The Age of Steel

The Age of Steel - Cybermen

The human race.  For such an intelligent lot you aren’t half susceptible. Give anyone a chance to take control and you submit.  Sometimes I think you enjoy it.  Easy life.

Tenth Doctor

Synopsis

On the parallel Earth, Lumic is starting to convert unwilling humans into Cybermen and it is a race against time for the Doctor, Rose and Mickey along with Pete Tyler and the Preachers to stop the Cybermen.

Review

I’d love to say that my problems from Rise of the Cybermen are magically fixed by the second part.  There are some nice moments here, however, the Cybermen do still feel quite hampered by the presence of John Lumic, their creator, who feels like a completely unnecessary addition to Doctor Who’s history.  The conclusion to their reintroduction to the revived series, this episode is better than it’s predecessor but could be so much better.

There are moments here that work really nicely and most of these are down to Graeme Harper’s direction.  The scenes with the Doctor and Mrs Moore walking through the Cybermen-filled tunnels leading to Battersea Power Station are beautifully shot and nicely atmospheric.  Harper’s experience of directing the original series definitely stands him in good stead and this definitely shows through here and shooting the Cybermen from low angles certainly makes them feel intimidating.  There are some nice emotional moments here, like the scene with the Cyberman remember who she was prior to conversion, revealing that she was Sally Phelan and converted the night before her marriage.  Call me a sentimental old romantic, but that really gets me every time.  Equally, even though I know that Mrs Moore’s demise is coming every time, it doesn’t lessen its emotional impact.  A scene that did take me by surprise, however, is a very brief one in the episode’s closing moments when Rose returns home to see her mother, and when Jackie asks what’s happened and the Doctor can only answer that they went ‘Far away.’  It’s a lovely moment, where the acting achieves more than pages of dialogue ever would.

Equally, Mickey finally has some development.  Following on from the death of his doppelganger Ricky early on in this concluding episode, Mickey finds a place for him to be happy and not trailing around after the Doctor and Rose, which feels like a lovely moment of seizing control of his future.  I wish I could say that this feels like it has been coming from Rose, however, from my other Tenth Doctor reviews you will see that I am not a fan of how the show has treated Mickey generally.  That being said, the fact that he kisses Rose before running off with Ricky does suggest that he hasn’t entirely moved on from her, despite her ambivalence towards him.  Rose’s reaction to her decision to stay on this parallel Earth feels slightly false considering what we’ve seen before.

The Age of Steel - Cybercontroller

I feel as though the writer, Tom MacRae, and potentially Russell T Davies (depending on how much he rewrote), don’t really know what to do with the Cybermen.  They seem to just be there for large periods of this story, not really doing anything except being pawns in Lumic’s game for World Domination.  The fact that the Doctor is able to save himself, Pete and Rose early on with the sonic screwdriver without really explaining what he did really irritates me.  The story does feel extremely derivative of Genesis of the Daleks, especially when he debates whether causing the destruction of the Cybermen by overwhelming them with emotion is the right course of action.  Equally, Lumic feels utterly superfluous – not every adversary that the Doctor faces needs a Davros style creator, and Lumic feels utterly ridiculous here.  Ultimately, the audience doesn’t really care when John Lumic gets converted into the Cyber Controller by the Cybermen because we haven’t really spent enough time with this character to care about his ultimate fate.

The Age of Steel - Pete Rose Doctor

Verdict: The conclusion of the reintroduction of the Cybermen is enjoyable if slightly underwhelming, with the titular antagonist taking more of a back seat in this concluding part. 5/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Shaun Dingwall (Peter Tyler), Roger Lloyd Pack (John Lumic), Andrew Hayden-Smith (Jake Simmonds), Helen Griffin (Mrs Moore), Colin Spaull (Mr Crane), Duncan Duff (Newsreader), Paul Kasey (Cyber Leader) & Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Cybermen).

Writer: Tom MacRae

Director: Graeme Harper

Behind the Scenes

  • In a scene that was deleted from the final episode, it would have been revealed that Ricky and Jake were lovers.
  • There are references to Tomb of the Cybermen, including the Cybermen being able to kill with electricity from their hands, using mind control and characters being surprised by a decoy Cyberman.

Best Moment

A scene that I had forgotten but one that plays really nicely – the brief scene between Rose, Jackie and the Doctor towards the end of the episode.

