Thursday, July 02, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 2x05: "Rise Of The Cybermen"

Written by Tom MacRae
Directed by Graeme Harper

Like many things in life, emotions are something I often take for granted. That doesn’t mean I have a disregard for people’s feelings, I really don’t. What I mean is that often I can be pretty pithy at times and be a little oblivious to the effect sometimes of what I say and it affects others.

To some people, I can be construed as a little insensitive or emotionally detached. I kind of agree to the latter given that I tend be more of a thinker in my approach to life rather than someone who relies on their emotions a lot. That being said, I am human and I do have emotions and like everybody else in the world, that is what separates me from being a machine. That’s what separates most people from being machines.

Well, until now! If you can tell, I’m trying to do my best to downplay not only the return of another iconic Doctor Who villain but also how I feel about the first half of a two part story of the new season. Anyway I slice it, this review is going to be positive, so I’m hope you’re still with me.

Taking the alternative reality routine once again, The Doctor, Rose and Mickey land in a different version to 2006 but before they get into the obvious run of trouble you expect and hope for in their new surrounding, it’s revealed early in the episode that the TARDIS is broken and the vortex of time is gone. At first this appears to be a bad thing until The Doctor realises that a tiny power cell and a reduction of his life can get everyone home by tomorrow so they can leave this new London in 24 hours then.

This new London which is one where Zeppelins are in the air hovering around the city, the Royal family are gone and in their place a President runs Great Britain. This being a London where people are instructed to wear earpieces that download information in their brains and can control them but ultimately for Rose, this is a London where Pete Tyler is alive and a millionaire, thanks to Vitex drinks company he runs and is still with her mother Jackie, who has traded chav for chic in the process.

I felt the instant rehash to “Father’s Day” coming a mile off, even before The Doctor had to utter to Rose all the dangers of trying to interact with her parents but it seems that Rose is learning from past experience as despite her desperation to see her father, she actually listens to The Doctor and takes his advice on board. But still, let’s talk more about this version of the Tyler’s, shall we?

In absence of a child, we have Rose the dog; Jackie’s faithful if not great with time keeping pet. Poor Rose had to find out through a download of her parents status and boy, wasn’t she devastated by the fact she doesn’t exist in this reality (I don’t know, I thought it would make things less complicated for her but it doesn’t). The Doctor’s reaction to finding out that this Tyler’s Rose was a pooch had me in stitches too but seriously, just because Jackie and Pete are rich, doesn’t make them content. If paraphrasing from Ava in Nip/Tuck – different circumstances, same issues all over again.

Jackie and Pete are certainly the same in any reality. He’s still a likeable jack the lad type (that also means Shaun Dingwall is still great to watch) and Jackie is rather horrible at times but more horrible here. Pete seems to make all the effort that his wife doesn’t acknowledge.

He tries to compliment her, he organisations a party for her 40th birthday and he even keeps their impending divorce a secret, which benefits her reputation in this world as well as his I would imagine. Just like “Father’s Day” when it comes to these two, Pete always comes across as the more sympathetic of the two, even though Camille Coduri gives one of her best performances on this show to date with this episode.

Their attitude in regards to Rose (not the dog) is also similar to “Father’s Day”. For instance, Pete is openly friendly towards Rose while she (along with The Doctor) sneaks into the party as a maid and even admits to feeling safe around her. Actually both Pete and Jackie open up to Rose about their marital woes, unaware once again that’s she their daughter from another world but unlike Pete, Jackie’s cold and abrasive manner when she turns on Rose in the garden makes me wonder if Pete was alive in the real life, would Jackie be a worse parent.

Getting back to the earpiece downloads in question which are worn by the Tyler’s as well, the company behind all the information is controlled by Cybus Industries, run by the enigmatic but 100% insane John Lumic. Played by Roger Lloyd-Pack (mostly known as Trigger from Only Fools And Horses), Lumic is a megalomaniac of the highest order who opens this exciting episode by getting his creation, a Cyberman to kill an opposing professor while then plotting to unleash an army of Cybermen on Jackie’s birthday bash.

It seems that everybody in London is controlled in one way or another by Lumic, who thanks to those earpieces can make people laugh for no reason and stop them momentarily in their tracks. Don’t you just hate this guy? If not you soon will.

His motivations behind recreating the creatures last seen in 1988’s “Silver Nemesis” (or in 2005’s “Dalek” if you’re including the head from an old design in that Utah alien museum) is down to Lumic’s ongoing losing battle with his own mortality but the fact that he has no qualms with kidnapping homeless men and slaughters them to turn them into his cybernetic killing machines really makes him a nasty piece of work, even worse than that spineless excuse Henry Van Statten from “Dalek” last season.

However before I delve into the Cybermen plot further, another great strength about this episode is giving the virtually underappreciated Mickey more screen time, a wonderful exploration of his childhood (he was practically raised by his grandmother until she died five years ago after both his parents abandoned him), it’s incredibly hard not to feel bad for the guy.

