Tag Archives: Cyberman

Very British Sci-Fi

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It is perhaps an indication of the renewed popularity of Doctor Who, that UKTV Drama has kicked off a new year with a daily teatime showing of some of the classic shows not in the omnibus format in which they used to show the programme at weekends, but as it was originally made in 25 minute episodes.

The one difference though is that whereas in the past they always started at the start of the colour era, with Jon Pertwee stories, this time they’re kicking off with Robot, Terrance Dicks reworking of King Kong – probably most obvious in the final episode – that marked the beginning of Tom Baker in the title role.

Although there are some really obvious bits of model work at times, it’s still quite an entertaining watch, including some classic bits of script that mark it out as very British, such as the conversation between the Brigadier and the Doctor about how Great Britain was the only possible choice as the country to hold the nuclear secrets of the superpowers…

So why start out at this point? The answer is fairly simple if you look at what comes up later in the first Tom Baker season. After The Ark in Space next week we then get a run of classic monsters.

First off is The Sontaran Experiment – monsters who are going to appear again in the next season of the new Doctor Who. Then we get the classic and fan favourite Genesis of the Daleks where the Doctor is sent back in time to destroy the Daleks before they are even created – where Terry Nation makes absolutely no attempt to hide who he based the creatures on – and where the Doctor makes a fateful decision. After that we have the Revenge of the Cybermen, which it has to be said, isn’t regarded by a classic by a lot of fans, and finally that season finished off with the first and only appearance of the Zygons – favourite monster of the current occupier of the TARDIS, David Tennant.

So compared to the modern series it may have some really dodgy special effects, and wobbly sets, but this was the era that was enough to inspire most of the current production team, and of course David Tennant himself, to the extent that more than a decade after it’s demise they brought back the series that is so successful now. If alternatively you’re only interested in “nu Whoâ€? as SFX christened it, you’ve only got a couple of weeks to wait before Torchwood returns on 16th January – this time with a pre-watershed re-edit to help in those homes where the content of the show was ruled unsuitable for the younger Who obsessives and they were banned from watching – and Doctor Who itself is due to return for a fourth series in the now familiar late spring/early summer run.

Army of Ghosts

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So after two episodes which were to a large extent filler, last night we got the first of the two part finale to series 2 of the new Doctor Who. If, like my brother in law you’re reading this having not seen the episode, I’ll urge you to stop now, as a little further down I’ll get into a discussion about next weeks episode that gives out the big part of the end of this episode. I have to say that I did spot the clue to what it was last week, but when I watched Army of Ghosts for the first time I’d actually forgotten, and was definitely an edge of the seat moment when it happened!

You could certainly see where the budget had gone this week. The opening sequence was actually a voice-over from Rose, firstly talking about her boring life before she met the Doctor, then you get a quick flashback to her meeting with the Ninth Doctor, before some new footage of Rose and the Doctor, including a really impressive composite shot looking down on the two of them stood outside the TARDIS on an obviously alien planet, surrounded by mountains, with strange winged creatures flying around. Sadly that was the last we saw of that planet, as we then get a very subdued looking Rose stood on a beach, with the voice over talking about the Army of Ghosts, a war, and this being where she ‘died’.

At this point, some may be wondering why I’ve put died in quote marks, when it has been pretty widely leaked that Rose is to be killed off in the next episode. The reason is that it struck me when watching the episode again, that it trailing it so obviously at the beginning of this episode implies that her death may not be quite as people are expecting. Bear in mind that Billie Piper at one point this year confirmed that she was coming back next year – so maybe her death is actually going to be metaphorical. Perhaps something happens next episode that changes her opinion of the Doctor so much that she is heartbroken, and unable to continue travelling with the Doctor. This then explains the standing on the beach scene, the fact that it is Rose doing the voice over in the past tense, that she is still alive to tell the story, rather than speaking from beyond the grave. Of course that would also have given her the opportunity to have come back for a third season if she had wanted. Anyway, we’ll have to wait and see until next week, as there is nothing this week to indicate one way or the other how her character’s story will be resolved.

After the credits, we’re a long way from the strange alien planet, as we’re back in contemporary London, with Rose returning home with her dirty washing (obviously no washing machines in the TARDIS) so we get a little bit of domestic stuff to introduce the ghosts of the title.

