I imagine the same can be said of many genre shows, but when you’re a fan of Doctor Who, there are always a few stories that you enjoy but the rest of fandom shuns. For me, “Attack of the Cybermen” is such an installment, and a big part of my appreciation for it comes from having viewed it repeatedly at a time in my life when I only had about five different Who stories on VHS. I know every beat of it as well as I know The Rocky Horror Picture Show. During those precious teenage years, criticism was much harder to come by than it is today, so I was blissfully unaware that “Attack” was unpopular with the fans. Having read plenty of critical pieces on it since then, I can sort of see where the distaste comes from, and yet it hasn’t really changed my feelings about the story. Sure, it’s far from a sterling example of the show, but it’s an immense amount of fun regardless.
Probably the most controversial aspect of the story – the one that folks rant about incessantly – is its over-reliance on continuity. It is true, “Attack of the Cybermen” is quite the fan-wankfest, and in order to get the most out of it, it helps to know some Cyber-history. For starters, it’s something of a sequel to 1968’s “Tomb of the Cybermen,” and along the way it also pays homage to the ‘60s serials “The Invasion” and “The Tenth Planet.” Further, there’s a major reference to the very first Who story ever, “An Unearthly Child,” and it brings back the character of Lytton (Maurice Colbourne), the intergalactic mercenary who’d worked for the Daleks in the previous season’s “Resurrection of the Daleks.” And just to make sure you’ve been paying attention all these years, it features the singular instance of the Doctor actually fixing the TARDIS’ chameleon circuit, so that for this story only, the exterior of the time/space machine changes to fit in with its surroundings (or not, as it turns out, but those are gags better left seen than talked about here).
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