Following the first series’ success with the Doctor’s oldest and deadliest foes, the Daleks, it was inevitable that the second series would feature his big ‘number two’ enemy, the Cybermen. I think we all knew they were coming back long before the story broke in the press, but how would they return? What would they look like? What would the story be all about? In “Rise of the Cybermen,” Tom MacRae tells not one, not two, but three ‘parallel’ stories, each and every one of them bound together wonderfully. With twice the time Rob Shearman had to re-invent the Dalek, the writer is able to slowly crank up the tension on all fronts before ending his first episode on an outstanding cliffhanger! Those who tuned into “Rise of the Cybermen” expecting a massive gratuitous Cyberfest may have been disappointed (and I’m sure they’ll be appeased next week), but I can honestly say that I was thrilled with it. Barring the obvious transformation of the inhabitants of this parallel Earth into Cybermen, there was not one aspect of this episode that failed to surprise me…
To begin with, I had it in my head for some reason that this was going to be an episode built almost exclusively around Rose and her father Pete, who is not only alive in this alternate reality, but is actually a successful businessman; a millionaire no less. Whilst much of the episode does focus on the temptations surrounding Rose, “Rise of the Cybermen” is at heart a Mickey Smith story. In fact, it is the Mickey Smith story. With all the hype about the return of Shaun Dingwall as Pete, I really didn’t see the unravelling of Mickey’s back story coming. Like the Doctor, I’d taken him for granted. He was a young man living on his own in a flat and I’d never thought to ask why. Giving Mickey a tragic past – a past the Doctor never knew about because he never asked and never cared – really helps to round off Mickey’s character and helps us to understand him that bit better. Abandoned by his parents, Mickey’s blind grandmother raised him until she died five (relative) years ago, tripping and falling down the stairs. I love the scene where the Doctor stands in between his two companions, Rose rushing off in one direction to look for her living Dad, Mickey rushing off in the other to go who knows where. Mickey shouts “Go on then, no choice is there, you can only chase after one of us. It’s never gonna be me is it?”, and he’s right. As much as he doesn’t want it to be right, and even as much as we, the audience, don’t want it to be right because he’s grown on us so much recently, the bottom line is the Doctor loves Rose and Mickey is just a gooseberry; a spare part. MacRae should have called this episode “Spare Parts,” that would have raised a few eyebrows amongst fans… and possibly a lawsuit… I digress. Of course, the Doctor runs after Rose and Mickey is left to fend for himself in the “gingerbread house”…
Russell T. Davies and co. swear that Mickey’s story arc wasn’t planned, and if the whole Mickey / Ricky angle wasn’t masterminded last year than it is one of the best cases of serendipity that I have ever come across. It fits like a glove. In our universe, Mickey Smith starts off as, well, a bit of an idiot, frankly. An idiot that lacks any real backbone. In this universe Mickey’s counterpart, ironically named Ricky Smith (the name the ninth Doctor would always call Mickey when he pretended to get his name wrong), seems to be his complete opposite. He’s a hero. A freedom fighter. A “Preacher of Gospel Truth… London’s Most Wanted!” Two Mickeys? Something’s gotta give! MacRae is clearly building towards something here, and I can only hope it isn’t the demise of my new favourite companion…
“You could pop between realities and be home in time for tea. Then the Time Lords died. Everything became that bit less kind.”
I also enjoyed the explosive opening to the episode. Half-expecting another “oh look, we’ve landed on a parallel Earth” type-of-story, I was thrilled to see that the writer had made this a one-off trip – something far outside the TARDIS’s capabilities, at least, outside the TARDIS’s capabilities now that the Time Lords have gone. To be fair, I’ve always enjoyed this type of story; classic serials like “Inferno” and novels like “Blood Heat” never failed to entertain me, but in making this crossover a fluke MacRae could really push the envelope in terms of drama in a way that those classic stories never could. Rose can’t just pop in any time she wants to see her Dad. Mickey can’t just pop in any time he wants to see his Gran. “24 hours on a parallel world” is all that they get – and what a parallel world! Zeppelins in the air, Cybus technology everywhere… this episode’s designer have certainly succeeded in making a place as familiar as London seem creepy and alien. Undoubtedly beautiful, but definitely unsettling.
