Over seven days, I’m watching a selection of stories from the rebooted Doctor Who series, and reviewing them in celebration of the 50th anniversary.
Rise of the Cybermen・The Age of Steel
By Tom MacRae
The TARDIS is dead. The Doctor and his companions discover themselves on a parallel earth, complete with Zeppelins. Every person wears two bluetooth-style earbuds, through which they get “downloaded” news, weather, lottery numbers, and a joke. During the download, everybody stops and waits, then starts up again.
And people are disappearing.
Rose finds out her father is alive, and goes to find him, while Mickey runs off to take care of some business of his own.
This story completely reboots the Cybermen. In the classic series, The Cybermen come from Earth’s sister planet, Mondas, which occupies the same orbit as Earth, but on the opposite side of the Sun. The Doctor, mainly for continuity purposes mainly, mentions the Cybermen in their “home” universe originated on a planet almost identical to earth.
Over the years, the Cybermen continuously “upgraded” themselves, continually, changing their appearance. Naturally, this had more to do with BBC costume and makeup artwork, but the changes had to be explained over for story continuity purposes.
This two-part story sets up the finale of the second season, but, in and of itself, is a great standalone story. The cybermen in this universe are created by a dying man bent on self-preservation, which, of course, backfires when he removes all emotion from his creation, which then decide that all of mankind is due for “upgrading”, and those who resist or are, “incompatible”, must be “deleted.”
Intermixed with the adventure and terror of “upgrading” the human race, we find some very human moments as well, such as when The Doctor and another character come across a cyberman, and short-circuit it with an electromagnet. This deactivates the Cyberman’s “de-humanizing” circuitry, and restores the human side of the creature, who turns out to be a woman, a bride actually, on the night before her wedding.
Of course, as always happens with Doctor Who, the Doctor, through sheer ingenuity, wins through, defeating the cybermen, repairs the TARDIS, and manages to return his own world.
This clearly isn’t the end of the Cybermen, but as a story, this one is probably one of the best of the second series. Better, even, than the season finale (which I watched a few weeks ago).
By this point, Doctor Who has really hit its stride.