Doctor Who Re-watch: Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel

Oh, man. Warning to all: I loved this two-parter as a teen when the show first aired, but oh my how the suck fairy visited this two-parter in Ben’s and my re-watch. I was so disappointed by how much I disliked this. On the plus side, I hated Idiot’s Lantern back in the day, and compared to this two-parter, it seemed decent so um … maybe tune back in next week if you are keen for more positive who review love. Anyway, read on if you want to share our pain??? This is a hate watch.

rise of cybermen
Can you tell I’m an evil, mad villain?

The Opening Titles

Ben: The first episode’s pre-title sequence was hammy. It gave me strong ‘overacting villain from a James Bond movie’ vibes. The John Lumic character was chewing the scenery something awful, and I found the music to be very obtrusive. I know that music is used to help encourage the right emotional reaction out of the audience, but I feel like it was being used like a blunt weapon in this instance. The pre-title sequence for Age of Steel was, as usual for multi episode arcs, a recap. And honestly, a much better telling of the events of the previous episode than the episode itself.

Maureen: I have to agree with you, Ben. My only notebook comment re Lumic beyond how irritatingly over-the-top his voice and acting is, was this is an unfortunate representation of disability. But also, it occurred to me later that the cybermen info dump was kinda stupid. Wouldn’t suspense have been so much better if the audience hadn’t known about cybermen involvement till Jackie Tyler? I feel like all the surprise in the episode was undone by the opening sequence.

The Companion/s

Ben: After liking Rose so much last episode, I was disappointed to see she’s back on the treating Mickey like dirt bandwagon.

Maureen: I give up on Rose. She’s a bloody awful companion. Poor Billie Piper getting stuck with her. The Rose/Ten dynamic completely doesn’t work whenever a third party is involved because the writers use this as an excuse for constant bickering, bitchiness and ugly jealousies. It’s sexist. It’s annoying. Stop it, show. God, I’m glad Mickey got a backbone this episode and walked for real. Rose deserved it.

Ben: In AU Britain, Rose wants to go and see her parents, and the Doctor whinges about that without giving a good explanation for why the hell not (in my opinion, at least).

Maureen: Nope. I’m with you, Ben. The whole time Ten whinged I was like, what? Shut-up.

Ben: I mean, Nine agreed to let Rose go into her past and see her real dad before he died, so what’s the harm in Rose visiting her parents in this alternative universe? She doesn’t exist in this universe, after all. Hell, if getting involved in parallel universes is such a big no-no, why did he let Mickey stay at the end of Age of Steel? But at least Rose got to have another awkward one sided flirty conversation with her dad at the party plus another rather unpleasant one with her mum, right?

Maureen: I was really disappointed in the Rose/Pete interactions. Father’s Day set-up a nice dynamic that felt squicky this time around. We get it. Everyone crushes on Rose. Even her Dad.

Ben: I don’t know if we were supposed to like Jackie in this, but I felt nothing for her. She’s supposed to be some fancy rich lady, but her dress doesn’t even fit properly! And she’s just nasty to everyone! You really see her true colours in the exchange she has with Rose at her party. I get that she’s feeling vulnerable because her and Pete have separated, but that was just nasty. So it wasn’t exactly an emotional blow when we discover she’s been turned into a cyberman in Age of Steel.

Maureen: Yeah, I’m not sure what was going on with Jackie in this either. I mean, generally speaking I’m not mad keen on Jackie Tyler, but at least in the real world she has some redeeming qualities. Unless the idea is that she is a nicer person because she brought up human Rose in the real world? Because, ya know, Rose is perfect and without her everyone on this show is incomplete /sarcasm.

Ben: Rose’s Dad is just as bad, but in different ways. He’s a bit of a wet rag, really. The revelation that he was feeding information to the rebels just fell so flat! I don’t know if it’s the writing or the direction in these episodes, but so many of the scenes just felt off. Then poor Mickey was treated like dirt through the entirety of these two episodes.

