Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Story 172 - Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel

In which the TARDIS crashes out of our universe to land on a parallel Earth. The ship is left with no power, and the Doctor fears they may be trapped here, but he then discovers one small energy crystal which should be able to re-power the ship in 24 hours. Stepping outside, they find that they are in London. It looks very much like the one they know, except that the sky is full of airships. Rose then spots a poster advertising the soft-drink Vitex - and it features her father Pete. In this world, he did not die young, and appears to be a successful businessman. Rose determines to go and find him, against the Doctor's advice. Mickey, meanwhile, elects to go and see if his gran is still alive. He had been brought up by the old woman. They arrange to meet back at the TARDIS the next day. The Doctor and Rose discover that everyone wears earpods, and all personal technology seems to be run by a company called Cybus Industries. Its boss, John Lumic has just arrived back in the UK on his personal zeppelin, and Pete Tyler and the UK President are summoned to meet him. Lumic is dying, confined to a wheelchair with breathing apparatus. He has designed a metal body in which to deposit the human brain, so that people can live forever. The President refuses to sanction any further work on these experiments. He leaves, intending to attend Jackie Tyler's birthday party later that evening. Lumic hacks into Jackie's earpods to download security information about her home.

Mickey finds that his gran is still alive, but before he can be properly reunited a van pulls up, and its occupants - Mrs Moore and a young man named Jake - usher him aboard. They have mistaken him for someone they know. Jake had earlier filmed vagrants being lured onto a truck belonging to International Electromatics - a Cybus subsidiary. Many down-and-outs have gone missing of late. The Doctor and Rose infiltrate the birthday party by pretending to be servants. Pete and Jackie have no children in this world - but they do have a dog named Rose. Mickey is taken to an out of the way house, and is shocked to find his double there - the person Jake and Mrs Moore mistook him for. His name is Rickey. He is leader of the Preachers - a dissident group who are struggling to bring down Lumic's empire. Mickey is forced to join them. At the Tyler mansion, Pete finds himself confiding in Rose, but can't understand why. The Preachers leave their base and follow one of the International Electromatics lorries. It goes to the Tyler home, and a number of huge metal creatures emerge. The Doctor has hacked Pete's computer, and is horrified at finding Lumic's proposals for the metal suits. He recognises them as Cybermen. The Cybermen burst into the house. The President is contacted by Lumic and once again refuses to sanction his work. He and a number of other guests are killed. Jackie is captured, whilst the Doctor, Rose and Pete flee outside and meet the Preachers. The Cybermen surround them, and refuse to accept them as prisoners.

The Doctor uses the TARDIS energy crystal to destroy them and they flee in the Preachers' van. Rickey threatens to execute Pete as a collaborator of Lumic's, but he reveals that he is Gemini, the spy who has been feeding them information for the last few months. Cybermen swarm through the streets of London, as Lumic uses the earpods to put the population into a hypnotic trance. People are compelled to converge on Battersea Power Station, which has been turned into a Cyber-conversion plant. Rickey is killed by Cybermen, for which Jake blames Mickey. The Doctor organises a plan. Pete and Rose will enter the power station pretending to be under hypnotic control, wearing fake earpods. Pete wants to find and rescue Jackie. Mickey and Jake will break into the zeppelin, which is moored on the roof, whilst the Doctor and Mrs Moore will get into the station via some subterranean tunnels. Lumic's assistant, Mr Crane, refuses to accept conversion and attacks his master. He is killed but Lumic is left dying, and the Cybermen decide to convert Lumic - to become their Controller.

