Doctor Who: The Invasion

In just a little over two years the Cybermen had cemented their popularity with the viewers of Doctor Who. “The Invasion” would mark their fourth appearance in the series since their debut in the 1966 story “The Tenth Planet.” Of all their appearances in the show during the sixties, “The Invasion” would prove to be one the most popular, second only to “Tomb of the Cybermen”, broadcast the previous year.

When the TARDIS becomes invisible on materializing in twentieth-century England, the Doctor calls at Professor Travers' London home to seek his help in repairing the faulty circuits. However, it is some four years since their last meeting and Travers, and his daughter Anne, are now away in America. In their absence the house has been let to a computer scientist, Professor Watkins, and his niece Isobel. 

Isobel reveals that her uncle has recently disappeared, and the Doctor offers to help track him down, starting at the place where he last worked - the London HQ of International Electromatics, the world's major supplier of electronic equipment. On meeting IE's managing director, Tobias Vaughn, the Doctor is immediately suspicious. 

Doctor Who: The Invasion

His doubts are confirmed after he becomes reacquainted with Lethbridge-Stewart and learns that there have been other mysterious disappearances at the IE premises. Investigating further, the Doctor discovers that Vaughn is in fact in league with the Cybermen, who are planning an invasion of Earth, but is also plotting against them in order to seize power for himself. Watkins is being held prisoner by Vaughn and forced to develop the cerebration mentor - a machine designed to generate emotional impulses, which can be used as a weapon against the Cybermen. 

The Doctor and Jamie

The Cybermen immobilize most of Earth's population, sending a hypnotic signal through special circuits incorporated in all IE equipment, and launch their invasion. However, the Doctor has managed to protect himself, and his friend, from the Cybermen's signal and, with the help from an embittered Vaughn, the aliens' scheme is eventually defeated.

Sidekicks and Adversaries

Companions Jamie and Zoe accompanied the Doctor in this tale. Jamie had originally joined the TARDIS crew in “The Highlanders”, while Zoe had first met the Doctor during a previous invasion by the Cybermen in “The Wheel in Space”. 

Jamie and The Doctor in The Invasion

Jamie was a jovial sort of character who despite his innocent manner and naiveté possessed a stubborn refusal to be beaten by anything and had a fierce loyalty to, and trust in, the Doctor. 

Wendy Padbury as Zoe

Zoe was a completely different sort of companion in that she was almost an equal to the Doctor. She was a highly intelligent astrophysicist from the twenty-first century who displayed a very logical and no-nonsense sort of manner. But together with Jamie, the two characters became fast, and faithful, friends with the Doctor.

Tobias Vaughn was vastly different to previous adversaries featured in the series up to that point. He was definitely very much a three-dimensional character that though the viewer could strongly dislike, they could still understand the reasons behind his actions. 

Tobias Vaughn

Although he was in league with the Cybermen to take over the Earth, an action inexcusable in itself, he was a man who used his position of authority and power as head of International Electromatics to arrange for microcircuits to be embedded in all of the company’s products so that a high-pitched audio signal could render the population of Earth unconscious, enabling the Cybermen's invasion plans to proceed.

"You think I'm mad, that all I want is power for its own sake. No. The world is weak, vulnerable, a mess of uncoordinated and impossible ideals. It needs a strong hand... a single mind.. a leader."

Vaughn was a villain that used his charm to disarm his opponents, even though that charm masked his contempt for humanity as he truly considered himself to be above most people. He was a man who enjoyed his power, and position, and a man who craved even more. This was the reason why he contacted the Cybermen in the first place in his attempt to gain control of the Earth. And while he tries to convince the Doctor that his plans are what are best for the world, Vaughn eventually stumbles and realizes the folly of his desire.

Inhuman Monsters from Another World

The Cybermen returned in "The Invasion" to menace humanity again. They are very much the ultimate nightmare of medical technology gone made. Unlike the series other main adversaries, the Daleks, the Cybermen's appearance changed each time we saw them. 

Their appearance in "The Invasion" clearly shows that they have become extremely advanced in spare part technology and by this point in the show; their appearance varies vastly compared to that in "The Tenth Planet". The success of the Cybermen lay in the viewers, or even humanities, fear of becoming inhuman and emotionless.

The Cybermen that appeared in "The Invasion" could be described as thus: powerful cybernetic limbs whose intricate rods guide movements allowing them to stride purposively towards their mission. On each side of a Cyberman’s head are muff-like striated blocks out of which protrude antenna - audio sensing devices perhaps. They bend upwards then inwards and connect with a bulge at the top of the cranium. 

A Cyberman by St Paul's Cathedral

On the blank face are two black holes where eyes might once have been. At each 'eye' a teardrop shape is etched where no tear has ever welled. The slit for a mouth betrays no expression, apart from cold resolve, and the chin beneath falls weakly away to a thick smooth neck. At the chest there is mounted a bulky multi-purpose device whose central column is topped by a lens which projects deadly rays. The rest of the column is given over to four control knobs. On either side are vented wings suggesting further functions of the unit: respiratory aid, cleansing filter, cooling equipment, energy pack.

