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24 September 2014

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Revenge of the Cybermen

Production Code: 4D

First Transmitted

1 - 19/04/1975 17:35

2 - 26/04/1975 17:30

3 - 03/05/1975 17:50

4 - 10/05/1975 17:35


The time ring takes the Doctor, Sarah and Harry back to Nerva, but to a period many thousands of years earlier than their previous visit. The station is currently acting as a beacon warning space traffic of the existence of a new asteroid orbiting Jupiter.

This is Voga, also known as the planet of gold as that metal can be found in abundance there. The three friends learn that a space plague has killed all but a handful of Nerva's crew. A visiting civilian scientist named Kellman is in fact a traitor working with a group of Cybermen who want to destroy Voga as gold dust can coat their breathing apparatus and suffocate them.

The 'plague' is the result of poison injected into its victims by Cybermats. The Cybermen invade the beacon and force the Doctor and two of the remaining humans to carry some cobalt bombs down into the heart of Voga.

Kellman however is really a double agent, secretly working with one faction of the Vogan race on the planet below. Their plan has been to lure the Cybermen onto the beacon and destroy it with a rocket, known as the Skystriker. The Doctor rids himself of the bomb he has been forced to carry and returns to the beacon, which the Cybermen evacuate on learning of the Vogans' intentions.

The missile is launched, but the Doctor gives instructions for it to be redirected away from the beacon and onto a collision course with the Cybermen's ship, which is thus destroyed.

Episode Endings

Sarah screams as a Cybermat leaps from the floor and attacks her neck.

The Doctor tries to get away as the Cybermen board the beacon, but the Cyberleader fires its head-mounted weapon at him and he collapses to the ground. The Cyberleader announces to the other Cybermen that all resistance is overcome and the beacon is theirs.

Harry examines the unconscious Doctor and concludes that there is nothing seriously wrong with him. He starts to unbuckle the straps by means of which the Cybermen's bomb is attached to the Doctor's back, unaware that this will cause it to detonate...

The TARDIS arrives on the beacon, having been gradually drifting back to this point in time, and the Doctor, Sarah and Harry leave for a rendezvous with the Brigadier, who has sent an urgent message requesting assistance with a problem on Earth.


Misquotes of Descartes ('Cogito ergo sum: I think therefore it missed') and Macbeth ('Out, out, dusty death').

Live and Let Die (hairbrush radio).

Voga is the name of an island of gold that Columbus was looking for in the Atlantic.

Dialogue Triumphs

The Doctor : [To the Cyberleader] "You're nothing but a pathetic bunch of tin soldiers skulking about the galaxy in an ancient spaceship."

Cyberleader : "Cybermen can survive more efficiently than animal organisms. That is why we will rule the galaxy."

Dialogue Disasters

Vorus : "You have the philosophy of a cringing mouse, Tyrum."

Double Entendre

"Take the Cybermen from behind."

The Doctor : "We're still heading for the biggest bang in history."

"Pull it harder, it's coming."


The emotions expressed by the Cybermen include glee, satisfaction (the Cyberleader's hands-on-hips body language), humour ('Nice sense of irony,' the Doctor says concerning the Cyberleader's joke about him not being around to see the 'magnificent spectacle' of Voga's destruction), irritation ('I think you've riled him,' says Harry), hatred, fear, and enough pride to refer to themselves as 'warriors'.

They don't recognise the Doctor, and are bullet-proof, with hydraulic muscles, firing weapons from their head units. The non-corrodable metal gold clogs up their breathing apparatus and suffocates them (cf. The Moonbase, where they don't need to breathe), but also blocks their radar [!], hence the glittergun that can be used to destroy them. They have no home planet, no influence, only one ship [but apparently enough parts for a whole army onboard].

The Armageddon Convention banned Cyberbombs, two of which would destroy Voga. The seal of Voga is also the seal of the High Council [which indicates interesting things about Time Lord meddling in such tactically important worlds]. Sarah has heard of the Cybermen [presumably from the invasion in 1969] and that they were meant to have been wiped out ages ago. The TARDIS drifts back through time and space to meet the Doctor [the time ring called it].

