Reviewed: Doctor Who Season 5 – Recovered Episodes and Monsters Galore!

Doctor Who Season 5 was definitely a contributing factor in referring to the Second Doctor’s tenure as “the monster era”. It was also a season that was sadly mostly wiped after its initial showing. But miraculously, many episodes have been recovered, including the four episodes of The Tomb of the Cybermen in the early 1990s, five episodes of The Enemy of the World, and another 4 from The Web of Fear around the time of the 50th anniversary!

Currently, 22 of the 40 episodes exist on video, plus two additional episodes of The Ice Warriors were animated to complete that story for DVD.

So let’s plough forward into the dark and fight monsters…

The Tomb of the Cybermen

Incoming producer, Peter Bryant; script editor, Victor Pemberton; writers, Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis, with Morris Barry directing, start things off with one of the finest season openers in the show’s history. This is the Cybermen story that most every other Cyberman story since has aspired to. Evocative theme music; a rich, diverse cast; intriguing characters; and marvelous studio design work set the stage for the Second Doctor’s first full season in the role and he is fully in command, along with fan favorite Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) and newly added companion, Victoria Waterfield (Deborah Watling). All these elements blend together for a taught, 4-part drama.

The story focuses on the mystery of the Cybermen, their tombs on the planet Telos, and the archaeology team brought together to investigate it.
There are plenty of sinister characters to go around, such as Kaftan (Shirley Cooklin) and Klieg (George Pastell), and the party is joined at the outset by the Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria as they’re about to enter the tomb. There are suspenseful, powerful moments, dealing with the silver giants. But also gentle, quiet ones, like an intimate conversation between Victoria and the Doctor, talking about family they’ve lost, in which Troughton and Watling really shine.

The Tomb of the Cybermen is one of the very best representative stories from the Troughton run – indeed from the 1960s, or even the classic era as a whole.

The Abominable Snowmen

Part of what makes Season 5 so special might be the setting, the atmosphere. Here, the TARDIS lands in Tibet. In actuality, a mountain pass in North Wales but whoever was doing the location scouting was spot on! Remote, eerie, having to navigate mountain sides constantly – this touch of the exotic really drags the viewer into the story.

The Abominable Snowmen really plays to the Second Doctor’s strengths. Having the ever peaceful little cosmic tramp interact with Tibetan monks, while facing off against giant Yeti… while dressed like a Yeti: only Troughton’s Doctor would happen to wear a giant fur coat that resembled that week’s monster.

Fairly well paced for a 6-part adventure, this is, of course, the introduction of the Great Intelligence, who’ll be returning sooner than we think. Watch out for the soothing voice though. Listening to the soundtrack, you might just fall asleep when the G.I. starts monologueing. The Doctor, as usual, is mistaken for the cause of all troubles and is disbelieved when he mentions he visited the place around 70 years earlier, which of course is ridiculous to any non-time traveler, whether he’s carrying a special bell or not.

The Yeti themselves are giants and, though somewhat cuddly looking, once they kill a few monks, you have to respect their power. The concept of the orbs and the Yeti is nicely realised by writers, Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln. It’s kind of amazing that they were considered one of the elite monsters of Doctor Who, ranking just below the Daleks and Cybermen, and alongside the Ice Warriors… yet, after this season, we didn’t see them again until the 20th anniversary. And after that, we never see the fuzzy death machines again (although the Intelligence rears his head again to plague Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor in 2012 and 2013). They do at least appear in the Lethbridge-Stewart range of books.

Side note – Professor Travers is of course played by Jack Watling, father to Deborah Watling, who plays Victoria. Sadly, only episode 2 of this 6-part story survives, but you can enjoy the rest online in reconstructed tele-snap form or, more readily, on soundtrack with linking narration.

The Ice Warriors

I love seeing “the future” through the lens of sci fi shows from decades ago. Maybe the wildest yet coolest example of this is the official 2070 scientist fashion on Brittanicus Base as envisioned by Doctor Who costume designers in 1967. This pop art science crew is attempting to thwart the advance of glaciers, stopping them from rolling over Britain. Their vision of trends might be suspect but they seemed to take a pretty prescient stab at climate change in 2070.

