The TARDIS plunges out of the time vortex and into a parallel universe, and the Doctor fears the last TARDIS in the universe has made her final flight. Trapped on a parallel version of Earth, the Doctor, Rose and Mickey quickly find out what’s the same (they’re in London) and what’s different (Pete Tyler, Rose’s dad, is still alive, well, and hawking energy drinks from interactive signs on every street corner). Zeppelins fill the sky, carrying the rich and powerful – one of whom, inventor John Lumic, is stricken with a terminal disease. Lumic invites the President of Great Britain to hear a pitch for the newest innovation from his corporation, Cybus Industries. Cybus has already made Lumic unimaginably rich with the sales of its ubiquitous “EarPods,” devices which download news, sports, and even phone calls directly into their wearers’ brais ns. Now Lumic wants to offer “the ultimate upgrade” to the British public – constant connectivity, and virtually indestructible exoskeletal armor, which will virtually transform humanity into a new species – one which Lumic calls Cybermen. The President forbids any further experimentation along these lines, but Lumic has already begun creating an army of Cybermen in secret. The President goes to the lavish Tyler home that night for Jackie Tyler’s birthday party, but thanks to his ability to retrieve information from EarPod wearers, Lumic knows where he’ll be. The Doctor loses control of both of his companions – Mickey goes to see if his grandmother, dead in his reality, is still alive in this world, while Rose insists on finding her family. Curious about the effect that the EarPods are having on humanity, the Doctor tags along with Rose to the Tyler home, but this just means they’re present when Lumic’s army of Cybermen attack, killing the President and anyone else who won’t submit to Lumic’s “voluntary upgrade.”
written by Tom MacRae
with thanks to Marc Platt
directed by Graeme Harper
music by Murray Gold
Guest Cast: Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith / Ricky Smith), Shaun Dingwall (Pete Tyler), Roger Lloyd Pack (John Lumic), Andrew Hayden-Smith (Jake Simmonds), Don Warrington (The President), Mona Hammond (Rita-Anne), Helen Griffin (Mrs. Moore), Colin Spaull (Mr. Crane), Paul Antony-Barber (Dr. Kendrick), Adam Shaw (Morris), Andrew Ufondo (Soldier), Duncan Duff (Newsreader), Paul Kasey (Cyberleader), Nicholas Briggs (Cyber voice)
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: Easily the most eagerly awaited episode of the new series’ second year, Rise Of The Cybermen filled in another check-box in many a classic series fan’s laundry list of elements to bring into the new show. Surprisingly, the Cybermen’s new look is somewhat retro, owing more to their appearance in The Invasion than to their last appearance in the 80s (or any post-original-series visualizations that updated them into even sleeker, often more Borg-like forms, for that matter). The new Cyber-voice – provided by Nicholas Briggs, who has not only voiced but has also written Doctor-less Big Finish audio adventures of both the Cybermen and Daleks – also hearkens back to the 60s.
But it’s a little disappointing, perhaps, that in order to bring the Cybermen back, we go back to the 90s for a Sliders-style sideslip into an alternate, what-if universe. The alternate universe sets up several things to be paid off in the season finale, but here, on its own, it just seems like a flimsy excuse to show all kinds of catastrophic things without having to worry about the consequences. And I found myself raising an eyebrow at the thought that this alternate universe’s Cybermen are created – with the best of intentions plus a touch of megalomania – by a wheelchair-bound genius who will eventually rely on his creations to save his own life. As a plot development in its own right, it’s okay… but that’s also the backstory of Davros, creator of the Daleks.
Noel Clarke gets a chance to shine, twice over, as both Mickey and his alternate-universe counterpart, Ricky. The two characters give him the chance to play comedy, drama, action hero and a bit of pathos as well, as we get more backstory on both Mickey and Ricky than we’ve previously had in the entire series. (Why do I have a sneaking suspicion that this means he’s not going to survive this round of TARDIS travels?) Camille Coduri gets to play an entirely different Jackie Tyler (and an altogether unpleasant one, it must be said), and between that and Shaun Dingwall’s return as Pete Tyler, Billie Piper gets plenty to do here. Roger Lloyd Pack is a delicious villain, and Graeme Harper’s direction restores the Cybermen from “guys in silver spray-painted wetsuits” to “truly terrifying.” I don’t think the Cybermen have been this scary since Earthshock – or possibly even since the 60s.
Notes: Graeme Harper, the director of this story, is one of the few creative personnel who was involved with both the new Doctor Who series and the original series; he also directed 1984’s Caves Of Androzani and 1985’s Revelation Of The Daleks, and was slated to direct the abandoned 1993 straight-to-video special The Dark Dimension before the plug was pulled on that production.
Cybus Industries’ “front” company, International Electromatics, is a fixture in “our” universe as well; it appeared in the 8-part Cybermen story The Invasion in 1969, in which the unscrupulous Tobias Vaughn used it to cover the Cybermen’s invasion of Earth, starting with London; fortunately, the Doctor (in his second incarnation) and the newly-formed UNIT were on hand to thwart his plans.