It took longer than I expected, but here we are, at the end of Season Five in my Classic Doctor Who rewatch. Let’s get right to it, with another appearance of the Cybermen!
As with Season Four, we get a Cybermen double feature this season. We open with The Tomb of the Cybermen, which introduces the Cybermen of the planet Telos. From their perspective, this is quite some time after their previous appearances; they originated on the planet Mondas, but that world is nothing but a memory now. To my knowledge, all of Doctor Who contains four variations on the Cybermen (and if I’ve missed any, feel free to let me know): The Mondasian Cybermen, the first edition, if you will; the Telosian Cybermen, the descendants of the Mondasian; the Cybus Industries Cybermen of NuWho, as first seen in Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel; and the Cybermen seen in several later NuWho episodes, who are purportedly a hybridization of the original Cybermen and the surviving Cybus Cybermen. This serial is estimated to take place in the year 2486, on Earth. (From this point forward, I intend to date each serial as well as possible; I’m primarily using Lance Parkin’s A History of the Universe, but checking other sources for consensus where I can, as the book is somewhat out of date.) Assuming that the Cybermen don’t have time travel, that places this story a few centuries after the destruction of Mondas and the events of The Moonbase. Until now the Cybermen didn’t really seem like much of a threat, in my opinion, at least not on an individual level; but the melee inside the tomb in episode 2 shows us that they are both stronger and more physically capable than most humans, and more than willing to kill.
A few things in this serial stuck out to me. First, Cybermats! Those little monsters make their first appearance here, looking very different from their modern counterparts. This is also the first introduction of the concept of a Cybercontroller. Victoria gets roofied in episode 2, if not by a man; pretty edgy for a 1960s serial (and on a related note, I hated Kaftan, the perpetrator, at that point already). The Doctor makes a rare, and very sad, reference to his family here, and says that he has to really want to remember them. He also claims to be about 450 Earth years old; given that this is an early statement with no motivation to lie, I like to think it is more reliable than most of his later estimates. Also, it was nice after season four to see a completely intact serial, as opposed to a reconstruction. Overall, this is absolutely my favorite serial of the first five seasons, and what a way to begin!
The Abominable Snowmen takes us to Tibet in 1935/36 (coincidentally, the year of Ian Chesterton’s birth). It was a bit of a slow starter, especially given that it introduces the Great Intelligence. Certainly not a bad serial, but it spent a lot of time just sitting around talking early on. I would have liked to see the Doctor’s earlier visit to the Detsen Monastery, which is referenced but not shown; it brings up the interesting question of how long the Doctor and Susan travelled after fleeing Gallifrey and before meeting Ian and Barara. Spinoff media have filled in some gaps, but there’s a lot we just don’t know, and may never see addressed.
With The Ice Warriors, we get the introduction of another great villain, the titular Ice Warriors from Mars. This serial appears to occur in the approximate year 3000 AD, although there is some debate about this. It takes place at Brittanicus Base on Earth, during the new Ice Age. The Ice Warrior Varga is a relic of an ancient time, having been frozen in the ice with his ship and crew; but this brings us to the major discrepancy with the date, as some supplemental materials indicate that a revived Martian culture is part of the galactic community at this time. If that is the case, Earth certainly seems ignorant of it. I noted that the Ice Warriors use sonic guns as their primary weapons; sure would be nice if the Doctor had some kind of sonic device to counter that…nah, that’s just crazy talk.
And now for something completely different: The Enemy of the World is in a class by itself this season. It’s the only serial not to follow the “base under siege” format; and it gives us Patrick Troughton playing two roles, as the Doctor and also as Salamander, the villain (seen above). I have new appreciation for his acting chops; allowing for just a bit of period-normal cliché, I could easily have believed he was really of Mexican origin in the second role. He wasn’t a subtle villain, but he was a skilled one, which seems to be a bit uncommon with human adversaries in these early seasons. Also of note was the allied character of Astrid (no last name given); judging by her hairstyle and behavior, I wonder if maybe Astrid provided some inspiration from Kylie Minogue’s one-off companion character in NuWho, Astrid Peth. The serial is set in the year 2018. Of course that was fifty years away at the original broadcast, so the optimism in view is perhaps forgiveable. But now, much closer to the time, it seems comical; the idea that we would have “given up national concerns” and altruistically traded in our governments and wars for collaborative “management zones” all over the world is naïve. Still, that kind of optimism wasn’t uncommon in science fiction of the day.