Some very nice characterisation by Brian Hayles, with good outings by the guest cast including Peter Sallis (Wallace & Gromit) as Penley. Admittedly, this 6-parter might be a bit long but there are some well crafted diversions along the way, including Jamie getting a paralysis scare. As always, the TARDIS crew is in top form. The relationship between Jamie and Victoria is a bit different. It’s long been thought – and commented on by Hines – that Jamie fancied Victoria, possibly because she was much closer to his own time and that she seemed somewhat vulnerable.

The Ice Warriors themselves are a great creation. A proud Martian warrior race, yet, like the Yeti, had only sparse appearances with the Second and Third Doctor before being ignored until 2013. Still, the armored, reptilian giants make the besssssssst of the screen time they have.

Episodes 1, 4, 5, and 6 exist on tape, with episodes 2 and 3 being animated and available on DVD.

The Enemy of the World

This was the best Christmas present ever, in time for the 50th anniversary.

Recovered after some 45 years, all the remaining episodes of The Enemy of the World materialised. Up until 2013, all we had was episode 3 to watch. Taken out of context, it seemed as if Troughton adopted a ridiculous accent and that this might not be an adventure that really needed to be found all that quickly. So when it was found, the excitement was slightly more moderate than the news that The Web of Fear was also in this haul. Also, those who’d seen the original broadcast at the time, kind of thought that this one was a stinker. Ah, whadda kids know?

Turns out, Enemy was kind of brilliant and fun. Sure, it was the hoary old “the Doctor resembles somebody” routine, but this was done very nicely and it accentuated Troughton’s skills. Just seeing the Doctor analysing Salamander’s exact accent and then duplicating it was interesting. It also explained and validated the accent itself. This really was like watching a brand new Doctor Who episode, albeit produced over 4 decades earlier. Seeing the Doctor prancing around the beach in bare feet like a giddy little kid? They had the budget for a helicopter! Political intrigue. Jamie taking the part of a security officer. Troughton siccing his teeth into the part of Salamander in general. So much good stuff.

Maybe my expectations were low but this story was really so much better than it had the right to be. And it makes one wonder just how good and/or bad some of the other missing stories are – and if they’re really worthy of their acclaim or disdain built solely on the memories of the original viewers some 50 years ago?

The Web of Fear

A sequel in the same season! I mentioned atmosphere before and this serial’s sets were so well designed that the show briefly got in trouble with the authorities for apparently using the London Underground without permission! Oh, it was convincing. This serial was so brilliantly dark and scary, that they actually had Troughton do a public service announcement to the younger viewers. In it, he warned that the upcoming episode will be quite scary, but just hold on to your mummy or daddy’s hands and tell them it’ll be alright. Absolutely brilliant. That’s how you promote a show.

Taking place some 40 years after the events of The Abominable Snowman, we see a much older Professor Travers warning a private collector of antiquities that his Yeti showpiece is dangerous! The collector thinks Travers is a crackpot… and learns the hard way that he’s not.

The TARDIS crew arrive in 1968 London to a terrified city coping with disappearances in the Underground. The production team did some redesign work on the Yeti, adding some sinister eyes that glow in the dark tunnels, etc. They needn’t have done much though, because as cuddly as they might seem on a mountain pass in the daytime, encountering them in the gloomy Underground elevates the terror exponentially. The Great Intelligence is back and it’s up to the Doctor, Jamie, Victoria, Professor Travers, his daughter Anne, and a new paramilitary outfit called UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce) to stop it.

It’s our very first look at the man heading up UNIT: Colonel Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, played by Nicholas Courtney. It certainly won’t be the last. UNIT has employed Anne Travers as a sort of scientific advisor to help them investigate and solve this problem. The cast of characters in and around UNIT include heroic Captain Knight (Ralph Watson), crusty Staff-Sergeant Arnold (Jack Woolgar), and annoying journalist Harold Chorley (Jon Rollason). As to be expected, personal agendas, alien possession, animated corpses, and treachery have the characters butting heads and, often, dying.

There’s a lot of blind stumbling back and forth down corridors in the story. But when said corridor is a webbed up, dark, and scary Underground tunnel, you really don’t mind. It only adds to the atmosphere.

