Next up in my NaBloPoMo catchup...an adventure involving alternate worlds and big steel robots! Welcome to Series 2, Episode 5, "Rise of the Cybermen," part of a 2-parter with Episode 6, "The Age of Steel."
To be honest, this isn't one of my favorite episodes. I don't like the Cybermen; they scare me. The commentary on this episode is good at least, featuring Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Andrew Hayden-Smith (Jake Simmonds), and Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler).
So the episode starts with a scientist named Dr. Kendrick revealing to his wheelchair-bound boss, John Lumic, that he has created a new form of life via a humanoid metal robot. But he advises Lumic that they will have to inform authorities in Geneva of the development. Lumic doesn't like that idea, though, and orders the robot to kill Kendrick, which it does, then orders his massive zeppelin to set sail for Great Britain.
The opening credits follow. We then head to the TARDIS, where The Doctor and Rose are laughing and talking about various adventures they've had, completely ignoring Mickey, who has his finger on some button that he has been apparently pushing for the last half hour. All the sudden, there is a huge jolt in the TARDIS, and The Doctor goes running to the console, only to discover they've somehow fallen out of the Time Vortex entirely and into the no-man's-land of the Void. Which is really bad because it means they're outside of our universe (Normal Space or N-Space, as it's called in Doctor Who parlance), from which the TARDIS draws energy. When they come to a stop, all the TARDIS lights go out and emergency gas masks (like the kind you see on airplanes) drop down from the ceiling. (It's worth noting there are six; assumedly one for each pilot the TARDIS is supposed to have). The Doctor is distraught, saying that the TARDIS is dead, that they crashed in the Void, and that they're basically doomed.
Or at least he thinks they are. Mickey opens the door and reveals that they are in...London.
They quickly realize it's a parallel London, with zeppelins flying about. (Fringe fans may find this notable, as the "Other Side"/parallel Earth in Fringe also features zeppelins as a major form of transportation). And then Rose sees a poster with a familiar face.
She realizes that, in this world, her father is still alive, and at least one of those harebrained schemes he was always dreaming up took off. The Doctor senses what she is thinking and warns her away from the poster, saying that the Pete Tyler there isn't her Pete Tyler, her father who died when she was a baby, but just another version of him, who might have his own Jackie and his own Rose, and that she can't see him ever.
To understand the significance of this moment (and the other "Rose and her father" stuff in this episode and the next), you really have to have seen "Father's Day" and understand how much Rose really misses her dad. As it happens, I had, so I got it.
The bulk of the episode involves trying to revive the TARDIS, which The Doctor is able to do by giving 10 years of his own life to a small crystal hidden under the console:
Most of the episode is also about the whole thing with Rose and her dad, and how she really wants to see him, even running off to find him against The Doctor's orders. After all, recharging the TARDIS is going to take 24 hours, so she figures she has time. Mickey decides he's going to take off too, maybe check on his grandmother who just might be alive in this universe. The Doctor is faced with the dilemma of who to run after, and unsurprisingly, he chooses Rose.
The Doctor eventually catches up with Rose, and they realize the fashion here is to wear Bluetooth-like "EarPods" through which information is downloaded directly to the brain. Rose gets the same transmission on her cell phone, which has connected to the parallel world's network. They discover the EarPods are made by Cybus Industries, which also owns Pete Tyler's drink company, Vitex. (We as the audience discover this through a meeting with Lumic, Pete, and the President of Britain, in which the President expresses disgust for what Lumic intends to do with his cybernetics). They find out that the President of Great Britain, among many other high officials, will be attending the parallel Jackie Tyler's birthday party that evening. Hoping to find out more about the EarPods, The Doctor decides to attend the party as well, with Rose in tow, since he knows how badly she wants to see her dad.
Mickey has, meanwhile, gone off on his own and found out his gran is alive (though he notes that the carpet on the stairs is worn - his universe's Gran died by tripping over the worn carpet and falling down the stairs). Shortly after, he is pulled into a strange van by two unknown individuals - including a blond-haired guy who we saw earlier spying on a group of Lumic's lackeys loading a bunch of homeless people into a big truck. The two people - Jake Simmonds and Mrs. Moore - seem to think Mickey is actually someone named Ricky, the leader of their resistance movement, The Preachers.
The Doctor and Rose crash Jackie's party by pretending to be servants, much to Rose's chagrin (she was hoping they could have been somebody more fabulous). The Doctor protests that being on the staff is the best way to find out stuff. They observe the party, during which Rose sees the parallel versions of her parents for the first time (and later ends up speaking to them both, having better rapport with her dad than her mum, as usual). Sometime during this, Lumic crashes the party himself (having downloaded the details via Jackie's EarPods earlier) remotely and threatens those who doubt his work, including the President. The Doctor has, in the meantime, sneaked into a side room and used a conveniently-placed computer to find out exactly what Cybus Industries is up to - which is pretty shocking, judging by the look on his face (his expression is somewhat similar to Eleven's in "A Town Called Mercy" when he found the files in Kahler-Jex's spaceship about Jex's work).
