Doctor Doctor Who Guide

I see no reason to mince words: that was crap. Utter, embarrassing, ridiculous, slap-your-head-and-start-crying crap. Almost as bad as "New Earth", and definitely worse than anything the first series spewed up.

I apologise. This may seem hysterical. So let’s go through it calmly.

The opening scene is bad. Roger Lloyd-Pack (Only Fools and Horses’ Trigger, and The Vicar of Dibley’s Owen) is an appalling choice for megalomaniac John Lumic, and as he growls wide-eyed at his new creation (kept out of focus but obviously a Cyberman – thanks, title), hilarity ensues. The obligatory death of his ethical assistant is painful to watch, for all the wrong reasons: the man makes a silly shape with his mouth, dies in a shower of fake blue light and looks somewhere between faintly amused and surprised. This is camp Who. Silly Who. The kind of Who that Who-bashers are always convinced exists.

Then our heroes are plunged into a parallel universe, and writer Tom McRae has no logical explanation for it (holding a button on the TARDIS for half an hour? What?! Even the Doctor says "I dunno"). Budgetary restrictions mean it looks just like ours but with vaguely relevant zeppelins everywhere, and citizens all wearing chunky daft silver ear-pieces. Terrified of the scope a parallel universe offers, McRae focuses on Rose’s parents (both alive here) as Rose tries to come to terms with her father being alive again. At the risk of sounding cold, who cares? The Rose’s father plot-line was played out expertly in "Fathers’ Day". All that needs to be said has simply been said. Sean Dingwall's performance isn't a patch on his last one, as the character is here robbed of all that shining immediacy and sad doom. He's a futuristic Del Boy here, and I don't care. Similarly Jackie, irritating to start with, is now a Rich Bitch. Rose's attempts to unite them are tiresome, self-indulgent and annoying. I still can't work out why the Doctor lets her give it a go, despite constantly telling her she mustn't.

The typical differences are made between the two universes: the Tylers never had a child (they named the dog Rose, har-har) and Lumic controls just about everything. Mickey’s counterpart Ricky (oh, wit!) is taking part in a resistance against the hardly-set-up regime. Lumic is making Cybermen for all the usual megalomaniac reasons (why even ask?). And the Doctor and co have to wait for the TARDIS to repair itself, naturally creating an opportunity for Mickey to meet his other self and Rose to bother her not-parents. It’s all a bit contrived and more than a little narrow in vision, and the characters are handled lopsidedly. The Doctor feels totally irrelevant, Rose strops and repeats old script ideas, and the whole thing feels like a flabby prelude to next week’s conclusion. It’s joyless, meandering rubbish, and that’s ignoring McRae’s tendency for blatant bad film clichés. The bit where he "cleverly" juxtaposes the birth of the Cybermen with cheerful music is pseudo-clever awfulness, fifteen years too late to even be a dire rip-off of Tarantino. There's also the little matter of silly science: the Doctor breathing on a power cell to reactivate it, and yet another off-screen use of the psychic paper - Doctor Who's favourite lazy cop-out besides the sonic screwdriver. Seriously, if the writers don't start even trying to logically explain things, and continue to churn out layman's terms and "magic" explanations, I'll just give up watching. I know techno-babble is bad, but the exact opposite is just as useless.

The acting is a masterclass of crap. Lloyd-Pack sets the chucklesome standard as Lumic, constantly hamming it up with a silly voice and mental stare. Even worse is Noel Clarke as the "evil Mickey", the personality of whom lies entirely in his ridiculous angry eyebrows. Most of the extras, including some bloke out of a soap (who is impossibly tidy and hair-gelled), are going through the motions. And David Tennant overuses his mad-eyes to tiresome extremes. He’s so taken to the handle of "Jarvis Cocker in space" that the Doctor veers between "lonely wanderer", spouter of philosophical God-crap and prancing space-ninny. But the Doctor is such a casual and redundant presence here that this almost doesn't matter. The scene where Rose and Mickey both ignore him and strop off is painful; dump the spoilt shits on Earth and get better companions, already. Rose's monumental self-importance (Pete and Jackie only split because they never had her, obviously. It couldn't possibly just be their fate; no, she must intercede, because she is the centre of the universe...) just deepens my hatred for the character. That and the fact that her character arc is totally and utterly finished, and the fact that Piper continues to act with her teeth. Seriously, she looks like she's chewing an invisible gum-shield.

Lastly, out of sad obligation, we must come to the Cybermen. They don’t look too bad, despite the daft way the mouth-pieces light up blue when they speak (why?). But their voices are awful. They sound like flatulent ducks. They also lumber around pointlessly, talking instead of doing, and the excessive shots of their feet simply highlight the rather bulky and ill-fitting leg joints. All of this comes to a head with the final conversation between tuxedoed Doctor and a Cyberman, as one of the silver sods introduces us to the catchphrase of the Cybermen – something clearly intended to rival "Exterminate!" in playgrounds throughout Britain, and intended to be scary, chilling, even horrifying.

"Delete! Delete! Delete!"

Quite what the kids think, I don’t know, but my friends and I were rolling around laughing – and this was the cliff-hanger – completely unable to be afraid of these ridiculous creatures. They even have a silly little salute. And all things considered, don’t you think they’re talking too much? What happened to "you will become like us", punch, splat? The whole "electrocuting hands" thing is far less threatening than the Cybermen using their natural heft to beat their victims into submission. Immense effort is made to make them bulky, heavy-sounding and immense. It’s all wasted, as they kill the same way as dropping a toaster in the bath. And the obsessive build-up of their appearance is useless, thanks to the BBC's obsessive policy of spoiling everything weeks in advance, and the fact that the Cybermen are so fundamentally rubbish. (NB: They are created in an entirely different scenario to the Cybermen the Doctor knows, as they are only zombified homeless people and not malicious aliens; thus his recognition of them is entirely coincidental, and at the end of the day, they're not even really Cybermen. It's like if Lumic was building Daleks, they wouldn't really be Daleks at all, but Lumic slave-robots that looked a bit like Daleks. Thus, the Cybermen haven't returned at all.)

It’s a huge wasted opportunity, very often hilarious when it should be frightening, and so beyond nostalgic tongue-in-cheek that it has become – sorry to repeat – crap. It’s an embarrassment from start to finish. Bad monsters, bad acting, no logical sense. Now they’ve Risen, would they kindly Sit Down and Bugger Off? If we’re very careful, they might not take whatever goodness remains in Doctor Who with them.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor