The Invasion *****

The Cybermen invade London via the sewers in a gripping eight-parter, featuring the Brigadier and the debut of Unit

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Doctor Who story guide
Patrick Mulkern
Patrick Mulkern
The Invasion *****

Season 6 – Story 46

"It's the Cybermen. We've just seen hundreds of them coming out of the sewers" - Captain Turner

Storyline
In 1970s London, the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe befriend fashion photographer Isobel whose uncle, Professor Watkins, has mysteriously disappeared. He's being forced to work for International Electromatics, an organisation with a monopoly on the world's electronics, run by sinister Tobias Vaughn. IE is under surveillance by Unit (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce), commanded by the Doctor's old ally Lethbridge-Stewart, now a Brigadier. Unit provides military back-up for the Doctor's investigations into IE. Vaughn is plotting with the Cybermen to subjugate the human race, and an advance legion is waiting in the sewers, ready to invade…

First transmissions
Episode 1 - Saturday 2 November 1968
Episode 2 - Saturday 9 November 1968
Episode 3 - Saturday 16 November 1968
Episode 4 - Saturday 23 November 1968
Episode 5 - Saturday 30 November 1968
Episode 6 - Saturday 7 December 1968
Episode 7 - Saturday 14 December 1968
Episode 8 - Saturday 21 December 1968

Production
Location filming: September 1968. Principal sites: Williamstrip Farm, Cirencester; Associated British Maltsters, Wallingford, Oxfordshire; Millbank Tower, London SW1; TCC Condensers, London W3; Guinness Factory, London NW10; Regent's Canal, NW8; streets around St Paul's, City of London
Filming: September 1968 at Ealing Studios
Studio recording: September-November 1968 at Lime Grove D

Cast
Doctor Who - Patrick Troughton
Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart - Nicholas Courtney
Jamie McCrimmon - Frazer Hines
Zoe Heriot - Wendy Padbury
Tobias Vaughn - Kevin Stoney
Packer - Peter Halliday
Isobel Watkins - Sally Faulkner
Professor Watkins - Edward Burnham
Captain Jimmy Turner - Robert Sidaway
Corporal Benton - John Levene
Gregory - Ian Fairbairn
Major Branwell - Clifford Earl
Major-General Rutlidge - Edward Dentith
Sergeant Walters - James Thornhill
Sergeant Peters - Norman Hartley
Tracy - Geoffrey Cheshire
Private Perkins - Stacy Davies
Patrolman - Walter Randall
Phone operator - Sheila Dunn
Policeman - Dominic Allan
Cybermen - Pat Gorman, Ralph Carrigan, Charles Finch, John Spadbury, Derek Chaffer, Terence Denville, Peter Thornton, Richard King
Cybermen and Controller voices - Peter Halliday

Crew
Writer - Derrick Sherwin from a story by Kit Pedler
Incidental music - Don Harper
Designer - Richard Hunt
Script editor - Terrance Dicks
Producer - Peter Bryant
Director - Douglas Camfield

RT Review by Patrick Mulkern
The Invasion is one of the pinnacles of 1960s Who - an exciting, elaborate adventure that placed extraordinary demands on cast and crew, and, despite its length, it still holds our attention today.

We've seen the wacky time travellers paired with the military before but here, building on the success of The Web of Fear, the production team surreptitiously put a template into place that would eventually bring the series and its menaces squarely down to Earth.

Nicholas Courtney returns (bum first, descending a ladder) as Lethbridge Stewart and we share the Doctor and Jamie's pleasure at this unexpected reunion. In the four years since their last meeting, he's "gone up in the world" and is now the Brigadier, in charge of what he describes as an "independent intelligence group".

Credit for devising Unit goes to Derrick Sherwin, who has also turned out eight cracking scripts. There's scarcely a dull moment, with fast-moving set pieces and more filming than ever before - all placed in the capable hands of Douglas Camfield, a director renowned for military precision.

The first four episodes are grippingly plotted with alien infiltration, the menace of the IE compound and mind control all shamelessly pilfered from Quatermass II (BBC 1955). Vaughn and his inhumanly strong (partly cybernetic) thugs posed the threat until the halfway point, when at last the monsters are revealed. To a pulse-racing radiophonic score from Brian Hodgson, a Cyberman rips through its hibernation cocoon. A proper behind-the-sofa cliffhanger. And it's been a long wait - especially as their presence was heralded a month earlier in RT's coverage for The Invasion.

The Doctor and Jamie make a dynamic duo; Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines have by now developed a tactile, symbiotic partnership. They're such unlikely-looking heroes, so the Brigadier's confidence in them is cheering. "They may look like amateurs but that man has an incredible knack of being one jump ahead of everyone."

Wendy Padbury sparkles as Zoe. Clad in a sequined catsuit, then groovy 60s gear, she forms a sisterly bond with Isobel. They may be totty (their legs go all the way up, as my nan used to say), but they're ballsy with it. Isobel defies the Brig ("Ooh, you… you man!") and braves the sewers to photograph some Cybermen. When Zoe's quick-fire calculations obliterate the Cyber fleet, the soldiers beg to keep her on: "She's much prettier than a computer!"

Kevin Stoney is another key element in the success of The Invasion. His asymmetrical face and urbane/insane manner command our attention throughout. He's wearily amused at all the minor obstructions to his plans so that when he finally boils over in rage at the end of episode three, the effect is incandescent.

Sadly episodes one and four are lost. The first instilled the Quatermass vibe with moody film work. And the fourth (as I recall clearly from 1968) showcased impressive stunt work as a Unit helicopter rescues the Doctor's party from the IE compound. Zoe and Isobel in heels and mini-skirts, and Jamie in his kilt, ascend a rope ladder - under a hail of bullets. That they survive unscathed is a miracle, acknowledged in Captain Turner's wry comment: "Fortunately Vaughn's jackboots couldn't shoot a flying elephant!" These crucial missing episodes have been lovingly re-created with animation and original soundtrack for the BBC DVD*.

Many of the iconic images come in the later episodes. The Cybermen, at their most silvery, stride through the sewers without a speck of rust or fleck of turd… Flinging aside manhole covers, they march down the steps by St Paul's… Unit soldiers fire bazookas on Cybermen in a well-staged battle… Jumping and howling, the Doctor runs from a barrage of bangs, then squats and composes himself for Isobel's camera.

Camfield has kept faith with reliable actors. Courtney and Stoney played hero and villain for him in The Daleks' Master Plan (1965). And he's liberated extra John Levene from Cybermen and Yeti costumes for his first speaking role as Benton (he'd reappear in the 70s). If there's one omission, it's that Courtney doesn't participate in the farewell scene. The Brig must have better things to do than wave off time travellers in a cowfield, but we leave with no inkling that the character will return as a mainstay one year hence.

The Invasion had an impact that would resonate throughout coming decades. Unit became the Doctor's home in the 70s and has had regular assignments in Noughties Who and Torchwood. Plot elements (hypnotic control, sewers, even IE) were "borrowed" for Rise of the Cybermen (2006). And the Brigadier himself has survived for 40 years (last seen in The Sarah Jane Adventures in 2008), with Courtney becoming a cheerfully enthusiastic ambassador for the ongoing myth.

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RT's Nicholas Courtney interview (2008)

An article by Kit Pedler in The Listener (10 July 1969)
page one   page two   page three


Radio Times archive material

Feature on Kit Pedler and the Cybermen

RT billings 

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6
Episode 7
Episode 8

Photo

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[* Available on BBC DVD and BBC Audio CD]

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