Whys of the Cybermen

Huzzah! The Cybermen have returned to Doctor Who! The two-part story “Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel” concluded yesterday and…well…it was okay.

SPOILERS — SPOILERS — SPOILERS — SPOILERS

I suppose my main feeling coming away from the two-parter is “Why?” It really felt to me as though they had the idea for an episode: bring back the Cybermen! And then just kind of winged it from there. The story didn’t really offer much to really justify the comeback.

Now, I’m not going to try and pretend the Cybermen were ever anything fascinating; they weren’t. Tom Baker’s Doctor called them “a bunch of pathetic tin soldiers” and he was so right that they vanished from the show for a few years after that. And this was in an episode in which they returned after taking the entirety of the Pertwee era off looking for something interesting to do. This new episode was a chance to change that, to turn them into a genuine foe with a credible story. Instead we got Dalek-lite.

It didn’t help that the whole first episode, “Rise of the Cybermen,” didn’t really have much cyber-rising. I found myself thinking, “This is a story about the Cybermen. Why am I not looking at the Cybermen? Why am I looking at Rose’s dad again? I like Rose’s dad okay enough, but shouldn’t there be Cybermen? Where’s Poochie?” The Rose/Pete stuff didn’t really accomplish anything that hadn’t been done already in “Father’s Day.” (Also, one of the people in the street should have been Nicholas Courtney wearing an eyepatch. I am of the opinion that part of the Doctor Who canon should be that on every single parallel Earth the one constant fact is a Brigadier with an eyepatch.)

What we did see of the Cybermen’s origin in that episode didn’t really satisfy. Lumic, an insane genius in a wheelchair (huh…have I seen that before?) starts shrieking around at 11 and immediately cranks up to 14 and stays there. We don’t know much about him or why scooping peoples’ brains out and sticking them in metal suits seems like a good idea. Normally I’m totally for letting bad guys be just plain bad and crazy and not giving them stupid loves for puppies or lost dreams of playing the violin or the other crap that American TV insists on to water down their villains and make them more “human”. But in this case, surely Lumic has to have something redeeming about him. When the President says, “I hear he’s kinda batshit insane,” it’s hard not to respond with, “Ya think?” Seeing evidence of the progression from beloved genius to mad scientist would have been nice. (Think about this: we see his prototypes in one scene, including rats he’s experimented on — Cybermats!) Seeing some kind of plan or reason for his project would have also been nice. We’re told he does this because he wants immortality, but then he only undergoes upgrading by force. Is he afraid of what he’s created? Is he having second thoughts? Who knows? It certainly doesn’t seem like it. and his assistant is just fine with torturing bums by offering them nonexistent food, but normal people is just beyond the pale? Zuh?

Here’s what I would have done. Lumic is a brilliant scientist who believes that technology is the saving grace of humanity. Have him be a charismatic cult leader as well, preaching a religion of technology, a la Scientology. The whole point of the Cybermen is that they chose this life for themselves. Let us see people who show off their cybernetic enhancements as an indicator of how high in the cult they are. Now you have a reason for the whole shebang and a nice commentary on cults, status, belief, etc. Mr. Davies, I can be reached by email. Let’s talk.

Now what did I like? I’ll tell you what my absolute favorite thing about this episode was: Mrs. Moore. I loved Mrs Moore. Right when she threw the EMP bomb at the Cyberman I had visions of Mickey and Rose staying behind and Mrs. Moore joining the Doctor. That would have ruled, especially if he continued to call her “Mrs. Moore” allatime (like Mrs. Peel!) And then they killed her. Bah.

I have to say, I am getting mighty tired of Earth, especially 20th Century Earth and England. I really wish we could see something else, if only an Earth Colony elsewhere. Especially if this “Torchwood” thing is going to be giving us the Alien Threat to Earth of the Week as well.

I’m not sour on the show. It’s still the only thing on TV I’ll actually make myself sit down and watch. I just don’t want to see it fall into a rut after such a strong start.

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4 Responses to Whys of the Cybermen

  1. Lanf says:

    Kinda right there with you. I also don’t see why, when all the buzzsaws and soldering irons were going they couldn’t just locate and cauterize the part of the brain dealing with emotions. You don’t want them? Why inhibit when you can remove? The only reason to install an inhibitor would be so someone like the Doctor (or Mickey, I suppose) could come hack the code and disable the inhibitor.

    So yeah. Weak episode. I hope the writers haven’t all totally blown their good material on the 2005 season and have nothing left worth writing. We’ll see, huh?

  2. Lanf says:

    One more thing. I’m influenced by nostalgia as much as the next guy, but it can’t drive the show. “Hey look! Daleks! Hey look! Sarah Jane Smith and K-9. OH HEY! CYBERMEN!” Granted, I liked the Dalek episode of 2005, and the Sarah Jane episode. But the Cybermen episode, even making it a 2-parter, seemed like it was ONLY there to give the fans more of a nostalgia jolt.

  3. David Thiel says:

    Yeah, it began to occur to me that the Cybermen are icons of “Doctor Who” because they’re iconic. Which is to say that they’re a bit like Elizabeth Taylor these days: everyone accepts that she’s a superstar celebrity even though she rarely does anything except kill Adric, and that was just the one time.

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