By Roy Mathur, on 2020-08-28, at 23:46:10--00:28:15 BST, for Captain Roy's Rocket Radio Show, Listen
Sorry for the delay. I was sick. Overdoing it again, I'm afraid. There's also a shortage of an stomach acid reduction medication I'm supposed to take because of a recall and I was trying to wean myself off it, but instead made myself sick.
Fourth Doctor: Tom Baker
Sarah Jane Smith: Elisabeth Sladen
Harry Sullivan: Ian Marter
Director: Michael E. Briant
Writer: Gerry Davis
Producer: Philip Hinchcliffe
Fifth and final story of the twelfth season, following Genesis of the Daleks covered in 330, 4 x 25 minute episodes, first broadcast from 19 April 1975 to 10 May 1975.
Number one in the UK was Bye Bye Baby by the Bay City Rollers and, boy do I remember Bay City Roller befuddlement. I think I liked them, but I was a young boy, so not really their target demographic (teenage girls).
I also remember tartan suddenly becoming a thing, and a good two years before punk.
Returning to Nerva space station after Genesis of the Daleks the Doctor, Sarah, and Harry find themselves in the right place, but at the wrong time, millennia before they left. In this time period, Nerva is a manned warning beacon preventing ships crashing into a new satellite of Jupiter. The Doctor recognises it as Voga, the planet of gold.
Nerva has been quarantined by Earth because of a plague on board that has wiped out all but a skeleton crew. The plague is, in fact, caused by Cybermats equipped with poison injectors. Sarah becomes a victim and is transported in the transmat with Harry as a way of separating the toxins during the teleportation. On arrival, Sarah recovers, but they are captured by the Vogans.
One of the crew, Kellman, is a double agent for both the Vogans and the Cybermen. A faction of Vogans have offered him gold in return for helping to destroy the station, once the Cybermen have boarded, as they wish to remain hidden from the universe and especially the Cybermen. At the same time, the Cybermen have promised Kellman rulership of the solar system if he helps them destroy Voga, because they see the planet as an existential threat due to the abundance of gold, which is toxic to the Cybermen.
The Cyberman take Nerva, and the Doctor, Nerva's commander, and another crewman are captured, fastened to bomb packs and sent to Voga with an armed escort to deliver their deadly payload.
In the tunnels, Harry and Kellman, who earlier arrived on Voga after the Cybermen no longer required his services, are on a mission to stop the bomb packs from destroying Voga. Harry accidentally causes a rockfall killing Kellman and burying the Doctor on the other side. The Doctor ditches the bomb pack and returns to Nerva, free of the Cybermen who have fled the Vogan's Skystriker missile aimed at the beacon. The Doctor hacks the missile and redirects it to the Cybermen's ship, which explodes.
Nerva, now on collision course with Voga, is steered clear by the Doctor who speeds up the station until it reaches escape velocity.
The Doctor and companions leave unceremoniously after the Doctor finds the TARDIS and reads a telegraph from the Brigadier.
Although I could find no reference to this, it strikes me that the Vogans are like Tolkienesque dwarves in that they live in caves filled with gold, they are miners, they are bearded, and have large heads. They also dress in a semi-Medievalish way.
The props and FX are noticeably better in this story. For example, the scene in which Kellman uses a small video surveillance device to spy on his colleagues.
The guns used by all are also more realistic, because they are replicas of actual weapons; albeit cosmetically modified. The beacon crew, according to the special features video, are armed with UZIs, although I thought they looked more like Ingram MAC-10s. The Vogans are equipped with gas grenade/baton round (rubber bullet) guns, made to look and shoot like blasters.
Sarah again is the damsel in distress and I'm starting to wander whether her constant irritation in the script at least partly enhanced by Elizabeth Sladen's real reaction to her role. The special features also mention a dunking after her motorboat went haywire, so maybe that was the reason for her prickliness. Whatever the case, from watching the late Sladen's interviews, she didn't seem the type to complain, so I suppose we'll never really know what she thought.
From watching early Tom Baker, I can quite clearly see that he would become, more than any other Old Who Doctor, the template for New Who Doctors. He is funny, kind, pacifistic (most of the time, though he does weaponise a Cybermat to kill a Cyberman), physically dynamic, and very charismatic.
When Harry almost kills the Doctor in the tunnel, by clumsily causing a rockfall, and also almost blowing him up by unlatching the booby trapped buckle of the bomb pack, the Doctor laughs and shouts, "Harry is an imbecile!" That really made me laugh.
In what way is this "Revenge"? Why do the Cybermen want vengeance on Voga? The Vogans are in hiding, so what would be the point? Sure, there's a more militant faction on Voga, but the Cybermen don't know that. It seems like a weak, click-baity title to me.
The stock NASA footage of a rocket taking off in bright sunlight, standing in for the Vogan's Skystriker missile, is entirely at odds with the gloomy planet Voga.
The Cyber-Leader grabbing the Doctor my the shoulders and giving him a gentle shaking is one of the most ludicrous pieces of fight choreography I have ever seen.
For a Hinchcliffe story, it seemed very tame and not at all horrific in any way. Hinchcliffe says in the special features that he did struggle to make the story more dramatic.
Someone, at some point in the script (that's all I remember) mentions an anti-cyberman weapon called a glitter gun. Gliiter gun! How evocative and how 1970s that is. I love it. It should be the name of a band.
A telegraph machine that can transcend time and space? How steam punk is that?
Glitter gun is mentioned in the dialogue somewhere. (Sorry, I can't remember where or who says it). Glitter gun? A gold dust flinging anti-Cyberman weapon! How wonderfully evocative and 1970s is that?
The spectacular Wookey Hole Caves in Somerset stood in for the planet Voga with its elaborate network subterranean tunnels, passages, and lakes.
To save money after the expensive on-location filming of The Ark in Space (pod 327), the Nerva space station setting was reused.
The Seal of Rassilon appears on the wall of one of the Vogan chambers. Online sources state that this is a case of cultural appropriation on the part of non-Time Lord cultures.
The special features say that Revenge of the Cybermen was the first video tape produced and sold to the public in videotape format in 1983 for GBP 39.95 or GBP 136 today. Insane!