14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Dean Akrill
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Tony Harris
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Mark Hain
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Paul Nicholls
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Jason Wilson
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Ian Drummond
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Stephen Booth
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Gareth Rafferty
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Martyn Howe
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Bill Koch
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Adam Leslie
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Geoff Wessel
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Jonathan Crossfield
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Richard Walter
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Andrew Heighway
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Joe Ford
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Billy Higgins
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by James McLean
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Mike Eveleigh
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Alan McDonald
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by A.D. Morrison
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Eddy Wolverson
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Bill Koch
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Simon Johnson
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by James Gale
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Vincent Asaro
14 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen, by Frank Collins
21 May 2006The Age of Steel, by Alan McDonald
21 May 2006The Age of Steel, by Adam Leslie
21 May 2006The Age of Steel, by Richard Walter
21 May 2006The Age of Steel, by Calum Corral
21 May 2006The Age of Steel, by Frank Collins
21 May 2006The Age of Steel, by A.D. Morrison
21 May 2006The Age of Steel, by Geoff Wessel
21 May 2006The Age of Steel, by Mike Eveleigh
21 May 2006The Age of Steel, by Jonathan Crossfield
21 May 2006The Age of Steel, by Simon Johnson
21 May 2006The Age of Steel, by James McLean
21 May 2006The Age of Steel, by Eddy Wolverson
21 May 2006The Age of Steel, by Phil Baron
21 May 2006The Age of Steel, by Steev Thulin-Hopper
21 May 2006The Age of Steel, by Steve Ferry
21 May 2006The Age of Steel, by Joe Ford
21 May 2006The Age of Steel, by Billy Higgins
22 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel, by Bruce Sharp
22 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel, by Paul Clarke
22 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel, by Robert F.W. Smith
22 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel, by Paul Berry
22 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel, by Steve Manfred
22 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel, by Ed Martin
22 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel, by Adam Kintopf
22 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel, by Angus Gulliver
22 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel, by James Tricker
22 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel, by Bill Koch
22 May 2006Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel, by David Leo

At Last! somthing a little bit closer to the spirit and excitement of last season's run. Okay, the plot was a little bit Sci-Fi by numbers, but "Rise of the Cyberman" more than made up for this by the quality of the script and by the performance of the majority of actors involved. So far in this series, the only real genuine scare factor was within the Werewolf episode, and all through the run it's lacked any real heart and soul (with the possible exception of the Doc playing the romantic hero in the last episode); this episode had a little bit of soul, but it wasn't as scary as it could have been.

It had a nice beginning, the Tardis dying, and a feeling of hopelesness. The next scene with Mickey discovering that the Tardis had landed in "London" would have been more effective if the trailers hadn't already given away that this was an alternative reality; thankyou BBC for spoiling the fun!

As alternative realities go this was nicely done, giving both Rose and Mickey a chance to explore the importance of their own earthbound relationships, thus injecting some much needed "soul" into this series, (sorry, I know I over use that phrase!). Mickey (Noel) was especially good, playing a dual role which gave him somthing to do for a change. And it was good to be grounded in somthing close to the real world, giving this episode a grittiness and an emotional depth which paid off, but was still oddly lacking.

The main problem, I'm afriaid, was Rodger Lioyd Pack's portrayal of the Cyber Men's creator John Lumic. Pack is a good comic actor, but he was just too "hammy" for this, a bit too "Ming the Merciless", as a result it became difficult to take the threat of the Cybermen particularly seriously. This was a shame, as the Cybermen were nicely designed, and the concept was both classic and scary.

As I said, a bit Sci-Fi by numbers, it lacked the depth of ideas which made last season so special. Good fun, and certainly a high point of the season thus far, but I'm afraid there is still somthing missing. Where are the ideas? Where is the soul? I think I may have said this before...

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Let's cover the good point first: the Cybermen looked good. Beyond that, this episode, other than the last few minutes, was a massive disappointment. Dull, unexciting, low on drama, excessive and inappropriate background music with overacting by Roger LLoyd Pack and his cockney henchman. At no stage did any of it seem remotely real. Was this really directed by Graeme Harper?

Why did the production team feel the need to try and be clever by seeking to draw a parallel between advancing mobile phone and other technology and the Cybermen? Even if it were an OK idea, writing wise (which I doubt), its realisation on screen just didn't work and came across as childish.

Even the emotional quotient, of which this production team are so enamoured, was poorly handled. There was none of the depth of Father's Day in the scenes between Rose and her father.

Sadly, I found this really juvenile rubbish. On the postiive side, hopefully episode 2 can't get any worse! (Famous last words).

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I'm a big comic book fan. One of the first comic books I ever read was called What If?. What if The Hulk had the brain of Bruce Banner...What if the Fantastic Four never got their powers...What if the X-Men were vampires. One of my favorite shows for awhile was called "Sliders" where four people travelled to different dimensions and saw what would have happened it America lost the cold war or if men were almost extinct or if the world was a little slow to develop technology. I love What If style stories. Sure it's a little bit of a throwaway because anyone can die and nothing really matters because it's not "our" Earth, but it's cool to see different realities nonetheless. The possiblities are endless.

That being said, it actually does bother me that this is on a parallel world. I look back at the days of the Cybermen having a hand in the death of the first Doctor, Patrick Troughton watching the Cybermen awaken and come out of the walls, Tom Baker telling the Cyber-leader that they are nothing, a race without a home and without a cause. Earthshock where they had a hand in the death of Adric, and even in the Big Finish audios, the Cybermen almost always knew they were dealing with one of their greatest adversaries when they came up against the Doctor. That is part of what makes the villians in Doctor Who so interesting. They almost always fail but the history of these races and their relation with the Doctor is what makes them so deadly and fun to watch. The Master never did anything so bad that it couldn't be rectified by the end of the episode or at least in a small arc. Same for Daleks, Cybermen or anyone The Doctor faced. But the commentary and the interaction between them was always excellent. Same as when Christopher Eccelston first faced a Dalek. Just a rogue dalek with no memory would have been cool but not near as cool as one that knew who "The oncoming storm" was and what he had done to their race over the years.

So here comes the new race of Cybermen. Homeless people who just wanted something to eat. Well, the original Cybermen were good people who got forced to be upgraded as well so that's ok. Ricky/Mickey is becoming more and more tolerable each episode, and it's cool how he pointed out that the Doctor forgot about his pressing the button, and in the last episode when he realized he's "the tin dog". I sort of wish The Doctor would have gone after Mickey instead of Rose just to prove him wrong but what did Mickey expect? The ninth Doctor could hardly stand him Mickey's lucky he's even able to go with the tenth and that he tolerates him.

As far as the actual episode goes, it's done very well. It's highly believable that everyone has ear pieces that beam information directly into their brains (I'm actually surprised we don't have that now!). It's also highly believable that a genius who is slowly dying needs this program to work so he can live on. It's good to see Pete Tyler again and he is very likable in this episode with hints of what he was on "our" Earth. I only wish that the writers of Doctor Who wouldn't end with a "cliffhanger" where they are about to kill The Doctor. We get it, ok? The Doctor is not going to die. It's sort of like when an episode of Star Trek Voyager would start with a possiblity of going home or someone in the main cast was going to die. It's obviously not going to happen and in the year 2006 we've seen it all before. I think we as television and especially Science Fiction fans, we've evolved past that point. Same with the constant...CONSTANT references to Torchwood. Ok we get it there's a spin-off coming....sheesh! Still, an enjoyable episode with plenty to explore next episode. Will gold work against these new Cybermen? Will Mickey decide to stay? Will alternate Jackie be turned into a Cyberman (That would be awesome!)? Will the Cybermen somehow live on in our universe (that too would be awesome!)? Will we get a Tardis interior re-design since it was damaged so badly? All of these questions will be answered in a week (hopefully!) and as always I can't wait to see!

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“You Will Be Deleted: Maximum Deletion” will be the battle cry that’s shouted on every playground in the UK come Monday. And quite a few offices, I'll bet!

Just when you think its impossible for Doctor Who to get any better, they pull out all the stops even further and prove that they are unbeatable. What an episode! What a cast! What a sexy shot of mickey in just boxers! Oh, and what wonderful writing! Tom Macrae has proved himself to be a wonderful Doctor Who writer. And the welcome return of Graham Harper for Direction was inspired; he hasn’t lost it at all. In fact he’s better than ever. The design, direction and general camera work was worthy of top class drama or even Hollywood blockbuster, and the acting was bloody top notch too.

This goes to prove that all the awards Doctor Who has won over the past year, and also VERY recently the three BAFTA’s, are more than justified. I’m even willing to forgive Roger Lloyd Pack, he overacted mercilessly, but it worked and he looked really sinister in his wheelchair, a deranged megalomaniac. The Earth version of Davros. And no mention of Dave. I love how he is referred to affectionately as “Trigger” in the Forums, that makes me smile.

Tonight’s episode was the closest yet to the classic series that we’ve had in the new series. We had a harrowing, alternate earth where life is totally different, as well as being frighteningly similar and a genius cliff-hanger that really did send the shivers down the spine. You cant really single anything out though, the whole episode was a classic, subtle but with a frightening build up which came to a climax in the last five or ten minutes. That's the way to do it.

It was, of course, always going to be a gamble, bringing the wonderful Cyberman back. Arguably second only to the Daleks, their return needed to be done right and done well. Well, it was. It was an absolute triumph. From the very beginnings of the episode it held me, the death of the TARDIS, the new world, alternate London Town, with the sinister ear pieces, the same location set on a totally different world, the President of Great Britain, the Millionaire lifestyle of the Tylers, the technology and also the throwback to a forgotten age with the Zeppelins. It all worked so wonderfully well.

The President of alternate Great Britain was played by the absolutely perfect Don Warrington. He was “their” Britain’s Harriet Jones, I suppose, and he played the part just as wonderfully as Penelope Wilton. I wish we had more of him next episode because he was a real asset.

The underground "resistance" were, like the President, a great addition, and abley headed by a very familiar "Ricky". A nice little touch to call him Ricky, as Christopher Ecclestons Doctor kept referring to Mickey as "Ricky" last season. That's going to get the fans all chatting.

Above all (bar the Cybermen), It was great to have Pete Tyler back, he brings so much and the reaction Rose shows to even the mention of his name is breathtakingly poignant. Although, it has to be said Rose is still just a tad annoying. She’s too bloody cocky. Maybe next episode will stop all that. One of the few touching scenes in the episode was where Mickey saw his "alive and well Gran". On his alternate doorstep. It was really moving and almost tear inducing.

So, again we had something for everyone: Scares, Plot, Dialogue, wonderful graphics courtesy of The Mill, Tear jerks and of course the essential edge of the seat suspense. All crammed into 45 little minutes. It was also a great idea not to show a coming next trailer, to keep the cliff-hanger in tact, and this week’s TARDISODE has also shown next to nothing. I just hope we get more of Jackie and that Hayden Smith geezer, he needs more of an airing. And a lot more Cyber-ness too if you please…

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This episode had to be good. The season has gradually got stronger as it's gone along, and then mid way we get the cybermen back, plugged by a radio times cover to boot! Resurrecting a much loved and iconic monster, like DALEK, it had to deliver. Also like DALEK, it resoundingly did.

Alternative timelines haven't been explored too much in TV Who, despite having been done to death in books and audio. This one looked interesting. A sky full of zeppelins, a British President, (I wonder if Mr Blair was jealous...) and, importantly for Rose, some twists with her family. The emotional issues of this were effective because always underplayed. One of the good "tough" moments of last year's FATHERS DAY was the way Pete Tyler was brought back only for Rose to see that her parent's marriage wasn't the loving idyll she'd thought it was. This worked similarly well here with Dad not knowing her and Mum frankly turning her nose up at her. But it was momentary and understated- emotion was never allowed to replace sound plotting here, a lesson some others (including RTD at times) could learn. Mickey was also used well, still the odd man out a la Adric, his journey through this new world was effective. With the confidential hinting that he will be significant in saving the day, who knows what will happen to him? His other world counterpart Ricky was effectively different but his thuggishness seemed overdone at times. Oh yes- in this world Rose is a dog. Unlike some of this season's jokes that was genuinely funny. A dog replacing the child Jackie and Pete never had.

As for the cyber plot itself, well... Roger Lloyd Pack was effective, if melodramatic, as Lumic. A Tobias Vaughan figure changing the world through technology. The satire on downloads and upgrades was sharply done, with the Doctor calling humans obsessed with upgrades, and the scenes of everyone stopping dead whilst downloads arrived was updated. Lumic is making Cybermen in the background to counteract a world seemingly ravaged with disease. International Electromatix got a mention, but I couldn't quite work out whether in this alternative world Cyber technology is being adopted by man after the defeated invasion from THE INVASION or whether in this world Cybermen were just created on Earth instead of Mondas. Whichever, what matters is that the cyberman concept is being effectively taken back to its roots. After an effective start in the sixties, the original Cybermen quickly became just another monster, the humanity of their origins shunted into the background. EARTHSHOCK tried to restore some depth via Peter Davison's scathing verbal battles with the Cyberleader about emotion, and ATTACK OF THE CYBERMEN, muddled as the story was, gave them their moments, but the creatures had lost their clout. They never ever deserved their final outing to be SILVER NEMESIS, in which they land in an already overcrowded and nonsensical plot to be promptly dispatched by a girl with a catapult. It was left to the fan media which filled the gap between season 26 and the new era to give the Cybermen some glory back, and I'm thinking here particularly of Marc Platt's awesome SPARE PARTS which was an origins story to die for. Okay, so there were turkeys like SWORD OF ORION, but ILLEGAL ALIEN, LOVING THE ALIEN and HARVEST were more effective. The Cybermen did well out of the wilderness years, probably better than the Daleks did.

But, in the end, it's the TV show that counts, and now finally the tall steely ones are back on form. A proper story to show them for what they are- converted humanoids- and a great thriller to boot.The idea of the homeless being herded up for coversion was horrific and exciting. Loved the little band of rebels trying to expose Lumic- no doubt the reason why they're called preachers will be revealed. And the execution of the whole thing was pacy and atmospheric. Which brings me to Graeme Harper's's just been too long since we last had this man on the series. Far, far too long. From that early shot of the voice controlled Cyberman framed in the light, everything shone. Unlike the fast cut editing of many new episodes (and much modern drama), shots were given time to breathe and the pace built up gradually but firmly. The "Cyberhandles" round Jackie's head as Lumic controlled her was one great moment, and those shots of the Cybermen marching were nothing short of breathtaking.

Elsewhere, acting generally good. Tennant, in contrast to some of his more OTT moments this season, gave a reserved perfprmance throughout- his quiet sadness at the apparent death of the TARDIS was good, reminiscent of Davison's resigned horror in FRONTIOS.

So. here's to the conclusion, and more of them at the end of this year's run. Like the Daleks last year, the Cyberman are being kickstarted and restored to full effectiveness.This season is finally starting to acheive greatness.

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Imagine a fictional (hopefully) Doctor Who production meeting.

“OK gang we’ve brought back the Daleks in series one, now we’re bringing back Cybermen in series two, how are we going to do it?”
“How about a two-part story?”
“Great, but we’re going to have to pad it out a bit. Any ideas?”
“What did the fans want us to bring back from the original series?”
“A lot of them were upset that Davros didn’t turn up in the ‘Parting of the Ways’”
“Great, let’s bring in a Davros-type guy then, but we’re still going to need more”
“What worked well last season?”
“That Father’s Day episode was a cracker, why don’t we do that again?”
“Fantastic, there we go then, problem solved”

Is this where the wheels come off series two of Doctor Who?

This is my first review for Gallifrey One, so please excuse my lack of all the real inside info on Doctor Who. However, having really enjoyed the previous two episodes ‘School Reunion’ and ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’, and even ‘Tooth and Claw’, though it suffered from the regular RTD trait of trying to be too clever, I was really looking forward to this episode. Now the usual fault of two-part stories is that all the creative energy gets exhausted by the second part and the story peters out. I can only hope that ‘The Age of Steel’ bucks the trend, because if it’s going to be less creative than this then we’ve got trouble.

Even Mickey points out that the parallel universe thing has been done time and again, and really this time it’s not done very well. In fact any attempt at humour in this episode is doomed to failure with one or two exceptions. Then there’s the standard 2- dimensional megalomaniac in an NHS reject wheelchair. Trigger as a genius inventor? Doesn’t quite ring true to me. Am I also allowed to guess that the second part ends with him being killed by his ‘children’, or is that too obvious?

Add to this there’s Rose and her father, and here is where credibility is stretched to its limits. In the superb Father’s Day, (why is Paul Cornell not writing an episode for this series?) Rose is taken on a heart-wrenching emotional roller-coaster, where she ends up not only losing her father all over again, but almost destroys the Universe and the Doctor en-route. Yet are we to believe that the first thought of an intelligent woman, on entering the non-reality of a parallel universe, and given all her previous experience, is that on seeing a picture of her dad she must go and see him? Sorry don’t think so.

This brings us to, what for me, was the only bright spot of the episode the fleshing out of Mickey's character. Here there is the realisation that he had not only lost his family, but he also blamed himself for his grandmother’s death. Here at last is some emotional depth to the character, and a potential escape from being the ‘Tin Dog’. Are we setting up for Mickey to take over from Rose as the Doctor’s travelling companion?

As for the Cybermen, and humans being turned into robots, again been done too often now, and somehow the menace has gone. Even the scene of the Cyber-factory featuring a machine that looked very similar to Wallace’s Sheep-shearing invention in ‘A Close shave’, failed to impress. Brains being welded to a metal frame, and all emotions removed, now where have I heard that one? Oh yes it’s a Dalek! They even have their version of ‘exterminate!’. So there we have it Dalek II being put together by Davros II on Earth II, while the Doctor and Rose experience Father’s Day II. The rule is sequels rarely work, and so it proves in this case.

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I have watched this three times now and sadly multiple viewings didn't improve it.

After the quite brilliant "Girl in the Fireplace" I was expecting something packing the emotional punch of that. Obviously we have been spoilt by Mr Davies because up until now each week of the season has topped the last one so expectations for the return of the Cybermen were sky high so New boy Tom Macrae had to deliver a story to justify the hype. Sadly he didn't.

Firstly call me precious however DOCTOR WHO should not be dealing with the issue of alternative realities. It works in other Sci fi shows however the very concept of this one precludes it especially since the loss of the time lords. It just cannot work.

How the heck can the TARDIS fall out of the time vortex?. I hope in part 2 Tom Macrae has an explanation for this happening because unless this is part of some overall story arc re the loss of the Time Lords this just does not fit into Who mythology.

Mind you Mr Macrae has obviously decided to play fast and loose with the concept with this reinvention of the Cybermen. What ever happened to the Cybermen planet Mondas?. Do previous stories have no relevance to this episode?. Listen I can cope with the Doctor kissing and "falling in love". In fact I love the concept of the doctor as the lonely angel/god wandering through the universe it fulfils "the need for an entourage" concept proposed in "School reunion". However I cannot accept the rewriting of the history of the Cybermen. No Mondras was not another earth and certainly not a parallel one. What next maybe the Tardis crew will be stuck on this alternative earth for the rest of the season. Perhaps the Doctor will encounter a mad inventor geezer called Dave Ross who creates the Daleks in his lock up in South London.

So putting the above reservations aside. I did love the new look Cybermen. Full marks to the design team for that one.

I suppose if I were able to overlook my gripes it is a good story with a fabulous climax in the great tradition etc. It was such a shame it was so silly and a major let down to those of us who have been waiting for the return of the Cybermen for so long. Next week’s episode better be good to redeem this one.

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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.

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A mad wheelchair bound scientist creates a terrifying Robotic killing machine. No it is not Genesis of the Daleks, it is Genesis of the Cybermen! - Sorry 'Rise of the Cybermen'. In a strange new world everything seems the same, but things are not quite right. No, I do not mean the TARDIS landing on a parallel Earth at the beginning of this episode. I am talking about being a thirty something year old Doctor Who fan, trying to adapt to the new series.

The familiar theme tune and reassuring sight of the TARDIS are ever present and the return of the Daleks last year was most welcome. owever, rather like Sarah Jane Smith commenting on the new console room in School Reunion, I think that I prefer the old one. (Series that is!) Until now!

In my humble opinion, Rise of the Cybermen is the first new series episode to actually add to the mythology of the old series. Russell T Davis & co would no doubt frown at my stuck in the past attitude, claiming that the new series should establish its own mythology.

I however, make no excuses for my own selfish reasons for watching. Rise of the Cybermen was classic Doctor Who for the 21st Century and it was Fantastic. Finally we know how the Cybermen were created. (At least in this version of Earth.)

The Cybermen are back and at their most impressive. I will not mention, the Doctor, Rose and Mickey. There was nothing wrong with their performances, but they were over shadowed by the mighty Cybermen. No longer vulnerable to bullets or Catapults as in the dire Silver Nemesis and not bogged down in their own tired history as in Attack of the Cybermen.

The writer 'Tom Macrae' has obviously used the Invasion for inspiration, as the similarities are plain to see. It would however be unfair not to praise his brilliance. He has created a terrifying version of Earth where peoples thoughts are regulated by corporate down loads, curfews are in place and the Rich travel safely in the sky in Zeppelins.

John Lumic is more suited as a villain for James Bond, than Doctor Who. Indeed the entire episode had a James Bond feel about it, as did the Invasion and many of Jon Pertwee's episodes.

Suddenly an oldie like me feels right at home!

Mention must also go to John Lumic's henchmen, Mr Crane who callously rounds up homeless people, before upgrading them into Cybermen in his abattoir like factory.

This is the stuff of nightmares.

A good plot, brilliant effects, superb villains, and all set in a believable alternative Earth - I can't wait for the next episode...

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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.

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Back into more traditional Who waters now, with guns, marauding robots and a shouty megalomaniac – which, coupled with ‘old series’ pacing courtesy of the double episode, by rights should make the “old is good, new is bad brigade happy” (though you know as well as I do it’s not going to happen).

The whole thing has a very Troughton-esque feel, probably due to the similarities with Invasion – though it perhaps shares more DNA with comic book fiction, in particular the character of Lumic and the new cyberdesign, which is certainly beefier than the old jump suits/wet suits sprayed silver look. I was unsure about them at first, they looked far too stylised, but seeing in the context of the show they have a lot of presence and menace.

David Tennant and Billie Piper are as good as ever, though Noel Clarke manages to steal the show as Ricky/Micky, which is no mean feat with Don Warrington and Roger Lloyd-Pack to compete with.

Cybermen have always essentially been walking Daleks – once-human brains trapped inside metal bodies but stripped of all emotions to make them more efficient killing machines – and in this story they get their very own Davros in the shape of wheelchair-bound Lumic, and their very own catchphrase too. The link between mobile technology and mind control is nice enough (if a little fuddy-duddy), but we could perhaps have done without “Delete! Delete!”

But, having said that, it was nice to enjoy the slower-build up, and the lines of cybermen stomping across the lawn was a good scary moment that should give the kiddies a scare. And it’s all a damn sight better than Silver Nemesis. I liked it.

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Let's get one thing straight here: there's a reason why the Cybermen were considered second fiddle to the Daleks. To put it rather bluntly, they simply Were. Yeah, sure, they got a little street cred by claiming the lives of one Doctor (the 1st) and a companion (Adric), and the bit with them coming out of the sewers of London in the Patrick Troughton era tale "The Invasion" is one of the defining images of the old series. But at the same time, they looked like thrown together dogshit in "The Tenth Planet" and the look never really got better. The whole "vulernability to gold" thing they threw in during the Tom Baker years got to the point where Daleks-and-stairs seemed like a serious dilemma in comparison. And, despite starting out as a cool concept of a dying race becoming robotic to save itself and then trying to spread the word, they became yet another race of galaxy-conquering-wannabes but without the vicious racism and paranoia that really drives a galaxy-conquest the way the Daleks' did.

Let's get another thing straight here: Alternate universes are passe'. Well, at least to Doctor Who fans what followed either the novels, the audios, or both. Come to think of it, if you ever happened to see Sliders then it's pretty passe' too. The novels, in particular, had not one but two story arcs involving the bastards, with differing results. Contrast it with this harrowing thought: there was only one "AU" story done by the original series - "Inferno." One story in 26 years one television versus gobs of them inside of 15 across two differing media. Yeah. Uh huh.

So you can pretty much guess at this point why I was rolling my eyes quite a bit during "Rise of the Cybermen." Second-rate monsters in a worn-out concept. Huzzah. Mind you, both were better LOOKING than we'd previously seen before. The Cybermen in particular LOOKED nice and menacing and all that. And a zeppelin-filled techno-London was actually a pretty nice touch. (Although it does beg the question why zeppelins? In, say, Watchmen there was the obvious factor of Doctor Manhattan to make enviro-friendly alternative air transport *practical*, but why here?)

As far as the Cybermen go, that's about all that was good. The dialogue was atrocious and Tom MacRae needs to be smacked around for it. "DELETE! DELETE!" Oh, yes, THAT'LL make the Cybermen more threatening, if they talk in Computerese! Upgrade this, jackass. Besides which, how scary can the Cybermen REALLY be when everyone is wearing the Bluetooths of Doom? Why kill the President of Great Britain when you can take over his mind, the very precious organ John Lumic was obsessing over?

Oh yeah, let's talk Lumic for a second. So, I guess on this version of Earth, the Cybermen weren't really from Mondas (or Telos!) and they were instead created by some dude who's a cross between Davros and Tobias Vaughn who pretty much already DOES rule the world? Basically? Well, it would explain both the International Electromatics truck AND the wannabe-Dalek dialogue from the Cybermen, anyway.

Oh, yes, and let's not forget the regulars too! Thrill as the Doctor and Rose snark away and completely forget Mickey! Swoon as Rose and Mickey both do the Completely Obvious and follow Every Single Cliche About Being In An Alternate Universe! (Step 1, visit relatives who are dead in your world but not in this one. Step 2, if at all possible meet your alternate self. Step 3, since this is an alternate dimension it's OBVIOUSLY fascistic in nature, therefore immediately join the Revolution ...)

So, er, yeah. I mean, it was nice to see Rose get her ego deflated a little bit more (and I LIKE Rose but this season she's been BUGGING me more often than not). Although the whole serving girl bit is getting REALLY old REALLY quick. Plus, you know, Rose the Dog. HA HA HA.

Erm....yes it's only Part 1, but Part 2's gonna have to be a WHOLE lot better than this.

And as I asked elsewhere, can we PLEASE ACTUALLY go to an alien world? Please? Not parallel Earth, not "New" Earth, but Planet Nothing At All to Do With Earth? Well, til next week. I guess. Meh.

