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New Who View: 'Rise of the Cybermen' and 'The Age of Steel'
Reviews of Dr. Who Season 2
© Alan Riquelmy
July 06, 2006

We're into the first two-parter of the second series now, with "Rise of the Cybermen" and "The Age of Steel." These are two strong episodes that see the permanent (maybe) departure of a main character and delve a little deeper into the creation and evolution of the Doctor Who canon.

If the title of the first episode didn't tip you off, it's about Cybermen. That's right – a Who monster that can climb stairs. It's an alternate universe with Cybermen, but you already guessed that, didn't you? Or you've already seen the episodes and are wondering why I'm bothering to write something about shows that aired weeks ago. I'm busy, OK?

The TARDIS for some reason has slipped through a portal between dimensions that shouldn't even exist. The doc, Rose and Mickey are helplessly swept along with it to discover an almost identical London . . . except for the massive Hindenburg-esque machines flying through the air.

Oh, and the fact that Rose's father is alive in this dimension, and she starts to geek out as she thinks about meeting him. Good stuff, this. Again, this is the kind of character development that the old seriously lacked. The desire to meet her father, is so great that it to a certain degree consumes her.

Now here's where I'm going to derail the train. I've got a sneaking suspicion, and I'll bet my last 10 quid on this one, that the Time Lords are still around.

That's right. If you've seen the first series, you know that the Time Lords were all destroyed in the Time War, the Doctor would know if any still survived, blah blah.

Whatever. The Doctor plainly states that the portal that brought them to the alternate dimension shouldn't even exist, that the Time Lords controlled them to a degree when they were still around. And strangely enough, when one is still lurking about and sucks the TARDIS through, the crew land in a London that's about to be overrun by Cybermen. Coincidence?

The Time Lords pulled the Doctor around by a shoestring in the old series when they wanted something done. Why change things in the new series? "Know everything, do nothing" was a phrase once used as an insult to them. But they did alter history when it suited them, and they typically used the Doctor to achieve their ends.

My quid's on the table, if there are any takers. Now, back to the film.

The scenes feature some nice same-guy-playing-alternate-Earth-twin effects. Eventually, a bad guy unveils the Cybermen. And when I say unveils, I mean uses the Cybermen to kill everyone.

The Nazi references are so overblown that I'll only give them a passing mention here. The zeppelins flying through the air, the oppressive earpieces that have the power to control your movements, the ease at which Lumic's corporation can gather information about you, the goose-stepping Cybermen marching in sequence. Needless to say: BBC, we get it.

The Age of Steel

The true angst of these episodes isn't in the alternate-Earth twin stuff. Where it's at is that regular, flesh-and-blood humans are getting turned into unthinking, emotionless jackbooted thugs (OK, so there is another Nazi mention, but that's the last one), is that every Cyberman used to be just like you and me. They had jobs and families and husbands and wives.

We barely saw this is the 6th Doctor episode "Attack of the Cybermen." In this episode it's fully explored. One scene makes an impact because it shows how someone's humanity is lost when they become Cybermen.

A scene here reminds me of a funny Who anecdote that naturally I'm going to share here. Before sneaking into the place, the Doctor mentions there are three ways to enter – above, between, below. Tell me that's not a direct reference to "The Five Doctors" when the 2nd Doctor is singing the Gallifreyan nursery rhyme. You know, the one that runs something like, "To Rassilon's palace were go, above, between, below," which describes the three entrances to the Time Lord's tomb. Cute.

Needless to say, you should see these episodes.

Alan Riquelmy suggests you upgrade to version 2.0 right now

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