The year is 1986, and at the South Pole the crew of the
Snowcap Base tracking station have detected a new planet.
The arrival of the First Doctor, Ben and Polly coincides with
another landing - that of a spaceship whose humanoid passengers
have used cybernetics to replace their limbs and vital organs.
They are called Cybermen...
Previously issued within the Cybermen tin in 2004,
this two-disc release, like The
Crusade and The
Ice Warriors, contains little that hasn't already
been released on video. Indeed, whereas as it could be argued
that the lack of narration on the audio-only episodes of the
aforementioned serials (presented in the Crusade/Space
Museum video box set, The Ice Warriors Collection video
box and the Lost
in Time DVD collection) demanded their release,
with narration, on CD, the same cannot be said of The Tenth
Planet. When it was released on VHS as part of the Cybermen
tin set (yes, another tin named after the metallic giants
- how original!) with Attack of the Cybermen, the absent
Episode 4 was presented in full with on-screen stills and
explanatory captions. It could therefore be argued that The
Tenth Planet is the least essential of BBC Audio's Who
releases to date (except, of course, to visually impaired
In terms of Doctor Who history, however, the serial
could not be more essential. It sees not only the debut of
the infamous Cybermen, and the first transformation of the
Doctor into another actor (in this case William Hartnell to
Patrick Troughton), but also marks the first use of the "base
under siege" format, which would become a standard story structure
for decades to come.
Cybermen's voices would undergo several modifications over
the years (as would their outward appearance), with perhaps
the silliest being the unthreatening Revenge of the Cybermen
versions in 1975. Here they speak with singsong voices,
provided by Peter Hawkins and Roy Skelton, whose inflections
place emphases on unnervingly inappropriate words. Though
not to every fan's taste, for me the Tenth Planet Cyber-voices
are eerily reminiscent of the automated collections of words
you hear spoken over railway PA systems: "The next
Cyber-invasion to arrive at planet Earth is the. nineteen...
eighty-six invasion of the South Pole."
also rather like the cloth-faced look of the Tenth Planet
Cybermen, which bring to mind undead mummies. However, on
audio we are mercifully spared the sight of their clunkier
accoutrements, the sticky-tape that held their heads together,
and their unconvincing "disguises" when they don parkas to
sneak aboard the base! We also hear the first use of the famous
"Cyber-theme", Martin Slavin's "Space Adventure", which would
subsequently be reprised in several '60s Cyber-serials and
Web of Fear.
being William Hartnell's final story, it's a shame that he
is absent during the third episode, due to ill health. Some
of his dialogue is transferred to Michael Craze and Anneke
Wills, as his companions Ben and Polly, both of whom play
very effective roles in this serial. Hartnell makes a triumphant
return in the fourth episode, which is also his last. There
are distinct auras of sorrow and mystery as he claims that
"this old body of mine is wearing a bit thin," but "it's far
from being all over..."
Pedler and Gerry Davis' plot is a little hokey in places.
Why should Earth have a "twin" that looks just like it, even
down to the shape of its continents? Where exactly is "the
edge of space", where the Cybermen claim their planet drifted
to? What a coincidence that the base commander's son is the
one who happens to be placed in mortal danger on board the
Zeus 5 spacecraft. However, the story is enjoyable
in a good B-movie kind of way.
Ironically, given her character's impassioned pleas with the
emotionless cyborgs during this serial, Anneke Wills' narration
is rather dispassionate. She is far more emotive when she
is interviewed about her work on the series at the end of
the second disc.
the Cybermen due to return in the 2006 series of Doctor
Who, this double CD could be many a new fan's best chance
to learn about the creatures' origins - though if you can
get hold of the video version, I would recommend that more
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