Season 19, Story 5 (Overall Series Story #122) | Previous - Next | Index
For an episode oft-times cited as a classic, this one doesn't hold up quite as well as one would hope. The first episode manages to generate some tension, but ends up feeling largely like padding. And the initial squabbling between the Doctor and Adric makes them both unlikable while it's happening. Both are behaving immaturely and seem to know it. Even the return of the Cybermen after a long absence from the series isn't quite enough to elevate this one above a run-of-the-mill story hampered by faults all-too-typical of the series during the 80s.
The final episode has most of the action and famously culminates in Adric's death as the freighter he was trying to gain control of crashes into Earth. His death is abrupt and ultimately moving. It's a signature moment for the series. Companions have been killed before and since, but I for one had never seen it before Adric. Katarina and Sara Kingdom were well before my time and part of a story ("The Dalek's Master Plan") I'd never seen. (Nine of its twelve episodes are missing.) Even knowing Adric's death is coming, as I did back when it first aired in the U.S. because we were so far behind the original BBC transmission, it's disturbing and stays with you. If nothing else, even for those that disliked the character, we can appreciate that something more than just formula is playing out.
|Cybermen tactfully not commenting on their old look.|
Probably keenly aware they're wearing goofy 80s moon boots.
There's some decent acting from the supporting players, but even that's undone by that tedious lady they stuck in the TARDIS with Nyssa to blather and pout during the numerous check-in scenes. (Not hard to imagine the writer thinking: 'It's been a while since we showed what Nyssa's up to, let's stick another scene in here to show her telling that irritating paleontologist to just chill to show we didn't forget about her.')
|"Is there nothing positive we can do?" *pouts*|
Pretty sure that's Sarah Sutton suggesting acting lessons as positive action.
|Moar Moon Boots!|
And things get worse. After getting lucky, his actions for the rest of the story boil down to: drawing attention to himself so he can be captured, failing to keep the Cybermen off the freighter's bridge, useless arguing with the Cybermen about emotions, leaving Adric behind, letting the Cybermen take control of the TARDIS, and failing to save Adric. Sure he kills the Cyber Leader, with Tegan's help, but that's a reminder she took out as many Cybermen as the Doctor did in the story, so it's not like he was much of an Oncoming Storm here.
I'm being hard on this one, I know. It's actually not as terrible as I'm making it sound. Adric's death was moving and allowed him a dignified exit. It was illustrative that even the Doctor suffers defeats, and it underscores the risk the companions take in travelling with him.
It's a shame they couldn't get the somber, silent ending quite right. I don't care how big a star this Beryl Reid may have been, she shouldn't have gotten her name above Waterhouse's in the final credit scroll. (Oh, there were probably some union rules or contract stipulations that made it necessary, but still ... tacky.)
|Dissed in his own silent tribute.|
In the end, the thrill of seeing the Cybermen, the poignancy of Adric's death, and some of the cave and cargo hold scenes being reasonably tense make this a marginally successful story, despite its shortcomings.