Thursday, July 02, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 2x06: "The Age Of Steel"

Written by Tom MacRae
Directed by Graeme Harper

Mickey: “I reckon you’re braver.”
Ricky: “Yeah, ten times.”

That’s an interesting exchange because I have a similar feeling about this concluding episode to the Cyberman two-parter myself. Am I alone in that sentiment? I really hope not and to be honest, I would be very surprised if I was too.

Last week ended on such a cliff-hanger and with the surprising lack of online spoilers circulating (to be honest, I didn’t even find any preview pictures for this episode on David Tennant’s website), I was positively tingling with excitement while wondering how The Doctor and company were going to escape from being “deleted” and it was a little simple.

Yes in order for no-one significant to die within the first three minutes of the episode, The Doctor used a power cell from the TARDIS to blow up a few of the surrounding Cybermen before legging it in a van with Pete, Rose, Mickey, Ricky, Jake and Mrs Moore. Okay so this was a little cheat but for the rest of the 45 minutes, this episode was anything but disappointing.

Oh and if you were frustrated with the lack of presence from the metallic monsters from “Rise Of The Cybermen”, then this episode more than makes it up for you as we
get plenty of Cyberman action.

Just because The Doctor offed a few of them in the beginning, it doesn’t mean that the threat was and one thing you can credit John Lumic on is his determination to make the entire city of London into emotionless robots and while we see many random strangers being controlled to walk to their death, among them happens to be one Jackie Tyler.

Jackie as a Cyberman – who would’ve thought it would happen? I stupidly assumed that she was either going to be killed or eventually rescued by The Doctor along the way but when Rose and Pete infiltrated Cybus Industries (with the help of fake earpieces), I soon learned different. Having Rose and Pete find Jackie as a Cyberman was one of several impressive twists in this episode and dramatically, it was utilised superbly.

Rose and Pete’s relationship in this episode was tackled in a surprisingly different way too. Those of you expecting a similar loving outcome with them a la “Father’s Day” are in for a shock as instead of forging a bond with each other during the Cyberman attack, running for their lives and being captured and eventually defeating the psychotic Lumic, they were actually torn apart.

Billie Piper threw in quite a sympathetic performance as in this parallel universe, Rose had to deal with the death of her mother, getting the opportunity to tell Pete that they are related but getting rejected by him, though to be fair to the writing and Shaun Dingwall, Pete is never vilified for not wanting to know his daughter.

Pete’s contribution to this episode is certainly interesting. If they were fears last week that he was a bad guy, then they are kicked into touch when we learn that he was against Lumic all along and connected to The Preachers. There’s also how he told Rose not to show emotion during the infiltration at Cybus Industries and yet it was him who blew their cover. Still though, I’m glad he wasn’t a bad guy and I’m also glad he survived this episode, willing to stop Lumic’s master plan in the long run too.

Still though, Rose went through quite the emotional ringer this week and on top losing one alternative parent by a Cyberman and another through his own free will, she ends up losing her on-off/sorely underappreciated until now boyfriend in the process. It’s no wonder that when the TARDIS materialised in Jackie’s flat towards the end of the episode that hugging her mother was the first thing she did. Even The Doctor could tell that Rose needed a human touch.

As for Mickey, once again Noel Clarke dominated this episode and to be fair, he was phenomenal here. Just look at the examples for crying out loud. His conversation with Ricky about their similarities and The Doctor and Rose before the latter was killed by a Cyberman was both hilarious and self-aware.

But what really impressed me though is how in the wake of being unable to save Ricky, Mickey literally stepped into his shoes and assumed a leadership role. Jake may have been against and you could tell The Doctor was sceptical but he still took command and together with Jake (with some humorous sniping from Jake), the both of them managed to get to Lumic’s Zeppelin in order to help bring the madman down.

I knew there was a reason The Doctor kept using the “idiot” analogy for humans during his confrontation with a Cyberman version of Lumic but after the events unfolded here, we have the proof that Mickey really isn’t an idiot after all. In fact it was him who saved the day, not The Doctor so much, although the Time Lord did his bit to help things.

His goodbye to Rose and The Doctor at the end was poignant. I felt that Mickey hit home on a lot of things. Him and Rose did have something but it is gone and she seems to be destined to be with The Doctor and not him (I’m not speaking romantic wise). Although Rose was sad to see Mickey go, I get the impression that she knows it’s the right thing for him.

In this world he has a purpose to live and people who he can protect. If this isn’t a satisfying way of writing out a character, then what is? Doing a J.J Abrams and randomly killing them in a senseless fashion? I’ll miss Mickey and Noel Clarke but maybe Mickey being gone for the time being isn’t such a bad thing to be honest.

Besides, The Preachers really do need a leader. With both Ricky dead and Mrs Moore killed by a Cyberman after we learned quite a bit about her (I really enjoyed her scenes with The Doctor while they were underground trying to sneak into Lumic’s lair), Mickey is probably a good choice, leader wise.

The fact that it was his quick thinking and various acts of bravery that saved everyone’s bacon this week are a part of the reason why he makes a good leader. Another one I can think of that I mentioned earlier was the fact he finally refused to be put down that showed real strength and development in his character.

