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Doctor Who: The Invasion

1/01/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Doctor Who: The Invasion in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who: The Invasion in the UK

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(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC BBCDVD 1829. 2 DVDs 190 minutes 8 * 24 minute black and white episodes with loads of extras: Price about 6.00 (UK) if you know where to look). Stars: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury, Sally Faulkner, Nicholas Courtney, Peter Halliday and Kevin Stoney.

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'The Invasion' story follows directly after 'The Mind Robber' story of 'Doctor Who' that I reviewed last month. However, two of its episodes were lost although the soundtrack was available from several home-grown sources that enabled the people at animation studio Cosgrove-Hall to do an animated low budget reconstruction. Considering that TV is dependent on close-ups than a wider field of action probably helped enormously in doing that. There were only a couple fully body shots and rotoscoping from the surviving episodes to match the backgrounds which is quite understandable to ensure things matched. Also done in black and white, there is little jarring switching between animation and live episodes although that might have something to do with the strength of Derrick Sherwin's script. Although I'm not sure how effective it would be to re-create an entire story in this manner, it at least allows the story to be shown in its entirety.

If anything, the real villains of the piece don't make an appearance before episodes four. The Doctor and his companions have more than enough problems with Tobias Vaughn (actor Kevin Stoney), owner of Elecromatics that supplies electronic gadgetry around the world and is in collusion with the Cybermen to fulfil his own aims of taking over the world. He sees the Cybermen as a stepping stone to doing this before dismissing them when the job is completed but seriously under-estimates his allies. Stoney's charm in all of this combined with utter ruthlessness is masterful and certainly on an equal with Patrick Troughton as the Doctor. If anything, it's a lesson that the human monster can also be the most deadly.

With this, their third appearance, the Cybermen are more like invading foot soldiers rather than an intellectual opposition to the Doctor although they are aware of who he is. Saying that, everyone has a memory of the Cybermen photo walking down the London street with St. Paul's Cathedral as the backdrop, probably far more than them coming out of the sewers. It's interesting that the weapon that Vaughn uses against the Cybermen is never revitalised because other than gold dust, it was the most effective weapon in stopping them. Then again, I'm still puzzled why some Cybermen carried rifles when their chestplate electrical discharge was more effective in killing those rascally humans. Maybe it took too much charge from their power systems is my ready solution.

Shown originally in late 1968, 'The Invasion' still holds up pretty well. With eight episodes, there's enough room for everyone to get some screen time and it also re-introduces Nicholas Courtney as the newly promoted Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart as he now runs the London end of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce aka UNIT. It's a shame that his earlier appearance in 'The Web Of Fear' is a missing story.

The extras focus more on the re-creation of the two missing episodes and gives an interesting insight into modern animation. From the audio commentary with animation director Steve Maher, they had the biggest problems getting Jamie sorted out from looking too feminine, although in the audio commentary, actor Frazer Hines still thought it brought out a more feminine side. I'm not entirely sure if the final result is any better because his face is a bit on the bland side. I think in retrospect, I would have gone for making his profile a little more rigid if they couldn't add any internal lines and certainly darkened his brow which was effective with other characters. The reflective spot on the Doctor's lip tends to look a lot like a spittle speck and more a distraction than a help. I should point out that these are minor criticisms more than distractions in something which I was prepared to not like but actually won over. Whether it could be more effective re-creating a complete story remains to be seen.

The audio commentary suffers a little the cast's lack of knowledge of the animation production which could have been handled better with a little briefing rather than them speculating, especially as we have the answers from the other extras. Nevertheless, the memories do fill in a lot of what was going on back then.

'The Invasion' is a worthy Who to add to your collection and at a good price.

GF Willmetts

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