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There was a lot of expectation regarding this major tent-peg episode in the second series. just as there was a build up to the rturn of the Daleks in Episode 6 of the first series, Episode 5 carried a similar weight of hype. Except this time the bar has been set by such a stellar reinvention of the Daleks. we now know that iconic villains can be made totally thrilling for a new decade and so we approached the Cybermen in the hope that we would be similarly impressed.

Do you get the idea that I wasn't?

For all the build up, I found this episode a huge let-down - particularly after the heady heights of Steven Moffat's "Girl in the Fireplace" the previous week. That episode still ranks as the best hour of television this year.

I was actually surprised after the quality of the scripts that preceded it at how derivative it all was. So here we finally see an (alternative) genesis of the Cybermen. And guess what - they are invented by a crippled scientist in a wheelchair. A scientist with huge power in government. A scientist that wants to upgrade his entire race into meetal bodies to prevent death and extinction. A scientist who then kills those in power when they challenge his experiments.

Is it a coincidence that Genesis of the Daleks was released on dvd the same month as this episode?

And let's not forget the TARDIS sub-plot. The TARDIS has managed to get itself stuck in a 'galactic lay-by' where it has lost all power. The Doctor resigns himself to the fact that the TARDIS is dead and is prepared to sit out eternity. That is until he discovers a smidgin of power in a long forgotten circuit that he can boost just enough to escape back into the real universe.

All the above of course comes from Vengeance on Varos, but you could be excused for thinking I was describing last weeks episode. You'd think he'd have learnt by now.

Interestingly enough, although the parrallel earth concept is as cliched as any other in sci-fi, it has only been done once before in Doctor Who. Ironically, that was Inferno which comes out on DVD next month! I think I'm beginning to see a pattern here... If Vengeance on Varos hadn't already been released, I'm sure it would have been rushed onto the schedules.

The other thing that bugged me about this episode was the sheer level of plot convenient coincidence. So Rose's Dad is alive in this universe. That's fine and dandy. But did he have to have close ties to the villain and be central to the first attack of the Cybermen? In this universe, Mickey and Rose never met. Well, there isn't a (human) Rose for a start. So it is a complete coincidence that out of every young bloke in London, it is Ricky that leads the freedom fighters in an attack on the very same mansion that houses Rose's Dad and is simulltaneously attacked by Cybermen. This level of coincidence is very sloppy writing - the type of writing the series has avoided up til now.

Finally, the last thing that bugged me was the portrayal of the Cybermen. Well, I should say their portrayal was fine - they look and behave fantastic. But Doctor Who has always been guilty of announcing the head monster in the title of an episode and then spending the whole episode hiding them in shadow or in blurred shots or obfuscating them in some way so they can do a big reveal at the end of the episode. I mean, come on. We know that blurry shape is a Cyberman. It's in the sodding title. The BBC have inundated us with pics for weeks. But no. We have to see lotrs of mysterious boots tramping past. Shadowy figures moving about. Little hints of metal here and there. Just show us the damn thing rather than pretend we don't know and should feign some kind of surprise when they appear on the Tyler's lawn. I just think this is such an insult to an audience that tunes in to see the return of the Cybermen. Give us the bloody Cybermen then. Not just five minutes at the end.

Richard Martin on the extras dvd for Genesis of the Daleks describes the criticism he received after episode one of The Dalek Invasion of Earth. The BBC had hyped the return of the Daleks for weeks only for a single Dalek to appear out of the water at the cliffhanger - thereby disappointing an entire audience. It's a shame Martin's advice could not have been given a little sooner so the people responsible for this episode coiuld have realised the mistake they were making.

Having said all the above, the next episode looks like it may be the making of the story with this episode merely serving as an overlong preamble. I have a suspicion that the crux of this story is still to be revealed. I don't think it is Rose and her Dad. I don't think it is the genesis of the Cybermen as - being set in an alternative universe - that has no meaning and actually adds nothing to the metal meanies once our crew return to our world.

I think this is going to be Mickey's story. I think episode two will focus on a major turning point in his development and it is this point that we will remember these two episodes for. So much has already been hinted at in the Confidential episode on Saturday and there have been hints for weeks that Mickey is the one to watch this season. I think we find out why next week and my gut tells me it is going to be big.

I already have a theory as to what that might be but... nah. If it happens I'll just tell everyone I saw it coming. If it doesn't, then I can deny everything...

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It is difficult to fully review the first of a very strong two part story before the second has aired. The 2 part story was tried last season with varying results and, in my view, the format was not always used to its best effect. Sufficient to say Rise of the Cybermen got off to a very promising start. With more than a hint of Dalek Invasion of Earth and Genesis of the Daleks (men in wheelchairs apart from anything else) and Day of the Daleks with the attack on an English country house and Inferno (duplicate world), there was a lot going on here.

The Doctor initially has to come to terms with the death of his Tardis (the last Tardis) and the inability of the Time Lords to ensure smooth transition between alternate worlds, Rose battles to understand how her mother and father are together in this alternative universe but she does not exist (save for a dog they called Rose) and Mickey discovers that his dead grandmother is still alive in this different London and then stumbles on his totally different counterpart Ricky who comes across as a far more dominant and aggressive person. Intertwined into this action is the downloading of information direct to people through bluetooth devices, the disappearance of people off the streets in the back of large Willy Wonka style lorries and the strange and remote John Lumic in his grand Zeppelin hovering over London.

But of course the best is yet to come - thud, thud, thud - the new generation Cybermen crash into Jackie's birthday party with great gusto - and there are loads of them - each actor having been given intense training in the art of walking like a steel man. Have these metal men been accidentally created in similar guise to their counterparts from Telos and Mondas or is there some sort of connection that John Lumic has tapped into? Whatever the script reveals, these Cybermen are no disappointment. Nick Biggs voices with a new depth and feeling that puts the old Darth Vader interpretation finally to bed - "Excellent"!!

Performances are difficult to fully rate too - for once I would pass particular comment on Noel Clarke's dual role. There was much depth here and I daresay the actor has been given a strong script as his "farewell appearance". Graeme Harper's direction was a tight and professional as one would expect from a Doctor Who stalwart. And didn't David Tennant and Billie Piper look good as waiter and waitress??? Bring on part two . . .

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A new and interesting way of telling a Cyberman story. Although not up there with the stronger Cybermen stories like 'Tomb of the Cybermen' and 'Earthshock', but it does rate above average.

I was pleased with the new look of the Cybermen, in the publicity stills which I saw last year the new look didn't really make me think 'Wow!' but actually seeing them in motion on screen has actually make me say out loud 'Wow!'. But I still prefer the look the Cybermen had in the 1980's. However I wasn't too big on the new voices they had, I much preferred how they sound in the Big Finish audio series.

The story was pretty good but I was disappointed that there was too much focus on Rose and Mickey meeting relatives that are dead in there own Universe, it kinda stole the thunder from this alternate Earth which seems to become totally dependant on the 'Human Upgrade'. Then again with any series that RTD is in charge of there is bound to be some family 'melodrama' somewhere.

The CGI airships where pretty cool, it made that difference to the London skyline you kinda knew straight away that this was a different place. Not many shows get the alternate universes right, shows like 'Sliders' and 'Star Trek' don't quite clinch it at times, but this story does.

This was also the first time in the new series that a cliff-hanger ending wasn't spoiled by a 'Next Time' sequence; they did that last year and completely missed the point of 'Cliff-hanger ending'.

The sequence with the people in the street freezing while they get the latest downloads was pretty inspired in my opinion, the last part of it when a new joke was downloaded was a nice touch.

Although a good episode for the most part it did have some things that spoiled it slightly. I rate this story 7/10.

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Great stuff, just the sort of hard as nails, no holds barred, action thriller the season has needed. This season (so far) has been confident, stylish, emotional, exciting but it hasn’t been as punchy as I would like, although the brilliant Tooth and Claw made a damn good attempt (but in the end of the day that was more about atmosphere than frights). The Rise of the Cybermen is the sort of Doctor Who you wouldn’t be ashamed to show to anybody, with gallons of gloss but a certain steeliness and forcefulness every show needs to unleash every now and again to make sure you are still awake.

Saying that I feel there was something a little off kilter about the episode, something about the way it swings so dramatically from the emotional to the violent, trying to cram in as much as possible to keep the viewer off balance. But even that worked to make me feel uncomfortable, almost as if the disturbing scenes here were just a taster for the pain and terror to come. And whilst as a package it felt a bit over stuffed I cannot fault any individual scene, so carefully crafted were they. There were loads of standout moments (more on that later) but pretty much every second of this episode feels as though it has been considered and pitched right by a skilful director.

Let’s welcome back Graeme Harper to Doctor Who after a lengthly stint away, showing even the best of the new directors how it is done. Caves of Androzani and Revelation of the Daleks are too of my favourite Doctor Who stories for obvious reasons, they are both effortlessly assembled stories with every penny of money on screen, chock a block with fabulous performances, exciting acting, genuine emotion and (best of all) clever and inventive directorial touches (such as Morgus talking to the camera and the shots from the security cameras point of view as the Doctor stares straight at it). Gosh this guy understands how Doctor Who works, through and through. He knows how to build up his monster (I was almost salivating with impatience to see a Cyberman), how to pace his episode (hints at the oncoming menace before letting rip in the last five minutes, releasing the tension he has built up), how to get the best of his actors (Tennant hasn’t had a better scene than when he was abandoned by both of his companions) and best of all how to shoot his monsters (have the Cybermen EVER been this scary? Me thinks not!). Graeme clearly understands his material, flicking over to confidential it was great to see him talking to his actors and not just the regulars even taking his time with the day players, to milk every nuance from the script. I am so pleased he will be handling the finale; he has the same drive and flair for the dramatic as Joe Ahearne last year that will make that story one to remember.

I am not a huge fan of the Cybermen, anyone who has ever read any of my reviews before will be well aware of that. It is not the concept that disagrees with me but their execution over the years. I can’t stand a missed opportunity and the Cybermen were a missed opportunity over and over again, re-introduced, redesigned but never looking that impressive and the producers never having the guts to focus on the one truly scary thing about these creatures, the conversion from people into unthinking robots, not the result, the actual body horror of the process. Add to this the fact that the Cybermen stopped being used creatively, they were brought back because they were good for the ratings rather than for strong storytelling purposes (and given their screen time you would think they would be milked to death by now but the true sadness is the exploitation of their horror has barely been explored). Cybermen were being used because the fans liked them, because they were Cybermen. It frustrated me to hear Russell T Davies saying exactly this in Confidential but he has covered his arse by enforcing a story worthy of them, making sure they are integral to the story and their terror is oppressed.

I cannot tell you how much I adored the sequence with the conversion. Totally, totally brilliant and easily one of the best set pieces in the series so far and the most hilarious thing is the violence is only IMPLIED. The juxtaposition of The Lion Sleeps Tonight (I love that song) and the montage of images (the tramps being lead into the factory screaming, the gadgetry unhooking from the ceiling to start its filthy work, the pan along the oily pipes as the saws slice through flesh, the fade to the night time location…). A visionary piece of direction summing up the sheer nastiness of the Cybermen without showing a thing. Amazingly good. And you gotta love that tune.

I liked the setting as well, just familiar enough to be our world but the striking image of the zeppelins in the sky to remind us it isn’t quite our world. Given our slow dependence on electronic monstrosities like mobiles, pocket PCs, iPods, etc it is quite plausible that one man with a dangerous vision could exploit these devices to control and manipulate the human race. The sequence where the street crowd freezes around the Doctor and Rose is unnerving, not just because it would creep you out anyway but the implication that information is being downloaded into their heads and to cap it off the chuckle at the (standard) joke. It suggests the uniformity of the Cybermen is actually not far off already, the people are already controlled and told what to think…all they need is the cosmetic appliances. Are we affected by the media in a similar fashion? Or is our reliance on things like drinking water just one step away from cutting off the supply and forcing the people to adhere to one persona will? Sadly Lumic is a frighteningly real sort of chap, a visionary who enforces his anger at his disabilities on others, forcing them into an image that would suit him and his condition. It is nice to see Roger Lloyd Patrick playing a serious role (I’m sure he does all the time but he is best known for his unique duel comedy performances in Vicar of Dibley and Only Fools and Horses) and he is ideal to bring gravity and chills to the part. I have always thought his performances have been a bit off putting, something about how he deals out his dialogue so his static, almost metallic (chortle chortle) performance in this episode is ideally suited. His gruff laugh after he cracks the joke about crashing the party is hilarious and terrifying. The gleam in his eye as he first spies one of his creations in the flesh is spine chilling (“Flesh of metal!”) and gives him a Davros-like moment whilst he is actually nothing like him at all.

I am so glad the Doctor is learning from his stupid mistakes last year and his insistence that Rose does NOT go and see her dad feels very right. I was cheering! Whilst the Doctor takes something of a backseat after hogging the limelight last week there are still more than enough moments where Tennant knocks everybody else off the screen. His angry, desperate orders for Mickey and Rose to stay with him rather than trying to seek out loved ones who have dies in their reality was powerful stuff, wonderful to see some real severity in his performance after acting like he was on a steady course of drugs last week. Billie Piper gets some lovely moments in this story too, reminding me why she is such an integral part of the Doctor Who experience at the moment. Her reaction to ‘Rose’ in this alternative Earth was priceless but nothing could top her moonlight conversation with ‘Jackie’, beautifully performed by both actresses to get you relaxed in their engaging chemistry before twisting uncomfortably to remind both the viewer and Rose that this is NOT our Jackie (“Don’t you dare to talk to me!”). But the episode thief belongs to Noel Clarke as Mickey who has been something of a spare part since Parting of the Ways and fully deserves the limelight. His shadowy conversation with the Doctor is about as civil as they get to each other and his reaction to his alter ego mirrors our own (and the sight of his tied up to a chair with only his underwear on is just the way to get on my good side). His scene on his Grandmothers doorstep was the best Mickey scene to date, opening up a world of hurt and history for the character and giving Clarke a moment to break our hearts. Call me a pessimist but I forsee a nasty surprise for Mickey fans in the next episode and if this is his swansong I will be devastated.

What else is there to say…Camille Coduri is divine as the super bitch Jackie, Don Warrington makes a fine silky voiced President, Shaun Dingwall makes a decent return in a episode far superior to the emotional mush he was forced to play last year…and it was a joy to see Lilt from Revelation of the Daleks, the undoubtable Colin Spaull as Lumic’s chief common as muck thug. Another mention for Murray Gold’s bombastic score, although there were a few too many stings from previous episodes, his original music in this episode is perfectly suited and excellent at gearing up the tension.

It’s a great cliffhanger for a great episode, a teensy weensy bit disjointed, clearly a first part of a two parter as this is all set up and with a final five minutes to die for, taking us back to the moments of dizzy excitement of Doctor Who at its height…I want to watch it again for all the details I missed. I might be in the minority but I much preferred this to last weeks romantic character piece, a bit of rough and tumble that will surely go down in the history books as a triumphant return for the Cybermen.

And gee weren't they sexy?

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I’VE never reviewed the opening episode of a two-parter without seeing the denouement, so it feels like it’s only half-time, and I don’t know the final score. Which I don’t, of course! However, I can opine that this was a highly-promising first half, and another thoroughly-enjoyable episode.

As The Girl In The Fireplace was quite a long way from “traditional” Doctor Who, I felt Rise Of The Cybermen would be closer in tone to elements of the “classic” series – and I think that’s exactly the way it panned out.

Tom MacRae did an excellent job with his first Who script – it was an extremely-well-structured and easy-to-follow episode. Well-paced, too, with the benefit of the two-episode format, and there were plenty of good dramatic moments. OK, most of them had been seen in similar guises both in Doctor Who and elsewhere, but they fused together cohesively, and that's what matters.

Yet again, there was another fine pre-credits sequence, with just a background tease of the Cybermen. I also enjoyed the regulars’ opening scene in the TARDIS – making the ship “die” as it plunged into a parallel world was a well-thought-out idea, which worked successfully.

As did the “parallel” Mickey. Calling him Ricky (which was necessary for dramatic purposes – couldn’t really have two characters called Mickey) was a neat link to the previous series. The notion that Mickey/Ricky in the alternate world was top of the Most Wanted list was also a nice twist, especially as “our” Mickey has effectively been growing in strength and confidence with each episode – maybe he would have become a freedom fighter in his own universe given time.

Good as it was to see the alternate Pete and Jackie Tyler, I’m not sure they were hugely significant to the plot – with the caveat that they may be more so next week! – but, story-wise, it all made sense for Rose and The Doctor to be at the Tylers’ party when the Cybermen “crashed” in.

I enjoyed the lengthy wait for the revelation of the series’ greatest-ever two-footed monsters – and it was worth the wait. The new-look Cybermen bursting through the mansion windows and their malevolent march in the grounds are likely to go down as iconic moments. And I loved “you will be deleted” as their new mantra.

Although there was a predictability about the regulars being rounded up by a posse of Cybermen as a cliff-hanger, it still worked, and was a good way to round off the episode – which surely did enough to entice the majority of casual viewers back next week.

The main hook of the episode was the return of the Cybermen – so how were the 2006 versions? Visually, absolutely superb. I really loved the Earthshock-onwards Cybermen – and didn’t think they could be bettered. However, I also loved the new design – every bit as menacing as in their prime, and there was a real, powerful metallic look to them, hence The Age Of Steel title to the second episode, I expect. Let’s just hope they’re not easily destroyed by melting them . . .

However, one major downside for me on an initial viewing (or listening, to be more accurate) was the Cyber-voices. I understood what was said because I strained my ears – there’s no way the mainstream audience would do that (nor should they have to) and I think they’d have had a problem picking up all the Cyber dialogue.

Obviously, Nicholas Briggs’ voice had to be radically different to his excellent Dalek interpretation, and that was certainly achieved. My problem isn’t actually with Briggs’ version of the Cyber voice – more the electronic trickery applied to it. Sure, it was distinctive – but no point in being distinctive if you’re alienating the viewer by making it difficult to hear what’s being said. The Doctor Who production team make very few mistakes – but I think this was one. However, it may be a case of getting used to the voice, and I may feel differently next week.

Another slight negative for me was the casting of Roger Lloyd Pack as John Lumic. As a huge fan of Only Fools And Horses, Lloyd Pack is always going to be Trigger to me – and I couldn’t really have him at all in this mad genius role. He wasn’t terrible, but nor was he hugely convincing. Pity, because on paper, the role was a potentially multidimensional one of a dying man trying to create not only extend his life – but also shape the world by creating a new super race. Hints of Davros perhaps, but the layers in Lumic didn’t really come across anyway.

Shaun Dingwall and Camille Coduri were fine as (slightly) alternative Pete and Jackie, and making Rose a dog in this reality was an amusing touch. I’m not sure Jackie’s heaving bosom wasn’t just as dangerous as the Cybermen, though . . .

I’m still quite happy with David Tennant’s progression as The Doctor – hasn’t reached his show-stealing heights of The Christmas Invasion for me, but it’s still quite early in his tenure. I thought Billie Piper was back on top form here, and this was much more like the Rose of Series One. I think the writers have struggled to know what to do with her at times (certainly in Episodes Two and Four) but there was a lovely moment when she delivered the “puppy-dog eyes” to entice The Doctor into going to see her parents. There was a bit more evidence of the connection between The Doctor and Rose than has been evident in the whole series – his initial concern that she shouldn’t meet her father (partly through his own jealousy perhaps?) and her usual jealously of any female that he even looks at!

Great stuff, too, from Noel Clarke, both as Mickey and Ricky. Must be a lot of fun for an actor to play a dual role and, although there was a hint of the Auton Mickey about Ricky, Clarke pulled it off. And there was a touching cameo scene with his grandmother which provided a rare – but welcome - hint of back story to a character who has grown in stature with every passing episode.

Rise Of The Cybermen was shorter on humour than the others in the series, but not to its detriment, and it has set up The Age Of Steel perfectly. Vital to see the second part before one can fully place the story in Doctor Who lore, but the signs are really good that the rise won’t be followed by a fall.

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“You will become like us.”

I hope not - and I’m afraid with spiteful journalistic tact, I misuse the quotation to reference to the show, not it’s metal menace. Yes, I hope the rest of Series 2 is spared a quality “upgrade” to that of “Rise Of The Cybermen”. This for me, was indeed the first clunker of the new series.

Melodramatic attempts at scorn aside, what can objectively be said about “Rise Of The Cybermen”?

To start with, it’s the new series’ first two parter and there is no doubt this story requires an extended format. “Rise Of The Cybermen” mixes two fairly heavy plot lines - the creation of the Cybermen and the affect of the TARDIS crew’s mirror components on the story’s “alternate” Earth. To combine these two story elements does indeed require two episodes, but at this midway juncture, one has to question if the second element - the central mirror counterparts - actually adds anything worthwhile.

It’s been nearly forty years since Star Trek brought the mirror universe concept to mainstream TV science fiction and to embark on such a tale in contemporary television requires some new twists. “Rise Of The Cybermen” unfortunately is plagued with the vague dissimilarities that four decades of mirror universes have brought and for an adult viewer, it felt tired.

Central to the entire plot is Rose’s mirror parents. From stepping out of the TARDIS, the crew are almost immediately confronted with a poster of Rose’s dad. As an unfolding element to the tale, this simply feels like a crass and contrived piece of storytelling and I found my suspension of disbelief immediately shattered. Furthermore, Rose’s desire to see her parents reeks of “Father’s Day” and while this maybe in character with Rose, it feels like a retread of the excellent Series 1 episode. Not only that, but her insistence to see them against the Doctor’s advice is irritating, as is the Doctor’s inability to stand up to her again. After such an intensely Rose orientated first series, this Tyler family focus feels out of place in Series 2. The whole Tyler angle of this episode feels intrusive and uncalled for. Maybe part two will change that, but on the strength of episode one, it just seems a waste of the audience’s time.

It seems a pity that between the superb “The Girl In The Fireplace”, the dynamic shift in the core TARDIS group seems to have been lost. Maybe it will be picked up in one of the new novels, but as the following episode of the series, it’s a little disappointing to see the crew back in the same slots as if nothing happened.

After Tennant’s two very strong episodes, “Rise Of The Cybermen” sees him kicked into the background again, and as with “New Earth” and “Tooth and Claw”, this Doctor feels very ineffectual when the spotlight is removed. Give Tennant a Doctor focused episode and he shines, bring other elements forward and the Doctor seems to get a little lost in the story - which is a pity, this episode does little to warm the audience to the second lead, Rose Tyler.

So that leaves us with Mickey Smith, and after a questionable start to Series One, Mickey continues to be a welcome addition to the TARDIS crew in Series Two. As the unappreciated third member of the team, the audience are drawn to Mickey. From the start of this episode, the audience’s sympathy - intentionally or not - falls with Mickey Smith.

One doesn’t just warm to Mickey through the character dynamics. A great deal of Mickey’s strength comes through the actor. Noel Clarke’s performance as Mickey and his the mirror counterpart, Ricky, is superb. He plays both roles distinctly and consistently throughout. Certainly Mickey is a credit to this story, a definite reversal to my initial impression of Clarke’s acting in “Rose”; I stand humbly corrected.

Certainly one of the strongest elements of the episode is the excellent cast. Roger Lloyd-Pack is fantastic as the disabled Cyber creator, Lumic (and what is it with wheel chaired genocidal monster creators in Doctor Who?), Don Warrington is great as the President and Colin Spaull’s Mr Crane is very “Old Who”. While I do dismiss the Tyler family as superfluous to my expectations, it’s great to see Shaun Dingwall getting a chance to reprise his excellent portrayal of Pete Tyler and Camille Coduri is as solid as ever in her performance as Jackie.

Continuing the positive note, while a little generically Robo-Cop-y, the Cybermen are well handled. They are tall and imposing as one expects from this metal foe and their movements are suitably choreographed. Their debut opens with a lovely low angle shot of the Cyberman coming through the window. It looks fantastic.

A great deal of this episode rests on whether you like freaky alternate dimensions. If you enjoyed “Inferno”, you’ll probably enjoy this. For me, this mirror universe seemed a little main character-centric. When two thirds of the TARDIS crew have mirror families or themselves playing pivotal roles within the parallel universe’s political antagonisms, the whole planet just contracts. Suddenly, the adage “it’s a small world” seems a little too apt....

This episode does feel far more akin to the old “Doctor Who”, and depending again on whether you like the attributes it shares with the classic series, will affect your overall opinion. "Rise Of The Cybermen” has the evil genius and his trusted, unique henchman; it has the TARDIS crew taking different paths from point A, yet having these routes artificially dovetail to take them both to point B. This along with the unfolding schemes of the defiant megalomanic and the obligatory death of some of the key supporting players, makes for a distinct Doctor Who flavour.

Yet, with Doctor Who breaking new grounds this series, “Rise Of The Cyberman” feels a little too generic. If “The Girl In The Fireplace” stretched the shows concept, “Rise Of The Cybermen” sits a little too comfortably in Doctor Who formula. Even the teaser itself is marred by the rather predictable and drawn out dispensing of Lumic’s assistant. We watch as the slow-witted cyber fodder goes through the motions of being dispatched by the hidden Frankenstein’s monster. Again, it’s a little formulaic despite the beautiful visuals and strong acting performances.

This is not to say the episode is truly awful in it’s narrative and plotlines. The actual concept of this mirror universe and it’s Cybermen evolution is interesting enough. While the workings of the plot seem a little uninspired, the actual idea is an engaging one. I’m certainly curious to see if my suspicious about this alternate Earth are played out next week and how this whole story will resolve.

On a scene by scene analysis, the episode is littered with some enjoyable segments. The Doctor and Mickey conversing about their dilemma in the dead TARDIS was an enjoyable scene and I hope their dynamic is played further next week. I also found the screams from the human “cyber-upgrading” being fused with the pop-tastic “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” made a chilling and memorable horror motif.

Yet while I won’t go so far to say the story suffers from plot-holes, there does seem to be some curious omissions of detail. Mickey’s counterpart suggests he’s London’s public enemy number one, yet Mickey seems to have no problem talking to the military with no incident. Certainly not an error - one can assume that Ricky isn’t quite as important as he thinks, or maybe the military aren’t that well informed. Either way, fiction, as always, is malleable; we can make our own way through any story confusion without being spoon-fed by the narrative. Nevertheless, having one scene with Mickey openly chatting to the city’s law-enforcers and then five minutes later, having another scene telling us Mickey has the face of a wanted man, seems a little odd.

Quite why Mickey’s counterpart accepted Mickey enough to trust him on their mission is a little unclear as well.

