You’ve probably noticed in my descriptions of Part 1 and Part 2 that the Doctor doesn’t do much in this story. He recognized Mondas before he even saw it and knew to expect the Cybermen, and once they’ve arrived, he doesn’t seem too concerned about them; he tells the bewildered General Cutler to wait it out. But it’s his companions Ben and Polly and the Antarctic base personnel who take the bulk of the exposition and action.
In this episode, more so than the previous two. William Hartnell was taken ill with bronchitis and went away for a week’s rest and recuperation. He isn’t even in this one.
Early on in Part 3, while the base is preparing its defense against the hundreds of Cyberships headed from Mondas toward Earth intent on siphoning off the planet’s energy and cyberizing the population, the Doctor (a stand-in with his back carefully toward the camera) collapses and is taken out of the control room. We’ll see him lying on a bunk under a blanket a little later in the episode.
While this was unfortunate for poor Mr. Hartnell, it provides some foreshadowing in character, suggesting that the Doctor’s health is deteriorating as well.
Everything that was scripted for the Doctor to have done in this episode, including most of his lines, is given to Dr. Barclay.
General Cutler talks to his son in the second capsule. Cutler Jr. reports that his craft is experiencing some power loss, but he doesn’t seem too concerned about it. He’s on the far side of Earth from Mondas at this point and doesn’t know yet about the fate of the other capsule and the two astronauts he was supposed to meet up with.
Dad doesn’t tell him, but says they’re bringing him back to Earth and asks if he’s seen that fleet of spaceships. No, he hasn’t.
The General then addresses his base staff. As he sees it, they have three problems:
- His son has been sent up on a foolhardy mission and they have to get him down.
- Another visit from the Cybermen is almost a certainty.
- The Earth is being drained of its energy by Mondas.
The solution? Destroy Mondas first. He wants to launch the Z Bomb.
What’s the Z Bomb? You may wonder, and Ben does ask. It’s the latest in Doomsday weapons. There are several in strategic places around the Earth and the base has one.
Dr. Barclay protests: The radiation from the bomb could do a great deal of damage on Earth, especially on the side facing Mondas when the bomb explodes.
But Cutler is willing to take the risk. Since he doesn’t have the authority to just go ahead and launch the bomb, he contacts the Secretary General in Geneva, who raises same issues as Barclay just did. He tells the General no Z Bomb, but adds that Cutler must do all he can to defend Earth from the Cybermen invasion. So the General ignores the first part of his orders and decides the second part gives him the authorization to do what he wants anyway.
Ben tries to tell General Cutler that there must be another way. He repeats and elaborates on what the Doctor told them in the last episode: Mondas is in even greater danger than Earth; they’ll take too much energy and burn their own planet out. The best thing to do is just wait, as the Doctor recommended.
But the General isn’t interested. More than the Earth, the only thing he really cares about is his son. He tells Dr. Barclay to be sure to time the Z Bomb going off so that his son’s craft is on the other side of the planet at the time. Tough luck for anybody on the wrong side of Earth, including all of them.
He then sends Ben to the bunkroom where the Doctor has been taken to lie down. Before he goes, Ben tells Polly to stay in the control room and try to get Dr. Barclay on their side to help stop the bomb launch.
This is how Polly wheedles her way in among the busy control-room staff:
Polly: Can I stay and help?
General Cutler: What do you think you could do?
Polly: I suppose I could make some coffee or something.
She approaches Dr. Barclay by offering him a nice, hot cup.
When Polly first brings up the dire situation, he snaps, “Keep your mind on the coffee!” then apologizes for being rude. Not to mention almost laughably sexist even for 1966, never mind the supposedly more egalitarian Future 1980s. You’d almost think that this coffee thing was a deliberate parody of the roles of women in old sci-fi movies. It is Polly’s rather subversive way of exploiting the expectations of the men around her to accomplish her objective, but I don’t know how intentional that is. I haven’t seen enough of this particular companion to assess her character.
Once they start talking seriously, she convinces Dr. Barclay to help. If they can delay the Z Bomb launch long enough, Mondas will destroy itself as the Doctor predicted without endangering the Earth with a burst of radiation.
They go to the bunkroom to discuss things with Ben. Dr. Barclay says that the big vent above the bunkbed where the Doctor is sleeping leads to the launch room. He instructs Ben on where to go in the launch room and what to do to commit a subtle bit of sabotage to ensure that the missile with the bomb won’t be able to take off. He even draws a diagram.
A second ship full of Cybermen is landing just above the underground base.
Actually, it’s the same shot as we saw in Part 1 reused. The first ship has disappeared from the model landscape.
But this time the base is ready and waiting for them. As the fresh batch of Cyberman march out of their ship, they are zapped with their own weapons, taken from the fallen Cyber-comrades in the previous episode. They all fall down, and the soldiers confiscate their weapons.
Meanwhile, Ben crawls through the base’s capacious ductwork and gets to the launch room, which is another very nice mult-level set that reminds me of the original Enterprise’s engine room. Ben sneaks unnoticed along a catwalk on the back wall to get to the panel that Dr. Barclay described. He gets the hatch off and starts to go to work using the helpful diagram, but is caught in the act by the General–who flips him over the rail!
Ben bangs his head and is out cold for a while. I’m surprised he didn’t break several bones.
The missile launch goes on. General Cutler doesn’t know what they were up to, but he threatens to kill Barclay and Ben if it turns out son’s life is threatened because of it.
Just to be sure his son is all right, he contacts the capsule for another talk. Cutler Jr. still hasn’t seen a sign of the Cyber invasion fleet yet, but his spacecraft’s power is diminishing.
The missile is preparing to launch.
I’ve had nothing but praise for most of the sets and model work in this story so far–but here’s one that doesn’t work all that well. As the model missile rises out of its silo, it wobbles and looks exactly like the little plastic toy rocket it actually is.
The episode ends on a countdown: 6… 5… 4… 3… 2…