The Satan Pit

This is your freedom. Free to die! You’re going into that black hole and I’m riding with you!

The Tenth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor faces off against an enemy that defies all of his beliefs, whilst Rose and the rest of the Sanctuary 6 base fight for survival against the Ood, possessed by the Beast.

Review

I feel that The Satan Pit does manage to live up to it’s preceding part, but on reflection it does have more flaws than The Impossible Planet. There are some great moments and the story does a lot really well, but there is some shaky characterisation for Rose and some strange directing decisions, but good guest cast performances save this one.

The writing and direction are largely good. Whilst The Impossible Planet was a lot of set-up without a lot happening, this feels much more like an action movie. Perhaps its the sequences in the service shafts that make me feel like that, which can only remind me of Die Hard. There are also the scenes with the Doctor and Ida discussing their beliefs about the existence of a devil, which are nicely written. I feel like I’m nit-picking to find flaws with this story, but I do have an issue with the sped-up effect of the guns shooting, which just looks a bit weird, and the eventual encounter with the Beast is a bit disappointing, as it would potentially have been interesting to see a showdown between the two with a fully powerful Beast. All in all, though, this is a very well written and directed episode, utilising the talents of its leads and guest cast well.

The Beast is a powerful adversary and harnesses the vocal talents of Gabriel Woolf to its full extent, and he is brimming with malice and trickery. Ultimately the Beast using the Ood against the crew of the Sanctuary Base makes a statement about humanity: even in the future they discriminate against other races. Zack notes that when his surviving crew are crawling through ventiliation system that he cannot trace the Ood as the Torchwood Institute who sent them on the expedition did not quantify them as a life form, a complacency that really has come back to bite them on this mission. Obviously this would be explored further in Planet of the Ood, but the Beast uses this to his full advantage. I have praised Gabriel Woolf, and it is only fair to also praise Will Thorp for his performance as Toby, especially when he is possessed. The moment in which his eyes briefly turn red as he tells the Ood to hold off is particularly creepy and he is good in the climatic scene as he, Zack, Danny and Rose are in the rocket escaping from the black hole.

Whilst I may have problems with the relationship between the Tenth Doctor and Rose, it doesn’t bother me very much here. Even the Doctor’s concluding speech to the Beast doesn’t make me want to scream, which can only be a positive. What does bother me is that Rose seems to undergo very inconsistent characterisation here, seesawing from a character in control of her environment to one who is constantly seeking the confirmation of the Doctor. There are two examples of this in the opening quarter of an hour. The first is where she immediately becomes simpering and helpless following the Beast’s first speech and turns to the Doctor immediately for assurance that Satan doesn’t exist. The second and, in my opinion, worst example of this follows the Beast’s speech to the crew of the Sanctuary Base, where Rose is told that she will die in battle very soon. Whilst this line is obviously meant to make the audience fear for Rose getting out of this story alive, the script has Rose ask the Doctor what the Beast means by this, when it is very clear to everyone. It does make me wonder whether there was a more convoluted or enigmatic line spoken by the Beast originally which was simplified, but Rose’s response to it was unchanged. It is an understandable reaction to be upset after being given such news, but Rose’s reaction feels forced to make her seem lovelorn and almost childlike, then she almost immediately flips to taking charge of the crew she is with. No matter what the circumstances, it doesn’t really give Billie Piper much to work with and is symptomatic of the problems with her characterisation throughout Series 2, which is perhaps particularly telling when compared to Series 1.

Whilst we’ve seen the Tenth Doctor with other characters in recent weeks – Tommy in The Idiot’s Lantern, Mrs Moore in The Age of Steel and Madame de Pompadour in The Girl in the Fireplace spring to mind – his partnership with Ida feels a bit different, perhaps because they are completely isolated in the majority of their scenes together. This adds some intimacy to their scenes together as they discuss what their beliefs are whilst confronted by something claiming to be the origin of the stories of the Devil in established religions across the universe. When Ida tells the Doctor that she doesn’t want to die, it is a great example of a simple line being delivered effectively and you completely believe that they are in that situation. Claire Rushbrook and David Tennant deserve a lot of credit for these scenes, as they are entirely acted in those orange spacesuits and seen through visors, but these scenes still feel intimate and moving.

But I don’t want to die on my own.

I know.

