Sunday, May 14, 2006

Doctor Who - The Rise of the Cybermen

Whoo - Cybermen. Now this was what I've been waiting for. The Daleks never really did it for me. Ok, they were quite cool, but in the sixties, there was only one monster that terrified. And that was the Cybermen. I suspect this was because for anyone growing up in the late sixties, it was the Cybermen who were the everpresent menace on Doctor Who. From The Tenth Planet, through The Moonbase, The Tomb of the Cybermen, The Wheel In Space and The Invasion they dominated. And they changed their appearance and voices most every time as well. So far more than the Daleks, it was the Cybermen who demanded a 2006 makeover. And in The Rise of the Cybermen we got just that. This is not to say that the episode was perfect, there were a few niggles, though far fewer than recent episodes, and it is hard to see at this stage whether what appear to be niggles will be resolved next week. But onto the show. Apart from it starting 20 minutes later than scheduled due to some rubbishy sport overrunning or something, the eventual pre-credits sequence was sublime. That bloke off Only Fools and Horses in a Davros-like wheelchair acting like Doctor Evil from the Austin Powers films. When he said the line, 'Do you know me?' to the hazy light-haloed figure of his creation, I expected the sentence to continue with, 'Dave?' at the end (and apologies to anyone who has never seen Roger Lloyd Pack as Trigger on Only Fools and Horses - basically the character calls one of the other characters 'Dave' all the time, even though this isn't his name ...) But the unseen thing (obviously a Cyberman) replies, and we get to hear their voices ... hmmm ... initial feelings of uncertainty. But no time to think as Lumic orders his lackey killed by Electric Cyber-Death Grip and then heads for England (and we cut away before he raises his little finger to his mouth and starts laughing maniacally). Good start ... but how to involve the Doctor and friends? Well, there's a massive explosion on the TARDIS for some reason, and the time vortex disappears, and the TARDIS dies and ends up in London. All a little drastic. And all a lot unexplained. I hope these elements are covered off later on as otherwise this is perhaps the biggest mcguffin ever to get the Doctor into the action. But it's not just London, it's alternate London. And how do we know? By some brilliant CGI Zeppelins flying overhead. Oh, and Rose's dad not being dead after all. To add more coincidence to the proceedings, Pete Tyler is best mates with John Lumic (although I have no idea why the cheesy 21st Century equivalent of a snake-oil peddler is of any use to the multi-national, every company on Earth-owning Lumic), and is also on 'come to my wife's birthday party' terms with the President of Earth, played to perfection by Don Warrington. Warrington was simply superb. Very watchable indeed. Although our living room echoed to an impression of him on Grumpy Old Men, complaining about Zeppelins. So now the plot is starting to stack up ... Lumic wants permission from the UK Government to allow him to continue with his (at this point) mystery Cybus programme, but this permission is denied by president Don. However Lumic, being the sound and well balanced citizen that he is, promptly orders another lackey, Mr Crane, to commence the programme anyway. Thus several hapless tramps are abducted and carted off for Cyber-conversion. The ensuing sequence of knives and screaming and soulless factories, concluding with a shot of Battersea Power Station is brilliant and inspired. Meanwhile we get some more really neat CGI as Jackie Tyler (here even bitchier and spoiled than in the real world) is 'accessed' by Lumic via her earpieces to obtain the security arrangements for her party (though why such an airhead would even know them is beyond me - and as Lumic and Pete are such buddies, then why not get them from Pete?). Meanwhile, loads of other plot threads are kicking off. The Doctor conveniently finds a single glowing power source in the TARDIS and realises they're not trapped at all, but that in 24 hours this will give them enough power to escape (there is some waffle about the power being different on this alternate Earth and the TARDIS not being able to use it - but then how did Rose's mobile phone work? Obviously satellite transmissions and telephone technology is identical ...) The Doctor and Rose see everyone freeze in mid step as the 'daily download' occurs - news and information from Cybus - but what a strange time to do this: 14:40pm. And what about anyone driving or operating machinery when this happens? Do they freeze as well? Why not do this at 3am when most people are