At the time of writing this, New Who ( the term often applied by fans to the post return of Doctor Who series) has just seen the return of the original design of the Cybermen, so felt like a good time to review their original appearance back in 1966. 10th planet is famous for 2 things, the already mentioned first apperance of iconic villains the Cybermen and also the final story of William Hartnell’s Doctor (not counting the 3 doctors). However it has other claims to fame, such as having one of the earliest black astronauts on tv played by Earl Cameron.
I should say before I begin that the final episode of the story is still missing and thus was recreated through animation allowing the story to be released in full ( the BBC back then hadn’t worked out the concept of repeats back then so just tossed them all in a big fire, we still wish we could find ‘Fury from the Deep’). I can safely tell you this doesn’t really impact your enjoyment or lack of, of the story.
So we open up with some astronauts taking off and it being tracked by a monitoring base in the South Pole. The Tardis shows up with the Doctor and his 2 companions Ben and Polly, and though the base isn’t too bothered by a police box showing up out of no where, the moment a woman is sighted they get very excited (yes really). This leads to the Doctor getting caught up in events as the rocket is drawn off course by the appearance of a new planet and the inhabitants of that planet soon arrive on at the base, the Cybermen looking more like humans with metal devices attached than the humanoid robots they would later become (though these ones did now reappear).
Now to be honest, the story… isn’t that great. What makes it memorable isn’t the story but those 2 facts I mentioned earlier, if not for those it wouldn’t be thought of that much. After the initial wave of Cybermen are dealt with we get what I call a moment of Doctorless Who, remember this was Hartnells final story and that was because of his ailing health, so while Troughton sometimes disappeared from a story for reasons of a holiday they had that written into the script (though sometimes it did involve them just wishing the doctor was around) in episode 3 it happened because of his health and they had to work around that, characters saying what he was originally going to say. Also it doesn’t help that it then goes into a less sane version of Dr Strangelove (yes, Dr Strangelove had more protection against someone going rogue that this story) as the head of the base wants to blow up half the planet to save his son.
Thankfully the Cybermen return for the final episode and thus the story is salvaged. But this leads into one of the best cliff hangers in Dr Who and something different back then something unheard of, the first regeneration. I can only imagine what it was like for people back then, now we’re used to regenerations and it’s a big public event, but back then, this was new. Of course the next story is Power of the Daleks and I’ve already written about that so you can read that here (Power of the Daleks).
As I said, The Tenth Planet is not a great story. However the Cybermen are clear stand outs when they are in it the story is much better and they kept what made them frightening – the concept of as you replace human parts with prosthetics do you slowly begin to lose what made you human? They had the right amount of machine and human that they became unsettling, something that New Who realized with their return but fails with the modern designs which are far too robotic. However I rarely say to miss out on a classic Dr Who story and because of its importance to the lore it’s a must see, but maybe not a must repeat.
Rating: (because Cybermen)
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