because I don't tie my Cybershoes. I scoff at your Cyber-society." I wonder if some of the Cybermen tie another Cyberman's shoelaces together and then the Cyberman trips and then has to hop after the punk-Cyber-tricksters in fake anger over the indignity of having to Cyber-trip over his Cyber-shoelaces.

Honestly. Cyber-shoelaces. I will never get over that.

Anyways. The Cybermen have invaded. But all is not well. See, Vaughan thinks he's going to control the Cybermen and rule the world (oh silly silly robot. By the way, Vaughan's a robot with a human mind. I'm just saying) but the Cyber-Communicator and the Cyber-Mothership all have other ideas, so there's a bit of tension there.

The Cybermen plan is now in full swing. They've launched missiles, but Zoe is there to do some insane complex thirty second math (despite being told that she's a woman and can't do math) and takes them all out. The Cybermen are furious and yell at Vaughan (who has been visited by The Doctor who pleads with Ol' Lazy Eye in the hopes that he will see reason) and then say they're going to drop a Megatron Bomb on the Earth to wipe out all life.

Ruh roh. That can't be good.

Luckily, Vaughan has the emotion-inducer and he's just not going to take it from the Cyber-Communicator anymore. He turns it on the Cyber-Communicator and cries:

"Give me back my eye, you Cyber-#%$*@'s!"

And The Doctor admonishes him for bad language. But really, I can't blame the guy. The Cybermen took control over that entire side of his face and made him look all silly and unserious. Now look at him.

Now with 110% more Spock-brow!

So Vaughan and The Doctor race to Vaughan's radio tower so they can shut down the Cyber-control on Earth with UNIT just behind them. What follows is this, the big action climax, which is super fun and has some amazing Troughton.

WHAT?! We're *still* not done?! Good lord....

So then they sit around for a while and take shots at the Cyber-bomb. And how do we find out our missile hit the target? We watch a guy staring at the radar (WE DON'T EVEN GET TO SEE THE RADAR) and when the missile's hit, he leaps up and says "We did it!" [and there is much rejoicing]. Astounding television right there. No visual, no audio, not even the radar. Just a dude saying what happened and having to act against nothing. Amazing. Wish I had the gusto to write like that. (They do show the Cyber-Mothership getting blown to smithereens. So that's something.)

Then there's some wrap-up. Isobel is going off to do some military photography and she's having a date with some skeezy [probably sexist] UNIT chap (or something) and The Doctor, Zoe, and Jamie all hop back in the TARDIS and head off to their next adventure.

And What About The Doctor?: Coming into this serial, I was excited for Patrick Troughton. He's the sort of guy who is a legend in his own way, someone you can't ignore. I know Steven Moffat and Russell T Davies both say that he was a huge part in making Doctor Who impact on their lives, and it's very easy to see why.

Troughton blew me away. He has this charm and innocence and this boundless boundless energy to him that makes him sparkle in ways that... just work. But he also has this constant sense of thought (as all good Doctors do) and knowledge of what it going on and a need for seriousness. If I may be so bold, I think he was the one who defined the character of The Doctor, not Hartnell. He came in and made it fun and showed this completely different version of The Doctor who was just... brilliant. And it worked. He really made the character his own and added a lot of the energy and mannerism that would become staple for all subsequent Doctors.

And if that doesn't speak to his awesome, I don't know what will.

I know that, for me, he's definitely one of the Doctors who'll resonate as one of my favorites and it's a huge shame that his episodes are the hardest hit in terms of "missing episodes" because he was quite an amazing Doctor. Can't wait to see more of him (and there's more of him coming up sooner than you might think...)

Next Time!: Jon Pertwee (3rd Doctor)! and The Master! "The Claws of Axos!" Coming soon!

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