During all this, Jake and Mrs. Moore take Mickey back to Preachers HQ, where they run into...the real Ricky!
Apparently, a case of mistaken identity has taken place, and Ricky is Mickey's parallel world double. He's none too happy to see Mickey either, and questions him (which apparently requires him to be tied down and stripped down to his boxers, not sure why). This scene in itself is interesting, as both Mickey and Ricky are played by Noel Clarke. (Noel reveals in the commentary that the two sides of the scene - Mickey's and Ricky's - were filmed separately for the most part, except for certain shots where he had to switch between the two characters in real time).
The Doctor rushes back to the party, where Lumic is launching his attack. Off in the distance, shrouded in mist, is a line of marching soldiers. They come into focus, revealing...the Cybermen.
The Doctor is, quite naturally, horrified - after all, he has quite a history with the Cybermen. (Notably, this episode aired on the 40th anniversary of the airing of "The Tenth Planet," the Doctor Who episode in which the Cybermen first premiered). The Cybermen, meanwhile, crash through the windows of the Tyler manor and start attacking people, in particular killing the President as an example. The Doctor and Rose escape the mayhem, only to be joined by Pete Tyler, and later Mickey and the Preachers, who are themselves raiding the party. The Cybermen surround them, and The Doctor attempts to surrender, seeing no other viable option at the moment. The Cybermen say they are incompatible for the conversion process and will instead be subjected to "maximum deletion." They prepare to do this...
...and the episode ends. To Be Continued.
Like I said, not my favorite episode, but definitely has a better commentary than "The Age of Steel" (which features the director Graeme Harper, the actor who played the Cyber Leader [whose name I forgot], and voice of the Cybermen Nicholas Briggs, and is really boring, especially if you aren't into the Cybermen).
The episode does have some great "Rose and her father" stuff though, and Mickey is pretty good in this episode. Camille Coduri does a good job as the parallel Jackie, a role she says in the commentary that she liked playing.
Part of what I'm not terribly keen on is that the story doesn't seem THAT original. It has elements of the typical "parallel world" formula - meeting parallel versions of oneself or one's family, someone in power that makes the parallel world oppressive, a resistance movement looking to topple that powerful person. These elements also appear in Fringe (in which the concept of parallel worlds plays a HUGE part), among other stories. It doesn't seem quite right for Doctor Who somehow.
Now Doctor Who has dealt with parallel worlds before, in the Third Doctor episode "Inferno" and in the "E-Space Trilogy" in Season 17, Tom Baker's second-to-last season (and probably in various novels and audios too; the Gallifrey audio drama series suggests the possibility of 8 parallel Gallifreys). Having not seen "Inferno" or the "E-Space Trilogy" yet, I can't really compare them to this episode. But from what I've heard of the E-Space Trilogy, they're basically just regular old adventures that happen to take place in E-Space, with the connecting thread of The Doctor, Romana II, and K-9 trying to find a way out of E-Space. (One of them, "State of Decay," gives us great background on those age-old enemies of the Time Lords, the Great Vampires, and - bonus! - introduces Adric to the show). "Inferno" is more of an alternate history sort of story, set on a parallel Earth that happens to be fascist and militaristic. I almost wish this episode had been more like that, less formulaic, but I guess it couldn't, what with the setup of Lumic's plans for artificial life and the apparent "death" of the TARDIS making things much more urgent.
Eh well. More next time, with the second part of this story, "The Age of Steel."
The Love of the Doctor and Rose Tyler
Part Nineteen: Love in a Parallel World
Since the theme of NaBloPoMo this month is "Love and Sex" (probably because of Valentine's Day), I feel compelled to write something about love in my posts. Hence, since I am exploring Series 1 and 2 in this challenge, I am going to write a little special essay throughout the month about the growing love between the Doctor and Rose. Please note I am in no way an expert on relationships.
In this episode, the Doctor/Rose/Mickey love triangle is played up quite a bit. Though to be fair, I think Mickey has been feeling he's lost Rose since "Boom Town" (in which he confessed he was dating another girl). Anyway, we see this from the beginning of the episode, where Rose and Ten are talking and laughing and completely ignoring Mickey. He is clearly ticked off that they forgot about him. Later, when The Doctor must choose whether to run after Rose or Mickey, Mickey seems pretty sure The Doctor will run after Rose, and when he does, the pained expression on Mickey's face says it all.
We get more Doctor/Rose scenes as the episode progresses. He clearly understands her desire to see her father, but warns her away from seeing him anyway. Personally, I think he was trying to protect her from the disappointment she might face from doing so. Which just goes to show how much he cares for her, and how he wants to protect her. Sometimes though I wonder if he realizes how strong she is at this point, and that she can withstand a lot more than he thinks. (He definitely realizes it by "The Satan Pit" at any rate).
The Doctor also ultimately gives in to Rose's desire to see her dad, which builds off of what we saw in "Tooth and Claw" of Rose's persuasive power over him.
What will become of this romance as this adventure with the Cybermen continues? We'll see!