Pete and Rose discover that it is too late to save Jackie, and both are captured. The Doctor and Mrs Moore find that the tunnels are full of dormant Cybermen, but they start to wake up. She uses an electromagnetic bomb to destroy one. Before it dies, the human it once was reasserts itself. Lumic has fitted each Cyberman with an emotional inhibitor, rather than surgically remove the emotions. Mrs Moore is killed, and the Doctor captured. He is taken to Cyber-Control, where he is reunited with Pete and Rose. Lumic appears - now converted into the Cyber-Controller. Jake and Mickey are on the bridge of the zeppelin, and use the CCTV to spy on the control area. The Doctor hopes that they can see him, as he has a plan to stop the Cybermen. Mickey is guided to hack into Lumic's files to locate the master code that will over-ride the emotional inhibitors. When this is activated through Rose's phone - now linked to the Cybus network - it causes the Cybermen to see what has been done to them. They go insane and self-destruct. The Doctor, Pete and Rose make their escape to the zeppelin, pursued by the Cyber-Controller. As the airship lifts off, it grabs hold of the rope ladder and tries to climb after them. Pete uses the sonic screwdriver to burn the ladder, and the Controller falls to its death amidst the burning ruins of the power station. Back at the TARDIS, Rose has revealed her identity to Pete. He cannot cope with this revelation, and walks away. Mickey elects to stay on this world - there is nothing for him back in his own London, and his gran is still alive here. He and Jake will seek out other Lumic factories, to stop further Cyberman threats. The Doctor takes Rose back home to see Jackie.

This two part adventure was written by Tom MacRae, and was first broadcast on the 13th and 20th May, 2006. The director is Graeme Harper, who had directed several stories of the classic era of Doctor Who - including The Caves of Androzani and Revelation of the Daleks. To date, he is the only director to have worked in both incarnations of the show.
After bringing the Daleks back for Series One, the plan had always been to bring the Cybermen back for the second series. We had seen a Revenge-style Cyberman helmet in Dalek, so knew they were still around. Russell T Davies realised that the back-story for the monsters from Mondas was the most complicated of any of the classic series aliens - more so than that of the Daleks. In order to avoid clumsy and convoluted continuity dumps, he decided to start with a blank sheet. No-one had done an origins story for the Cybermen on screen - though co-creator Gerry Davis had proposed one to John Nathan-Turner and Eric Saward - so this story would see how an alternative breed of Cybermen was created afresh on a parallel Earth. The series hadn't really done parallel worlds since 1970's Inferno - and RTD had a plan to leave Rose trapped there at the end of the season, with her ex-boyfriend and her parents reunited (sort of) by way of consolation for being separated from the Doctor.
There had been an origins tale done on audio - Big Finish's "Spare Parts" by Marc Platt - in which the Fifth Doctor had visited Mondas as the Cybermen were being brought into being.
This parallel Earth would have certain steam-punk features - such as the zeppelins - and the final design approved for the new Cybermen would have a slightly art deco feel. Some of the unused designs go for more body-horror, or touch on the original Tenth Planet look. The Cybermen would get their own version of Davros - a mad scientist in a wheel-chair who's obsessed with the furtherance of his race through unethical means.
One big inspiration for this story was the obsession people had with mobile phones and i-pods. What if someone could take these over - and hence take you over? The Cybermen aren't as talkative as our lot, more machine creatures, so they delete people like they would delete a file. All the technology is homogenised and compatible. And every time there's some new product, no matter how close it is to the thing they already own, everyone wants to upgrade. Time to upgrade the entire human race.

Unlike previous Cyber-stories, MacRae does not go overboard with continuity references. The Cybus subsidiary is International Electromatics - the company owned by Tobias Vaughn in The Invasion. There are no sewers involved, or bases on the dark side of the moon, and definitely no ionising of stars in other galaxies in order to infiltrate Space Wheels.
Camille Coduri gets to play a colder version of Jackie, and Shaun Dingwall returns as a more self-assured version of Pete. Noel Clarke gets to essay a harder version of his character (basically just without the comedy reactions), though it does transpire that Rickey is just as inept in some ways as Mickey. The guest cast features Don Warrington as the President, and Roger Lloyd-Pack somewhat hams it up as John Lumic. He had just featured in a Harry Potter film, with David Tennant playing his son. Jake is Andrew Hayden-Smith - like the ubiquitous Ant & Dec one of the Byker Grove cast, and more recently a children's TV presenter. Mrs Moore is played by Helen Griffin. Mickey's gran - Rita-Mae - is Mona Hammond, who had spent a long time in Walford recently. Lumic's henchman, Mr Crane, is one of those rare returnees from the classic series - Colin Spaull. Harper had used him as the sadistic Lilt in Revelation of the Daleks.