Best Quote

I’ve been captured.  But don’t worry, Rose and Pete are out there.  They can rescue me.  Oh well, never mind.

The Tenth Doctor

The Timeless Children

This post contains spoilers for The Timeless Children.  If you haven’t seen it yet, please turn back now and come back after watching.

The Timeless Children - Doctor and the Master

Welcome, Doctor.  Are you suffering comfortably? Then, I’ll begin.  Once upon a time…No.  Once upon several times, before the Time Lords, before everything we know, there was an explorer.

The Master

Synopsis

The Cybermen are on the march.  The last remaining humans are hunted down.  Lies are exposed, truths are revealed, and for the Doctor, nothing will be the same again.

Review

Well, that was no Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos.

We had the Master, Gallifrey and the Cybermen and some answers, yet more questions to send some of us away scratching our heads.  With Sacha Dhawan’s arrival at the end of the previous story, Ashad and the Cybermen take a backseat to a story that delves into Time Lord history and the truth behind the Timeless Child, which is a bit of a shame as they are possibly the most interesting take on the Cybermen we have seen in the revived series, but this new Master certainly feels like enough of a threat to the Doctor and universal survival.

The Timeless Children - Ashad

I’ll start with my biggest issue with the story, which is the role of the Cybermen, who do feel underserved here and do ultimately end up as a new army for the Master, which does certainly feel like a waste of this new take on the Cybermen.  They ultimately only end up killing one of the human survivors, which feels a bit bizarre considering that the large guest cast here are mainly cannon fodder, with one obvious exception.  Ashad does still bring a large amount of threat to the story, with the scene with Yaz and Graham hiding inside Cyber suits – a plot element which the story somehow manages to play straight and avoids lengthy passages of the companions trudging about in Cybersuits, potentially thankfully.  Ultimately, the Cybermen’s plan is a bit rubbish, wanting to wipe out all organic life, which the Master is perfectly right in poking holes in and suggesting a new plan for the Cybermen to dominate the galaxy.  From the moment that Ashad is taken out of the picture via the Master’s Tissue Compression Eliminator, the Cybermen are essentially set dressing, waiting for Ko Sharmus to blow them up in the final moments.  I would like to see the Cybermen be a threat on their own, so I was quite pleased to see that they weren’t working with the Master before this story, however, the fact that they end up working together disappointed me.  I’m not sure how well it would have worked to have them as entirely separated plot elements though, so maybe this is a no-win scenario.

After playing relatively safe with canon and ‘established’ lore in Series 11, Chris Chibnall has somewhat resolved to tear the rule book up here, most notably in Fugitive of the Judoon introducing us to a mysterious new Doctor played by Jo Martin.  The Timeless Children does have to provide us with some answers to questions raised here and shows us the origins of the alien that we know as ‘The Doctor’.  This story shows that the Doctor was found at a mysterious boundary to another universe and that this Timeless Child was the base genetic code for the Gallifreyans, permitting them the ability to regenerate, rewriting what we had previously been told about the role of Rassilon, who isn’t mentioned by name here, in the foundation of Time Lord society.  Whilst it might not be a shock to discover that the Doctor is the Timeless Child, the child’s treatment at the hands of her adoptive mother Tecteun and the Time Lords more generally is more of a surprise.  Previous incarnations of the Doctor prior to Hartnell are revealed to have been working for a mysterious Time Lord secret police – potentially a precursor to the Celestial Intervention Agency – who ultimately wiped the Doctor’s memory.  This is also revealed to be what the Ireland scenes with Brendan last week were – a way of covering up previous Time Lord interference in the Doctor’s life.   Whilst we get some of the Doctor’s backstory, the central mystery still remains – we still don’t really know more about the Doctor and where she came from.

The Timeless Children - Master and Ashad

The Master takes centre stage for a lot of the story, with the Doctor paralysed in the Matrix Chamber on Gallifrey and the companions fleeing the Cybermen, and it cements Dhawan as a great Master.  This incarnation is seen to be more vicious than other incarnations, his heel turn on Ashad being a prime example of his aggression.  He and Whittaker really spark off each other in their scenes in the Matrix and his fury at his discovery that there has always been a part of the Doctor inside him all along is utterly believable in this particular incarnation.  We are still no clearer on where he falls in the line-up – whether he is pre- or post-Michelle Gomez, but I don’t think it really matters.  His creation of his ‘perfect army’ of Cybermen with the ability to regenerate also seems a bit bizarre, although the image of Cybermen wearing Time Lord headgear is great despite the concept being ridiculously daft.  Despite my reservations about his presence reducing the role played by the Cybermen, I really like this incarnation of the Master and I am certain he will return at some stage.