I’m also not sure the destitute would be so stupid as to believe that the capitalistic world that ruined them would offer them free food - particularly when the food is secluded deep inside a nondescript truck. These people are poor and while they maybe desperate, I’m not entirely convinced such large groups would be this dumb. While it felt like a very old style Doctor Who set-up, it seemed a little transparent for contemporary TV.

So overall, a mixed bag which personally I got very little satisfaction from, making this the first Doctor Who story to disappoint me.

Nevertheless, I would like to end this commentary on a high note. Now the story events have been set in motion in episode one, maybe episode two will open up some unexpected resolutions. I certainly hope Lumic gets an encounter with the Doctor. I’m also hoping the next episode will introduce some emotional drama for this is what this new series does best and was distinctly missing from “Rise Of The Cybermen”; I didn’t feel empathy with any of the characters except Mickey and the Tyler family arc left me utterly cold. I’m hoping “The Age Of Steel” will make the building blocks of this story seem a little more relevant - or even poignant. After all, “Earthshock” offered one of the most touching moments in Doctor Who, so maybe the emotionless Cybermen will offer us another story with an equally heart-wrenching ending.

Regardless of how the whole story resolves, this episode is patchy at best; reworking too many familiar themes and offering little inspiration in terms of story or drama. No one likes to have to be negative about their favourite show and while this is certainly far better than many of the drossy Who stories of yore, in comparison to what we know the new series can produce, “Rise Of The Cybermen” doesn’t come close.

There are many elements here that will appeal to classic Who fans, but those looking for something - or anything - new will be disappointed. I suspect this story will be one Who fans either love.. or hate.

As a episode on it’s own, “Rise Of The Cyberman does quite the opposite: it falls. Maybe as the start of a larger tale, it will become a part of something more special.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

Half-time. Pause for breath and suck on an orange (or should that be a satsuma?) Thought the team played a blinder in the first 45 minutes. Over the moon, John.

Sorry about the football referances.Sure I wasn't the only fan who didn't want the FA Cup to go into extra time in case it affected the viewing figures; the overnight figures suggest not, thankfully. (Don't get me started on the Euro-bl**dy-vision Song Contest! 'The Empty Child' the least watched episode of 2005? That's just not right!) This was..again...great television, and deserved a big audience.

Great move to set the episode in a parallel universe...thus neatly side-stepping (ha) 40-years worth of continuity relating to the Cybermen. The original concept that made the Cybermen so scary (They were human..they were like us!) is still adhered to, but without any of the Mondas/Telos stuff that so blighted 'Attack Of The Cybermen'. Phew. A brilliant idea from the shows past updated with contemporary themes and told in a gripping way that should enthral a whole new generation of fans. A new start...very sensible; the younger fans will recall the cyber-head from last year, but are hardly likely to remember 'Silver Nemesis' from 1988! (18 years ago...I shiver at that thought...and that script!)

Welcome back, Mr Harper! I wondered whether the direction would stand out, as I would (tentatively) suggest that even the harshest critics of 'new' Who haven't had much to criticise re: the various directors work thus far. I'm delighted to say that the man behind the Fifth Doctor's noble final moments and arguably the Sixth Doctor's most stylish moments, is in outstanding form again.Swooping cameras, more hand-held shots than we've seen in ages, close-ups, tight two-shots; lovely. My favourite 'touch' in this episode; cross-fading (or whatever the correct term is!) as we see Lumic's horrible factory and hear, not quite drowning out the screams of pain, the nastily apt 'Lion Sleeps Tonight'...woah.

The clever handling of the Cybermen, only clearly visible at the point late in the episode where the Doctor sees them for the first time, should also be commended; I especially liked the close-up of the eye with that spooky 'tear-duct' that works so well. Their dramatic smashing through the windows actually made me jump; I admit it!

As for the acting, well, David Tennant is just not putting a foot wrong at the moment...I remain very impressed by him, and I think he could well end up right up there with my other particular favourites, Doctors Five, Four and Two. I liked his inability to stifle a chuckle at the appearance of the 'other' Rose; his anger and despair at the Tardis seemingly being 'crocked' for good; his desperate attempts to stop Rose and Mickey wandering off; the image of a tuxedo-wearing Doctor legging it from those iconic monsters...ahhhh.

After being sidelined last week, Billie and Noel really nail their meatier parts here. (I think the scene with 'Rickey's' grandmother was probably Noel's best work so far. Damn it, 'Doctor Who' makes me go all misty-eyed *yet again*...)

I thought that all the guest stars were fine; the 'alternate' Pete is still made appealing by Shaun Dingwell and Camille does snobby, shallow and unlikeable very well (her nasty tongue-lashing of poor Rose was particularly effective.) Roger Lloyd-Pack was very convincing as the Tobias Vaughan-like John Lumic and I for one was not wondering whether the prototype Cyberman would be dubbed 'Dave' at any point. (Apologise to Mr Lloyd-Pack here...god, he must get sick of such fatuous comments just cos Trigger was such a wonderful creation!)

Thinking of Kevin Stoney's brilliant performance as the creepy Mr Vaughan, this episode did seem to have echos of 'The Invasion';a villainous megalomaniac with a nasty henchman; a powerful corporation with dodgy 'The Invasion' and 'Earthshock' are my two favourite Cybermen stories, so far, I mean this as a big compliment. Will Part two have the same impact as the latter's conclusion? (think y'all know what I'm saying!)

Can't wait to find out. In the meantime, this gets 9.5/10 from me...hope the Second Half delivers.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

They look fake!' my sister scoffed a couple of hours before I sat down to watch 'Rise of the Cybermen' tonight. I rolled my eyes at her, content in the knowledge that Doctor Who is very much 'in' and she was one of the few unfortunates who hadn't 'got' it yet. There was a small knot of worry in my stomach, though - mostly as I didn't 100% disagree with her.

Not that I have any problem with the design - the steel-clad, art-deco look is a beautiful piece of work, well-realised. The thumping sound of their feet crunching the ground was a nice addition, too. It's just that, well ... where the alien look of the Daleks really didn't need much of a rethink, I had hoped from the very beginning that the production team would get to the heart of what the Cybermen are and come up with something a little more horribly blank cyborg and less bulky toy soldier. Even in the 80s the design was starting to look just a bit man-in-suit silly ...

As for the story, it's hard to call at this stage. As a part one story last season, 'Aliens of London' had me cringing throughout. 'Rise' is a vastly superior piece of work. I'm curious, though, to see what others think of it - particularly the '45 minutes is too short' brigade who have bemoaned the brisk pace of recent episodes. Even as a long-time Doctor Who fan, I can't help but think that 45 minutes as set-up really only leads to a rather plodding pace.

The character work was, as ever, lovely, although I do wonder if Rose-wants-to-see-Pete isn't a bit redundant after a whole episode was devoted to the idea last season. I mean, she almost ripped all of time apart last time around. Hasn't she learned anything? Mickey's contribution helped add some freshness to the proceedings, however, and his meeting with his grandmother was very touching, demonstrating just how far he has come since 'Rose'. Unfortunately, Noel Clarke does himself no favours when it comes to portraying his alter-ego, Ricky. Apparently 'Mickey talking permanently through a snarl' is enough to show how different he is from our own boy.

Roger Lloyd Pack, hailed by many leading up to this episode, is a little patchy, too - his slow enunciating villain shtick wearing a little thin come the episode's end.

It's as if the team (or perhaps simply RTD) felt that the core idea was too shocking for the timeslot and softened the whole thing up to compensate. A prime example of this being the superb scene where the imprisoned homeless are sliced and diced by a nasty-looking contraption, screaming the factory down (a real Cyber moment), ruined by the insane choice of 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' as a soundtrack. Classical music, opera, even a ballad would have had the same softening effect over the scene without making it completely ridiculous.

Tennant, Piper and Clarke (as Mickey) keep things tight enough to hold the episode together, however, and the parallel spins on Pete and Jackie are entertaining.

All in all, a hard episode to rate until the second part has been seen. I'm hoping a little more menace in next week's Cybermen will lift the story. A move away from the present-day-looking party in a fancy house (which made the Cybermen look even more like guys in costume) should help, as would some death and mayhem on the streets.

Good call not spoiling next week with an immediate trailer, right enough.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

A golden opportunity was missed here to produce a genuine Cyberman version of Genesis of the Daleks in order to provide an excuse for having a parallel world array of the new Who soap-opera cast, Mickey and the Tylers. New Who sometimes seems as cramped as Albert Square - you'd think with a TARDIS and the whole of time and space to traverse, the Doctor et al could more frequently avoid reunions with Rose's tiresome family. The parallel Earth is a very very small parallel world indeed. One cannot entirely blame Mr McRae, at his tender 26 years, for a very flat and uninteresting script and its seemingly pointless revision of the entire Cyberman history and origins simply to suit, no doubt, the whims of an overly dominant producer who wanted an excuse to feature parallel Tylers for no particular reason. But what's the point of reintroducing an old enemy simply to completely re-write their entire mythology? The only excuse can be that it is a parallel universe, not therefore the same one which contained the tenth planet Mondas; an alternative reality in which the Cybermen rise from Earth itself rather than a twin planet. This is excusable ultimately.

Instead of Davros we get Lumic, who happens to creak about in a wheelchair (instead of the bottom of a Dalek casing), and has a tendency to rant meglomaniacally. It's ironic that in an episode which is unusually serious and generally well-acted by everyone (bar the excrutiatingly irritating Jackie) that the central villain is shamelessly hammed up by Roger Lloyd-Pack, delivering his lines in an even more mechanical way than the Cybermen themselves. A truly amateur performance; highly disappointing.

The rest of the cast however - yes, even that spike-haired Geordie from Children's BBC - act extremely well and quite believably, lending a certain credibility to the story.

The Cybermen are excellently portrayed and with their rather retro-designs (even down to having steel flares) and deeply mechanical monotones, are strongly reminiscent of the classic Troughton versions, by far the most successful and affecting; this episode at least pays respectful homage to the classic adversaries in a way far more interesting and convincing than the often very dull versions of the 1980s. These are brilliant realisations of the Cybermen - the voices are superbly inhuman, and the new topical catchphrases of 'delete, delete' and references to human 'upgrades' and so on is admittedly pretty inspired; so too is the obsessive motive of Lumic in creating the Cybermen: to prolong his life, which is rapidly deserting him. For the first time significantly, the truly disturbing sub-text to the Cyberman context is palpably examined, with its moral implications regarding the loss of emotion - such Nietzschean undertones only superficially touched on in the shambolic Silver Nemesis; there's a definite Dorian Gray sub-text here too, which of course ironically is paralleled in the Doctor's own seeming agelessness. It's a creepy concept, and in this unusually philosophical dissection of the Cyber psychology, Rise of the Cybermen is a lesser cousin to the classic Dalek of last year, an episode which sported the kind of sheer energy, tension and intensity that Graeme Harper twice exemplified in the classic series moreso than this, his belated return to the director's chair, demonstrates.

Nevertheless, Rise does display a certain directorial flare in places indicative of a true master Who director: the low-angle shots, the Camfield-esque pace and militaristic elements, the token motley group of mercernaries (cue Stotz's gang from Caves and Orcini and Bostock from Revelation) including one incongruously middle-aged, craggy, sexually indeterminate member (cue Tasambeker) and so on. This is a more seasoned Harper at work here, doing all he can to inject a dull and colourless script with all the energy, intensity and momentum that he possibly can. At certain moments Harper makes this story exciting genuinely, though the restrictions of the rather comic-strip style new Who frequently tug his efforts down. This episode so far does not indicate in any sense the kind of brilliance Harper achieved in particularly the magnificently dramatic Caves of Androzani. Rise simply isn't in the same league, though it is still one of the better directed and dramatic of the new cannon. Euros Lyn's direction of Dalek last year however is far more Graeme Harper than Harper's own Rise of the Cybermen is.

The story's basic ingredients make for very traditional Doctor Who, and the scenario of the story is strongly reminiscent of late Troughton stories such as Invasion and the earlier Pertwees circa Season 7 and 8. It's not, again, in the same league by any means, but at moments it does grab you. There is 'something' about this story so far; an intrinsic directorial confidence (down to Harper of course), and in places Tennant performs convincingly, especially when first confronting the Cybermen. His rather comical turn as a waiter is also amusing in a non-grating sense. Tennant is essentially a comedy actor, and so is much better at comedic moments than his far more intense predecessor Eccleston, who seemed very awkward when trying to portray eccentricity - this idiosyncracy didn't sit well on Eccleston at all. Where Tennant can be less convincing though is at times when required to demonstrate his timeless authority - in the scenes lamenting the seeming death of the TARDIS, he is fairly affecting, but one cannot help but think of how Tom Baker would have played these scenes, with his intrinsic gravitas of voice and manner, he would have acted this bit very gravely indeed no doubt, as at the beginning of Logopolis when he announces that the cloyster bell signifies that the TARDIS is being ominously summoned somewhere, 'wheezy as a grampus' - what a brilliant description of the TARDIS that was by the poetic Christopher H Bidmead.

Rarely do any of new Who's scripts deliver such timelessly evocative lines as were so frequent under the pens of the old writers. Reflective of the general blandness of contemporary television scripts, many of new Who's episodes tend to be fairly pedestrian in writing terms, lacking the literary colour of classic Who writers such as David Whitaker, Chris Boucher and of course Robert Holmes. Considering his young years then, Mr McRae can be forgiven for the mediocrity and simplicity of many of the lines he gives his characters; the script is mostly lifeless and routine, with very few flourishes of language, but is at least adequate. The neo-topical concepts injected into this story of a parallel Cybermen's rise, such as the - visually tacky - ear-pods, hollographic billboards and references to downloads and upgrades however are fairly inspired ideas which fit the steel skin of Cyber mythology very aptly.

So on a basic Who level, Rise of the Cybermen works well, promising nothing more than it can deliver, and overall, delivering it quite well. The zepellins are also a nice idea, as is the - not that obviously - art-decco elements to their interiors. Even the CGI is ok.

What's the bet Mickey gets the Adric-treatment next episode? It seems to be on the cards. That'll be 2-0 to the Cybermen then.

Not bad, but not classic material. I'll reserve final judgment after seeing Age of Steel.

6/10 for the first episode.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Much, much better.

With all that plodding set-up out of the way we were left with a far more action and fun. Out of that horribly banal mansion from last week, the Cybermen were far more menacing on the dark streets of London and, especially, the processing factory. With Lumic mercifully dispatched early on they became more consciously driven and far creepier as a result. The 'inhibitor chip' development was welcome also, although more could have been made of the Doctor's choice to remedy matters by driving all of the Cyber-hosts mad.

A couple of things still got my goat, though. Firstly, the get-out from last week's cliffhanger was just horrible. Somehow the TARDIS power crystal can incinerate attackers. Okay, this was how Rose dealt with the Daleks in 'Parting' but I didn't really like it then and it was absurdly convenient here. Also, the sonic screwdriver is becoming an excuse for lazy writing to a far greater extent than previously. I'm all for RTD's argument that it is a plot device that gets us through the potentially boring obstacles of locked doors, but the Doctor using it as a distraction for Cybermen and to detect a control signal? He's almost 1000 years old and massively intelligent. Couldn't he come up with a more clever distraction for the former situation and simply work out the latter? ('Judging by the amount of power required and the area the signal would need to cover, the transmitter must be in the zepellin' - does the job and builds our hero up further in our estimation). The multi-use of the sonic has been an amusing conceit up until now - in this episode it became an irritation. And Tom McCrae can't be blamed fully for this - surely RTD or one of the script editors could have intervened early on?

This aside, the latter half of the episode hurtles along nicely. The convenient way both Rose and the Doctor end up in Cyber Control aside, it's all rollicking good fun.

Then we get to the Cyber Controller. Nice, flashy and more villainous than Lumic, almost spoiled by a daft entrance courtesy of his metallic throne. He's been upgraded! Why would he still need a chair?! Having him hot-wired into a ceiling structure or something would have been far more intimidating. Instead, the dry-ice chair entrance reminded of 'Stars in their Eyes' ...

As far as the conclusion goes, I loved the Doctor's orchestration of the situation to get Mickey working on the code and having Rose toss him the phone to save the day. Tennant really shines when he gets given a speech, although the 'Earthshock'-y face-off with the Cyber Controller could have had a bit more feeling behind it. It was almost as if the Doctor was just irritated that the Cybermen didn't get it. Still, that's probably more in keeping with Tennant's Baker-esque incarnation.

And Mickey left. I was sure he was going to die (doing an Adric), but maybe that happens in the season finale. Do we really believe he's never coming back? If he doesn't, this was a nice enough way for him to go.

Now let's get back to this season's strengths - Rose's doubts about her life with the Doctor (no more family trauma, please - it worked really well last year but it's been done) and the mysterious Torchwood Institute.

Mark Gatiss is on writing duties for the upcoming episode so it should be a blinder.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

The main problems with this episode was that every tight spot the Doctor and chums found themselves in was solved by a device handily pulled from someone’s pocket – whether it be the sonic screwdriver, that convenient cyber-killing TARDIS component, Rose’s mobile phone, various items in Mrs. Moore’s bag of tricks or the Geordie lad’s even more convenient knock-out-drops.

The cliffhanger resolution was pretty weak, and lessened the menace of the cybermen. There were a couple of other unintentionally funny moments too: the cybercontroller in his big metal Jim’ll Fix It sofa, and Mickey’s hacking skills (Hollywood Cliché #21 – one cannot hack into complex mainframes just by randomly clattering the middle few keys on a keyboard as quickly as possible. These days there is such a thing as a mouse). And would The Doctor really be such a big fan of hot dogs? I had him down as a vegetarian, personally,

But there were good bits too. The body count was admirable, and the two female cybermen were great moments that to my knowledge have never been exploited before – the cyberJackie recognising Pete was brilliantly chilling, and Sally Cyberman worked better than the friendly Dalek, her final moments genuinely moving and existentially horrifying.

This was replicated on a huge scale when The Doctor overrode the emotion suppressors, and while Pete and Rose celebrated, our hero looked on grimly. A very strange and grotesque ending – real human people trapped in metal bodies dying of madness, nightmarish stuff for Saturday teatime, and this is treated as a victory – though the cybermen did look like they were at a disco, and the exploding head was silly (I have it on good authority that peoples’ heads don’t actually explode when they go crazy).

We all knew Mickey was staying on Alternate Earth the moment Ricky bought the big one, but it’s a shame to see him go. Still, it might mean Rose comes back to life now… she’s been very quiet for the last few episodes and it would be nice to see her back in the foreground.

All in all, a good fun action-adventure story in the Troughton mould, with themes and ideas that should delight the ghoulish kiddies and horrify the parents.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

One thing is for certain - all across the UK (at least) school playgrounds will be full of children clomping round in Cybermen mode - the bew generation monster has been an undoubted instant hit!!

What a rollercoaster of an episode this was - lots of fast paced action, intersesting plot development from Rise of the Cybermen and yet more emotional turmoil as Mickey makes a momentous decision about his future!!! Early into the episode it transpires that the Cybermen's development in this alternative Earth mirrors their past history on Mondas and Telos but this time their creation has implications of the human race. Even more chilling is that these Cybermen retain memories of their human past albeit with emotions and feelings removed via a samll inhibito concealed in their chest units under the Cybos logo. In a strange twist there are female Cybermen - at least in name!

As the defenders of the alternative Earth set about trying to stop the mass slaughter of the citizens of London, Mickey's counterpart Ricky is one of the first to suffer at the hands (litteraly) of the pursuing men of steel. Suddenly Mickey the idiot becomes Mickey the action hero and Noel Clarke gives another fine performance. Rose discovers that the alternate Pete Tyler is not a mole for John Lumic and becomes even more attached to "her father". She sets out with him to rescue Jackie as the Doctor and Mrs Moore discover what makes the Cybermen tick and Mickey and Jake board Lumic's zepplin. The rescue bid however is a failure as Pete and Rose find that Jackie is now a Cyberman. Yes

Visually this story never fails to impress - the Cybos factory (inside and out) is almost Metropolis in feel and the squads of pursuing Cybermen - so relentless in their task - is quite awesome. Roger Lloyd Pack once again turns out a fine performance as Lumic who ends up becoming the new Cybercontoller and regains the life that would shortly be no more. The Doctor confronts him but soon realises that it is Mickey that can save the day. And Mickey does so with some style for once! The Cybermen in London are destroyed but there are other factories across this duplicate Earth which are geared up to producing more metal monsters and Mickey decides that he must stay with Jake and try to find and destroy all traces of them using the code that will cancel out their inhibitors.

The scenes of his departure are moving and well played out. Rose is of course devastated and the Doctor recognises that Mickey has a part to play in this world - not as a replacement for Ricky but as a more meaningful future than he would have on "his" Earth with a grandmother to boot!

So a big thumbs up for this 2 parter - tightly directed by Graeme Harper. The big question is how will these Cybermen transfer into our universe for the season finale? Many of the publicity photos have shown Cyberleaders with their black helmet handles but, and correct me if I am wrong, there didn't appear to be any in this tale so are these a hint of what is still to come?? Oh and it goes without saying that Dvaid Tennant was excellent in his black suit and bow tie!!!

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

The Age of Steel was well crafted and highly enjoyable. There was so much detail to tonight's episode. It was very different in nature to "Rise of the Cybermen", tied up all the loose ends, and even had the emotional farewell of Mickey. The deadly cybermen were fantastic and suitably scary and menacing. Loved the scene were the cybermen re-awakened and came to life. At first, I was a bit unimpressed with how the cliffhanger resolved but when it was explained that it was the Tardis section from Rise of the Cybermen which saved the day for the Doctor and Rose, I could see the link and it was well done.

I liked Lumic suddenly being overpowered by his assistant who actually showed a bit more gumption that last week. It was a neat touch and Lumic being converted into the cyber controller was logical and a scary moment.

The loss of Mickey's parallel character was a dramatic death sequence and the quick development of his character and how he saved the day in the end all added to a gripping finale. The episode really flew by which is perhaps the highest tribute. There was so much packed into this episode, though I did harbour a secret hope that the cybermats might have made their first return since the 1974! It was not to be!!

The Doctor came across as a bit uncaring towards Mickey in the last few episodes and I think it was perhaps a mistake to lose his character at this juncture. It left me thinking about the loss of Captain Jack after just a handful of episodes. I think there is definitely room for another member to the Tardis crew as it adds that little bit more friction between the Doctor and Rose.

I was really impressed with the cybermen and I thought the realisation that Jackie had been converted was a harrowing moment for Rose and her father. The fact that the cyberman actually recognised them was also highly dramatic. I know that Russell T Davies was wanting to emphasise the steel nature of the cybermen, but maybe they were a wee bit to clunky. There was a smoothness about the old cybermen which added to their calculating natures but it is a very minor gripe, as I think their design, voices and stature were first class.

Even the cyber leader trying to make a dramatic last gasp escape up the ladder to the Zeppelin provided a fantastic finale. But as we know the cybermen do return for the big finale and it is not all over.

Overall, a smashing way (quite literally in places!) to bring back the cybermen for a new more modern generation but still the scary steel monsters which became such an iconic symbol of Who!

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Well…that was Doctor Who in summer blockbuster mode. Following the general rules of blockbusters it was cinematic and epic but for me the whole was less than the sum of its better parts. I did feel it was less effective than Rise Of The Cybermen and that might have been down to some slightly uneven pacing and Graeme Harper trying a little too hard to make his compositions over stylish to the extent that some of the visuals were perhaps too self-conscious. A number of the group shots did seem rather artificially posed and that tended to lift me out of the moment at times.

There were also a number of effects shots at the end of the episode which were re-used footage from ‘Rose’ and again, this tended to detract from the story. Also, much as I have admired Murray Gold’s music for the series, there was a rather gratuitous looping of themes during Mickey’s departure scene that took a little of the impact away and could have been more subtly used.

However, there were some astonishingly good scenes in this that more than make up for the odd bits of pacing and visuals. A number of pivotal scenes merit further discussion. The episode really hangs on the moment when Mickey witnesses the death of Ricky. He recognises that he has a destiny and you see him steel himself (no pun intended) for what is now required of him. The hero of Series 2 matures out of the awkward young man of Series 1. This self-recognition is then very cleverly underlined in later pieces of dialogue: ‘Rose, I’m coming to get you’, echoing the Doctor himself from ‘Parting Of The Ways’, and ‘I once saved the universe with a big yellow truck’ as a parallel from the same episode. In essence, the Doctor has once again shown someone how to better live their life.

The entire sequence with the Doctor and Mrs. Moore making their way through the tunnels and past row upon row of Cybermen was very atmospheric and unsettling. Lumic’s own Terracotta Army all waiting to go and each of them forged from the the Promethean fire of his Battersea factory. This was the descent into the Underworld, a symbolic journey to psychologically restore life to the lifeless, to recover and restore the disparate parts of the body and the mind. The scene tests the mettle (pun intended) of our heroes as they enter the literal unconscious world.

Hence, the crucial scene with the Cyberwoman. Some fans found this a little too sentimental perhaps but I saw this, and the less developed scene with the Cyber version of Jackie in the factory, as a really good attempt to show what was happening to human beings and how their emotional lives were being denied to them through Lumic’s upgrade. The final twist to this was the Cyberman looking in the mirror and grieving for itself. I think these simple detonations of emotional recognition were just as impactful as some of the ‘real’ explosions happening elsewhere.

The themes of identity theft, of enforced emotional denial and of self-imposed changes of identity run through the episode. Pete turns out to be Gemini, a shadow version of himself and further highlighting his difference to the ‘father’ that Rose knew. Again this is underscored in the scene towards the conclusion of the episode where he rejects her as the daughter he never had. A clever inversion of ‘Father’s Day’ which for me makes this more than a supposed trivialising of that story’s themes and emotional impact.

Along the way, we again are given nods to ‘Genesis Of The Daleks’ moral arguments and it was interesting to witness a Doctor who appeared to have no compunction in resigning these Cybermen to their cruel fate. I found that a rather arresting contrast and I’m still not sure I liked the Doctor’s decision to turn technology against itself with the effect of shattering the fragile psychological state of the converted humans. A rather disturbing sequence for me.

Overall, the episode owes much to ‘Metropolis’ (the factory sequences) and Leni Reifenstahl’s ‘Triumph Of The Will’ (marching Cybermen). Lots of ladders and stairways in this too, enabling the running around bits to represent a journey from the Underworld (the Cold Store) to Olympus (the Zeppelin). There are also some lovely references to the original series with quotes from The Five Doctors (‘above, between, below’) and a visual joke at the expense of ‘Invasion’ where the Doctor seals the Cybermen in the Cold Store. Get back in your sewer!

