“The Age of Steel” – Review: Redux

Mickey Smith “You’re just making it up as you go along!”
The Doctor “Yep. But I do it brilliantly.”

Age of Steel

The cliffhanger was resolved in a rather unsatisfactory way with Ten whipping out his recharged power cell from the TARDIS and zapping the approaching Cybermen with some hitherto unseen energy ray. I guess that that is one of the challenges with that kind of situation: you have to have a moment of peril at the end of episode one but you have to get your protagonists out within moments of the start of the episode two. This resolution can either be signposted easily in advance or you can surprise the audience with something along these lines. It’s generally either too easy or too impossible to guess and getting the right balance is a skill in itself. Anyway as soon as the escape from the Cybermen had been affected, we soon had a band of good guys in a Transit van trying to save the world.

In previous weeks, we had been treated to three of the greatest Who episodes I’ve ever seen and it was probably too much to ask for another in this two-parter. However, despite the fact that there are a number of criticisms that I could aim at this tale, they are really small beer. I remember viewing the two episodes back-to-back previously and as a ninety minute TV movie, I promise you a thoroughly entertaining time, despite some periods of relative slowness. The Cybermen redesign focussed on the steel aspect, and despite my wish for them to look a bit more like the cloth-faced versions from the black-and-white era, I do actually like the Lumic versions. They are certainly true to the plot here, which states that the human brains are fused to the metal exoskeleton, rather than the classic ones that use more of the human bodies.

Once again, the story focusses on Rose’s family. Her alt-Mum got unceremoniously deleted last week (or ‘yesterday’ in this blog’s timeline) and her alt-Dad revisited some of the emotional aspects of “Father’s Day” with Pete slowly realising that this 19-year-old was her daughter. I know that this familial bent did start to irritate some of the fans of the show: the broad appeal that Russell T Davies was trying the engender for a Saturday night audience who were more used to shiny-floor shows and Casualty, are not your typical sci-fi fans. So, bringing in a family and to keep asking how Rose’s lifestyle choices affect them (as well as the other RTD tropes like cutting away to a news reader, or seeing how the unfolding situation affects a random group of people just getting on with their lives) creates a connection with many viewers that would otherwise have them reaching for the remote control.

However, final word has to go to Noel Clarke, as Micky and Ricky. Way back when “Rose” first aired, the guy took a lot of stick (even though we may try, how can we forget the wheelie bin scene?), but he’s come a long way and his performance in this showed some real depth. At the time of writing the original review, I wasn’t sure if we’d see Mickey again and I said back then, “If this is his final bow, I think I’m gonna miss him”. Happily he was to come back a number of times again. Noel Clarke himself has said that he was unhappy with his performances in those early episodes but his career has been a bit of an inspiration. Three years before “Rise of the Cybermen” he won an Olivier Award for most promising actor, and three years afterwards he received a BAFTA Rising Star. He is not to be underestimated. Although, why Rose got so upset at Mickey’s decision to stay in the parallel world is anyone’s guess. After the way she treated him over the last series-and-a-half, he’d be well within his rights to tell her exactly where to go.

Highlight: Mickey staying in the parallel world to go and liberate Paris 

Lowlight: The breakdancing cyberdeath

Talking Point: Was this a worthy return for the Cybermen?

Demon’s Run Rating: 13 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 20th May 2006

Marathon Status: Are we still keeping count… 102 seems a long way away?

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