Sarah reveals that they've been adventuring for 'a few weeks' at the start of the story [mostly in Genesis of the Daleks?].


Cyber History

The Doctor's Doctorate


Nerva Beacon, [c. 2875].

Future History

Before Nerva became the cryogenic space ark Terra Nova it orbited Jupiter as one of a number of military beacons controlled by Earth Centre (another is Ganymede Beacon). These beacons monitor regular Earth-Pluto flights. The Doctor is surprised that (with Voga) there are now 13 Jovian satellites. [He's referring to major ones. It is a little odd to hear the humans calling Voga Neo Phobos.]


The Doctor again mentions his meeting with Harry Houdini (Planet of the Spiders).


The Radiophonic Workshop's Peter Howell, later to become one of the series' regular incidental music composers, made his uncredited debut on this story when he was asked by producer Philip Hinchcliffe to add to, and enhance, the score provided by Carey Blyton.

A number of sets in this story were reused from The Ark in Space, which was recorded immediately before it.

The Cybermen's voices were provided for the first time by the actors inside the costumes.

Five of this story's guest cast had played notable roles earlier in Doctor Who's history: Kevin Stoney as Mavic Chen in The Daleks' Master Plan and as Tobias Vaughn in the previous Cyberman story, The Invasion; Christopher Robbie as the Karkus in The Mind Robber; Ronald Leigh-Hunt as Commander Radnor in The Seeds of Death; and William Marlowe as Mailer in The Mind of Evil. Michael Wisher would go on to play Davros in Genesis of the Daleks, which came after Revenge of the Cybermen in production order.


The Cybermen's desire for revenge in this story, as reflected in the title, is out of keeping with their unemotional characters. (The Cybermen are not seeking revenge in their attack on Voga but trying to destroy a potential threat; it is the Vogans who incorrectly assume that their motive is revenge.)


We hear of 'phobic energy' in physics, rather than psychology.


The Doctor was wearing a long brown coat and hat at the end of the previous story, but they've vanished when he materialises [is there an untelevised adventure?].

Lester wears his interplanetary Space command insignia upside down.

There is air and gravity inside an asteroid 4km across, and a noisy explosion in space.

Cybermats are hugged to make them look as if they're attacking.

The launching of the Skystriker is represented by rather obvious NASA stock footage of a Saturn V rocket taking off.

The Cyberleader shakes the Doctor's shoulders in what appears to be Swedish massage rather than strangulation.

A spinning roll of lunar landscape simulates a near miss of the asteroid.

If the transmat only works on human tissue, why doesn't it wreck Cybermen and leave humans naked?

When the Doctor enters the TARDIS in episode four the paper printout of the space/time telegraph can be seen hanging on a hook just inside the door.

Most astonishingly, Voga is the Planet of Gold. A place where they use gold for everything, including chains and guns. But when the Cybermen arrive, a species who are so susceptible to gold that a handful of thrown gold dust kills them, two of them gun down half of the Vogan army! Why aren't the Vogan bullets made of gold? Why don't they just hit them with their guns? Argh!

Fashion Victim

The Cybermen seem to be smiling, possibly because of their flares.

