Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Rise Of The Cybermen:

Well, it's getting busy in The Odeon - Flatmate Dave. Tonight, after the rugby, Dave, Tim downstairs, Nicola and myself watched this while Cockney Neil and Chinese Cathy sat over to the side keeping an eye on it from where they were surfing the net in darkness.

Not a great start, almost identical in structure to the opening of last season’s awful Boom Town, concluding with Roger Lloyd Pack grating awkwardly his rather pathetic hook line "Set sail for Great Britain."

At this point, cockney Neil stopped in amazement and exclaimed in a loud voice the words on everyone's lips. You know what he said. You thought a variation on these words yourself. "Flippin' 'eck - it's Trigger!"

And, as the rest of the episode would prove, he undoubtedly was. I'm sure Pack has a whole big acting range inside of him, but unfortunately this just was not in evidence here. He played it like Trigger, he used Trigger's pronunciation, he was Trigger. No threat there then.

Hopefully next week we'll get the following exchange:

Trigger: "All right Ricky?"
Mickey: "It's MICKEY!"

I digress.

The TARDIS, with all those places it could land, in all those times, in all those universes, quite by chance, lands in present-day London near the River Thames.

It's a parallel universe. Yep, that's all the explanation we need. This really should have been set ten years in the future, like the UNIT ones were at the time. Maybe the penny had finally dropped that they don’t know how to handle contemporary stories post-The Christmas Invasion. Or maybe it was because of the popularity of Rose's dad last season. Still a downer of a reason to change universes though.

Mickey protests that in comicbooks it's easy to travel between universes, but the Doctor points out that this is real life. Has this ever been a smart thing to say in any genre? Even Top Secret! highlighted what an ill-conceived cliché it was as long ago as 1984.

In this universe, Big Ben has a square face and is surrounded by zeppelins. Remember this.

Rose and Mickey head away from the Doctor in opposite directions, Mickey voicing the choice the Doctor is about to make. Character-motivation. Finally.

From this point on, as far as I was concerned, I was watching an episode of Sliders, which was a good thing. I always thought that Sliders was Doctor Who in all but name, and had quite a low benchmark for continuity, so I was comfortable in my low expectations from this point on. Yep – they've landed in a parallel universe where their counterparts have key rolls, as usual. Hmm – where could this possibly be going?

Probably not where I would like it to go. Is there an alternative Doctor here? A reasonable question, yet they ignore it and carry on as if it makes no difference. If there IS another Doctor, where is he? If there ISN’T, then the Earth really should have been successfully invaded many times over by now, whilst the entire universe should have been destroyed a few times too...

(I’ll skip asking what happened to this universe’s Time Lords, since they still haven’t worked out what happened to ‘our’ ones yet. I know, I know, don't get logical with me…)

Rose's phone has a TV on it. Surely this advanced phone must have a camera attached. Does she take pictures of the places she travels to? Does she send them home? That phone idea is so underexplored.

In this universe, Rose's dad is still alive, tempting her to stay. Then, quite unexpectedly, they remember that Rose can’t stay without breaking her mum’s heart back home in her universe, which was such a relief. Usually these days, if a character is off-screen, then they’re just forgotten.

Rose’s parents never had any children here, so we all creased up when here ‘Rose’ turned out to be the family dog! Alas, our Rose never got to exclaim "Oh no – I'm the pet dog!" Quite wonderfully, I realise I’m rather enjoying the show this week.

Trigger picks people's brains using a sort of CGI headset that comes out of their earplugs. Fortunately, this has never happened to anyone in a group, or in front of a camera.

Meanwhile, this Earth’s vagrant extras are being rounded up like they're in a bleak 20th century science-fiction show. One tramp however is a ringer. You can tell because

a) he has a camcorder.
b) he has shaved this morning.

The President shows up. Once again this is a source of great joy for cockney Neil. "It's that guy from Rising Damp!"

Great surreal moment with everyone freezing in the street, reminiscent of that scene in episode one of The Prisoner. Absolutely everyone laughs, quite unconvincingly, at the joke.

Mickey, poor guy, winds up walking all the way from the River Thames to a street in Wales. I guess this really must be a parallel universe.

Mickey's gran is funny.

Mickey gets suddenly kidnapped by his "friends." Erm… okay.(?)

Here it turns out his counterpart is an underground resistance leader. Hmm – wonder what he'll have to do next week.

It had to happen - Phil has a bust-up with Trigger. Sadly it's not over Frances de la Tour.

The Lion Sleeps Tonight plays as the tramps are all changed into Cybermen. Wonderful direction. Suddenly the show is, like the old days, just doing its own thing without panicking about the audience leaving because it might be above them.

And then you remember that robots with whirring cutting machinery is exactly what last week’s episode was about too…

Several good lines from Mickey about kitchens.

Rose tries, unsuccessfully, to get her mum and dad back together again. Fortunately, they both survive the massacre at the end of the episode.

Three cheers for the return of the Doctor's long-standing catchphrase: "Cybermen!"

Then social relevance awkwardly returns for the final line: "Delete. Delete. Delete."

Unusually, I do not quote the above line in irony. I really enjoyed this, but as I said earlier, I need to employ the same level of non-think as with Sliders.

