Astonishingly, having finished the previous episode with a full scale Cyberman invasion, the Cybermen don’t appear in this at all. Instead, we get something much more surprising and interesting: the Doctor confronting the villain, while the Brigadier and Zoe destroy the invasion fleet.
In the last few episodes Troughton has been a faintly peripheral presence as Derrick Sherwin establishes the UNIT premise, Camfield focuses on action sequences, and Vaughn gets a lot more screen time than most villains. But Sherwin hasn’t forgotten about the Doctor, and gives Troughton, in this episode, some of the best material he’s had to work with for a long time (plus lets him drive a jeep, which is very Pertwee).
Obviously, Troughton rises to the occasion. He begins a bit discombobulated – recovering from the Cyberman hypnotic assault and, charmingly, confusing Jimmy and Jamie. At first he seems to be on the ropes, but we quickly see this is just because he’s been formulating a new plan – to ignore the Cybermen completely and confront Vaughn directly. The resulting scenes are some of the best in the serial, as the Doctor strides into IE HQ, and politely calls Vaughn to request a meeting.
Sherwin is playing with spy series hallmarks: the Doctor sitting comfortably across the desk from Vaughn, calmly discussing his plans to take over the world, is more Bondian than anything in The Enemy of the World. It’s a classic 007 versus Blofeld, and Troughton and Stoney nail it. The power dynamic in the conversation: the Doctor, forensically dismantling the holes in Vaughn’s plot; Vaughn flipping between arrogance, anger, doubt, are scintillating to watch.
Stoney has been great throughout The Invasion, but this is his best work yet. At the start of the episode he’s sitting taking notes in his comfy chair and calmly plotting to betray his allies when the Cyber Planner is sitting just behind a partition wall. Later, he gets the villain’s megalomaniac moment, gloating about ruling the world while a doubtful Packer frets. And the end of the episode encapsulates how central his performance has been to the story: the cliffhanger isn’t the Doctor’s horrified reaction to the Cyber Planner’s decision to wipe out life on Earth, but Vaughn’s haunted face as his schemes fall apart around him.
What elevates this episode to greatness is that it also finds time for Zoe’s best moment yet: sitting at the missile control desk quietly taking in the details of the Cyber invasion fleet’s approach, and working out how to destroy it. Her confrontation with the military, and the Brigadier’s unhesitating support and respect for her intellect, prefigures the character of Liz Shaw – which becomes even more obvious as Zoe flits from monitor to monitor, making calculations and then telling the men how to do their jobs better.
And on top of all this, Jamie gets shot.
Next episode: “The Invasion” – Episode Eight