Doctor Who (1963)

Season 22 Episode 1

Attack of the Cybermen, Part One

Aired Saturday 5:15 PM Jan 05, 1985 on BBC
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Episode Summary

Attack of the Cybermen, Part One
London, 1985. The alien mercenary Lytton has been stranded here for nearly a year, but now he has a plan to escape. But how does it involve the Doctor's old enemies - and why are they on Earth at this point in history?

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  • The Cold War Written by Paula Moore Directed by Matthew Robinson

    Lytton (re working with Daleks): “That wasn’t out of choice. Your regeneration has made you vindictive, Doctor.�

    The Doctor: “Not at all. I’ve never found it difficult to despise people like you.�

    Lytton: “I’m not working for the Cybermen. I’m in the same predicament as you.�

    I know I really shouldn’t judge prior to seeing but if enough people say that “The Twin Dilemmaâ€� was a poor way to debut Colin as the Sixth Doctor, then maybe they are telling the truth. The question now however is whether or not this story is also as disappointing as many people have similarly pointed out.

    It’s the opening episode to the show’s 22nd season and it features a familiar foe. I’ve encountered disappointing or slow moving stories involving many of the big Who villains (or downright awful if we have to talk about “Time Flight�), so I can forgive if this is a serial that isn’t up to scratch.

    It’s been two seasons since the last time we’ve had Cybermen and even then, they were nothing more than just foot soldiers. Here they seem to have an audacious scheme that apparently The Doctor’s TARDIS can play a vital role in things. Typical Cybermen, always out for something nasty, aren’t they?

    Until Lytton and his band of thieves came along, all they seemed to be doing was just killing anyone who entered the sewers. It wasn’t until they took both Lytton and Griffiths on board that we began to learn that they had bigger plots in their midst.

    Lytton didn’t exactly waste time in telling them that The Doctor was on Earth and the Cybermen were easily able to get inside the TARDIS and take him, Peri and Russell hostage before killing the latter for trying to protect Peri.

    Getting another visit to Telos should evoke some strong memories of “The Tomb Of The Cybermen� but it doesn’t really. There’s something of an information dump though when The Doctor told everyone that Telos wasn’t the Cybermen’s original stomping ground. Lytton also took a fair amount of pleasure in having The Doctor tell everyone about what really happened to Mondas.

    Now I do actually like the Cybermen as villains and while I’m realistic enough not to expect every one of their stories to have the same sort of calibre as “Earthshock�, I did wish that this story had been a lot stronger than it was. There aren’t any even decent Cybermen/Doctor scenes so to speak.

    In fact, I think aside from the Cybermen calling The Doctor foolish, deceptive and taking pot shots at his emotional responses (such as going back to save Lytton), we are more or less scarce on some genuinely meaty scenes between the pair of them. I think The Doctor might almost be the character to have the least amount of screen time with the Cybermen in this story.

    As for Lytton, I didn’t mind him all that much in “Revelation Of The Daleks� but at the same time, I wasn’t entirely begging for a return either. Still the story does sort of serve him reasonably well, even if he spent the first half insulting his crew, offering his services to the Cybermen and questioning The Doctor’s ethics.

    It might have helped if the writer had organically shown us that Lytton was actually going to be the good guy in this story. After his antics with the Daleks, it’s pretty hard to believe that Lytton would want to help the Cryons (Telos’s original inhabitants) in stopping the Cybermen from leaving Telos and blowing up the planet.

    Lytton did suffer for trying to betray the Cybermen though. The show’s occasional flashes of gore, something which Eric Saward seemed fonder of than other writers and script editors for the series don’t usually bother me but even I found bits of what happened to Lytton a touch excessive.

    Still Lytton chose to die rather than let The Doctor save him. The fact that The Doctor and Peri then mused about Lytton during the end scene in the TARDIS ended the story on something of an unusual note. I think if better played out, I would’ve found myself caring more for Lytton and his respective demise.

    It would’ve helped if the story had explained why Lytton wanted to help the Cryons cause. Even if the Cybermen did change history and have Earth destroyed instead of Mondas, why would he care? During many of his scenes with Russell, Payne and Griffiths, he showed countless disdain for them and made some anti-human comments to boot.