Not that I think Jake would be a bad leader. He can certainly handle himself and proved to have no qualms with knocking out henchmen but Mickey also showed logic and resolve, which is why Jake is probably better as a right hand man for now. Even The Doctor showed a newfound respect for the departing Mickey and hopefully we’ll able to see Mickey and Jake (along with Pete for the ride, kicking some Cyberman butt).

Now, let’s deal with the Cybermen themselves. First off they appeared in over half the episode, so you really can’t complain there and they did slaughter quite a few people along the way, including Ricky and Mrs Moore and they certainly exuded a convincing amount of menace but at the end of the day, they were the army behind the real monster – John Lumic.

What can you say about Lumic? Well the man is dying and desperate to live, his upgrade into becoming a Cyberman himself was inevitable. Although how interesting was it that he wanted to have choice to become one of those emotionless creatures and yet he had no problem with denying his victims the same choices. Even the annoying Mr Crane was killed after trying to stop John’s descent into lunacy.

The confrontation between the upgraded Lumic and The Doctor sparkled though, with the latter furiously arguing over the fact that not only what Lumic doing is wrong by killing people and changing them into Cybermen but he was also killing the traits that Lumic had prided himself such as imagination. The Doctor eerily admired Lumic’s imagination if not his sinister plans for Cybermen to be launched on seven continents. Lumic on the other-hand probably just wanted The Doctor gagged for being against his plan. David Tennant’s hyperactive performances at times can be unsettling as well as brilliant. Let’s just say that Lumic isn’t of the Liberal persuasion.

Still though, downfalls didn’t come more spectacular when The Doctor managed to get a code from the Lumic Family Database and Rose’s mobile to disarm the emotional inhibitors on Lumic’s Cybermen army, thus killing them when they couldn’t handle their newly awakened feelings. That would be a disadvantage in using more than just the brain in these designs but even with his army destroyed and Lumic sent to a fiery destination, thanks to Pete, there’s the awfully nagging feeling that we haven’t seen the last of this nutcase. I kind of hope we haven’t too.

Also in “The Age Of Steel”

This is the first time this season that we’ve gotten a “Previously On”. Only with two-part episodes I guess.

The Doctor (re Jackie): “She’s not your mother.”
Rose: “I know.”

I loved the revelation that Ricky was wanted for parking tickets. It was actually funny. Oh and Pete works for Gemini.

The Doctor: “I’m The Doctor by the way if anyone’s interested.”
Rose: “I’m Rose, hello.”
Pete: “That’s the name of my dog.”

The Doctor (to Rose): “Give anyone a chance to take control and you all submit. Sometimes I think you like it.”

Debate time: Not seeing Jackie’s “death” – good or bad thing? I think Good myself.

Mickey: “I’m not an idiot, you get that? I’m offering to help.”
Jake: “Whatever.”

Mrs Moore’s real name was Angela Price. She was an employee of Cybus Industries but became a fugitive after reading a private file. She had a husband and children.

Pete: “Why are you doing this?”
Rose: “Let’s say I’m doing it for my Mum and Dad.”

No Torchwood reference this week and the TARDIS sub-plot was largely ignored until the end.

The Doctor (to Mrs Moore): “Who needs family? I’ve got the weight of the world on my shoulders.”

Cyberman: “You are not upgraded.”
Mrs Moore: “Yeah, well upgrade this.”

Various Cybermen killings: Mickey with a fuse box, The Doctor with a cell from the TARDIS and Mrs Moore with an electric bomb, which looked cool.

The Doctor: “I've been captured, but don't worry. Rose and Pete are still out there. They can rescue me. Oh well, never mind.”

The Doctor: “I’m The Doctor.”
Lumic: “That’s a redundant title.”

Lumic’s Cyberman looked paler and thinner in comparison to the other Cybermen.

Lumic: “You’re proud of your emotions?”
The Doctor: “Yeah.”

Lumic: “What have you done?”
The Doctor (re Cybermen): “I gave them back their souls. They can see what you’ve done and it’s killing them.”

Rose’s mobile/secret code: 6879760.

Rose: “Dad?”
Pete: “Don’t, just don’t.”

Mickey (to Rose): “We had something a long time ago, now we don’t.”

This is the third time in this Doctor Who series that a third man in the TARDIS team has gone although at least unlike Adam and Captain Jack, Mickey made the decision to leave on his own accord.

The Doctor: “Good luck, Mickey the idiot.”
Mickey: “Watch it!”

Jackie (to Rose): “Where did you go?”
The Doctor: “Far away.”

Continuity bits: Rose remembering the Cybermen from that museum in “Dalek”, Mickey’s “tin dog” reference from earlier this season and the tow truck he used in “The Parting Of The Ways”.

“The Age Of Steel” is a riveting follow up to this riveting two part adventure. Like with “The Doctor Dances”, this episode almost beats “Rise Of The Cybermen” and a lot of that has to do with the emotional content behind this hour. Some powerful performances, a real sense of danger and a bigger sense that we haven’t seen the last of the Cybermen or Lumic this season only add to this tremendous episode.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

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