Timestamp #79: Revenge of the Cybermen

Doctor Who: Revenge of the Cybermen
(4 episodes, s12e17-e20, 1975)

Timestamp 079 Revenge of the Cybermen

 

It has been a long time since we encountered the Cybermen. That break ends as the Time Ring delivers our heroes back to the Nerva Beacon, just not exactly as they left it a few weeks ago.

As they investigate the station, they discover several dead bodies, some of which are obviously mannequins. Harry estimates that they have been dead for a couple of weeks. In that time, the station has been ravaged by a plague and is under quarantine, and is being protected by the few remaining survivors. Those survivors are also trying to fulfill the station’s mission as a warning buoy for a nearby hazard to navigation: The Voga asteroid.

The Doctor determines that this is the Nerva Beacon before it became the Ark in Space as a cybermat creeps by undetected. The team unlock a door using a screwdriver (but not the sonic one) and reach the control room just after the cybermat kills operator Warner and Professor Kellman, a planetary surveyor, alters the communication logs. Those logs hold evidence that the asteroid is inhabited, which Kellman claims isn’t true. The Doctor and his companions are captured by the station’s crew, and they examine Warner while being under suspicion of bringing the plague to Nerva. As the Doctor investigates the virus and Voga, Kellman spies on them with a makeshift receiver and then transmits a message to a waiting Cyberman spacecraft.

The Vogans, who share a common seal with the future Rassilon, are debating their situation. The one called Vorus is in control of the mines, and they assume that the reason they haven’t been contacted by their agent is that the Cybermen are monitoring their communications. The Cybermen were last heard from centuries before. They vanished right after attacking Voga near the end of the Cyber War.

Following his suspicions, the Doctor investigates Kellman’s quarters and finds gold, which Voga has in abundance. Kellman returns and the Doctor hides under the bed, but Kellman sets a trap that electrifies the deck plating and locks the Doctor in the room. Sarah Jane reviews the station’s logs and is attacked by the cybermat. The Doctor escapes Kellman’s quarters and rushes to Sarah Jane’s aid after killing the cybermat, but she’s already been bitten. The Doctor rushes her to the transmat, which will filter the poison from her blood, but the device has been sabotaged. Kellman overhears the conversation and the plans to arrest him, so he arms himself.

The Doctor jury-rigs the transmat, and it beams Sarah Jane and Harry to the asteroid, saving Sarah Jane’s life. As Harry finds the abundance of gold, the Vogans capture the travelers. Meanwhile, the station crew captures Kellman. The crew and the Doctor interrogate Kellman as the Cyberman ship approaches. The Cyberman Leader is identified by a black headpiece. Gold can kill the Cybermen by suffocation, explaining why they want to destroy Voga. The crew threaten Kellman with a cybermat using a control box they found in his quarters, coercing him to give up the transmat control drive.

The Vogans prep a device called the Sky Striker for use against the Cybermen. Councillor Tyrum, a leader of the Vogans, has dispatched troops to take over the mines and stop Vorus’s plans to re-emerge on the galactic market. Tyrum fears that they will be attacked again. Vorus plans to kill the humans and hide the Sky Striker from Tyrum. Harry and Sarah Jane escape just as the execution team arrives, and Tyrum’s militia arrives to force the Guardians to stand down.

You know, the Vogan politics are a bit of a drag on the story at this point.

The Doctor repairs the transmat but cannot locate his companions. The Cyberman ship docks with Nerva and board the station. The crew tries to repel them, but are struck down by cannons in the heads of the intruders. They also take down the Doctor. They are all merely stunned, and Kellman tries to find information on the Doctor but only comes up with an apple core and jelly babies. Meanwhile on Voga, Sarah Jane and Harry are taken before Tyrum and explain themselves. The mention of the cybermat sparks Tyrum’s interest in confronting Vorus.

As Kellman outlines his plan for the Leader, it is explained that his reward for destroying Voga is rule over the solar system. Kellman is sent to Voga to verify that the transmat is functional, and he is taken captive by the Vogans. The Doctor and humans, with a Cyberman escort, are to take bombs to the mines and set them, after which they will have fourteen minutes to escape. They cannot be defused, and they will kill the carriers if the harness is removed. The Vogans ambush the bomb team, but the Cybermen make short work of them.

Kellman is taken to Tyrum and explains that he was working with Vorus to destroy the Cybermen with the Sky Striker. This will result in the destruction of the Nerva Beacon as well, and the companions plan to warn/rescue the Doctor. Sarah Jane beams up to Nerva and overhears that the Cybermen have lied about the fourteen minute delay.

Kellman and Harry try to intercept the bombs as the Doctor and his team make their way to the center of the asteroid. They meet up as Kellman causes a cave-in the kills him and knocks out the Doctor’s team. They stop Harry from unbuckling the harness, and the Doctor humorously declares that Harry is an imbecile. The team makes a plan to attack the Cybermen while one of them continues on to confuse the trackers on their harnesses. Their plan is foiled by the sheer strength of the Cybermen, but one of the crew unbuckles his harness and destroys the enemies with the suicide switch. As the tracker signal is lost, the Leader orders a manual detonation, and Sarah Jane rushes them. They brush her off and attempt the detonation, but the Doctor has overridden the communications link and disabled the bombs.

Sarah Jane explains to the Cybermen how Kellman betrayed them. The Doctor convinces the Vogans to wait just long enough for him to rescue Sarah Jane. The Cybermen develop an alternative plan to crash Nerva into Voga with bombs and Sarah Jane onboard, and the Doctor frees Sarah Jane and then uses the remote control cybermat to ambush the Cybermen with gold dust.

As the Nerva Beacon races toward Voga, Vorus launches the Sky Striker as he shot by the militiamen. The Doctor and Sarah Jane are captured and are tied up as the remaining Cybermen leave in their ship. The Doctor frees himself and Sarah Jane, reasons with the Vogans on how to change the rocket’s course, and then overrides the gyros to park Nerva on the other side of the Voga asteroid. Just as the station stabilizes, the TARDIS finally arrives to meet the Doctor, and Harry returns to Nerva via transmat. They leave at the summons of the Brigadier who communicated an emergency through the space-time telegraph.

Overall, it was a decent story, but not particularly strong. I liked the Cyberman side of it, but the internal Voga politics dragged on the story. The last two episodes nearly made up for it with the action, but the setup took far too long and was way to choppy and erratic as the writers tried to make the Voga stuff fit.

All in all, I consider it a so-so return that should have been better.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

UP NEXT – Twelfth Series Summary

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

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7 thoughts on “Timestamp #79: Revenge of the Cybermen

  1. This one is kind of a weak cap to a pretty stellar season. It’ll be another long wait before you see the Cybermen again but at least next time they’ll be upgraded and reimagined in a pretty awesome story. That “Seal of Rassilon” on Voga is the first time that prop is used in the series and isn’t meant to signify anything. they used to reuse props all the time. It has caused no end of fan speculation, though, regarding the Vogan/Time Lord connection.

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