Attack of the Cybermen: The Unseen Version
By Jon Preddle
Attack of the Cybermen has been panned by many fans as being a confusing mess which contradicts established Cybermen history and Doctor Who's then twenty-two year old mythology. What is not widely known is that the televised version of Attack is markedly different to what was originally planned for the opening story of season 22.
I have recently received a copy of Eric Saward's original draft rehearsal scripts for Attack of the Cybermen which, on close examination, contain much of interest. Not only are the scripts missing certain sequences which were on TV, but they also contain scenes which did not make it to the screen. Some could even argue that this original version is better than that eventually broadcast!
This article takes a look at the differences between the scripts and the televised story. Thanks to David Howe and Andrew Pixley who provided some of the background details.
Planning for season 22 began in late 1983. JNT stipulated that the opening adventure must feature the Cybermen. Script editor Eric Saward had previously spoken with Cybermen co-creator Gerry Davis about penning a Cyber-tale, but the kind of story that Davis produced did not fit the style Saward wanted. (It is not clear, but Davis may have submitted Genesis of the Cybermen at this point.) With little in the way of suitable scripts available, and with time running short, Saward realised that he would have to write the Cyberman story himself.
Saward secretly collaborated with Ian Levine, the super-fan who had been acting in the capacity of JNT's 'unofficial' script consultant since 1980, to write a storyline. Levine came up with the initial idea of a sequel to The Tomb of the Cybermen, with the Cybermen luring the Doctor to Telos in order to steal the TARDIS and use it to travel back in time to prevent the destruction of Mondas. Taking the very basics from Levine's outline and his own ideas, such as the Cryons and the return of Lytton, Saward wrote Attack of the Cybermen (the often-mentioned working title 'The Cold War' is apparently false) over the winter months in late 1983/early 1984.
In order to keep from JNT the truth behind the authorship, and to avoid problems with the writers' guild, Saward created the pseudonym 'Paula Moore'. Then, to further the pretence, Saward's then-girlfriend, Paula Woolsey, agreed to appear as 'Paula Moore' at pre-production script meetings.
Saward's first set of scripts were initially 4 x 25 minute episodes. Around April 1984, the Head Of Serials, Alan Bond, instructed that season 22 be broadcast in 45 minute instalments. As a result, Saward restructured the scripts to fit the new format. It is in this format that I have a copy of the scripts.
At some point between April and the last week in May (when recording on the serial commenced) Saward undertook an extensive rewrite of the scripts, with particular emphasis on the second episode. The reasons for this rewrite are not known, nor by whom the directive was made. It would seem that a combination of padding, and a lack of action and location scenes was instrumental. That Part One is virtually the same as the televised episodes, and yet the TV version has more scenes, suggests that the original episodes were under-length. Secondly, the original scripts are heavy in dialogue. Many of the scenes in the script which do not appear in the final product are very 'talky', and with the then-new Doctor being 'a man of action' the story may have needed a bit more 'oompf'. Lastly, there is only a minimal amount of exterior requirements for Part One, and none for Part Two, and yet four days were assigned for location filming. It would seem that it was to satisfy this last requirement that the majority of the rewrites were made. All the brand new location scenes are set on the surface of Telos. Saward created two new regular characters for these scenes: Bates and Stratton, neither of whom appear in the original drafts. With the exception of the Cybermen and the Cryons, the only three humanoid characters appearing in the second episode are the Doctor, Peri and Lytton! Also, Saward expanded the role of Griffiths, who was originally killed in Part One. As a part of this new direction, the last major change was to Lytton.
Originally, Lytton's mission for the Cryons was to lure the Cyber-Controller into a trap on Halley's Comet, where the Cryons have a hidden base. All of Lytton's scenes in the original draft are in Cyber-Control. In his revisions, Saward removed the subplot concerning the comet and teamed Lytton up with Griffiths, Bates and Stratton, and rewrote Lytton's mission to steal the time-vessel. In the drafts, the time ship is of Cyber-technology, but in the rewrites, it became Bates and Stratton's ship.