For decades, we only had the chilling first episode to enjoy. Episodes 2, 4, 5, and 6 were recovered at the same time as the entirety of Enemy, released in time for the 50th anniversary. On the DVD for the story, episode 3 (where Lethbridge-Stewart first pops up) is represented via the soundtrack and tele-snaps – it was apparently recovered alongside the other parts of this story, but subsequently vanished again. Quite a mystery: whatever happened to Episode 3? Maybe we’ll never properly find out. As stated earlier, this would be the last full on appearance of the Yeti, seen only in cameo in The Five Doctors, some 15 years later. We would eventually see the Great Intelligence again though, albeit, 1,000 years later in the Doctor’s personal timeline, where he’s not only forgotten about this whole thing but kinda gives the G.I. the idea for this invasion. Oops.

Fury from the Deep

Another story that’s completely missing, Fury has a few interesting notes. It’s the first story in which the Doctor uses the sonic screwdriver. In our exclusive interview with writer, Victor Pemberton, he recalled:

“Nothing influenced it. I sit down to write something and I have the prerogative to write whatever comes into my head. In Fury from the Deep, he goes up to this pipeline—and he puts on a doctor’s stethoscope and he listens to the pipeline and hears something in there. That’s when he gets out what the script says is: “Some device of mine. Neat isn’t it?” He takes this thing out—it was nothing more than a battery light—and he opens the valve with it. That seemed to be to be better than just getting a screwdriver—and that would’ve taken time anyway.”

It’s also Victoria’s swansong but they use her abilities to their fullest in her last go-round. The only bits that survive are some censored edits which contain the creepiest scene ever, the incredibly disturbing Mr. Oak and Mr. Quill emitting their gas at Mrs. Harris.

This 6-parter is another base-under-siege story, complete with the stereotypical obstinate man in charge: Old “I won’t shut off the gas flow!” Robson. But here, the disturbing creep factor is very high, with cryptic heartbeats emanating from gas pipes, and killer seaweed and foam. So, so, so much foam. Oh, and another helicopter! There must have been some package deal on helicopters that season. Pemberton seems to give them interesting obstacles and challenges that keep things flowing.

From the manifestation of the seaweed creatures, right down to the unique weapon in fighting them, this really was your basic 1950’s monster movie from the pen of Pemberton. It’s really a shame we don’t have the visuals for this one. It is available on soundtrack and one can only hope that, since it’s entirely missing, perhaps we’ll see it animated one day.

It is a protracted but well handled and emotional farewell for Victoria here, which really does gut Jamie, but she had had enough of the Doctor’s lifestyle. Really, you can’t blame her. It’s one of the loveliest and most sensitively handled exits of any companion. Kudos to Script Editor, Peter Bryant as well as Pemberton.

The Wheel in Space.

Even when doing my overview a couple of years back, The Wheel in Space is one of the few stories I had in no form whatsoever, other than reading the scripts, plus, of course, the two existing episodes (3 and 6) in the DVD Lost in Time collection. Thanks to the soundtrack and reconstructions, I was able to fill in the last gap in my collection.

It must be said that it’s a rather generic Cyberman story, and a generic base-under-siege story as well. You’ve got the typical international crew; the stereotypical unstable, officious controller; the two crew members who are in love; and so on. Once again, the Cybermen are planning an invasion of Earth and this time, their goal is to take control of the Wheel itself, using its radio beam to guide their ships to Earth. Plenty of padding accentuates that this 6-part story could have greatly benefited from being a tighter, more compact 4-parter.

There are some fun elements in the story though, in so far as including asteroid strikes and laser cannons, even if the lack of budget really shows on screen more than usual.

Troughton is semi-conscious through episode one, totally unconscious in episode two (on vacation), and resting comfortably, sitting up in the Wheel infirmary in episode three and still is, by far, the most enjoyable element in the serial, tossing out witty lines from his sickbed. This story introduces Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury) and the chemistry between her and the TARDIS regulars is apparent, especially her and Jamie. The usual fun squabbling and back and forth between Troughton and Hines is another usual delight, them being one of the very best double acts in Who history.

Overall, even with the popular Cybermen, a somewhat weak ending for a season that started out so, so, so brilliantly and, indeed, kept things rolling so entertainingly throughout Season 5.

The positions of producer and script editor went through a game of musical chairs this season as well, with Peter Bryant acting as producer on Tomb, Web, Fury, and Wheel, but acting as script editor on Abominable, Ice Warriors, and Enemy; Innes Lloyd pop back as producer on those three. Derrick Sherwin did script editing duties on the final three serials under Bryant. Bryant seemed the only continuing factor across the board.

By the end of the following Season 6, the show would be headed toward all new changes… and faces.

NEXT TIME: Heading home.