Maureen: I know right? From the get go Rose and Ten being arseholes to Mickey set my teeth on edge. I thought the Rose/Ten banter was cute too … till I realised it was at Mickey’s expense. And I hated all the times The Doctor got all worried about Rose, but said outright he didn’t have time to care about Mickey. Jaysus. No wonder Mickey went off to do his own thing!

Ben: Maybe it’s just a sign of the times, but Rose’s description of his grandmother as this amazing woman who used to slap him as a boy was uncomfortable.

Maureen: Yeah, what was with that? Rose laughing about it just made me hate her in this two-parter even more than I’d been hating on her previously. Haha domestic abuse. Haha Mickey deserves it. Fuck off, Rose.

Ben: I guess Grandma’s the only family he has left, but … it definitely explains why Mickey puts up with Rose and The Doctor for so long and is kind of disturbing to boot. In another episode this scene might have been touching, but instead it just felt awkward. The music was loud and emotional, Mickey was getting slapped around, and then his grandma treats us to a trope filled information dump. But hey, at least Mickey has some cool new friends now? Who then immediately treat us to another info dump. And then we get to one of the worst parts of these episodes – Mickey and Rickey. I don’t know what it is, Mickey’s actor usually does a fine job, but as soon as Rickey and Mickey are on the screen together it all goes to crap. I found all the scenes with the two of them just awkward. Ricky was just as badly overacted as the villains, in my opinion. And considering his failed rescue of Rose, Pete and The Doctor he’s just about as useful as Mickey too (the most wanted man in London due to unpaid parking tickets). Happily, Ricky is killed off at the start of Age of Steel and Mickey discovers his courage. Mickey gets a proper redemption with the last half hour of this episode – hacking computers, flying zeppelins and generally being a bad ass who’s saving the day. Onwards and upwards, Mickey!

Maureen: For me, Mickey was the saving grace of this dismal two-parter! I wish Noel Clarke had been given a real chance with this character. I think he was pretty shabbily treated by the show.

The Doctor

Maureen: My opinion of The Doctor in this two-parter is pretty basic. Fuck him. Fuck him and the unicorn he rode in on. Fuck him and his Mickey insults. Fuck him and his obsessive Rose protectionism. Fuck him and his sanctimonious lectures to all and sundry. And especially fuck him in the moment when he makes Mickey hold a TARDIS lever and doesn’t tell him to let go, then laughs at Mickey. What a bully.

Ben: Yeah, right off the bat the Doctor is bullying Mickey again. I thought we’d gotten over this stupidity, but no. And then suddenly the TARDIS is dead. This scene felt really weird, the music was loud, and the acting just felt off. And that was just the beginning. Time and time again I had issues with The Doctor in these episodes; he was bossy to Rose, mean to Mickey, and his use of technobabble was especially egregious. All the explanations around the TARDIS and their getting in and out of this parallel universe were dumb. On the bright side, Rose and the Doctor get to go undercover at Jackie’s party, and The Doctor does look rather fetching in a tux. An episode high point.

Maureen: Well, until the next dick move on The Doctor’s part. The Doctor laughing at dog Rose was just the next dick move in a long line of dick moves.

Ben: I didn’t really understand the point of the scene in the tunnels with Angela Price/Mrs Moore. In retrospect, it feels like the only reason we got a proper introduction to her – family, history, motives – was so that her death would have an impact when she was no longer useful to the story.

Maureen: Urgh yes. She was the only interesting character in the whole damn story so of course she had to die (though maybe I only warmed to her coz her name matches Angela Lansbury’s in Bedknobs and Broomsticks). I can spot the trope a mile off and I predicted she would die as soon as she got a back-story.

