AUDIO DRAMA
Doctor Who
The Tomb of the Cybermen

Starring: Patrick Troughton
BBC Audio
RRP: 13.99
ISBN 1 846 07046 5
Available 01 May 2006


On the planet Telos, the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria join a party of archaeologists exploring the so-called tombs of the Cybermen. The once formidable cyborgs have been inactive for 500 years - but rumours of their extinction have been greatly exaggerated. Trapped underground, the explorers are told that they are to become a new generation of Cybermen...

This narrated Doctor Who television soundtrack is something of a first, in that such releases have previously dealt with stories that are wholly or partially missing from the BBC film and videotape archives, whereas this one exists in its entirety. However, it so very nearly didn't. This famous four-parter proved to be something of an archaeological find in its own right when it suddenly reappeared in 1992, recovered from a television station in Hong Kong, having been missing presumed wiped since the 1970s.

Back in '92, the BBC was making its first foray into releasing narrated Who episodes on audio (on cassette) and Tomb was one of the titles selected for such treatment under the Doctor Who: The Missing Stories banner. Then - would you believe it? - all of a sudden the serial wasn't missing any more. However, Jon Pertwee had already recorded the linking narration and so, a year later, following a short delay, the Beeb went ahead and released the tape anyway.

It's a pity that BBC Audio hasn't stuck with the late Pertwee's narration for this remastered double CD. It would have added an interesting historical angle from a collector's point of view. It would not have been entirely unprecedented either, since the CD release of The Macra Terror retained Colin Baker's narration. Instead, the ever-reliable Frazer Hines (Jamie) fulfils the voice-over duties. At the end of the second disc, he also shares his memories of making the show, the addition of Deborah Watling (Victoria) to the regular cast, and what it was like working for the often inflexible director Morris Barry.

But what of the story itself? Well, no matter which medium you experience it in, be it on DVD, in print or on audio, The Tomb of the Cybermen works exceptionally well. Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis's script draws inspiration from the "mummy's tomb" genre of horror movies. The dramatic build-up is gradual but perfectly judged, and the pace rarely falters.

The climax to Episode Two is particularly impressive. The thawing of the ice 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 to come. 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...

Cooklin is splendidly villainous as Kaftan. Though theoretically subservient to Klieg (the equally good George Pastell), she is like his Lady Macbeth as she goads him into action, and is practically calling the shots during the latter half of the story. Her devoted Negro servant Toberman (Roy Stewart) is something of a racial stereotype, but this is simply a sign of the times in which this serial was made (1967) and his fate is an undeniably poignant one.

Add to this the lovely character moments such as the heart-warming scene in which the Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and Victoria discuss their families, and we have a strong contender for the greatest Troughton story of them all. Its tautness of plot beats the flabbier Evil of the Daleks hands down.

It could be argued that Tomb works even better on audio than it does on TV. Here we are spared the sight of clearly visible Kirby wires when a Cyberman lifts Toberman in Episode Three and an obviously empty dummy costume as Toberman hurls the Cyberman Controller across the room during Episode Four.

The Cyber troops' buzzing voices still sound rather ridiculous when they are in "attack" mode, and some of Victoria's opening lines are somewhat snigger-inducing: "It's so big... What are all these knobs?" On the other hand, we hear some excellent use of stock library music, including the famous "Cyber-theme", Martin Slavin's "Space Adventure".

If the Cybermen's recent return to television has left you in a Cyber-mood, then, as the Cyberman Controller himself might have put it: You... will... like... this.

Richard McGinlay

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