Timeless Children - Graham and Yaz

The Doctor certainly goes through the emotional wringer in this episode, and Whittaker is great here with dealing with the revelations and her determination to sacrifice herself to stop the Master and the Cybermen is fantastic.  Her farewell to the companions is so heartfelt and reminiscent of the ending of the first series, with the Doctor packing her companions off to safety on Earth. Obviously, the audience know that she won’t go through with it, but the moment that Ko Sharmus steps into her place to finish off the Cybermen still works well.  We also get a welcome but all too brief appearance from Jo Martin, which looks like it might be the last time we see her, but she does deliver some of the most important dialogue to save the Doctor from the Matrix.  The companions largely have reduced roles but there are some important character moments, like Ryan being able to accurately throw a bomb to stop the advancing Cybermen and Graham and Yaz’s interaction on the Cyber Carrier, which made me 99% certain that one of them was going to die.  Whilst the companions and the Doctor end this story separated, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them crop up in the festive special for a farewell adventure with the Doctor for one or all of them.

Listen, Yaz, um…If we don’t get out of this…

We will get out of this.

Yeah, well…I know, but I’m just saying, if we don’t…I want you to know I…I think you’re such an impressive young woman.  Never thrown by anything.  Always fighting.

Thanks.

You said to the Doc that you thought she was the best person you’d ever met.  You know what, Yaz?  I think you are.  You ain’t got a time machine or a sonic…but you’re never afraid and you’re never beaten.  I’m going to sound like a…like a proper old man, but you’re doing your family proud, Yaz, you really are.  In fact, you’re doing the whole human race proud.  S-Sorry.  I haven’t offended you, have I?

It’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.

Oh, right.

You’re not such a bad human yourself, either.

Not su…?  Is that it?  I’ve just said all them lovely things about you, and all you give me is “You’re not such a bad human”?

Mate, I’m from Yorkshire – that’s a love letter.

Graham O Brien and Yasmin Khan

Finally, that ending – the Doctor imprisoned for the acts of her previous incarnations certainly tees up an interesting premise for the Special – I’m intrigued to see how the Doctor will get out of this one.

Verdict: The Timeless Children certainly provides some answers, and Dhawan and Whittaker are superb.  The Cybermen are a bit underused and their plan is a bit daft, but this does close off a strong season well. 8/10.

Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Sacha Dhawan (The Master), Patrick O’Kane (Ashad), Ian McElhinney (Ko Sharmus), Julie Graham (Ravio), Alex Austin (Yedlarmi), Rhiannon Clements (Bescot), Matt Carver (Ethan), Seylan Baxter (Tecteun), Kirsty Besterman (Solpada), Paul Kasey (Judoon Captain), Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Cybermen & Judoon Captain), Matthew Rohman, Simon Carew, Jon Davey, Richard Highgate, Richard Price, Mickey Lewis, Matthew Doman & Paul Bailey (Cybermen) and Jo Martin (The Doctor).

Writer: Chris Chibnall

Director: Jamie Magnus Stone

Behind the Scenes

  • There are so many references here – to name a few, we have a brief mention of the Doctor and the Master running away from Borusa through the Citadel of Gallifrey, several references to The Deadly Assassin and a fleeting mention of Kamelion. Most importantly, it states that the mysterious incarnations seen in The Brain of Morbius were previous incarnations of the Doctor.

Best Moment

The Doctor breaking out of the Matrix, showing all of her past incarnations, with the theme underneath – including solving some questions that have bugged people since The Brain of Morbius.

Best Quote

Where do you fit into all of this?  Were you me all that time ago?  Were all my memories of you erased?  Did they force me back into becoming a child?  How many more of me are there out there?

I don’t have those answers.  But say I did, would they even help?

Of course they would.  All this, it means I’m not who I thought I was.

Because your memories aren’t compatible with what you learnt today?