Ben: I also thoroughly did not enjoy The Doctor’s encounter with Lumic. His speech was very much holier-than-thou. And speaking of ridiculous technological explain-aways, having this advanced mechanical system compatible with Rose’s old flip phone is a level of ridiculous and dumb I don’t even have the words for …

The Alien of the Week

Ben: I didn’t like Mr Lumic as a villain. He felt like a caricature of every Bond villain ever. Is he completely insane? Check. Does he have a dastardly plan to take over the world? Check. Is he good for a dramatic speech and presentation at the drop of a hat? Check. I even had issues with his motive. Clearly the man is physically unwell, so this is a way to extend his life beyond the failings of mortal flesh. But beyond that we didn’t get any exploration of his motives. Similarly, Mr Crane (the Alfred to his John Wayne) was about as stereotypical a British butler as you can get. Of course, we don’t find out anything about his reasons for aligning with Mr Lumic, he is just The Help after all. The arc involving his whole sudden-but-inevitable betrayal of Mr Lumic was, to me, disappointing. Were we to believe that Mr Crane was fine with picking up transients off the street and turning them into cybermen against their will (that scene was also at least 17 different kinds of bad, and then he seemed to thoroughly enjoy putting the newly subservient men through their paces a few scenes later?), knew the fine details of Mr Lumic’s schemes, and that was the best assassination attempt he could muster? Plus it was a dramatic change of mindset from a man who used a song from The Lion King to drown out the sounds of men being torturously transformed into cybermen earlier on. He didn’t even get to give a speech about what Mr Lumic doing was wrong! And again, I constantly found the music obtrusive and distracting.

Maureen: Damn Ben! You just said everything I was gonna say. I’m just gonna pour a glass, sit back and enjoy the hate watch ride … ps: I agree, The Lion Sleeps Tonight scene was shark jumping of the highest order.

Ben: Moving on, the scene where The Doctor and Rose were in the crowd of people as they got their daily download was pretty creepy – everyone frozen in unison, then laughing in unison was creepy. But that is maybe the one good scene in these two episodes.

Maureen: The darkness of this scene reminded me a little of the hive mind suicide jumpers in The Christmas Invasion. Also, this was the only time I actually woke up and started paying attention.

Ben: Alas, after that it was all downhill when it came to scenes involving Mr Lumic’s technology. The revolving arms of blades and general horror that turned people into cybermen was just incredibly stupid. It’s the kind of thing that would be played for laughs in a Scary Movie or something similar. And I really didn’t find the cybermen scary when they were properly introduced at the end of Rise of the Cybermen, their repeated exclamations of “delete! Delete!” just made me feel like they were budget Daleks.

And, just like a James Bond villain, these cybermen have a fatal weakness. Of course the emotional inhibitor would be easily accessible and easy to disable. And of course disabling the emotional inhibitor will make all the cybermen go insane and kill themselves. That’s not a fatal design flaw at all. Speaking of design flaws, Mr Lumic’s final cyber form is what you see when you look up overkill in the dictionary. Anyways, due to some enraging uses of technology the cybermen met a fiery, self destructive end, and I can pretend it never happened.

Maureen: How noisy was that ending? I wrote, ‘what a fire and brimstone ending.’ I was beginning to want to stab my own eyeballs out. But then the episode ended. Thank God.

Final Thoughts

Ben: Look, I hated it. I hated all of it. There were very few redeeming moments, the music was really distracting, Mickey was being treated like crap, there was an over-reliance on technobabble to explain away plot points, and I wasn’t invested in any of the characters or their arcs. Maybe in an alternative universe this episode would have been received better, but I’m giving this Cyberman story a 0/10.

Maureen: At first I came over all nostalgic and was all well Mickey got out of this cluster fuck so I should award a point, but nope. No, I cannot. Because even Mickey’s exit was over the top and a bit shit. Like I’m glad he left, but gosh this wasn’t a well acted or produced episode in which to go out with a bang. Also, I loathe Ten and Rose and want them to fall into a black hole and stay there. I don’t give a damn about Pete or Jackie Tyler. I certainly didn’t give a damn about the two-dimensional cardboard cut-out big bad of the week and his cybermen, toothless pets. 0/10 inky stars

About InkAshlings

Maureen, Australian, young aspiring writer.
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