I think I’m right in saying that “Rise of the Cybermen” is the longest episode of the new series (obviously bar the Christmas special) by a good few minutes – it actually over ran and I missed the opening seconds of Confidential which I was less than pleased about! – yet it still had the same frenetic pace as the other episodes. It’s remarkable how much they have crammed into forty-six minutes – one of Mickey’s earliest lines about everything being “the same, but different” sums up what would have eaten up a couple of episodes in the classic series. Moreover, what is for all intents and purposes the story of the genesis of the Cybermen (okay, not the Cybermen, but Cybermen nonetheless) is told in about five scenes, without, I should add, the viewer feeling like anything has been left out or glossed over.
When the Cybermen first hit the TV screens in “The Tenth Planet” they played on the viewers fears of new technology. For the benefit of the uninformed, Dr. Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis’s silver giants originally hailed from Mondas, Earth’s twin planet, and were a non-too subtle metaphor for what many feared could happen to humanity itself. Rather than muck about with decades of very messy Cyber history, the production team quite wisely opted to invent some new Cybermen – human ones! This allowed them to completely redesign them, rewrite their evolution… basically do what the hell they wanted with them and best of all, the audience knows that locked inside that monstrous metal casing is a human being. It has much more dramatic punch than knowing that it is a Mondasian inside that casing. Along with the new design, the new catchphrase (“You will be deleted!”) and the new voices (better than the 1980’s voices but worse than the originals I reckon) MacRae has also updated the technology that we are to fear. Almost forty years on from their first appearance, the Cybermen of the noughties use earpieces to download information directly into humans’ brains… if you think about it, it’s only a step or two down the road from bluetooth!
That said, one integral facet has remained the same and that is the sheer horror of cyber conversion. I was particularly interested as to how they would portray this. A few messy shots of Lytton in “Attack of the Cybermen” is about as gruesome as it got on TV, but in the books and audios – particularly in stuff like “Killing Ground” and “Real Time” – the gore is really quite shocking. Personally, I feel that the writer and director did everything right here – a few screams, a brief flash of some menacing machinery and then everything is drowned out by “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Sublime!
“Skin of metal and a body that never ages. I ENVY IT!”
And then we come to Lumic – the man who is to the new Cybermen what Davros is to the Daleks. Roger Lloyd Pack is unbelievably intense; having only seen him in comic roles (I’m an Only Fools and Horses nut!) I was completely taken aback by his character’s massive presence. His chair, his respirator and those wide-open, completely insane eyes conjured up images of Davros, Darth Vader and the calcified incarnation of the Master – in that order! On paper, he’s a fairly run of the mill Doctor Who villain but when you see him on screen he’s just so… impressive. He has a certain menacing charisma that just holds you… a mean feat considering that his character is almost devoid of humour.
“You’re a fine businessman John, but you’re not God.”
In the President of the Great Britain, Lumic has a superb foil. The geek in me almost leapt out of my seat and my fiancée must have thought I was mad when I kept inexplicably shouting “Rassilon! It’s Rassilon!” Suffice it to say that Don Warrington isn’t new to playing powerful figureheads in Doctor Who, and in this episode his gutsy President does not disappoint – it is just a shame that he was killed off after just one episode, the first victim of a Cyberman!
