Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel

Tardisodes: First up, an intelligence briefing about John Lumic / Cybus that pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the fact that he’s building Cybermen. It’s then revealed that the broadcast is being watched by Mickey, although it’s actually Ricky, except we don’t know that yet.

Secondly, an update from Cybus Industries urging people to upgrade from flesh, and lots of footage of some Cybermen marching about. Which I guess would have been exciting at the time, but I’m used to footage of Cybermen marching about by now.

* Urgh, new Cybermen. I don’t mind that there’s a new origin story – it’s a parallel world, it doesn’t affect our universe, so it’s fine. The problem is – and it’s something that I feel like I’ve mentioned every time the Cybermen have appeared from the 70s onwards – the concept that originally made them so scary seems to now be permanently lost. They work best when they’re recognisably human-but-with-extra bits, because the horror comes from how similar they are to us. When you make them uniform and regimented, they’re just generic robots – toy soldiers for The Doctor to knock down.

Transferring a human brain into a completely artificial metal suit just doesn’t cut it. A biological blob in a weaponised travel machine isn’t the Cybermen. They’ve basically just made shit Daleks. Besides which, if they’d have gone for the traditional augmentation of existing human bodies, it would have fitted much more neatly into the tech upgrade element of the parallel world.

* And then Trigger made a face. John Lumic is a ridiculous character, and Roger Lloyd Pack didn’t stand a chance with dialogue such as “and how will you do that from beyond the grave?” in the pre-titles. I quite liked a broad villain in the old days, but it doesn’t work with the gritty reality of the new series. He’s no Tobias Vaughn.

* Fishing a newspaper out of a bin to find out the date. They really don’t mind a tired old cliché, do they? But good things about parallel world include Rose being a dog (and The Doctor laughing about it), Lumic’s clever use of the ear pods to steal information, and the presence of an International Electromatics lorry.

* The Geordie boy from Byker Grove with the mid-00s haircut is rubbish. He seems like he’s having a lovely time pretending to be a big hero, but it’s not particularly convincing. Don Warrington as the President of Great Britain is a lot more like it, though you have to question why his character decided to go gallivanting off to a birthday party at such a crucial time for the country.

* Mickey has a point that The Doctor cares more about Rose than him, but a) Rose has been there longer, b) you invited yourself on board in the first place, doofus, and c) Rose is just nicer than you. His journey in this episode actually makes a lot of sense thanks to the dead nan element, and it’s in keeping with the progress he’s already made, but that line towards the start about “looking out for a better offer” just makes him sound ungrateful as fuck.

* Actually, rather than shit Daleks, when the ear pods activated and people started voluntary walking into the factories, I realised that what Lumic is actually making are just more advanced Robomen from Dalek Invasion of Earth. I must admit I do have a soft spot for the Lion Sleeps Tonight bit though.

* I like that Alternate Pete feels a connection with and an inherent trust in Rose, in exactly the same way Past Pete did last time. Alt-Jackie is a bit of a dick, though, with ridiculous knockers. More could have been done with her post-conversion; I seemed to recall a bit where she regained a modicum of control and aided Rose and Pete, but I might be mixing it up with a similar moment in a later episode.

* The Cybermen’s attack on the party and resultant cliffhanger is pretty bloody good, but it raises the question of what exactly constitutes “maximum” deletion. There’s no “next time” preview to be seen, either before or after the credits, which is a big improvement. The resolution, however is a pile of shit – The Doctor pulls out a magic weapon and the Cybermen are conveniently vapourised. It’s not a deus ex machina – the criticism that’s been misused so badly by Doctor Who fans that it’s become meaningless anyway – because we’d already established that he had this bit of TARDIS on him, but its newfound zapping ability had never been mentioned before, so it’s still a complete cop-out.

* Quite a lot of the second episode seems to concern lengthy scenes of people walking quite slowly. It’s not terribly exciting – an early example of something that’s plagued a handful of modern two-parters whereby the scene-setting and the build-up are a lot more fun than the main action.

* What’s the point of being the Cyber Controller if you’re still confined to a big wheelchair when you’re doing the controlling? The rest of the climax is better than I remembered, to be fair. The Doctor pleading his case by extolling the virtues of emotion is a pleasingly old-school method, and the stuff with the emotional inhibitors at least acknowledges that the traces of humanity within the Cybermen are where the interesting material lies. I seemed to remember thinking that the Doctor fixing everything by jamming Rose’s phone into a handy docking station was another cop-out, but it didn’t bother me at all this time – maybe it’s because we have NFC and wireless docking now, but the technologies being universally compatible made sense.

* Mickey’s departure was another staple of the classic series being dusted off – staying behind to help rebuild a world that they’ve been in for five minutes. If only the line about Ricky and Jake being a couple hadn’t been cut, he could have gone the whole hog and married a bloke he’d only just met. I did enjoy the dynamic of having a third traveller for a few episodes, but overall Mickey has been less likeable than I remembered, and I’ve just about had my fill of him. The timing was right for him to go.

* Fave lines that I’d previously forgotten: “Or maybe Lucy’s just a bit thick.” / “Well, it could be that Cybus Industries have perfected the science of human cloning, or your father had a bike.” / “I once saved the universe with a biiiig yellow truck.”

RATING: 6

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