Ida Scott and the Tenth Doctor

I feel that I would be remiss not to mention some other guest cast members, namely Danny Webb and Shaun Parkes. These two actors do such a good job with these parts. Jefferson almost seems to fit stereotypically into the turncoat role in Classic Who, but here he is fundamentally a force for good, ultimately sacrificing himself to buy the others time to escape the advancing Ood. It is made all the more effective that the audience never finds out what dark secret lurks in his past, as we are allowed to judge him purely based on his actions in these two episodes. Equally, Zachary Cross Flane is a character who, despite a frankly awesome name, would be all too easy to be portrayed as either too competent or unsuitable for his command and Parkes treads this line to perfection. The scene where he has to have Rose subdued in order to evacuate the base could come across badly, however, here it is perfectly portrayed. Parkes encapsulates the character’s conflicted feelings about going against Rose’s explicitly stated wishes combined with his feeling of responsibility for everyone still alive on that base to get away as quickly and safely as possible. Ultimately he takes the decision that he believes is right and his statement afterwards is one that would not seem out of place coming out of the Doctor’s mouth in other stories:

I have lost too many people. I am not leaving you behind.

Zachary Cross Flane

Verdict: A strong conclusion to a good story, The Satan Pit is a highlight of Tennant’s first year as the Doctor. 9/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Danny Webb (Mr. Jefferson), Shaun Parkes (Zachary Cross Flane), Claire Rushbrook (Ida Scott), Will Thorp (Toby Zed), Ronny Jhutti (Danny Bartock), Paul Kasey (The Ood), Gabriel Woolf (Voice of the Beast) & Silas Carson (Voice of the Ood).

Writer: Matt Jones

Director: James Strong

Behind the Scenes

  • This episode was originally broadcast on 06/06/2006.
  • The closing scene was Billie Piper’s final scene as a regular cast member as Doomsday had been filmed as part of an earlier production block.
  • This story nearly featured the return of Davros as the production team were not sure who should be at the bottom of the titular pit.

Best Moment

It’s a small moment, but the reveal that the mind of the Beast is still possessing Toby after Rose, Danny and he manage to escape the Ood is subtly handled and really well done.

Best Quote

There it is again. That itch. “Go down, go down, go down”.

The urge to jump. Do you know where that comes from, that sensation? Genetic heritage. Ever since we were primates in the trees. It’s our body’s way of testing us. Calculating whether or not we can reach the next branch.

No, that’s not it. That’s too kind. It’s not the urge to jump, it’s deeper than that. It’s the urge to fall!

The Tenth Doctor and Ida Scott

Previous Tenth Doctor review: The Impossible Planet

Further Reading

The Age of Steel

The Idiot’s Lantern

The Girl in the Fireplace

The Impossible Planet

We are the Legion of the Beast.

The Ood

Synopsis

Separated from the TARDIS, the Doctor and Rose find themselves stuck on a planet orbiting a black hole with the crew of a space base. However, an evil entity is awakening, causing trouble for the crew.

Review

The Impossible Planet is possibly one of the first glimpses of revived Doctor Who I ever had. I have a distinct memory of seeing the crew seeing Scooti’s body floating towards the black hole when my brother was re-watching this episode – or possibly channel hopping. It is certainly a stronger two-parter than the rather limp Cyberman double-hander in the same series, giving us some great moments of fear and unease and (takes a deep breath) some actual decent moments between the Tenth Doctor and Rose. I think the majority of the guest cast do well and they feel like lived-in characters.

No signal. That’s the first time I’ve gone out of range. Mind you, even if I could…what would I tell her? Can you build another TARDIS?

They were grown, not built. And with my home planet gone, we’re kind of stuck.

Well, could be worse. This lot said that they’d give us a lift.

And then what?

I don’t know. Find a planet. Get a job. You live a life the same as the rest of the Universe.

I’d have to settle down. Get a house or something, a proper house. With…doors and carpets. Me, living in a house. That, that is terrifying.

You’d have to get a mortgage.

Rose Tyler and the Tenth Doctor

I’ll start by talking about the Doctor and Rose. If you’ve read any of my other reviews of David Tennant’s first series, you’ll know that I’m not the biggest fan of this pairing, however, the writing seems a lot better. The scene with the Doctor and Rose discussing the implications of losing the TARDIS, especially for the Doctor, is one of the most mature and well-dealt with conversations that I think that these two ever have. It’s interesting for the Doctor to have this discussion, considering that Russell T Davies seems to like forceably separating the Doctor and the TARDIS. I might be wrong but can think of several occasions this happens in his era, and this might be mind playing tricks on me) but I can only think of two occasions since 2010 that this has happened (Cold War and The Tsuranga Conundrum). This story moves to ground their relationship and actually makes me see that David Tennant and Billie Piper do have decent chemistry together. There are little moments like Rose kissing the Doctor’s visor before he goes down in the drill capsule with Ida that sell the idea of this relationship being something more than the standard Doctor-companion relationship. Perhaps because the Doctor feels quite out of his depth, with the language that the TARDIS can’t translate means that they can’t be as smug and cavalier as usual. We do get some of the inconsistent Rose that has been around since Tennant’s debut in New Earth rather than the strong individual we saw when she was with Eccleston, especially in the moment she tells Ida and the Doctor to keep breathing when they are in the diving bell.