Throughout the episode, everything builds towards Jackie Tyler’s 40th… ahem… 39th birthday party, and despite the fact that it is obvious to anyone with half a brain cell what is going happen you could still cut the tension with a knife. Rose’s part of the story is handled well, though in fairness all the Pete stuff seems very anti-climatic after “Father’s Day” and what I thought would be the major hook of the story takes a back seat to Mickey’s much more interesting misadventures. I even found the alternate Jackie more interesting than her husband – while she may share certain traits with our universe’s loveable Jackie Tyler, this woman is much more aggressive (which really says a lot) and comes off as arrogant and spoilt, whilst Pete is portrayed more or less as he was in “Father’s Day”, only older and perhaps a little more seasoned. What made the party scenes so enjoyable for me were those lovely little Doctor Who touches that just seem to flow throughout the new series… stuff like the Doctor laughing out loud when he discovers that this universe’s Rose Tyler is a Yorkshire Terrier, and Rose’s blatant jealousy when the lady-killing tenth Doctor gets friendly with the fellow kitchen staff. “According to Lucy…”
The finale is nothing short of spectacular, and despite all the cinematic splendour of these beautiful, new, art-deco Cybermen iconically bursting through the glass windows it was one line that really swung it for me. Someone asks the Doctor why the Cybermen don’t have emotion, and he simply replies “because it hurts.” That is what is at the core of the techno fear that surrounds the Cybermen, but no one has ever really put it so succinctly before. We are scared of Cybermen. We are scared of becoming Cybermen. That’s why they worked in 1966. That’s why they work in 2006. The rest is just dressing. The Age of Steel has begun.
I am willing to wait. Since this is a two-part episode, I am willing to wait and see if this manipulative, muddled mess was just a very slow lead-up to a grand adventure.
After the wildly imaginative GIRL IN THE FIREPLACE, the bar was set high for the return of the Doctor’s number two nemesis. What we received was a rehashing of old and new clichés.
First of all, Rose and her father. Rose received a beautiful and sincerely touching second chance to establish some sort of relationship with her dead father in FATHER’S DAY. That episode gave us a real chance to explore why Rose is Rose and why she formed such an instant attachment to her father.
If you think about it, Peter Tyler and the Doctor are not that much different. They both hatch “impossible schemes” and (at least in the end) are willing to sacrifice themselves for the people close to them. Of course, the Doctor’s plans always succeed. That’s why he gets his own show and Peter Tyler died in a car accident in 1987.
Peter Tyler should have remained just that, a sweet and satisfying memory. To dredge him up again in the context of an “alternate” world seems like a cheap rehashing of that episode from the first series. It plays unnecessarily upon the character mythology of the new show. For Rose to go blindly after her “third chance” to be with her dad seems selfish and a little masochistic.
But it’s merely a setup so that we can learn more about the “alternate universe”. The universe itself has some imaginative touches, but really doesn’t engage you as a completely different dimension. It seems that pretty much everything is the same except for the zeppelins, the earrings and the curfew.
Even the alternate Mickey, or Ricky, just grimaces more. I love the character of Mickey, and I really enjoy Noel Clarke, but we did we really need to learn his backstory? To add that on top of Rose’s baggage seems unnecessary – and really defines why this episode is so sluggish. His past is so similar to Rose’s that it doesn’t add any differentiation or emotional depth.
And what’s with Mickey going from competing with the Doctor for Rose’s attention to suddenly acting like a scorned boyfriend (“You can only chase after one of us.”)? It seems very contrived. Are we being prepared for Mickey dying heroically?
With so little action and so much emotional angst, you are ticking away the minutes until something really interesting happens. When the Cybermen finally appear, it’s visually interesting and they do look scary. But therein lies a bigger problem.
The Cybermen will always look like robots. They will always look like a human creation. The thing that has made the Daleks so gripping and wildly frightening was that they looked so alien. Nothing had looked remotely like them before. Their weird voices and flailing pokers form an instant odd dread of being near them.
The new Cybermen look updated. They pound across the screen and big booming bass music tells us they are scary. But when they speak, you crank up the volume. And when they emit their new catchphrase “you are deleted”, you groan. It comes across as a pathetic attempt to put them on par with Daleks screaming, “Exterminate!”. And it just doesn’t work.
It seems obvious that the real Cybermen are using Lumic as an agent to further their long-standing hatred of the planet Earth. Whether Lumic knows this or not is an interesting question, but really not that interesting. One hopes this is the case and that this isn’t an “alternate” genesis story for the Cybermen. The Dalek mythology remains intact (blessedly without Davros, so far), so let’s hope the Cybermen are the same.
