The Idiot’s Lantern

Men in black? Vanishing police cars? This is Churchill’s England, not Stalin’s Russia!

The Tenth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor and Rose arrive by accident in London in 1953 on the eve of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II where something is lurking in the televisions sold by Mr Magpie

Review

Series Two of Doctor Who really frustrates me because it varies so widely in terms of quality. So far on this blog, I have revisited the high points (School Reunion and The Girl in the Fireplace) and the lows (New Earth) and there are more of both to come in this series. Sadly, The Idiot’s Lantern falls at the lower end of the series and continues to contribute to an uneven debut series for David Tennant. Equally frustrating from my point of view is the fact that I know that Mark Gatiss is a better writer than this. For evidence of this, you need look no further than Gatiss’ first script for the revived show, The Unquiet Dead, or Big Finish stories like Invaders from Mars, and there are other stories in the future for this blog which are far better than this.

I will praise the work of the set dressers and others who worked so hard on making sure that this story really evoked the feel of the post-war period. There is fantastic attention to detail to ensure that the story looks right, whether this is costumes or the appearance of the street party at the conclusion of the episode. Gatiss has clearly set out to create a feeling of nostalgia for the post-war period and specifically the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II for a backdrop for his story and the production team deserve a huge amount of credit for bringing this to life. Of course, Gatiss goes on to show us that the perceived idyllism of the post-war period isn’t as rosy as it would first appear, and this has been subtly alluded to by the shape of the television aerials being similar to that of swastikas, setting up the eventual plot point that Eddie Connolly has been informing the authorities about the people whose faces have been taken by the Wire. I find the direction really strange here, though, as it feels as though Lyn (who is generally quite decent) is afraid to tone down some of the more over the top performances and the majority of shots are shot at an angle that it makes me feel as though the camera stands were all broken.

The drama of the Connolly family certainly forms the B part to this episode, with the patriarch, Eddie Connolly being abusive towards his wife’s mother, his wife and his son. I must admit that I haven’t seen Jamie Foreman in anything else but I’m sure he is a good actor. Sadly, the character of Eddie is such a one-dimensional Hitler-allegory that it does Foreman a disservice and really means that the story hits a bum note in the conclusion when Rose encourages his son to try and build bridges with his father, especially considering how he talks about beating Tommy for being homosexual or his emotional abuse of his wife Rita, telling her to put a smile when her mother has been taken away. The rest of the Connolly family are good and we certainly sympathise with their treatment at the hands of Eddie, and Debra Gillett is particularly good in the scene where she sends Tommy off with the Doctor and kicks Eddie out. Tommy is a good companion of the week, and Rory Jennings and David Tennant have some good chemistry together, and I particularly liked the moment where Tommy is reunited with his grandmother at the conclusion of the story.

I’m the Wire, and I’m hungry!

The Wire

Speaking of the one-dimensional fascistic Eddie Connolly, we have another one-dimensional villain in the shape of the Wire played by Maureen Lipman. The idea of televisions taking people’s faces feels as though it should be a classic Doctor Who idea – taking something so prevalent and usual in this modern culture and making it scary. However, the Wire is so one dimensional and irritating that it means that this doesn’t really work. Lipman’s performance at the beginning, but she starts to gain power, it becomes almost unbearable. It is a running joke between my wife and I that we will screech the line above at each other around meal times. Ron Cook’s Mr Magpie, who is manipulated by the Wire into selling the affected television sets, feels largely wasted in this story, but he does well with what he is given. The effect of the ‘stolen’ faces on the actual people looks really unpolished and cheap, whilst, conversely, the effect of the faces on the television screens in the shop is rather effective and unnerving.

I am talking!

And I’m not listening!

Eddie Connolly and the Tenth Doctor

Now to address the Doctor and Rose. It is clear through this series that the intention was to establish the fact that the newly regenerated Doctor and Rose are perhaps overconfident throughout this series, but sadly for me it largely across as them being smug. This is not a problem that is exclusive to this story, but in a story that is quite poor anyway it really stands out. It is interesting to see the Tenth Doctor and Rose separated as this hasn’t happened a lot since the start of the series and Tennant is good in the scenes where he can be a bit quieter, like the interrogation scene where he flips the scenario on Detective Inspector Bishop. In contrast, the louder scenes, like the one the quote above is taken from are so hideously overacted and cringe-worthy. Since The Christmas Invasion, the production team have been hinting at this rage bubbling under the seemingly amiable face of the Doctor, but here it just across as he is a bit of a bully, especially in the scenes with Magpie. There is also the fact that the Doctor doesn’t seem to be too interested in solving the mystery until it directly affects him when the Wire takes Rose’s face. As a character who is supposed to stand up against the wrongs of the universe regardless of how he is impacted personally, this is really glaring. Rose is pretty poor too for the most part, reduced to a shadow of how she was in Eccleston’s series as the Doctor to an obnoxious and lovelorn character. We do get a hint of what the character like last series when she investigates Magpie’s shop though.

