As a rule, I now expect the worst from a Cybermen story. Ever since Revenge of the Cybermen, they’ve been terrible villains. The voices, the design, their mannerisms, all were handled much better back in the black-and-white era (the last such appearance being The Invasion). Well, Attack of the Cybermen doesn’t depict them any better, but I was surprised at the attempts to bring back some of that old Cybermen magic by referencing their original story, amongst other things.
There aren’t many shows that run long enough to be able to revisit “future events” once that fictional date rolls around for real. I’d almost completely forgotten that The Tenth Planet was set in 1986, and so the Earth will very shortly experience the arrival of planet Mondas in the sky. This is what the future Cybermen are trying to prevent, having encountered a time machine of their own, by destroying the Earth before it destroys what was once their home. If nothing else, that’s a pretty cool concept.
Elsewhere, this story seems intent on tickling the nostalgia glands with a few winks and nods. The Tardis lands in the original junkyard from An Unearthly Child (complete with I.M. Foreman signage), and the Doctor finally “fixes” his chameleon circuit, allowing the Tardis to change into different forms (although this fix does not seem to last long). I liked these references.
There is plenty I didn’t like, though. The blippy-bloppy electronic music is almost uniformly awful throughout. Lytton (who returns from Resurrection of the Daleks) is a decent enough character, but his gang of villains is annoying. Peri is reaching almost unwatchable levels of bad at the moment; her acting is awful, so forced and melodramatic. The Cryons are an interesting sort of race, but their costumes and masks are… not so good. Every time the Cybermen attack, I have to laugh at how rubbish they look, swinging their arms around, throwing the Doctor across the set unconvincingly. And just HOW did they get inside the Tardis? Did the Doctor just leave the door open? And the ending is rushed to the point where it stretches logic to quite some length.
On the other hand, I liked the crazy zombie Cybermen smashing through the windows and grabbing people. I liked how one of the them exploded after being shot through the mouth. I liked seeing the humans trapped in the machinery being converted into Cybermen (that’s a first, isn’t it?). I think this story is novel enough to earn a passing grade, despite its problems. And, actually, the Doctor himself has at least mellowed out a bit, and shows some redeeming characteristics towards the end. He’s a charmless, arrogant so-and-so the rest of the time, but hey, it’s a start!