Doctor Who – Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel

Writer: Tom McRae
The first two-parter of the season “Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel” brought back an old nemesis
(one of the least interesting, in my book) and tried to rework some modern magic on them. I found the episodes only mildly successful, mostly because of its pretensions of scope and its inability to provide the visuals or ideas to match. Instead of following the mythology–cybermen, hailing from Telos, invading planets and such–the script posits an alternative universe where Cybermen are invention by a mad CEO of a telecommunications company. Played by wheezing, scene-chompiness by Roger Lloyd Pack, John Lumic desires to evolve and escape from his wheelchair-bound, terminally ill state. (Though I have to give Mr. Pack credit for saying he created the character based on Donald Rumsfeld.)

What we get is Mickey finding his grandma is still alive, finding his alt-reality self (called Rickey here), Rose finding her dad is still alive (replowing the emotional furrow of “Father’s Day”), and being trapped in alt-earth while the Tardis recharges (and the Doctor saves the world).
A few days after watching the episode, not much sticks. The cybermen must have been so expensive to make that shots of them marching in formation aren’t that impressive (sentries of half-a-dozen, marching, and not very fast, must be very easy to outrun). There is, however, a good bit where the Doctor and an underground revolutionary break into cybermen HQ and must traverse a narrow corridor filled with dormant cybermen. We just know they are going to wake up…but when? I’m sure some kiddies were frightened by it all.
But there was a lot of lazy writing and the parallel dimension wasn’t thought out too well, just a few nips and tucks. The finale, where the Doctor manages to unlock a circuit that had been blocking what remained of the cybermans human host’s emotions, should have played sad and chilling. It was at first silly (emotions equal pelvic writhing) and then ignored (why does a cyberman then chase the escaping humans up a rope ladder if it’s now human? Why, to get a “last cyberman falling into an inferno” shot, of course.)
So, sort of a bummer. I guess it doesn’t help that I’m having my mind altered by reading all these Philip K. Dick stories recently. Who just can’t match up.
Next week: killer televisions!

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