The story went into production at the end of May. Both Vengeance on Varos and The Two Doctors, which were recorded after Attack of the Cybermen, were trimmed during editing when it became apparent that they were over- running. Therefore it is possible that the new Attack also over-ran, necessitating the cutting of some minor scenes.
What follows is an in-depth examination of the differences between the script and televised episodes. Minor dialogue changes have been included only when the change is significant, or of particular interest. In some cases I have simplified the stage directions given in the script.
The script opens the same as the TV version, with Bill and David in the sewer. The first change occurs with the first appearance of Lytton and his accomplices. On TV, Lytton is planning a 10 million pound diamond heist. Originally, as seen in the script, it was simply a two million pound robbery of 'Masters & Johnson, Merchant Bankers.' Also, the script gives Russell's first name as John, a detail missing from TV.
The next scene is in the TARDIS. This is scripted as appears on TV, however the TV version cuts off after Peri says: 'There's no one more surprised than you that we came through it.' The script continues beyond this:
This sequence shows clearly the new Doctor's disregard for his companion, and that he is only interested in himself - which may explain why it was cut.
The next change occurs at Lytton's garage lock-up. The script was written with the intention of having the lock-up as a studio set. However, for the televised version, a suitable location was used instead, a scrap-metal yard in London. Lytton keeps his transmitter here, locked in a cupboard. On TV, the transmitter is hidden in a metal cabinet, and simply emits an electronic pulse when Lytton switches it on. The script describes the device as having a tape- recorder attached. Lytton stops the recorder, rewinds and plays it. 'A thin, ethereal but not unpleasant voice fills the garage':
Lytton then switches off the recorder when he hears the sound of a car pulling up; Payne, Russell and Griffiths returning with their equipment, a sequence which appears in the televised version. The Cryon voice may have been removed to keep Lytton's true intentions hidden. As far as the viewers are concerned he is operating alone; the Cryons do not appear on screen until Part Two.
The next scene (on TV, and in script) has Payne and Russell getting out of the car. Griffiths drives off to 'lose the motor.' On TV, it then cuts to the TARDIS, but the script has an extra scene at the garage, followed by extra dialogue in the TARDIS:
This scene at the garage may have been recorded but chopped during editing. Directly following this is an untelevised sequence aboard the TARDIS:
The scene then continues as on TV with Peri's line, 'Does this noise have anything to do with you?' This part of the scene appears to have been deleted because the comet's role in the story changed with Saward's rewrites.
When the TARDIS materialises in the Totters Lane scrapyard on TV, it changes into an ornately decorated cupboard. However, in the script the TARDIS takes on the form of 'an Egyptian Pillar - the sort used in 'The Cleopatras' (which was a BBC production set in Egypt).
The Doctor and Peri trace the alien signal they detected in the TARDIS to an empty house in London. They return to the ship to locate the source of the transmission. On TV, the TARDIS scene starts with the Doctor saying 'Almost there...' and the scene ends with his wondering if the alien is in 'all of a dither waiting for us to arrive.' The script features a bit more dialogue at the beginning which is missing from TV, possibly recorded and later edited out:
The Doctor moves the TARDIS to the source of the signal - Lytton's lock-up. The script has the TARDIS materialising in the form of 'a large wardrobe' whereas on TV it was a pipe organ. This scene ends with the Doctor and Peri climbing into the sewer. The scripted scenes contains more dialogue than on TV. According to the British magazine TV Zone, the dialogue was changed shortly before recording, possibly due to some of its excessiveness, or because it slowed down the pace of the sequence. Here is the dialogue as scripted. It takes up from the point at which the policemen first appear, one in the pit, the other in the doorway:
On TV, and in the script, the Doctor then leaps into the pit and fights the policeman out of view. Peri blinds the other policeman with a handful of dirt and gets his gun. The Doctor, wearing the other's helmet, climbs from the pit. Peri nearly shoots him, and scolds him for being so stupid. The script differs from TV from this point:
In the script the Doctor searches the policeman and finds a large supply of weapons, but on TV he only finds handcuffs. The script then follows the TV version up to when the Doctor peers into the pit again, and says, 'And if my nose doesn't deceive me, it leads into the sewers.' The script continues:
On TV, Peri pockets the weapon, but the Doctor doesn't notice. The scene ends as they disappear into the pit.