The ghosts have apparently been appearing, quite harmlessly for a number of weeks, with Jackie believing that hers is the ghost of her dead father. The Doctor flicks through the channels on the TV, determining that it is a global phenomenon. This also gives an opportunity for the Barbara Windsor cameo, as in a nod to the ex-Eastenders actors in the cast for this weeks episode, particularly Tracey-Ann Oberman, who played Chrissy Watts, the Doctor flicks over to an episode of Eastenders with Peggy Mitchell demanding that the ghost of Den Watts, who of course Chrissy killed off in Eastenders, leaves her pub. Certainly for those fans who were having nightmare visions of the Doctor walking into the Queen Vic or something, it was probably at most an annoying interlude, and certainly the Doctor and Jackie exchange afterwards raised a giggle here.

Anyway, the Doctor of course is sceptical, and realises that these are something leaking through from a parallel world, and sets about trapping one of the ghosts to track down the source of the dimensional disturbance. Having located the source, he takes the TARDIS, with Jackie an unwitting passenger, to try and find out what has been going on.

The source is in fact Torchwood, the organisation set up by Queen Victoria back in Tooth and Claw, and one of whose purposes is to protect the British Empire from the Doctor. However, they also have a mystery that they realise that the Doctor is the only person who can help them to solve. This leaves the Doctor in a slightly odd position, in that he is effectively a prisoner, but at the same time being treated well. This gets to the point where he asks at one point “Am I a prisoner?� – “Oh yes!� comes the matter of fact reply.

The mystery is a large sphere, which although it is visible, can not be detected by any sensors. It is giving off no heat, no radiation, nothing. It seems that it is this that is partially responsible for the Army of Ghosts. The sphere came through a rift, high above London, resulting in Torchwood building a giant tower (Canary Wharf in London) to reach the rift. In the basement is the sphere, with Torchwood scientists trying to find out what it is. However Torchwood have discovered that the rift is also a source of energy, and are experimenting, trying to harness the energy of the rift to generate power for the UK. The Doctor identifies the Sphere as being a void ship, a ship that could travel between universes. However he urges Torchwood to send it back through the rift and not to open it.

It transpires that as a side effect of the Torchwood experiments over the past couple of months, ghosts have started to appear whenever the rift is opened. It quickly becomes clear to the Doctor that the ghosts are not as benign as everybody thinks especially as even when the order is given to stop one of the experiments some of the staff carries on regardless. After this he quickly discovers that it is the parallel universe Cybermen that he first met earlier in the series who are using the rift to invade parallel worlds, and that the millions of ghosts that appear are in fact millions of Cybermen. The Cybermen succeed in completing the transfer, providing an almost instant victory without even a shot being fired.

However, then comes the twist. As the transfer reaches full power, suddenly the inert sphere becomes active, with Rose, a Torchwood scientist, and Mickey – who has followed the Cybermen through the rift – trapped in the same room. The Doctor realises that the Cybermen do not have the technology to create the sphere. This is confirmed by the Cyber-Leader, who says that they do not know the source of the sphere, but have merely followed in its wake. So with Mickey and Rose expecting something Cyberman like to step forth from the sphere, it is a bit of a shock when something else, but just as familiar comes out of the opening sphere – a group of Daleks, including our first sight in the new series of a black Dalek.

Although this probably comes as a surprise to many non-fans, this is the first time in the TV series that the two monsters have appeared together on screen. However from the glimpses of next weeks episode, they certainly aren’t working together. In amongst the shots of Cybermen and Daleks fighting each other, we get tantalising hints as to what is going on. Whilst the Cybermen are intent on world domination, the small group of Daleks are up to something else. In one of the clips we see them moving a large container, which gets referred to as ‘the Genesis Ark’, possibly an attempt to resurrect the Daleks wiped from the universe at the end of the last series? Of course if the Daleks have survived outside space and time, maybe that gives hope to the Doctor that his people, the Timelords have survived too.

So how was the episode? All in all I thought it was pretty good. Torchwood wasn’t overly impressive, partly because aside from Tracey-Ann Obermans somewhat annoying character, most of the other Torchwood staff were fairly swiftly taken over by the Cybermen, Torchwood mainly being there as a vehicle to bring the Daleks and Cybermen together ready for Doomsday next week. Certainly it does leave quite a lot to be sorted out next week, and with the confirmed departure of one major character, some really big questions over who is going to be left by the end of the series. Indeed the only confirmed person remaining is David Tennant himself!

Incidentally, did anyone else spot the Mac laptop in the episode? For some strange reason the IBM desktops in use, still had prominent IBM logo’s visible, however the Mac laptop had a Torchwood logo slapped over the top of the Apple logo on the lid – very strange.