There is still time to pull this mess around with a boffo second episode, but this first episode – viewed on its own – does not merit much excitement or praise. Even if it is a lead-up to bigger things, it did little to generate enthusiasm for what is to come.
So finally one of the most-talked about stories of the new season is upon us. And on the whole I found it to be pretty good in most areas, not least a successful debut from a new Dr Who writer. Certainly it made for a very promising opening episode of a two-parter, we’ll have to wait and see if part two fulfils its promise…
Where to start then? Well in terms of setting, I thought the whole parallel earth concept worked really well, and showed an interesting “alternative” reality whilst not perhaps portrayed so “darkly” as it might have been. The zeppelins looked quite impressive (although a bit obviously CGI in some scenes) and were a nice metaphor for the rich and privileged, literally living “above” the masses. I also liked the idea, mooted by the Doctor, that parallel universes are not necessarily a good thing and to be avoided. Mickey’s references to movies and comics, where people can “hop” from one alternative world to another and the Dr’s subsequent dismissal of this idea, was a nice bit of rubbishing of such science fiction concepts – fun!
Another excellent and sinister idea was the use of the Cybus corporation ear pieces. Receiving news and other information via personal computer is now such an integral part of our everyday lives, so the concept of having all of this downloaded directly to the human brain instead is actually pretty plausible. The scene where the Doctor and Rose witness all of the people halt robot-fashion on the street, to receive their latest “download”, illustrated this in an eerily effective way and the Doctor’s remark “You lot are obsessed…anything for the latest upgrade” was a suitably wry comment on the way technology is taking us. A real indication of the potential dangers of the ear piece technology was the scene where John Lumic tapped Jackie’s brain in order to find out about the security arrangements for her party. I hope we get more of this in the next episode and the idea isn’t forgotten – it would be kind of pointless building it up like this otherwise. Could the ear pieces play a major part in the next stage of Lumic’s plans to brainwash/convert humanity? We shall see…
What about the plot? On this occasion it was quite slow moving but that’s surely to be expected in the first instalment of a two part story. Personally I have a bit of a problem with the one part stories and feel that the 45 minute format doesn’t always allow for decent development of ideas or character, as well as plot exposition. “New Earth” was a prime example of this with too many concepts jammed into one episode and too many things going on at once – the cat people, the return of Cassandra, the sick patients etc. By contrast the pace of “Rise of the Cybermen” allowed more than enough time for development of storyline and introduction of characters, themes and ideas and was successful in this respect. For instance, introducing the differences that the alternative version of home brought with it (especially from the point of view of Rose and Mickey); introducing us to the “new” Jackie and Pete and their privileged lifestyle; showing brief glimpses of the Cybermen being constructed under Lumic’s orders until their final unveiling, and so forth. Now that the Cybermen have finally been unveiled and the cat (monster?) is out of the bag, maybe we’ll get a more faster-paced second instalment, no bad thing now that a firm background to what’s going on has been established.
And the characters? The regulars all do a pretty good job. Whilst I still prefer Christopher Eccleston’s more serious, darker incarnation, David Tennant is, in my view, slowly improving as the Doctor. He gets some more in depth moments here as opposed to the “all over the place” flippancy we saw in some of the previous episodes. He’s particularly affective in the scene where he and Mickey talk in the (apparently dead) TARDIS console room.
Billie Piper is excellent in conveying the bewilderment one would feel on being confronted with an alternative version of their own home and family. She’s even better at portraying the emotional turmoil of seeing her (dead) father all over again. Rose’s desire to want to see Pete and her pleading with the doctor are genuinely convincing. The scene when she finally sees and meets Pete at the party is very well played – a normal conversation on the surface but one with a definite undercurrent for Rose, as she (sort of) knows him but he knows nothing about her, making it all the more poignant. For some reason I’ve found Rose quite annoying this season which is a shame as on the whole she’s a likeable character, some of her scenes with the Dr in the first two episodes particularly were quite cloying and “kid-like” but in this episode she came across a lot better.