The next change occurs in the first scene set in the Cybermen's sewer base. The scripted scene follows the TV version but then deviates near the end. In both script and on TV Lytton informs the Cyber-leader that he has brought gifts in the form of his fellow robbers. The Leader says that is logical otherwise he would have betrayed their cause to Earth authorities. Lytton replies with, 'Precisely.' On TV, the Leader then says that the Controller can decide their fate. Lytton asks where the Controller is, and assumes he is on Telos. However, the scripted scene following Lytton saying 'Precisely' goes:
On TV, the story then cuts to the first of Saward's new location sequences on Telos, where Bates and Stratton stage their unsuccessful attempt to obtain a Cyber-head. (TV Zone magazine says that the Cybermen were required to wear blue overalls with clear plastic helmets covering their heads to protect them from the planet's poisonous gases. This stipulation was possibly introduced to enable Bates and Stratton to disguise themselves as Cybermen easily. However, the idea was dropped on the day of filming as it made the Cybermen look ludicrous!). There are several other short scenes with Bates and Stratton inserted between the action taking place on Earth. Saward has also added several scenes with the Cyber-Controller to the TV version. In the script, the Controller does not appear until Part Two! Following the sewer base scene above, the script returns to the Doctor and Peri, in the scene where they meet Russell in the tunnels.
Later, the Doctor kills a Cyber-scout with his sonic lance. The loss of the scout is detected back at the Cyber-base. Griffiths mimics a Cyberman's monotone voice, 'Getting-rough-is-it?' a line which is in the script. On TV, the Cyberleader seizes Griffiths around the head and says, 'Remain silent or you will die.' The script, however puts it differently:
This scene was altered by Saward. In later interviews, Saward confesses to liking the character of Griffiths which seems to have been the reason why the character was retained. Griffiths appears throughout the rest of the televised story.
At the end of the episode, the Doctor, Peri and Russell climb from the pit. On TV, Russell says (about the TARDIS), 'That thing wasn't there earlier,' and the Doctor pulls him into the ship. From the point they climb out of the pit, the script puts this scene differently:
Why this scene was cut is a mystery. It answers the question of where Lytton got the transmitter from, and what Lytton's motives for his series of robberies were.
The scripted episode is entirely studio-bound with no requirements for outside recording. The televised episode features numerous exterior scenes - all of which are not in the script. This would seem to support the idea that the script was rewritten specifically to incorporate additional locations sequences.
Once the TARDIS arrives on Telos, the characters get split up and establish their own subplots. The order in which the scenes occur on TV is the same as in the scripts. However, the content of some scenes is different. For every Lytton-and-Griffiths scene on TV there is an equivalent Lytton-at-Cyber-Control scene in the script. The script also contains more scenes with Peri and the Cryons, whereas the Doctor and Flast scenes are more or less unaltered.
The first scene is in the TARDIS Console Room. In the script, when the Doctor activates the self-destruct, the cloister bell tolls. This does not occur on TV. Also, a line of dialogue has been removed from the TV version: when the Doctor realises the Cyber-Controller is still alive, he says:
The Doctor realises the Cybermen now have time travel. In the script, the time vessel is of Cyberman construction. On TV, it was stolen from Bates and Stratton, which would explain why the line was cut.
The next TV scene is unscripted: the Cybermen at Cyber-Control detect irregular transmissions coming from the TARDIS. The Controller advises that the Time Lords will be too late in responding to the Doctor's signal, and the Doctor's TARDIS will soon be theirs.