Once again, this was Noel’s episode and he carried it very well. He will be missed. The ending was very fitting for the character of Mickey. He’s found a sense of purpose with Jake and realises that he’s not going to find that with Rose and the Doctor. In effect, ‘he’s gone home’ summed up all that the episode was striving to do with the character. Will this change the Rose/Doctor dynamic to any extent? From Rose’s selfish reaction at his departure, it would seem not.

And the shooting star? We are often told our destiny lies in the stars and is this conclusion just a visual coda to Mickey’s journey or does it have some other sinister connotation to the series conclusion?

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

Well it seems every episode of new Who has its totemic solecism: Rise of the Cyberman's was - missed out in my review - the typical RTD pop music gimmickery of having a burst of the grating The Lion Sleeps Tonight by Tight-Fit (as homo-erotic a fixture as the strange scene in which Mickey is interrogated bare-chested and strapped to a chair), obviously a belated hit of parallel 2006, serving as yet further confirmation of the producer's truly appalling taste in music (what next, Black Lace?); this week's episode slaps us in the face yet again with the tedious old 'love triangle' of Micky-Rose-Doctor with a really slushy farewell scene in which Mickey brings up the superfluous and ill-scripted hinted-at romance between the companion and her Timelord. Thankfully the Doctor at this point gives nothing away in his rather distant expression, solipsistically sidling back into the depths of the TARDIS on cue for the inevitably mawkish goodbye moment between his two Earth counterparts. It was also a massive disappointment that Mickey did not get the martyr treatment of his predecessor Adric (and Pex of course) - instead, a rather far-fetched departure on a parallel Earth, somewhat analogous to Romana's in E-Space. What's the bet somehow the TARDIS will unexpectedly and impossibly return to that parallel Earth in a future episode to check in on how Mickey is doing? Oh God.

This episode as a whole was sufficiently fast-paced and dramatic as to serve as an adequate finale to a fairly promising opener. It didn't let the side down in that old Season 22-ish way. On the other hand, it didn't really surprise either, nor in any way improve on its opener. You only have to recall the conclusions to Caves and Revelation to see how all the momentum built up in the earlier parts of said-stories gave way to truly timeless climaxes, Caves' being arguably the greatest of all time. The now more seasoned, post-modern Harper offers us nothing so climactic in the conclusion to his latest Who effort. We get a reasonable climax, predictable in parts, but still just reasonable. Lumic, having been inevitably 'upgraded' into the Cyber controller - and into better delivery -, is finished off in a satisfactorily impressive way, hurtling back to the combusting wreckage of his magnificent air-ship. This is only undermined by said-mushy farewells to Mr Tyler and Mickey, replete with horrifically Hollywood-esque incidental music which simply doesn't suit Who.

The greatest achievement of this episode however is the highly disturbing insight into the horror of being Cybernised when the Doctor short-circuits the emotional inhibitors in the Cybermen/women - or should we now, in light of Jackie Tyler's transformation, say Cyberperson's? The scene with the dying Cyber-person reiterating mournfully 'I'm so cold, so cold' is embarrassingly moving, and serves as a similarly revelatory moment for the Mondasians as the finale to Dalek did for the Daleks. The only real progression new Who has made over old Who is in its arguably more mature dissection of cyborg psychology: the empathetic focus on the two most famous Who adversaries. This is arguably a necessary development in order to add menace to these well-worn old foes; indeed, by shining just a tiny glint of humanity into these enemies makes them all the more sinister. Well, this is of course with exception to Evil of the Daleks.

It was good - although a rather weak consolatory nod the old series' mythos - that the Doctor worded what many an old fan was probably pondering: the original Cybermen coming from another planet (i.e. Mondas) whereas in this parallel universe, they - inexplicably - rise on Earth itself. But this is simply wording what many are thinking and puzzling over - not offering a satisfactory reason for this parallel re-invention of Cyberman origins. It seemed a token insert to appease the older fans; to remind them it is still essentially the same show. The other inexplicable aspect to the story was the absence of gold as a weapon against the Cybermen - obviously not in this parallel universe. Instead we get a little device which seems to electrocutre the Cybermen, lovingly crafted on Gallifrey, and as magically unsubstantiated as that sonic screwdriver and the ubiquitous plot cop-out of the psychic paper.

Again, as with the opening episode, the script was extremely basic, colourless and threadbare. One gets the impression this writer is better at action than words. There really is nothing distinctive about this writing at all. But the flat lines are lifted by fairly inspired ideas such as the contemporary computer lingo and technologically topical reinvention of the Cybermen. They are now very much of the Noughties as opposed to the Sixties, despite their retro-resemblance in look and voices to the iconic Troughton versions.

Over all then a pretty straight, unsilly, fast-paced, tense and engaging story, very traditional Who basically, but with a diluted smattering of that Harper effect - but then how could he ever really better his previous two efforts? I recently re-watched Revelation and was struck by how modern it still feels, particularly by its successful mixture of superb production standards/designs and the classic Who theatricality of scripting - the present series has a long way to go to match this kind of drama. I personally think a hell of a lot has been lost from the series' credibility by the absence of video in the studio; for me the blurry filmic look detracts, ironically, from its dramatic credibility. The filmic approach to TV has been a bad move in my opinion - film camera should only be used for films, or for TV location, in order to enrich the proverbial chalkpit (one of the reasons I like Holby City is because it is, unusually for nowadays, filmed entirely on video camera, somehow befitting the social realism of a hospital setting. Doctor Who, despite being science fiction, seemed to strangely work with the old video/film juxtaposition - and to be honest, much as I hated the all video cheapness of the McCoy era at the time, I'd still give my right arm for all video as opposed to all misty-lensed cod-film, which to me is too superficial and American. On the subject of cameras, is it my imagination, or does the definition of the new Who camera alternate from episode to episode?).

A refreshing re-interpretation of the Cybermen, some nicely designed ariships, a believable clutch of - albeit only two-dimensional - characters, and a real energy makes Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel, despite its rather Sixth Form-ish script, a fairly good story. But it could have been quite a bit better had it been set on Mondas instead of the whimsical parallel Earth.


Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

Yeah, well.

This one was BETTER, but not only is that not too much of an accomplishment but it's also not saying much. I gotta be frank here, a lot of the Cybermen bits were more or less rewrites of "The Parting of the Ways." Come to think of it, there was a lot of "Parting of the Ways" here. Lumic as the Emperor Dalek, the Cybermen as the Daleks, Mickey leaving instead of the Doctor...

And about that. Yeah, well, I guess we shoulda seen it coming. Mickey was gonna get a better shake in this universe than the "real" one anyway. And is it just me or is it the first time in a while that there was kind of an implicit "F-You" to the Doctor and Rose? Rose, for the obvious reason of, you know, breaking his heart and all that; but to the Doctor too, cuz, you know, he saved the world but blew up its essential Lumic-made infrastructure but off we go to points unknown toodlepip! Riiight... Although I wonder how long til we see Mickey/Jake slash eh.

It was good that they acknowledged that Rose had seen a Cyberman before, and that these ARE indeed a different version of the Cybermen than what we'd seen previous. So all you Continuity A-HOLES can now SHUT UP about how this doesn't fit in with the PRECIOUS AND AIRTIGHT Cybermen History or whatever. Oh yeah, and can we please quit with the "This rips off Spare Parts!" complaints now, Marc Platt only GOT A FREAKIN' CREDIT AND ALL.

When the Cybermen were suddenly realizing what they were, am I the only one who actually wanted to see one of them rip their own head off in horror? ... Yeah, thought so.

And who smiled just a little at seeing at least A Version of Jackie Tyler die a horribly violent death? C'mon, hands up, I know yer out there.

But maybe this is a good thing overall. Maybe Rose will grow up just a little bit more, realize she's not always going to be the center of the Doctor's universe. Realize her actions do indeed have consequences to those around her. Realize that Pete Tyler is dead, and needs to remain so, and quit trying to make it unhappen. Maybe.

You know, maybe this woulda been better overall without the Cybermen. Because there really was some good stuff here, but it's just...the Cybermen, yeah? Oh well. It's over now, and next week's looks pretty interesting. Yes.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

Mickey Smith is not 'the new Adric' then. Mickey Smith is the new Romana! (Spoilers alert!!)

I will try to qualify that in a bit. First, I would like to say 'bravo' to all concerned. I found this episode exciting and engaging and I still believe the producers of the show are getting an awful lot right at present. Cybermen taking over the (an) Earth; A wheelchair-bound villian 'offed' by his own creations; a parallel Earth with different versions of familiar characters...Been done before? Yep. Does that matter one jot? Well, not to me, to be honest. Yes, this was arguably as 'traditional' as the new season has been so far. After a fun opener, a thrilling horror, a bitter-sweet reminder of past times and a 'quirky' romance, now we have Cybermen stomping around, explosions, an awful lot of deaths and, crucially, plenty of emotion. This episode could have been purely action/adventure stuff, but typically it was that and a lot more besides. On a television budget I believe that 'Doctor Who' is putting the multiplexs typical Sci Fi/Fantasy fare to shame...cos this show has a *soul*!

I know that Mickey has had a mixed reception from certain area, but personally I've never had a problem with the character. As early as 'WW3' he was beginning to show his mettle (protecting Jackie with a baseball bat; 'pushing the button' at the conclusion) and the characters continued development has been well handled by writers and actor alike. By 'Boom Town' I had really warmed to him, and had begun to find his rather unfair treatment actively annoying. Even Rose (who's selfish side has been astutely recognised by the writers and Ms Piper) admitted at the end of that episode "He deserves better."

Indeed...and thankfully first becoming a proper companian and now taking centre stage in this story, Mickey/Noel *gets* what he deserves. An excellent send-off. Knowing too much about future episodescan be a drawback sometimes, because it suddenly occurred to me before this episode that Mickey *couldn't* be killed off. Unless the next episode was a thorough examination of grief and loss with Rose completely 'out of it', and I knew that wasn't the case. (More dancing beckons, I believe!) After 'Earthshock's' denouement, the regulars apparently rewrote the first scenes of the next story (Typically thoughtful Peter Davison); trying not to totally gloss over the fact that a fellow traveller had just been blown to pieces.. despite these efforts, it didn't work then, and it *certainly* wouldn't work now.

So here we have a companian leaving the Doctor, stuck in another universe, ready to continue the 'good fight', in many ways taking over the Doctor's role, with a 'companian' as well. (the line that had me cheering was Mickey saying to Rose; "I'm coming to get you." The Ninth Doctor revisited!) That's why I compare Mickey to Romana...not Adric or "a tin dog"...and I thought it was a lovely way to bow out. (and he's got 'his' Gran...Awww.)

David Tennant? "Oh yes." Brilliant...again. Thought his best scene was his confrontation with the Cyber Contoller. His motormouth pontificating is, of course, deliberately distracting (and funny to boot. The 'genius' bit recalled Troughton...his clearly being proud of his emotions recalled Davison; for me that equals a result!) as he relays vital information to the camera that he believes Mickey is 'behind' (he had heard that 'his boys' were on the move.) Tennant carries off anger, sorrow, compassion, cockiness, doubt, warmth and panic...others aren't as won over, I guess, but I think that Tennant is already a superb Doctor.

There are many moments I could babble on about. But I wont. *Except*....

A Cyber'man' intones; "I'm so cold." Another sees 'its' reflection and sobs in pain. The Doctor (although all this is hardly his fault!) can only say that he is sorry. Those scenes, frankly, made me shiver. Yeah, there was plenty of action and pyrotechnics...but the script nailed the horror of what the Cybermen are in those quieter moments. The scenes with the Doctor and 'Mrs Moore' in a narrow corridor full of awakening Cybermen worked superbly too. I'm very impressed, and a little p*ssed off that the ratings were down!

(next season...the Doctor takes on the dreaded Lordi and their evil henchman, Tel Wogani, to retrieve his rightful timeslot of a Saturday night!)

Overall...this two-parter gets a 9.5/10 from me.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

Reading the reviews for last week's Rise of the Cybermen I could see I was not the only one who was disappointed and was looking to this second epsiode to really bring this two-parter home. So much of the first episode smacked of lazy script-writing, plot convenience and adventure by numbers that many of us assumed that the real meat was in episode two.

Shame there isn't an episode three then.

What a mess! The cliffhanger was resolved so ridiculously I felt cheated from the opening moments. Just so convenient for the little TARDIS circuit to be able to dispatch cyber death rays capable of taking out whole platoons in a single moment whilst still being safe to pop back in your pocket.

Lumic's plan for upgrading the whole of London turned the Cybermen concept into farce and that farcical nature was confirmed when the Cyber Lumic presented itself complete with Cyber wheelchair.

The Mickey / Ricky storyline was wasted with Ricky's death taking place in completely the wrong act of the script. Imagine how much more poignant it all could have been if Ricky died whilst helping to save London - maybe tying in more to Mickey's decision to stay (something I predicted last week - either Mickey was going to die or Ricky was going to die and Mickey replace him. Should have put money on it). Instead, Ricky dies in a throwaway scene where it seems the whole point of Mickey and Ricky seperating from the rest was for Ricky to get popped. Really sloppy writing.

As for the climax of how the Doctor and Mickey managed to signal to each other and crack the code - was anyone convinced by that? Mickey can now crack encrypted Cybermen emotion inhibitor circuits by typing random numbers into a closed circuit tv monitor? what software was he hacking? How did he know how many digits? How did he know anything in fact? And entering it onto your mobile makes it broadcastable when plugged into a handy mobile phone to Cyberman broadcast converter it seems...

Okay, I'm ranting. But when the quality of the series has been so exceptionally strong since it returned last year - with a distinct lack of the plot holes and embarrassing bits of business that did pop up in the old series (come on - admit it. You didn't really think it was quality drama when the old series Cybermen lost their invulnerabvility in favour of an aversion to gold that makes vampires seem like garlic lovers by comparison) it was painful to see so much care thrown out the window on these two episodes.

As we know, RT Davies gives the theme for each episode to the writers. ("Werewolf, kung-fu monks and Queen Victoria" famously being the brief for Tooth and Claw) so I did think these two episodes suffered more than most from trying to join the dots of the elements required. These episodes obviously had been briefed to include Cybermen, Pete Tyler, an alternative earth and Mickey's transition to hero before leaving the TARDIS. But whereas Tooth and Claw took the highly disparate elements and fused them together in a storyline that made them seem natural within that storyline, here these elements seemed forced and obvious and as a result the desired effect was lost. Pete Tyler's return packed not nearly as much whallop as I think the producers intended and Mickey's heroism was not as heroic or pronounced as I was expecting it to be, expecially after the script hammered home the notion of Mickey the idiot to the point that it was becoming incredibly laboured and obvious what was going to happen.

Sorry Tom McRae, but sadly as guest writers go, I'm afraid you came sandwiched between Stephen Moffatt and Mark Gattis - two of the finest - meaning your two episodes of simplistic and cynical pap will seem all the more disappointing for it.

Oh - apart from the bit with the dying Cyberman when the Doctor discovers the emotion inhibitor. That was quite a chilling and emotional scene - shame about everything else.

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Well it was a tense week, waiting for the resolution of episode five’s cliff-hanger. How would the Doctor and company successfully escape / defeat the army of marauding Cybermen? Rather too easily, it turned out. I found it somewhat hard to stomach that the crystal absconded from the TARDIS would really have the power to “zap” all of the Cybermen, in fact “dissolve” them as they literally appeared to melt away. Maybe we were supposed to think that the crystal possessed some kind of supernatural, life-and-death power (like the heart of the TARDIS in Series One) but if so, this wasn’t sufficiently explained. Could Tom MacRae not come up with something more credible than this?

Opening reservations aside, overall this was an above competent sequel to the first episode. With hindsight I don’t think it can be ranked as a “classic”, but on the whole it delivered the goods, whilst not quite following up on the promise of “Rise”. This was certainly more of an action-based episode; with less emphasis on characterisation and an attempt to resolve the issues / problems established in the preceding instalment. And how successfully did it do this…?

Well just as I suspected (though I guess it was kind of predictable), the ear pieces were quickly utilised by Lumic in order to bring the population of London under his control, and send them to his Cyber factory. Again we got some nicely sinister scenes on the streets with people being taken over and walking, zombie fashion, toward Battersea. Were we meant to assume that all of London was wearing the ear pieces though? And what about people living outside the capital? Had they been issued with the pieces? We were also told, via a newsreader and other characters, that the “whole of London had been sealed” off and that the Cybermen were invading the city. However at this stage, were there really enough converted Cybermen to invade the whole of London? Perhaps slightly hard to credit. Nevertheless the sense of apocalypse and idea of humanity being led to their doom came across generally well and I’m glad that the ear piece idea was followed through logically.

We also got to hear about the Cybermen’s origins, albeit in a rather throwaway fashion, via the Doctor’s comment that in this parallel universe, this particular race of Cybermen had been “started from scratch” right here on Earth. Given that this was a different universe to the one of other Cybermen stories, this was credible, but it was still never explained how Lumic had happened upon the idea of their design. I don’t know, maybe it didn’t need to be but I did feel that a little more back story was required here.

The majority of the episode concentrated on the efforts of the Doctor and the others to infiltrate the Cyber factory and stop the controlling machines. We got the slightly hackneyed “split into groups” scenario, which at least allowed for focus on different sets of characters and their own respective attempts to throw a spanner in the works.

First off from the groups, we had Mickey and Jake, “Ricky” being bumped off quite early into the proceedings. As I said in my review of “Rise”, I found Ricky to be more amusing than convincing and can’t say I was particularly sorry about his fate, electrocution by nasty Cybermen or not. The scene before his death, when he and Mickey both stand next to each other, saying virtually the same things, is clearly meant to portray them as being of similar ilk but I found it pretty cringe worthy, especially their jointly uttered “Split up!!” Yeeuch!! The disposal of Ricky paved the way for Mickey to be set up as his replacement, with Jake as his (reluctant) partner. Mickey’s speech, prior to the factory attack, about wanting to prove himself and not be the tin dog – “those days are over” was one of Noel Clarke’s better scenes and quite convincing – it’s true that Mickey hasn’t really had much to do in the previous stories, and in the light of this his comments were understandable. The sense that the Doctor and Rose’s relationship is one he can’t compete with was also nicely conveyed in their “good luck” hug, something Mickey is denied, and his backward glance suggested regret and highlighted his isolation and loneliness. Later on we got to see Mickey fulfilling his promise when he helps to sabotage the controlling signal and also break the emotional inhibitor code, more of which I’ll discuss further on.

I didn’t actually mention Jake in my last review. In both episodes Andrew Hayden Smith makes a fair stab at playing him, given the fact that he’s not a particularly memorable character, more of a token “rebel” and probably there to provide a bit of sex appeal for the youngsters too. One of his main functions in the story is to form a partnership with Mickey but a few lines aside, I just didn’t find him that special (well perhaps he could have been given a bit of kit-off action a la Mickey, but it wasn’t expedient to the plot and that’s just me grasping at straws now, besides which I didn’t actually find him that attractive…personal choice really.)

Our second group of factory infiltrators were Rose and Pete, and this pairing allowed for a bit more development in their relationship. The idea of them using the ear pods to walk into the factory undetected was rather flawed – if they put them on surely they would have been hypnotised like all the other humans? The scene when they both met the converted Jackie-Cyberman (woman?) was chilling and Shaun Dingwall showed appropriate grief for the loss of his wife. We also got to see that the Cybermen apparently can control their “delete” ability – as they grip Pete and Rose and lead them off – so clearly they must be able to switch off those electrocuting hands!

The final group was the Doctor and Mrs Moore, the latter coming over in this episode more (pardon the pun) as a person in her own right. It was interesting to hear about her background as an ex employee of Cybus Industries and the fact that her husband didn’t know her whereabouts, but alas there wasn’t enough time for further exposition. The scenes in the cooling ducts, when the Cybermen came to life and chased the Doctor and Mrs Moore, were quite tense. Even better was the moment when they encountered the dying Sally Fielder/Cyberman:

“Why am I so cold…where’s Gareth…he can’t see me…it’s unlucky the night before”.

This was a truly sad and powerful moment that brought a tear to my eye, conveying the idea that the Cybermen’s emotional inhibitor can be turned off, confronting them with what they have become – horrible! Having the converted “Sally” refer to something as normal and universally recognisable as her own wedding, in a flat robotic monotone, heightened the horror and impact of what had happened to her. I couldn’t help but be reminded of last season’s “Dalek” when the Dalek starts to develop its own emotional responses – the incongruity of something apparently alien and ruthless experiencing emotions and feelings. Indeed, the whole emotional inhibitor idea was an interesting one which I will explore a bit later.

We then progressed to the final climatic scenes within Cyber control and Mickey and Jake’s infiltration of Lumic’s zeppelin. It was good to see Mickey coming into his own and attempting to override the “lock” on the zeppelin controls, but a little too fortunate that the re-awakened “exhibit” Cyberman should put its fist through the right piece of machinery, so cancelling the signal that was controlling the humans. God I’m so critical aren’t I?

Meanwhile we saw the Cyber-controller unveiled for the first time, or rather, the converted John Lumic. In contrast to last time we only got to see the human Lumic in a couple of scenes in this episode but I don’t think this was a great loss, given my previous remarks on Roger Lloyd-Pack’s acting. As the Cyber-controller I actually think he was better (he still had Lumic’s voice albeit Cyber-style) and the look of the controller was pretty good (I’m not quite sure why the brain was displayed so prominently though).

The Doctor’s confrontation with Lumic/Cybercontroller was well handled with some good dialogue about the usefulness of human emotions, something the Doctor has defended before (remember his exchange with the Cyberleader in “Earthshock”?) All of this was a lead up to him feeding Mickey with the information needed to locate the code that would disable the Cybermens’ emotional inhibitor. As I said I thought the emotional inhibitor concept was a good one, particularly the idea that when switched off, the Cybermen would be faced with what they’d become and this was an apt method of defeat. However the way in which this was achieved was just too easy and frankly, unrealistic. Would the Cybermen really have allowed the Doctor to go on talking in such a free fashion so he could supply Mickey with the necessary this information? Ricky managed to crack Lumic’s database with remarkable speed – well I suppose to give him credit he was meant to have computer skills. Having the code sent to Rose’s phone and then plugged into a convenient socket really beggared belief though – how thoughtful of the Cybermen to arrange exactly the right-sized hole in their control panel!! It also didn’t make sense that the factory then started to explode – just because the emotional inhibitor was turned off? Why does this always have to happen at the end of a story? Okay so lots of explosions make for a more dramatic ending but it was hardly logical.

The escape via Lumic’s zeppelin was quite exciting, although the sudden reappearance of the Cybercontroller, trying to climb up the ladder did smack of “Aliens”.

Which left us with the farewell scene by the Thames. Life appeared to have got back to normal pretty quickly considering the amount of traffic we saw in the background! It was nice that we got a final Rose and Pete scene, picking up on their previous conversation at the Tyler party. It was touching to see Rose almost getting through to Pete when suggesting that she was his daughter in another world, and Pete’s refusal to acknowledge this: “Don’t”. And then of course there was Mickey’s the decision to stay. This made sense for a number of reasons – Mickey has now experienced life in the TARDIS, he and Rose are “over” in terms of being boyfriend/girlfriend, he wanted to see his grandmother again and the alternative London had lost its “Ricky” and so needed balancing out. Added to that, Mickey now had the chance to be “the hero” and continue the fight against Cybus industries, shutting down the other factories across the globe. Unfortunately whilst this was an appropriate point for departure, once again Mr Clarke’s acting didn’t measure up to the emotionalism of the moment – his attempts to look sad and choked were equally embarrassing and hilarious. The expression on his face when the Doctor and Rose dematerialised was especially funny and had me in stitches. Poor Noel, he did try, bless him. By contrast Billie Piper was excellent job in portraying the sadness of losing her companion and her grief was believable.

Following on from this, the scene where the Doctor and Rose paid a quick visit to the “real” Jackie was nicely presented, and it was realistic that Rose would want to reassure herself after the “death” of the other version of her mum. I couldn’t help wondering if it would have been so simple for the Doctor to return the TARDIS to the real universe though – this was glossed over far too easily. After all the Doctor and Romana had a hard time of it getting out of E-Space…

Just a few other final comments. It was a shame that Colin Spaull was disposed of so quickly after his debut and considering his apparent support of Lumic in “Rise” his sudden decision to turn against (and try to kill) his employer seemed abrupt and unrealistic. It would have been better to have seen him nursing doubts throughout the episode and then making an eventual decision to rebel, perhaps with the Doctor’s persuasion and influence.

Talking of the Doctor, David Tennant again had some strong moments, in particular his disgust with the Cybermen for killing Mrs Moore and his dialogue with the Cybercontroller. I’m still finding him grating at times though, it’s something in his intonation, for example the high-pitched way he uttered “What the hell was that thing?” when Mrs Moore uses her bomb against the Cyberman.

Summing up, “The Age of Steel” was an enjoyable enough follow up to “Rise of the Cybermen”, whilst being flawed in the ways I’ve talked about above. As I said before, I wouldn’t rate this as a classic episode but I certainly preferred it to the RTD stories this season. Above all it was fitting vehicle for the Cybermens’ return and I’m looking forward to their second resurgence later this season.

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Part two of the New Series’ mirror universe Cybermen saga . Will the contrived inclusion of Mickey and Rose’s parallel bloodlings continue to hamper the otherwise strong return of the metal monsters? Can Rose get any more irritating? Will Robocop sue? All will be revealed in this week’s exciting episode!

“Age Of Steel” is far superior to it’s opening episode, “Rise Of The Cybermen”. “Rise Of The Cybermen” was a rather mixed bag being a stylistic attempt to recapture the classic Doctor Who ambience. The result was a story that fans seemed to utterly love or totally hate. It seems more likely that “Age Of Steel” will be less divisive to Doctor Who fandom yet retaining the retro dramatic elements of it’s previous instalment.

The cliff-hanger resolution to “Rise Of The Cybermen” had the Doctor and posse surrounded by some rather delete frenzied Cyber troops. The outcome is indeed unforeseen - very much a “blink and you’ll miss it” solution. I wasn’t over keen on this scene. The Doctor’s shock offensive is satisfying, but it does wipe out the surrounding Cybermen a little too quickly. It just seems a little early in the Cybermen debut to see them dispersed out in one brisk action. It would have been nice to see them remain an invincible threat a little longer. The scene just diminishes their presence before the episode has chance to start.

Nevertheless, the script for “Age Of Steel” is far better to the rather plot burdened forerunner. The dialogue in Ricky's van is fast and furious offering elements of humour, plot and drama. It certainly picks the story up and moves it into a new gear as the Doctor starts to take the offensive. I’m glad they took the time to explain Ricky's “London’s most wanted man” stigma - and with a nice slice of humour to boot. Again, Noel Clarke is truly on form in this story.