    As for the Cryons, even by 1980’s standards, they do look bloody awful and are badly voiced to boot. Also there’s something rather depressing about the fact that one of them, Flast would happily die if it meant stopping the Cybermen from leaving Telos. Sure, she might not have wanted her planet extinct but she could’ve planned something much better than would’ve ensured the remainder of her species survived.

    In the midst of both parts of this story we also had to deal with partially Cybernised duo Stratten and Bates trying to get access to one of the time vessels in order to get off Telos. I should’ve found their bickering amusing but it annoyed me to no end and the fact that both of them got killed along with Griffiths only added to the pointlessness of the entire subplot. Maybe that time could’ve been spent on some decent Doctor/Cybermen scenes but no, not really.

    As for The Doctor and Peri, I have to admit the dynamic here is still taking some getting used to. It’s very biting in places and there are times when you wonder why Peri would stick around when The Doctor undermines her intelligence. Still though, I do find that I like both the Sixth Doctor and Peri a little more than I originally did.

    It also helped that Peri wasn’t so damsel in distress as well, seeing as that occasionally becomes a default setting with the character. Most of her scenes with the Cryons were naff but I did her moments with Russell, Lytton and she came in handy more than once when The Doctor nearly got shot.

    Also in “Attack Of The Cybermen�

    Seeing as I was born in 1985, I sort of got a kick in the setting being in the same year as the story aired. I know, kinda dumb but what the hey?

    Payne (re Russell): “I don’t think he likes us very much, Mr Lytton.�

    Lytton: “If he lets me down, he’ll have very good reason not to. You Payne will kill him.�

    Russell was of course played by Davros actor Terry Molloy. I’ve just realised that every actor who has played Davros on this series has played other roles in the Whoverse as well.

    The Doctor: “Ungrateful wretch.�

    Peri: “What do you expect, applause?�

    The Doctor: “A little gratitude wouldn’t irretrievably damage my ego.�

    Peri: “Come off it, Doctor. No-one is more surprised than you that we came through it.�

    Peri: “Look, Doctor, since you’ve regenerated, it’s like your memory’s been put through the meat grinder. I mean, it’s all there but in a pile of unrelated bits and pieces.�

    The Doctor: “That’s a horrible simile.�

    According to Peri, The Doctor has called her Tegan, Susan, Jamie, Zoë and Zodin. We also ended up in Totters Lane as well.

    Peri: “Never do such a stupid thing again. I could’ve killed you.�

    The Doctor: “I believe you.�

    Peri: “Don’t patronise me.�

    The Doctor: “I wouldn’t dare.�

    The Doctor: “How do I know you won’t change your mind?�

    Cyberleader: “You have my word.�

    The Doctor: “I’m not sure that’s enough.�

    Did Eric Saward really write this story? All of those rumours often suggested that he did and there are some familiar elements to Saward’s type of writing.

    The Doctor: “You’re enjoying this.�

    Lytton: “It’s not often I have the opportunity to watch a Time Lord squirm.�

    Peri: “I’m not interested in the Cryons.�

    Lytton: “That’s compassion for you.�

    Peri: “I didn’t mean … it’s not like that. I’m confused.�

    It was cool to actually see The Doctor briefly get the chameleon circuit working for the TARDIS, even if it didn’t last.

    Cyberleader: “You are foolish, Doctor. Next time we will kill you.�

    Flast: “You are a Time Lord?�

    The Doctor: “Yes and at the moment, a rather angry one.�

    It would be nice if the Time Lords occasionally asked The Doctor for his help instead of twisting events to make him help them.

    The Doctor (re Lytton): “Why didn’t he say something?�

    Peri: “You never gave him a chance.�

    This came out on DVD in March 2009, with a commentary from Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Terry Molloy and Sarah Berger. “The Cyber Story� is probably the strongest feature on the DVD. Although nowhere near a classic for either a Cybermen or a Colin Baker story, there are many other stories that are disappointing in comparison to “Attack Of The Cybermen�. If some of the subplots had been ditched and we got more Doctor/Cybermen scenes, I think this would’ve been much better than it was.moreless
Stephen Wale

Stephen Wale


Guest Star

Stephen Churchett

Stephen Churchett


Guest Star

John Ainley

John Ainley


Guest Star

Michael Attwell

Michael Attwell


Recurring Role

Michael Kilgarriff

Michael Kilgarriff

Cyber Controller

Recurring Role

David Banks

David Banks

Cyber Leader

Recurring Role

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Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (6)

    • Continuity: When Russell picks up the cyberweapon, he fires it, leaving a scorch mark on the wall. This scorch mark is visible earlier in the episode, notably when the Doctor and Peri are discussing Halley's Comet.

