DVD
Doctor Who
The Tomb of the Cybermen

Starring: Patrick Troughton
BBC Worldwide
19.99
BBCDVD 1032
Certificate: PG
Available now


The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria join a party of archaeologists exploring the so-called tombs of the Cybermen. These once formidable cybernetic beings have been inactive for 500 years - but rumours of their extinction have been greatly exaggerated...

This famous four-parter proved to be something of an archaeological find in its own right, when it suddenly reappeared in 1992 having been missing presumed wiped since the 1970s. During its absence, Tomb attained almost legendary status as one of the greatest Doctor Who stories ever.

Its reputation has been slightly tarnished since its rediscovery. Visible Kirby wires in Episode 3 and an obviously empty dummy of the Cyberman Controller in Episode 4 are now exposed to the merciless clarity of DVD. The Cyber troops also sound rather ridiculous when in their buzzing "attack" mode. Kaftan's devoted negro servant Toberman (Roy Stewart) is something of a racial stereotype, but is simply a sign of the times in which this serial was produced (1967). Toberman's fate remains extremely poignant, and despite those few aforementioned technical shortcomings this serial comes closer to perfection than most.

Kit Pedlar and Gerry Davis' script draws inspiration from the "mummy's tomb" genre of horror movies. The cloth-faced Tenth Planet Cybermen, which always remind me of undead mummies, would not have looked out of place here. Aside from that, it's hard to think of anything to say about the plot, because it just works so well. The dramatic build-up is gradual but perfectly judged, and the pace rarely falters.

The climax to Episode 2 is superb. The thawing of the tombs would have made an excellent cliffhanger in itself, but wait - there's more. The Cybermen climb out of their cells and advance upon the archaeologists, but there's still more. Kaftan (Shirley Cooklin) is attacked by a Cybermat, but that's not the end either. The Cyberman Controller (Michael Kilgarriff) is revived, yet there's a further shock to come...

Shirley Cooklin is splendidly villainous as Kaftan. Though theoretically subservient to Klieg (the equally excellent George Pastell), she acts like his Lady MacBeth as she goads him into action in Episode 3.

The Restoration Team have done an amazing job of cleaning up the film prints of all four episodes, although the first remains distinctly wobbly. A short feature illustrates the major challenges faced by the team, and gives an indication of how dramatically their work has improved the picture and sound quality. The process that restored the "look" of videotape to the VHS release of Planet of Giants (see the review in our Video section) was unfortunately developed too late to be used on this DVD. However, a hidden extra (which you can access by flicking back and forth around the main menu screen) shows a single sequence, the heart-warming scene in which the Doctor and Victoria (Deborah Watling) discuss their families, which has had the "video-esque" impression of movement and depth restored.

Two further Easter eggs play the master version of the Troughton opening titles and an audio recording of a BBC trailer for The Abominable Snowmen, the serial that originally followed Tomb. See if you can find them!

Among the listed extras are the original test footage for the Troughton title sequence (great fun to watch when drunk) and a segment from the contemporary Late Night Line-up programme, in which Jack Kine discusses special effects with Joan Bakewell. Though not strictly relevant, The Final End is a nice addition, combining behind-the-scenes footage of the battle sequence from the conclusion of The Evil of the Daleks (the story that preceded Tomb) with sound from the same episode. For completeness' sake, director Morris Barry's less than revelatory introduction to the 1992 VHS release of Tomb is also included.

Barry also appears in Tombwatch, 28 minutes of footage recorded at a panel discussion in 1992, held to celebrate the episodes' rediscovery. Also present at this reunion are producer Peter Bryant, story editor Victor Pemberton, and actors Frazer Hines (Jamie), Deborah Watling, Shirley Cooklin, Michael Kilgarriff, George Roubicek (Captain Hopper) and Clive Merrison (Jim Callum). You may notice that a couple of the anecdotes described in the DVD's information text feature were actually lifted from this discussion. There is also some truly hilarious banter between Hines and Watling, who evidently still get on well together.

Frazer and Deborah also provide the feature-length commentary, which is liberally peppered with puns from the irrepressible Hines! But will somebody please tell the actors that it is OK to give away story details during audio commentaries? Watling keeps worrying that she has spoiled the plot, just as Caroline John did during the commentary to Spearhead from Space.

Another slight imperfection is the use of the 1980s theme tune during the disc's introduction. The 1960s/1970s mix, as heard on the Robots of Death and Spearhead DVDs, should have been used instead. On the other hand, a long overdue addition is the display of time elapsed, which has not previously appeared on the episodic releases.

A strong contender for the greatest Troughton story of all (the tautness of its plot beats the lengthier Evil of the Daleks hands down), Tomb is certainly the best Troughton serial to exist complete on video.

Richard McGinlay

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