‘Revenge of the Cybermen’ holds a special place in my heart. Actually, I think it does for many Doctor Who fans. It was one of the very first stories I saw, when it was repeated on UK Gold in the late 90s. And it was also the first story to be released on VHS by the BBC – albeit with slightly unusual artwork, and in edited form!
However, alongside such classics as ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’ and ‘Earthshock,’ poor ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’ is often overlooked – particularly as it comes at the end of the epic Series 12 which, for many Whovians, is one of the finest series ever produced. Could ‘Revenge’ ever stack up to such gems as ‘The Ark in Space’ and ‘Genesis of the Daleks’?
Perhaps not. But if you’re wondering whether there are still nuggets of gold to be discovered in this 1975 adventure, then look no further. I propose five very good reasons to re-watch ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’ today.
1) Experience it in glorious HD (sort of)
To be fair, it would be more accurate to say ‘experience it in glorious Blu-Ray, with lovely packaging!’ This story was recently released (and re-released) as part of Doctor Who: The Collection – a series of slick, remastered season boxsets for Blu-Ray lovers and Whovians alike. Of course, it’s not always possible to upgrade the original pictures to full HD standard, but if you’re able to get your cyber digits on a copy of Series 12, then you’ll be witnessing ‘Revenge’ at its very best. Plus, this version comes with updated, high definition special effects, if you fancy a more 21st century interpretation!
2) It’s the best Cybermat story, probably
Cybermats, if you don’t know, are slithering metal creatures developed by the Cybermen to do their cybernetic bidding. They first appeared in 1967’s ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’ and have been semi-regulars on the show ever since – appearing most recently in 2011’s ‘Closing Time’ and 2013’s ‘Nightmare in Silver’ (sort of.)
I must say, though, I find them at their most sinister in ‘Revenge.’ The versions that appear in Patrick Troughton’s stories (and even the later Matt Smith adventures) just look a bit ‘cute’ to me. Whereas the version deployed in ‘Revenge’ is a faceless, devious monstrosity – slinking through the corridors of Nerva Beacon doing some pretty horrendous stuff. They’re causing the deaths of the station’s crew, and one of them features in a rather chilling cliffhanger to Episode One, which I think gives ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ Episode Five a run for its money.
So watch this story with the lights out, and be afraid…
3) It has the best Cyberman costumes
Now, this might be a controversial opinion, but for me, the rubber-sprayed suits of ‘Revenge’ work perfectly for the metal giants – first seen, I believe, in 1968’s ‘The Invasion.’ If you look at subsequent stories, you will see that the production team opted for a more creased, jumpsuit-type look which, while agreeable, broke the metal illusion for me. I couldn’t see the Cybermen as solid monsters, but as actors in un-ironed costumes. I suppose you could argue that this interpretation was more in-keeping with the Cybermen’s original look in ‘The Tenth Planet’ (where their faces were made of cloth!) but as I say – it’s the ‘Revenge’ design that steals my heart.
And don’t get me started on the Cyberman voices. ‘Revenge’ has the best ones, and I will not waiver. Dissent will be fragmatised.
4) It has a fantastic cast
Even if you’re not a lover of the scripts, the Cyberman voices, or the costumes, you can at least appreciate the fine acting. This is early days for Tom Baker’s Doctor, but he’s already in his stride by ‘Revenge’ – although in my opinion he was in his stride by his second story, ‘The Ark in Space’! Plus, the chemistry with his companions Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) and Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) is a joy to watch – particularly when the Doctor and Harry are sent down to the planet Voga, with bombs strapped to their chests!
As well as the regulars, ‘Revenge’ boasts some fab guest appearances, with Jeremy Wilkin playing the sinister Kellman, and the marvellous David Collings playing the slightly driven Vorus. And to be fair, I don’t think there’s an actor in this story that gives a dud performance. Did I mention how good the Cybermen’s voices are…?
5) It’ll prepare you for ‘Return of the Cybermen’
That’s right. Before ‘Revenge’ made it to the screen, its writer Gerry Davis had penned an earlier draft dubbed ‘Return of the Cybermen,’ which differed vastly from the version that ended up in Series 12. Fortunately, the original scripts survived, and the audio company Big Finish has put them into production with none other than the Fourth Doctor himself, Mr Tom Baker. And if your cup of gold is already running over, Big Finish has also cast Sadie Miller in the role of Sarah Jane Smith. Miller is the daughter of the late Elisabeth Sladen, so the prospect of listening to her take on the character originally realised by her mother is an exciting one.
As such, it’ll be interesting to compare the differences between ‘Return’ and ‘Revenge’ when we can experience them side-by-side. Start today by firing up the ‘Revenge’ DVD (or Blu-Ray 😉 ) ‘Return of the Cybermen,’ incidentally, is due to be released in March 2021.
So there we are – 5 reasons to re-watch ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’ now, this instant! Have I inspired you to scramble for your VHS / DVD / Blu-Ray / Betamax(?) player? And do you agree with my reasoning? Is this adventure the strongest outing for the dreaded Cybermats? Let me know in the comments below!
For further reading, be sure to check out our Cyberman guide: ‘Evolution of the Cybermen: The classic years.’
‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’ Doctor Who scarf – Order now from the Lovarzi shop!
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