Noel Clarke gets a chance to branch out playing two versions of the same person. As one of the dissidents fighting Lumic, “Ricky” is a potentially interesting character, but unfortunately as I don’t find Noel Clarke to be the most gifted of actors, this is a rather two dimensional, cardboard performance. The evil, sneery expression that Ricky constantly wears on his face is clearly meant to indicate the difference between him and the more familiar Mickey we all know, however this signposting comes across as just corny. As one of my friends said Ricky doesn’t look so much nasty as … constipated. “Normal” Mickey did get some quite decent scenes though, the best of all being the “reunion” with this grandmother which was moving and well acted, Mona Hammond putting in a strong performance. A pity we only got to see her for one scene. And I can’t resist mentioning the shot of Mickey in his pants which was an added bonus, just a shame it was a long shot – couldn’t Rickey and the others have given him a full strip and body search…? Okay, I’ll stop right there…
Regular characters aside, there are some mixed performances from the guest cast. First and foremost is Roger Lloyd-Pack as John Lumic. It’s clear that he’s been written as a new generation Davros – an evil genius and creator of a new race (incidentally I’m not sure how “new” the Cybermen in this story are meant to be, a point I will debate further on). I wasn’t really taken with Roger Lloyd-Pack’s performance though – all wide eyed, with a very artificial and strained sounding voice, he came across as too OTT, like Davros in his most excruciating moments. Okay, so the character is meant to be suffering from some kind of terminal illness which might partially explain his odd mannerisms, but I still didn’t find him the subtlest of villains. Personally I think casting “Trigger” from “Only Fools and Horses” was not the wisest of moves, surely the production team could have made a better choice of actor for the role?
It was great to see Pete Tyler again and Shaun Dingwall slipped seamlessly back into the role, again playing Pete as a more successful variation on his wide boy persona from “Father’s Day”. I loved the twist that he and Jackie had become rich, thanks to the success of Vitex and the references to the “Trust me on this this” slogan were amusing. (Although I did think that it was rather too much of a coincidence that the Dr, Rose and Mickey would just happen upon an advert for Vitex within minutes of landing on the alternative Earth, so allowing Rose to find out that her dad was “alive” and clearly signposting where the story was going). We saw some of the customary Pete Tyler humour again, for example in a conversation between him and Lumic:
Lumic: If the President of Great Britain can make this meeting then so can you.
Peter: I don’t know, he’s not married to Jackie is he?
It was also nice how we saw a suggestion of the old relationship between Pete and Rose as in “Father’s Day”, when he tells her: “You seem so right”, obviously feeling an affinity with her, but because in “this” reality she is not his “real” daughter, he’s unable to define why he feels this way.
Camille Corduri was decent enough as the “alternative” Jackie, although not quite the venomous, super-bitch that DWM made her out to be. Interesting to see what money can do to a person though and an amusing touch having “her” Rose as a pet dog. The scene where Jackie confides in Rose and then wonders why the hell she’s been talking to a servant, was nicely done and highlighted the differences in Pete and Jackie’s attitudes and snobbery.
Colin Spaull made a good “right hand man”, a seemingly normal fellow who had the job of rounding up and collecting the homeless for conversion. The down to earth casualness of his character contrasted nicely with the sinister aspect of his job.
Don Warrington portrayed the President with appropriate gravity and his concern with Lumic and his work was well conveyed: “You’re a fine businessman John, but you’re not God”. He was good when facing down the Cybermen at the end and his subsequent death all the more horrible because of it.
Which leaves me to mention just one other aspect of the episode…the return of a certain race of cybernetic men. The revival of the Cybermen this season has surely been as eagerly anticipated as that of the Daleks in Season One and consequently, there has been some major hype to live up to. However I feel pretty confident in saying that it has been justified! Rather than hitting us full on with the Cybermen straight away we were treated to a number of brief tantalising scenes throughout the episode. For instance, when Lumic’s factory began production of the new race of metal men (incidentally I loved the juxtaposition of Tight Fit with the shots of the factory machinery in motion and human screams - some might say this trivialised it but I think it just emphasised further the horror of what was going on - who’d really want to listen to people being butchered?) We also had deliberately out of focus shots of the Cybermen marching in the background, and shots of their feet walking down the gangplank of a lorry – all of which worked well to establish a sense of mystery and viewer expectation. When they finally arrived properly at the end of the episode it was an impressive and frightening entrance – striding across the lawn and then breaking their way through the windows into the room to terrorise the humans.