The Web of Fear revisits the Great Intelligence and the Yeti, this time placing them in the London Underground of the 1970s. It is stated to be “more than forty years” after the events of The Abominable Snowmen, and four years before next season’s The Invasion, which makes it approximately 1975 (and I would even guess late in the year). However, there’s some contradiction; the subway maps seen onscreen are accurate for 1968, but don’t display the Victoria Line, which opened in 1969. Understandable, of course, but not accurate. The Brigadier makes his first appearance here, though as a Colonel; while UNIT is not introduced yet, there’s not enough evidence to say that the military detachment we see is definitely not from UNIT. He is a droll, sometimes witty, perceptive, pragmatic, and shrewd man, and one of my favorite characters. RIP Nicholas Courtney. It’s worth pointing out that we owe the continued existence of the Intelligence—and thus, much later, The Name of the Doctor—to Jamie; if he hadn’t pulled the Doctor from the device in episode 5, the Intelligence would have been annihilated. Still, after continued introspection, I really like the combination of Second Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria; they’re my favorite TARDIS crew since the original. It’s a shame Victoria won’t be with us much longer.
In Fury From The Deep, at long last, we get the first appearance of the sonic screwdriver. (Jamie: “What’s that?” Doctor: “It’s a sonic screwdriver. It never fails.” And so it begins! Actually used for driving a screw, as well.) This story of sentient seaweed is set in approximately 1975, as with The Web of Fear—not the only lateral move for the TARDIS, but certainly such things are rare. It’s a bit anachronistic for 1975, with videophones and other advancements. Coincidentally, Episode 3 is the 200th episode of the series (already!). We say goodbye to Victoria here, as she chooses to stay behind, finding TARDIS life to be too much. She won’t be the last to make that choice; it becomes something of a recurring theme, still happening recently with Martha Jones and, to a lesser degree, Rory Williams. We get another recurring motif here, as well—plants that convert or control humans, first seen in Mission to the Unknown in season two.
We conclude with The Wheel in Space, the second Cybermen adventure. I found that a fair bit of debate exists as to the placement of this episode, but most sources place it in the second half of the 21st century. I’ve opted to go with the latest date given, 2079 AD, as the events of The Moonbase occur in 2070 AD, and the Cybermen here recognize the Doctor from that occasion. The timing makes these Cybermen of Mondasian origin, not Telosian. The Doctor claims at one point to disengage the time vector generator from the TARDIS, meaning it is no longer bigger on the inside. We’ve seen something similar with the Monk’s TARDIS, but it seems odd here, as Jamie and the Doctor are still inside when it happens. This device is an oddity anyway; it seems to have some abilities that the writing staff will later roll over into the sonic screwdriver. Cybermats appear here, looking very different from their Telosian counterparts (which makes sense, as this is technically their first appearance). The Doctor first uses his famous “John Smith” alias here, given to him by Jamie, which is ironic given that the tenth Doctor later uses Jamie’s name as an alias. (Vampires of Venice later implies that the first Doctor also used the John Smith alias, but as it’s a common name, that is forgiveable.) The serial ends with the Doctor showing Zoe a view of the Daleks from his memory. In the original broadcast, this led straight into a rerun of The Evil of the Daleks, but with a little added narration to demonstrate that it wasn’t just a rerun, it was the Doctor literally reviewing the events with Zoe (therefore the broadcast, if not the story, actually fits into continuity here, though I don’t intend to review it again).
Not a bad season overall. Next time, we’ll be nearly free of reconstructions, as only two more remain—the next season is nearly intact. On to Season Six, and the last season with the Second Doctor! See you there.
All episodes can be viewed on Dailymotion; links are below. Due to the BBC’s early policy of junking tapes, some episodes exist only as reconstructions.