Mickey has got some serious self esteem issues and there’s a brilliant look at that when he visits his grandmother in this new London and feels guilty about her death his. I actually get the impression Mickey feels responsible for her death because no-one ever got around to fixing the carpet on the stairs. Even Rose turned around and admitted that both her and The Doctor either ignore Mickey or take him for granted and this episode hits home about Mickey’s issues with abandonment and self-value.

It’s also interesting that being snatched by a freedom fighting group called The Preachers which features ex-kids presenter Andrew Hayden-Smith as Jake Simmonds (the lad who tried and failed to save those homeless guys from Mr Crane earlier on) who tells Mickey or should I say Ricky that he’s the most wanted man in Britain. Well that is until we meet another tougher looking Mickey/Ricky, and our one is checked to see if he’s with Lumic do we get answers about The Preachers.

The answers are hardly complex – they just don’t wear the earpieces which them a choice and they want to stop Lumic in his tracks. Still though the site of tough and control Mickey versus low self esteem Mickey is intriguing and Noel Clarke deserves a BAFTA for his performance in this episode. He really broke my heart tonight.

Now for the main action of the piece, who given the fact that this is a two-parter, it was sensible to leave until the last minute. The Cybermen came to attack, kill and convert everyone at Jackie’s party and their presence most definitely didn’t disappoint.

It took a while for The Doctor to realise his old adversaries were the main problem with this world (despite some obvious clues at the start) but he soon learned who was on their way when he looked at Pete’s computer and he wasn’t the only one as The Preachers also made their way to the Tyler’s. Their return is deliberately timely too, given that it’s been forty years since “The Tenth Planet”.

I bet the President of Great Britain had wished he done more than indulged Lumic’s dark fantasies before being “deleted” and when the Cybermen started attacking all at random in the Tyler’s mansion. David Tennant’s reaction to telling Rose about the Cybermen was interesting. He looked shocked but not as shocked as when The Doctor saw that lone Dalek last year. Rose if you’re not badly damaged, you’re in for another education my dear. Get the coffee out as the Cybermen have certainly been a destructive bunch.

Although unlike the Daleks, who are primarily fascist in their attack, the Cybermen are more logic thinking survivalists, even if their said logic is twisted and gets a lot of people killed. The choices that the Cybermen give everyone at the house are simple – convert or die and sadly for The Doctor, neither is an option.

To amp up the tension that little bit more we had The Doctor, Rose, Jake, Pete and both Mickey’s running for their lives. The Doctor hoped to spare his and their lives by actually surrendering to the Cybermen but these update simply don’t care and proceeded to attack nonetheless. It seems a certain Time Lord and his pals are a little incompatible with becoming a living brain in a cybernetic body. Jackie had better that one doesn’t find her in the basement but either way, the excitement is higher than kite for me and other viewers.

Also in “Rise Of The Cybermen”

Exact Time Date: February 1st 2006, which means that Jackie is an Aquarius and apparently the same age as Cuba Gooding Jr. Good for her!

John Lumic (re Cyberman): “Can it hear me?”
Dr Kendrick: “Might still be in shock.”

This episode is written by a guy named Tom MacRae. There’s also a singer out there with the same name.

The Doctor: “Is everyone alright?”
Mickey: “I’m fine, sorry, okay, yeah.”

John Lumic: “If the President of Great Britain can make it, so can you.”
Pete: “He’s not married to Jackie.”

According to actor Roger Lloyd-Pack, he based Lumic on the US Defence’s Donald Rumsfeld. As a non-Conservative person, I can’t help but be intrigued by the political viewpoints we’ve gotten this season. We even got a snotty remark about Tony Blair in this episode.

Mickey (to The Doctor): “You’re always gonna chase after one of us and it ain’t gonna be me.”

We got another Torchwood reference here, this time from Pete.

President (re Lumic): “You don’t think he’s insane?”
Pete: “It’s not a word I’d use.”

The Doctor (to Rose): “If you want to know what’s going on, work in a kitchen.”

Did anyone notice the “C” logo on the Zeppelins and the Cybermen like handlebars when Lumic was downloading information from Jackie?

Other Mickey: “The target is Lumic and we are going to kill him.”
Mickey: “From your kitchen?”

The Preachers backup team was called Gemini – that’s my star sign and like the Tylers my family had a Yorkshire Terrier, though ours was called Princess instead of Rose.

Pete: “You think?”
Rose: “You can trust us.”
Pete: “You can trust me on this.”

There was no trailer for next week’s episode. That’s a nice touch as I want to be surprised.

Rose: “What are they?”
The Doctor: “Cybermen.”

The Doctor: “Into what?”
Cyberman: “The next level of mankind.”

Standout Music: Did anyone find the use of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” seriously twisted as those homeless guys were being made into Cybermen? I seriously did!

I had such high expectations for this episode, I thought that I was almost going to be in for a letdown but “Rise Of The Cybermen” is anything but that. Tom MacRae’s script is superb and this not only the start to a fantastic two part adventure but also the best episode of the season so far (sorry “School Reunion”). Next Saturday can’t come quick enough.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

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