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Tom Baker

Harry Sullivan - Ian Marter

Sarah Jane Smith - Elisabeth Sladen

Commander Stevenson - Ronald Leigh-Hunt

Cyberleader - Christopher Robbie

First Cyberman - Melville Jones

Kellman - Jeremy Wilkin

Lester - William Marlowe

Magrik - Michael Wisher

Sheprah - Brian Grellis

Tyrum - Kevin Stoney

Vorus - David Collings

Warner - Alec Wallis


Director - Michael E Briant

Assistant Floor Manager - Rosemary Hester

Assistant Floor Manager - Russ Karel

Costumes - Prue Handley

Designer - Roger Murray-Leach

Film Cameraman - Elmer Cossey

Film Editor - Sheila S Tomlinson

Incidental Music - Carey Blyton

Incidental Music - Peter Howell Uncredited

Make-Up - Cecile Hay-Arthur

Producer - Philip Hinchcliffe

Production Assistant - John Bradburn

Production Unit Manager - George Gallacio

Script Editor - Robert Holmes

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Derek Slee

Studio Sound - Norman Bennett

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Visual Effects - Jim Ward

Writer - Gerry Davis

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'You're nothing but a pathetic bunch of tin soldiers skulking about the galaxy in an ancient spaceship.' A contradictory, tedious, and unimaginative mess. The humans know the Cybermen are going to arrive, yet are surprised when they do, and talk fondly of the Doctor and companions, having just been suspicious of them. No time. No money. No mercy. Even the title's rubbish.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

Revenge of the Cybermen holds the dubious distinction of having received what may well be the only one-word review in Doctor Who's critical history when Keith Miller, assessing it in DWFC Mag Number 24, dated May/June 1975, wrote simply: 'Yeauch.' John Connors, on the other hand, suggested in Aggedor Issue 4 in 1983 that it was 'a gem' almost unsurpassed 'as an example of the rich quality of the mid-seventies stories'. A fair appraisal lies somewhere between these two extremes. Connors himself went on to identify, and then rather half-heartedly to try to excuse, the story's major failing: 'Possibly the only weak point was the script, but bearing in mind that no Cyberstory has ever been innovative... then Revenge of the Cybermen comes out well. Perhaps Cybermen fail to inspire good plots.'

A story with a weak script and a poor plot is always going to have a struggle to impress the viewer, and Revenge of the Cybermen is no exception. It does however contain some good characters, and David Owen, writing in In-Vision Issue Five, dated June 1988, was impressed by its use of symbolism:

'The story's boundaries are clearly defined. At no point does Commander Stevenson radio Earth to ask them to come and nuke the Cybership. Earth and its society are not represented literally in this story, but represented by the symbol of the beacon and its occupants. Stevenson and Lester stand for human good and the value of cooperation. Kellman is human greed and corruption. At stake is the survival of the sympathetic characters and their world of the beacon, with Voga a secondary concern...'

The return of the Cybermen themselves, after an absence of more than six years (barring the odd cameo appearance), is undoubtedly the story's main talking-point. Their costumes have once more undergone a slight redesign and, although disliked by some commentators, this new look is actually quite effective. 'The Cybermen seemed to disappoint many,' noted Connors, 'but I found them wholly acceptable (apart from their flared trousers!) and... loved their head guns - they were much more practical than hand-held weapons, because to disarm them you'd have to blow their heads off.' Again it is the scripting that lets things down, as the Cybermen appear uncharacteristically emotional and have some terrible dialogue to deliver. The idea of them being susceptible to attack with gold dust is also less than inspired; previous stories have shown them to be vulnerable to such diverse things as radiation, solvents, gravity, low temperatures, electric currents, force fields, emotional impulses and grenades, and the revelation of this latest weakness only serves to reduce their potency still further.

As far as the story's on-screen realisation is concerned, the direction by the ever-dependable Michael E Briant is fortunately very good - although shots of the Cyberleader strutting around with his hands on his hips are an unfortunate lapse - and, as Connors observed, the production values are uniformly high:

'The visual scope of Revenge of the Cybermen was marvellous. The Vogan surface looked so mystical and genuine, it's put all subsequent attempts to recreate that feel in a studio to shame. Cardboard caves just don't work. Revenge of the Cybermen had real ones, and a nice large number of extras clambering about them to make it look totally convincing...'

Revenge of the Cybermen is not particularly bad, but not particularly good either, and coming after three such excellent stories it can only be considered a disappointing way to end the season.

< Genesis of the DaleksFourth DoctorTerror of the Zygons >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

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