29 Stupid Things about
“Revenge of the Cybermen”
(And 21 Cool Ones)
(But we're not telling you which is which)
(We're expecting you to work that out for yourselves)
By Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore
Previously published in Celestial Toyroom issue 413/14
1. The time ring returns the Doctor, Sarah and Harry to Nerva Beacon, despite the fact that, at this point, it is not orbiting the Earth, but situated between Mars and Jupiter. So it not only makes a huge leap in time, but also in geography.
2. In Davis' original script Warner was a woman and there was also a second female crewmember, Anitra. In altering this, Holmes thus strikes a blow against gender equality.
3. Particularly since there don’t appear to be any female Vogans at all. How do they reproduce, fission?
4. Although Davis’ original script also has Sarah absent for the entirety of episode 2 and gives her virtually nothing to do otherwise in the story bar get infected.
5. In our admittedly anecdotal experience, cats find the “radar” sweep on the Beacon’s screen fascinating.
6. Commander Stevenson ordered the bulkhead sealed off, trapping over 20 people in the aft section, on the assumption that the station was infested with plague. However, as the “disease” was in fact caused by being bitten by Cybermats, and not contagious at all, he condemned over 20 perfectly healthy crewmen to death. Oh the irony.
7. It’s nice to see that sometime in the coming centuries, 16 millimetre audio tape makes a comeback.
8. One of the Vogans has a cold. This gives the story extra Cool Points, because how many aliens in science fiction (indeed, how many characters in general) have you ever seen with a cold when it isn’t an actual plot point?
9. Harry finds it hard to believe that the Tardis will just rematerialise out of thin air. Considering everything he’s seen in the past few episodes, you’d think that would be the least improbable thing he’d be complaining about.
10.“The Moonbase” Recyclingwatch: Cybermen using a neurotropic virus, the Doctor impersonating an Earth-sent medical doctor, a companion spending a lot of time in sickbay unconscious.
11. The original script, called “Return of the Cybermen”, was even more of a blatant recycling of “The Moonbase,” with a bit of “The Tomb of the Cybermen” thrown in when the Cybermen break free of caskets which have been lashed down by Harry Sullivan with strong nylon rope.
12. And while we’re at it, in both “The Moonbase” and “The Tomb of the Cybermen”, the Cybermen are said to have died out a long time ago, as in “Revenge”, and in “The Wheel in Space” they’ve been absent for so long that no one on Nerva Beacon has even heard of them. You’d think someone would eventually notice a pattern.
13.Also, what’s with all these planets in Cyberman stories leaving their orbits and drifting into Earth’s solar system? It’s like Space: 1999 in reverse.
14. Once you notice the resemblance, it’s hard to overlook the fact that the 70s-era Cybermats look distinctly like those battery-powered car hoovers.
15. The Vogans' gold fetish is, it has to be said, really Seventies, particularly given the gorgeous flowing locks of the City Militia.
16. While generally well shot, the Wookey Hole sequences do make for a strong temptation to play Spot the Extra in the Poorly Fitting Mask. Meanwhile the problems with the Cybermen costumes make for a concurrent game of Spot the Wobbly Head throughout the entirety of Episodes 3 and 4.
17. According to the Cyberleader’s dialogue in the camera script, the Cyber War ended 427 years ago.
18. Vorus says to Harry and Sarah “when the plague had done its work, there were to have been four humans left alive [on Nerva]. That was the plan.” Meaning that Vorus is aware of the Cybermen’s plan to kill all but four humans on the station and use three of those humans as unwilling suicide bombers, and furthermore that Vorus is responsible (along with Kellman and the Cyberleader) for 47 human deaths.
19. Since Kellman attempts to kill Sarah and the Doctor, that suggests he has chosen Harry to replace Warner on the suicide-bombing mission.
20. The Vogans were originally called “Alantheans,” suggesting an early connection with the 1970s SF obsession with the legend of Atlantis.
21. Vorus claims that the dead Vogan seen early in Episode Two was killed as a matter of “internal discipline.” However, the Vogan in question is clearly wearing City Militia gear, not Guardian, so he’s actually been killing Vogans outside of his purview.
22. Holmes, in his script directions, refers to the Guardians as the “Vorus SS.” Make of that what you will.
23. Freudian Symbolism in Doctor Who, part three million: the Cybership. Likewise the, erm, “Skystriker.” And the Cybermat. The biggest bang in history, indeed.
24. The Cybermen shooting down both the guest star actors and then repeatedly shooting the Doctor as he writhes on the floor, is a really fantastic “how are they going to get out of this one?” cliffhanger.
25. And the getout is also completely justified, as they needed the humans alive to carry the bombs, so setting weapons on stun makes sense.
