Doctor Who - The New Series

2.05: "RISE OF THE CYBERMEN"

TX: 13 May 2006

Written by: Tom MacRae

Directed by: Graeme Harper

Running time: 46' 02"

Location: An alternate-universe London, England

Date: February 1, 2007

Monsters and villains: The Cybermen (human brains encased in robot bodies), John Lumic (power-mad creator of the Cybermen), Mr Crane (Lumic's second-in-command).

Tardisode Synopsis: In a digital message sent out to "The Preachers", an unnamed man gives a rundown on the rise of Lumic's business and of his connection to 265,000 people vanishing in South America. The voice adds that Lumic's plan to "upgrade" people into cyborgs is underway and that all Preachers should begin their attack. It turns out that a young man who looks exactly like Mickey is watching it. He revs up his van and drives off.

Plot Synopsis: An accident in the TARDIS leaves The Doctor, Rose and Mickey stranded in another dimension where Rose's father never died and Micky turned out to be a hero. But all is not well - the TARDIS may be broken forever and one of The Doctor's deadliest enemies is about to return.

Smug Warning: Rose and The Doctor making Mickey feel like crap just before the crash.

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry": The President, to a Cyberman, and Mickey, to Ricky's grandmother.

Torchwood spotting: The news report on Rose's mobile mentions the Torchwood Institute, while Pete Tyler mentions that someone at the dinner party is from Torchwood.

Trivia: (1) Both parts of this two-part story had the working title of "Parallel World".

(2) Director Graeme Harper is the first new series director to have also worked on the original series. He directed sections of the Fourth Doctor story "Warriors' Gate" (though he went uncredited) as well as the Sixth Doctor stories "The Caves of Androzani" and "Revelation of the Daleks".

(3) Roger Lloyd-Pack (John Lumic) can be seen acting opposite David Tennant in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

(4) A line cut from the episode revealed that Jake Simmonds and Ricky had been lovers.

(5) Just as 1.06, "Dalek", was adapted from the Sixth Doctor audio play "Jubilee", so this story was a rough adaptation of the Fifth Doctor audio play "Spare Parts". Marc Platt, author of that play, receives a special credit and was paid a fee for the ideas.

(6) Rose's phone has been updated from a Nokia 3200 to a Samsung D500 although no explanation is given. Her old phone was last seen in 2.03, "School Reunion".

(7) Prior to the episode airing, fans created www.cybuscorporation.com as a tribute site, although the company is only referred to as Cybus Industries in the story. Official BBC sites were www.cybusindustries.net, www.cybusfitness.co.uk and www.internationalelectromatics.co.uk.

(8) Jake mentions The Child Catcher, a character from the musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

(9) The trucks that take away the tramps and transport the Cybermen have 'International Electromatics' on them - in the original series story "The Invasion", this was the name of a company employed by the Cybermen as a cover for their real plot.

(10) The fact that Mickey is called Ricky in the alternate universe is an in-joke; The Ninth Doctor calling him Ricky to annoy him in 1.11, "Boom Town".

(11) On entering the party, Rose mentions the honours that Queen Victoria gave them in 2.02, "Tooth and Claw".

(12) The Third Doctor story "Inferno" also takes place in another dimension. There, The Doctor uses power from a nuclear reactor to keep the TARDIS powered.

(13) The alternate Earth origin of these Cybermen was used both as a way to streamline the Cybermen's origins and to give an explanation for their new armour (the existing Cyberman timeline at no point features hard steel armour in their designs).

(14) The final cut was so long that there was no time for a "next week on Doctor Who..." trailer.

(15) Originally, the alternate universe featured shops where people could buy cybernetic limbs from, something which was closer to the themes of "The Tenth Planet", the first-ever Cyberman story. However, Davies thought that this was implausible and had McRea rethink it.

(16) This episode garnered an average of 9.22 million viewers for its first airing, putting it at six in the top ten most watched shows of that week and making it the second-highest ranking episode of Doctor Who ever. The episode in the top position is the Fourth Doctor story "Ark in Space", which was the fifth most watched episode of its transmission week.

(17) Originally, the script said that Mickey's mother died when he was a kid, but Rose mentions that she is still alive in 1.01, "Rose", so it was changed to her being unable to cope after he was born.

(18) Lumic refers to "copyrighted chemicals". You cannot copyright a chemical - you can trademark its name, or patent the process by which is it made, but copyright laws only apply to creative works.