asleep? Or surely there would be an option to receive the download when convienient to the individual. Even Microsoft doesn't dictate when your PC is updated. Seems a little thoughtless to me. Rose pathetically decides she needs to see her Mum and Pete and so she and the Doctor pretend to be servants to infiltrate the party. Mickey goes to see his Gran, who is still alive, and then falls in with a group of three freedom fighters led by alternate world Mickey, who is bizarrely called Ricky. This unlikely group follow Lumic's International Electromatics (a neat nod to the past - a shame they couldn't have used the music from The Invasion as well) vans to Pete and Jackie's place and see the new Cybermen being let out for a stroll. We're now heading for the showdown as the Doctor coincidentally finds a computer and is able to access Lumic's earlier presentation to Don and Pete - careless of him to leave it somewhere accessible via the Internet - at the same time as Rose sees steel figures advancing on the house. Cue shattering glass and the Cybermen are revealed. Very impressive too. All steel and angles and military precision. Tall and imposing and really quite terrifying. That is, until they speak. The voice is a sort of lightly pitched warble, and the closest I can find in Cyber history is that of the Cyber Planner, again from The Invasion. Not a bad tack to take, but the voice should be louder and more dominating in my view. Compare the scenes of President Don standing off against the Cyberman in Jackie's house with those of Klieg facing the CyberController in The Tomb of the Cybermen. In that earlier story, the CyberController's voice is bold and powerful and very alien. This is what we should have had here. Oh well. Maybe it will grow on me. As the Cybermen start using Electric Cyber-Death Grip on everyone in the house - what happened to the people being needed for 'upgrade'? - the Doctor, Rose and Pete escape outside only to encounter hoards more Cybermen. Rickey and Mickey and the anonymous other two rebles (I don't think they are named in the episode) arrive with guns, but they are all surrounded and despite the Doctor's surrendering, the Cyberman pronounces that they are incompatibile and will be subject to 'maximum deletion'. Cue end titles ... and thank you thank you thank you there is no next episode trailer. Very well done. This is a story that just had to be more than one episode. There is no way that this could have all been fitted in, and the space that the longer length affords is well used, building ideas and characters and leaving lots to resolve next week. Noel Clarke as Mickey gets a lot more to do here and is obviously happy with that, wheras Billie Piper as Rose seems to get less to do and seems unhappy with that - her reaction at the Doctor even speaking to another girl seems to get her back up. Maybe she's really starting to become a liability here. Other thoughts: why do we have that annoying school bell sound in the incidental music. I thought it was apt in School Reunion and I forgot to mention it in my review of The Girl in the Fireplace. It is grating and annoying and I find that I'm growing not to like Murray Gold's music. It's either too loud and intrusive, or wrong for the visuals or both. Bring back Dudley Simpson is what I say. We get a description of what a Cyberman is: a brain grafted to a cybernetic body, with all emotion removed. When asked why, the Doctor explains that the process hurts. But pain is not an emotion. It is a response to stimuli. Just because you can't get angry or frightened, doesn't mean you can't feel pain ... But then if these things are just brains in robotic bodies, then there are no nerve endings anyway ... So next week we see the conclusion to this tale. Hopefully some resolutions and explanations as to the TARDIS's plight, and we get to find out whether John Lumic's plans for Cyber-domination come to fruition. See you then.


Dave Mullen said...

It did feel curiously rushed in the execution - ideas and characterisation not thought thru and the themes of Rose's regret/love of her dead dad and all the baggage were well explored in Fathers Day and elsewhere... so why do it all again?! Repitition is a deadly foe.

Still, agree with you on Murray Golds music - it's not bad just too much, does he think he's on Piecework!? Less is definitly more...

Rick. said...

"...all emotion removed. When asked why, the Doctor explains that the process hurts. But pain is not an emotion...."

I took the Doctors words to mean "because emotion hurts." IE: The cyber-body protects them from physical pain and the emotions are removed to protect them from emotional pain.

Might be wrong but thats my view.