Episode endings:

  1. The Doctor and his friends are surrounded by Cybermen. To buy time, he offers themselves up for conversion. The Cybermen ignore this, intending to delete them all. Totally...
  2. The Doctor materialises the TARDIS in Jackie's flat, to reunite Rose with her mother. Mickey and Jake set off in the Preacher's van to track down Lumic's Paris factory.
Story Arc: 
At the birthday party, Pete asks a guest how things are going at Torchwood.
This story acts as the first half of a four part arc, that sees its resolution in the series finale - introducing the parallel Earth where Mickey is now based, and the alternative version of Pete.

1. The Preachers receive a briefing from Gemini, warning against Lumic's latest scheme - the Cybermen - and reports of many people going missing. We see someone who looks like a scowly version of Mickey close a laptop after this message, and he drives off in a van as the radio plays a Cybus Industries' advert promising that the ultimate upgrade is coming soon...
2. A video message from John Lumic, ordering the Cybermen to upgrade all humans. All incompatible humans are to be deleted. 

Overall... Such a promising start, but then it gets let down by possibly the worst ever resolution of any Doctor Who story. Ever. And that's saying something. Barry Letts had the guts to destroy his parallel Earth and everyone on it - even the nice folks. RTD has the chance to show the Doctor failing for once, but opts instead for the anagram of Timelash that we do get. Nice new Cybermen - except for the feet.
Things you might like to know:
  • That ending... Mickey has developed the most incredible hacking skills - launching missiles at Downing Street amongst them. Now he manages to get sound and vision on Cyber-Control via CCTV. That's the CCTV on a zeppelin, not in the power station. And the Doctor has deduced that Mickey has done this - as opposed to running for his life or getting deleted. Lumic is stupid enough to use his birthday as the most important password in the history of this planet - that thing they always tell you never to use unless you want your bank account emptied by the Russian mafia, or your identity stolen by a 14 year old in Hemel Hempstead. Then you can just plug a mobile phone into a piece of Cyberman technology and beam a self-destruct signal that kills every Cyberman. Except the Lumic one. The Cybermen's heads explode due to the rush of emotions. Why? Why would their heads literally explode? How can an emotion - no matter how "strong" - shatter a steel casing? And whose stupid idea was it to just inhibit the emotions in the first place, rather than conduct some brain surgery? And to think we thought our Cybermen were a bit useless...
  • And let's not forget that Mickey has learned how to pilot this particular zeppelin, from a video game.
  • The first part was under-running, so the sequence with Dr Kendrick (Paul Antony-Barber) objecting to Lumic's activation of his plans, only to be deleted for his troubles, was filmed. This was used as the pre-titles sequence.
  • Graeme Harper was not happy that a photo of the new Cyberman design was released during filming, as he had gone to such lengths to keep the Cybermen from view until the big reveal towards the end of the first half.
  • JNT refused a Radio Times cover when he came to relaunch the Cybermen back in 1982, but the new Cyber-Controller was "spoiled" by the magazine with a cover portrait shot - even though he didn't appear until half way through part two.
  • There may be only a few Cyber-references in this, though other stories get a mention. Mickey mentions saving the world in a big yellow truck - the one used to open the TARDIS console in Parting of the Ways. And the Doctor's plan to get into Battersea Power Station is the one his various selves used to get the into the Dark Tower in the Death Zone on Gallifrey - entrances above, between and below. Thinking about attacking the Cybermen via the emotional inhibitor the Doctor asks Mrs Moore "Do I have that right?" - which was an identical qualm he had when the Daleks were born.
  • Other more direct Cyberman references are the units in cold storage in the tunnels (Tomb - and substitute the tunnels for sewers if you wish) and their hypnotic control over humans, as in The Invasion. In The Moonbase, Cybermen could also discharge electricity from their hands. There's also that dummy Cyberman suit on Lumic's zeppelin - a dummy having featured at the cliffhanger of Tomb part one.
