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Recap / Doctor Who S6 E3 "The Invasion"

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Not pictured: Horrifying noises courtesy of The Great Old Ones' grandfathers.

"You're an evil man, Vaughn. You're sadistic. You're a megalomaniac. You're insane. I pity you. But if I get half a chance, I'll kill you."
Professor Watkins tells it like it is

Production code: VV

The One With… the Daffy Duck Cyberman.

Written by Derrick Sherwin. This eight-episode serial first aired from November 2 to December 21, 1968.

The TARDIS arrives in London in 1968 (or 1979), the Doctor and companions are enlisted by Isobel Watkins to find her uncle, a computer scientist working for International Electromatics.

IE's director, Tobias Vaughn, arouses the Doctor's suspicions— confirmed by meeting Lethbridge-Stewart again (see "The Web of Fear"), recently promoted to Brigadier, who says that numerous other IE staff have gone missing. Lethbridge-Stewart now heads the British arm of UNIT, the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, charged with investigating alien sightings and other such things.

The Doctor discovers that Vaughn is acting on behalf of the Cybermen, who plan to invade Earth, but is also planning to double-cross them and seize power for himself. The Cybermen send a hypnotic signal through all IE-made equipment, immobilizing most of Earth's population, and start emerging from London's sewers to take over. However, the Doctor has managed to protect himself and the others from the signal and succeeds in defeating the invasion, thanks in no small part to Zoe's phenomenal brain, plotting guidance trajectories for nuclear missiles to destroy the incoming fleet.

"The Invasion" presaged the shape of many Doctor Who stories to come, featuring an alien invasion of Earth aided and abetted by a corrupt industrialist, with UNIT providing cannon fodder and the military connections to fight back. As you might guess, it was conceived partially as a proof-of-concept for the Third Doctor's Earthbound era. It is the only eight-part story in the show's history; only "The War Games" from the same season (10 episodes) and "The Daleks' Master Plan" from three seasons back (12 episodes) are longer.note 

It was also the first incomplete story to be given the animated treatment, with the two missing episodes animated by Cosgrove Hall. Despite the success of the DVD, it would still be another six years before they would try reconstructing episodes with animation again, after which it became a regular event.


