Sep 10

Time Reconsidered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Who Eps: #8b THE INVASION (pt 2)

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or “this is going to be a LONG 12 minutes!

… being a show-by-show TARDIS-esque (ie in effect random) exploration of Doctor Who Soup to Nuts, begun at LJ’s diggerdydum community and from now on also crossposted at FT.

Part two of 1968 eight-parter THE INVASION (CHobo, Jamie and Zoe). (Part one here.) No more animation: and the villain is revealed! (But I shan’t, till under the spoilers: save to say that the invasion-clock is now ticking; and various successive waves of danger, local, international, and planetary, must variously be met. Metaphors in constant play: human versus machine; humane versus insane; emotion versus logic; soft versus hard; silliness versus self-seriousness; peace versus war; allied forces versus murderous ruthlessness, and, er, strategy versus GURLS … now read on!

i: OK, deliciously unexpectedly, the “crazy kids” (actual term used) get themselves into a scrape ftb FEMINISM (actual term used!): dizzy photographer Isobel’s retort to the Brig = “Of all the bigoted, anti-feminist, cretinous remarks! You MAN!”). I am *seriously* (and delightedly) startled by this, from Dec.1968: the association with carnaby-street fashiondolly buzz, with the lone-photographer-as-countermedia-truthbringer (cf Blow Up or the Direct Cinema movement), with boldness of times-they-are-a-changin sensibility, is observationally avant-garde to the point of, well, actual real time-travel; outspoken feminism had barely been normalised within the anti-war/counterculture movement: I think the pioneering public statement of intent was only made in 1967, at the SDS convention in Chicago; in my head I’ve dated this kind of language from 1970 at the earliest — and it fascinates me to wonder how Isobel wd have been seen by viewers at the time… (haha tho the actual pictures she comes back with are RUBBISH AS EVIDENCE, bcz A: very blurry and B; look like men in rubber suits!) (to be honest, nothing is actually gained from this foray, and the brig was kinda correct in his judgment; hard to argue the ep is actively pro feminist, sadly)
ii: the same ep (and thus the same sewer) contains (a) a cyberman driven insane by pulses of emotion (where insane = shrieking and waving yr arms about), and a DOOMED COMEDY COCKNEY POLICEMAN (surely the last in captivity?)
iii: realised with a shock as watched BIG-REVEAL struggle out of cocoon that their scariness was rooted not in their hardness (as per later, lamer generations) but the interface of logic with softness; of cocoon material, of limbs, of minimal facial expression, of VOICE (esp.the super-creepy voice of the communication pod in vaughan’s office; it is toneless, high, gentle, and pauses, to think, to communicate with homeship, and to make decisions). GREBT moment when two normal cybermen-in-sewers are being their usual resistance-is-futile bossy selves, and the mad cyberman comes up unexpectedly behind them, arms everywhere, and they turn round and palpably go WHAT THE FUCK. As a weird deflationary counter to this, during the first-half final-ep tussle near the all-important radio-beam, several cybermen fall dead in such a way that we see up their armour and clock the LATEX GUSSETS OF THEIR LITTLE PANTIES! (This is like the VPL moment in “2001: A Space Odyssey”, and obvs we re all Gok Kwan now, but BLIMES WHO-D00DS THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING!)
iv: “it’s your shindig, jimmy” (brig); “they’re emotional circuits! no wonder they weren’t logical!” (CHobo); “but WE’VE got the pwofessor” (CHobo in ABSURDLY smug tone); “appealing to my better nature? No… The world is weak, vulnerable, a mess of un-co-ordinated ideals, it needs one strong mind… I HATE THEM! They destroyed — my dream!” (NOBVIOUS CORPORATE VILLAIN vaughn, explaining belated sideswitch); “this is going to be a long 12 minutes” (brig, 12 minutes from final ep end, after which the action — AWESOMELY — slows down mainly to nailbiter waiting)
v: startling: the sequence of BW stills of an unpeopled, car-free sleeping westminster, unaware the world is abt to change for the worse; the sequence of stock footage of ICBMs and RUSSIAN (!!) SPACE-ROCKETS launching (not as tests or cosmonaut activity, but to defend against giant cyberman spaceship/bomb; the moment when vaughn allows himself to be shot (his semicybernature has been mentioned, and i’d already twigged his voice — but his chuckling face over two smoking holes in his shirtfront is all the more effective our for being slyly prepared); when vaughn calls for packer and a cyberface appears on the funny little intercom screen; the music throughout (yes yes Radiophonic Workshop, so naturally, but OMG: weird fuzzed zithers, electronic clangour, the tinkly muzak in vaughan’s office, the super-peculiar joe meek Globbot-march whenever UNIT are on manoeuvres); and the (hyperfeminist?) moment when dizzy sparkly little zoe (16?) reminds us she’s also a barely legal maths and calculation supergenius
vi: isobel pronounces “cyberman” (singular) as “cyberMEN” throughout; the brig pronounces “cybermen” (plural) as “CYBermuhn” or “CYBerm’n” (the way he’d say “chinaman”, with stress on first syllable and totally neutral vowel on final syllable). This is not a posh vs non-posh issue; they are as posh as one another — this story is subtle but addictive at this level of detail (and the straitened over-simplicity of the two animation-replaced eps really does sensitise you to spot such stuff, visually, aurally, texturally, subtextually, socio-historically…)
vii: strictly MINOR weaknesses (the emotion-pulse weapon is quickly finetuned to kill, so we don’t get a whole fvckton of crazed cybermen chaotically hurtling around the finale; vaughn, once he HAS changed sides, is v.obviously marked for death: said death is therefore disappointingly throwaway; also we don’t really get enough byplay from his being half-cyborg, aside from his subtly dalek-y tone when he got really angry; what happens to Rutledge, the sweating “cyber-controlled” minister of defence?)

If it’s not obvious yet I fkn ADORED this story: I think it is terrifically rich and rewarding, without any of the self-regard of the BadBaker years or the second-guess self-hobbling of so much postbaker (as I recall it). It’s a precursor to the RTD “Aliens Target Whitehall (Sociocultural Satire Dept”) trope: given its seriously limited means SFX-wise, it’s impressive how much better it is in this tricky field than RTD has often been. And (as noted twice now): CHobo really is the Freak-Power Candidate for role of Rogue Timelord. Also: plucky little britain reunited with the russkis against… DO YOU SEE???

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