The Cybermen's prisoners are taken to 'the smallest room in the TARDIS', as described in the script. There, the Doctor reveals that there are 'millions of Cybermen on Telos.' This seems to have been cut because when the Doctor meets Flast in the TV version, she says the Cybermen are dying out. In the TV scenes set in this room, Griffiths has a few lines. Most of these are actually spoken by Peri in the script, although Griffiths' confusion about the workings of the TARDIS and the existence of Cybermen and Mondas is new.
On TV, the Doctor alters the TARDIS' navigation by changing some circuits behind a roundel. This does not occur in the script. When the Doctor tells Peri she would like Telos in the old days when the Cryons were in residence, the script continues from this point with dialogue missing from the TV narrative:
The scene then continues as on TV with Lytton's line: 'They had nowhere else to go.'
On TV there is a brief scene with the Cybermen in the TARDIS console room registering the Doctor's transmission to Gallifrey as the ship approaches Telos. This is not in the script.
The next scripted scene is in the tombs and starts with three Cybermen opening a jammed tomb door. A green liquid oozes out, revealing a hibernating Cyberman. When the others help it into the corridor, the newly awakened Cybermen suddenly lashes out and rips the arm off one of its helpers, then chops at the other two. The rogue Cyberman then staggers off down the tunnel. One of the other Cybermen climbs to its feet, and tells its companions:
On TV, all we see is a six second shot of a rogue Cyberman staggering along a corridor. It would appear that the above scene was recorded in full, but cut during editing, the brief shot of the rogue Cyberman being lifted from the longer sequence.
The next scripted scene is the Cyber-Controller's first appearance, where he orders the rogue's destruction. What is interesting about this sequence is that the dialogue is identical to the final TV version, and yet on TV, the Controller's first appearance was in Part One.
On TV, the Doctor is brought to the TARDIS control room and tortured for his attempts to send a distress signal. This was a later addition as the scripted scene is markedly different:
The next scene on TV is with Bates and Stratton, followed by a further TARDIS scene where Peri, is brought into the control room, neither of which are in script.
The next scripted scene is of the rogue Cyberman entering an empty tomb, and shutting the door. After then the TARDIS lands, taking on the appearance of 'a large Georgian portal'. At the end of this scene, the rogue Cyberman bursts from the cell. On TV, there is no indication that this is the same Cyberman seen staggering through the tombs earlier, as the scene with it entering the cell is missing. On TV, Lytton and Griffiths, and Peri get separated during the confusion, but the Doctor is recaptured by the Cybermen. In the script, Peri escapes, the Doctor and Lytton remain prisoners and Griffiths is, of course, no longer in the script, having been killed earlier.
On TV, Lytton and Griffiths meet up with the Cryon called Threst, who gives them a map into Cyber-Control, and a bag of diamonds. It is this small gesture which explains why Lytton's lure of a diamond heist was changed from simply being a bank robbery. None of the scenes with Threst (and indeed Threst herself!) are in the script. Instead, the Doctor and Lytton are told they are to be taken to Cyber-Control. They are watched on a scanner by the Controller:
This then cuts to the prisoners and escorts:
Peri's rescue by the Cryons appears next in the script, which then continues with the Doctor:
Inside, the Doctor meets Flast, although in the script, Flast is male.
The next scene in the script is at the Cryon base. The script describes the Cryons as they appear on TV. However, while Rost is female, as on screen, Varne is male. On TV, Peri is unconscious. However, in the script before Peri wakes up, the Cryons discuss what they should do with her:
At this stage, Peri awakens as on screen. It is not clear why this was cut. It may have been recorded, but removed during editing.
Later, on TV, Griffiths and Lytton meet up with Bates and Stratton on the planet surface. This is not in the script. On TV, when Lytton tells Bates that he obtained his map from the Cryons, it cuts to the Cryon base. The Cryons tell Peri that Lytton has been working for them. At the point where Peri says that Lytton's a criminal, the script deviates from the televised version. On TV, the Cryons explain that the Cybermen have mined the planet with high explosives. The scene ends with Varne telling her the Cybermen plan to prevent Mondas from being destroyed. The script differs from Peri's line:
The next scene, missing from TV, is at Cyber-Control. Lytton is brought before the Controller. He is forced to his knees:
The next scripted scene, at the Cryon base, also does not appear on TV, and furthers the function of Halley's comet:
This scene provides an explanation as to how the Cryons survived the massacre on Telos, a point that is not even hinted at on TV. The scene could easily have been kept in the televised version, but with minor changes to delete the details about the trap for the Controller on the Comet.