  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Takes place 4 years after "The Web of Fear" which would theoretically put it around 1979. (See that article for more, and for the beginnings of the infamous "UNIT Dating Controversy".) Oddly, a photo from one of Vaughn's security cameras includes a timestamp dated "E091/5D/78," implying that, unless the camera's clocks are off, the serial is actually set in 1978.
  • Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: The Cybermen lurk in the sewer.
  • Affably Evil: Tobias Vaughn. Very courteous, even to trespassers, as long as one is not hindering his plans. But when he gets upset...
  • All There in the Manual: Later expanded universe sources, Doctor Who: Cybermen and its audio adaptation The ArcHive Tapes, have In-Universe historians identify these Cybermen as the "Early CyberFaction", the CyberFaction being the Cybermen who took their upgrades up to eleven and left Mondas behind, explaining how they can precede the invasion seen in "The Tenth Planet". One branch of them, dubbed CyberNomads, later end up appearing in "Revenge of the Cybermen". Meanwhile, another branch of the Faction ultimately evolves into the Cybermen already seen in "The Wheel in Space" before turning into the versions from "The Moonbase", who eventually settle on the planet Telos, becoming the "CyberTelosians".
  • Animated Adaptation: The two missing episodes were remade in an animated format for the DVD release.
  • "Be Quiet!" Nudge: The Doctor when Jamie keeps Saying Too Much to Vaughn.
  • Big Bad: Tobias Vaughn, at least until the Cybermen well and truly prove to be Eviler than Thou.
  • The Brigadier: Trope Namer Lethbridge-Stewart returns, and for the first time is actually in the rank that gave the trope its name.
  • Call-Back: There are numerous references back to the events of The Web of Fear and many mentions of Professor Travers and his daughter Anne. When Lethbridge-Stewart first appears, the Doctor refers to him as "Colonel" before being corrected.
  • Camera Fiend: Isabel Watkins is a professional photographer who always has a camera with her. She persuades Zoe to model for her, and takes photographs of the invading Cybermen, despite being told by The Brigadier that it is "no job for a woman".
  • Corporate Conspiracy: Tobias Vaughn, director of International Electromatics, is not only secretly working with the Cybermen to send a hypnotic signal through all IE-made electronics equipment, but also plans to double-cross them and seize control himself.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: In keeping with the spy-thriller feel, Tobias Vaughn is very much a corporate Blofeld.
  • Costume Evolution: This story introduces the "earmuff" or "square-headed" Cyberman helmet design which would last, with variations, until "Rise of the Cybermen" did away with it in 2006. The Cybermen are also five-fingered again for the first time since "The Tenth Planet" (having spent "The Moonbase", "The Tomb of the Cybermen", and "The Wheel in Space" only sporting three fingers), and the mouth teardrops are quietly removed in favor of using a thinner, more slit-like version of the original rectangular mouths.
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: Isobel has the habit of scribbling notes on her apartment walls using the irrefutable logic, "You can lose a piece of paper, but you can't lose a wall."
  • Cut and Paste Environments: The same set is used for Vaughn's office in two different buildings (with a different view out of the window). Lampshaded.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Averted. Unlike the usual plot scheme, Vaughn is positively thrilled to have been given a cyborg body and doesn't lose any of his personality.
  • The Dragon: Packer
  • Driving into a Truck: The Doctor and Jamie are snatched off the street by two men driving an expensive car. Instead of being taken to the Big Bad, they're driven to an airport runway and up the access ramp of a Hercules transport aircraft, where the Doctor meets his old ally Lethbridge-Stewart and the newly-formed United Nations Intelligence Taskforce.
  • Early Instalment Weirdness: The first time we see Benton he's wearing a suit and driving a Jaguar, as there's more emphasis on UNIT being an international intelligence organization. After this UNIT is always presented as being strictly military.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Vaughn really isn’t being very clever.
  • Expy: Professor Watkins and his niece Isobel, the Suspiciously Similar Substitutes written in when the creators of Professor Travers and his daughter Anne refused to license out the characters. Professor Travers and Anne are said to have moved to America, and Professor Watkins and Isobel fill their shoes extremely well. This is quite possibly lampshaded by the fact that the Doctor and companions mention repeatedly that they were hoping to meet Travers and Anne before finding out that the pair are gone, even though they are otherwise unimportant to the story.
  • Fake Kill Scare: A missile is fired at the Tardis, and the Doctor can't get the controls to work! Have our heroes been obliterated before their adventure even begins? Of course they haven't.
  • For Inconvenience, Press "1": The Doctor has to do this with an automated receptionist and doesn't enjoy it. Which Zoe later drops a Logic Bomb on.
