Man, the Doctor usually finds a way to stop the Cybermen, not join them.
Well…that was kinda scary in a way. Oh, not in the sense that I was sitting on the edge of my seat in fear. I was pretty confident the Doctor would get out of this OK, stopping the Cybermen along the way along with the Cybermats and the Cyber-Leveler, which was basically a super-Cyberleader or something. No, the thing is that, when a Cybermat was strangling the Doctor inside his protective suit, the only way for Jo and Grier to save him was to take his helmet off, exposing the Doctor to the Cyber-smoke that begins the process of turning someone into a Cyberman.
And there are a number of times when the Doctor, well, starts talking in a flat tone about the importance of logic over everything, how compliance brings strength and the like. It’s kinda creepy, and I had to wonder was it because it was this Doctor and not some other. I mean, any Doctor falling under the influence of the Cybermen would seem scary and wrong. The Doctor, in any incarnation, is usually a kind person who just wants to help, sometimes with varying levels of enthusiasm. The closest I can come to a villainous Doctor (and no, not the Valeyard since, well, that guy never came back) would be that time the Tenth Doctor took on the Family of Blood. That story showed what the Doctor could do if he got angry enough. There have been times, especially in the modern era, when the Doctor needs to be reined in, largely because he’s been traveling alone for too long, but these are always times when the Doctor is at his scariest.
But in those moments, the Doctor is still the Doctor. The Third Doctor, arguably the most straight-up heroic of the show’s entire run, becoming more like a Cyberman and not working to save the day unless Jo can temporarily snap him out of it, something she does while also being infected herself, is kinda scary.
And Jo never goes the emotion-free route.
OK, hold on, what happened here? What brought the Cybermen to the armpit of the universe? Well, there’s this scientist, Professor Marian Schaeffer. She swiped the Cyber-Leveler to get the Cybermen to come to the planet Burnt Salt. She genetically engineered the talking lemur clones. She gave Gusta her cybernetic eye. And while she comes across as a cold and awful person, it turns out that she had a good reason: her husband was exposed to Cyber-smoke and is basically a Cyberman, and she wants to cure him. To that end, she’s working on an Anti-Cyber-Smoke that will reverse the process for all the infected if she can just get it right before the Cybermen get what they want and then convert everyone.
It helps that the Doctor figures it out between bouts of Cyberman-like behavior, one of which he had to be snapped out of by Jo reminding him the TARDIS exists.
Besides, if it’s kinda scary that the Doctor might become a Cyberman, it might be even scarier that the power and knowledge of a Time Lord could end up in the Cybermen’s hands.
But yeah, this is very much a good Doctor Who story. The human villain isn’t as villainous as they might seem to be at first glance, there are a lot of characters trying their best, the Doctor more or less saves the day, and the companion is there to make sure the Doctor stays that route one way or the other. Jo, as one of the more inspiration companions, and the Third Doctor, as the closest the series ever came to an action hero Doctor, manage again, and once again, I got a good Big Finish story.
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