Doctor Who #730: Rise of the Cybermen

"The next level of mankind. We are Human point two. Every citizen will receive a free upgrade. You will become like us."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired May 13 2006.

IN THIS ONE... A parallel world where Pete Tyler is alive and successful, and where a new kind of Cybermen are born.

REVIEW: This ain't no Spare Parts, even if Marc Platt is given credit for his Big Finish audio about the birth of the Cyberman on Mondas is credited at the end. For one thing, it lacks the link to our world's Cybermen, replacing them with a new model from a parallel world (see Theories). And these new Cybermen leave me cold, where Platt's were rather more heartbreaking. If I were to try and identify WHY this is, I might point to how the production team is essentially trying to make them more like the Daleks. A metal shell with very little bio-matter inside, a killer catchphrase ("Delete!" instead of "Exterminate!", which is kind of silly, though the Cybusmen also use the classic "You will be like uzzzzz"), and their creator is confined to a life support chair. The human creator commanding his tin soldiers takes away from the Cybermen as a RACE that collectively decided to barter its humanity away and through this shortcut all become forcibly converted humans (like, say, Toberman). I dunno. Good voice, love to see the teardrop eye design again, but it might as well be "Rise of the Robots" at this point. Lumic is certainly no Davros, and I quickly get bored with his over-the-top performance. To me, Mr. Crane is much more interesting, a Michael Caine type playing rock'n'roll classics (well, remakes) while the factory slices brains out of homeless heads.

I understand wanting to bring back Pete Tyler after his emotional first appearance in Father's Day, but this isn't the same Pete Tyler, and Rose seeking him out is a story's that been told before anyway. The moment when he tells her about his failing marriage is as good as it gets, and still feels like retread ground. Alt-Jackie's reaction to Rose's meddling is kind of fun, if only because bratty selfish Rose is getting well on my nerves and deserves the dressing down, and also mirrors how the real Jackie took much longer to magically realize Rose was her daughter elsewhen. But if alt-Jackie is even more of a caricature than usual, she's positively naturalistic when compared to the alt-Mickey, Rickey, who's all macho snarls and "hard" mugging. Noel Clarke hasn't done this much Looney Tunes acting since "Rose". It's too bad, because his Mickey has become a good comic foil without going over the top. Frustrated with his status as a third wheel, coming second place in both his companions' lives, he's left pointlessly holding a button for a half hour while the Doctor and Rose laugh at their inside jokes. At this point, he's also the audience identification character, throwing the other two's exclusivity in their faces. If you can't tell he's leaving soon, you're not reading the signs very well. Rose infodumps his life history (which is a little at odds with her thinking about his mom in "Rose"), much like Cybus uploads the news into people's heads, and Mickey as much as says he's looking for better.

Some notes on the production side of things before I fall into Theories... Falling out of the vortex looks a hell of a lot like the current Matt Smith era credits sequence. London with zeppelins does indeed look cool. And though the episode misses the point about the Cybermen themselves, I did squee at the reference to International Electromatics (from The Invasion). Its function for old school fans is to put Lumic even more to shame as memories of Tobias Vaughn are evoked.

THEORIES: The TARDIS falls out of the time vortex and onto a parallel world, something the Doctor says should in inaccessible now that the Time Lords are gone. Sounds like a result of the Time War - perhaps the paths to other worlds were destroyed to prevent alt-Daleks from joining the fight, or this is how the Doctor trapped the Time Lords outside history. Regardless, the trip we see here should be impossible. If "impossible" allows for an infinitesimal chance, the odds of the parallel world on the other side being something out of Rose's dreams should be even more astronomical. I'm calling Bad Wolf on this one, guys. Pete's World is the universe the Bad Wolf created as eventual haven for its host, where her father is alive, her mother and boyfriend Mickey (or Ricky, coincidentally what the Doctor called Mickey to needle him) are about to die leaving a fillable vacuum and reuniting the whole family. It's a world where Rose herself doesn't exist making it easier to integrate herself, and if you need another clue, the bit that stays in contact with our universe the longest (in Doomsday) is at a place called Bad Wolf Bay. Perhaps it's no surprise that in Series 4, Rose can somehow send messages to the Doctor from her world to any time and place he is. The Bad Wolf, once created, exists in all times and places, a simultaneous effect we're seeing develop chronologically through the Doctor's life. The world may well have been created at the Torchwood Estate, which would explain a divergence where Queen Victoria accelerates British industry - the blimps are very steampunk - and Great Britain (not the United Kingdom) has, it seems, a President instead of a Prime Minister. Maybe the Royal Family had to be put down on this world, and the constitutional monarchy fell. Maybe Torchwood turned on the werewolves, which put them in the public eye - they're on the news here and everything. I understand parallel world stories are often contrived (change one thing, and none of us would have been born, most likely), but I think we're beyond a simple trope in this case. Then again, it's a story that would have been ripe for a shocking revelation and it never happened...

