Saturday, August 23, 2014

Doctor Who--"Rise of the Cybermen"

Writer Tom MacRae has had no previous experience with Doctor who and it shows here. Not in a bad way, mind you, at least not for me, as one who cannot be labeled a Who purist. I got a distinct James Bond homage feel to the whole affair. There was a megalomaniac villain, science that is just beyond our reach, political machination, a threat to the united Kingdom government, and the Doctor in a tuxedo. The villain, John Lumic, traveled in a zeppelin, recalling A View to a Kill’s bad guy, Zorin. Even the plots to “Rise of the Cybermen” and that Bond flick have similarities. Other fans don’t seem to have made these connections, so I’ll chalk them up as the ramblings of an ugly American philistine. But, darn it, that’s what it looked like to me.

The episode begins traveling in his zeppelin as his assistant, Dr. Kendrick, announces the prototype they have created is alive. We get only a hint of what the prototype is, but it recognizes Lumis. Kendrick warns Lumis that it is a new form of life and requires Geneva’s approval before they can go any further. Lumis knows Geneva will reject his plans and decides to bypass them. Kendrick declares it is his moral duty to report the experiment to Geneva. Lumis orders the prototype to kill Kendrick to keep him quiet. The prototype does so without question. Lumis orders the zeppelin to head towards the UK to carry out his plan.

On board the TARDIS, the Doctor and Rose are reminiscing about past adventures. Mickey feels like the odd man out. In fact, he has been involved with a menial task the doctor assigned him and was quickly forgotten. Whether that had anything to do with what transpired next is not clear, but the TARDIS shorts out. They lose the time vortex and crash somewhere. The Doctor is distraught the TARDIS is dead and they have no way back home. Mickey steps out and declares they are in modern day London. The Doctor assures hi this is a parallel world and not home. There is no telling what the differences are and they shoul interact as little as possible with their surroundings. Sure enough, Rose spies a billboard with her dead father on it. In this world he is a millionaire businessman. Rose gets a wild hair to go see him. The Doctor insists that she do not. He and mikey return to the TARDIS to salavage thing while Rose wanders off to sulk.

Lumis arrives in the UK to speak with its president and give him his propsal to put human brains into cybernetic bodies. (In this world, the UK has established a federal rather than parliamentary form of government. Thi plays into a jab at the US government I’ll mention in a minute.) The president watches the presentation politely, but he has made up his mind already. It is an obscene procedure and he will not support it. Lumis tells him that he is dying. To refuse the program is to give him a death sentence. The president won’t budge. After he leaves, Lumis orders his henchmen to proceed with the alternate plan. Several of them pull up in a van to a burnt out part of town where the homeless congregate. The truck is loaded with food and they invite the homeless men to eat their fill. When enough are in the van, they slam the doors and spped off. Later we see the men, like mindless zombies now, being placed through some sort of obviously painful process we do not get to see.

In the TARDIS, the doctor discovers on small bit of energy still working. He needs to let it charge for 24 hours, but it will be enough to get them home. He and Mickey run off to find Rose and tell her. When they fin her sitting on a bench alone, they discover she has received the local news on her cell phone. She learns that her parents had no children on this world and that her mother is having a large birthday party tonight. She wants to go. The Doctor sternly warns her not to. Mickey decides he ought to go looking for his grandmother and see if she I still alive. The doctor anrily scols them both, but Mickey tells Rose to go ahead. The Doctor can only follow one of them and he knows full well it will be Rose. He’s right.

Mickey finds his blind grandmother alive. We learn that in his world, she tripped over loose carpeting that he had been putting off fixing and broke her neck five years ago. He has carried a sense of guilt ever since. On this world Mickey is actually named Rickey, but he pays that no mind up until a van pulls up and snatches him off the street, Meanwhile, the doctor and rose wander the streets and notice overone has earplugs. They all stop, frozen in time while the local news and weather is downloaded directly into their brains. Then they move on. The Doctor and Rose arrive at the Tyler’s country mansion. He acquiesces and helps Rose get inside by posing a servant staff for the party. It a big shindig with the UK president and other luminaries.

Mickey is brought back to some hideaway for a group called the Preachers. They are against the overreaching hand of Cyberus Industries and Lumis in specific. They have mistaken Mickey for their leader, Rickey, the most wanted man in London. Before they can sort that out, the group learns of the party at the Tyler’s. They assume Lumis will be there and think it is a golden opportunity to assassinate him. The party is also part of Muis’ plans. He crashes the party (literally) with his invention--he has gone ahead and placed the homeless men’s brains in the emotionless, min controlled cybernetic bodies. They kill the president and begin attacking the other partygoers. The Doctor takes Rose and escapes, but they are eventually cut of by Cybermen. The preachers arrive, but are unable to stop the Cybermen. The Doctor surrenders and requests to be taken or the brain removal process themselves. The Cybermen refuse, marking them as incompatible and and headed for deletion. To be continued.

I’m a sucker for parallel world stories. I’ve seen tons of the in comic books, something Mickey remarks on early in the episode. I think it is the history buff in me that likes to wonder, ’What if?” There was a throway line early on that noted the TARDIS crashing on this word wasn’t completely random and Pete Tyler utters the word Torchwood, which seems to be this season’s Bad Wolf. I’m inclined to think that arriving on this world was no accident, but the questions of who and what are still unanswered. One other bit I thought was more than a coincidence was the Cybermen created on this Earth were virtually identical to the ones created on Mondas in the “true“ reality. I have to wonder if we aren‘t going to see a little retconning here. Perhaps of bit of technology escapes this world on the TARDIS and makes its way to Mondas? That would add an interesting twist for the doctor to be responsible for creating the “real“ Cybermen.

I am aware of Mickey‘s eventual fate. I can already see how they are playing up his insecurities at feeling unimportant and unappreciated. It seems pretty clear that either he is going to sacrifice himself somehow or Cliched, I know) but Rickey is going to b killed and Mickey will stay on with the Preachers as their leader. I couldn‘t say which would resonate more with fans, but I see one or the other coming. They have played up his need to make himself ueful too much not to.

Oh, yes--the president. He’s not a hapless Bush clone, but there is a line that states Lumis owns the UK government. MacRae has gone on the record as saying he based the character of Lumis on Donald Rumsfeld, the most evil, power hungry man he knew. The jab was a subtle hint that the neocons are running the US government unbeknownst to the president. The idea is getting old here in the US, but still is popular in UK circles. Go figure. Why don’t these folks blast Tony Blair a little more overtly instead? The UK has essentially followed the US from war to war without any neocon conspiracy evident. Exactly what does the British opposition blam their foreign policy on?

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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