The Making of The Invasion

Like "The Moonbase" before it, "The Invasion" had the working title of 'Return of The Cybermen'. The story was originally intended as a six-part story but was extended to eight at the scripting stage when several other stories had fallen through.

The basic idea for the story had come from Kit Pedler, who had received a request from then series producer Peter Bryant during production of "The Wheel In Space", for another Cybermen tale. Pedler's outline centred on the Cybermen invading Earth with the aid of a giant computer corporation. From here the storyline was fleshed out by script-editor Derrick Sherwin who felt that the story could be vastly improved if modelled along the lines of the successful season 5 story, "The Web of Fear". Bryant and Sherwin decided to bring back Douglas Camfield as the director of the story and together, the three men added several elements to the story. 

Doctor Who - The Invasion

The first of these elements was the addition of the characters of Professor Travers and daughter Anne from "The Web of Fear". But the BBC first had to approach the characters' creators, Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln, to secure permission for their use. When they failed to reach an agreement, Derrick Sherwin hastily rewrote the script replacing these characters with the new characters of Professor Watkins and his niece Isobel.

After the initial success of the military unit and Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart in "The Web of Fear", Douglas Camfield suggested that these elements be brought into the new Cybermen tale. The trio agreed that it would be a good idea, as it would definitely give the organization a worthy foe to fight in the form of the Cybermen. Actor Nicholas Courtney was rehired to play Lethbridge-Stewart, who would now be promoted to the rank of Brigadier. And although the military organisation had not been actually named in "The Web of Fear", again it was Camfield who suggested finally calling them UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce). 

Lethbridge Stewart in The Invasion

As mentioned earlier, "The Invasion" was initially intended as a six-part story, but due to a number of other scripts falling through, it was eventually allotted two extra episodes. As a result, this meant that producer Peter Bryant was able to give Sherwin and Camfield the biggest budget ever afforded a Doctor Who story. This allowed for the greater use of location filming and an increased special effects budget. 

When Peter Bryant approach the BBC's Visual Effects department to produce the special effects for the story, he quickly discovered that the unit wouldn't be able to provide cover for the entire eight episodes. As a result, Bryant decided to contract the story's entire special effects requirements to the external Trading Post company, who assigned designer Bill King to the project. Trading Post was essentially a props firm that specialized in custom engineering rather than model building and shooting. But nonetheless, the firm rose to the occasion and designed, built and filmed all the model sequences for the story. 

Trading Post also supplied the Cyber-Controller prop seen in Tobias Vaughn's office. Despite its rather intricate appearance, the prop was rather inexpensively built even using upturned plastic cups as part of its design. 

The new Cybermen design for The Invasion

As in each previous appearance, the Cyberman costumes were redesigned for this story. Based on a joint design by BBC costume designer Bobi Bartlett and Trading Post's Bill King, the basic costume remained a diver's wet suit. This was sprayed silver, as were the lace-up boots and the five-fingered gloves. Unlike previous versions, “The Invasion” cyber-costume exo-skeleton was a very simple affair - thin lines of cabling were sewn to the wet suit at the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee and ankle junction boxes.

Trading Post redesigned the masks and chest units, the latter of which was smaller than their predecessor with sequencers controlling flashing lights on the display panels. The masks were built from scratch, the main change being a much thinner mouth aperture and headphone-like additions to the 'jug handle' appendages, while the teardrop air holes around the eye sockets were retained.

Filming for "The Invasion" took place at a number of different locations. Vaughn's office exteriors, the I.E. factory and the railway sidings were all filmed at the Guinness factory in Acton. Regent's Canal gave Frazer Hines (Jamie) and Patrick Troughton (The Doctor) the opportunity for some canoeing that featured in episodes 4 and 5, while the embankment roads at Blackfriars provided manhole entrances into the sewers. 

Doctor Who - The Invasion

Of all the location filming done the most tense and difficult was the filming that took place early one Sunday morning on the southern approaches of St. Paul's Cathedral. This was where the scenes of the Cybermen invading London took place. All studio recordings took place at Studio D in Lime Grove Studios. 

The location for UNIT's base, first seen in episode two, was an airfield at RAF Northolt near London. Because the military were being portrayed in a good light in this story, director Douglas Camfield found that the RAF were very helpful in providing the production with a Hercules Bomber and a set of jeeps. In addition to this, the climactic battle between UNIT and the Cybermen featured real soldiers who were used to add authenticity to the battle. 

A Cyberman emerges from a London sewer.

"The Invasion" was broadcast on BBC-1 from November 2 to December 21, 1968 and would go on to be one of the most popular stories of the sixth season of Doctor Who. However, it would also mark the last time the Cybermen appeared alongside Patrick Troughton's Doctor. In fact, it would be another seven years before they were seen again in the series. But that as they say, is another story.

Published on December 3rd, 2019. Written by Bob Furnell for Television Heaven.

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