After two storming episodes of Doctor Who I was expecting great things of the episode tonight, but to some extent they weren’t really met.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think Rise of the Cybermen was dreadful, it’s just that the last few episodes have raised the bar rather, and it didn’t quite make it.
The episode kicked off with a pretty spectacular explosion in the TARDIS that sent it into the parallel universe, leaving the Doctor and his companions potentially stranded. Oddly enough for such a catastrophic explosion, the solution was found pretty quickly, with a window of 24 hours for the TARDIS to recharge giving an opportunity for Rose to go and meet her parents in this universe, leading to the encounter with the Cybermen.
This leads me on to one point about the show that has bothered me somewhat – unless we find out something to the contrary in next weeks episode, and I know this is me being really picky – these aren’t the Cybermen. In the parallel universe they are ‘upgraded’ humans created by a wheelchair bound genius who is sick and looking to extend his life, whereas in the original universe although they are again upgraded humanoid, they are not from Earth, but instead come from Mondas, as detailed in their first encounter with the Doctor in the Tenth Planet. Having said that, I could be jumping ahead, and in next weeks episode we find out that in this universe Lumic has salvaged Cybermen technology from the destruction of Mondas in 1986. Interestingly a similar example of things being different could have been used to provide a more interesting way to get back from this parallel universe by having the TARDIS unable to be repaired save for parts from a parallel version of itself stranded on Earth, although it’s been used before, for example in the book Blood Heat where similarly the seventh Doctor finds himself trapped in a parallel universe where his third incarnation had been killed during his battle with the Silurians. Without going in to too much detail, he can’t use his own TARDIS to leave, so instead departs in the parallel TARDIS left by the death of his parallel self – incidentally he does eventually regain his own TARDIS in a subsequent book.
This discussion of similar plot-lines does highlight one thing that struck me, which is the number of derivative plot elements that turned up in the episode tonight. Wheelchair bound nut-case looking to extend his life, and that of his race by augmenting them as emotionless creatures – remind you of Davros? Certainly the whole mind control thing has been done to death as well, for example in The Invasion where having allied themselves with a wealthy industrialist, the Cybermen install mind control equipment in electrical appliances. True it was given a bit of a more modern spin tonight, but it wasn’t really new.
The new Cybermen looked good, especially when they smashed their way into the house at the climax of the episode, however why show teases of them all the way through the episode when the episode title – Rise of the Cybermen – gives away who they are from the start. Teases like that only really work when, like in Earthshock for example where the Cybermen make a surprise appearance at the cliff-hanger ending.
Having said all of that, I still quite enjoyed the episode – and it will be interesting to see how it goes next week.