Yes.

Have you ever been limited by who you were before?

Ah.  Now, that does sound like me talking.

The Doctor and The Doctor (Jo Martin)

But, it could have so nearly been this:

So come on, Doc, what are you thinking?

One option left  I have to use the Death Particle on Gallifrey.  On my home.  On the Master and his new breed of Cybermen.  

Are you sure you want to do that?

I’m sure I don’t want to do that but there’s not alternative.  If the Master and the Cybermen get off this planet, they’ll be unstoppable.  I started this with Shelley and the Cyberium, now I have to finish it.  Alone.

What?

The TARDIS will take you back to Earth.  All of you.  You can settle in the 21st Century.

You’re not serious.

Deadly.

What about you?  You detonate that thing, you’ll die too.

That’s the way it has to be.  And I would do that in a heartbeat for this universe.  For you…my fam.

We’re not letting you go! You’re not doing this!

Get off me, Yaz.  Please.

Yaz.  Come on.

Live great lives.

Graham O’Brien, The Doctor, Ryan Sinclair, Yasmin Khan and Ravio.

Ascension of the Cybermen

This blog post contains spoilers for Ascension of the Cybermen.  If you have not seen this episode yet, please return after watching.

Ascension of the Cybermen Fam

The Cybermen were defeated.  The victors of a billion battles, broken.  An empire of might and terror, fallen.  Their weaknesses exploited.  Their armies outfought.  Their conquests surrendered.  Every empire has its time.  And every empire falls.  But that which is dead can live again in the hands of a believer.

Ashad

Synopsis

In the far future, the Doctor and her friends face a brutal battle across the farthest reaches of space to protect the last remnants of the human race against the deadly Cybermen.

Review

The first part of a two-part finale which has been billed as being game-changing by Chris Chibnall, Ascension of the Cybermen certainly leaves us with a lot of plot to mull over for the next week.  I feel this story broadly worked, however, the mystery surrounding the Irish policeman Brendan whilst intriguing felt as though it had come from another episode or even at times, a program like All Creatures Great and Small or Call the Midwife.  Ashad, or the Lone Cyberman, is still pretty strong and this episode certainly makes the Cybermen feel very threatening.

Ascension - Brendan

After quite a nice, atmospheric opening – and I particularly enjoyed the camera going through the disembodied Cyber head into the opening credits – the opening with a baby being abandoned in Ireland was rather unexpected.  The story keeps jumping in to check up on him, seeing him being adopted, enjoying a seemingly idyllic childhood, joining the Garda, mysteriously surviving a tumble off a cliff whilst in pursuit of a gun-toting criminal and then retiring, felt largely detached from the main plot until the ending, and even then I’m not convinced I entirely understand what’s happening.  At worst, this element feels out of place, however, given the ending of this story, I am intrigued to see what the pay off will be next week.  I’m particularly intrigued by the fact that neither his adopted mother or father seem to age, despite some considerable passage of time, which makes me think that this might be an artificial reality around him.  I doubt that he is the Lone Cyberman as Ashad states later that he wanted to be converted into a Cyberman and the last scene we have with Brendan certainly doesn’t make him look willing.  Unfortunately, however, some of these check-ins on Brendan’s life do feel like the brakes have been slammed on in quite a bombastic and stuffed episode.

There is no glory in being a Cyberman.  And ther’s definitely no glory in you.  I mean, talk about an identity crisis – you despite who you are.  That anger and hatred that’s driving you – those are human emotions.  The real Cybermen, they don’t do emotions.  So you loathe your own being because of what’s driving you.  Now, that’s what I call an inner conflict.

The Doctor

This story really does make the Cybermen feel threatening again, with the Lone Cyberman (or perhaps we should call him Ashad) certainly felt different to any other Cyberman we’ve seen before.  Ashad maintains his sense of threat from the previous episode and the fact that we can see the human elements and the incomplete nature of this beast make him more terrifying.  One simple but effective way that Ashad is marked as being different from the two battered Cybermen he spends most of the story with is the fact that he doesn’t have the ‘standard’ Cyberman voice performed by Nicholas Briggs and this contrast is particularly effective.  I liked the fact that they were able to easily incapacitate the Doctor’s attempts to defend the refugees through the use of Cyber drones, which looked great and took some of the traditional weaknesses of the Cybermen off the board by destroying machines like the Neural Inhibitor system, the Particle Projector, and the force field quite early on.  I am slightly confused as to why they are killing humans rather than converting them, which seems to be against their modus operandi, so I’m hoping we get some resolution to this in the second part.  Potentially this might be because, thanks to the Cyberium, Ashad knows that he’s got a shiny new army of Cybermen hidden away somewhere, ready to ascend, even if he is capable of making these Cybermen scream.