More than any episode so far in the modern series, this one actually felt like Doctor Who, right from the giveaway episode title. I later learnt that the great direction, the best in the series so far, was by a director from the original series - Graeme Harper. Back in the mid-80s he was responsible for The Caves Of Androzani and Revelation Of The Daleks, both of which featured exceptional location work, and some quite poor studio. Hmm – it could go either way.

Next week I'm expecting Rickey to die so that Mickey has to take his place and learn how to be a hero, Pete and Jackie to get back together again, and Jackie to discover that she's pregnant.

Oh waitaminute, I forgot, the story's about Cybermen.

The Age Of Steel:

Great recap – the opening credits actually had me feeling like I was watching Doctor Who again. At one point a Cyberman amusingly coins the term "Maximum deletion."

Terrible resolution to last week’s cliffhanger. Whatever it was the Doctor suddenly whipped-out and shot the Cybermen with, it would have come in very handy for saving people’s lives both before and after this moment. He also whips out some sort of control device while hiding behind the dustbins. And then Mrs Moore does the same thing after they’ve broken into Battersea Power Station.

Lots of talking, not much happening – I’m okay with that. I’d sooner the show could do that, than remain stuck in its quivering oh-no-its-been-30-seconds-and-nothing’s-happened-people-will-turn-over mode.

Why on Earth is Mickey wearing an identical outfit to Ricky? How embarrassing.

Jackie hides behind a door, and is surely seen by a Cyberman. Several minutes later she’s summoned by the ear-pod things, and it seems as though this summoning has saved her in the nick of time. Clumsy editing.

Mickey voluntarily leaves the Doctor and Rose to go with Rickey, but gives us no explanation why. I can make one up (he was intrigued by the hero he wanted to be), but we needed to be given some reason here.

Then, having not even looked for any joins between Mickey and Rickey up to this point, we’re suddenly walloped in the face with the worst piece of split-screen I’ve ever heard. Yep, heard. Just because you can’t see a line between the two Mickeys, doesn’t mean they can both talk out loud to themselves as if the other isn’t there. Ow.

After being dumped in School Reunion, The Five Doctors is back in memory again, if not in continuity, with the Doctor’s line “We’ll attack on three sides – above, between, below.”

The Cybermen each have an emotion inhibitor, ha ha ha. Diet-Cybermen.

The inside of the Cybermen’s lair looks a lot like a Borg cube.

There’s no screaming as people are assimilated this week. Whoops, did I say assimilated?

Jackie’s dead, or is she? We only have this Cyberman’s highly improbable word.

Lumic’s dead, or is he? Again, we’re taking these plot-points on faith that the bad guys aren’t lying.

Lumic, after being turned into a Cyberman, retains his own voice. And a chair.

Great argument between the Doctor and Lumic.

Not sure how Mickey texted the deactivation number to Rose. He takes Rose’s phone at the end of the episode, implying that he, quite unusually for a techie, doesn’t have his own.

The emotion inhibitors are deactivated, so the Cybermen all go mad and just die. None of them take any longer than that. We actually see one of them with their head exploding, leaving their stumpy neck behind.

Rose: In her first episode we were told she was a gymnast. In The Empty Child she climbed a rope hanging from zeppelin. This week she has tremendous difficulty with a rope ladder.

Remember the zeppelins surrounding the square-faced Big Ben? Well, once actors are in front of it, they’re all gone, and Big Ben’s face is round again.

Mickey, having become one of this series' rare good elements, is written out. Worse, his reason – to look after his gran – is left unchallenged by the Doctor, who’s just spent two episodes drilling into Rose that this universe’s Pete is not ‘her’ dad. Even worse, Mickey then forgets his gran to head off overseas.

It’s also worth noting that part of the show’s central concept then gets broken with the revelation that the TARDIS can’t ever return. The TARDIS can go anywhere at any time. That’s been the appeal for over 40 years. No planet in the entire history of the show has ever boasted so much as an “anti-TARDIS forcefield,” not even Gallifrey. And it’s travelled between universes before. A bit of a shame, but also daring.

Jackie and Pete don’t get together at the end, and neither does Rose take Pete home. In fact, Rose loses her surrogate mum, upsets her dad, and loses Mickey. Good call.

Finally, when Rose returns home to her own universe, Jackie asks her “Where’s Mickey?” as though she somehow knows that he’d left in the TARDIS with them. I guess she assumed that when he disappeared suddenly. Or maybe they phoned. Gosh I’m working hard this week.

These are fairly negative points, but I really enjoyed this. The scene with the Cyberwoman who had been preparing for her marriage was good, but not as good as the one we later saw looking at its reflection. This reminded me of the completely unrelated Elliot Gould movie Who? Missed potential here.

Overall, I think this has been my second favourite story of the modern series, after The Unquiet Dead. It suffers from its similarities to the previous story (robot/human hybrids with whirring cutting machinery), and having their loud clanging feet sneaking up on people, but it’s biggest non-threat would be that these simply aren’t ‘real’ Cybermen. They’re only part-human, part-human technology. Do you consider the computer that you’re reading this on to be very cleverly designed?

Mind you, at least they’re not allergic to gold, radiation, nail-varnish remover, and pieces of wood.

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