The story certainly fits into the category of base under siege, with the interesting added threat of the black hole. I’m reliably informed by my research done in the course of writing this blog that a planet in orbit around a black hole is not as impossible as the Doctor states, just highly improbable, but otherwise this story is well written. Matt Jones goes down as another writer who has written one solitary adventure for the revived series, although Russell T Davies had to do a lot of work on this two-parter, which might explain why he never came back. The story does create a terrifying atmosphere, with the scenes with Toby Zed on his own, with Gabriel Woolf’s voice is really scary. I love the idea of the planet being ‘the bitter pill’, which is a lovely piece of dialogue. The story also presents some uncomfortable truths about humanity with the inclusion of the Ood, revealing that even in the future, humans will still feel the need to subjugate species. The story also benefits from the direction of James Strong who helps the story feel claustrophobic and threatening when it needs to. The shot of Scooti floating in space is beautiful, and even knowing how it was filmed thanks to Doctor Who Confidential, it still blows me away every single time.

In the scriptures of the Valtino, this planet is called Krop-Tor, the bitter pill. And the black hole is supposed to be a mighty demon, who was tricked into devouring the planet only to spit it out because it was poison.

Ida Scott

The guest cast here for the most part feel quite lived in and three dimensional, with the exception of Scooti, who is dispatched quite early on by Toby. Zach is thrust into a reluctant leadership position by the death of the previous captain of the mission and it is encouraging to see how he is supported by his fellow crew members, making the best of a bad situation. The only character who seems to be lacking characterisation who survives the run-time of this first part is Toby, who seems to be classed as a bit weird and a loner, also known as perfect possession material. I’d like to reserve special praise for the work of Silas Carson and Gabriel Woolf, voicing the Ood and the Beast respectively, as both are key here. Carson makes the Ood’s calm responses chilling when they start reciting the messages of the Beast and Woolf is suitably sinister – when Radio Free Skaro did a commentary episode for it a few years ago, they slipped a clip of his dialogue in unannounced, and save to say it felt as though my heart stopped for a second!

Verdict: The Impossible Planet does a good job of creating a terrifying atmosphere thanks to a strong script and direction, as well as a good guest cast. 9/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Danny Webb (Mr Jefferson), Shaun Parkes (Zachary Cross Flane), Claire Rushbrook (Ida Scott), Will Thorp (Toby Zed), Ronny Jhutti (Danny Bartock), MyAnna Buring (Scooti Manista), Paul Kasey (The Ood), Gabriel Woolf (Voice of the Beast) & Silas Carson (Voice of the Ood).

Writer: Matt Jones

Director: James Strong

Behind the Scenes

  • Matt Jones wrote the Seventh Doctor Virgin New Adventures novel Bad Therapy.
  • The story originally featured the Slitheen Family until the production team realised that the cost of repairing the costumes was equivalent to creating new ones.
  • First appearance of the Sanctuary Base space suit, which would be worn on multiple occasions and by multiple incarnations of The Doctor.

Cast Notes

  • Gabriel Woolf previous played Sutekh in Pyramids of Mars.
  • Danny Webb was in the audio plays The Girl Who Never Was and The Dark Husband.
  • Claire Rushbrook went on to appear as Tula Chenka, sister of Eighth Doctor companion Liv Chenka, in Escape from Kaldor and the spin-off series The Robots.
  • Will Thorp has appeared in the Big Finish audio plays 100 BC and Bedtime Story.

Best Moment

The scene where Scooti discovers the possessed Toby out on the planet’s surface, especially with the creepy computer voice.

Best Quote

Well, we’ve come this far. There’s no turning back.

Oh, come on! Did you have to? No turning back, that’s almost as bad as “Nothing could possibly go wrong” or “This is gonna be the best Christmas Walford’s ever had!”

Ida Scott and the Tenth Doctor

Previous Tenth Doctor Review: The Idiot’s Lantern

Link:

Radio Free Skaro’s Commentary for The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit

The Tsuranga Conundrum

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

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

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