(19) Writer Tom MacRae is a friend of Davies's and was referenced in 1.07, "The Long Game", in the name of one of the characters: Suki MacRae Cantrell..

(20) Originally the pre-credits sequence featured the TARDIS crashing, but Davies wanted the Cybermen to be hinted at earlier in the episode and wrote the final pre-credits section with Lumic and his doomed associate.

Spoiler Synopsis: Deep within a futuristic airship, a wheelchair-bound man, John Lumic, is told by a colleague that the subject of their tests is alive and that they must inform the United Nations. Lumic says that they won't understand and that it must be kept a secret. When the man refuses to bite his tongue, Lumic orders the test subject to kill him. It obeys, electrocuting the man. Lumic calls for the pilot to take them to Great Britain.

In the TARDIS, The Doctor and Rose are effectively ignoring Mickey while they discuss old times. Suddenly, an explosion sends everyone crashing to the floor while the TARDIS tumbles out of the time vortex. Everything goes dark and The Doctor announces that the ship is dead. Mickey looks out of the door and sees that they are in London, but the zeppelins floating lazily through the sky suggest that they are not in the world they know. Rose sees a poster in which her dead father, Peter, is advertising health drinks but The Doctor says that he is not her true father and that she should not visit him.

Pete himself, rich and successful on this world, is in his mansion with this universe's Jackie Tyler. It is Jackie's birthday and Lumic has sent her the latest EarPods, Bluetooth-esque phone/news devices that are worn by most people on the alternate Earth. Peter receives a call from Lumic who invites him to a meeting with the President of Great Britain that evening. Lumic then uses Jackie's new earpods to download the security information about the party without her knowledge.

He then tells his second-in-command, Mr Crane, that he will need more "employees". Mr Crane heads off in a large truck, which he and other Cybus Industries men take to a scrubland populated by homeless men. Mr Crane says that the lorry has food on it and invites them aboard. One of the homeless - Jake Simmonds - hangs back, reminding the others that tramps have been going missing of late. But they ignore him and climb aboard before screaming in terror. The doors shut and the truck drives off. Jake records the whole thing on a camcorder.

In the TARDIS, The Doctor is trying - and failing - to fix the ship. He says that it draws power from their universe, but that it cannot draw anything from this one. However, he then spots a small blue glow deep inside the ship and finds one last living energy cell. He blows on it, giving ten years of his life to power it up enough that it can start the 24-hour recharge cycle. He pockets the cell and he and Mickey find Rose, who has been looking at the internet through her mobile. She says that on this Earth she was never born and heads off to find her parents, ignoring The Doctor's calls. Mickey heads off in the other direction, noting that The Doctor can only follow one of them and it won't be him. The Doctor runs after Rose.

He catches up with her and she tells him about Mickey's family history; that his father left them, his mother couldn't cope and that his grandmother looked after him until she fell down the stairs one day and died. The Doctor says that he didn't know any of this and they both realise how badly they've been treating him. Just then, everyone on the street stands stock still. The Doctor works out that information is being uploaded into their brains by the EarPods and uses Rose's mobile to look up information about this other world. He notes that Cybus Industries owns Pete Tyler's company and agrees to go see Pete with Rose.

Mickey, meanwhile, has gone to his grandmother's house. In this world she is still alive, though blind, and tells him off for not having called her for days. She calls him "Ricky" and invites him inside, but a van suddenly pulls up and Jake drags Mickey into it. Also under the mistaken impression that Mickey is Ricky, Jake says that Ricky is one of Cybus Industries' most wanted fugitives. He also says that "Mrs Moore" has linked Cybus Industries to International Electromatics.

Lumic and Pete meet The President of Great Britain, who dismisses Lumic's Cybermen concept, calling it obscene. Lumic pleads for his support, saying that he is dying, but The President refuses and leaves. Pete asks if they should try another country, but Lumic refuses and tells him to go. He then calls Crane in Battersea Power Station, who has used the EarPods to subdue the homeless men. He gives Crane the go-ahead and Crane makes the men march into conversion chambers, where saws and drills strip away everything but the brain and nerves before placing them in Cyberman bodies.

At Ricky's country house, Mickey is tied to a chair. It turns out that Ricky is leader of "The Preachers", rogues who are investigating Lumic, and that they suspect Mickey of being an undercover agent. Just then, an undercover operative named Gemini tells them that Lumic will be at Jackie's birthday party and they tool up with AK-47s and head off to assassinate him, taking Mickey with them.