Ascension of the Cybermen Ashad

The goal of the refugees is to get to the mysterious Ko Sharmus and the Boundary, leading to the conclusion to this story, with the Doctor and Ryan with Ethan and Graham and Yaz with the remaining human refugees striving to reach this escape from the Cybermen.  In the conclusion of the episode, the Boundary is seen to open before the Doctor to reveal Gallifrey, albeit in its ruined state, however, the human refugees presumably haven’t all ended up here as it is stated much earlier in the story that the readings for the Boundary are never the same.  Whilst I was expecting Gallifrey to appear in some form in the finale, I was expecting it next week rather than here so it was a nice surprise. We also get a brief cameo from Sacha Dhawan’s Master in the closing minutes and I am certainly intrigued to see his involvement in this story.  We get less of an explanation as to Ko Sharmus, who is revealed to be a space hermit rather than a planet, and why he is so close to the Boundary, but this again could be another potential character that Brendan’s story ties into.

You’ve come a long way, Graham O’Brien.

Yasmin Khan

The Doctor and her companions continue their good form, and it is particularly nice to see the fact that the Doctor has underestimated the Lone Cyberman, despite Jack and her companions’ warnings and her realisation that she has done so continues a potentially darker side of this incarnation that we saw towards the end of last week’s episode.  The companions are separated again here, and it is good to see Yaz take control of the group of refugees who eventually end up on the Cybership and maintaining a cool head while the refugees and Graham are losing theirs.  Graham gets some nice moments with Ravio whilst they are exploring the troop carrier, and Ravio is probably the member of the guest cast that we spend the most time with.  Sadly, the rest of them are rather underserved as the crammed plot doesn’t really have time to explore them anymore, but we might get more time with them next week.

Verdict: Ascension of the Cybermen is a good first part of a two-part story, with enough sense of mystery and dread around it, even if the Brendan subplot does effect the pace somewhat.  8/10

Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Sacha Dhawan (The Master), Patrick O’Kane (Ashad), Julie Graham (Ravio), Ian McElhinney (Ko Sharmus), Alex Austin (Yedlarmi), Steve Toussaint (Feekat), Coalyn Byrne (Sergeant), Matt Carver (Ethan), Rhiannon Clements (Bescot), Branwell Donaghy (Patrick), Kevin Hudson (Cyber Warrior), Andrew Macklin (Michael), Evan McCabe (Brendan), Orla O’Rourke (Meg), Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Cybermen), Richard Highgate, Richard Price, Mickey Lewis, Matthew Doman, Paul Bailey, Simon Carew & Matthew Rohman (Cybermen).

Writer: Chris Chibnall

Director: Jamie Magnus Stone

Behind the Scenes

  • The sixth appearance of the Cybermen in part of a series finale – including cameos – and their third such appearance with the Master/Missy.
  • The twelfth story not to feature the TARDIS.

Best Moment

I’m a sucker for Cybermen stepping out of their pods like in Tomb of the Cybermen.  What can I say?

Best Quote

The systems didn’t stop ’em, Doc.

I know.

They destroyed everything we brought with us.

I know.

We haven’t got anything else to defend ourselves or them.

I know!  Listen to me, do not argue, go with the humans.  Help them.  Get them out of here.  You won’t make it back to the TARDIS alive.  Make sure you’re with them.  

What about you?

I’ll hold them off.

How are you going to do that?

This isn’t a discussion.

We’re not just going to leave you.

Yes you are.  All of you.  No questions.  Get out.  I’ve been so reckless with you.

What are you talking about?

You’re human!  If they capture you, they’ll convert you.  I’ll find you.  Get safe, now!

Graham O’Brien, The Doctor, Yasmin Khan and Ryan Sinclair.

 

 

 

Earthshock

earthshock cybermen.jpg

A Time Lord.  But they’re forbidden to interfere.

