“Rise of the Cybermen” – Review: Redux

Rose Tyler “They’re people?”
The Doctor “They were. Now they’ve had all their humanity taken away. That’s a living brain jammed inside a cybernetic body, with a heart of steel. All emotions removed.”

Rise of the Cybermen

As if the brilliance of the previous three episodes wasn’t enough, I originally approached this first double header of Series Two with some serious excitement. The Cybermen were back and, if last the “Dalek” reappearance in Series One was anything to go by, then we should be in for a cracker. Also worthy of note is the fact that the director of this tale, Graeme Harper, became the first classic series director to return to try his hand at the new series. His skills at structuring a story and his undoubted talents at directing a cracking action sequence or two meant that “The Rise of the Cybermen” and tomorrow’s “Age of Steel” were handled with aplomb. So why wasn’t this as good as it might have been? 

Well, Roger Lloyd-Pack chewed up the scenery as the evil mastermind, John Lumic in a performance that brought back lots of memories of old Doctor Who for a few of the wrong reasons. Don’t get me wrong, I quite like the actor, and his most famous role as Trigger in Only Fools and Horses is one of my most favourite sitcom characters, but when he threatens the lab technician before the end of the first scene with the line “But how will you do that from beyond the grave?” then all hope was lost both for the technician and for me. Don Warrington (also most famous for a fine sitcom role) turned up as the President but he didn’t really make an impact upon me (or seem particularly presidential) before his eventual deletion. Also, for the first time in post-2004 series, I found that the 2-part format hindered the story telling. The fast pace and sense of urgency were missing and instead we got some (admittedly interesting) exploring of the parallel world with its airships and earpieces and Daily Downloads.

The episode made a choice that at first glance seemed very surprising. Instead of trying to tell a continuation of the Cyber-story and possibly necessitate the need to weave in some complicated back-story that gave the new viewers a brief history of Mondas and Telos and explain the reason why these silver giants were so upset in the first place, new Who writer, Tom MacRea and the team set the story in a parallel world. This allowed there to be a menacing new Cyber-design, a new reason for taking over the world, and neatly avoided any cumbersome back-story. It really worked rather well and set up some interesting story development for the end of Series Two and beyond. The success of the parallel world is further enhanced by a few of its other features that added to the intrigue: Mickey had his ‘double’ in the form of freedom fighter, Rickey (a nod back to the Ninth Doctor’s insistence of calling him by this name instead); and Pete Tyler (last seen in “Father’s Day”) hadn’t died after all, although Rose had never been born and he and Jackie lived an opulent lifestyle after one of Pete’s health-drink ideas had hit the big time.

As I’ve been a bit negative about some of the acting on display in this story, it is only fair that I highlight one of the standout performances and that was not from Andrew Hayden-Smith, but from Colin Spaull as Lumic’s sidekick. I found myself watching the whole episode and wishing he was in it a lot more, and his selection of “Track 90” during the upgrade process makes my episode ‘Highlight’ of the day, below. He was the second best actor on display (the best actor may surprise you and I’ll reveal that name tomorrow in the blog).  And finally, to the cliff-hanger, which this time was accompanied by no Next Time trailer at all, but which slightly fell flat for me anyway by the assembled Cybermen standing there and agreeing to “Delete, delete, delete” but had none of them actually making a move towards deleting anyone.

Highlight: “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”

Lowlight: “FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE!”

Talking Point: Are the parallel universe Cybermen a good thing or not?

Demon’s Run Rating: 12 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 13th May 2006

Marathon Status: Keep on trucking

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  1. September 7th, 2013

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