From here on in there is a lot of monsters chasing heroes and it all works fairly well. The uniform motion of these hoards of Cybermen is effectively staged and is indeed a fun, nostalgic trek down memory lane to all the “run from the slow moving monsters” of the old series.

We also get a glutton of death that is very Doctor Who. The death of Ricky isn’t that surprising, but the scene does give the audience pause to wonder if it was actually Mickey who died. After Adric’s demise in “Earthshock” there seemed to be a possibility Mickey’s fate would be similarly sealed in this tale.

However, while the story certainly moves forward in terms of pace, tension and drama, it does seem to lose a little coherency in the plot. When writing a retro story, there is a fine line between capturing the spirit of the old concept and slipping into it’s nostalgic failings. It’s the difference between being retro friendly and, well, retro naff. Pulling the TARDIS through a random and never explained rip in time is very series retro. Running around London under the threat of the Cybermen is again, very series retro. Sneaking into the enemy stronghold by pretending to be an emotionless drone seems ill fitting in these more technologically aware times. You would think Cybermen would have some sort of motion sensors that would be a little more adept at catching two people sneaking into line, or at least, using dummy Earpods, but like classic dummy monsters, they seem blissfully unaware of these none too sneaky trespassers. It makes for dramatic tension, but as a plot movement, it’s rather uninspiring and the Cybermen become a little less threatening. These aren’t plot holes I’m complaining about - there is no limit to the possibilities why anything happens in fiction - but in the context of this story, some plot directions feel like tired formula.

I’m certainly a little confused as to why the Jackie Cyberman would take Peter and Rose to the leader. Peter does have a connection to Lumic - fair enough - but why Rose? Maybe as the viewer you can conjure a good reason, but on screen it just comes across as ill thought out.

However, such plot creaks are fairly well camouflaged by the injection of the emotional drama that was slightly amiss in “Rise Of The Cybermen”. The Jackie Cyberman itself was a surprise. I must confess to being fooled by last week’s ending - I thought Jackie was the secret spy Gemini and her escape into the cellar was not the planned move I anticipated, but a desperate gambit. Having her pop back into the story half way through as a Cyberman is truly chilling.

Another minor gripe is how quickly Lumic and Crane are despatched - particularly Crane who had a lot of potential. Nevertheless their final scene - fairly early on in the story - is a good bit of character resolution. Indeed Lumic does return, but he lacks that megalomaniac presence in cyberform.

Grumbles continue I’m afraid with Mickey and Jake’s attack on the Zeppelin. The single two guards seems tediously formula - again a throwback to old Who which simply creaks noisily here. At least the moment is juxtaposed by an beautifully claustrophobic scene with the Doctor and Mrs Moore wedged in tunnel of brick and Cybermen.

This is the problem with “Age of Steel”. When it’s good, it’s very good; mixing classic Who with contemporary drama, but when it hits an off note, it really resonates. Another painful blend of formula and the technology archaic is Mickey hacking into the Cyber computer. Yes he’s hacked into computer’s on his Earth, but using a keyboard to hack into a system owned by the most powerful man in Britain in minutes feels laboured, old hat and totally out of date. It’s a very poor piece of plot driving. On the upside, this wooden scene is countered by the traumatic revelation of how human the Cybermen actually are. This was a nice reworking of the Cybermyth and certainly a candidate to become a classic Who scene.

And the finale? Well again, a mixed bag. Cyber Controller is revealed in his grandeur, as is his ridiculously oversized and pipey chair. Quite why Cyber Controller requires a seat let alone a pipey one is a slightly beyond me, as is his eternal patience as the Doctor waxes philosophy and then cunningly rambles in blatant code to an eavesdropping Mickey. Tennant dominates the scene which is what keeps it engaging, but it does smack again of old school formula; the enemy stand around and let the hero waffle on until he gets a chance to counter strike.

From here on the pacing goes out of the window, with Cyberheads exploding and, well, everything exploding, the drama seems to get a little confused. I certainly felt no tension as Mickey wrestled valiantly with the Zeppelin controls in an attempt to keep it close to the roof. It just didn’t visualise for me and felt faintly superfluous to the plot. While admittedly it did highlight the change in Mickey’s character, fighting at the controls of a sluggish and undermanned Zeppelin didn’t seemed to offer any kick to the build up.

I wasn’t over keen on Cyberleader’s attempt to make it up the rope ladder either; it’s been played in films so many times and just didn’t inspire any tension.

The epilogue to the story is probably the strongest part. Again, some mixed messages in terms of narrative and character, but still some wonderfully touching moments too. The Doctor takes a bow from the spotlight and the minor characters get a chance to shine for the final time. Piper and Clarke do a truly beautiful farewell scene. While in general, Rose feels a little uninspired this season as she retreads old territory, Piper’s acting remains on top form. Shaun Dingwall’s Peter Tyler has a dignified exit which is both surprising in terms of plot and character resolution.

After this resolution, the final two scenes seem a little unnecessary. Neither are bad per se, but the episode feels it could have ended on a far more memorable note if we’d finished on the TARDIS farewell - arguably more fitting into the old school mode the story is trying to capture. Furthermore, Mickey and Jake’s last scene seems to contradict Mickey’s motivations to stay in his previous one; he says earlier he wants to stay for the sake of his mirror grandmother then in this scene he goes shooting off to life threatening adventures in Paris. Again, as with many of the gripes I present, they aren’t major problems, just niggles, but the niggles are frustrating when the general drive of the story is so good.

Overall, it’s a fun watch. Some over formulaic moments - as with part one - but while it does embrace retro naff, it does find the retro cool. “Age Of Steel” feel like old Who and that to me is a mixed blessing. I love classic Who, but I now want to see the show push it’s boundaries and prove to me it can move forward rather than reflect the past. “Rise Of The Cybermen” and “Age Of Steel” both look back at the show with not quite enough looking forward. There are touches of genius in there; red herrings, dramatic action, emotional dialogue and a dab of humour really do echo the new series, but the story feels as if it’s suffocating under the trappings of the past.

However, the audience appreciate figures show the public enjoyed part one, so I’m sure they’ll enjoy part two. As long as the majority are happy, I am happy to suffer an attack of the grumbles on these very odd occasions. After all, Doctor Who - by it’s nature - is a diverse beast and it’s bound to touch on styles that don’t sit well for all of us. Fan reaction seems to imply the Cyber Saga appeased many fans who were turned off by the emotion tempest of “The Girl In The Fireplace”, so even if I wasn’t over enthused by this tale, I’m glad many a fan and casual viewer were. Variety is the spice of life and while I was not as keen on this tale as I was the previous four excellent stories of Series Two, this is still a very watchable bit of science fiction.

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“Where’s Mickey?”
“He’s gone home.”

Much as it was back in the Hartnell days, in the new series episodes have not only an individual title but also an individual identity. Unmistakably Part 2 of 2, “The Age of Steel” is the action-packed follow-up to last week’s “Rise of the Cybermen”, but it is also a very different animal. The Cybermen are no longer ‘rising,’ they are here. We know there are two Mickeys. We know about their Gran and about Pete Tyler being alive in this universe. “Rise of the Cybermen” set the pieces up, “The Age of Steel” knocks ‘em down. And what’s more, it does it in style.

I found the episode’s opening hilarious – after all that hype and all that build up the Doctor just uses that TARDIS battery or whatever it was to disable the marauding Cybermen closing in for the kill. What a cop out! It makes the sonic screwdriver look like a sophisticated plot device! Still, I couldn’t really complain as within moments all our heroes were aboard their “Scooby Doo” van and things were really starting to kick off. As with last week the surprises kept on coming, although unlike last week, I was quite disappointed them. Having Pete turn out to be the Preachers’ informant, working against Lumic, seemed like a bit of an easy way to get Pete over with the audience. I preferred him as an ordinary, money-grabbing Del Boy – a wide boy, but a wide boy with his heart in the right place. Moreover, having Ricky turn out to be London’s Most Wanted “for parking tickets” was equally disappointing, especially considering Noel Clarke’s intense performance in the previous episode. I have to admit that a few minutes into “The Age of Steel” I was losing faith… and then it happened. Just like that, he’s dead. “Who?” I hear you ask. Exactly!

I guess I was being a bit daft for thinking that they might kill Mickey off, but considering how some companions have fared in previous Cybermen stories it isn’t unprecedented! When I saw Noel Clarke running down that road, I really didn’t know whether it was Mickey or Ricky that had been ‘deleted’ by the Cybermen. Thankfully, Mickey hadn’t ‘done an Adric’ and from that point on we were treated to one of the most nail biting, edge-of-the-seat Doctor Who episodes ever.

The design and cinematography on this episode is outstanding. “Rise of the Cybermen” was set primarily in daylight with night only falling as the Cybermen rose, and although last week’s visuals were technically more impressive, I found “The Age of Steel”’s darker, grittier look much more appealing. The Zeppelin hovering above Battersea Power Station is a particularly powerful image; it looked like something torn out of the pages of a graphic novel. Even more disturbing were the scenes of London’s inhabitants willingly walking like cattle into the Power Station; into their doom! As for the Cybercontroller – wow! As it was shot in 1967 most of us can forgive the original, quite feeble Cybercontroller that we met in “The Tomb of the Cybermen,” but by 1985 the show’s producers should have learned their lesson. A gigantic dome on the top of a normal Cyberman’s head looks atrociously bad. A Cyberman with eyes of blazing light and his gigantic brain visible, however, is far more effective. It’s a pity that we didn’t get to see as much of Roger Lloyd Pack in the flesh this week, but at least we had the consolation of having him voice the Cybercontroller that Lumic is ‘upgraded’ to.

“Why am I cold? Why so cold? Where’s Gareth? He can’t see me. It’s unlucky the night before.”

Ouch. As well as being an episode absolutely crammed full of action, “The Age of Steel” is also a very moving story. The Doctor realises that the key to bringing down these Cybermen is to find that code that deactivates their emotional inhibitor chips, driving them mad with the knowledge of what they have become. Of course, if he did that he would be dishing out immense suffering on what are, at the end of the day, innocent victims. It’s an intriguing dilemma, but in the end the Doctor has to save the world – no matter what. The death of the female Cyberman really tugs on those heartstrings – of all the nights to be robbed of her humanity, she became a Cyberman on the eve of her wedding. It’s heart breaking. The story of Angela Price – Mrs. Moore – is equally sad. Mrs. Moore didn’t do much last week, but in this episode she really gets drawn into the action and enjoys a fantastic adventure alongside the Doctor before her inevitable demise. Characters like this are what really make this new series of Doctor Who so special – they could so easily be written as throwaway parts; red-shirts who you aren’t ever really meant to care about; characters that are only in the story so that they can die. When they are written (and portrayed) as well as Mrs. Moore, Clive, Jabe, Gwyneth, Lynda with a ‘y’ and the like are, we remember each and every one of them, reminding us that it is death – not Rose – that is the Doctor’s constant companion and that this life that he leads is wrought with danger.

My money was on Pete for the chop after Ricky bought the bullet, but in retrospect I can see exactly why MacRae killed off the alternate Jackie instead. Not only do we have to see her as a Cyberman – how weird is that? – at the end of the episode we are left with a widowed Jackie in our universe and a widowed Pete in another. Hmmm. In the old Cybermen stories, whenever a character we knew became a Cyberman (Lytton, for example) we never saw them ‘finished’, for want of a better word. We’d always see their face. Hear their voice. There would always be some clue. “The Age of Steel” comes at things from a completely knew angle – the “which one was it?” angle. We met the Jackie Cyberman, and then she vanished into the crowd and could have been any one of their uniform number. It’s one of the most frightening Cyberman scenes ever – forget Star Trek’s ‘Borg’ and the like, the Cyberman represents the complete loss of self. Even your face.

The ending was absolutely fantastic. It was so rewarding to see Mickey absolutely kick ass! He pilots a Zeppelin (all those hours on the Playstation came in handy!), baits a Cyberman, hacks into a computer and saves the world. On top of that, he even demonstrates a different type of courage, standing up to Ricky’s friend Jake and refusing to leave without the Doctor, Rose and Pete. And so the idiot saves the world. Of course, the Doctor helps – luckily his spiel about “ordinary, stupid, brilliant people… some idiot…” didn’t fall upon deaf ears!

In terms of suspense, you can’t beat having the Doctor, Rose and Pete dangling from a Zeppelin over an exploding factory with the Cybercontroller grabbing at their ankles! I was sure Pete was dead, especially when the sonic screwdriver didn’t work immediately; it was so, so well done. I also enjoyed the shot of the Cybermen looking in the mirror and letting out a painful, mechanical howl. MacRae did everything right with his script. Doctor Who stalwart Graeme Harper, the first classic series director to return, did everything right and more. As for the actors… there’s not a bad performance in there. Tennant, Piper, Pack, Dingwall, Coduri and Helen Griffin (Mrs. Moore) all give 110%, Andrew Hayden Smith (Jake) isn’t bad, and Noel Clarke completely steals the show – just as he should if this is indeed his swansong. Somehow though, I doubt we’ve seen the last of Mickey.

“Just don’t.”

Or Pete, for that matter. Unable to cope with Rose’s revelation that she is his daughter (of sorts), “The Age of Steel” concludes with Pete slipping away into the night, his understated exit overshadowed by the departure of Mickey, who decides to stay behind to look after his Gran and fight the remaining Cybermen from his van.

“Nothing wrong with a van. I once saved the universe with a big yellow truck…”

Out of six episodes this year, half of them have ended on tearjerkers. I have no objection at all to pathos and such ‘soap’ elements in Doctor Who; I feel that the ‘real life’ element they bring to the show only add to the magic and somehow make it all much more real. Rose obviously doesn’t want to leave Mickey behind because they’ve been through so much together and probably because subconsciously, he’s her backup. “What if I need you?” she selfishly asks him, but the time has come for him to stop playing second fiddle to the Time Lord who turned his life upside down.

“We had something a long time ago, but not anymore.”

Gags about the Cybermen’s marching sounding like Wallace’s “Wrong Trousers” aside, this two-parter has certainly been handled brilliantly by all involved. To be fair, I was never a massive fan of the Cybermen in the classic series, but after a trip on this phenomenal roller coaster ride I cannot wait until they come back. That final shot of the episode, the shooting star or whatever it was… something following in the TARDIS’s wake, perhaps? I have a funny feeling that Mickey, Pete and the Cybermen will all be back in our universe before long…

Until then, we’ll have to make do with “Gatiss by gaslight…”

It’s such hardship being a Doctor Who fan these days!

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My enjoyment of this week’s episode was spoilt somewhat by the editorial staff of The Sun’s TV Mag on Saturday who printed the following plot giveaway: “This episode could be Mickey’s last. When his double dies, he’s faced with a huge decision” (ooh, what could that be?). Idiots.

Despite this spoiler I still managed to enjoy Age of Steel, probably more than its immediate predecessor, largely because of the stunning visuals. This one had probably the best effects we’ve seen so far since the series was brought back, the CGI work not letting it down as it did in New Earth, for instance.

That said, has anyone else noticed that the stairwells the Doctor, Rose and Pete climbed to escape from the burning building at the end bore a startling resemblance to ones seen in both New Earth and Rose? Perhaps stairwells are going to be to the new series what quarries were to the original show.

Anyway, getting back to the effects, I particularly liked the zeppelin-rescue that Mickey and that bloke from Blue Peter instigated at the end. I hate to think what was going through the minds of the production team when they read about the explosive finale in the script but they pulled off a blinder, creating a spectacle that would not look out of place in a Hollywood blockbuster.

Talking of the script, I noticed some reviewers making disparaging comments last week about writer Tom MacRae’s relative youth but, in my opinion, commissioning a writer barely old enough to remember the Sylvester Mcoy era is no bad thing as it allows the series to be freshened up. So well done to Mr MacRae for being commissioned in the first place and for managing to offer a convincing new back story for the Cybermen.

That said, I did have a couple of problems with the script, not least that Lumic’s motivations for creating the Cybermen seemed awfully similar to Davros’s reasons for building the Daleks. Also, the resolution of last week’s cliffhanger – the Doctor using a spare piece of the TARDIS to wipe out the Cybermen in front of him – was quite possibly the worst cop out in the entire history of the show.

There was also no element of black humour to match last week’s moments where everyone downloaded their daily joke simultaneously and ‘got it’ at the same time (well it made me chuckle), and The Lion Sleeps Tonight was played to drown out the cries of people being ‘upgraded’. Instead, we had the realisation that Ricky was only ‘most wanted’ for parking offences, which was somewhat laboured to say the least.

But there was much more about the script to like than dislike, especially the Cybermen recovering their emotions and Mickey’s development from zero to hero (as DH Confidential put it). I’m a big fan of Noel Clarke in this show and don’t understand why some fans criticise him.

After all, the original idea of the companion was that he or she should be someone the viewer can identify with. The character of Mickey has developed so well because, as he is often excluded by the Doctor and Rose, he fulfils this role by default – although I have to say it didn’t make much sense that he should aspire to be more like his mildly thuggish counterpart.

The parts where the Cybermen recovered their emotions, and were humanised once more, were brilliantly done. For me, Shaun Dingwall was the outstanding guest performer of last year and, while he has less to do this time, Pete’s horror at the discovery of a Cyberised Jackie, and his realisation that in another world he is a father, show what a great actor he is.

Unfortunately, some of the other guest actors were less impressive, due to simple mis-casting. Andrew Hayden Smith did his job well enough, and I’m sure the ladies loved him, but he looked and sounded more like a Big Brother contestant or a member of a boyband than a resistance fighter. I can understand that the Preachers were supposed to be a motley crew but Helen Griffin, as Mrs Moore, looked as out of place as Beryl Reid did in Earthshock, a Cybermen story from back in the day.

The biggest disappointment for me was Roger Lloyd-Pack, in a potentially great role as Lumic. He totally hammed it up to almost pantomime levels and, while I’m sure he is a great actor in serious roles, it didn’t help that, to me, he will always be dopey Trigger in Only Fools and Horses. Sadly, the transition from road sweeper to evil megalomaniac was not one I feel he handled well and his OTT performance undermined the sinister nature of the character.

It makes you wonder if the show’s makers are going to adopt the 80’s team’s approach of using well known but inappropriate people in guest slots (Reid, Bonnie Langford and the less funny one of the Likely Lads spring to mind).

As for the regulars, David Tennant is so well established in the role already that I really believe he can replace Tom Baker as Official Greatest Doctor. At the start of the season I found some of his mannerisms slightly annoying, such as his tendency to go high pitched for no apparent reason, but I’ve got used to it now. Indeed, his ability to switch from light-hearted to deadly serious so smoothly is what sets him apart from his predecessors.

Billie Piper, though, is another matter. There is something about her portrayal of Rose that I really don’t take to, dating back to Season One. Maybe it’s the way the production team continually indulge her so that everything is about Rose, and how events effect Rose – witness, for instance, Mickey’s farewell scene and the cameras focussing on Piper’s, now familiar, blubbing face despite it being Noel Clarke’s big moment. I’m sorry, Billie is a good actress but not good enough, in my opinion, to warrant such constant camera hogging.

Mickey’s decision to stay and help the Preachers in their worldwide resistance against the Cybermen made dramatic sense but made for a bittersweet ending. Unlike a lot of fans, I’ve always thought the Mickey character was extremely likable and of great benefit to the show.

Since he joined the TARDIS crew he has provided both comic relief and, as I mentioned before, he was a character for the audience to identify with.

I just hope that, with Mickey’s departure, we are not going to see more of those cheesy moments between the Doctor and Rose where they look into each other’s eyes in that oh so meaningful way (they’re fond of each other, we get it!).

Anyway, I digress. To sum up Age of Steel, I would say that it was the best looking episode of the new series so far and that it offered a fitting departure for one of the new season’s better regular characters. Who knows, maybe there’s another spin-off on the horizon called Mickey Smith And Geordie Bloke Fight Cybermen In a Parallel World. In a van.

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I hate it because all the mocking derision that I’ve spent the intervening week honing has to be junked and I am left with shamefaced admiration, guilty of second guessing BBC Wales and showing why they produce it and I, er, don’t.

For instance- the clankily butch cybermen of ‘Rise’. Oh, how we laughed. Just robots, surely? An absolute disgrace and an insult to 40 years of cyber-lore. Stomp stomp stomp they went- big clanky boots sounding like they were walking on biscuit tins. Empty biscuit tins, at that. What was laughable last week became a masterstroke of sound design and direction, this. The sheer tsunami of industrial noise that signalled the cybermen marching became their signature beat. Like a mechanised Fourth Reich- the dreams of wartime Germany writ large. Terrifying.

For instance- John Lumic, the “Davros-lite mad scientist” behind these ramped-up monsters. But he wasn’t, was he? He wasn’t just another crippled genius with a grudge, he was a person. And in his death, his ‘upgrading’, we saw the real horror of what he had unleashed… but understood that he never once saw it too. He protested, yes, but after conversion- and with his personality still seemingly intact- he showed no bitter remorse at his fate. Quite the reverse. The cybermen gave their creator a nudge in the right direction after all, like good children should. Thinking it over - why shouldn’t he have maintained his personality? He built the cybermen to conform to his ideals. Part of his brain had already been upgraded… just by biology and philosophy, not cybernetics. Quite right that he should remain as the spokesman. Yes, the cybermen had become a brand- and every brand needs a brand manager.

For instance- the alternates of Jackie, Pete and Mickey. Hasn’t this story been done? Ah, but no. Pete rejected Rose, stumbling away to get on with his life, leaving her open mouthed with disappointment. A cursory dismissal- not what we were expecting. Jackie got upgraded (at last, spectacularly, putting to bed those sniggering queries about ‘cyberwomen’) and Mickey… well, that’s another story. If this year has a running theme, then there it is- loss and disappointment. How many times, over the past six episodes have we been shown characters in mourning- whether it be for a loved one or for the past? How many times have things gone awry, on a small, unexpected and personal level- providing little sharp shocks- like the exile at the end of ‘Tooth and Claw’? Like Rose being confronted with her own future, personified in Sarah Jane? Like Mickey realising he’s “the tin dog”? All of them serving to undermine the Doctor and Rose’s relationship. Last year they swanned around throughout time without a care in the world, having “the trip of a lifetime”… at least until the daleks came back. This year, the fun is over and life in the vortex isn’t just throwing monsters at them. Monsters and threats to the universe we can deal with in Doctor Who, but all this is new- and much, much more serious. This is going somewhere, mark my words. Someone is going to act upon the continual battering of disappointment they are receiving, and do something very silly indeed.

So maybe, this will be remembered as the one where Mickey left. It depends upon your take on this new Doctor Who, as to how you react to that. I’m very, very sorry to see Noel Clarke go- in fact, I was left at the end wishing we could follow Mickey’s adventures- cleaning the world of cybermen, rather than travel with this ever-so-slightly grating and annoyingly overconfident new Doctor. That’s no criticism of David Tennant- I’m positive the performance is expertly judged and is like this for a reason- and I’m sure that, by series end, we’ll all be agog at how marvellously it all becomes apparent. Maybe the show won’t win quite so many awards next year from the Great Unwashed- but in our geeky fan hearts, we’ll love it even more than we did last time. Maybe, at the end of ‘The Age of Steel’ I wanted us to go with Mickey because his future looked positive and exciting and fun. Whereas I have a distinct feeling that life with the Doctor is about to get a lot darker and a lot more troubling.

‘The Age of Steel’, as a second half, outshone its predecessor and whipped it soundly in the process. Everything that *seemed* dubious was given justification and became an important point in the bigger stories going on. Everything that *was* dubious last week- the pacing, some of the dialogue- was improved upon. Slick, action packed, and for only the second time this series- truly scary. The tunnel of ‘deactivated’ cybermen, the many times they lurched unexpectedly into view, cyberJackie, the cyber-mincing-machine, all have the potential to be iconic bits of Who-horror. And to make it even better- it had its fair share of silliness as well: the comedy cyberdancing, exploding cyberhead, the controller’s “Nooooo!!” and subsequent rope ladder escapade, all felt just ever so slightly wrong. And in the case of the extras’ wibbly wobbly “pain” acting, made me spit out my coffee.

But- enough! These are small things. Easily the second best episode of the year so far, probably the best action adventure programme the BBC has ever made, and up there in the top few episodes of this whole marvellous revival.

Mickey, we’ll miss you. Lumic, I feel we’ll be meeting you- or something very like you- again very soon.

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So we had ninety minutes of a very trad Dr Who story in many ways. Parallel Earth, Cybermen, evil supervillain but so much more than that. No previous Cyberman story has gone into such detail about the mechanics of the monsters and what happened to the people who become them. And Cyberwomen! The poor woman who became a Cyberman the day before her wedding and Jackie. You should have been able to spot the CyberJackie from the lashings of make up.

There were minor problems like the fact it was difficult to make out what the Cybermen were saying without subtitles and the usual James Bond thing about the baddies HQ blowing up for no particular reason but as usual with new Who the plot and everything else is subordinate to character development.

Roger Lloyd Pack didn't have much to do in The Age of Steel. His assistant Colin Spaull sabotaged his wheelchair and off he went to be converted. Battersea Power Station looked like the head of a Cyberman in one shot. The moon as a theme showed up again. A bright red moon was visible behind the Cybermen at one point.

The episode was apparently Mickey's swan song. Despite everyone doubting him he came good and saved the day. It's nice to see an assisstant having an arc and developing. Not many characters have. Sarah Jane and Leela did but all that happened to Mel was that she turned from a shrieking mororn to a shrieking moron who ran off with a mercenary and Adric developed from a live idiot to a dead one.

The episodes looked great, all grey and black. It was also genuinely creepy as the doctor and Mrs Moore walked through the tunnel. The cybermen stamping about was brilliant. I wouldn't like to see too many more trad stories this season because I would prefer to get thrown another curve ball like The Girl in the Fireplace. Anyway thank god for a decent Cyberman story at last. As a homage to the old stories they should have had one of the Cybermen with a beer belly but you can't have everything!

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What fantastic direction. Hoo boy could I talk about the direction all day. Harper’s vision is breathtaking, creating a feel of mechanical hell, highlighting the glistening silver of the Cybermen en mass in the gleaming moonlight. There are thousands of the buggers and they stomp across the screen gathering up the citizens for conversion. I cannot remember when the Cybermen have ever seemed quite as powerful or as totally emotionless, not a hint of (“Excellent!”) campness here just more of the horror and dynamism of the first episode. Had the metal monsters been treated as powerfully throughout their entire timeline I could perhaps understand why they are held in such high regard. Lets put it this way the Cybermen from this parallel world kick the shit out of the ones from ours and I’m not just talking about their design (which isn’t significantly different) but how the writer and director explore their potential.