  • The only bit of the "Spare Parts" audio that was actually used was the Sally Phelan segment - where the dying Cyberman remembers what it was thinking about before it was converted. Marc Platt still got a credit. Earlier drafts did include more of Platt's work.
  • Nick Briggs is a Dalek obsessive. He gets a job doing Dalek voices because he's got a ring-modulator, and he's not afraid to use it. The Daleks have a certain catchphrase, beginning with "E". He's busy rewriting Dalek history by having his voice superimposed over all classic series Dalek stories - at least on the talking books (and the special edition of Day of the Daleks, for which he can be forgiven). He gets to do Cybermen now, and they get their own catchphrase - supplanting the fist-clenching "Excellent!". The Cybermen now "Delete!". Briggs is now also rewriting Cyber history by providing "Delete!"s over all the Cyberman talking books as well.
  • Lumic does do one "Excellent!", but no obvious fist clenching.
  • MacRae was a very young and inexperienced writer when he was called upon to write this significant two-parter. He still looks like a 17 year old. RTD had taken him under his wing and was mentoring him. One does have to wonder just how much of this story is MacRae, and how much is RTD. RTD became rather notorious for his lame endings to the big stories - the over-reliance on some deus-ex-machina - and I can't help but see his hand in this part of the story. 
  • Blue Peter covered the making of this story, and presenter Gethin Jones is in a Cyberman suit for some of the scenes with the Cybermen stalking the streets of London.
  • The performers in the costumes couldn't see very well, but still had to act in unison. They were attached at the wrists with elastic bands.
  • I used to live right opposite Battersea Power Station in Pimlico. There ain't no big hill. Obviously the parallel London isn't precisely the same as ours, topographically.
  • This story was broadcast as the Cybermen were celebrating their 40th anniversary - which is why Jackie is celebrating her 40th birthday (even though she claims Pete has got it wrong). BBC4 decided to have a bit of a theme night to celebrate this broadcast on 13.05.06, with a selection of programmes looking at robots and artificial intelligence.  
  • The Cybermen have the tear-drops at the bottom of the eyes - last seen in Revenge of the Cybermen. They were absent throughout the whole of the JNT era. They only appeared in three Cyberman stories, but have come to be regarded as essential in the minds of the great Fan Collective.
  • Having Lumic in a wheelchair is a risk - drawing unfavourable parallels with Davros. It was claimed that the wheelchair was a last minute decision, as Lloyd-Pack had broken his leg just before filming. Not so - he was always going to be wheelchair-bound.
  • Is it just a coincidence that the parallel Mickey is called Ricky - the name the Doctor insisted on calling him when they first met?
  • A deleted scene at the end revealed that Rickey and Jake were lovers. We kind of get that anyway, from Jake's reaction to Rickey's death.
  • Is the shooting star as Jake and Mickey drive away another classic Cyberman reference - to the conclusion of The Moonbase?
  • Spin-offs were being considered for Captain Jack and for Sarah Jane Smith at the time that this was made, but there's no record of the further adventures of Mickey & Jake in Cyberworld as far as I know.
  • I have never understood the compulsion to upgrade constantly mobile phones or computer operating systems. I see people queuing overnight to get the latest handset or whatever, and I just don't get it. I had an old Nokia phone for many years, holding onto it long after the androids and i-phones had arrived. I was visiting the museum at Kelvingrove in Glasgow a couple of years ago, and one of the galleries had some "design classics" in it. And there was the very phone I had in my pocket on display. When I saw it, I finally realised it really was time I got a new one - my current phone being quite literally a museum piece. That's what it took for me to upgrade. I suppose that the Cybermen would probably consider me as "incompatible", and delete me...

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