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Attack Of The Cybermen
The TARDIS is commandeered by the mercenary Lytton and a group of Cybermen, who are using another captured time machine to travel back to 1985. There, the Cybermen intend to use Halley's Comet to obliterate the Earth, thus preventing the destruction of their home planet Mondas in 1986 and perverting the course of history. Taken prisoner on Telos, the Doctor and Peri escape and ally themselves with the native Cryons. But in order to stop the Cyber plot, they may have to rely on none other than Lytton, whose motivations remain a mystery to all.
The return of the Cybermen in 1982's Earthshock had been a popular success for Doctor Who. As a result, producer John Nathan-Turner and script editor Eric Saward -- who had written Earthshock -- were eager to use the venerable monsters to lead off the Sixth Doctor's first full season in 1985. Saward, a fan of the Cybermen, was keen to tackle the serial himself. Indeed, he hoped that this would be one of two adventures he would contribute to Season Twenty-Two: he had missed out on the chance to write a Doctor Who story the previous year because industrial action had delayed his scripts for Resurrection Of The Daleks from Season Twenty to Season Twenty-One. Nathan-Turner, however, was keen to avoid the wrath of the Writers' Guild, which would take a dim view of the Doctor Who script editor commissioning himself for one-third of the year's output. He informed Saward that he would only be permitted to write the season finale, Revelation Of The Daleks.
Nonetheless, Saward turned to disc jockey and music producer Ian Levine, a longtime Doctor Who fan who had been acting as a continuity adviser to the production office. Levine had unsuccessfully proposed several plot ideas in recent years, and Saward now suggested that they collaborate on a storyline for the Cyberman tale. In late 1983, Levine put together an outline entitled “Return To Telos”. It was agreed that this would draw heavily on the Cyberman stories of the Sixties, most notably their 1966 debut adventure The Tenth Planet (in which their home planet, Mondas, is destroyed in 1986) and 1967's The Tomb Of The Cybermen (which established the existence of the Cyber installation on Telos).
It appears that Saward then augmented Levine's outline with his own creations, including the mercenary Lytton (first introduced in Resurrection Of The Daleks) and the Cryons. With the latter, Saward attempted to devise a realistic race of aliens in which each member possessed a distinct personality, as opposed to the monolithic throngs usually portrayed in science-fiction. The notion of the Doctor attempting to repair the TARDIS chameleon circuit, meanwhile, came from Nathan-Turner. He saw this as an excellent publicity vehicle, since he knew that the press would not be able to resist hints that the time machine might be losing its traditional police box form.
Given Nathan-Turner's edict, there was no question of Saward being credited as the story's scriptwriter. Furthermore, Levine's working relationship with the Doctor Who production office was maintained with the understanding that he would not receive onscreen acknowledgment. As a result, Saward turned to writer and teacher Paula Woolsey, an ex-girlfriend with whom he was still on good terms. Woolsey had also performed some research for Saward's first Doctor Who serial, The Visitation. Officially, Woolsey would be the scriptwriter of the story resulting from Levine and Saward's work, which was now called “The Cold War”.
The true extent of Woolsey's input into the scripts is unclear. Some sources suggest that Saward wrote them in their entirety, and Woolsey's only role was to serve as a figurehead to mislead Nathan-Turner. Other sources indicate that Woolsey did write draft scripts, although these were then considerably revised by Saward, at least in part because of Woolsey's lack of experience in television. Saward himself has suggested that even the storyline was largely Woolsey's creation, and he simply worked with her to incorporate the Cybermen, the Cryons and Lytton; Levine has denied this assertion, however.
Regardless, on January 10th, 1984, Woolsey was commissioned to script part one of “The Cold War”. The second -- and final -- installment was then requested on February 21st. These were both forty-five-minute episodes, in keeping with the plan agreed upon in the spring of 1983 to modernise the Doctor Who format. Whereas Season Twenty-One had consisted of twenty-six installments of twenty-five minutes' duration, broadcast twice weekly, Season Twenty-Two would be made up of thirteen weekly episodes, each three quarters of an hour long. This would mark the first major format change for Doctor Who since it premiered in 1963, and brought the programme in line with the rest of the BBC's drama line-up.
By the spring of 1984, considerable work remained to be done on “The Cold War”, now designated Serial 6T. At this time, Matthew Robinson joined the production as director; he had previously worked on Resurrection Of The Daleks. Saward and Robinson collaborated on the final draft scripts, with much of their effort concerned with simplifying the plot developments in episode two. Originally, it was revealed that a colony of Cryons is living inside Halley's Comet. Lytton's job was to convince the Cybermen to use the comet as the agent of the Earth's destruction in order to lure the Cyber Controller there, where he would be ambushed by the Cryons. This scheme is uncovered by the Cybermen, who then turn against Lytton.