Verdict: This story really does flounder with one-dimensional villains and the central cast aren’t good enough to raise this one. Kudos on the production design though. 3/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Maureen Lipman (The Wire), Ron Cook (Magpie), Jamie Foreman (Eddie Connolly), Debra Gillett (Rita Connolly), Rory Jennings (Tommy Connolly), Margaret John (Grandma Connolly), Sam Cox (Detective Inspector Bishop), Ieaun Rhys (Crabtree), Jean Challis (Aunty Betty), Christopher Driscoll (Security Guard) & Marie Lewis (Mrs Gallagher).

Writer: Mark Gatiss

Director: Euros Lyn

Behind the Scenes

  • The working titles of Mr Sandman, Sonic Doom and The One-Eyed Monster.
  • Mark Gatiss originally wrote this episode for Christopher Eccleston’s 9th Doctor, and it was originally intended to be broadcast as the ninth episode of Series 2. It also contained a sub-plot about Tommy having a crush on the Doctor, but Rose mistakenly believing that he had a crush on her.
  • Magpie Electricals is a brand that would reoccur throughout the revived series, including Martha’s television in The Sound of Drums, a microphone in Voyage of the Damned, some parts of the Eleventh Doctor’s first TARDIS and a shop is seen in The Lie of the Land. The brand has been retrospectively inserted as an Easter Egg in several animations of Patrick Troughton episodes, including The Power of the Daleks.
  • The street on which the Connolly family lives is Florizel Street which was the original name for long-running soap opera Coronation Street. Coincidentally, Doctor Who producer Phil Collinson went on to be producer of Coronation Street from 2010 to 2013, whilst Russell T Davies had previously briefly been a storyline editor in the 1990s.

Cast Notes

  • Margaret John holds the record for the longest gap between appearances at 38 years, having previously appeared in Fury from the Deep.
  • Rory Jennings played teenage Davros in I, Davros: Innocence.

Best Moment

It’s always hard to choose these with an episode that I don’t particularly like. Probably Rita finally kicking out her abusive husband.

Best Quote

Twenty years on the force, I don’t even know where to start. We haven’t got the faintest clue what’s going on.

Well. That could change.

How?

Start from the beginning. Tell me everything you know.

Detective Inspector Bishop and the Tenth Doctor

Previous Tenth Doctor Review: The Age of Steel

Reviews mentioned:

The Christmas Invasion

New Earth

School Reunion

The Girl in the Fireplace

Invaders from Mars

Father’s Day

It’s so weird. The day my father died. I thought it’d be all grim and stormy. It’s just another day.

The past is another country. 1987’s just the Isle of Wight.

Rose Tyler and the Ninth Doctor

Synopsis

Rose convinces the Doctor to take her back to the day of her father’s death, 7 November 1987. On a whim, she ends up changing his fate, creating a paradox and summoning the Reapers to the wedding of Stuart Hoskins and Sarah Clark.

Review

When Father’s Day was first broadcast in 2005, it was exploring relatively untrodden ground for the show. Although Ace encountered her own mother in The Curse of Fenric, it was not central to the plot, whilst here it is the driving force behind the narrative. For some fans, this story is symptomatic of the soap opera feel to the revived series, with the Reapers taking a backseat to family drama. However, this is a really moving story that deals with fixed points in time nicely and gives us nice character moments.

The story focuses on the companion, Rose Tyler, and her father Pete, who died when she was a baby in a hit-and-run. With the Doctor agreeing to take her back in time to the day when he died so that someone can be with him as he is dying, Rose freezes when it comes to the punch and she convinces him to take her back again, despite the risks, which are multiplied when Rose saves her father. As the Reapers arrive, the survivors of the wedding party take refuge in a church, as the older something is, the more protection it affords. One of the aspects of this story that interested me was the idealised view Rose has of her father from her mother’s stories, which gets quickly dispelled when the Doctor and Rose attend her parents’ wedding and once she actually gets the chance to talk to Pete in the car after saving him and in the Tylers’ flat. A relationship that has been described to Rose as being perfect, is in reality, full of suspected infidelity and arguments. Equally, when asked about what he is like as a father, she paints an equally idealised image of him as a father which he ultimately sees through and realises that he will not be around to see Rose grow up. The story is packed full of emotion, culminating in Pete’s decision to sacrifice himself to reverse the effects his survival has had on time itself. The story is somewhat driven by misconceptions as the wedding that the Tylers and Stuart and Sarah, where Stuart’s father is certainly of the impression that his son is only marrying someone that he regards to be unsuitable because she is pregnant.