This one calls himself the Doctor – and does nothing else but interfere.

Cyber Lieutenant and Cyber Leader

Synopsis

The Eart is hosting a conference to discuss battling the Cybermen, so naturally, the Cybermen are plotting to destroy the Earth and the Doctor is in the midst of it…

Review

It is perhaps a testament to the strength of Earthshock that, even now the twists are well known and settled into Doctor Who lore, the story works consistently well.  One of the main twists is revealed on purchasing the DVD, with the Cybermen appearing on the front cover, which does slightly undermine the end of the first part, whilst the death of Adric is now a well-known event.  The story benefits from a strong cast as well as some great direction from Peter Grimwade.

Earthshock Androids

The first of the two shocks is the reveal of the Cybermen.  With the surprise saved for the last minutes of the first part of the story, the main antagonists are the sinister androids who skulk around the caves beneath the Earth’s surface.  They are utterly terrifying and ruthless, however, they don’t have enough about them to be a long-lasting antagonist in a story of this kind.  This story needs a major villain for the ultimate impact and the reintroduction of the Cybermen is really well handled.  This version of the Cybermen might be my favourites from the Classic series – I love the see-through jaw piece and the vocal performance as the Cyber Leader by David Banks.  These Cybermen seem a lot more effective than they have done in previous appearances in a story, which compliments with their streamlined appearance.  Grimwade’s direction does some really iconic things with them, like the Cybermen bursting through plastic as they wake up on the freighter or the Cyberman trapped in the door.  He also uses low angle shots well which makes them feel all the more imposing. The way that Ringway, a member of Brigg’s crew who has been helping the Cybermen, is so easily and callously killed shows that the director and writer really understand the Cybermen.

Earthshock Cyberman.jpg

The second shock is the death of Adric.  Adric’s death is the first companion death since Sara Kingdom in The Dalek’s Masterplan and the first and, to date, the only longstanding companion to die in the course of travelling with the Doctor.  There are hints dropped early on in the episode of Adric’s dissatisfaction travelling with the Doctor since his regeneration which makes the viewer suspect a departure may be imminent, especially as Adric starts looking into how to get back to E-Space.  Something that does make me chuckle is the fact that Adric states that the Doctor has become more immature since his regeneration – a bit of a strange statement as Davison’s Doctor is much soberer and mature than his predecessor.  When the moment does come, sadly Waterhouse’s timid typing on the computer does give away that something is going to happen.  Those who have read my other reviews of Davison’s first series as the Doctor will know that, by and large, I have found him incredibly irritating, which I’m not entirely sure is entirely Matthew Waterhouse’s fault.  Sadly, the character is one of those boy genius characters that some writers seem to think will appeal to the younger audience, like Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Having come to Classic Who in my late teens to early 20s, he’s sadly only ever really grown on me.

Now I’ll never know if I was right.

Adric

Then there’s the decision to not have the closing theme music.  It feels especially jarring after a noisy finale and it does feel like a strange decision to end on.  However, in the Putting the Shock into Earthshock documentary on the DVD, Steven Moffat says that there are three options, and all seem naff:

  1. Run the usual closing credits;
  2. Play a sad version of the Doctor Who theme; or
  3. Play no closing music.

Behind the camera, Peter Grimwade produces superb direction, making the caves under the Earth’s surface feel dark and atmospheric, perfect for the black-clad androids to sneak around undetected by the soldiers in the caves.  Grimwade was, according to actors like Peter Davison and Matthew Waterhouse, a difficult man to work with and unusually for the time, directed from the studio floor rather than the gantry.  It can’t be denied, however, that it got results in this story and a similar style of directing would be used by Graeme Harper in the later 1980s stories.  In terms of the story, it is quite nicely done, but definitely has Saward’s fingerprints, evident by the number of guns and deaths on show here, which would become more prevalent when he went on to become script editor for Davison’s later seasons.  The scene where we see Snyder’s remains sizzling on the rocks stands out as one that wouldn’t feel out of place in Colin Baker’s first season.  In front of the camera, the main cast give good performances and the soldiers that tag along with them are also compelling enough characters to keep you going.  The obvious piece of casting that feels jarring is that of Beryl Reid as the captain of the freighter, who does her best, but feels really out of place.  This is a prime example of John Nathan-Turner’s stunt casting, which would persist through his era of Doctor Who, however, in a story like Earthshock, it almost falls by the wayside.