And yet strangely it is when the Cybermen are doing nothing at all when they are at their scariest. Two scenes spring to mind instantly. The scenes where the Doctor and Mrs Moore exploring the tunnels (brilliantly echoing The Invasion and Tomb of the Cybermen) are marvellously scary. An endless row of motionless Cybermen which the Doctor and Moore have to creep past, with me behind a pillow waiting for one of them to suddenly snatch out and grab them. Secondly the shot of the Cybermen gazing through the metal fence at Mickey after having murdered his counterpoint. He is horrified at watching himself being murder but the Cybermen just freeze and stare through emotionlessly. Absolutely haunting.

However the piece de resistance comes when the Doctor and Moore explore the Cyber emotion chip, which is turned off, and a converted Cyberman wakes up, not remembering anything about being turned into this beast. Humanising the Daleks felt wrong because they are the epitome of evil but exploring the horror of being converted into Cybermen is (frankly) essential and (astonishingly) ignored to this point. Whilst it was disturbing to hear this woman talking about her upcoming wedding with her voice modulated and no expressions on her metal face nothing could hold a candle to the brief scene where a Cyberman stares in a mirror and screams with absolute terror at its image. I cannot explain how happy I was to see some real psychological horror injected into this story; my only regret was that it couldn’t be taken even further (and boy could it!). The Doctor standing behind this person realising how he has been a perverted saying “I’m sorry” just makes the poor creature even more pitiful. The conversion process is far more graphic here as well, especially the visually dramatic moment when the mask descends on its victim, the lights shining through the eye holes.

I am not sure if it was because this was directed by Graeme Harper but it felt the most Doctor Who-ish story to date. There was the requisite emotional element but for once this feels like the least important aspect of the story. Sorry guys your performances are spot on and the writing is a credit to you but all I wanted to see was Cybermen on the march, people being ripped to pieces and the explosive action as you take them down. It is a credit to Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel that it feels like the old series at its very best (yes I am talking Caves of Androzani), slightly melodramatic, totally absorbing, full of great moments, utterly dynamic and (best of all) a millions times better than anything the competition can think up. I loved Lumic and his over the top dialogue, just the sort of gruff, theatrical villain the series has needed since the start…one with a great motive and a fabulous death scene. What more could you ask for…and Roger Lloyd Pack’s much criticized performance is absolutely spot on, slightly jarring but purposely so and with a sinister smile and evil twinkle in his eye. His turn as the Cybercontroller is smashing, visually stunning and with Pack’s stilted delivery packed with emotion, very disturbing too. Scenes of characters being chased after through the streets by monsters always rate highly in my book, evoking the sort of excited games I would play as a child wishing a fleet of monster would menace me and my friends in my street (and reminiscent of the second Dalek film). Watching the Doctor and his friends do a three-pronged attack on the Cyberman base (hey it’s The Daleks!) is really exhilarating television, the sort which this show does so well, old and new.

Tennant gets his most traditional role to date, being offered a great scene where he confronts the Controller and explain why the Cybermen are so totally and utterly flawed in conception. Being the consummate actor he is perfectly willing to take a back seat to his co-stars who are far more important this time around. He’s just there to be the Doctor, to fight the bad guys and save the day (its nice to see this for a change with some sort of terrible emotional experience for the guy) whereas Mickey and Rose are on hand to deal with all the juicy domestic stuff.

Piper is such a star I could watch her in any show. Fortunately she is currently acting in my favourite show which is doubly good and doing a damn fine job of it too. Who would have ever thought we would be seeing “Because we want to!” Piper strolling along with a bunch of Cybermen? Certainly not me and it is to her credit that she now fits into this series so totally that it is no longer an issue accepting a celebrity in this science fiction show. I enjoyed the scenes between Rose and Pete because they were so restrained, far superior to the horrid manipulation of Father’s Day. Rose’s loyalty to her parents (even in this world) feels right (and her stubbornness when accepting the job of rescuing Jackie is a great moment) and her reaction to the Jackie Cyberman mirrors our own (total horror). It was her final moment with her father on the Embankment which impressed me the most though, Rose desperate to take him back with her (to the point of calling him Dad) but he doesn’t want to know the life he has missed out on. Great stuff and all the more emotional for what isn’t said (so much work is done with the actors faces).

I think Noel Clarke has come such a long way as Mickey, coming to understand the show and the style of acting it entails. He started off in Rose as something of an OTT buffoon and a bit embarrassing to watch but won our hearts in World War Three where he saves Jackie and blows up Downing Street. He ups his game for Boomtown with a remarkably emotional performance before providing some stability for the show over its change of leading man, his presence proving quite relaxing during that turbulent time. His comic potential is explored in School Reunion and The Girl in the Fireplace in time for Mickey to come of age in this two parter. As I said his scene with his Grandmother in Rise of the Cybermen develops his character beautifully and now he gets the chance to save the world. Watching himself die clearly affects him greatly and it is fantastic to see him finally stand up to the Doctor, telling him he wants to help out and refuses to be the spare part (Tennant plays this scene beautifully too, looking at Mickey as if he has just noticed him for the first time). I’m not sure I’m as convinced about the ending, which pushes a little too hard to make Mickey the hero and make everyone go, “ahhh, I really liked him” because frankly we all liked him anyway. The chemistry between Rose and Mickey has never been better and Rose’s typically selfish comment (“What if I need you?”) is rebutted beautifully (“But Rose…you don’t”) but the last scene with the two guys driving off to invade Paris feels a bit too manipulative. A shame, but most of the work in redeeming Mickey’s fortunes is spot on. Clarke is exceptional and the episode belongs to him. Just watch his face, as his other half is killed and then tell me this kid can’t act.

It is the first episode ever where I felt Murray Gold’s music drowned out the drama. At some points it was agonisingly loud (Simon made me turn the telly down about three times!) but saying that he provided some great stings just shock Cybermen moments to get you jumping out of your seats. Its almost as if Murray is as excited by what’s going on as we are and cannot control his music as a result!

Did I want more action? Yes, because what we get is sooooo good. Did I want more exploration of Cybermen? Yes, because they started it off brilliantly but other matters swallowed up the screen time. Did I love this two parter with a passion bordering on insanity? Oh yes.

The Age of Steel is a mighty fine conclusion to some dramatic set up. It really doesn’t disappoint at all and tells us quite a bit about the Cybermen that we didn’t already know. Its not quite my favourite two parter (those gas masks are still fabulous) but it is spine tingling television of the highest order and solid proof of why this show got so much recognition at the BAFTAs.

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SO, to reprise my own question from my last review, did the second half of the Cybermen’s return build on the promise of the previous week’s episode? I would say it stayed on the same level, rather then went higher, but that made for another enjoyable romp, and was a pleasing conclusion to a well-rounded two-parter.

This was as close to a “traditional” Doctor Who as we’ve seen since the series returned – and there were plenty of familiar ideas on display. I have no issue with that, so long as it’s done well. And this was a very slick production, which we’ve now come to expect.

There was a nice nod for continuity buffs in this episode – with Rose mentioning the differently-designed Cybermen helmet in Dalek from last season, and The Doctor elaborating that these were “parallel world” Cybermen – though budgetary concerns surely dictate that they will be “this world” Cybermen, too, if and when they return!

The Age Of Steel was a quicker pace than Rise Of The Cybermen as it built to the denouement. The marching Cybermen – complete with “crunching” soundtrack – did make an impressive sight. Filming at night certainly added to their menace. Had they been bounding along on a bright, summer’s day, I doubt it would have made the same impact. As with the Daleks in The Parting Of The Ways, there was a real impression of a Cyber army. If you recall the iconic Genesis Of The Daleks, there were very rarely more than three Daleks on the march, er, trundle. They might have taken some years to track you down in those corridors. Here, there appeared to be dozens of fast-moving Cybermen.

As I opined in my previous review, a major downside for me was the Cyber-voices. And I can only repeat what I said then, which was: “I understood what was said because I strained my ears – there’s no way the mainstream audience would do that (nor should they have to) and I think they’d have had a problem picking up all the Cyber dialogue. Obviously, Nicholas Briggs’ voice had to be radically different to his excellent Dalek interpretation, and that was certainly achieved. My problem isn’t actually with Briggs’ version of the Cyber voice – more the electronic trickery applied to it. Sure, it was distinctive – but no point in being distinctive if you’re alienating the viewer by making it difficult to hear what’s being said. The Doctor Who production team make very few mistakes – but I think this was one.”

However, what they – or, to be more specific, showrunner Russell T Davies – got very right was the evolution and story arc of Mickey Smith. It was no great shock that the parallel Ricky was killed off quite early – logistically, the dual role must have been difficult – and it was an effective death scene. Quite a nice touch beforehand that Ricky was Most Wanted for parking tickets! And, of course, “Mickey the idiot” saved the day – again.

It was pretty standard sci-fi fare to make a three-pronged attack on the Cyber factory, to split all the main characters up, but it worked well, and there were plenty of good moments en route to the final clash, such as The Doctor and Mrs Moore’s discovery that a bride-to-be’s brain was still functioning inside the Cyberman, although technically that was a CyberWOMAN. As was poor old Jackie, and Pete and Rose’s hopelessness at discovering this and then being unable to pick her out was also a powerful scene. It was a good plot device that the alternate Pete Tyler was a double agent, and I doubt we’ve seen the last of him. His departure was somewhat abrupt – and the temptation must be to reunite the parallel world Pete with Jackie in the other world. And we surely haven’t seen the last of Mickey – the “zero to hero” description has been well trotted out, but it is the most-applicable.

Having – with The Doctor’s help – killed off the Cybermen and rescued The Doctor and Rose, Mickey’s decision to stay behind was no great shock. Even without spoilers, the signs were there throughout the two episodes. Well-written, though, and another touching goodbye scene, well handled all round. He’s been a star this season has Noel Clarke and, although it was a good - and appropriate - ending to his story, I want to see more of Mickey.

Rather like Aliens Of London/World War Three, the monsters were dispensed with well before the end of the story. From the “fanboy” perspective, I would have liked to have seen another five minutes of Cybermen and chopped some of the “soap” element from the end. However, I accept that is the way of 21st-century Who, and what is a key factor in the show’s mainstream popularity. And it will be interesting to see if Rose and The Doctor’s relationship changes again now that they’re on their own.

Taking Rise Of The Cybermen/The Age Of Steel as a whole, it wasn’t the greatest Doctor Who story ever told, nor even the greatest Cybermen story ever told, but it was a very good story, very well told. There was little original on show – or even a series of old ideas constructed in a particularly-original way. However, that’s being super-critical, and it was a highly-enjoyable romp.

If, as is anticipated, the Cybermen do return in the season finale, Rise Of The Cybermen/The Age Of Steel may be more significant than first appeared, and it’ll certainly be interesting to view it again in one sitting in the context of the season as a whole.

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The return of the Cybermen and these episodes really rattled along.

The trouble is…Cybermen shouldn’t rattle!

I’m sad to say I found the whole thing to be an exercise in superficiality. Glossy looking but a complete lack of investment in the characters or the storyline. Fast food Sci-Fi which is definitely not what I was expecting from Who.

Perhaps, like Aliens of London / WW3 it was geared for 5-12 year olds with its pace and thin veneer plotlines. They go for that, seven year olds...bombs over banter, speed over script. You can certainly guarantee that school playgrounds across the country will be heaving with marching children this week all trying to ‘DELETE’ their class mates.

But the real crime here is that this two parter was not allowed to reach its potential. This COULD have been great. Hell, it could have been bloody fantastic. There were elements of production; the cyber design, the lighting, the camera angles, the special effects etc. which were some of the best we’ve seen. There were also some wonderfully inventive ideas and concepts within the story, but they somehow lacked the cohesion necessary to make it work. The result is a really messy story line, some mismatched acting and a shallow selection of easy fix plotlines that wouldn’t be out of keeping in the ‘straight to video’ shelf of my local rental store.

There were brief moments that worked…when they were being chased I felt a slight inkling of tension, the underground chamber scene was spooky and the brilliant nod to ‘The Five Doctors’ with the line “We’ll attack on three fronts, above, between and below” were all well done but otherwise things were distinctly flat.

I’m still struggling to put my finger on what it was. I was strongly reminded in both look and feel of the Paul Mcgann Movie. You can see where the money has been spent. It LOOKED great…and yet, I just wasn’t emotionally involved at any level. Being cinematic isn’t enough, there still needs to be some originality.

A huge problem for me were all those ‘convenient’ moments. The death of the Tardis...surely the Doctor would have been utterly broken...they are almost the same being. All we got was a look of disappointment and a bit of nostalgia about it being the last of it's kind. And yes...didn't it sort its self out rather quickly. What's the point in having a catastrophic event if it isn't actually catastrophic? It would have been much better to think they were genuinely trapped on this Earth...far more powerful considering we knew what they are going to be trapped with. Alfred Hitchcock once said..."Show an audience a bomb hidden in a desk two seconds before it goes off and you get two seconds of suspense. But show them the bomb two hours before and you get two hours of suspense." All I'm saying is...we KNEW the Cybermen were coming from the start, wouldn't it also have been better if we thought there was no possibility of escape. And then there’s the moment when the Doctor just happens to be able to use the Tardis energy cell as a weapon ( not really a cliff hanger then !!!) and just happens to know somehow that Mickey is in the control room listening in so he can relay instructions, and Mickey just happens to be able to crack the computer and find the volume and locate the rope ladder and on and on and on …please…this is just lazy writing. And the whole creeping up on the guards on the roof was the biggest pile of unbelievable nonsense I’ve seen since the final season of Buck Rodgers in the 21st Century. ‘Excuse me, you may be highly trained guards, but if you could just look straight ahead while we run right up to you in plain sight from 500 yards making a huge amount of noise and stick a small bottle of slow acting chloroform up your nose. Will you let us do that?… you will !. Thank you so much , that’s so helpful.

These are the sort of QUICK FIXES you expect from a single 45 minute episode where I accept you might have to sacrifice a little reality for the sake of the plot running to time…but there’s just no excuse in a two parter.

And the Cyber controller…what a triumph of design. It looked brilliant, the brain, the chair, the potential to scare the pants off a whole new generation …he appeared in a cloud of smoke and I shouted, yes, at last, a real villain…so why oh why was he only on for the last ten minutes and why did he just sit there doing nothing. He had the brain of an evil genius, the power of a super machine, the potential to plug in to every mind in the world...and what do they actual do with him...they drop him out of a blimp above an exploding building in an effects shot so over used by Hollywood it's a cliché. The Cybermen themselves also looked amazing. They really did look like they could knock a house down with one arm and would pull your head off as soon as look at you. Did they scare They seemed unable to convey any sense of real menace beyond sheer brute force. And of all the things to test their might on, crashing a dinner party wasn't really what I'd have gone for as an impressive show of force. I suddenly realised…these aren’t Cybermen at all, they’re just tin men, robots, automatons. They didn’t have the history, mentality or resilience of real Cybermen. They were just a tin pot army…and therefore, I didn’t care and I wasn’t scared. OK, you could argue that on this parallel earth this was their first outing, their birth…and yet, this was definitely no where near being a ‘Genesis of the Cybermen’.

The worst failing of both Rise and Age of Steel was that I just didn’t care about the characters. This wasn’t Roses dad…it was just a bloke who looked like him. Her alternate reality mum was a shallow bigot so who cares if she’s been upgraded or not. Lumic’s side kick does a sudden turn around, Mickey and Ricky are suddenly wearing the same clothes, except Noel Clarke doesn’t portray a significant difference between the two characters…so you don’t know which is which or care about either of them. In fact, the only character we got any background on at all was Mrs Moore the Preacher Techi…and just as we were starting to get interested in her and her Cyber killing gadgets…she gets killed. Even the attempt at giving the Cyber victim pathos fell flat. OK…so she was cold and missing her fiancé…but she still said it in an emotionless monotone, even though the emotion inhibitor was switched off. And I know it wasn’t her voice box, , but I would gladly have traded technical correctness for the empathy instilled in a human voice. To have heard a terrified human female voice emanating from within that metal casing would have been far more powerful at portraying the idea of a ‘TRAPPED SOUL’. Perhaps even a partial obscured view of part of a face inside the cracked helmet. The fact that the rest of the body was mechanical would have made that quite chilling.

Well lit, well shot, well designed and produced.

Badly written, badly directed ( yes I dared to say it and sorry to all those Androzani fans ) and badly acted at times.

I have to say bad direction because although it was well shot and paced etc, ultimately it is the director ( and the editor ) who determines the real impact of the shot in terms of timing and emotion. I don’t think Rose ( episode one, season one) worked as well for the same reasons. Its saving grace was some decent monologues which these episodes sadly lacked. In fact, there was nothing clever about the speech at all. Some of the lines were so banal it was the sort of thing you expect from the A-team…”Yeah, come on man”, “Let’s do it!” …and that all important… “Run !”

I feel like I’m being overly harsh, after all, many shows would probably have taken the single premise of this two parter and run it for the entire season, which would no doubt have given ample opportunity to flesh out both characterisation and storyline. But isn’t that the point? Isn’t that the failure of the writing? If you only have two episodes …you write to make it work for those two episodes.

Tooth and Claw, Unquiet Dead, Fathers Day…beautiful compact self contained little gems which still contain emotional drive throughout the storyline.

This didn’t.

My finger hovers tentatively over the video recorder. DELETE! DELETE! DELETE!

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The first two part story of the second series of Doctor Who, ‘Rise of the Cybermen’/‘The Age of Steel’ sees the return both of the series’ second most popular monsters, and director Graeme Harper, returning to the series after a break of nineteen years. And for the most part, it’s a successful return for both.

‘Rise of the Cybermen’/‘The Age of Steel’ takes place in a parallel universe, which has two effects. The first is that it allows writer Tom McRae to introduce the Cybermen to a new audience without having to explain Mondas, as a result of which he is able to write a contemporary origin story for them without any baggage (although the story acknowledges the past with Rose recalling the Cyber head in Van Statten’s museum back in ‘Dalek’ and the Doctor explaining that there are Cybermen in their universe). The second is that, as in ‘Inferno’, all bets are off, and whilst we don’t get the end of the world here, we do get the conversion of a regular character into a Cyberman. This concept is explored a great deal in ‘Rise of the Cybermen’, as Rose discovers that her Dad is still alive and Mickey goes off to find his grandma, but whilst there are several scenes in this first episode that worryingly threaten to lead to a trite and happy conclusion and cover the same ground as ‘Father’s Day’ but with diminishing returns, it actually pays off. Rose’s interest in and concern for her parallel parents is understandable and gives her an emotional stake in the fate of this alternate world, but it is handled in unexpected ways: Jackie’s conversion into a Cybermen is dealt with swiftly and in a matter-of-fact way that emphasizes the horror that they represent, and at the end of the story Pete discovers that Rose is his daughter and, to her obvious disappointment, beats a hasty retreat.

But more importantly, as noted, the parallel universe is a crucible in which to recreate the Cybermen without contradicting the past, but whilst thrusting them into a recognizable world and thus doing exactly the sort of thing that Russell T. Davies sort to do in series one. This story acknowledges ‘Spare Parts’ as an inspiration, and when I reviewed that story I noted that Big Finish, unconstrained by a Saturday teatime time slot, could exploit the body horror represented by the Cybermen in ways that the television series had never really been able. ‘Rise of the Cybermen’/‘The Age of Steel’ has the same constraints, but comes closer than any television Cyberman story to really exploiting the horror of the creatures. “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” seen, as facile pop music is played over the screams of people being forcibly converted and the whirring of electric saws, manages, in the hands of Graeme Harper”, to become chilling. Then there is the issue of emotion; given Davies’ approach to the series, I was half-expecting some kind of Kroton the Friendly Cyberman type rubbish once the Doctor and Mrs. Moor discovered the emotional inhibitor, but McRae instead uses an approach more akin to the idea of the Cerebraton Mentor of ‘The Invasion’, the Doctor understanding, “They’d realize what they are… I think it would kill them.” And indeed it does, as the emotional inhibitors are switched off thanks to Mickey and the Doctor and the Cybermen scream and convulse before exploding. McRae also uses the notion to emphasize again the nightmarish nature of the Cybermen; the pitiful sounds of the damaged Cyberman, with its emotions restored, asking why it is cold is quite unpleasant, especially since there is obviously no way of reversing its fate. Likewise, when the Cyberman that approaches Pete and Rose tells them that it was Jackie Tyler, the episode momentarily threatens to tread the tiresome route of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode ‘I, Borg’. Instead, all that happens is that the Cyberman recognizes Pete and has them sent to Cyber Control before blending back into the crowd, their lack of individuality made plain as Rose hollowly states, “They all look the same.”

It helps considerably that the Cybermen are at their most scary since the nineteen sixties. When I first saw a still photograph of their new costumes, I had some sympathy with the argument that they looked worryingly like the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. On screen though, they work extremely well. Throughout ‘Rise of the Cybermen’, Harper keeps them out of sight until the end, either showing them out of focus in the background, or just allowing the viewer glimpses of parts of them. When they do appear in full focus as they attack the Tylers’ mansion, they are enormously intimidating; the moon suits of the eighties are long gone, and these Cybermen look like metal juggernauts, powerful and virtually unstoppable. They lumber less than in the past, instead marching remorselessly and unspeaking, Harper filming them from low angles to make them look bigger than they are. There are admittedly moments in ‘The Age of Steel’ as they march around London rounding up victims when they look like they are touching cloth, but in the confines of the factory or on the zeppelin, they are terrifying. Harper gets some great edge of seat moments out of them, including their chillingly silently presence in the tunnel and the sudden thrill as they start to jerk into life, and the Doctor and Mrs. Moor’s narrow escape through the hatch. The Cyber Controller’s pursuit out of the Doctor, Rose and Pete at the end blatantly rips off Aliens, right down to the creature pulling itself free of its moorings as fire starts to consume its lair, but it provides a final adrenalin rush for the episode as the trio narrowly escape.

‘Rise of the Cybermen’/‘The Age of Steel’ also features some effective characterisation. Obsessive Cybermen creator John Lumic is the sort of ranting madman that used to be a staple of the series, and Roger Lloyd-Pack hams up the role for all that he’s worth, especially when delivering lines such as “I suppose a remark about crashing the party would be appropriate at this point, aha-ha-ha!” Opinion is divided as to whether this sort of thing is wise, and several fans have criticized Lumic already, but I’ve always found ranting megalomaniacs in Doctor Who entertaining, and I find Lloyd-Pack’s performance rather enjoyable. McRae also gives him some reasonable characterisation, his megalomania motivated by an understandable need to survive, which his colossal ego inevitably transforms into world domination. This is hardly Earth-shatteringly original, but it is sufficient to meet the story’s requirements, and when he is inevitably forced to submit to an upgrade of his own, Lloyd-Pack conveys his obvious fear convincingly, as he impotently protests, “I’m not ready.” Once he becomes the Cyber Controller, he also serves as a villain with whom the Doctor can spar, thus stepping into the role previously filled by David Banks’ charismatic Cyber Leaders, as the Doctor gives a defence of the need for emotion and the Controller makes the case for the prosecution.

Other supporting characters include the President, portrayed as a wise and thoughtful leader and made all the more commanding by Don Warrington’s superb performance. Although he’s little more than a henchman, ???’s Mr. Crane is an oddly memorable character too, and his sudden realization that he’s in out of his depth results in the oddly satisfying scene in which he manages to wreak Lumic’s life support system before a Cyberman dispatches him. The Preachers also work quite well as rebels who turn out to include a middle aged woman who keeps weapons in her handbag, and “London’s most wanted for parking tickets”. Shaun Dingwell returns as Pete Tyler and gives a solid performance, making him as likeable as he was in ‘Father’s Day’ but a great deal more capable and confident, and pairs up with Rose in ‘The Age of Steel’ to enter the factory; both actors make their characters look suitably terrified this point. Harper even manages to get a decent performance out of Camille Coduri, which I wouldn’t have believed possible, although the trite coda with the “real” Jackie is an unpleasant reminder of what we usually get.

All of which brings me to the regulars. David Tennant is much the same as he usually is here, although he does start to smell slightly of ham when he’s confronting the Controller. But worthy of particular note is his performance at the end of ‘Rise of the Cybermen’, as the Doctor realises just what he’s dealing with. Tennant makes him look terrified, as he grabs Rose and legs it out of the house, and this significantly contributes to the effectiveness of the Cybermen at this point. His repeated attempts to surrender have an air of panic underlying them, and it is important I think that the resolution to the cliffhanger, dismissed by some as a shameless McGuffin, sees him risking his means of getting home to save their lives. Billie Piper too manages to look frightened quite a lot, and McRae’s script requires her to show how Rose is feeling through facial expressions and body language than some previous scripts. For the record however, the moment when she jealously asks the Doctor, “Who’s Lucy?”, is profoundly irritating.

But in many respects, ‘Rise of the Cybermen’/‘The Age of Steel’ is Mickey’s story. Mickey, and Noel Clarke, have come a long way since ‘Rose’, which gave us a frightened and ineffectual buffoon via the medium of slightly wooden acting. Clarke has really made the role his own however, and in this, his final story, all of his hard work pays off. He might snarl his way unconvincingly through the role of Ricky, but as Mickey he’s brilliant. The touching scene in which Mickey meets the parallel version of his grandma implies that Mickey still feels guilty that he didn’t repair the torn carpet that caused his gran to fall down the stairs and kill herself, and Clarke lets all of this show on his face. ‘Rise of the Cybermen’ sees him indignantly realize, “You just forgot me!” when he’s been holding down a button for half and hour, and then, with a mixture of triumph and regret, head off to find his gran in defiance of the Doctor, knowing that the Time Lord will follow Rose, not him. This sows the seeds for ‘The Age of Steel’, as Mickey refuses to carry on being “the tin dog” and insists on joining Jake’s raid on the transmitter. Interestingly, the real turning point for Mickey here seems to be the moment when Ricky grudgingly shows him approval, perhaps seeing Mickey literally happy with who he is, and in the latter half of the episode he comes into his own. He convinces Jake to spare the guards, asking him, “If you kill ‘em, what’s the difference between you and the Cybermen?” On board the zeppelin he proves extremely brave, tricking a Cyberman into destroying the transmitter, before he gets to save the day, with a little help from the Doctor, by hacking into the Cybus Corporation systems and finding the code to deactivate the emotional inhibitors. He also gets to come to the rescue of the others, holding the zeppelin steady over the burning factory. His decision to stay behind, bid goodbye to Rose and step out of the shadow of the Doctor, is a fantastic departure from the series, and the Doctor’s heartfelt, “Good luck, Mickey the idiot” is actually more touching than his last hug with Rose. His final scene in the program is lovely, as he tells Jake, “Let’s go an liberate Paris.” “Just you and me? In a van?” “There’s nothing wrong with a van. I once saved the universe in a big yellow truck.”

