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Published on July 31st, 2010 | by Craig Murray

Attack of the Cybermen

Norfolk, 2006 – I remember it vividly. We’d been invited down for a weekend break, as there was a Doctor Who event in town with guest star Colin Baker. As I clutched my newly purchased poster of Attack of the Cybermen and queued for his autograph, I was suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of guilt – because the undeniable truth was, I never really warmed to the Sixth Doctor. It didn’t help that he had replaced ‘my Doctor’ or that his brash, provocative style was such a contrast to his predecessor; but there was more to it than that.

The Colin Baker years were a troubled time for the show and arguably the start of a decline that ultimately left us with the hugely popular and enduring Eldorado – which was a bit like putting out your recycling only to find a pile of junk mail on your doormat when you got indoors; you hope something positive will come from your sacrifice, but there’s always a chance you’ll receive something worse.

Doctor Who - Attack of the Cybermen

However, something strange happened to me that day when I got home; I sat down to listen to Big Finish’s Curse of Lanyon Moor. There’s something about Doctor Who and the sleepy British village that ticks all my boxes: The Eleventh Hour, Human Nature, The Awakening, The Daemons, Terror of the Zygons – the list goes on. Being a sucker for a good Miss Marple, maybe it’s not too hard to put your finger on it…. or why The Unicorn and the Wasp will forever be top of my list of favourites – but we digress.

I enjoyed the story so much, that I did something I never thought I would – I bulk ordered the Sixth Doctor’s back catalogue and set off to explore the ‘Colin Baker years’. Okay, let’s be honest, there are more than a few painful memories in these years that, in time, we will pay homage to; but there are surprisingly a few hidden gems – amongst which, the afore-mentioned Attack of the Cybermen. Now no doubt there will be some who wince at that statement, but I stand by it – continuity errors and all.

Unusually, the Sixth Doctor’s tenure began immediately after his regeneration, as the last episode of season 21. The Twin Dilemma, referred to as “the beginning of the end”, by Russell T Davies, was quite simply dreadful – why Anthony Steven was entrusted with writing Doctor Who will always be a mystery to me; perhaps as much of a mystery as John Nathan-Turner’s costume decision – referred to by Colin Baker as “an explosion in a Rainbow factory”.

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3 Responses to Attack of the Cybermen

  1. Carn says:

    the violence never bothered me as a kid, still doesn’t. maybe i was used to it having seen films like robocop, terminator, american werewolf in london and alien(s) before i was 10.

  2. Rick714 says:

    The Brits always seemed to get hung up on the rainbow coat and had a lot of trouble seeing past it. Yes, it was a tasteless, awful coat and JNT had the absolute worst taste in costuming. No doubt about it. That being said, Colin’s first full season, #22, was a great season, no more violent than Baker/Hinchcliffe/Holmes years. Great villains like Sil and the Rani, great guest stars and Doctors! After three bland years of Davison with only really 3 high quality adventures in 3 years (Visitation, Earthshock and Caves of Androzani), I and many others welcomed an original, bold take on the Time Lord.

    No, the “Beginning of the end” came with the 18 month hiatus and the return to smaller, lesser seasons. Never really recovered after the hiatus and then the BBC just seemed like they were ready to try anything to destroy the show once and for all. Placing it up against Coronation street and blackmailing JNT to stay and further ruin it.

    I love RTD but you’d think that in a show like Doctor Who, he and so many others would be able to see past the coat.

  3. 23skidoo says:

    All the concerns about the Sixth Doctor’s use of violence have always seemed odd to me, because the Doctor – in the classic series – was always violent to a degree. I just watched the Space Museum in which One tacetly allows the Trogs to massacre a group of aliens. Seven manipulates people to a degree far more disturbing than anything Six did — his calling Ace an “emotional cripple” in Curse of Fenric was far more upsetting than seeing Six attack Peri, in my opinion. And as for weapons, everyone seems to have forgotten Five’s shooting down of a Cybermen with a BFG, and more than a few others have picked up arms from time to time, including Romana who shoots some poor guy dead in The Pirate Planet (and looks guilty for about 5 seconds before shrugging it off). The whole “no guns ever” attitude really didn’t arrive on screen at least till Nine, though to be fair we saw a bit of this during Seven, too.

    The Sixth Doctor’s era had many problems, not all of which were the production team’s fault. And some were (a stinkbomb is a stinkbomb and nothing can really rescue Twin Dilemma). But the “darkness” of the Doctor made this era, taken as the sum of its parts, in many ways ahead of its time.

    The fatal flaw was the continued, misguided notion held by the BBC and the writers back then (and still held to some degree today) that Doctor Who is a “children’s show”. As such when opportunity to present more adult storylines and concepts, the weren’t really able to handle this very well in the writing department, and audiences (many of whom may have also been brainwashed into thinking the show was just for kids) rejected it, and McCoy’s just-as-dark-if-not-more-so era, too. Yet nothing these guys did was anywhere near as bad as what the heroes do in many of the anime programs kids watch, or in shows such as Buffy. I love the new Merlin series to bits, but man that show doesn’t have half the body count, including several episodes in which the title character basically commits murder. Yet no one bats and eye today.

    Back in 1986 the Doctor shoots a Cyberman (which qualifies as a mercy killing per recent episodes), and people were up in arms. One can only imagine the fits people might have thrown had the writers decided to pursue the “companion loves the Doctor” arcs of the recent series!

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