“RISE OF THE CYBERMEN” – Series 2, Episode 6, Story 172a – Written by Tom MacRae (Plot Nod to Marc Platt); Directed by Graeme Harper – The Tenth Doctor, Rose, and Mickey are floating along in the TARDIS when everything shuts down and the time vortex disappears and they end up in a parallel universe London. This is awesome for Rose because she can go see her daddy, even though he’s not really her daddy, and mom, even though she’s not really her mom, and herself, even though she’s only a dog over here. Mickey goes to visit his grandmother, who’s dead in the real universe, and this is not a big deal because it’s not Rose. If Rose wants to go see her Not Actually My Daddy, the Doctor acts like she’s talking about maybe possibly keeping the One Ring, but if Mickey wants to run off and get into trouble, well, then, Mr. Hanger On, you be back in 24 hours. Because You’re Not Even The Tin Dog, Mickey.
RISE OF THE CYBERMEN is another one of these two-parters that the BBC doesn’t officially call a two-parter. Why they do this is beyond me, and doesn’t ruin the enjoyment (or lack there-of) of the episodes, but it seems like it’s some kind of arbitrary decision, which is fitting because this two-parter is all full of arbitrary decisions that just seem made up to advance the story and falsely elevate the episode’s dramatic tension.
As the episode opens, the Doctor and Rose are all laughing about shared adventure befores You Know Who joined up. You Know Who is standing on the other side of the console holding a button that the Doctor told him to hold. Mickey’s been holding it for 30 minutes – at least 29 of them unnecessary. It would be one thing if this was hazing like Nine’s continually screwing up his name, but it’s not – the Doctor doesn’t even realize Mickey’s still holding the button when he’s aware of it. Mickey is all wounded puppy dog again, but at least he’s recognizing it because he really is a rare level of pathetic.
Look, we’ve all been there with that girl/guy that you just can’t let go of, but to ask to play third wheel for that girl with her new guy … ouch.
In fairness to Mickey, whenever he has tried to bring this up with Rose, the conversation gets knocked off the rails. Maybe she suggests a hotel, maybe a Santa Claus band tries to kill them. So when Mickey asked to come aboard the TARDIS back when Sarah Jane rejected the Doctor’s offer, you can see that he was looking for some kind of closure with Rose – he had to know it was going to end up with him on the losing end but he had to see it with his own eyes.
There’s that great scene in High Fidelity where John Cusack is imagining his ex-girlfriend engaging in the best sex ever with his upstairs neighbor, Tim Robbins. That’s Mickey. He’s been assuming a romantic/sexual relationship between Rose and the Doctor from the start and since Rose won’t just break the cord, he’s got to see them interacting to either find out with his own eyes or force Rose to tell him.
He’s in the process of whining about the Doctor not telling him he could release the button where all crap happens. The TARDIS shuts down because the time vortex has disappeared or something and they’ve landed in the Void.
Except they haven’t. They’ve landed in a parallel reality London that has zeppelins, ear pods, and Pete Tyler. The minute they realize they’re in a parallel reality, the Doctor and Rose know where Rose wants to go. The Doctor is all, “No, no, no,” and Rose gets that hurt, faraway look in her eyes that says, “Yes, yes, yes,” and the Doctor gives in because he’s not going to say No to Rose.
And, you know, why should he? She wants to see Parallel Pete, let her. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Time explodes? No. Space explodes? No. Cherry Coke Zero disappears? No.
The worst thing that could happen is that Rose might cry, which is apparently the worst thing in the universe.
There’s all kinds of silly things that happen to trick up the alleged drama going on here. There’s always a bit of that in a television program, of course – it wouldn’t make for much of a show if the TARDIS landed in an alternate London where there’s so little to do that they spend the 24 hours needed to recharge the TARDIS by taking a nap.
Ah, yeah, the 24 thing. Maybe it’s been established before that the TARDIS can only be powered by energy from its home dimension and maybe it hasn’t, but in the midst of the complete shut down of the TARDIS, the Doctor manages to find one little fuel cell “clinging to life,” and decides that this is the only way they can get home, so he … wait for it … so the Doctor breathes on the fuel cell so it can reboot itself and get them home.
