The Invasion

by Harry on July 14, 2007

The Invasion (UK) is, perhaps, the greatest of the Cyberman stories – prefiguring the Pertwee years on earth, establishing UNIT as a regular feature and clearly influenced by Quatermass 2. It set the stage for the earthbound adventures of the Pertwee years (even as a kid it struck me as odd that aliens all seemed so intent on using S.E. England as their landing stage preparatory to the domination of Earth). Nicholas Courtney is great – finding his character, but not yet as trigger happy or irritated with the Doctor as he would become Its not been watched much in recent years, not least because two episodes were victims of the BBC’s recurrent vandalism, part of the criminal destruction of a good deal of its output in the fifties and sixties, even into the seventies. (They even managed to discard the 1972 remake of Dick Barton, which they’d had to remake because they’d thrown out every single episode of the original series; it was recovered only because some lunatic in Australia recorded it when it on broadcast). The Andromeda Anthology deals with lost/destroyed episodes by using stills and text on the screen to replace the missing bits. I found this a bit hard to take (still, worth it for the sake of seeing a classic, and Julie Christie really is great). The Invasion deals with it better

(and more expensively) by animating the missing bits; the animation is surprisingly atmospheric and as close to seamless as possible. They’ve done especially well at capturing Pat Troughton’s character, irritable but frivolous; the London street scenes are lovingly wrought (as they were in Dangermouse, another Cosgrove Hall production I’ve recently re-watched). Don’t worry, the iconic scene of the Cybermen invading London is there as broadcast. The soundtrack for the missing bits is reconstructed from the cassette and reel-to-reel recordings made off-air by fans (and since donated). One great extra is a hilarious documentary about off-air recording, in which 5 grown men confess their habits of childhood and adolescence. They each seem to have recorded every single episode over several years. Watching it I can suddenly see why Americans think that all Englishmen are gay and why everyone who isn’t a Dr. Who fan thinks that we are pathetic. The other nice extra is about the “making of” and contains a short section in which several of the actors talk about Troughton as an actor and colleague – Frazer Hines is especially nice, talking about their obviously close relationship, which lights up the screen (not least in the scene where they are both visibly quite drunk). Fantastic, as the man said. (More Dr. Who news on its way, once the embargo is lifted).



Nicholas Whyte 07.14.07 at 9:13 pm

Lots of other good stuff in The Invasion – Wendy Padbury as Zoe is very watchable, and appears to have something mildly sapphic going with Sally Foulkner’s Isobel. And Kevin Stoney as the villainous Tobias Vaughn is superb.

If you ever see the novelisation (by a later Doctor Who companion, Ian Marter) knocking around in a used book store, snap it up – it’s one of his better ones.


grackle 07.14.07 at 10:22 pm

“Watching it I can suddenly see why Americans think that all Englishmen are gay…”

No, no no, just Public School Englishmen.


harry b 07.14.07 at 11:18 pm

Oh, no, I think that’s a mistake. I’d be amazed if more than one of the offenders in the extra are public school. I know for sure, too, that I have frequently been assumed to be gay by Americans — mainly men, but sometimes, too, by female students (I know that because several have just straightforwardly said it to me).

nicholas, your site is amazing.


c.l. ball 07.15.07 at 2:38 am

victims of the BBC’s recurrent vandalism, part of the criminal destruction of a good deal of its output in the fifties and sixties, even into the seventies.

I’m sorry but is Harry B. saying that the BBC destroyed its own video archives!? And of Dr. Who?!!


Joel Turnipseed 07.15.07 at 5:13 am

Hmmm… this explains, in part, why the BBC still haven’t come out with a good comprehensive set? I like to buy my TV series’ in one shot, if I can (e.g., boxed sets of West Wing and M*A*S*H were terrific; the Star Treks are in the Wish List, etc.). The scattershot nature of the Dr. Who issues (not unlike Fraggle Rock and the Muppet Show) has put me off reliving one of the long-forgotten pleasures of my youth.