In terms of design the Cybermen also look very impressive and this has been a well thought-out design. Compared to previous Cyber incarnations this generation look much more tough and machine-like, with strong metal bodies and a very “hard”, industrial appearance. I liked the new headpieces and the use of the heavy stomping sound effect whenever they walk really reinforces their strength and power. However the fact that they make such a noise whenever they walk is also a potential disadvantage – how can they sneak up on someone unawares if they make such an infernal racket?? Mmm.
It was interesting too that the Cybermen’s form of weaponry has been re-invented again. In previous stories they had hand guns and guns in their heads, now in 2006 they can kill with a touch of the hand. Again maybe there’s a drawback to this idea – what if they accidentally “touch” someone they shouldn’t? Or maybe they have some kind way of “switching off” this function when they need to.
One other thing I mentioned earlier – how this race of Cybermen fit into their already established history / chronology within the programme. Are we meant to think that Lumic has created an entirely original race of creatures / machines? Surely not, as the Doctor says at one point: “It’s happening again…I’ve seen them before”, so implying these are not the original Cybermen. In which case how did Lumic happen upon the idea of their design? Hopefully more back story and explanation will be given in the next episode.
All in all then I found “Rise of the Cybermen” to be generally successful and very entertaining. Good cliffhanger too, and it will be interesting to see how the Doctor and co get out of being “deleted”…well, they always find a way don’t they?
Having almost wet myself at the trailers for this week’s who-fest, I had a lot of expectation of the episode in hand, entitled ‘Rise of the Cybermen’. And it did not disappoint. Right from the chilling beginning to the thrilling end, every minute of this episode was one to savour. Wonderful acting from everyone, especially Roger Lloyd-Pack as John Lumic, the creator bent on survival. Anyway, to the episode itself. It begins with a nervy scientist being electrocuted by the prototype Cyberman, after a ‘debate’ with John Lumic. The episode then switches to the TARDIS, which crash lands after it came flying out of the time/space vortex and into nothing, or so we think. Mickey, (Unfairly ignored by the Doctor and Rose, but a wonderful, 10…20 minutes. 29… scene) then discover it to be a parallel Earth, and the TARDIS trio wander off for a while. The Doctor then discovers one small piece is clinging on for dear life, and gives away ten years of his life to charge it.
Rose then receives a mysterious text on her phone, regarding the reported ill health off John Lumic, who dismisses the speculation in the clip. She then spots above her head one of the marvellous zeppelins, which is quickly halted due to the Doctor’s arrival. This is a cue for more of unsung hero Noel Clarke’s great performance of Mickey, who becomes upset as being regarded as the spare part. While he wanders off ready for an emotional appearance of his Gran, Rose does a runner into town, with the Doctor following swift. The following scenes are a bit dull, with the exception of the ‘Rose the Yorkshire terrier’ joke, which has you chuckling away at Pete’s ‘here we go again’ expression.
And then it reaches the interesting ‘child catcher’ scene, with the tramps being rounded up for experiments. They all go but for one, Jake Simmons, played by the former Byker Grove actor Andrew Hayden-Smith, who seems somewhat quiet in this episode. Anyway the tramps are rounded up into the van, screams of terror etc… And then for the nice little scene with The President and John Lumic. The debate is well executed, and you can see the true madness on Lumic’ face when he is denied permission to carry out the upgrade. You feel a slight twinge of moral decline with Pete Tyler’s optimism for Lumic, making it feel ‘Oh well you can’t destroy Britain’s population but there’s always (New) Germany’. The ‘New Germany’ line as well as the technology used on the parallel world feels too much like ‘New Earth’, as if humanity has whizzed too far forward than the present. But as it’s a parallel world in a different dimension you can sort off let them go a bit, plus it’s the Cybermen.
