9 May 2016

Rise of the Cybermen



Series 2006+10

An alternative origin of the Cybermen story with some parts not working.

Ever since `Genesis of the Daleks` fans dreamt of a similar tale to show the origins of the Cybermen. Set on Mondas in the midst of some kind of plague, we would see the controversial initiation of the process by which body parts would be replaced by machine elements and the traumatic effect it has on the population. As a rather different take on the origins of the Cybermen `Rise` is interesting if somewhat crudely sketched. Kit Pedlar’s original idea –while similar to that of the Daleks’ origins - seemed rather tragic but would probably be an awkward fit with the modern series. Here, if Lumic’s wheelchair bound manic behaviour appears to consciously echo Davros the story takes another path. His genius being shunned by governments has more contemporary currency though it might have been interesting had MacRae added an actual financial angle given that in reality there are medicines available to treat serious illness but the NHS deems them too expensive and that might have been a more interesting route for the story to travel. Otherwise it’s hard to see Lumic’s actions as being anything other than self serving which presumably was not what started his work. 


The narrative needs to be richer though if it were I’m not sure Roger Lloyd Pack’s performance could sell it. In addition, the method used to create the Cybermen seems gruesomely slapdash. We don’t actually witness it of course but those whizzing blades are scarier than anything the Cybermen do because we can hear the screams from below.  Yet you have to ask- is this something that even within the realms of the fiction of the show would really work or just create a bit of a mess? The same might be asked of the episode itself.

It’s certainly an entertaining watch with the Doctor and Rose’s somewhat frivolous undercover work as serving staff at Jackie’s birthday do while Mickey meets Ricky, his double. Everyone has a double here except oddly Rose though the reveal that the parallel world Rose is a little yappy dog is priceless!. After just one story, it seems a little early to disband this three person TARDIS crew and suggests that the only reason Mickey was invited aboard was so he could be dropped off here. That’s to come in part 2 of course but Noel Clarke does get to play two roles which he struggles with because while Mickey is fine, fun and a good balance to Rose’s serious reaction to the parallel London, Ricky is written large; all sneers and snipes. Luckily for Clarke this is not the oddest acting in the episode.

Whether Roger Lloyd Pack was told to speak the way he does as Lumic or interpreted the role thus there is no avoiding this weakness in the fabric of the story. John Lumic is unhinged in ideas yet if you listen to his dialogue it seems designed to be spoken with a certain calm reason. Roger LP uses the sort of voice comedians uses when spoofing a villain like this. Perhaps it was thought this would curb the blacker parts of the story but even so it seems all wrong and robs Lumic of the potential to be a fascinating character.

The experienced hand of Graeme Harper is at the tiller though there are moments when you wouldn’t know it. Just before the Cybermen attack the Tyler’s house they turn on lots of bright lights for no actual reason but because it looks cool. This sort of thing is usually the province of less experienced directors who like to make everything as theatrical as they can. It comes after an excellent scene in which Rose talks to parallel Jackie but it backfires. The episode has several of these moments; an interesting dialogue followed by something rather more clunky. Once the Cybes do break in some of the party goers in the background look barely bothered.

Anyway if everyone is wearing their Cybus receiver why is there even any need to attack the house? We see earlier that Lumic can scan Jackie’s brain so surely he can rig up something to make all the guests freeze; just like we’ve already seen in the earlier download scene? Plus it takes the Doctor a very long time to twig what Cybus is up to. The whole attack seems to be for our benefit only and to set up a cliffhangar that overstays its welcome. The Doctor and co could easily run out of the way! I suppose even Graeme Harper can have an off episode. 

There are echoes of 2006 life in there; the silver appendages everyone wears are an extreme take on Bluetooth and downloading information directly into the head is thankfully not possible yet! Great to look at as they are, the airships stand out a mile because otherwise this parallel world seems remarkably similar in look to ours and you wonder why this one went for airships at all? They do provide a certain cyberpunk imagery and even get to stand in for pigs in a Pink Floyd inspired tableaux around Battersea Power Station.

Oh and if anyone were following the Torchwood arc it turns up twice here- once in an overheard news report on Rose’s phone and again when Pete goes to talk to someone and says “How’s it going with Torchwood?”.

Tardisode: This takes the form of a warning to all Preachers from the agent Gemini and serves as an intro for John Lumic and the Cybus Corporation.
Factette; The first British airship was launched in 1902 and was called Spencer’s Airship Number One though was only able to fly thirty miles. In total there were 21 British airships made during the first three decades of the 20th Century. However after the R101 ship crashed in 1930 the whole mode of transport was abandoned.  




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