Sunday, May 21, 2006

Doctor Who - The Age of Steel

The story continues from last week ... after a recap of events, the solution elicited a gasp of 'What?' from around the room. The Doctor escapes from 'maximum deletion' by the Cybermen with the little power gizmo from the TARDIS. Now this was the thing that the Doctor had to keep alive to allow the TARDIS to repair itself so they could all escape? And he discharges it. But afterwards, everything is fine and it will only take a few more hours to recharge again. Unfortunately this all throws the gravitas of the first episode into relief as it's obvious that there really wasn't much to be worried about here. Meanwhile we discover that Pete Tyler is the mysterious 'Gemini' who has been feeding the Preachers their information, and that Ricky is only London's 'most wanted' as far as number of unpaid parking tickets go. Lumic is obviously getting bored as he orders activation of his earpods and hypnotizes everyone in London to come to Battersea for upgrading into Cybermen. So what was all the business with the Cybermen crashing the party for then?

The Doctor, Pete, Rose, Jake, Mickey, Ricky and Mrs Moore are all chased around a lot by Cybermen - the Doctor does something clever with his sonic screwdriver to make them go away, but when Mickey and Ricky are chased, Ricky suffers the Cyber Electric Death Grip (hereafter called CEDG) and is killed, leaving Mickey to carry on with the role of hero. The wonderful Mr Crane turns on Lumic and tries to kill him, but he gets a taste of CEDG and the Cybermen decide that Lumic needs an upgrade himself to be their Controller. This is a lovely performance from Colin Spaull as Mr Crane - one of the best in the episodes in fact. He was very chilling with shades of the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang mixed in with elements of Packer from Doctor Who's The Invasion. The Doctor, Pete, Rose, Jake, Mickey and Mrs Moore arrive at Battersea Power Station (a wonderful piece of CGI realises the building, Zeppelin parked on top, and belching black smoke into the sky) and take The Five Doctors's routes into the building: Above; Between; Below. While Jake and Mickey disable the transmitter in the Zeppelin, Rose and Pete will enter via the front door pretending to be zombified, and the Doctor and Mrs Moore will take an underground coolant tunnel into the complex. The scenes here between the Doctor, Rose and Mickey, start to highlight why I feel that this series isn't working for me as well as the last. It's based in the relationship between the Doctor and Rose. It's so inclusive, and Mickey can do nothing but feel like a spare cog, or the tin dog. The Doctor and Rose only have eyes and thoughts for each other it seems, and this hurts. Doctor Who always used to be a fantasy - in that the TARDIS could arrive in your street and you could be whisked away for adventures and friendship - but not if Rose is there. She is behaving like a spiteful, jealous ex-girlfriend whenever anyone looks like taking away some of the Doctor's attention from her, and I don't like it. Poor Mickey. From being the idiot, now he is the person we most relate to. Having to watch his girlfriend fawn and drool over someone else is bad enough, but to have no way of redeeming himself or making himself feel any better stinks. So everyone gets into the Power Station unscathed. Pete and Rose encounter a Cyberman Jackie, but scenes that should have been quite shocking and chilling are rendered somewhat soulless, and I think the problem is that the Cybermen all look the same. It would have been nice to have seen something of the conversion process on Jackie, to see something of the human remaining in the Cyberman, but maybe to do this would have been to skate too close to Star Trek's Borg. Maybe you can't win however you try and do it. There are some wonderful scenes in the coolant tunnel which turns out to be unexpectedly full of deactivated Cybermen. Very spooky. But why are they there? Wouldn't it have been easier for Lumic to simply build more warehouses somewhere to keep them in? And of course they come to life and chase the Doctor and Mrs Moore to the exit, which the Doctor is somehow able to weld shut with his sonic screwdriver. Mrs Moore disables another Cyberman with an electromagnetic bomb (exactly when did she have time to put one of these together anyway - they seem to have been on the run ever since leaving Pete's party) and the Doctor explores how the creatures work, and realises that the emotional inhibitor chip could be turned off with a code. The sequence with the Cyberman reverting to its past identity - that of Sally Fielder - was really rather excellent. Showing them in a different light and eliciting some sympathy. But then Mrs Moore receives the CEGD from a Cyberman who has learned to walk quietly, and the Doctor is hauled off to Cyber Control. Mickey and Jake disable the transmitter with the help of a convenient Cyberman, and the formerly controlled humans panic and run riot. Meanwhile the Doctor, Rose and Pete are reunited in Cyber Control and meet the CyberController - an upgraded Lumic, complete with his very own Gigeresque steam powered armchair. As the Doctor talks with Lumic, Mickey manages to log into the CCTV system and watches and listens to the exchange. The Doctor notices the camera, and in an amazing leap of assumption, realises that Mickey is watching. He thus tells Mickey where to find the code to shut off the emotion inhibitors and gets him to text the code to Rose's phone, which he promptly uses to transmit it to all the Cybermen ... but hang on ... this is a great idea, but one which has been somewhat mishandled. I think the point is that all of Lumic's Cybus companies produce hardware and software which is compatible with each other. Sensible move and something that Microsoft and Apple do today. And so the phone would then plug into the main computer and transmit the signal as it would be compatible. But this is not a Cybus phone. It's Rose's phone from real-Earth. So why does it fit? All that was needed to solve this was in episode 1 for the Doctor to procure a couple of Cybus phones for Rose and Mickey and to talk about everything being compatible and the problem is solved. Maybe I'm thinking about this too hard again. So the emotion inhibitors are turned off, and the Cybermen all go mad, staggering about, clutching their heads and moaning electronically. First of all, would they really all go mad? There must be some folks out there who would quite like the idea of being a silver giant with no aches and pains, in a strong body that would live forever (or at least until the brain died). But even if you do go mad, then why does one of the Cybermen's heads explode? And why does the factory then start to blow up? Mickey to the rescue and the Doctor, Rose and Pete race to the roof where a handy Zeppelin awaits them, but the CyberController is hot on their heels and gets on the dangling rope ladder as well. So it's Sonic Screwdriver to the rescue again, this time in rope burning mode, and the Controller falls into the furnace below (shades of Aliens with the Alien Queen's death at the end I felt). All is well, and we conclude with Pete getting back to work, refusing to accept that Rose is his daughter, and Mickey deciding to be a hero and to stay, much to Rose's disappointment. But I can't blame him. As far as the TARDIS is concerned, it's the Doctor and Rose show all the way. Overall, a very entertaining episode which wraps the story up nicely. Except. I mentioned last review about all the stuff with the time vortex vanishing and so on, and hoped there would be some sort of explanation. Well there wasn't, and so this has to be the biggest cop out ever. Very disappointing (unless of course it has something to do with the ongoing arc, which so far seems very obscure - but then the Bad Wolf one made little sense until the end, and even then it wasn't really explained).

A final word on the Cyberman voices. Disappointing. Somehow they lacked power and presence. I do think they would have been better to have gone with the electronic ones from The Moonbase and Tomb of the Cybermen ... So next week we have something about televisions and people turning into monsters and Maureen Lipman. I have no idea what it's all about.

1 comment:

David Mullen said...

A very accurate review as usual!
I thought Mickey was a great companion, for the 5 minutes he had, and more relatable than Rose has become TBH. Still, as you said, there's something unsettling about the Doctor & Roses relationship and the begining of last episode with them taunting Mickey was extremely bad taste for me...

Lots of lapses in logic and storyelling but very enjoyable on the whole - but can we get away from Earth and 'invasion of the week' syndrome now?
There's a feeling of repetition begining to cling to the show.

Dave M.