The next scene (both TV and script) is in the refrigeration unit. On TV, Flast reveals that the Cybermen intend to smash the comet into Earth, and that it will make a very loud bang. This dialogue is not in the script. When the Doctor learns he has been used by the Time Lords, the dialogue differs in the script:
This line continues as on TV. Later, just before Flast shows the Doctor the supply of vastial in the chamber, the script has this added:
With this line, the scene continues as on TV. These important explanatory scenes have been cut. On TV it is not clear why the Cybermen have collected so much vastial. In no way is it even suggested that vastial is to be used on the attack on Earth. (This subplot might actually explain the meaning behind the story's title.)
The next scene, at the Cryon Base, is not on TV:
On TV, it is Flast who tells the Doctor that the Cybermen intend to use the Comet as a bomb. In the original script, the Cryons are using Lytton to convince the Cyber-Controller of this possibility. This is all part of the Cryons' trap.
The next scripted scene is also cut; Cyber-Control:
On TV, Lytton was making his way to the time-vessel through the sub- structure of Cyber-Control with Griffiths, Bates and Stratton. Although the above script scene was dropped during Saward's rewrites, it is interesting to see the hand-crushing scene here, which does appears on TV, but moved to much later. This next scene is not on TV, either:
The Cryons and Peri are making their way to the TARDIS, as on TV. At this point on TV they are informed by Threst that Lytton has been captured. The televised scene ends with Varne stressing that the TARDIS must be moved. The script continues from that point with:
On TV, Lytton is brought before the Controller. Lytton refuses to speak, and as a punishment his hands are crushed. The equivalent scene in the script is somewhat different:
An interesting observation is that Attack is set in 1985 (on TV and scripted) but Mondas doesn't reach Earth until December 1986 (see The Tenth Planet). By the end of 1986, Halley's Comet will be millions of miles from Earth, so how can the Mondasian Cybermen destroy the comet?
This is followed (both script and TV) by a scene with Peri and the Cryons. That brings us back to Cyber-Control, where Lytton is on the floor, his hands shattered. At this point, the scenes at Cyber-Control in both TV and script become identical.
The Doctor has been reunited with Peri, and they, together with the Cryons make their way to the TARDIS. The Doctor tells the other Cryons that Flast is 'alive and is sitting on a bomb that it is likely to go off at any second'. The TV version ends on that line, but the script continues:
On TV, when the Cryons attack the Cybermen guarding the TARDIS, Varne is killed by a Cyberman. In the script, there are no Cryon casualties.
The final scene of both TV and script is in the TARDIS. The TV version ends with the Doctor declaring that he misjudged Lytton. The script, however, continues from that point:
The extent of these changes just goes to show how difficult it must be to write for Doctor Who; sometimes the so-called experts can't get it right!
In several interviews, Saward has said that he was never completely happy with the final script. It would appear that his 1989 novelisation of the story was his third attempt at 'getting it right'. He makes several changes in the book, particularly with the order of scenes, as well as adding explanations for some of the plot holes, such as how Lytton in 1985 could contact the Cryons in the 25th century! Also as a matter of interest, many of the scenes that he deleted from the novel are the ones featuring Bates and Stratton, as well as the early sequences with the Cyber-Controller - all of which were additions to the original script!
To find out more about the behind the scenes of Attack of the Cybermen, see Doctor Who Magazine 204, which features an Archive on the making of this story.
RECORDING ATTACK OF THE CYBERMEN
Production 6T, Programme Ident No:
This item appeared in TSV 32 (February 1993).