    • Equipment Visible: When the second Cyberman is destroyed in the TARDIS, the wire controlling the explosive charge can be seen dangling from his back and out of the TARDIS interior door.

    • Continuity: In the cliffhanger scene, the TARDIS doors close themselves right after the Cybermen enter.

    • Plot Hole: The Doctor leaves his sonic lance embedded in the cyber scout, apparently so that Lytton can discover it.

    • Revealing Mistake: When the Telos work party member gets shot by a Cyberman, he tumbles down the hill and hits the camera, shaking it.

    • Interesting irony that Terry Molloy, who played Davros from 1984 to 1988, should appear in a Cyberman story, since the Daleks and the Cybermen have vied for fan's attention for years as top villains. Michael Wisher, the first actor to play Davros, also appeared in a Cyberman story, Revenge Of The Cybermen.

  • QUOTES (5)

    • The Doctor: Shoot him, Peri.
      Peri: But, for real?
      Doctor: Yes!
      Russell: You murder a police officer, you'll get thirty years!
      The Doctor: A handful of heartbeats, to a Time Lord.

    • Peri: Look, Doctor, since you've regenerated, it's like your memory's been put through the meat grinder. I mean, it's all there, but in a pile of unrelated bits and pieces.
      The Doctor: That's a horrible simile!
      Peri: It's true, though. In the past couple of days you've called me Tegan, Zoe, Susan… and on one occasion, you even referred to me as Jamie!
      The Doctor: Merely slips of the tongue.
      Peri: I rather think they're slips of the mind. And while we're about it, who is this "Terrible Zodin"?
      The Doctor: I called you Zodin, did I? Oh, they don't villains like that anymore! A woman of rare guile, and devilish cunning.
      Peri: Thanks a lot!

    • The Doctor: I suddenly feel conspicuous.
      Peri: I'm not surprised, in that coat!

    • Peri: Look, Doctor, do you really think you're up to this? I mean, you've only recently regenerated, and yet you've undertaken so much work. Well, what I really mean to say is, you still seem a… a little unstable.
      The Doctor: Unstable? Unstable? Unstable? This is me, Peri! At this very moment, I am as stable as you will ever see me!
      Peri: Oh, dear.
      The Doctor: You must forget how I used to be. I'm a Time Lord! A man of science, temperament, and passion!
      Peri: And a very loud voice.
      The Doctor: Yes. Yes, that too. But not unstable! This is the real me, Peri. But don't be afraid, he won't hurt you. Promise.

    • Payne [ hefting a sledge hammer ]: I used to use one of these when I worked for the council.
      Lytton: This time it's for swinging; not leaning on.

  • NOTES (7)

    • DVD: Doctor Who: Attack of the Cybermen (BBCDVD 2436) released in March 2009.

      Video: Doctor Who: Attack of the Cybermen (BBCV 7048) released as part of the Doctor Who: Attack of the Cybermen/The Tenth Planet box set (BBCV 7030) in November 2000. Doctor Who: Attack of the Cybermen released in U.S.A./Canada (Warner Home Video E1609) in May 2001.

    • Novelisation: Doctor Who - Attack of the Cybermen by Eric Saward (ISBN 0 426 20290 2) first published by W H Allen in 1989.

    • The working title for this story was The Cold War.

    • The first of several violent stories this season. Here we have three decapitations, one severed arm, two snapped necks, one stabbing and one set of gorily crushed wrists, in addition to the usual complement of shootings.

    • Although credited to Paula Moore (apparently Eric Saward's girlfriend) the script was supposedly the result of discussions between Saward himself and fan eminence Ian Levine (continuity consultant on the show for some years).

    • Lytton returns from the previous season's Resurrection of the Daleks. The Cybercontroller was previously seen in Season 5's
      Tomb of the Cybermen
      . Plot elements from both these stories, and Season 4's The Tenth Planet, are central to the storyline.

    • This season saw a major change in format for the series, with episodes extended to 45 minutes and the number of episodes halved. This resulted in major changes in pacing, as there was no longer a cliffhanger every 22 minutes.

      These serials were re-edited into 25-minute episodes for broadcast in some overseas markets.