Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Jamie And The Magic Of Animation

It's true I've been quiet on the subject of Doctor Who lately. Couldn't even be arsed to post any comments about The Runaway Blah, this year's Christmas not-very-special - I preferred The Sarah Jane Adventures. But then, I'd probably have preferred last year's Christmas dinner. Thank goodness (or, rather, thank the very generous person who gave me a copy as a gift) for The Invasion on DVD. "Crikey, DM, that was a real treat!" Penfold would have said, I'm fairly convinced of that.
Until now, my experience of the story had been confined to a) the excellent Ian Marter novelisation, with its gloves-off brutality, spattering of gore and general feeling of a more adult read than your usual Target book and b) the BBC audio. I think I may have had the VHS release at one point, with missing episodes narrated by someone or other (Nicholas Courtney, I'm tempted to say) but (in case it's not obvious) I didn't recall much about it. This, I'm reasonably sure, has more to do with the fact that I hit 40 later this year than anything to do with the story itself.
At 8 episodes, it is undeniably overlong and there's a great deal of runaround. But it's all played with the customary charm of the era, with Troughton in fine form, doing his mix of doddery, gravitas and a bit of a Laurel & Hardy routine as he's chased along an alleyway by a barrage of Cyber blasts. Kevin Stoney is superb as Vaughan, a madman who really gets mad, especially when letting rip at whining thug-hound, Packer. (Packer comes over as a more convincing hardman in the novelisation, but Peter Halliday creates a memorable lieutenant to Vaughan.) It's Vaughan, rather than the Cybermen, who's really in charge. Such that, it's down to the Doctor to defeat him or make him see the error of his ways, from which moment on, the Cybermen can be dealt with by the liberal application of missiles, MOD stock footage and Zoe's mathematics. (She's not just a pretty face. Indeed, at one point, one of the military staff is seen to check out her famously cute butt - a moment that had gone unnoticed on the audio and, I'm fairly sure, in the Ian Marter novelisation.) Personally, I'd perhaps have preferred to see the Doctor rig the Cerebreton Mentor device (what a great name!) for general broadcast and have him wipe out the Cybes with a multi-channel blast of emotion. Or something of that order. Okay, that may have run the risk of having a multitude of insane Cybermen rampaging around, but hey, sequel material right there. I did enjoy the idea of the insane Cyberman and, as usual with a lot of ideas like that, felt they could have done more with it. Just as I loved the whole scenario of having UNIT use a C130 Hercules as their mobile HQ.
Yes, overlong shmoverlong, this is the story Rise Of The Cybermen/Age Of Steel should have been. Um, actually, it *is* this story. Except somehow they lifted all its essential ingredients and made a Cyberpig's ear of it.
The irony with this DVD release is that, with absolutely no disrespect to Pat, Wendy, Fraser or any of those involved in the original, Cosgrove Hall (makers of such classics as Dangermouse and Jamie & The Magic Torch) have done such a fine job of animating the missing episodes that you end up wishing more of the episodes had been missing and needed to be brought to life that way. Partly that's novelty value in evidence, but they're a joy to watch. And I don't get to say that about many black and white cartoons. In any case, I definitely want to see this sort of thing become less of a novelty and have more missing episodes given this very magic treatment.
Lovely stuff. Thanks for that.


Stuart Douglas said...

Good innit? I'd really like to see the Web of Fear get the Cosgrove-Hall treatment next, personally, even if it does apparently seem less likely that there will be any more of them any time soon.

SAF said...

Aw, why's that? Have I missed some news on that score? Web Of Fear would be a good choice, IMO. Of course, they'll need a lot of black ink for those tunnels ;)

TimeWarden said...

I think "The Invasion" is superb stuff too, second only in the Troughton canon to "Fury from the Deep", so good I have the DVD as well as the VHS!

Stuart Douglas said...

Well, possibly it's just supposition but someone - Eddie R maybe - was saying that although sales were good, there's no-one really to pay for more.

Apparenlty Ian Levine is now tlaking about paying to have all the rest of the missing episodes animated!

SAF said...

Wow. Good for him if he does. Of course, if he's got that much dosh, I can undercut Cosgrove Hall considerably. The results would be more like South Park done sketch-pad flicker-book style, but hey, it's still animation :)

SK said...

Hm... I agree with almost all you say, but I thought that it became obvious very quickly that Cosgrove Hall only had the faces of the principals from a very few angles, and from then on it starts to get very annoying when you realise that none of them are actually looking quite at each other.

Stills look brill though.

Good story, though. Needs trimmed, of course, but carries its length a lot better than a lot of sixties Doctor Who.