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Doctor Who - The Tomb of the Cybermen

BBC/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . B&W . 96 mins . PG . PAL


The Tomb Of The Cybermen is the latest Doctor Who adventure to be released in Region 4 and is arguably the best value release so far. The Doctor had many adventures in the thirty-three years the show was on television but few, so far, have been released on DVD. If you were to ask fans which adventure they would have chosen to release next, it is very unlikely that many would have nominated an older story such as The Tomb Of The Cybermen, but no fan should be disappointed by this release.

"You might almost say they've had a complete 'metal' breakdown."

Allow me to introduce the (second) Doctor, played by Patrick Troughton from 1966 to 1969. He is a recorder-playing, cheeky, and youthful reincarnation (regeneration) of his predecessor. He possesses a fine sense of humour, and at times appears to be losing control of the situation. Somehow though, The Doctor always manages to save the day. He is accompanied in this adventure by Jamie (Frazer Hines), a Scotsman who is a brave but simple young man, and Victoria (Deborah Watling), a young and inquisitive lass in her first adventure as a companion.

Our three adventurers have landed on Telos - homeworld of the Cybermen - where a team of archaeologists from Earth is attempting to enter the fortified city of Telos to determine what became of them. It is believed they are long dead, as they have not been heard from in five hundred years. However, the city is not as 'dead' as it appears as before they barely begin, the first of several deaths occurs. It becomes clear the Cybermen are indeed buried in this tomb, and that someone has plans to revive them - but why?

It is important when watching this to keep in mind that The Tomb Of The Cybermen was first shown in 1967, so yes, it is black and white. It is also an adventure that was thought to be 'lost' until 1992 when all four episodes were discovered in a Hong Kong television studio and returned to the BBC - much to their delight. Note; the BBC had a policy in the 1970s of reusing videotape to save money and Doctor Who was a prime target. As such, many adventures were simply recorded over and lost forever. In the years since, many episodes have been uncovered in foreign television studios and backyard sheds, but the list of missing episodes is still significant.

Doctor Who is primarily a television show for children, filmed quickly and cheaply. This is especially true of its first 10 years. This means that, as an adult, there are many aspects of the show that will make you cringe. Some of the acting is as wooden as the sets, and the cheap special effects show up clearly in all their restored glory (it's wire, string and styro-foam city in there!). There are actors literally tripping over their own feet, costumes with gaping rips in them and fluffed lines that time did not allow to reshoot. So why should you buy this? Simple - it's Doctor Who, it's fun, it's a piece of television history and because it has had a real labour of love applied to it and makes great viewing, despite its age.


As mentioned above, The Tomb Of The Cybermen, is 35 years old and was never meant to be viewed on the quality of home theatre equipment available today. With this in mind, I slipped the disc in the player expecting to be presented with countless examples of every known glitch, film artefact and video problem known to person-kind. What I wasn't expecting was a rather clean, smooth and enjoyable viewing experience. It was instantly clear this release has had much time, love, and money spent on it.

Firstly, the obvious. The Tomb Of The Cybermen is a full frame, black and white, non-16x9 enhanced, dual layer release - and in many ways shows every one of those thirty five years.

Less obvious, at first, is the thorough job that has been done in bringing this up to an acceptable standard. I guess if you were the BBC and were hoping to make a profit from this release, that you would spend money on cleaning it up too. It is stated in one of the featurettes that 16,000 film and video faults have been repaired, removed or cleaned up, and what a fine job they have done. This is a good, clean transfer and while there is varying evidence of grain throughout depending on whether a scene was filmed on videotape (in the studio) or on film (location shots), it is not severe. Film artefacts likewise, are almost non-existent and viewing the Resoration featurette will demonstrate just how many faults there must have been on the 'lost' tapes. Colouring is not relevant as such, but there is no evidence of colour-bleeding or cross-colouration which is often quite severe when viewing such shows on VHS. Similarly, shadow detail is generally good and the sharpness of the image is acceptable (due to its age) but is less so during scenes where smoke effects are used. There was also a small amount of low-level noise, but this was only really apparent in the opening title sequence.

There are several small artefacts spread across all four episodes but only the mostly observant will notice them. There is some blur at 6:02 in Episode One, a 'jump' at 10:58 in Episode Two, and mostly apparent during Episode One, is an occasional 'shimmering' of the image. This is almost certainly something inherent in the original filmstock and not a fault of the transfer. It should not deter potential viewers.