Next comes the upgrade scene with the rounded up tramps, which sends a rare and welcome chill down the spine, with the pop music sounding strangely sinister along with the screaming and images of sharp pointy objects diving into the bodies of human beings. This is a rare scare, which disappointingly doesn’t occur too often in Series 2, but you can let them off given children are watching. Still, there maybe should have been blood on the medical objects.
And then for the ending, which can be summed up conveniently in six words. And no, they aren’t ‘Doesn’t the script look tired’ (Ok, that’s five, but it’s good enough for BBC Wales! Hopefully…) instead, it would be ‘I dub thee Sir Tom MacRae’. Just when everything is chilled, calm, settled, relaxed…chilled turns to the other meaning. Crunch, Crunch, Crunch, Crunch And the silhouettes of an old enemy returns to haunt the Doctor once more. Out of the gloom comes the Cybermen, who return with a bang by smashing the windows into microscopic pieces. Obviously no one told them there was a door. They surround the Doc and co. until one of them finally decides to break the silence by killing the President of Great Britain. Not the easiest way to get power but there you go. Everyone starts screaming and legging it everywhere possible just to get away from the C3-PO look-a-likes, and the Doctor, Rose and parallel Pete run through a window just to escape from the party-gone-wrong. One corner- Cybermen! Another- Cybermen! Try another- Cybermen! They are finally trapped by the steel nemesis, and after the drastic and unsuccessful attempts to escape by volunteering for the upgrade, the all-too familiar stings rings out, leaving us with another long week of waiting and waiting. A great episode in all respects and could be wrapped up by a classic. Bring on The Age Of Steel. 8/10.
I'm an American viewer and a lifelong Doctor Who fan. Naturally I was very excited to learn that the Doctor was going to be brought back two years ago. I was relieved to see that the new series producers were taking the character seriously, and I greatly enjoyed season one. However, while I admire the way Davies & Co. have reintroduced the Doctor to a new generation, I still missed my favorite elements of the show. I missed the continuity from the original series, the eccentricity of the past Doctors, the planet hopping and "TARDIS family" of companions.
But with Rise of the Cybermen, Doctor Who, the real Doctor, can finally be said to be "back". A double length episode (of which this is only part one) featuring a classic enemy, familiar Whovian tropes (an Orwellian police state, underground revolutionaries), and an opening worthy of the most over the top Tom Baker adventure. But what I'm enjoying most about season two is: David Tennant. Chris Eccleston was excellent, but Tennant is the real deal. He obviously has an awareness of the Doctor's continuity, channeling different Doctors for different situations. Was I alone in detecting a touch of Hartnell in the Doctor's attempt to tell Rose & Micky to stay put & do as told? Speaking of Micky, I'm very glad to see the TARDIS-family concept restored. It just seemed kind of lonely when it was just the Doctor & Rose. Oh, and just for the record: bringing back K9 was almost as great as bringing Sarah Jane back!
Lastly, and I'm probably alone in this, but hasn't season two offered an inordinate number of episodes that would have been perfect for Sylvester McCoy? New Earth, Tooth & Claw and now Rise of the Cybermen - McCoy's Doctor would have fit into these stories very comfortably, I think.
This is probably the closest that the new series gets to evoking the nature of the original series, particularly the pacing. I thought this was deliciously paced. Most have complained it was too slow but I'd describe it as a slow burn, a building up to the inevitable. This is probably Graeme Harper, wanting to slow it down and get the maximum benefit by doing so.
There were so many interesting elements in this one, all juxtaposing with each other and there have been many comments that the feel of the episode was disjointed. I think that was deliberate and many of the sequences in the episode are designed to create this feeling.
From the top, let's get the death of the TARDIS thing out of the way - because it's simply the MacGuffin to get them into the parallel Earth situation. Some have been irritated by the way this element was so casually resolved. For me, it’s just a device to get the characters into this alternative Earth and keep them there until the events play out.
