Written by Derrick Sherwin, Kit Pedler, and Sydney Newman
Directed by Douglas Camfield
Doctor Who is a British science fiction television series which has been around off and on since 1963. The main character is just known as “The Doctor” and is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. This means he travels through time to various places. One of his favorite places to visit is Earth. Typically, he has a companion traveling with him, usually female, sometimes male, sometimes one of each. He travels in a time machine known as a “Tardis” which is disguised as a British Police booth.
A Time Lord can regenerate if fatally wounded, which has accounted for all the different actors who have played The Doctor throughout the years. In this episode, the Doctor is portrayed by Patrick Troughton. He’s traveling with Zoe (portrayed by Wendy Padbury), a young lady from the future, and Jamie (portrayed by Frazier Hines) who is from 18th-century Scotland.
Many of the series’ early episodes were lost to the ravages of time or were flat-out destroyed. The reason for this is not known. Some speculate it was to make room for other stories in the BBC vaults, but I doubt the real reason will ever come to light. The bottom line is that in trying to get copies of these early stories, they have sometimes only been partially successful.
The Invasion is one such case. Of the eight episodes that made up the story-arc, only episodes one and four were missing. Vocal tracks existed for these episodes, thanks to fans during the era who recorded the show and kept the tapes. The decision was made to bring in the animation studio Cosgrove Hall to create black-and-white animation of the story based on the vocal tapes.
The story opens with the TARDIS malfunctioning as it is on the dark side of the moon. A missile heads toward it. The Doctor, Zoe, and Jamie find themselves on Earth, but unsure of the time period. They seem to be in an era of authoritarian rule, as they learn when they hitch a ride in the back of a truck. Believing he can find Professor Travers, who appeared in other prior stories, the Doctor has decided to seek out his help in repairing the malfunctioning TARDIS.
They eventually find their way to London, only to find Professor Travers has left for America. Professor Travers sub-let his flat to Professor Watkins (portrayed by Edward Burnham), who has disappeared as well, having gone to work for International Electromatics, the authoritarian corporation that seems to be pulling the strings in this brave new world. All of this is learned from Watkins’ niece, Isobel (portrayed by Sally Faulkner), who is also staying in the apartment.
The Doctor and Jamie visit the corporation to try and find Professor Watkins while Zoe remains behind with Isobel. At International Electromatics, the Doctor and Jamie can only find automated receptions. They are eventually introduced to Mr. Tobias Vaughan (portrayed by Kevin Stoney), the head of the corporation.
The Doctor has suspicions about what is happening, but confirmation only comes when Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (portrayed by Nicholas Courtney) has the Doctor and Jamie brought to him. (This was his first appearance since he and the Doctor encountered the Yeti, as he wasn’t a regular yet.) He’s also investigating Vaughn and International Electromatics for the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (which will become known to fans as UNIT).
As it turns out, Vaughn is playing both sides of the coin. He is using Cybermen to help him take over the Earth, but he is also developing a weapon to kill the Cybermen. It’s up to the Doctor to convince Vaughn that the Cybermen are too dangerous to form an alliance with and stop the impending invasion.
I was really surprised at how much I liked this story. It’s as good as anything I’ve seen recently as it builds nicely on a majority of the characters and does a lot to set the stage for the Doctor Who era when he was exiled to Earth and unable to leave. If I didn’t already know the Cybermen were the main villains of the episode, I have to say the build-up to their involvement was terrific. In an era before spoilers were posted on the internet and details leaked all over the place, it must have been terribly suspenseful to wait week after week in this story until they finally made their appearance.
The acting is generally great, especially for the era. Some have criticized that it was hard to take Troughton seriously at times, but he is excellent throughout this story-arc. Frazier Hines is excellent as Jamie. If there was a weak spot it was Zoe and Isobel acting like airheads more interested in shopping and clothes while knowing Isabel’s uncle was still missing.
The guest cast is excellent as well. Not enough can be said about Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier and he’s one character that hasn’t turned up yet in the newest incarnation of Doctor Who that I miss. This strong early performance is a must-see for series fans. Kevin Stoney is a strong villain as Tobias Vaughn and reminded me quite a bit of John Lumic in the alternate-universe/Cybermen story Rise of the Cybermen from 2006.
The production values are pretty decent. Especially for their era, the Cybermen do look fairly menacing. Location shoots around London were used to create the feeling of the invasion itself, including a shoot at a Guinness Brewery.
The two-DVD set contains a slew of extras, all worth watching. There’s commentary on both the animated and restored episodes by the actors as well as the technical crew. The “Love Off-Air” looked at recordings people made on old cassette tapes of the series which was what enabled them to recreate the missing episodes. I can remember doing that myself for some television show back in the day. There are in-depth looks at creating the animation from these tapes as well. In addition, there’s a fairly long special where the actors talk about making this story-arc back in the day.
The restored episodes look and sound terrific. They really give these stories good treatment before writing them to the DVDs, something some American studios can learn from as they seem to slap the shows on DVD all for a quick buck. The animated episodes are excellent and really fit in nicely with the live-action ones. All of the sound has been remastered from those old tapes and sounds great as well.
I’m really glad they found a way to recreate The Invasion as it’s such an important story-arc in the long-term for Doctor Who. There are characters who establish themselves here and in some ways a foreshadowing of how the Cybermen will appear in 2006. Excellent villains and a good pace make this a nearly perfect story-arc for anyone who’s interested in older Doctor Who. I’d recommend it even to those new to the series.
• Commentary track on Episode One with sound restorer Mark Herz, animator Steve Marr, and James Goss from BBC Online
• Commentary track on Episode Two with Frazier Hines, Wendy Padbury, and Nicholas Courtney
• Commentary track on Episode Three with Frazier Hines, Nicholas Courtney, and Production Manager Chris Dorriger
• Commentary track on Episode Four with Frazier Hines, Wendy Padbury, and Nicholas Courtney
• Commentary track on Episode Five with Frazier Hines, Wendy Padbury, Nicholas Courtney, and Production Manager Chris Dorriger
• Commentary track on Episode Six with Frazier Hines, Wendy Padbury, and Production Manager Chris Dorriger
• Commentary track on Episode Seven with Wendy Padbury, Nicholas Courtney, and Production Manager Chris Dorriger
• Commentary track on Episode Eight with Frazier Hines, Wendy Padbury, Nicholas Courtney, and Production Manager Chris Dorriger
• Information Text
• Flash Frames
• Love Off-Air
• Animation Trailers
• Character Design
• Evolution of the Invasion
• 1993 VHS Links
• Photo Gallery