The biggest enemy for any audio transfer of a 1960s television show is the passing of time itself. We are presented with a mono transfer (which is how it was originally intended) and as such, the subwoofer and surround speakers are not utilised. Dialogue is mostly clear and no audio-sync problems were apparent. However the Cybermen can be a bit hard to understand as they have high pitched, metallic voices. There are also a few occasions when 'Cyberspeech" does not quite match up with their Cybermouth movements (a sort of trapdoor) because the lines are not actually spoken by the actor in the costume. This can be a little distracting.

The music is suited to the on-screen action and is at appropriate levels. We also learn from the on-screen subtitles (if selected) that much of the music was chosen from the BBC's extensive music library and not written especially for the show.

The commentary track, provided by Frazer Hines (Jamie) and Deborah Watling (Victoria), is in stereo however, and is loud and clear with the show's audio playing discretely in the background.


Now this is where the BBC get extra brownie points, for they have provided a plentiful and varied amount of extras. The more standard extras are audio-accompanied animated menus and a photo gallery made up of 25 stills from the show (promotional shots and a couple of TV guides with Doctor Who related covers).

Of more interest are the six featurettes.

Title Sequence Tests is 3.27 minutes of mostly unused test sequences and raw footage that went into the creation of the Patrick Troughton version of the Doctor Who title sequence.

Introduction by Maurice Barry (the director) is just that - an introduction - and was used to introduce the VHS release of The Tomb Of The Cybermen in 1992.

Late Night Line-Up is a three minute excerpt from a popular 1960's magazine styled show. This snippet is a quick peek at just a few of the special effect 'secrets' and the making of props for many shows, including Doctor Who.

Tombwatch is twenty-eight minutes of poorly edited footage of a special screening night organised by the Doctor Who Appreciation Society and conducted at BAFTA in late 1992. It is basically a discussion panel featuring many of the cast and crew from The Tomb Of The Cybermen who had been invited along to share their memories. It is of fairly poor quality both in sound and picture but is quite interesting, certainly the audience enjoyed themselves and can be heard laughing very appreciatively at even the smallest titbit of information or inside joke (Is it me, or are Who fans even more possessive and devoted than Trekkies?)

The Final End Tomb Of The Cybermen opens where the previous adventure The Evil Of The Daleks finishes, but that adventure no longer exists in its entirety (check your local television station or backyard shed, now!). What does exist is a climactic 1.21 minutes of 8mm-cine film supplemented by the original program soundtrack to show what it might have looked like.

Restoration is approximately five minutes of comparisons between the 1992 VHS release and this 2002 DVD release. It is well subtitled and is a wonderful record of the time and dedication that has been put into this release. The result is a brilliant example of what can be achieved and gives hope that more of these masterpieces can be resurrected.

The commentary is provided by the two actors who played The Doctor's companions. Typical of actors, they spend most of the time discussing what we can already see, what might be happening next, or telling us an endless series of personal recollections about their fellow actors and what they had for lunch on set that day - riveting stuff. OK, there are some interesting moments, but if you are hoping to hear about the technical difficulties, or why certain things were filmed a certain way, forget it. If it is gossip or stories about happy families you want, then this commentary is for you. I suggest watching it in conjunction with the on-screen production notes which, together, are more successful in providing an overview of what it was like working on The Tomb Of The Cybermen.

Lastly, there are three Easter eggs. The first is a thirty-eight second unused title sequence, which runs for a bit longer than the one in the show. The second is a much talked about scene between The Doctor and Victoria where The Doctor shares some personal details. You will need to watch the scene on a 50Hz television to see how it is different to the original. It has been through the new VidFIRE process, which aims to restore the fifty-pictures-per-second look of the original studio videotape. It should look a lot more like black and white videotape rather than film. The third is an audio trail for "The Abominable Snowman", the story that followed this adventure. See our Easter Egg page for details on how to access them.


As with all Doctor Who DVD releases so far, this is really for the fans, and is good value. Sure it's black and white (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), and it's old, but the video and audio quality are acceptable. When you consider its age and the condition it was found in, it is a miracle that we get to see it all. This adventure had semi-legendary status amongst fans and its non-existence contributed to that mystery. It is unlikely to scare anyone in 2002, but at the time it received all sorts of unwanted publicity because of the horror and violence (even the ABC refused to show it in a children's time slot and classified it as 'A' for Adults). For that passing fan, rent it and enjoy. For the serious Who fan and collector, add it to your collection and prepare for the next one. Did someone say Tom Baker?

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      And I quote...
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