The Doctor and Rose infiltrate the party as servants. The Doctor finds Lumic's plans for the Cybermen on a laptop, recognising them from his own world, while Rose speaks to Jackie and Pete and finds out that they're splitting up. Minutes later, Cybermen crash through the windows while Lumic tells the partygoers that they are to be "upgraded" into metal bodies themselves. The President, who is attending Jackie's party, refuses to comply and a Cyberman electrocutes him with its hand. The guests and staff try to flee but the Cybermen move in, slaughtering them easily.

Jackie runs to the mansion's cellar, while The Doctor, Rose and Pete run outside and meet The Preachers. They fire on the advancing Cybermen with their machine guns but the bullets bounce off harmlessly. The group soon find themselves surrounded. The Doctor puts his hands up, saying that they surrender but the Cybermen say that the group are incompatible and must be deleted...

TO BE CONTINUED

Review: Oh dear, and it was all going so well. After a corking three-episode run of greatness, the second series of Doctor Who hits a rough patch indeed with this episode. It's especially unfortunate that this second-worst story should also be the premiere of the brand spanking new Cybermen, since I'm sure there will have been loads of people who tuned in for the first time thanks to all the publicity, only to have missed the good stuff by just one week.

So why is it so bad? Well first off you've got Roger Lloyd-Pack, better known as Trigger from Only Fools and Horses, who puts on the most stupendously OTT, campy act to have graced new Who since the bad old days of Keith Boak. Now, Lloyd-Pack usually ends up playing simpletons (see Trigger and his character from The Vicar of Dibley) so possibly he felt like he really had to make an impression on the British public. Unfortunately he is in the same episode as corking actors like Shaun Dingwall (Pete Tyler) and Don Warrington (The President), so it was never going to end well.

Of course, it might be that director Graeme Harper asked him to act like that, but if that's the case why does everyone else play it straight? More to the point, why didn't Harper ask him to tone it down? Still, perhaps neither of them knew how else to deliver abysmal lines like "how do you intend to do that... FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE?" Yes, that's a real line. To be fair, it was written by Russell T. Davies and not Tom McRae, but lines of similar awfulness follow Lumic around like lame dogs.

Sadly, most of the rest of the script is on that level. Sure, there are some great bits - the Mickey/Ricky confrontation is funny and the scene where people are forcibly turned into Cybermen to the tune of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" is weirdly effective, but for the most part it's all fairly standard stuff with some seriously crappy moments. That Davies thought the original idea of people buying cybernetic parts for fashion ridiculous, but finds the idea of them wearing EarPods that can freeze them in their tracks plausible is bizarre. What happens to people who are driving when the EarPods activate? Or people that are playing football? Additional minus points for being the first episode to bring back the "I'm so sorry" line, which appears fairly regularly from now on and seems awful and tacky almost every time. Don Warrington almost pulls it off, but Tennant can't manage it. Which is a shame, because it's going to become an insanely tedious recurring feature in the show.

Harper's direction is generally competent - poor handling of Lloyd Pack aside - but there are some real clunkers here and there, the worst of which is the climax, in which the team get surrounded by Cybermen only because they decided to stop and have a chat in the middle of a great big open field instead of running like the clappers. Couldn't they at least have gotten holed up in a shed or something?

Harper also makes the unfortunate decision to obscure the Cybermen up until the very last scenes. On the one hand, I can understand why - logic would dictate that slowly building up to their appearance ought to make scenes with the creatures more engaging and interesting. Unfortuanately he wasn't paying attention to the production team's media blitz the year before and so didn't realise that the new Cybe design would be plastered all over The Radio Times and the BBC website and even feature in the episode's Tardisode. So rather than building tension and excitement, this decision just makes watching the episode slightly frustrating.

One final moan: just as Rose and Mickey's relationship in the previous episode failed to match up with what had gone before, so this episode feels disjointed from that one. The Doctor and Rose are back to treating him like absolute crap, and while they do at least realise what pricks they've been, it doesn't sit comfortably with the relative chumminess that they displayed last time.

Other than that, the core cast do a good job as ever, Shaun Dingwell acquits himself well and Don Warrington is as great as ever (why they wasted him on a one-episode role I have no idea... here's hoping he'll return in his 'proper' universe incarnation in future episodes).

4/10

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Sources:

http://www.gallifreyone.com - Outpost Gallifrey http://www.physics.mun.ca/~sps/9doc.html - A Brief History of (Time) Travel

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