The antagonists, the Reapers, enter the narrative due to the paradox of Pete’s survival and are described by the Doctor as being bacteria coming to cleanse the subsequent wound. They are rather one dimensional as a foe, although the Doctor does admit that he is pretty powerless against them. The CGI hasn’t dated fantastically but they do have a good design and I particularly like the shots from their point of view as they pick off humans in their quest. Ultimately, though, this story is character driven rather than driven by the alien threat. It is perhaps surprising that the Reapers have never returned, especially considering some of the other paradoxes we have had in the revived series. However, it can be said that they only appear when time is seriously weakened: here, not only does Rose save Pete, meaning that she and the Doctor would never have to travel back to save him in the first place, but she does so in front of earlier versions of herself and the Doctor. The Reapers As the characters shelter in the church, the Doctor is regaled with the story of how the to-be-weds met, ironically being asked to look after the baby Rose and the adult Rose imprinting herself on young Mickey. The story certainly deserves praise for making us care about what happens to members of the guest cast, the majority of whom we will never see again.

The cast here do a spectacular job with this story. Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper are fantastic together, even when having the most serious argument that at the time we’d ever seen the Doctor have with a companion. The argument serves to remind us that Rose is still quite young and immature, especially when compared to the Doctor. When the Doctor tells Rose that they are no longer going to travel together, we genuinely believe that he means it, and having seen his ejection of Adam from the TARDIS in the previous story, it feels like a genuine threat. Camille Coduri is good as the frustrated younger Jackie, and of the guest cast, Shaun Dingwall stands out as Pete, who along with Billie Piper acts as this story’s beating heart. Dingwall of course would return for the second series as an alternative version of Pete Tyler.

When we met, I said “Travel with me in space.” You said no. Then I said “Time machine.”

It wasn’t some big plan. I just saw it happening and thought, I can stop it.

I did it again, I picked another stupid ape. I should have known. It’s not about showing you the universe. It never is. It’s about the universe doing something for you.

The Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler

The direction and general production are pretty fantastic here too. Joe Ahearne’s direction is very good and I particularly like the appearance of the TARDIS as it restores around the key. The moment when the Doctor opens the TARDIS doors to find that it is empty is also a lovely moment. There also has to be a mention of the fantastic work done by the costumes department and set dressing in evoking the look of the 1980s with some great costumes, and attention to detail with posters especially in the early scenes.

Verdict: One of several episodes that ensures a strong finish for Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor and the debut series of the revival. 9/10

Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Shaun Dingwall (Pete Tyler), Robert Barton (Registrar), Julia Joyce (Young Rose), Christopher Llewellyn (Stuart), Frank Rozelaar-Green (Sonny), Natalie Jones (Sarah), Eirlys Bellin (Bev), Rhian James (Suzie) & Casey Dyer (Young Mickey)

Writer: Paul Cornell

Director: Joe Ahearne

Behind the Scenes

  • The first contribution of Paul Cornell to televised Doctor Who.
  • The story deals with fixed points in time, a topic which would frequently reoccur in the revived series.
  • Alexander Graham Bell’s first words spoken over a telephone are incorrect.  In this episode, they are said to be “Watson, come here, I need you”, when in fact they are “Watson, I come here, I want you.”  According to Phil Collinson, this was an error that crept in during the recording of the line, as the line was correct in the script.

Best Moment

I really like the moment that the Doctor returns to the TARDIS, only to find that it is only a box.

Best Quote

Now Rose, you’re not going to bring about the end of the world. Are you?

The Ninth Doctor (to Baby Rose Tyler)

Previous Ninth Doctor Review: The Long Game

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 Long Game

The Long Game Spike

The thing is, Adam, time travel’s like visiting Paris.  You can’t just read the guide book, you’ve got to throw yourself in.  Eat the food, use the wrong verbs, get charged double and end up snogging complete strangers.  Or is that just me?

The Ninth Doctor

Synopsis

The TARDIS materialises on board Satellite 5, which broadcasts across the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire, however, the Empire’s attitude and technology appear backwards and those promoted to Floor 500 are never seen again.

Review

When I rewatched this episode to write this review, I was quite surprised at how my attitude towards it had changed. Previously I would have considered it one of the stronger episodes of the first series of the revival, however, having thought about it greater depth, I do have some problems with it.