And people say the sonic screwdriver makes things too easy.
There’s always been these “TARDIS breaks down and we need to get one particular part repaired to get out of here” stories, but they don’t even bother making it a challenge here – the Doctor just breaths on it and decides it’ll take 24 hours for the recharge to happen. He also says that doing this has cost him “10 years of his life,” but I’m guessing this will never come back to haunt him.
The 24 hour bit is just a cheesy way to heighten drama when it’s not needed. It never really plays out in the story, which is my biggest complaint – there’s a bit later on in AGE OF STEEL where the time even gets cut down to try and heighten the drama even more.
There’s a bunch of these new rules that appear in RISE. The Doctor tells us that the death of the Time Lords makes it impossible to travel into alternate timelines because they’re not watching things. Um … what? How? Oh, because the show wants to be able to trap people away from the Doctor in a place he can never return to in an attempt to wring even more trumped up drama out of a goodbye? Awesome.
The TARDIS’ crash landing spot is eye-rolling, too. Yeah, the TARDIS has to land somewhere and there’s no reason not to land in an alternate London, but it continues this season’s trend of repeating themes from last season, and since the show raises the comparison by bringing Pete Tyler back, let’s just be honest about it – FATHER’S DAY is the better emotional story, while RISE OF THE CYBERMEN delivers bigger thrills, but since the Russell T Davies era is built on emotions, RISE is going to pale in comparison.
We finally get a bit of backstory with Mickey that doesn’t involve Rose and we learn that his grandmother died by falling down the stairs in her flat. So Mickey goes and visits her and she calls him Ricky because she’s secretly the Ninth Doctor. No, wait, that’s not right. She calls him Ricky because the Mickey in this world is called Ricky. This Ricky is, comparatively, bad ass. He’s the leader of a group that calls itself the Preachers, who refuse to buy into this new world order of wearing ear buds.
The ear buds are the bad guy’s way of controlling things. The bad guy is John Lumic (played by Roger Lloyd-Pack, who played David Tennant’s dad in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) and his position as head of an electronics company is a bit reminiscent of THE INVASION’s bad guy, Tobias Vaughn, although Lumic is not nearly as bad ass. Lumic is more the entitled businessman who just does whatever he wants, while Vaughn was more motivated by his quest for power.
Lumic has invented the Cybermen to help him extend his life. He’s dying and doesn’t want to, so he builds the Cybermen as Humanity 2.0. The Cybermen are awesome until they start talking. Visually, they’re incredibly cool, looking for the first time like a suit of armor you’d want to step inside until you realized it’s not the kind of suit you can step out of ever again. They do this stomping with their feet when they walk that works. STOMP – STOMP – STOMP goes the Cybermen and this is how you build tension through the story.
When the Cybermen start talking, however, they begin to go downhill. First, they’re given this “DELETE! DELETE! DELETE!” bit to say, which isn’t at all or in any way reminiscent of “EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!” Not at all. Then we find out that the human that they upgraded from is still buried inside them. Lumic puts an emotional inhibitor in the system to keep them from remembering what made them human, but that’s in the next episode, so I’ll stop talking about it here.
Here, what happens is that the Doctor and Rose go to Pete Tyler’s mansion (this Pete is super successful) where he’s throwing Jackie a 40th birthday party. Jackie’s a complete bitch and totally throws the class bit in Rose’s face because Rose and the Doctor are pretending to be on the waitstaff. It’s a nice touch because we’ve seen Rose bonding with working class girls several times since she joined up with the Doctor and here she oversteps the class line by talking to Not Her Mom and having Not Her Mom totally tell her that she’s not even getting paid tonight because of the offense Jackie’s taken at Rose commenting on her marriage.
The Cybermen show up to ruin the party and start deleting everyone. The Doctor, Rose, and Pete escape, run into Mickey and Ricky, and the Cybermen surround them and start doing the “Delete! Delete!” thing.
It’s an exciting episode to watch, but the more I think about it, the more irritated I become. Unusual for the Davies’ regime, it’s the emotional notes that ring false here much more than the narrative. The simple narrative (minus the 24 hour-style gimmicks) is perfectly fine, but I just feel jerked around by the emotional bits.