“You belong to us. You will be like us”
The Cybercontroller. The Tomb of the Cybermen
“Life in plastic, it’s fantastic”
Aqua, Barbie Girl
The plot is basically Time Team with reanimated corpses implanted with circuitry. But for the sake of people who have no idea what the hell I am referring to, let me give a better synopsis…
Archaeologists go to the planet Telos to find tomb, they find tomb but occupants are not as dead as they might have hoped. Mayhem occurs. The end.
The Cybermen are more or less just like the Borg from Star Trek but with better dialogue and handles on their heads. Oh, and the Cybermen are made from sticky-backed plastic and saucepan lids. They pride themselves on being emotionless but Mr Spock they ain’t.. Their Cybercontroller has a nifty vein-covered dome. Very cool. And when they break out of their icy tombs? Even cooler. Pun intended.
The Cybermen are not on their own though, they also have Cybermats (which my spellchecker insists should be spelt ‘beermats’). The Cybermats are little woodlouse-esque metal beasties that enjoy attacking and jumping onto people. The home in on human brainwaves like a cat homes in on your dinner when you are eating it. Presumably the Doctor is the only one safe from these critters.
This was the third Cyberman story and arguably (well, I always argue it is) the best Cyberman story ever. Better than Earthshock and The Cybermen Go Bananas. It makes Silver Nemesis look like a crummy three-part adventure which doesn’t go anywhere… Oh wait…
This isn’t to say that The Tomb of the Cybermen has no flaws. It so does. Those American accents. The Cybermen’s byzantine plans. Oh, and the casual racism. Yes, that.
Racism? ‘Fraid so. Just look at Roy Stewart as Toberman. Here we have a silent black man whose only role is to pick up things, push things and just be threatening due to his ethnicity and muscular size. He is also the servant (slave?) of Kaftan (who looks like she has been blacked up).
For Toberman, a silent part, they cast a black man. For Kaftan, a speaking part, they cast a white woman and coated her with gravy to play a Middle Eastern character. And then they named her after the first vaguely Middle Eastern thing they could think of, a kaftan! No, really. That is just not right. Pun unintended.
Could be worse though, they could have named her ‘Hookah’.
Shirley Cooklin as Kaftan looks really greasy. I guess this adds to her status as a villainess. Can you imagine kissing her? You’d look like you had been eating a mud pie. Did they really need to black her up?
The racism in this adventure could only be made worse if their spaceship had a Confederate flag on the side of it. Yee-ha!
Don’t let this racism put you off the story though. While Toberman is a caricature, he is also a hero that saves the day. Don’t judge it too harshly. Other stories from around this time had ethnic characters in better non-racist and defined roles. I am not making an excuse but forgive the production team, they knew not what they did (or at least I hope they weren’t being intentionally racist).
This is a story featuring Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor. The vaguest Doctor ever. You may have thought Sylvester McCoy was pretty vague but compared to Troughton he is more obvious than a man wearing nothing but electric pink panties at a goth party.
In an adventure that features so much incidence and derring-do, there are small moments which outshines the more exciting scenes. When the Doctor mentions his family to Victoria and how he lets them sleep in his mind, simply wonderful. And this scene…
Doctor: Anyone who wants to leave should do so now.
(Jamie walks away)
Doctor: Not you, Jamie.
That scene had me laughing. I would recommend this story just for that one scene. Priceless.
Matt Smith, the Eleventh Doctor, loved this story when he watched it and based some of his performance on Troughton. This is a favourite story of many fans. There is a reason why it is called a classic, because it is (he finished lamely).
Go, go! Watch and enjoy!