One of the weaknesses of the story is Adam, as played by Bruno Langley.  The story sets out with the ultimate aim of proving that not everyone is a suitable companion to the Doctor, which is achieved by showing Adam’s abuse of the technology onboard Satellite Five to attempt to turn a profit.  Largely I feel that this element of the plot doesn’t work so well because we haven’t really spent enough time with Adam to feel as though his departure from the TARDIS is a great loss and he hasn’t really received any characterisation.  In one draft of the script, Adam’s motivation for sending the future information to the past was in order to develop a cure for his father’s arthritis, an element that would have at least added something to his character, although it would seem incredibly callous of the Doctor to kick him off the TARDIS if this had been his motivation all along.  The truth of the matter is that the Doctor didn’t want Adam along in the first place and it almost feels like he wants an excuse to get rid of him; Rose invited him to join them at the end of Dalek, but neither she nor the Doctor spend very much time with him on Satellite Five.  He rejoins the main narrative late on, but the story at times does feel like separate narratives.  I will admit that I don’t like Adam, but it does feel like he has incredibly raw deal by the end of it, especially considering what happens in the following adventure, Father’s Day.  It certainly does feel as though the Doctor and Rose are all too happy to leave Adam to his own devices during the story, only caring when it could have caused them problems and it is almost as if they have forgotten who he worked for in the previous story.  The scenes with Adam wandering off on his own feel really disjointed, uneven and at times, sadly quite dull.

It certainly does feel as though there is a lot going on in this story, and I’m not convinced that all of it works.  It feels as though Davies has tried to cram his original script premise pitched to Andrew Cartmel in the late Eighties into a 45-minute program, and not all of it entirely works.  We have things like the head chips, which aren’t really dwelt on, and as a huge fan of Black Books, it is a shame not to see more of Tamsin Greig in this story.  This certainly does feel like a Seventh Doctor story, with the Doctor motivating someone to rise up and destroy the current system, with this narrative making it Cathica, angry and resentful at the fact that she has not been promoted before, even though she knows what happens on Floor 500 who saves the Doctor and Rose.  There is certainly an underlying attack on the media here, with the Jagrafess and the Editor controlling the narrative to set the human race back 90 years, which is a thinly veiled attack on media moguls like Rupert Murdoch and the late Robert Maxwell and there is the capitalist nature of the humans on Satellite 5, who want nothing more than to be promoted to Floor 500, where rumours have it, the walls are made of gold.  Ultimately, it feels as though there’s too much going on, and the storylines are not all gold – it feels as though a couple could have been cut to make a better story.

The Editor

The strongest parts of this story is the Editor, played by Simon Pegg.  A middle man involved in the running of Satellite 5 on behalf of the Jagrafess.  Pegg adds quite a lot of menace to the story which is somewhat undermined when we get to see the Jagrafess itself.  However, Pegg almost feels like a dark echo of the Doctor, with the clearest parallel being his enthusiasm at not knowing something when he finds no record of the Doctor and Rose.  The Editor is described as being a human banker, at a time where being human is difficult to make a profit from and his banking background also seems like socialist attack on that profession.  Pegg stalks around his frozen wasteland, perfectly content and channeling a feeling of real menace and evil.  The story never gives us a convincing reason as to why the Jagrafess and the Editor are doing this to the human race (although we do learn why in the finale), however, given the speed at which the Editor is willing to change his plans after learning that the Doctor is a Time Lord and has a time machine, it is a suggestion that he isn’t too wedded to Satellite Five.

Verdict: The Long Game has too much going on in its narrative and feels unnecessary in its treatment of Adam to prove how worthy Rose is.  Simon Pegg does his best but this story is quite forgettable. 5/10

Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Bruno Langley (Adam), Colin Prockter (Head Chef), Christine Adams (Cathica), Anna Maxwell-Martin (Suki), Simon Pegg (The Editor), Tamsin Greig (Nurse) & Judy Holt (Adam’s Mum).

Writer: Russell T Davies

Director: Brian Grant

Behind the Scenes

  • Adam becomes the first companion to be removed from the TARDIS due to bad behaviour.
  • The story is based on an idea submitted to the Doctor Who production team by Russell T Davies in the 1980s.
  • Simon Pegg previously appeared in Invaders from Mars.
  • This story would demonstrate to the new production team the utility of a process known as ‘double banking’, which would lead to ‘Doctor-lite’ and ‘companion-lite’ episodes.

Best Moment

Possibly the medical scene with Adam and the Nurse, but I’m struggling to think of any better.

Best Quote

Create a climate of fear and it’s easy to keep the borders closed.  It’s just a matter of emphasis.  The right word in the right broadcast repeated often enough can destabilise an economy, create an enemy, change a vote.

So all the people are like, slaves.

Well now. There’s an interesting point.  Is a slave a slave if he doesn’t known he’s enslaved?

Yes.

Oh.  I was hoping for a fun philosphical debate.  Is that all I’m going to get? “Yes”?

Yes.

You’re no fun.

Let me out of these manacles.  You’ll find out how much fun I am.

The Editor, Rose Tyler and the Ninth Doctor

The Long Game 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