So overall I think ‘Rise of the Cybermen’/‘The Age of Steel’ works extremely well, not only as a return for the Cybermen and Graeme Harper but also as a farewell to Mickey. I do however have one major criticism. I’ve given this a brief mention in previous episode reviews, but by now Murray Gold’s music is reaching a point where it is actively starting to drive me insane. Ladled like treacle over nearly every scene, it simultaneously manages to be both bland and yet impossible to ignore, endlessly recycling the same saccharine riffs during emotional moments in an attempt to tell the audience what to think. Even Keff McCulloch’s worst excesses irritated me less than this, perhaps because however bad his scores were, someone different would punctuate his audio manure when the next story came along. Gold’s role as series composer though means that we get the same tepid music week after week after week. And there is no end in sight.

Filters: Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor Television

It’s quite hard to find much to say about this story initially, despite the obvious ‘big events’ it covers (I’m sure I’ll manage to anyway!). The departure of Mickey, the return of the Cybermen and particularly the return of Pete Tyler are oddly underwhelming, although it must be said that the first two are very well handled, and the Cybermen contribute greatly to the very classical, retro feel of this two-parter (which is the most Doctor Who-ey story in the new series so far). It was replete with references to original Cyberman stories, particularly The Invasion – the escape up a rope ladder hanging from a helicopter of that story turning into an escape up a rope ladder hanging from an airship. International Electromatics also got a mention.

‘Rise of the Cybermen’ and ‘The Age of Steel’ have things wrong with them, but they are very familiar things. The episodes contain some fairly shocking performances from some of the guests, and the plotting is quite untidy with regard to the seemingly random way in which various characters are killed off (John Lumic at least does return as the Cybercontroller, which was a nice surprise, and very faithful to the original series – a superior return to that of the Emperor Dalek in ‘Parting of the Ways’). But Trigger from Only Fools and Horses is great as a neo-Davros, and his method of transportation, a giant airship, is wonderful – it exemplifies the kind of creative romanticism that has been missing from the new series so far, and is a step in the right direction.

Mickey’s decision to leave at the end, however, is very harsh on the poor boy, who I have never liked very much, but has come on in leaps and bounds in the recent run of non-RTD stories and this one especially. Basically, he decides to stay in a parallel universe to hunt down the Cybermen because the Doctor is closer to his girlfriend than he is to Mickey. The Doc doesn’t even tell him at the end that he didn’t actively want him to leave, and that there would have still been a place for him on board the TARDIS, which he could easily have done without changing Mickey’s mind. I thought this was very unfair on him. Noel Clarke however, while playing ‘Ricky’ abysmally (you can’t have everything), turns out his finest performance yet as the hapless ‘tin dog’ in Rose’s life.

Still, we at least are treated to the sight of Jackie Tyler being Cyber-converted!! The Cybermen had some very effective scenes in the second episode, and all in all this was a very good outing for them. Despite the various Cyber-deaths we see, from the bomb Mrs Moore uses (in another overly-convenient piece of plotting) to the Cyberman who accidentally punches out the transmitter) the impression is still one of power and invulnerability. Design-wise they are a little dodgy from the waist down, but have the greatest of all Cyber-heads, teardrops and all (I love the teardrops).

In fact, the teardrop design was especially appropriate for this story, in which the tragedy of Cybermen is brought to the fore in two or three excellent scenes. First there is Jackie’s aforementioned conversion, and Pete’s subsequent inability to tell which is her; best of all is the scene with the dying Cyberman, who just a few hours ago, it is implied, was excitedly looking forward her wedding (the best evocation of the tragedy of the Cybermen that I have ever encountered, surpassing even the horrendous reunion of father and daughter in ‘Spare Parts’); and lastly the Doctor’s destruction of the converted by making them self-aware, which even he has qualms about to begin with, resulting in the Doctor opening a door and finding Cybermen writhing in agony in a flame-filled room like damned souls in hell.

Oddly Marc Platt gets a credit in the end titles (and, apparently, was even paid!). Given that the only resemblance in ‘Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel’ to his ‘Spare Parts’ is the tragic treatment of the Cybermen, this seems more than a little gratuitous. It isn’t as if he invented that aspect of the Cyber-race; it’s just that nobody had done it well before. This credit seems to have been inserted for no other reason than that ‘Spare Parts’ is, according to Russell T Davies, “some of the finest drama ever written for any genre, in any medium, anywhere”, which is frankly ridiculous (ever seen any Shakespeare, Russell? Ever read ‘The Lord of the Rings’? Ever watched ‘Apocalypse Now’?) I don’t want to denigrate Marc Platt, who is great, but ‘Spare Parts’ doesn’t deserve half the adulation it gets – it isn’t even amongst the strongest Doctor Who stories, let alone “the finest drama… anywhere”!

The other thing to note about the story is that it gives us the first cliffhanger of series two. And a great cliffhanger it was, even if Graeme Harper didn’t cut away soon enough, and the Cybermen fell into the stereotypical “villains repeat their threats ad nauseam rather than just GETTING ON WITH IT!” mold. David Tennant played it extremely well, at least, and it’s one of those cliffhangers which really does leave you wondering “how on earth are they going to get out of that?”. Unfortunately the resolution was rubbish, the Doctor simply using a magic gizmo and running away, which rather makes a nonsense of his earlier panic, however well-conveyed it was. The ideal resolution as far as I’m concerned would have been the arrival of a parallel-universe Doctor to save them all; then we could have had an episode with two versions of David Tennant!

(Regarding Tennant, it has to be said that he still hasn’t really made his mark on the role as the Doctor, although his acting ability is not in doubt. He just isn’t in it enough.)

One final thing; it has been suggested that there was a Fascism/Nazism theme running through these episodes, the Final Solution, in particular, being referenced in the shots of people being led into chambers for Cyber-conversion. Not only the curious goose-stepping walk practiced by the new Cybermen, but the fact that the woman shown walking calmly into an incinerator was Asian rather than white, recalling Nazi racial policies, have been suggested as evidence. While I do not for a moment believe that the modern BBC would broadcast a television programme in which even the villains are seen to regard Asians as inferior stock, this interpretation is rather tempting. Anyone else noticed it?

Filters: Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor Television

One thing the new Doctor Who can certainly hold claim to is its complete unpredictably.

Trying to guess whether a writer, actor or director will be good bad or indifferent is becoming ever harder. For every individual with a proven track record, often comes the huge crushing disappointment that they haven’t lived up to expectations. While on the other hand individuals with somewhat dubious credentials can often yield startling results. I would never have expected Paul Cornell’s story from last year to be my personal favourite, nor would I have thought that Russell T Davies scripts would be some of the worst, likewise I wasn’t prepared to be so completely bowled over by Billie Piper’s portrayal of Rose and at the same time so underwhelmed by Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor.

On the surface Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel had hit stamped all over it: a stellar cast, the return of one of the original series greatest directors, in Shaun Dingwall’s Pete one of the best actors from series 1 and last but not least the return of those silver giants. Quite how with so much going for it, this story could turn into such an underwhelming, flat and at times amateur affair is beyond me. Needless to say after a run of three enjoyable and well executed adventures (New Earth was a bit of a mixed bag, but it was only the first episode so I’ll let it off), much like series 1 the new series has again hit that mid season lull and produced yet another 2 part clunker.

Many fans have complained about the deficiencies in the 1 part 45 minute adventures, but I would say if anything the problem is with the two parters. With the exception of the 2 part Dalek finale from last year, all the 2 parters so far have been somewhat turgid and been amongst the worst structured and dull of the whole run (and yes I include fan favourite the Empty Child in this). That 2 weeks have been wasted on such a shallow piece of television let alone Doctor Who is a crying shame, when often more worthy ideas could be expanded way beyond their 45 minutes.

Okay this is going to be a bit of a whingeathon, so I’d better start giving some justification as to why I thought this story was so much of a damp squib.

In a nutshell, unfulfilled potential, all the elements for success were there but each one was so completely unexploited and lacking in execution that the result was just dull, dull, dull.

Firstly Tom Macrae’s script felt like a first draft and one that needed several rewrites to toughen it up, all the basic ideas for a good yarn were there, but as written very little in the way of drama, excitement or suspense was evident. Cliched charcters, twee plot revelations and a rather poor structure could have been ironed out if the desire had been there. Nevertheless some decent direction would have probably papered over the cracks and at least produced something superficially watchable.

Well welcome to some of the most leaden, uninspiring and at times almost fan film like direction since Keith Boak’s Aliens of London. That this story has come from Graeme Harper is frankly astonishing. As the director responsible for Caves of Androzani and Revelation of the Daleks, his work on these stories was revolutionary for the time. On an eighties hopelessly studio bound drama he introduced a kinetic energy into proceedings which was rarely seen on television, and there is no doubt that Caves of Androzani stands as the classic it is mainly due to his influence. One would have expected with the new series increased budget and all the tools now at his disposal, that Harper would have produced a televisual spectacle, dripping with grit, pace and atmosphere. Well unfortunately the years have not been kind to Harper and any flair or energy he may have had seems to have been slowly ebbed away by years of working on studio based talking heads shows (I last saw him credited on an episode of Coronation street). Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel felt lifeless and stilted and I would say that lays squarely at the door of the director. As a general at the top of a chain of command, the directors work can be seen reflected right down through the ranks with everyone from David Tennant to Murray Gold, producing work that is far below their usual standard.

In essence this story was the long awaited Genesis of the Cybermen, so if you’re going to try and give Davros a run for his money you might at least try and create something at least a fraction as memorable. In Roger Lloyd Pack’s John Lumic we got the most hammy, one note performance I think I have seen so far in the new Doctor Who. What could have been a memorable tortured genius, again compare with Chris Cable’s portrayal of Sharaz jek in Caves, ended up as a forgettable OTT turn from a respectable actor who obviously thinks Doctor Who is an opportunity to do a pantomime turn.

The only really memorable performance to come out of the story was Don Warrington as the president, who gave a dignified and studied performance and one the other cast members should have aspired to. Unfortunately all the performances were of such wildly differing tones that it often felt that the cast had wandered in from separate shows, Colin Spaull’s henchman was the CBBC version of a cockney gangster, Andrew Hayden Smith was the bland pretty boy, and amidst all this Shaun Dingwall’s Pete seemed lost and wondering what he was really doing there at all.

The main raison d etre of the story of course was to reintroduce the Cybermen, and a tough challenge it was. Lacking the simplicity of concept of the Daleks, and unfortunately with the baggage of a second hand idea, due to the very similar concept of the Borg used in Star Trek throughout the nineties, it was always going to be a tough cookie. The revised origin that the Cybermen were born not out of a need for survival, but the human races obsession with technological upgrades was a sound one, but as with so much of this story lacking in its relaisation While not an outright disaster the realisation of the creatures is only partially successful, and should maybe like their sixties forebears be considered a work in progress. The design itself has attracted controversy and is one of those things that looks good at certain angles or under particular lighting conditions. The Cybermen of old were quite obviously men in costumes, with the silver jumpsuit being the best that could be managed to suggest the creatures machine like nature, the new Cybermen are designed to look mechanised and the reasoning behind that is sound. Unfortunately the heftiness of the costumes makes movement in them look very awkward and they come across as somewhat clunky and ungainly, suffering from similar movement problems as the Slitheen costumes last year. Some shots particularly in part 2 of this story looked unintentionally comical. The rhythmic marching was also way overdone, it is not easy to put your finger on how they should have been done, but the whole approach had a hackneyed almost Bill Baggs video feel (Bill Baggs for those who don’t know makes commercially available Doctor Who fan films). Then of course was the voice, there seems to be a general belief among a certain contingent of fans, that the eighties Cybermen were a write off, and the sixties models were the true model that should be aspired to. With the reintroduction of the electric warbling tone and the tear drop, it is obvious the production teem felt this too. Unfortunately the choice of voice was poorly realised and rather than making the creatures sound sinister, it just added to the impression of a rather generic sci fi robot, sounding halfway between the Candyman and a Dalek.

Certain moments such as the Doctors voyage through the Cyberman lined corridor provided hints at what could have been, but as with most of the story there was so much unrealised potential. Where were the Cybermen’s feats of stength, why didn’t we see a conversion in progress. There could have been so much dramatic potential drawn from a slow rove around the Cyberfactory, with little hints as to what was going on. But as with so much about this story, the Cyber conversion was a pathetic CGI’d computer game effect totally lacking in any feeling, tension or drama.

I feel sorry that this was Noel Clarke’s last story as he deserved a much stronger exit, the reasons for Mickey staying were sound and his story has probably reached its natural end, but when a story is as bad as this it reflects on everyone.

I wont even go in to the stories complete lack of internal logic regarding the whole parallel universe scenario, surely Mickey staying would contravene some sort of law, and for such a universe shattering event the Doctor seems remarkably confident about getting back with no hassle whatsoever. Just as with so much I have outlined above, ideas that were ripe for exploitation are half developed then discarded. Imagine if we’d gone the whole story thinking the Tardis had died and everyone was stranded, wouldn’t that have been a lot more involving than a quick fix after five minutes.

So no I wasn’t impressed by this story at all, yes there have been worse Who stories and a lot worse stuff on television in general, but at a time when the new series has been on something of a roll, this story was a massive retrogade step. For all its surface gloss and CGI, it really was just a 2006 Battlefield, a story with big ideas and ambition, but saddled with a shoddily written script and clunky direction. I just hope that lessons were learnt on this and things will be ironed out for the 2 part Cybermen finale which Harper is helming.

Maybe time will be kinder on this story, once the weight of expectation has been lifted from its shoulders, but when the best thing about the episode is the next week trailer you know there’s something wrong. So Roll on Idiots Lantern, who would have thought that big quiffs and Maureen Lipman doing watch with mother,could look so much more exiting than Cybermen.

Filters: Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor Television

This story's like a pop music cover version of a fantastic song first done as a demo by an independent band. It waters down what made the original so fantastic, and yet might still go to number 1 on the pop charts because some of the basic ideas that were so good are still basically there and because the production is so stylish.

The most basic idea that is so good is the emotionless Cybermen themselves, and their plans to forcibly turn you into one of them. This comes from the original TV series. The next step after that, the idea that the reason Cybermen make themselves emotionless is to avoid scaring themselves to death and preserve sanity after what's been done to their bodies, that comes from an audio story made by Big Finish in 2002 called "Spare Parts," written by Marc Platt, who is given a thank you credit on the close of both of these TV episodes. Other bits of "Spare Parts" that made sort of made it in were seeing a procession of the population being frog-marched into Cyber-processing plants, and seeing the process happen to someone we knew and cared about, in this case Jackie Tyler. All of the above are very scary things to think about and to see happening on your TV screen, and the story is to be commended for showing this.

The way we see all that happen, with the marching squads of Cybermen moving in formation with that relentless mechanical thumping sound... with the CGI enlarged crowds being herded into the plants... the inventive and almost always moving camera angles...the Zeppelins over London... it all has a look and a gloss to it worthy of a feature film. Graeme Harper always shot the hell out of the stories he worked on in the 1980s, and he's lost none of that touch here. I'm really looking forward to seeing what he does with the season finale now.

And then the story gives us a lot of original material. The alternative Earth stuff is a mixed bag. On the good side of the bag, and it's very, very good, is the alternate Mickey (Ricky) and how he's leading a small resistance unit, and how his grandmother is still alive. Where Mickey tends to shy away from danger, Ricky's much more involved and pro-active, and though it's never explicitly said, it's plain to see why. It's simply because his grandmother is still alive. Our Mickey apparently became very afraid of death after it claimed his grandmother, but for Ricky, to whom that never happened, death and danger aren't going to cow him. I can also completely buy that our Mickey would stay behind and replace dead Ricky so that he can tend and be with his grandmother, and that he finds his bottle knowing that the world he's helping to save is one that has her in it. This is wonderful stuff, and wonderfully played by Noel Clarke. The scenes of he and his grandmother together, and of he and Rose saying goodbye at the end, are quite heartbreaking, and that's totally down to his talent.

On the not-so-good side of the bag is what's been done to Rose's alternative family. Rose's reactions (and Billie Piper's acting) to it are all fine and spot on given what she's been presented, and a successful, living Pete Tyler is also nice to see, but he's just _there_. They never have a payoff like we saw last year in "Father's Day," and while in one sense that's quite right because we already saw that big story last season, it's quite wrong at the same time, because if all you can do with having him there is to, well, have him there, then what's the point? Even worse off is Jackie, who is so different and so nasty a person in the alternative world that we're almost glad to see her get converted into a Cyberman. As the Doctor says numerous times, "she is not your mother," and because she is so not her mother, the whole punch of the scene where we see Cyber-Jackie is completely absent.

And in the really-not-good-at-all stinky, wet, rotting corner of the bag, we have this alternative origin story for the Cybermen of this alternative dimension. The only saving grace we're given is a line in the second episode where the Doctor tells Rose that there were Cybermen from our universe too and that they were from another planet, thus preserving the Mondasian origin story we're used to from the original series as still being valid, and even allowing "Spare Parts" to not come into conflict with what we're told here on TV. That's a saving grace because this alternative is a pathetic bunch of cliches recycled from either 1980s science-fiction films or from different stories in the TV series (chiefly "The Invasion" and "Genesis of the Daleks"). In this universe, the Cybermen are the creation of a madman called John Lumic, an 80s-style businessman confined to a life-supporting wheelchair. Sound like anyone we already know from the original series? That's right, he's a more charismatic Davros, or at least he would be if he were played by a better actor than Roger Lloyd-Pack, who chews scenery in a way that the most cartoonish villains of the original series would've been proud of. Witness how his opening catchphrase "FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE" has already entered into the lexicon of silly lines fans like to quote at each other like "oh no, not the mind probe." I also can't buy into the idea that, even in an alternative universe, that any one businessman could engineer a project on such a grand and horrible scale as this and get away with it as easily as he seems to, at least not without some enormous pressure on that society for it to have to undergo such a change. The origin story of "our" Cybermen, the originals, had that, which was that their entire planet was dying since it had been hurled out of its normal orbit around the sun, and the only way the people could survive the increasingly harsh conditions was to cybernise. Their story is a tragedy of circumstance that was inevitable for those poor people. This alternative story is nothing more than a poorly written comic book or action movie. I can get emotionally involved in the former, and not the latter, and unfortunately, the latter is what the masses have been given in this story.

Fortunately for the masses, they do still have David Tennant as the Doctor to save the day and the story, and he does both, effortlessly bounding around the sets and unravelling the Cybermen's plans without them even noticing.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

I can still remember how Dalek blew my socks off when it first went out, and as a consequence when I heard the Cybermen were coming back I expected no less than an equally successful revival. In this context, Rise Of The Cybermen and particularly The Age Of Steel are major disappointments; they both have their moments, like practically everything in this season does, but they suffer from the kind of common failings that crept into the new series in increasing quantity in 2006.

In a sense the pre-titles sequence is representative of the entire story. It’s brilliantly made, as Graeme Harper is still streets ahead of every other director going after twenty years; the shots of the prototype Cyberman in the background, blurred by the light, are chilling and their voices are very well done by Nicholas Briggs, harking back to the impassive monotone of their glory days. But my word, my stomach ties up in a knot every time I see it, as John Lumic seems to be an extreme example of the ranting megalomaniac.

While Michael Wisher as Davros perfected this character type, the by-the-numbers performance from Roger Lloyd-Pack makes the scene feel like a parody, which it might actually be. I can’t allow myself to believe that the dialogue (“and how will you do that…FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE?!?!”) is serious, but that isn’t the point as the show should always have a sense of humour. But this is the lead character ordering a death here, and such immature dialogue is a far cry from Julian Glover’s suave Scarlioni. It boils down to this: one thing that’s pretty much guaranteed to get on my nerves are writers who play the irony card left, right and centre as a way of passing off any old rubbish, and that’s what I feel is being done here. It’s a bad line. It’s a bad line that knows it’s a bad line. Postmodernism and self-awareness only go so far though, because…it’s still a bad line.

I’m getting off to quite a negative start here, especially since the first episode at least has a fair bit to recommend it and almost pushes an above-average rating. But I can’t lighten up quite yet as the opening TARDIS scene features more of the usual enforced goofiness from David Tennant and Billie Piper, whose characters are becoming increasingly smug know-it-alls, dropping stories about alien worlds (remember when we used to actually see stories like that?) that might be better suited to Red Dwarf than to Doctor Who.

I can start to de-grinch a bit now though, since there’s always the ever-dependable Noel Clarke to keep things light and some seriously well-staged pyrotechnics as the TARDIS falls into the parallel universe, and in a time where the eccentricities of the machine are often hammered home (on one occasion literally) in an “oh look, it’s powered by a bicycle pump, tee hee”

kind of way, the falling oxygen masks are a delightfully quirky addition that work by not being mentioned. The parallel Earth makes a similarly impressive first impression, with the Mill producing some excellent work for the Zeppelins. Tennant actually manages to handle a scene well, as he warns Mickey and Rose not to interfere with this new world.

Camille Corduri’s permanently out-of-control performance as Jackie is much better suited to her alternative character, who is rich and flamboyant enough to make it seem appropriate; back in “our” universe there’s the sense that a council flat isn’t quite big enough for her. Shaun Dingwall, as usual, puts in a good performance as the genuinely likeable Pete Tyler.

Mr Crane’s “recruitment drive” is a very dramatic scene, but entirely lacking in plausibility, as characters are so gullible that being promised a cup of soup is sufficient to entice them into climbing into the back of a van that’s appeared out of nowhere. This is hardly the worst example of this sort of thing going in either the original or this series, but it’s still a factor here as something entirely lacking in believability prevents me from really engaging with what’s supposed to be going on in any meaningful way; I end up saying things like “what’s supposed to be going on” instead of “what’s going on.” If these moments are major plot points then they have a knock on effect.

Don Warrington puts in an unsurprisingly excellent performance as the President, but this highlights the problematic nature with the story’s central concept of the parallel universe. It’s difficult not to compare Rise Of The Cybermen with Inferno, Doctor Who’s other excursion to a parallel universe (as opposed to the E-Space trilogy, in which the universe is a different one but not apparently a parallel one). The right-wing Fascist state is going for the most obvious route imaginable, but at least Inferno grabbed the bull by the horns and gave its setting a strong identity. Rise Of The Cybermen tries to take elements from all sorts of places – a nice idea in principle, but the episode fails to synthesise its disparate elements into a cohesive whole and the result if something of a jumble. Is it a dystopia? The President calls it a “sick world” which carries a multitude of inferences as well as the purely literal meaning. Yet there seems to be a happy (outwardly at least) middle class and there’s no sense of ordinary people living in terror of the authorities. It seems to be a capitalist state, but while it’s officially a republic the rich take on the role of aristocrats, holding official functions for politicians and possibly acting as honorary figureheads to the masses. The politicians are seemingly benevolent (the President certainly is) but apparently the government are in thrall to a multinational corporation. The strong class divide demonstrated by the soldier Mickey encounters veer off to left-wing principles of dissatisfaction with the social structure, and the Cybermen have obvious Communist similarities. People are connected up to propaganda broadcasts, an idea that crosses a thematic spectrum, and yet nobody seems to be really oppressed; meanwhile, the reference to “New Germany” is deliberately loaded. Out of this muddle shudders the universe of Rise Of The Cybermen, and it feels incoherent (like that paragraph) and unsatisfying.

There’s been almost no plot progression up to this point, although the scene where Mickey meets his grandmother is elevated by Noel Clarke’s performance and unusually we have a character-driven scene that doesn’t feel like its usurping the storytelling drive. It’s nice to see International Electromatics namechecked from a fan point of view and Helen Griffin is very good as Mrs Moore, even though the sudden appearance of a Welsh Annie Lennox lookalike is a bit of a surprise at first. There’s the continuity problem, of course: Mickey seems to have been orphaned some time after the events of Rose, and Tony Blair is mentioned instead of Harriet Jones, but then again, continuity is for sad fanboys, right? It’s all about the journey.

The scene where the President denies Lumic permission to create the Cybermen is very well written, but again it suffers from the confused portrayal of the world, making it difficult to fully appreciate the meaning of what the President says. For example, an “ethics committee” is mentioned, but without any idea of what perspective this universe has on the concept of ethics it doesn’t mean very much.

It’s a funny touch having the Doctor and Rose masquerading as servants, although it does lead to one of the most significant scenes of the new series: Rose’s bitter jealousy of Lucy, another maid. The shift in her character over the course of the series is notable for me to be able to track it quite clearly, and for me this is the moment she irrevocably ceased to be the likeable and identifiable character she finished the first series as.

Although she’d get worse still, this was the moment that I realised she had become a selfish and insensitive brat; it’s rumoured that this may have been deliberate, but personally I don’t see the sense in wrecking one of the lead characters even if she is going to leave eventually. In any case any idea of irony would be lost on a large section of the programme’s core audience for whom Rose remains – shudder – an identification figure. Meanwhile Clarke is always on hand to lend things a certain style, even if he does go for the Sylvester McCoy acting technique of using a single scowl to portray a whole range of intense emotions.

Here’s where the episode suddenly manages to turn things around and leap in an instant from a disappointing muddle of poorly thought-out characters, settings and themes into a whole string of five-star moments. It’s Graeme “Set Piece” Harper’s time to shine, and he creates more iconic shots of the Cybermen silhouetted against the mist as they march inexorably towards the house. It’s so well done that I’m prepared to overlook the way they make the same sound going over grass as they do over metal or concrete. The shots of them smashing into the Tyler household are fantastic, as is their initial confrontation with the President.

It does show up their habit of referring to everything in computer terminology, which makes them seem geekier than I remember them being. I can’t overlook their dreadfully cheesy catchphrase, which seems to be an attempt at cashing in on the popularity of the Daleks. Even accounting for their flaws though, these new Cybermen are the best the monsters have been since The Invasion, which admittedly isn’t saying much.

Despite the long scene where Rose talks to her “mother”, (another example of the plot stopping in its tracks to allow for character moments) which might have worked if she hadn’t just lost all my sympathy two minutes beforehand, the end of the episode still works for sheer exhilaration.

The cliffhanger is silly though, harking back to the pre-titles sequence in that the only way I can explain the “approach the target, stop, and repeat the catchphrase again and again” set-up is another half-baked attempt at irony. The resolution is a major disappointment, as the deus ex machina gets cracked out again. The TARDIS power cell may as well be a magic talisman in this scene.