26. The Cybermen have never heard of the Doctor. Which is unusual, because they have done in “The Moonbase,” “The Tomb of the Cybermen,” “The Wheel in Space” and “The Invasion.” And indeed, in “Earthshock,” “The Five Doctors,” “Attack of the Cybermen,” and “Silver Nemesis.”
27. The Doctor makes a habit of carrying apple cores around in his pockets, which is pretty unsanitary.
28. This is the first time the word “Cyberleader” appears on the show, and the first time rank is designated through the Cyberman in question having a different paint job to the others.
29. In his original script, Davis describes the Cyberleader as having a “domed head”, suggesting he was thinking of the Cyberman Controller from “The Tomb of the Cybermen.”
30. This story contains a somewhat disturbing subtext in that it involves a group of silver space Nazis out to commit genocide on a group of wandering people with long hair, beards and a lot of gold, who they blame for their defeat in the Cyber War.
31. The Cyberleader’s allusions to “animal organisms” and to having enough parts in the ship to build a Cyber Army, and the Doctor’s reference to them as “total machine creatures,” have led many to speculate that the Cybermen have eliminated their organic parts and evolved into an entirely robotic race. That, or Robert Holmes isn’t much on continuity.
32. And yet, they breathe. WTF.
33. The Cyberbombs were originally referred to as cobalt bombs. Which is a lot cooler, as evidenced by the fact that Terrance Dicks revived the term for his novelisation, as did Character Options on their packaging for the “Revenge of the Cybermen” limited-edition gift set.
34.“Cybermen do not subscribe to any theory of morality... (pause) in war, Doctor.” Which suggests they do subscribe to theories of morality in peacetime.
35. One common criticism raised of this story is why the Vogans don’t just attack the Cybermen with glitter-guns. But if the war was so long ago that the Cybermen have largely passed into myth, presumably the glitter-gun has also passed into technological obsolescence.
36. Although, if the Vogans have been living in such terror of the Cybermen for the past four centuries, you’d think they would still keep the technology to defeat them close at hand.
37. Harry Sullivan, at the end of Episode 3, is actually saved by Kellman, who pulls him out of the way of the falling rocks. Perhaps as some kind of redemption?
38. The question arises of what Kellman proposed to do afterwards had his plan proved successful. How does he intend to leave Voga if the sole means off the asteroid has been destroyed, and what does he plan to tell the Earth authorities who will be wanting to talk to him about what happened to the Beacon? It’s almost as if Kellman had read ahead in the script and knew he was going to die at the end of Episode 3.
39. At that, the only useful thing the whole cross-shaft sequence accomplishes is to kill off Kellman; Harry’s presence for the rest of following the episode, apart from providing a huge infodump to bring any new audience members up to speed on the events of Episodes 1-3, is so pointless that he might not even have been there.
40. Even the infodump’s not necessary, since Vorus and Tyrum provide the Vogan backstory in their subsequent argument, as does Sarah for the action on the Beacon when discovered by the Cybermen.
41. Indeed, the whole episode has every single major character coming down with a bad case of Infodump Fever.
42. Davis’ original script for “Return of the Cybermen” has the Doctor’s diary giving the events of “The Tomb of the Cybermen” as taking place on 24 October 2248. There, that’s one to break out next time you’re setting the questions for the telefantasy pub quiz.
43. Asked a simple question by the Cyberleader, Sarah Jane not only reveals that the Vogans plan to destroy the Beacon, but helpfully provides details about Kellman’s treachery. Doesn’t take much to interrogate her, does it?
44. “Genesis of the Daleks” Recyclingwatch: two inimical alien races engaged in a genocidal conflict, with one proposing to end a centuries-long war by aiming a rocket at the other. Also a lot of micropolitics among one of the factions. And Michael Wisher in a mask.
45. Lis Sladen has said that she can’t whistle and that “Daddy Wouldn’t Buy me a Bow Wow” thus had to be dubbed on to the end of “The Hand of Fear.” She clearly whistles here in Episode 4.
46. “The beacon’s in motion!” “It’s coming towards us!” As it’s plainly a still photograph, one can only regret that Tyrum didn’t chime in with, “No, you fool, you’ve just pressed ‘zoom’!”
47. In a 2003 interview, David Collings’ views on this serial were stated as: “I like to laugh. You can’t take this business too seriously, can you?”
48. After the Doctor’s line regarding the Cyberleader, “nice sense of irony. I thought for a moment he was going to smile...” the camera script has him continuing, “...the great tinned ham.” Of all the lines to cut.
49. Harry Sullivan says “that’s the end of your Cybermen,” and Tyrum replies “Never again will they be a threat to Voga.” Meaning that the Cybermen have been completely annihilated. Again.
50. Since the Beacon is clearly undestroyed by the Skystriker rocket during the events of “The Ark in Space”, then in the original timeline, prior to the Doctor’s interference, the Cybermen’s plan must have succeeded.