It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed any Classic Who here, but seeing as Neil Gaiman’s upcoming episode “Nightmare in Silver” is supposed to feature the return of the Classic show’s Cybermen, now seems like the perfect time to talk about the Second Doctor serial “Tomb of the Cybermen”. (You’ll notice I’ve skipped Hartnell’s third and fourth seasons—I’ll get to them eventually, don’t worry; I never promised these reviews would come in chronological order!)
“Tomb of the Cybermen” is the only Two serial in Troughton’s first two seasons that’s still in one piece; the serials bookending are all lost episodes, and what I have of them is pieced together from audio and grainy stills. There’s a lot I’d do for Doctor Who, but after half an hour of “The Highlanders” I had to call it quits and move to something with existing video footage.
Let me just say that I’m glad I did; this serial alone has put Two on the map as one of my favorite Doctors and features some great storytelling.
“Tomb of the Cybermen” starts with Team TARDIS, currently made up of the Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria, landing on the planet Telos, where an archaeological expedition is making its way into the titular tomb. The tomb has been sealed off for centuries, and, much like with any tomb-invading story—The Mummy, Prometheus, you name it—bringing what’s inside to light has unforeseen and markedly unpleasant consequences for everyone involved.
The companions in this will be new to you if you haven’t watched any of Troughton’s run before: Jamie McCrimmon is a Scotsman from the 18th century, and has been traveling with the Second Doctor for a season at this point; on the other hand, this is Victoria Waterfield’s first episode as a companion. She was a native of Victorian England, and joins the Doctor’s travels at the end of the previous episode, “Evil of the Daleks”, when her father is, well, exterrrrrminated. It’s fun to see their interactions, because Jamie, although from an objectively earlier time period, is a much more seasoned time-traveler.
Whereas the original Hartnell-helmed series was intended to have a much more didactic tone, “Tomb of the Cybermen” shows us a program that is comfortable in its science fictional, dramatic, horror-filled skin. By this point the show really had its sci-fi sea legs, so to speak, and it’s fun to watch the characters run with it.
If you’re looking for an intro to Classic Who in general or just some background on the Classic Cybermen, or if you’re just looking for a fun way to spend a few hours, I strongly recommend checking out “Tomb of the Cybermen”.