  • Idiot Ball: Zoe, mainly to annoy Jamie, agrees to Isobel's insanely dangerous plan of photographing the Cybermen. Unlike Isobel, she's encountered the Cybermen before and ought to know better.
  • Immune to Bullets: Vaughn, thanks to voluntary partial Cyber-conversion.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Vaughn's men prove completely incapable of shooting anybody as the Doctor, Jamie, Zoe and Isobel escape via a UNIT helicopter, prompting a UNIT officer named Jimmy to joke that they "couldn't hit a flying elephant".
  • Kidnapped Scientist: Professor Watkins.
  • Kilroy Was Here: In Episode 3, scrawled on a wall in the elevator shaft. No real purpose, just set dressing.
  • Large Ham:
    • Viewers may remember Kevin Stoney from his former role as Mavic Chen. His hamminess has seen no decrease whatsoever.
    • Vaughn's assistant Packer also qualifies; he takes so much pleasure in his actions that he constantly looks like he's holding back a snicker.
  • Logic Bomb: Zoe uses ALGOL to blow up the computer receptionist.
  • Mad Eye: Vaughn's right eye is half-closed through most of the serial (due to injuries Kevin Stoney had suffered in a car accident), then opens wide when he turns against the Cybermen.
  • Magic Skirt: Jamie's kilt stays in place. This was achieved in the studio by adding small weights to the hem, keeping it from flying as high as cloth normally would.
  • Meaningful Name: The United Nations Intelligence Taskforce implies the organisation was formed in direct response to "The Web of Fear", in case the Intelligence struck again. Of course it's also seen fulfilling a role as a UN spy organisation, at least in this story.
  • Mega-Corp: International Electromatics.
  • Modesty Shorts: A photograph taken while filming shows Sally Faulkner (Isobel) wore shorts under her dress for the scene where she's rescued by the helicopter. The animators reconstructing that sequence had other ideas.
  • Multinational Team: UNIT
  • No Kill like Overkill: After the destruction of their invasion fleet, the Cyber Planner intends to destroy all life on Earth with a super bomb.
  • Number Two for Brains: Vaughn has his incompetent henchman Packer — unusual given his stated desire for efficiency.
  • Noodle Incident: The Cyber Planner tells Vaughn that he recognizes the Doctor and Jamie from Planet 14, an event we never saw.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome/Take Our Word for It: Partway through the story, the Doctor says that it's time that they rescued Professor Watkins. The very next shot features one of Vaughn's men describing in detail the incredible, action-packed rescue operation that UNIT carried out, yet we never got the chance to see (it was scripted, but there wasn't enough time to film it).
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: In his first story as Benton, John Levene is battling valiantly with his West Country rhoticism (particularly the word "car").
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: This is a Troughton story that isn't a base-under-siege, features UNIT, a Diabolical Mastermind Villain with Good Publicity and Cybermen invading modern-day London, and feels like a test-run for the Pertwee era (because it was).
  • Parent Service: Sally Faulkner was a little concerned about the shortness of the skirts, but was told it was "for the dads."
  • Percussive Maintenance: The animated version of the first episode has the Doctor hitting the receptionist machine after being frustrated with it when trying to find out where Professor Watkins is. It didn't harmed the machine, though it stopped answering the Doctor's questions afterwards.
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: A rare case of a story being a pilot for the show itself, as it was a test run for an impending huge Retool - the idea was to drop most of the space travel and Genre Roulette to focus on earthbound adventure stories in a military setting, and bring back Lethbridge-Stewart as a regular.
  • Put on a Bus: A BBC episode intro by the actor who plays Vaughn reveals that the roles of Watkins and his niece Isobel were originally written for Professor Travers and his daughter, Anne—but the actors weren't available at the time of filming, so Professor Travers and Anne are said to have moved to America, and Professor Watkins and Isobel fill their shoes. (It has also been suggested that bringing back Travers would have necessitated paying a royalty to the character's creators, Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln, which the producers wanted to avoid.)
  • Rank Up: Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart is now The Brigadier.
  • Red Right Hand: Tobias Vaughn has a heavy squint and, as the Doctor observes, barely ever blinks.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Vaughn. Well, sort of, since he claims he just wants revenge.
  • Sequel Episode: To "The Web of Fear".
  • Series Continuity Error: The animated first episode depicts Zoe wearing the clothes that she later gets from Isobel when she should be still wearing her glittery catsuit from "The Mind Robber". This may have been an error or may have been due to a desire not to have to create a second character model.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the animated first episode, the car that the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe hitch a ride with after the lorry driver is shot has the number plate H 23 63, which is a reference to the date of the original broadcast of "An Unearthly Child", the very first episode of Doctor Who, on 23 November 1963.