The vital things in this story, besides the triumphant return of the Cybermen, is the development of the Rose/Doctor/Mickey dynamic and the alternate take of the Rose/Pete/Jackie family unit from an altogether less attractive viewpoint. A number of scenes were very important for me. The scene with Rose and Jackie outside the country house where Rose is stupid enough to think that because she's again found that spark of recognition in her father then she's on to a winner trying it with Jackie and can rekindle some kind of surrogate family in this alternate world. The repellent attack from Jackie is such an emotional wallop and it also echoes the de-humanising of people by Lumic via his application of corporate technologies - to the extent of turning individuals into Cybermen and the literal raising of the rich elite over the dispossessed (the zeppelins and Pete's millionaire salesman schtick). Jackie’s heart and soul belong to Lumic and this version of Rose’s mother really does highlight the clever way Camille Coduri has made the character actually rather ‘lovable’ on the other Earth. Rose is looking for unconditional love from a very different version of her mother and she's suddenly made aware that love comes at a price and it has to be earned.
The other crucial scene is when Mickey visits his Gran. It’s a wonderfully sensitive scene that’s redolent of lost lives, things that should have been said and done in Mickey’s own world. Noel Clarke...what a revelation. He was so very good in the scene and much of his back story was also finally revealed and gave us great insight into a character that at the start of Series One was a bit of a no-hoper. This adds depth to the character and builds upon the series themes of sacrifice and redemption. This story will certainly be about how Mickey 'makes a difference' in contrast to a now very unlikeable version of Rose. A quietly clever juxtaposition that's been taking place over the last few episodes and since The Christmas Invasion.
This is also feeding into the confused and somewhat insensitive nature of Rose that we are now being shown. Witness the horrible baiting of Mickey from Rose and the Doctor. We're all aware this is going to come to a distressing conclusion - much of it in next week's episode, I think - and Rose and the Doctor will be changed by it.
There are key elements of Greek Tragedy running through this episode – themes about lives being torn apart by outward suffering or inner conflicts (literall, for the creation of the Cybermen), The sacrificing of a society, the losing of individuality in order to form groups – both the Cybermen and the Preachers. And there’s the lovely symbolism of Heaven with its Angels ( the zeppelins, the rich elite ) and Hell with its Demons ( the Cybermen, the dispossessed, the conversion factory). Evokes cleverly in the visuals - we’re always looking up at the zeppelins overhead or down from the machines as they fly over London.
The Cybermen...great. The last fifteen minutes of the siege on the house were note perfect in terms of visuals, lighting, editing. A tour de force from Harper and what the intended pacing has been leading up to do.
John Lumic - I'm still wavering over Lloyd Pack. He was a bit up and down for me and I think if you take him in the spirit of a Bond like villain it just about works and I can see how some people are criticising him for being a poor man's Davros. But there are enough sparks in the performance to relish even if it occassionally gets hammy. Doctor Who has always had it's fair share of OTT performances and it always will have.
For me, he isn’t Davros or Frankenstein. He’s Prometheus – symbolising the suffering and sacrifice involved in spiritual or artistic striving in trying to transform the human condition into something more refined, more exquisite, more God-like. Naturally, here it’s all for the wrong reasons and he projects his suffering onto people who can’t fight back.
Visually - lots of greys, browns and references to Art Deco, Orwell, Verne, Metropolis, Weimar Germany, the steam-punk aesthetic. Echoes of Invasion, Dalek Invasion Of Earth.
Music - some lovely nods to Father's Day from Murray. A nice touch as this epsiode shows the disintegration of a family unit with Rose as bystander rather than Father's Day where it was about re-integration of the family unit with Rose as an active force.
Finally, I must conclude with the factory conversion scene. One of the most unsettling scenes in the series so far, the scene’s use of music (The Lion Sleeps Tonight – how very ironic!) can be compared with how Reservoir Dogs used ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’ on the soundtrack. Granted, it's no comparison in terms of the violence but the 'dread' that both scenes evoke with the juxtaposition of music was highly effective in both cases.
A treat of an episode, perhaps unfairly seen as a disappointment, but where the pay-off in ‘Age Of Steel’ will I’m sure elevate its reputation.