Verdict: Earthshock is one of the highs of Peter Davison’s first season on the TARDIS, even when the two big shocks are public knowledge.  There are flaws, but I believe that they are so minor they don’t inflict too much damage on the story.  10/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), James Warwick (Lieutenant Scott), Clare Clifford (Professor Kyle), Beryl Reid (Captain Briggs), June Bland (Berger), Steve Morley (Walters), Suzi Arden (Snyder), Ann Holloway (Mitchell), Anne Clements (Trooper Baines), Mark Straker (Second Trooper), David Banks (Cyber-Leader), Alec Sabin (Ringway), Mark Hardy (Cyber-Lieutenant), Mark Fletcher (First Crew Member) & Christopher Whittingham (Second Crew Member)

Writer: Eric Saward

Director: Peter Grimwade

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • Producer John Nathan-Turner took a gamble with this story by keeping the reveal of the Cybermen a surprise.  The public gallery at Television Centre, which overlooked the studio floor, was closed and a Radio Times cover photoshoot was cancelled in order to maintain the secret of the Cybermen’s return.
  • Adric’s death was yet another gamble, as no long-standing companion had died previously to this.  Part Four is the only episode of Doctor Who to be broadcast without the closing title music.
  • Adric’s death was intended to unambiguous, however, it has been materially changed by a Big Finish audio story, The Boy That Time Forgot, revealing that Adric lived on in a bubble universe.
  • This story marks the first appearance of David Banks as the Cyber Leader, a role he would reprise in the other Cybermen stories of the 1980s.
  • June Bland would go on to appear in Survival.

Best Moment

The cliffhanger at the end of part one is probably one of the best examples of cliffhangers in Doctor Who history.

Destroy them! Destroy them at once!

Cyber Leader

Best Quote

Emotions have their uses.

They restrict and curtail the intellect, and logic of the mind.

They also enhance life.  When did you last have the pleasure of smelling a flower, watching a sunset, eating a well prepared meal?

These things are irrelevant.

For some people, small, beautiful events is what life is all about!

The Fifth Doctor and Cyber Leader

Earthshock Doctor TARDIS

Rise of the Cybermen

Rise of the Cybermen

What happened?

The Time Vortex, it’s gone!  That’s impossible.  It’s just gone.

Rose and the Tenth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor, Rose and Mickey land on an alternate version of the Earth where Rose’s father is still alive.  However, one of the Doctor’s greatest enemies have been reborn and are waiting to strike.

Review

After the success of Dalek, it is perhaps easy to see why the production team wanted to bring back the Cybermen in a big way.  Normally thought of in the same breath as Skaro’s finest and the Master as one of the Doctor’s Grade A antagonists, the Cybermen had started to become a bit of a joke towards the end of the original run, and so a clean break is a good idea in theory.  Sadly, where Rise of the Cybermen falls down is in this attempt to essentially tell the same story twice.  Lloyd Pack is essentially this iteration of the Cybermen’s Davros, even confined to a wheelchair and the fact that the story feels less than original.  The returning Graeme Harper does sterling work, but he can’t improve on what feels like a lacklustre story.

Lumic

One of the major problems with Rise of the Cybermen is that many of the characters are so damn unlikeable or unbelievable.  Whether this is Roger Lloyd Pack ensuring the scenery remains thoroughly chewed throughout as a pseudo-Davros, the marginally more unpleasant Jackie or the unnecessary Ricky, there’s nothing compelling enough about them to care enough about them or their eventual fate.  Lumic feels as though he has come straight out of a Bond film, a feeling which is not helped by some thoroughly unconvincing dialogue, but it takes a villain who should be relatable as someone who is afraid of death and makes them completely one dimensional.  Ricky seems to be characterised solely by scowling, meanwhile, the parallel Jackie Tyler seems to be pretty similar to the Jackie we’re supposed to like, but with money.  The story attempts to use this as shorthand to make us feel something for these characters, but it ultimately falls down.  There is a potentially much more interesting story to be told here, but it seems to fall into the same old trappings and perhaps the fact that it is set on a parallel world numbs some of the stakes.