Rise Of The Cybermen was unexceptional but basically tolerable and at least ended on a major high; The Age Of Steel squanders that undoubted potential completely, however, becoming forty-five minutes of clichéd characters, contrived set pieces and bad dialogue (there’s a drinking game to be had in the number of times a character says “what the hell?”). Comparatively then the opening scene in the van does quite well for itself, with good witty dialogue, let down by Tennant’s charisma-free Doctor locked in “intense” mode. As long as the Cybermen are in the background (as they were in the previous episode) they look fantastic, but their silly walk really lets them down here. When I see a squad of them go past, legs akimbo and waddling in unison, I keep feeling that there should be one out in front twirling a baton.

There are some very good set-pieces in this episode, like in the tunnels and the conversion chambers, but there’s so little else here of substance that they ultimately don’t add up to much. Here’s what really hurts though – the sheer cynicism of the emotional manipulation. We are supposed to feel sympathy for the Cybermen, and to be horrified at the concept of what’s been done to them. But this is self-evident, and even there mere sight of a mechanical arm grafted onto Toberman’s body is infinitely more shocking and evocative than having one Cybermen start telling us its life story because the Doctor switched its emotions back on. The original series asked “wouldn’t it be horrifying if it happened to you?” while the new just expects us to cry because it’s happened to them, and it’s so overwritten that it ends up missing the point completely and just pays lip service to what the Cybermen actually are.

The same old hokum permeates the episode, with the Doctor making a big moralistic sermon from his soapbox while the villains just sit and listen attentively, and the final resolution (with the Cybermen being taken on an emotion journey, as I might have guessed) takes the episode into kids’ show territory and leaves it there, with cries of “nooooooo!” and an Under Siege 2-plagiarising death for Lumic.

Pete’s rejection of Rose is very well done, but Mickey’s leaving scene is utterly ruined by Rose’s character. The first official leaving scene of the new series, their chance to prove that they can do better than the cursory “right, that was fun, bye then” of episodes like The Faceless Ones, and Rose comes in with “what about meeeeee?”, a line that sums up her character in this series. It’s undignified.

I wasn’t expecting to like New Earth or Love & Monsters, but I had high hopes for Rise Of The Cybermen and The Age Of Steel.

As such, despite managing to claw onto an okay rating, they still stand as possibly the second series’s biggest disappointments, and flat characters and shaky storytelling. It’s far from the worst moment of the new series, but it’s undoubtedly the blandest. Much as I like the new Cybermen, they deserved better than this.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

I loved this story. It’s perhaps the best synthesis of old and new Who we’ve had so far – it contains the same vaguely ridiculous monsters and contrived chase-and-escapes that fans have always enjoyed, but it also brings in the new sentimental elements that Russell T. Davies has made an emphasis in the show, and explores emotional pain in ways that are at times poignant and at times almost unbearably horrifying. It’s fast-paced, fun, literate, and very, very scary – in other words, it’s great Doctor Who.

First things first – the Cybermen. Their reinvention works much better than that of the Daleks in 2005, in part because they were more in need of a tune-up in the first place. Wisely, the production team have turned back to the Troughton-era concept of the race. These Cybermen aren’t generic, boasting Doctor Who villains like the ones in ‘Earthshock’; in fact, before the Cyber Controller makes its appearance, they don’t say much at all, and when they do, their bland utterances and monotone voice reinforce the idea of them as uniform blanks, void of *any* human qualities, good or bad.

When I heard the new series was revisiting this popular monster, and saw their new design, I wondered whether the production designers shouldn’t have gone back to a more organic, ‘Tenth Planet’-type form, and also whether much of the Cybermen’s thunder wouldn’t be stolen by the Star Trek franchise’s Borg, which are so much fresher in the public’s memory (at least in the U.S.). But now having seen this story, I am sure they made the right choice – the idea of these creatures not as ‘assimilated’ human bodies, but rather as unstoppable machines with grotesque physiological vestiges (the intact nervous system is a nice, yucky touch) works perfectly, and sets them apart from their fleshier Star Trek cousins. The new Cyberman form is extremely effective – the much-mocked flares are a misjudgment, perhaps, but overall they give a sufficient impression of the silver giants of old; besides, the originals were redesigned so many times that an ‘upgrade’ hardly seem out of line (as it might have with the Daleks, who changed so little over 26 years). The impression given by the Cybermen’s face plates is more ghostlike than it appeared in still photos, and the ingenious stomping sound effect has to rank with EXTERMINATE! and the TARDIS dematerialization as Doctor Who sounds for the ages. (I bet it has children all over the British Isles driving their parents crazy, too.)

Still, that the new Cybermen should work better than the new Daleks is a bit funny, for while Tom MacRae’s script does include some nice nods to Cybermen continuity (keeping them in deep freeze is a good touch), it actually seems to have turned to two of the better *Dalek* stories from the old series for inspiration – ‘Genesis’ (crippled scientist creates idealized version of self in machine creature – more on this below) and ‘Revelation’ (human bodies are hideously dismembered and conditioned to become monsters). Either way, it captures the true horror of the Cybermen in a way the old series rarely (if ever) did, and this is even more remarkable considering how little onscreen violence the story contains. Consider the first factory scene, in which Mr. Crane’s homeless ‘volunteers’ are converted . . . it’s amazing how awful it manages to be, as it contains no actual gore whatsoever, and that’s all on account of the stylish direction. The banality of ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ blasting over agonized screams is just one inspired example, and perhaps it’s not such a surprise that we find ideas from ‘Revelation of the Daleks’ here, since that was director Graeme Harper’s last work on the program. At any rate, Harper’s direction is as good as anything in the new series so far (and it’s also nice to see he hasn’t lost his interest in an art-deco visual aesthetic).

But one shouldn’t suppose that all the horror comes from ironic pop songs and other directorial tricks. A lot of it comes directly from MacRae’s script, which manages a surprising depth of emotion considering its firm grounding in the monster-chase Doctor Who formula of the past. The script almost gleefully manipulates our feelings for both characters we know well (Rose’s rejection by both her parents is stinging, especially given what we’ve seen of her past, and Mickey’s guilt at finding his dead grandmother alive is believable and deeply sad), and the new ones as well (Mrs. Moore is just one example, and her brief but effective backstory makes her death all the more potent). In fact, many of the minor characters are full of life – even the President and Mr. Crane show original, if small, touches of characterization that bump them out of the realm of cliché.

But most astonishing of all is the awful sympathy the story inspires for the Cybermen themselves – from the amusing “It’s alive!” exchange in the prologue, MacRae’s script obviously has ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ very much in mind, and, indeed, this time the Cybermen capture much of the pathos of the great monster/victims of the horror genre. Perhaps even more than the Daleks, the Cybermen are *made* monsters, true victims who never chose their fate, but had to be dragged screaming to their ‘compulsory’ transformations. (Even Lumic does!) And MacRae’s idea of defeating the monsters by removing their emotional blinders is a stroke of genius, even if it causes the viewer perhaps too much pain. The death of poor Sally is almost unwatchable, as is the uninhibited Cyberman’s piteous moaning as it sees its reflection (with the Doctor saying “I’m sorry” behind it), and yet it’s fitting – and brilliant – that this story should explore human pain and rejection so deeply. After all, that’s exactly what the Cybermen have sought to eliminate in themselves, isn’t it?

The acting is largely excellent. Some writers have criticized Roger Lloyd-Pack’s performance as hammy; I couldn’t find this odder, especially compared to turns we’ve seen so far by Anthony Stewart Head, Zoe Wanamaker, Corey (cringe) Johnson and others since this revival began. I actually find Lloyd-Pack’s interpretation of Lumic to be rather understated, if anything – he’s stiff and appropriately breathless (hardly a ranter), and the actor brings surprising touches of humanity to the character (I liked his warm smile after crying out “Set sail for Great Britain!”). The script does a nice job of characterizing Lumic too – as I mentioned, there are definite echoes of Davros here (the stuff about peace through conformity, and the implication that this mad scientist sees a genuine nobility in the Cyberman project – I found it oddly touching that he wrote a paper for the Ethical Committee), but by and large he’s his own character. About the worst thing you can say about Lloyd-Pack is that at times he seems to be channeling Christopher Lee – and given the context, one could probably do worse than that.

The Doctor, oddly, sort of disappears into the mix in this story; both his companions abandon him for their own pursuits, and he actually has to snarkily introduce himself to the uninterested Preachers at one point! Despite this fact (or perhaps because of it?), David Tennant gives one of his better performances here, toning down the silliness to the point where we take him seriously for once. Probably his best moment is when he tells Mickey he’ll see him back at the TARDIS if they survive – the look on his face speaks volumes about how the relationship between these two characters has grown, and captures what’s great about Doctor Who companionship in ways that his stupid giggling with Rose at the beginning of the story never could. And of course, it’s Mickey’s story.

Noel Clarke has been criticized for being unconvincing as Mickey’s badass doppelganger, and while he’s certainly better as Ricky than he was as Auton Mickey, there’s some merit to the complaint. But he’s so good as the real Mickey that it scarcely matters, and his magnificent leaving scene provides a rich, satisfying climax to a story that hasn’t been afraid to push us to emotional extremes. It took a while, but I’ll miss him.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

My feeling after 'Rise' was that this series just keeps on getting better. I was quite convinced that the concluding episode would keep up the almost impossibly high quality. While the conclusion was indeed very good, it did not ultimately make for a classic.

Bringing back the iconic cybermen was always a challange. So often in the past, the metal meanies had been invoked seemingly to boost ratings. One area where I wholeheartedly agree with RTD is that bringing back past characters/monsters should mean a suitable story - much like "Dalek" last year or "School Reunion". So what we have is essentially Reinvention Of The Cybermen.

Given that the adventure takes place in an alternative universe, I have little problem with the new origin of the cybermen. Playing cleverly on modern reliance on (and fear of) technology, and using bluetooh-like earpieces the first installment cleverly establishes that mobile communications are not benign in the alternative London. We also have time to be properly introduced to the villian of the piece, John Lumic.

Obviously there will be comparisons to Davros, in that both "give birth" to a race of monsters and both are in wheelchairs. Also like Davros in the original "Genesis" story, Lumic isn't simply a mad, evil, twisted mastermind. Although what he is doing is quite obscene, we are given the chance to see that he has his motives - and that he has achieved much in the past that has benefitted mankind. I do feel it is important that Doctor Who continues to show that there is rarely black & white, that often life has shades of grey in between. Lumic is the perfect villian in that sense, in that although we disagree with him...we can understand what motivates him.

Wheelchair-bound and dying before his time, John Lumic seeks government approval for his Cybermen project - which allows the human brain to live in an artificial body. The President of the UK (wonderfully played by Don Warrington) naturally refuses, and Lumic feels he has no choice but to go ahead anyway.

Direction, as one would expect from Greame Harper, is amazing. The Cybermen themselves have never looked more effective or frightening. That is down to their new design, and to Harper's vision. The scenes of an apparent army of metal marching on the Tyler residence, and then breaking through the windows could have been much less effective than they were. And later in "Age oF Steel", the scene with the Doctor and Mrs. Moore in the dark tunnel creeping past a row of deactivated cybermen was top notch. And there perhaps lies the only problem I have with this story. I will remember not the whole, but certain images and scenes.

Very much on the plus side, perhaps for the first time ever the true sadness and horror of the cybermen's condition is properly and dramatically explored. Always implied in the past, we now see before our eyes the anguish of the human mind which realises it has been "upgraded". And why use blood and gore when you can show whirring saws and other apparatus, backed by screams and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"? I felt that was another particularly effective scene. I was also impressed by the whole look and feel of the story, with the airships and industrial London.

A word for the supporting cast. Really this year the guest stars have been outstanding. In this adventure we had stellar performances in the roles of Lumic, Mrs. Moore, Mr Crane (lumic's henchman) The President and Pete Tyler. Ah and Mickey... what a surprise that he leaves the TARDIS! And what a transformation of his character. But handled well in both writing and acting. Mickey has gone from an occasionally annoying presence to somebody I shall miss.

But overall something was missing. Yes the Doctor, Rose and Mickey all helped save the day, but in the end perhaps the whole password thing was too simple. Not quite the epic end to what had been one of the most impressive build-ups in Doctor Who's entire history. And like others, I disliked the five minutes of soap at the end.

So I give this 7.5/10 in the end. Doctor Who hasn't looked this good for ages, but the writing wasn't quite there. However, a good reinvention of the concept of the cybermen, and overall a very good story...just not destined to be a classic. And with the astoundingly high quality of this year's stories so far, we can be happy if this is a "low" point.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

My overall impression of Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel was of a good, solid, very traditional but not “classic” Dr Who story. Containing many superb and sometimes disturbing sequences and with much to enjoy, sadly this was a notch down from being truly memorable, which isn’t to detract from the return of the excellent director Graeme Harper or indeed from Noel Clarke’s apparent swansong as Mickey (to whom of course the Age of Steel really belonged) whose character has been undergoing a pleasing progression since those rather far off days of Rose; and Clarke himself has proved a good ambassador for the show off screen. Indeed most of the cast were pretty good throughout and it was great to see Colin Spaull as Lumic’s chief henchman, whose character didn’t however display the same loyalty as Nyder did to Davros in Genesis.

Because we have been virtually anaesthetized to the often frenetic pace of the 45 minute single episode format, these two parters can seem nowadays fairly slow affairs, but even though I noted that the Age of Steel’s length stretched to a full 50 minutes the overall length of the whole tale was still 5 minutes short of the bog standard four parter of the old days. However I did enjoy the build up in episode one and the largely successful realisation of parallel London complete with zepplins, and the final five minutes where the Cybermen literally crashed the party was brilliantly done. The setting of the party itself with the Doctor and Rose dressed to serve worked very well and Tennant’s extermination of the Cybermen using a piece of the Tardis showed the Tenth Doctor again taking direct action to solve the immediate crisis rather than rely on others or lament that he didn’t have a plan for dealing with the threat.

Unfortunately Roger Lloyd-Pack didn’t quite do it for me as Lumic. I realise he is a versatile actor who has played many parts since Trigger in Only Fools and Horses but nevertheless his megalomaniac portrayal didn’t seem to work and I was half expecting him to refer to the Doctor as Dave and not just because that’s a slightly shortened version of the actor’s first name. And whilst the Cybermen themselves were brilliantly realised, certainly a notch up from the Darth Vader voice types of the ‘80’s, the ex-Lumic Cybercontroller seemed to resemble an enlarged C-3 PO, hardly a sinister leader of steel giants and when, having spent a good deal of the episode stuck in a chair, thus appearing to forget that he has been upgraded, he finally rips off his wires and abruptly gets up amidst the chaos and walks he is hilariously reminiscent of Andy from Little Britain. However it was a nice plot point that despite all the pain and suffering he has inflicted on London’s population under the pretence that he is actually trying to eradicate it, Lumic himself is forced to upgrade against his will.

I like the idea that one organisation headed by one wayward genius could become so powerful so as to easily exploit our ever increasing dependency on electronic gadgetry for its own end. The story tapped in nicely to the still prevalent fear about technology ceasing to be simply useful but becoming in itself a sinister force. There’s little point in thinking that everyone looked faintly ridiculous with their ear pods on and that this was ludicrously far-fetched as it seems to me as I look around that increasingly people in our world walk or sit wearing ear pieces for one reason or another which has usually nothing to do with their inability to hear properly. Mind you there was something distinctly Luddite about the proceedings not just in terms of the Ricky gang but most particularly in Angela Price’s electro-magnetic bomb which she says has been used against computers!So in a sense this story would have sat well in the Pertwee era, complimenting the Third Doctor’s distrust of them(though he loved his gadgets of course).

Individual sequences stand out, such as the machinery going its grisly work whilst the classic song the Lion Sleeps Tonight plays out- no part of the conversion process is shown, the horror is in what is implied; the Cybermen staring coldly through the meshing at Micky, having just killed his lookalike and thus creating Mickey’s defining moment as the hero in waiting; the rather controversial scene of the lone woman about to be incinerated, with disturbing parallels to the atrocities of the Nazis in WW II; and the last moments of the Cyber(woman)whose emotional inhibitor the Doctor has broken.

Tennant continues to impress with his performance as the Tenth Doctor, but here, whereas Christopher Eccleston’s intensity was perfect for the classic confrontation with the Dalek in Rob Shearman’s brilliant story, Tennant’s debate with the Cybercontroller appeared to have no more gravitas than his words to the Sycorax leader in the Christmas Invasion, and his quick, matter of fact enquiry”Can we do that?” to Angela Price was hardly in the same league as Tom Baker’s “Do I have the right?”speech in Genesis. But no matter-overall Tennant is clearly relishing the role and at times absolutely shining in it.

Overall, standards continue to run high, but for me the stand out story of the season so far remains Tooth and Claw:I watched it again on BBC3 tonight and it really is one of the very best there has been, both past and present; a case of going from the ridiculous to the sublime for its writer.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

“She’s not really your mother.”
“I know.”

Therein lies the problem with stories set in an alternate universe.

Forgive the ramblings of an ignorant American (a redundant term for some) who is not familiar with all of Russell T. Davies’ other work. What has impressed me from the start of his work on DOCTOR WHO is the emotional reality he has brought to a show that, in its classic form, was often devoid of authentic human reactions and interactions.

It’s not just Rose’s family and extended friendships, although they are a great example. Instead of Tegan just sauntering into the TARDIS on the side of a highway, walking off a Concorde a few years later, then rejoining the Doctor’s crew in Amsterdam without a word to her family or friends, Rose visits home. She calls home. Her family misses her. Jackie slaps the Doctor – and more importantly – gives a boffo speech where she maternally dismisses the Doctor’s life as “cool” and “not safe”.

Even the villains have real-world reasons for their badness. The Slitheen didn’t try to take over the Earth just to be another Race Who Wants to Rule the Earth. They wanted to turn it into an intergalactic Wal-Mart of radiation. The Gelth wanted our pity because they had no home, but saw a way to have one through the rift. Even the Sycorax had some sort of mineral they wanted from the earth (I was never really clear on that one).

Which brings us back to this Cybermen story. Setting it in alternate universe immediately removes the emotional connection to our main characters. They have the same names and some of the same relationships, but we are constantly reminded that “this is not your world”.

Which then begs the question, okay, why should we care?

In a show built upon the reality of time travel, what really is an “alternate world”? Isn’t it just a different time stream? A different chain of events brought about by the slightly different decisions of even one person at one time? In the first series, the Doctor noted where “history was wrong”, but that wasn’t identified as an alternate universe. INFERNO worked in the context of the Doctor being exiled on Earth without a properly working TARDIS. You can forgive a trip into a parallel universe after the Earth had been invaded by the umpteenth alien race in early 70s rubber suits.

In the context of the new series, where CGI and big bucks for location shooting allow writers to truly stretch their imaginations (as they did with THE GIRL IN THE FIREPLACE), landing somewhere and then announcing it as an “alternate world” is pure laziness. It allows you to haul out the Tyler family saga again for another maudlin repeat. FATHER’S DAY was simply brilliant as a poignant emotional drama, even devoid of any science fiction or time travel. To rehash the exact same sentiments in a “different universe” is the dramatic equivalent of bringing in a cute kid to boost the ratings of an aging family sitcom. Been there, done that.

I so kept hoping that the “real” Cybermen were somehow also trapped in this alternate universe. That somehow they were using John Lumic to build and then expand the cyber-race as a means to find a way out of their parallel existence. If things really are as much of a mess as the Doctor describes after the Time War, then time travel could be getting more difficult for everyone.

Or perhaps the Cybermen were trapped in this alternate universe and were setting a trap for the Doctor, knowing that only the last remaining Time Lord could free them from the “alternate” Earth. Anything other that what transpired would have been blessedly welcome.

By presenting John Lumic as a Man Who Wants to Rule the World, we are catapulted back into the worst of classic DOCTOR WHO. We are given utterly predictable storytelling that lacks true human emotion and motivation, which usually leads to untelegraphed surprises.

For someone as mega-wealthy as Mr. Lumic, what does he have to gain by cyber-izing the world? He won’t get any richer. He has already found a way to prolong his own life by becoming the CyberLeader. So what is the purpose behind frittering away his fortune on a race of Cybermen? It’s a very socialist turn for a brutal capitalist.

Here’s the germ of an idea for what could have been a more real-world return for the Doctor’s number two enemy:

Mickey realizes he will always be the “tin dog” and never be as close as Rose and the Doctor. So he asks to go home.

Returning to London, they find much of the city under quarantine and empty (shades of THE DALEK INVASION OF EARTH). They find Jackie huddled in their apartment and learn about the deadly flu virus sweeping across the earth.

Jackie informs them that Rose’s best friend Cherie (sp?) has the flu and is not expected to live. Visiting Cherie and her dad, they learn that there are rumors of a “cure”. It’s extremely expensive, but Cherie’s Dad is willing to put his retirement savings towards anything that will cure his daughter.

The “cure” means a trip to some remote arctic climate and being gone for months. There are rumors that no one has come back from the cure, but they do communicate thru email and phone calls.

The Doctor’s hackles are up, so he accompanies Cherie and Rose and Mickey to the arctic. The “cure” is being run by the Cybermen, who are responsible for the flu. The Cybermen are killing two birds with one stone, wiping out humans and getting their twin planet back for good. They also realize how easy it is to spread fear and panic in the human race where the possibility of death is concerned. For a race that has almost cheated death, it’s an important weapon in the Cybermen’s arsenal.

Before they learn the truth about the “cure”, Cherie is transformed into a Cyberman, being horribly afraid of death. When Cherie realizes she will never be human again, she begs Rose to kill her.

The Doctor tries to remain detached. Rose lashes out at him for not understanding what it’s like to be human. Turning the tables on his boo hoo, I have to live for 900+ years speech (from SCHOOL REUNION) Rose confronts the Doctor on his cavalier attitude toward death. Death always follows him. Doesn’t that ever bother him?

Of course it does, but their fight only deepens their friendship. It also re-ground their adventures after the goofy heights of saying things like, “I just want to say, werewolves!” (TOOTH AND CLAW). It brings their meddling and destruction back down to a very tangible level for each life lost, the way it was in the first series.

Rose couldn’t kill a Dalek, but she does help her best friend pass away peacefully. In the end, the Doctor defeats the Cybermen and the flu, but Rose loses her best friend. Mickey has had enough and decides to stay on Earth for a while.

In a story like that – I hope – you have characters you care about in a world you care about. The Cybermen are transforming people you know for a specific reason (to get a planet to call their own). Everyone’s motivation is clear and collides with each other.

The first new series of DOCTOR WHO gave us our beloved show with a heart. Not a sappy EASTENDERS heart, but a heart attached to the brain catapulted through space and time. One can only hope that the depths of that heart can be plumbed by examining the reactions of our main characters to new adventures, and not “alternate” characters to bland happenings.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

There’s no question that David Tennant’s portrayal of Dr. Who is remarkable and enjoyable, hopefully harkening back to the days of Tom Baker by the time Series Two comes to an end. Emotionally moving stories like “The Girl in the Fireplace,” “School Reunion” and well-written stories such as “Tooth and Claw” have firmly established Tennant’s reign, further enhanced by the production quality and overall look and feel of the show. Unfortunately, “Rise of the Cybermen” and “The Age of Steel” are embarrassing blemishes on a pristine second season.

Problematic and clumsy, both episodes are predictable and plodding, with the lead characters enticing about as much viewer emotion as the Cybermen display. The clichéd beginning of the first half of this two-parter—the unimaginative “It’s alive!” and death of John Lumic’s assistant Dr. Kendrick after his objections—“I’ll shall have to tell them”—asks the obvious question: why didn’t the assistant state his objections earlier on, before things got out of hand? Why didn’t the earpiece controllers affect the assistant? Lumic’s Almighty Creator reference to the (seemingly) first Cyberman “[you are] my child… we are blessed” is so unconvincing and predictable it’s almost embarrassing to watch. Old school viewers of the show probably have more empathy for Davros in “Genesis of the Daleks”. No doubt Davros’ return in the last episode of this season will be far-more exciting.

With the new series of Dr. Who we’ve come to expect quality writing and production, both of which are elusive in these stories. The intimidating and eerie voices of the original Cybermen are long gone, replaced with a diminutive, softly-spoken ring-modulated whimper. A massive “machine” deserves an equally impressive voice, not something regurgitated from a Korg Triton. The producers and visual designers also missed their mark in a rather major way, relying on plastic costumes for the Cybermen, rather than allowing a great opportunity for The Mill to show off their stuff. Imagine how much scarier, robotic, and quick CGI Cybermen would have been! Let’s face it, most viewers have a hard time accepting CGI when it does not look good; in both these episodes, CGI would have been far better than the fake looking costumes. No doubt the production team was kicking itself after the episodes completion for not utilizing their creative resources. Simply put, the Cybermen costumes are ineffectual, and pale in comparison to other modern CGI villains, such as the robots in “I, Robot” or the dated “T2”.

In order to appease continuity and perhaps out of respect for the original series, both these stories take place on an Parallel Earth, another premise that further distances the viewer. Verisimilitude—a suspension of disbelief—often used to describe film, is all but “deleted” in these stories. Let’s face it, it’s tough to feel sorry for Earth when it is constantly being invaded, and even tougher to be concerned when it’s really just an “alternate” Earth. Having characters meeting themselves (Mickey runs into his more Masculine self ‘Ricky’) or meeting their alternative family members—and I’m not talking about queer brothers and sisters, simply does not evoke any viewer sentiment or connection. For example, Rose’s alternative mum is a dog-coddling socialite who takes dismisses Rose after she attempts to resolve a failing marriage. It’s hard to imagine, and even harder to convince viewers, that Rose would be so worried about her parents who really were not here parents, just good Xerox copies or Dolly-the-Sheep-type clones.

And so the first part of this story marches on like the incessant metal march of the Cybermen, taking us from their creation to crashing of a security-less dinner party. The episode trails out with the Cybermen surrounding the Doctor and company, with the menacing and impotent line “Maximum deletion! Delete! Delete!”. That’s what the script editor should’ve told writer Tom MacRae. Older viewers may have heard a similar phrase back when the Apple II computer with Sam Say It came out.

The second half of this two-parter, “The Age of Steel” never passes enough time to even come close to being an “age”. It barely passes a day, yet alone credibility. The title sounds nice, though. The plastic Cybermen begin the conversion process of the humans on ‘parallel’ Earth, while the Doctor struggles to find screen time in the background, sometimes walking around as though planning a grocery list in his head. One of the stories better moments, or at least scary moments, occurs when the Doctor passes through the underground cooling tunnels and past hundreds of dormant Cybermen. It is interesting to note that the scariest moment of screen time from the Cybermen occurs when they are static.

The Doctor saves the day along with help from Mickey and the Cybermen are eventually “deleted” by means of deactivating their emotion-supression c

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor