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 Girl in the Fireplace

TGIF Doctor and Reinette

What’s a horse doing on a spaceship?

Mickey, what’s pre-Revolutionary France doing on a spaceship?  Get a little perspective.

Mickey Smith and the Tenth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor, Rose and Mickey arrive onboard a deserted spaceship three thousand years in the future.  What has happened to the crew?  And why has the ship got gateways into the life of Madame de Pompadour, a French lady from the 18th Century?

Review

The Girl in the Fireplace is not only a superb example of what Doctor Who can do but is a fantastic example of television in general.  It is definitely in my top ten episodes of the revival and probably in my top ten episodes of Doctor Who of all time.  I say this as someone who loves Moffat’s work under Russell T Davies and his work whilst showrunner with a very few exceptions, and this has a lot of his tropes perfectly executed – we’ve got a bit of mucking about with time and some sharp, witty, and frankly brilliant dialogue.  I think if I am looking for an episode of Doctor Who to pick me up, this is one of the first I will turn to.

You think I fear you.  But I do not fear you even now.  You are merely the nightmare from my childhood.  And if my childhood nightmare can return to plague me then rest assured, so will yours.

Reinette

One of the strongest parts of this episode is in the casting of Sophia Myles as Reinette, who gives a superb performance as Madame de Pompadour, and she has clear and believable chemistry with David Tennant.  Obviously, I must mention that Tennant and Myles did date for a short time following working together on this episode, breaking up in 2007.  However, when you have a story that hinges on the central premise of two characters falling in love and telling this story in 45 minutes, this chemistry is essential.  On a side note, a large part of my issues with Tennant’s first series as the Doctor and Rose is that Tennant and Billie Piper don’t have that chemistry.  The two obviously get on well as friends, but there’s something lacking that stops me buying into that whole ‘they both love each other romantically’ element of their story.  The chemistry between Reinette and the Doctor also means that you ultimately believe in both the Doctor’s decision to come and save her, knowing that this means being separated from his TARDIS and Rose and Mickey, as well as the final scene, where he comes back for her, only to find that she has passed away.  Sophia Myles’ Reinette also feels like a strong heroine and we fully root for her defeating the Clockwork Droids.  Her speech when she speaks about being resigned to taking the slow path whilst hearing her own future screams is beautifully played, as is the scene when the Doctor manages to fix the link to the ship.

TGIF Doctor and Arthur

Steven Moffat’s writing is also fantastic.  The story itself, despite its obvious links to The Time Traveller’s Wife, is different enough, and the reveal of the twist is really superb.  I love the fact that the Doctor and his companions never solve the mystery of why the Clockwork Droids are stalking Reinette, and the way the episode is directed by Euros Lyn withholds this reveal well.  We see the exterior of S.S. Madame de Pompadour on multiple occasions as a transition shot between scenes, but this never spoils the twist.  Moffat’s script fizzles with what we now see as his trademark wit but packs a lot of emotion into this story.  I love the fact that the Doctor reasoning for wanting to keep Arthur is that he allowed Rose to ‘keep’ Mickey!  The story also has some fantastic pacing and ties up the story beautifully with no loose ends.  One of the most powerful scenes in a story that is full of them is the mind reading scene where the chemistry between the two actors really helps but the writing is fantastic and the twist is very cleverly done.

TGIF Reinette

I feel that this is one of Tennant’s best performances as the Doctor to date, and there are some really great moments here.  Obviously, this story allows Tennant to utilise his Casanova experience, but he has lovely moments like when he sees the clockwork mechanism in the Clockwork Droid’s head which is quintessentially Doctor-y.  Additionally, the scene where the Doctor acts drunk when Rose and Mickey have been captured by the Clockwork Droids is great.  Ultimately, the highlight of this story is how he plays the scene where the King tells him that Reinette has died, he reads the letter and tucks it into his pocket is beautifully played by all involved, and the following scene where he reads the letter in the TARDIS is heartbreaking.

The Clockwork Droids are a really good adversary for the Doctor and his companions, with their intentions no doubt honourable but misguided in their attempt to repair their ship.  Before the story even begins, they have murdered the entirety of the crew of the S.S. Madame de Pompadour and their search then turns to Reinette, believing that the ship can only be fixed with her head once she has reached the correct age. The Droids are very creepy, with their wigs and masks and I really like the idea that they would break any working clocks in the room to disguise themselves.

Verdict: I don’t think I can overstate my fondness for The Girl in the Fireplace.  It is one of the finest episodes of Doctor Who since the revival, if not of all time. 10/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Sophia Myles (Reinette), Ben Turner (King Louis), Jessica Atkins (Young Reinette), Angel Coulby (Katherine), Gareth Wyn Griffiths (Manservant), Paul Kasey (Clockwork Man), Ellen Thomas (Clockwork Woman), Jonathan Hart & Emily Joyce (Voices)

Writer: Steven Moffat

Director: Euros Lyn

Behind the Scenes

  • The story follows School Reunion directly, however, when Steven Moffat wrote the story he had not had the chance to read the end of the story, hence the lack of animosity between Rose and Mickey.  There are also no references to Torchwood, as Russell T Davies did not ask Moffat to put any in.
  • This story was originally second in the series order, however, due to the experimental nature of the story, it was moved to fourth.
  • The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger was an inspiration for Moffat whilst writing this story but the finished product is structured differently.
  • Russell T Davies was inspired by the Turk, an 18th Century robot, when devising the Clockwork Droids.
  • The Girl in the Fireplace was nominated for a Nebula Award and won the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

Best Moment

The mind reading scene.

Best Quote

What the hell is going on?

Oh.  This is my lover, the King of France.

Yeah? Well, I’m the Lord of Time.

King Louis, Reinette and the Tenth Doctor

Clockwork Droid

World War Three

World War Three Doctor and Harriet

I think you’ll find the Prime Minister is an alien in disguise!  That’s never gonna work, is it?

No.

Fair enough.

The Ninth Doctor and Policeman

Synopsis

With the Slitheen family planning to destroy the Earth to sell off for fuel and the Doctor, Rose and Harriet Jones trapped in Number 10 Downing Street, the fate of the human race is in the hands of one man: Mickey Smith.

Review

Like the first part of this two-part story, I find World War Three to be utterly frustrating in times, especially when there are more interesting elements, in my opinion, begging to be explored.  The second part has the same issues with tone, with the broadly childish characters of the Slitheen family plotting nuclear armageddon and repetitive Scooby-Doo style chase sequences.  There are also parts that feel a lot like padding to get the episode up to the 45 minute mark – the Slitheen constantly feel as though they are constantly undressing from their rubbery suits, which can only be down to the episode falling short.

One positive, however, is the development of the character of Mickey.  In his previous appearance, he has been portrayed as the idiot, however, this story takes the opportunity to really do him justice.  In my review of Rose, I spoke about how I dislike how easily Rose abandons Mickey in the episode’s closing moments, and here we get to see that the Doctor has re-evaluated him by the conclusion of this episode’s events, offering him the opportunity to come and travel with him.  His character has not made a jarring change but instead has made the first steps towards a more believable change.  Potentially there hasn’t been enough groundwork laid for it to be believable that Mickey is capable of saving the day, however, I enjoyed the opportunity for the character to be useful rather than just being there.  Noel Clarke deserves credit for making this version of Mickey seem like a logical progression rather than an overnight change though.

I just went down the shop and I was thinking, you know, the whole world’s changed.  Aliens and spaceships, all in public.  And here it is.  How can they do that? They saw it.

They’re just not ready.  You’re happy to believe in something that’s invisible, but if it’s staring you in the face – “Nope! Can’t see it”.  There’s a scientific explanation for that.  You’re thick.

We’re just idiots.

Well…not all of you.

Yeah?

Mickey Smith and the Ninth Doctor

Christopher Eccleston again does do the best he can with a rather subpar script.  The scenes with the Doctor trapped with Rose and Harriet Jones in the Cabinet Room are some of the highlights of the story with the Doctor trying to work out how to stop the Slitheen whilst Jackie questions whether he can guarantee her daughter’s safety.  There are other great parts of his performance as well, especially his broad grin when he re-enters the TARDIS at the end of the story and his speech to Rose about the Horsehead Nebula.  He is especially at his best when he is responding to Margaret Blaine’s incredulous reply to the fact that he believes that he can stop the Slitheen despite being completely trapped.  He even gets to bluff when he talks about triplicating the flammability of the alcohol which is a lovely moment.  Penelope Wilton as Harriet Jones also feels as though she’s doing the best with this story and the pair of them add some gravitas to this generally and at least keep me entertained for the majority of the episode.  Harriet Jones has some lovely moments, even minor ones like telling the Doctor to pass the drink to the left first, which demonstrates that even in a crisis she doesn’t forget basic rules of manners and etiquette.

Slitheen World War Three

The elephant in the room here is the Slitheen family from Raxacoricofallapatorius.  The reveal of their home planet is just the latest revelation about these ridiculous creatures that irritates me.  I appreciate that Doctor Who is a family show, meant to provide something for everyone, however, I feel that the flatulent, booty shaking villains are frankly just too childish even for this general audience.  They are pretty incompetent villains too, demonstrated by the fact that the very weapons that they use to incapacitate the experts are also capable of harming them too, and they seem pretty ineffectual at hunting too.  Only the policeman who hunts Mickey and Jackie really seems to know what they’re doing, and this isn’t helped by scenes that wouldn’t feel out of place in Scooby-Doo or a Benny Hill sketch.  Ultimately though, their plan is quite interesting: they want the UN to give them access to the nuclear codes under the pretence of an alien threat in space, then use nuclear weapons to destroy the planet and sell the remains off for a profit.  However, with the flatulence and ridiculous undressing scenes and desires to be naked, it’s difficult to take them as seriously as the story demands, undermining the threat and damaging the tone of the episode.  I will praise Annette Badland, who puts in a good performance as Margaret Blaine in spite of some pretty cringe-worthy dialogue as I think she’s the best of all of the villains in the piece.

I feel that this story also neglects potentially the most interesting element.  The story begins in Aliens of London with Rose returning home 12 months after she left with the Doctor, and shows in a limited capacity the effect that this has on those left behind.  This is the first time in Doctor Who history that this kind of issue is even flagged up, and it is surprising that Davies, with his more domestic storytelling, doesn’t focus on this more.  Jackie, despite her concerns, still seems to grudgingly accept that she can’t stop Rose travelling with the Doctor, and it still bugs me that there’s no lasting consequence on the relationship between Jackie, Rose and Mickey due to the fact that the latter was suspected of her murder for an entire year.  Whilst it’s nice to see this issue brought up in the show, I feel that it could have been handled a whole lot better.  That being said, however, the scenes where Jackie pleads with Rose in vain for her to stay and the moment where she looks at her watch for ten seconds after the TARDIS dematerialises are utterly heartbreaking.

Mickey and Jackie World War Three

Verdict: A story that has some more interesting ideas but fails on execution.  3/10

Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), David Verrey (Joseph Green), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Penelope Wilton (Harriet Jones), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Rupert Vansittart (General Asquith), Morgan Hopkins (Sergeant Price), Andrew Marr (As Himself), Annette Badland (Margaret Blaine), Steve Spiers (Strickland), Jack Tarlton (Reporter), Lachele Carl (Reporter), Corey Doabe (Spray Painter), Elizabeth Fost, Paul Kasey & Alan Ruscoe (Slitheen)

Writer: Russell T Davies

Director: Keith Boak

Behind the Scenes

  • This story is the first time in either Classic or New Doctor Who that the TARDIS is seen to have a working telephone.

Best Moment

The scene where Rose and Harriet fire facts about the Slitheen at the Doctor to work out where they come from and how to fight back against them.

Best Quote

I’ve seen this life of yours, Doctor.  And maybe you get off on it.  And maybe you think it’s all clever and smart.  But tell me, just answer me this: Is my daughter safe?

I’m fine.

Is she safe?  Will she always be safe?  Can you promise me that?

Jackie Tyler and Rose Tyler

School Reunion

Doctor Sarah K-9

You can spend the rest of your life with me, but I can’t spend the rest of mine with you.  I have to live on.  That’s the curse of the Time Lords.

The Tenth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor, Rose and Mickey investigate strange events occurring in Deffry Vale High School, where some children have impossible knowledge.  Whilst the Doctor is undercover as a teacher, he bumps into a former companion, Sarah Jane Smith, who is also investigating incredible results.

Review

School Reunion is quite a major milestone for the revived series, as it finally explicitly confirms its connection to the original series.  This is something that had been previously alluded to in the first series, however, it demonstrates confidence here in the second series that the new followers of the show will accept a previous companion returning to the show.  Bringing back Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane seems like a bit of a no-brainer really, as the character is one of the most easily recognisable companions from the ‘Classic’ era of the show, having served as a companion to both Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker.

Hello.

Oh, I should think so!

And you are?

Hm? Ah, Smith.  John Smith.

John Smith.  I used to have sometimes went by that name.

Well, it’s a very common name.

He was a very uncommon man.  Nice to meet you.

Nice to meet you.  Yes, very nice.  More than nice.  Brilliant.