The story is a strong one for Mickey but also contains some of the worst characterisation for the Doctor and Rose.  We finally get to delve into Mickey’s backstory, finding out that he was raised by his grandmother after his dad left and his mother “couldn’t cope”, see the basis of his insecurity and the fact that Mickey feels guilty for his grandmother’s death  The story does effectively show how much Mickey has developed since Rose.  However, we also see the Doctor and Rose treat him pretty shabbily throughout – highlighted by the way they leave him holding down a button on the TARDIS console, whilst they reminisce about past adventures.  Additionally, the moment where the Doctor has to choose whether he follows Rose or Mickey, he seems utterly incredulous that there might be something on this alternative Earth that might tempt Mickey, and of course there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that he’ll follow Rose.  In many ways, Mickey is the modern series’ Harry Sullivan.  Billie Piper does her best here with Rose, but she feels as though she is ultimately treading water until the ultimate conclusion of her arc at the end of the series.  The jealousy that she shows when the Doctor even mentions talking to another woman is really ugly and is perhaps symptomatic of writers not being sure what to do with her beyond her being the companion to see viewers through the first regeneration of the modern era.  The story does feel like a retread of a lot of the issues that were a central narrative surrounding Father’s Day and the ultimate conclusion seems very predictable.  David Tennant’s performance is largely good, but he is affected with the smugness that seems to be insidious in series 2.

The Cybermen are perhaps the best part of this story.  They are used very sparingly in this first part of a two part story, with the story and direction keeping them out of focus or out of sight.  They are shown to be quite effective and a serious threat, even if I’m not a massive fan of the stomping boots and the Cybersuits.  The shots of the Cyber Conversion are fantastically creepy, even if they do feature some of shaky CGI.  I think that the benefit of having an experienced returning hand like Graeme Harper is that he really knows how to handle enemies like the Cybermen.  However, I am not a fan of how the story deals with the basic concept of the Cybermen.  One of the scariest things about the Cybermen in the classic series is how humanity has been given the agency to make the choice to become more and more synthetic.  In this depiction, the choice is taken away by Lumic exploiting the vulnerable of society to be amongst his first converts.  Even despite the more privileged members of this alternative society have purchased Cybus tech which will ultimately be used to convert them, there is no suggestion that they were aware of this.  Despite the fact that the Cybermen are well used here, this does make their threat seem lessened somewhat.

The Cybermen

Verdict: Rise of the Cybermen, sadly, is somewhat underwhelming.  Mickey gets some nice moments, but the story is largely flawed. 5/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Shaun Dingwall (Pete Tyler), Roger Lloyd Pack (John Lumic), Andrew Hayden-Smith (Jake Simmonds), Don Warrington (The President), Mona Hammond (Rita-Anne), Helen Griffiths (Mrs Moore), Colin Spaull (Mr Crane), Paul Antony-Barber (Dr Kendrick), Adam Shaw (Morris), Andrew Ufondo (Soldier), Duncan Duff (Newsreader), Paul Kasey (Cyber-Leader) & Nicholas Briggs (Cyber-Voice)

Writer: Tom MacRae

Director: Graeme Harper

Behind the Scenes

  • Russell T Davies wanted to reintroduce the Cybermen but was aware of the complicated backstory they had in the Classic series and decided to set the story on a parallel Earth.
  • The idea of the Cybermen being a response to fears of organ replacement was viewed as being outdated, with Davies wanting the story to focus on the idea of humanity wanting to constantly upgrade instead.
  • The story is loosely based on and inspired by Spare Parts written by Marc Platt.  Platt received a credit and was paid a fee for using the basic concepts.
  • The story aired during the 40th Anniversary of the broadcast of the debut of the Cybermen, The Tenth Planet.
  • Graeme Harper became the first director to work on both the original series and the new series by working on this story.
  • Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?: Colin Spaull previously played Lilt in Revelation of the Daleks (which was also directed by Graeme Harper), Don Warrington played Rassilon in several Big Finish audios. Helen Griffin later appeared in Cobwebs, while Paul Antony-Barber appeared in The Magic Mousetrap.

Best Moment

The direction when the Cybermen enter Jackie’s birthday party is really nicely done by Graeme Harper.

Best Quote

I just gave away ten years of my life.  Worth every second!

The Tenth Doctor

The Preachers