It was planned that all of the Telos material would be studiobound. However, late in the day, Serial 6T gained additional money for location filming. This prompted Saward to introduce Stratton and Bates and add scenes on the surface of Telos, allowing him to emphasise the Telos-based elements of the plot earlier than had previously been the case. Saward also came to enjoy the character of Griffiths and decided to postpone his demise, which was meant to take place near the end of the opening episode. Robinson, meanwhile, was concerned about the lack of female characters, and decided that all of the Cryons should be women; Varne and Flast were initially intended to be male. Finally, the title became Attack Of The Cybermen, while it was agreed that the author's credit would refer to the pseudonymous “Paula Moore”.
Shortly before recording began, Robinson found himself scrambling to adjust his cast. The actor initially chosen to portray Strattion was Trevor Raymond, but he suffered a broken arm and had to drop out of the production. He was replaced by Jonathan David, who had been hired to play the Cyber Lieutenant. David, in turn, was replaced by Brian Orrell, while Orrell's original role as a Cyberman was taken by John Ainley.
Filming began on May 29th, at a variety of London locales. The scene in which Lytton's mob reconnoiter the diamond merchants was recorded outside the Dartmouth Castle pub; the diamond merchants' premises were actually the offices of United International Pictures. The junkyard on Totter's Lane was really the London Scrapyard. Finally, the sequence of the Doctor tracing the signal was filmed on Davis Road.
The next two days were spent recording all of the material on the surface of Telos. Eager to maintain continuity with The Tomb Of The Cybermen, Levine had prevailed upon Robinson to follow its lead in representing Telos with the quarry owned by the Gerrards Cross Sand & Ballast Company at Wapsey's Wood, Buckinghamshire. It was planned that the Cybermen in these scenes would be dressed in blue overalls and globular helmets, to imply the hostile nature of Telos' surface. However, it was found that these additions made the monsters look ridiculous, and they were dropped. Finally, cast and crew returned to London on June 1st for the scenes in the garage used by Lytton's gang, which were recorded at Cameron Scrap Merchant. Model filming followed on the 7th and 8th at the BBC Model Stage.
Also on June 7th, Doctor Who appeared to have scored a casting coup when American model and actress Koo Stark -- best known as the star of the 1976 erotic film Emily, but at the time making headlines for her relationship with Prince Andrew -- was cast as Varne, after having originally been offered the role of Rost. A photocall featuring Stark, Colin Baker and Faith Brown (Flast) was held on June 12th. Just two days later, however, a contract dispute led Nathan-Turner to dismiss Stark from Attack Of The Cybermen. She was replaced by Sarah Greene, a friend of Robinson's.
The first studio session for Serial 6T took place on June 21st and 22nd in BBC Television Centre Studio 6. The Cyber base on Earth featured on both days, while the TARDIS scenes were recorded on the 21st and the sewer material on the 22nd. Rehearsals then began for the second studio block, which would encompass all of the Telos sequences. The costume and make-up for the Cryons continued to evolve during this time; the silvery wisps of hair near the mouth were a particularly late addition, suggested by Nathan-Turner to help conceal the join between the mask and the actor's skin.
The remaining studio days spanned July 6th to 8th, and also took place in TC6. Levine was again successful in persuading Robinson to harken back to The Tomb Of The Cybermen, with Michael Kilgarriff hired to reprise his role as the Cyber Controller after a gap of eighteen years. However, Levine was very disappointed to discover that a completely new design for the Cyber tombs had been conceived. Instead of being cocooned behind a semi-transparent membrane on several levels of scaffolding, the Cybermen would now lie dormant within a single row of pods, each hidden behind a door. This was a result of the serial's budget limitations and also caused concern for Robinson, but Nathan-Turner felt that so few viewers would be aware of the discrepancy that he could not justify the added expense. The first day of the new block was devoted to scenes in and around the refrigeration unit. Material in the tombs was taped on the 7th. The remaining Telos sequences were then completed on July 8th, including those in the Cyber laboratory, the ductwork, and the Cryon caverns.
Attack Of The Cybermen part one was broadcast on January 5th, 1985, inaugurating Doctor Who's twenty-second season. This was the final Doctor Who story directed by Matthew Robinson, although he was scheduled to work on “The Nightmare Fair”, the intended premiere adventure of Season Twenty-Three, prior to the BBC's decision to postpone Doctor Who for eight months. Robinson would go on to direct episodes of EastEnders, Bergerac and Byker Grove. Byker Grove was Robinson's own creation and he also served as its executive producer, a position he would later occupy on EastEnders. Robinson then became Head of Drama at BBC Wales before moving to Cambodia, where he produced the HIV drama Taste Of Life and formed a movie production company called Khmer Mekong Films.
Attack Of The Cybermen was Paula Woolsey's only Doctor Who story. She submitted two further story ideas independently of Saward after completing the Cyberman tale, but these were abandoned in the wake of the production shake-up brought about by the postponement of Season Twenty-Three. Attack Of The Cybermen would remain Woolsey's only broadcast television script.
|Updated 12th June 2010|
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