DOCTOR WHO - Looking back at ATTACK OF THE CYBERMEN - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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From Totters Lane to Telos, Christopher Morley prepares for the Attack of the Cybermen.

Attack Of The Cybermen served as Episode One of Season 22 of Classic Who- the first full series to feature Colin Baker in the role of the Sixth Doctor. Somewhat unusually he'd actually made his first full appearance in the final story of the season beforehand, The Twin Dilemma. Amazingly Peri Brown opts to continue her travels with him even after being strangled to within an inch of her life- is she brave or stupid? Or maybe even both?

Nevertheless we find them heading for London in 1985, or as it was known at the time ' the present day'. And the new Doctor finds himself in a very old stomping ground. A certain scrapyard in Totter's Lane, to be precise. Pretty soon after leaving for the Stone Age, the First Doctor would discover that 'Sexy's chameleon circuit- the mechanism which should allow the TARDIS to blend in with whichever environment it should find itself in- was broken, leaving it stuck in the form of a police box.

Six selves later he's trying to fix that with generally disastrous results. Before being reset back into its original form after the circuit breaks it becomes a piece of furniture & then a pipe organ, which allows him to show off a little as he plays a little Bach! If you know your classical music you'll most likely recall the piece played here- its the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.

An old acquaintance of the Doctor's is at work, too! Remember Lytton from Resurrection Of The Daleks? Well, he's back as the leader of a gang of career criminals planning a big diamond heist. One of the gang, Russell, happens to be played by Terry Molloy- most wouldn't recognise him, as he was usually under a mask portraying Davros!

If that weren't enough the Cybermen are also back, & they've got a rather ambitious plan. They want to send Halley's Comet hurtling into 1985 see where this is going, right?

We've seen them hiding in London's sewers before, of course!

There's also a first appearance for the sonic lance. A handy tool both practically & as a weapon, it returns in the audio stories Paradise 5 & The Song Of Megoptera as well as Richelle Mead's Something Borrowed - which also serves as a return appearance for a certain female foe from Six's era! If that weren't enough there's a return visit to Telos, which the Doctor hasn't seen since his Second incarnation. The tombs used back then were commandeered from the Cryons, a chapter of their history first revealed here.

The writer of the episode was one ' Paula Moore'- actually a pseudonym. But for whom? One theory suggests it was a combination of the then script editor for the series, Eric Saward & collaborator Paula Woolsey, an ex-partner of his. Another suggests that it was in fact Saward with Ian Levine, which is disputed by Levine himself who had been taken on by producer John Nathan-Turner as an unofficial ' continuity consultant'. Just to confuse matters further, here's a quote from Saward on the issue:
"Ian only produced a couple of pages, that contained an idea - a very brief outline for the story. At the end of the day, I effectively wrote the whole thing. Yes Ian came up with some ideas, I will give him that credit, but he gives the impression that the whole concept was his and that I (Saward) just wrote it up.... Despite what Ian has said Paula (Woolsey) did make a minor contribution, although she gets all the money, which isn't particularly fair. We don't talk any more."
The stories we know Saward did write are The Visitation, which is said to be the one that got him into the script editor's chair in the first place, Earthshock, Resurrection Of The Daleks & Revelation Of The Daleks. His tenure as script editor began with Time-Flight, ending after The Ultimate Foe following arguments with Nathan-Turner over the storyline- he's also said to have disagreed with the casting of Colin Baker as the new Doctor.

Hitherto unseen ( at least in Doctor Who's terms) levels of violence also drew criticism. As remembered in this Sixth Doctor retrospective:
"Another of the shocking values of this era was the increase in violence the Doctor committed against his enemies. In ‘Attack of the Cybermen’ the Sixth Doctor destroyed not only the Cyber-Leader but also the Cyber-Controller with their own weapons. Further examples of violence were shown in ‘Vengeance on Varos’ when he knocked two guards into a pool of acid, then in ‘The Two Doctors’ when he killed Shockeye with cyanide and finally his use of force against a Dalek in ‘Revelation of the Daleks’, resulting in him shooting off its eye. This change in personality was a new direction for both the character and the show, and although it led to interesting developments, it also led to the show’s downfall. With the increase in violence, many changes were made behind the scenes, starting with the show being put on hiatus and the original plans for Season Twenty-Three being scrapped."

So, you could probably forgive Colin Baker wanting stronger last words than ' Carrot juice? Carrot juice, carrot juice, carrot juice!'. The words of Michael Grade might have stung his ears, too! He's said to have called him "absolutely God-awful" & had of course been vocal about his loathing for the programme in general during his time running BBC One. And so came the beginning of the end, which finally came with Survival, though Grade's attitude has seemingly mellowed slightly with the coming of New-Who. Speaking on Radio 4's Today in January 2009, he said
"The Doctor's back, he has beaten me..... It was a very clunky studio show, it was as if the producers had not been to see any Spielberg films, or Star Wars. It got left behind. Now of course the filmic quality, the production values that BBC Wales has put into the show has transformed it and I have to admit that I am now a keen viewer."
What of the cancelled Season 23, though ( the one conceived before Trial Of A Time Lord, which was in itself a reaction to the news of an eighteen-month hiatus)? See below & marvel at what might have been!

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