VERSIONS: A deleted scene on the DVD shows Crane confronting Jake videotaping the capture of homeless men, and laughing at him.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: In the TARDISode, a video message to the Preachers from Gemini ends with Rickey (but you think it's Mickey) driving off.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Cybermen 2.0 leave me cold. Mickey Smith 2.0 makes me cringe. Father's Day 2.0 lacks the heart of the original.

11 comments:

CiB said...

RTD once claimed that Spare Parts was one of the finest dramatic works in any medium to have ever been written. He's right, but you'd never tell from this awful adaption.

The Cybermen I think are at their best when they're weak. When there is some other thing holding them back (for example, in Tomb of the Cybermen there's the pressing need for them to recharge, and so they can't all be active for very long) as this forces them to play it subtle.

In that respect, if you think of the Daleks as a sledgehammer, the Cybermen are a scalpel. That's what keeps them different and that's what makes them interesting. Ultimately, if the Cybermen were just "another Dalek knock off", like this story portrays them to be, then they'd have gone the same way as Mechanoids, Quarks and Chumblies.

Toby'c said...

It probably helps that I saw it first by a couple of years, but I honestly prefer this two-parter to any of the classic Cybermen stories - 9/10 for both episodes on IMDb, as opposed to an 8.75/10 average for The Tomb of the Cybermen, 8.5 for The Tenth Planet, 8.25 for Earthshock, 8.375 for The Invasion...

Siskoid said...

Oh Toby, you're not actually quoting IMDB ratings at me, are you? ;-)

I was never a big fan of the Cybermen, mind you (I offer this blog as evidence). Their last good story was The Invasion. But this was an opportunity to reverse that trend and give me Cybermen I liked. It failed on that count.

Toby'c said...

To be fair, those are my own ratings, even if IMDb is the only place I've bothered to actually cast them, and usually the only place I talk about them.

DAVID WALSTON said...

I hate the "Delete" catchphrase.
They are more machine than man, at least in the Classics you could tell they were once men.

Siskoid said...

If it's YOUR rating, then it's valid, Toby! I thought you meant to agglomerated opinion of the Internet.

CiB said...

In terms of enjoying Cybermen, I almost agree with you completely Siskoid. I think if we include Big Finish output (such as Spare Parts, the Silver Turk etc) then we have good ones since The Invasion.

I don't think the Cybermen have ever been good on colour television.

Siskoid said...

Oh yeah of course, on audio they've had big wins!. But on TV, yeah... I guess you could make a case for Earthshock, and they've been featured in other stories that were pretty cool, like Doomsday and The Pandorica Opens, but those weren't Cybermen stories per se.

Jeff R. said...

Huh. I guess I'm the only one here who likes the new-style Cybermen. (For reasons best discussed tomorrow, so I'll leave it at that today. And I'm probably the only person anywhere who doesn't think Cyberwoman was the worst episode of the two episodic seasons of Torchwood.)

Siskoid said...

You must be from a parallel world ;)

Bill Doughty said...

I've said before that I really like the Cybermen, but design aside I can't stand the Cybusmen, and to this day I'm annoyed that when we get the Dalek/Cybermen throwdown I had been waiting for most of my life, it's these yahoos who are called to the plate. "Pest control" indeed. I was happy, then, to see the whole alternate universe angle dropped from pretty much The Next Doctor onward (even though I think Gaiman's Cybermen story from the back half of Season 7 is even worse than this one).

 

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