The switch to 45 minute episodes is a mildly annoying one, as obviously watching Who now takes up a bigger chunk of my day than usual, but then I suppose I’d better get used to it, considering it won’t be too long before I reach the new series. It works pretty well here, to be fair – I didn’t find my attention wandering, which I feared would be the case, and it’s structured well, with the cliffhanger coming as The Doctor and Cybermen meet for the first time.
The Doctor himself was a lot better this time, although he could hardly have been much worse. He’s merely grumpy rather than nasty, and while he’s not yet redeemed himself enough to stop being my least favourite Doctor ever, I can at least tolerate this version. He still feels OTT at times, but he’s calmed down the florid language a bit, and is a perfectly believable Doctor during the lower key moments.
Peri, on the other hand, is beginning to really get on my tits. She’s so scared and nervous all the time, and it manifests itself by her sounding unsure and tentative on every single line. Mind you, she’s probably still scared that The Doctor might kill her at any moment, and the energy in this pairing is very poor. There’s no love or friendship of any substance, and they’re constantly on edge around each other.
Aside from that, this was a pretty decent story, especially when viewed back-to-back with the previous one. I’m never going to be a fan of 80s Cybermen, but they didn’t annoy me too much here, despite their new found vulnerability to human weaponry. They’re supposed to be unstoppable killing machines – you shouldn’t be able to kill them with a normal pistol. Especially if you’re The Doctor or a companion; they shouldn’t be stashing guns at all, ideally.
The continuity nods to previous Cyberman encounters were interesting, but the danger of reminding viewers of past glories is that it shines a light on the current deficiencies. The nostalgic element was a little over-played, I felt – was there any actual reason for the TARDIS to land at Totter’s Lane? That sort of thing should be saved for special occasions, otherwise it dilutes the mythology.
Lytton was perhaps the most interesting thing about the serial, which again surprised me, as he was good but nothing special last time. Being unencumbered by a Dalek-y helmet enhanced Maurice Colbourne’s screen presence, and made me realise that he looks a bit like Eric Roberts, doesn’t he? His journey from baddy to goody was well handled. I was sold on the change of heart, but not quite on The Doctor being so hard on himself for not spotting it earlier. The script seemed to be implying that he’d been a good guy all along, but the impression I got from Resurrection was that he was a thoroughly bad egg deep down, mercenary-for-hire or not.
One last complaint – the Cryons were a bit annoying. The slowed down movement and lolloping speech patterns are quite a 60s thing, and the reason that they were dropped is because they make the conversations drag on and on. Also, when there’s fifteen minutes to go and you see a bomb being irreversibly set to completely destroy the entire enemy base, it kind of takes the tension out of things.
But despite these complaints, I want to stress that I did enjoy this serial – it’s far from a classic, but there’s plenty to enjoy. It’s always nice to see Brian Glover pop up in things, and his “I thought you were from Fulham” line to Lytton was very Arthur Dent. I wasn’t sure we needed the scenes of the two lads wandering around Telos at first, but the awesome decapitations of Cybermen kept it interesting, and the cool grimness of their semi-converted state made it worthwhile. Seeing Lytton in the process of conversion was also fun, and I liked the extremely violent crushing of his bloodied hands.
And a working chameleon circuit! I wasn’t expecting that, and I enjoyed it so much that I was almost disappointed when it stopped working again right at the end. I always like seeing how The Master’s TARDIS blends in, and there was clearly mileage to be had in a running gag of The Doctor’s TARDIS always getting it slightly wrong.
Having seen that 45-minute episodes can work, and a slightly calmer Sixth Doctor, I’m now less worried about this season as a whole, and I’ll continue to try and judge it fairly. It’s just that each serial is now having to fight against so much – the inconsistency, the testy companion relationship, the horrible production design – that the episodes will have to work a lot harder to match up with the hundreds that I’ve already seen.