Sarah Jane Smith and The Tenth Doctor

School Reunion sees David Tennant at potentially his best if watching chronologically through his era.  The moment where the Doctor, under the guise of John Smith, spots Sarah Jane for the first time is so well played and Tennant’s enthusiasm at acting alongside Sladen is clear here, equalled only by his reaction when K-9 is unveiled in the back of Sarah’s car.  Tennant and Sladen have some great and easy chemistry which really helps with the idea that this is the same man who travelled with her through time and space.  Sarah does harbour a considerable amount of resentment for how her time with the Doctor ended, with her being left in Aberdeen rather than Croydon.  Equally, there is tension between Rose and Sarah Jane, which I feel is one of the stronger parts of the episode.  This story really brings it home to Rose that there have been other people to travel with the Doctor and almost bursts the smugness that seems to be prevalent in the second series.  The moment where they argue and compare experiences, ultimately realising how silly they are being and mocking the Doctor’s eccentricities is really lovely.  It almost promises an improvement in Rose’s attitude, but it does feel a bit like an immediate step backwards at the conclusion, where Mickey wants to travel with the Doctor.  Noel Clarke continues his upwards trend and Mickey is much more likeable and much more useful as a companion now than he would have been during the first series.  His realisation that he is the equivalent of K-9 is fantastically well played.

Doctor Headmaster

The Krillitane are a good villain for this story and the set up of them taking the place of teachers at the school works really well.  I particularly like the callback when Rose talks about how she thought teachers used to sleep at school, only to find that the Krillitane are asleep in the Headmaster’s office.  Anthony Head is another strong element of this episode, as there is something otherworldly about his appearance, with his slicked-back hair and the way he carries himself which makes it utterly believable that he could, in fact, be an alien disguised as a human.  The Krillitanes’ scheme is also quite effective and gives the Doctor, Rose and Sarah Jane pause for thought, offering the Doctor the opportunity to change the outcome of the Time War, and both Sarah and Rose the opportunity to travel with the Doctor forever.  It does seem as though this opportunity might tempt the Doctor enough here, only for Sarah’s speech to Finch to snap him out of it, and it is nice to see the Doctor potentially swayed by an enemy’s plan for once.

sarah jane and the doctor

School Reunion is perhaps unique in demonstrating the impact travelling with the Doctor has on his companions’ lives and their struggles in adapting to life after the Doctor.  It doesn’t even seem to have occurred to Rose that there is any potential event that might mean that the Doctor would leave her behind, despite Jack having been left behind only a few episodes earlier.  In bringing back Sarah Jane, we see a companion who has had time to deal with being left by the Doctor, however, there is still some uncertainty and lingering doubts as to whether it is due to something that she did wrong which meant that the Doctor did not return for her.  It’s a really superb depiction of what losing that way of life means for people and it’s nice to see Doctor Who actually address that.  The scene at the end of the episode where Sarah finally gets a proper goodbye from the Doctor is really touching.

Did I do something wrong?  ‘Cause you never came back for me.  You just dumped me.

I told you.  I was called back home and in those days, humans weren’t allowed.

I waited for you. I missed you.

Oh, you didn’t need me.  You were getting on with your life.

You were my life.

Sarah Jane Smith and Tenth Doctor

Verdict: A really good episode that sees a past companion return.  The central performances are all really good, and it has a good one off villain.  9/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Anthony Head (Mr. Finch), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Rod Arthur (Mr Parsons), Eugene Washington (Mr Wagner), Heather Cameron (Nina), Joe Pickley (Kenny), Benjamin Smith (Luke), Clem Tibber (Milo), Lucinda Dryzek (Melissa), Caroline Berry (Dinner Lady), John Leeson (Voice of K-9)

Writer: Toby Whithouse

Director: James Hawes

Behind the Scenes

  • With the reappearance of Sarah Jane and K-9, the rebooted show confirms explicitly that it is a continuation of the original series.  This story also acted as a backdoor pilot for The Sarah Jane Adventures, which would be launched in January 2007.  This is the first appearance for both Sarah and K-9 since 1983’s The Five Doctors.
  • The Doctor states that he has regenerated “half a dozen times” since he and Sarah last met.  At the time of broadcast, this referred back to The Hand of Fear, Sarah’s last story as a companion, not taking into account The Five Doctors.  However, after the reveal of the War Doctor, a secret incarnation of the Doctor, this line still works, and takes it back to Sarah meeting the Fifth Doctor.

Best Moment

The confrontation between the Doctor and Mr. Finch in the swimming pool is a highlight, as is the meeting between Sarah and the Doctor once she’s seen the TARDIS.

Best Quote

Their lives are so fleeting.  So many goodbyes.  How lonely you must be, Doctor.  Join us.

I could save everyone.

Yes.

I could stop the war.

No.  The universe has to move forward.  Pain and loss, they define us as much as happiness or love.  Whether it’s a world or a relationship, everything has its time.  And everything ends.

Mr Finch, The Tenth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith

Mr Finch

Honourable mention for:

You bad dog.

Affirmative.

Mr Finch and K-9