As for the impression of Americans: I fondly remember many a junior high/high school night whiled away with PBS re-runs of Dr. Who (accompanied, in junior high with Tester’s paints and model kits–and in high school with the fresh aroma of incense and herb), and I never thought of any Englishmen as gay, except for Paul Weller and Morrissey. No, it was the American kids who couldn’t leave well enough alone watching Dr. Who–but who had also to dress like him (Tom Barker clones, all), whom I thought impossibly queer.


Doctor Memory 07.15.07 at 5:31 am

c.l.: yeah, the BBC in the 60s was notorious for tossing entire warehouses of their old programming (.75″ videotape, film, audio) into landfills and incinerators. Large chunks of lots of shows are gone forever as a result: Doctor Who gets a bit more press because of obsessive fans, but it’s far from alone.

To be fair, much of it isn’t missed, and in the pre-digital age preservation of A/V material was a much more expensive proposition: it took not only space, but preferably climate-controlled space.


Hidari 07.15.07 at 10:33 am

The most notorious and grotesque act of this cultural vandalism (sorry, Dr Who fans!) was losing most of the first two series of ‘Not only but also’. Yes that’s the best two series of the greatest show ever made by (by popular consent) the greatest comedian the UK has ever produced. Well done BBC.

However the Beeb still has a complete and full copy of every episode of Eastenders so that’s the main thing.


Gdr 07.15.07 at 12:32 pm has a survey of the BBC’s destruction of its own archives: among the losses are Z-Cars, Hancock’s Half Hour, Dixon of Dock Green, the 1964 adaptation of Madame Bovary, the 1965 adaption of Charles Kingsley’s “Hereward the Wake” …


vivian 07.16.07 at 1:41 am

Harry, why do you link to Dangermouse seasons 1-6 and not the “complete” set? Looks like most “people who view this” agree with you but I can’t tell why.

Joel, didn’t your social assumptions distinguish between “asexual” (or unaware) and “gay”?


harry b 07.16.07 at 2:32 am

joel; there’s no real need to watch the Doctor in any sort of order (apart from the occasional series, like the Keys to Time, Trial of a Time Lord, etc, but those are close to incomprehensible anyway, so once you accept that watching them out of order has its own rewards).

vivian: carelessness? That’s my reason, anyway. But, I could justify it after the fact, having recently gone through a lot of DM, by observing that there is a limit to how often one can hear that song go through one’s head without wanting to bang it against a brick wall (the head, not the song).


harry b 07.16.07 at 2:33 am

PS; hidari’s right, by the way, and no self-respecting Doctor Who fan would deny it.


alphie 07.16.07 at 2:39 am

Is this the same story that was shown in the new Dr. Who series where the cybermen and the daleks engage in smack talk?


John Quiggin 07.16.07 at 4:54 am

In current series, the aliens have shifted their focus to Cardiff.


vivian 07.17.07 at 1:44 am

Is it still always in a quarry, or would that be a spoiler?


harry b 07.17.07 at 3:04 am

Vivian — its a different league, honestly. This is high-tech high-octane sci-fi, no expense spared (well, except for the fact that Cardiff is cheap). You have too watch it. If you watch The Invasion you gradually realise that there are, in fact, only 6 actual cybermen. IN the new series season 2 2-parter story about the cybermen there seem to be thousands of them. Its spectacular.

Of course, I’d have said all of the above about the old Dr. Who, but I’d have been being ironic.


Doctor Memory 07.17.07 at 6:05 am

Vivian: every once in a while it’s still in a quarry. I think it’s intended as a nostalgic touch.


Tom Beck 07.18.07 at 7:14 pm

“The Invasion” is indeed a superb episode. What is interesting is, even before they replaced the missing episodes with animation, a bootleg of the suriving 6 copies was circulating among fandom starting in the late 1980s (I have a copy somewhere) – and it was perfectly followable, even missing parts 1 and 4 (which I think are the destroyed episodes). It’s one of the rare stories where Troughton played it (mostly) straight with very little of his stock-in-trade (at least as the Doctor) silliness. One of his best.

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