    • In the same episode, the words "Bad Wolf" (the story arc of the 2005 series) are written on Isobel's wall as an in-joke.
  • The Slow Path: The Brigadier has lived through four years of normal Earth-time while the Doctor and Jamie only spent a few weeks.
  • Spoiler Opening: While the title avoids spoiling the monsters, the opening does reveal that Kit Pedler is involved, which fans are gonna know whose gonna be in it.
  • Spoiler Title: Unusually for Classic Who, averted. A BBC episode intro by the actor who played Vaughn reveals that the serial was originally going to be titled "Invasion of the Cybermen", but was shortened to avoid spoiling the Cybermen, who don't appear until halfway through the 8-episode serial.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Isobel learns her lesson against feminist assertiveness after she gets a Red Shirt killed.
  • The Starscream: Tobias Vaughn is working with the Cybermen to invade the planet, but plans to betray them and rule the world. He ends up helping to defeat the Cybermen but is killed by them.
  • Stock Footage: The exact same footage of missiles pivoting up, then cutting to the behind view, then a single missile rotating across a clear sky, is used three times in three successive episodes. This wouldn't have been so obvious to the audience watching it week-by-week, but is painful in an Archive Bingeinvoked (it doesn't help that at least two are Engaging Chevrons sequences).
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The story is virtually a direct sequel to "The Web of Fear", but has sewer-dwelling Cybermen invading London substituting for Underground-dwelling Yeti invading London, and replaces Professor Travers and Miss Travers with a similar Mad Scientist & Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter pair. This was because the producer fell out with the creator of the Yeti and the Traverses and wanted to pay them as little as possible. The one returning character created by them is Lethbridge-Stewart, because Douglas Camfield wanted Nicholas Courtney back and having a Suspiciously Similar Substitute played by the same actor would just be begging for a lawsuit, and even he gets a promotion from his previous role and is mostly referred to by that rank.
  • Take Over the World: This is Vaughn's ultimate goal. Much like Klieg in "The Tomb of the Cybermen", he goes on a rant about how the world is a disorganized mess of conflicting ideals, and only his superior intellect could bring it together to solve all its problems.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Zoe reels out a list of coding and orders to a robot receptionist, causing it to break down and catch fire. Even Vaughn had to admit he was "Quite amused"
  • Uncanny Valley: The Doctor notices that Vaughn doesn't blink as often as a human should, a sign that he has a cyborg body.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Unlike most Corrupt Corporate Executives, Vaughn believes in a greater good that justifies what he's doing. He allies with and manipulates the Cybermen into taking over the world for him, so he can then double-cross them and create a utopia where all ideological disputes cease and unity is attained. Unfortunately for Vaughn, the Cybermen were one step ahead and double-crossed him first, leading him to ally with the Doctor to take down the threat that he himself had led to the Earth in the first place.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Tobias Vaughn goes from his usual cold and calculating personality to launching a raging freak out at an underling (and once, to the Doctor) in every single episode of the story that he's in.
  • Wham Line: The Doctor to Tobias Vaughn at the end of Episode Seven (and, by extension, the beginning of Episode Eight):
    The Doctor: Is this what you wanted, Vaughn?! To be the ruler of a dead world?!?!
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Whatever became of Rutledge? It is believed that he was originally supposed to shoot himself, which is retained in the novelisation.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The plot is similar to Quatermass II, though not as much as some other stories.
  • Who Would Be Stupid Enough?: Vaughn lets loose the deranged Cyberman into the sewers, saying that anyone stupid enough to be roaming around in a sewer deserves anything that happens to them. Answer Cut to Isobel who's planning to do exactly that.
  • Written-In Absence: Jamie and Zoe each miss an episode, due to their actors being on holiday. The in-story reasons are that Jamie was in hospital after being injured, and Zoe was imprisoned by Vaughn after blowing up his computer receptionist.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: It's been four years since Lethbridge-Stewart last encountered the Doctor, but to Jamie and the Doctor it's only been a few weeks due to their time travelling.
  • You Have Failed Me: Bye-bye, Gregory.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Both Vaughn and the Cybermen are planning to do this to each other, but the Cybermen end up getting the jump on Vaughn.
  • You're Insane!: Professor Watkins says this to Vaughn about his plans.