Doctor Who: The Invasion Review

The Invasion is not only a rare eight-part story, not only features the debut of UNIT but it’s also the first story to ever receive animated missing episodes. On top of all that it has Cybermen in it, which admittedly isn’t very rare for the Second Doctor story, but there you go. That being said they only appear in half of it anyway as it does take a good while for the invading to actually happen… thankfully the human villain in the story is very entertaining! Want to know more? Read on!

Synopsis:

The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe return to Earth and meet up with an old friend, former Colonel and now Brigadier, Lethbridge-Stewart – now in charge of the newly formed UNIT who are investigating electronics manufacturer International Electromatics. IE’s managing director, Tobias Vaughn, is working with the Cybermen. He is planning to transmit a hypnotic signal through IE’s products, leaving the Earth paralyzed and allowing the Cybermen to emerge from the London sewers and take over…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

I may as well get the obvious screenshot out of the way: “The Cybermen walk down the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral.” There. Done.

While there are a lot of very valid complaints you can make about the opening four episodes, which focus entirely on Tobias Vaughn (Kevin Stoney) and his International Electromatics company being investigated by UNIT, but there are some highlights, mostly Vaughn himself. He’s a great villain, calm apart from sudden bursts of anger, arrogant enough that he keeps talking down to the Cyber-Planner he keeps in his cupboard to communicate with the Cyber Fleet he’s in league with and he even has a somewhat bumbling and slightly violent henchman named Packer (Peter Halliday) that he orders about. It’s proper Bond-level villainy and I love it. During this time The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe try to meet up with Prof. Travers from the Yeti stories but instead meet Isobel (Sally Faulkner), the daughter of one of Travers’ old friends named Prof. Watkins (Edward Burnham), the two of them staying in Travers’ house while he’s away.

She soon lets on that Watkins hadn’t been seen since going off to meet Tobias Vaughn at IE’s HQ, and so the four of them soon head off for a look, in two sets of two. It’s here they soon meet Benton (John Levene’s debut appearance as the future Sgt!) and other UNIT soldiers who show Jamie and The Doctor to their HQ on a large aircraft, where they reunite with the now Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. For the next few episodes we go back and forth between UNIT HQ, IE HQ and Watkins’ apartment, with Zoe and Isobel being kidnapped once or twice and eventually a daring helicopter rescue where The Doctor and Jamie climb down a rope ladder to pick the girls up from their cell window. It’s at the end of Episode 4 that we get to actually see a Cyberman break out of its cocoon.

I still like the animation, even if it’s been eclipsed by later efforts. Plus its two slower early episodes out of eight so it hardly impacts the story much anyway!

From here on out we then get to what will soon become the norm: UNIT soldiers doing battle with an invading force of aliens while The Doctor and his companions dart around between locations trying to fix up some gadget to stop them. The Cyber-Plan created by the Cyber-Planner revolves around electronics that IE had been spreading around the globe all containing a device that will disable and eventually pacify anyone nearby, but The Doctor manages to save his friends from the soundwave before he heads off to see Vaughn. UNIT, Jamie, Zoe and Isobel eventually fight off the Cybermen on the streets (and sewers!) while The Doctor and Vaughn, who was finally betrayed by the Cybermen when they decided to drop a bomb big enough to destroy all life on Earth (that’ll do it!) run around with a special box that amplified emotion and therefore disables the invaders. Eventually Vaughn stops the radio signal allowing the Cybermen to land on Earth at the cost of his life, then The Doctor and UNIT coordinate missile attacks to stop the bomb and destroy the Cyber-Ship above Earth.

There are a lot of fun bits, and Vaughn was a gullible egomaniac right to the end despite changing sides due to necessity at the end. The animation for the two missing episodes are good too, maybe a tad more simple than some nowadays but they work perfectly well as inserts in the middle of six existing episodes.

The Bad:

Vaughn and Packer’s “evil villain / cowardly henchman” roles personified perfectly in one picture.

With an eight part story it won’t come as a shock to find out some of the story feels rather slow or repetitive. The fact that the titular Invasion doesn’t actually begin until more than half way through should tell you a lot about those first four episodes, and the final episode includes far too much screen watching as everyone stands and stares at monitors displaying the missiles and their positions in what’s supposed to create tension but instead just creates boredom.

I do still enjoy the story overall, the night I first got the DVD and just sat down and binge-watched the whole eight parter in one night is still a fond memory, but now the novelty of the animated episodes has long worn off and the thrill of watching it for the first time is gone I can pick up the flaws, especially the repeated trips to IE headquarters…

The Continuity:

The Brig and Benton… in black and white! Plus Zoe looking like she’s zonked out on drugs! Bonus!

Tobias Vaughn returns in the Seventh Doctor story “Original Sin”, both the book and audio, though the latter doesn’t explicitly mention his name due to copyright reasons. He apparently transferred his mind into a cyber-body before his death and influence a good number of Earth-based incidents in other Doctor Who storylines. Very fanwanky, but hey-ho.

The origin of the Cybermen from this story is explored in the Second Doctor audio “The Isos Network” which also directly follows on from this batch of episodes. It also has to be mentioned that the Cybermen invade London several more times, including using the sewers again in the Sixth Doctor TV story “Attack of the Cybermen”, the Eighth Doctor Comic “The Flood” and the Twefth Doctor TV two-parter “Dark Water / Death in Heaven”, which even includes a recreation of the shot of the Cybermen walking down the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral from this very story…

Overall Thoughts:

“I’m sorry Doctor, I didn’t think inviting an emotionless race of killers onto the planet would turn out like this!” “Yes, well… You’re a bit stupid then really, aren’t you?”

The Invasion is a long one, but thankfully alongside the always fun to see (in the 60s anyway) Cybermen, Tobias Vaughn fills the role of lead villain extremely well, especially during the first half where it’s just him to focus on. UNIT is fun to see debut and the Brig and co. get to do lots of Third Doctor era things, which is always a plus in my book. Some of the “filler” and time wasting brings it down from great, but it’s still very fun… just maybe split it up over a couple of days…

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