Corners of the Universe (Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel)

(203 comments)

The sofa is, in fact, of reasonable comfort.

It’s May 13th, 2006. Yep. Gnarls Barkley. Whole story. Beatfreakz, with a cover of “Somebody’s Watching Me,” Red Hot Chili Peppers, Shayne Ward, Pet Shop Boys, and Snow Patrol also chart. In news, a bus driver in Dublin snaps and begins driving his bus through the streets in a rampage that kills one and injures thirteen more, including five police officers. Arsenal F.C. play their final game at Highbury, Apple Computer wins a trademark suit against Apple Corps, and Ruth Kelley, Minister for local Government and Opus Dei member, declines to elaborate on whether she considers homosexuality a sin. Sony unveils the PS3, the NSA is reported as operating a massive phone surveillance operation, the President talks about how he wants to close Guantanamo Bay and pursue immigration reform… wait, am I still in historical news?  Liverpool win something. (Yep. Still in historical news.) Oh! And Lordi win Eurovision!

This latter event is actually worth discussing. One of the primary themes of this blog has been the peculiarities of the relationship between the mainstream and the marginal in British culture. The Eurovision Song Contest illustrates a peculiar special feature of this, albeit on a scale larger than just the UK. Eurovision is aggressively mainstream. Yet somehow its embrace of the aggressive mainstream ends up being the weirdest thing imaginable. Or, at least, usually. Eurovision is infamously a bunch of terribly trashy and over the top performances bookended by a couple smaller ones in which a terribly earnest singer sings a terribly earnest song. And usually one of those wins. Usually.

But in 2006, somewhat improbably, a Finnish hard rock band that does all of their performances in elaborate monster makeup won with “Hard Rock Hallelujah,” their lead singer wearing a gloriously ill-advised cheap plastic hat with the Finnish flag on it. It was one of the most charmingly offbeat moments of mass popularity ever achieved - something that visibly comes from miles outside of anything that would conventionally be called the mainstream, and yet  winning a massive pan-European popular vote competition. The television of acceptance, as Richard put it back in the Big Brother post.

As we’ve noted, Doctor Who has itself become the television of acceptance, with the previously marginal backwater of anorak cult television becoming, very abruptly, the most popular thing on television - so abruptly, in fact, that it hadn’t even finished being anorak cult television by the time it had reinvented itself again. Its somewhat checkered past was almost instantly rehabilitated as the idiosyncratic history of a beloved cultural icon. And so a structure that everybody recognized implicitly was imposed on the series - so much so that it didn’t need to be announced as such. The Cybermen would return in Series Two, the Master in Series Three. Everyone knew in their bones this was how it played out, and the return of the Cybermen was announced in Doctor Who Magazine #357, the same issue that ran the previews for the last three episodes of Series One to no surprise whatsoever. The Cybermen were simply what was next out of Doctor Who lore. And so May of 2006 served up, on two consecutive Saturdays, the rise of a pair of monsters into the popular culture - the Cybermen on the 13th, and Lordi on the 20th. Unfortunately, here the narrative goes a bit off the rails, because, as everybody knows, Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel sucks.

Let us consider, for the moment, the possibility that Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel is not actually all that bad. This is in a basic sense true. Mediocre episodes of Doctor Who are a thing. The Android Invasion did not herald the cancellation of Doctor Who; it just kind of sucked. As with every other naff episode of the new series, there’s no real way to connect its badness with an overall narrative of decline. Naff episodes are just a thing that happens, not a story unto themselves. In which case we can for the most part set aside its quality as an issue outright. Even if we did not wish to do so, the fact of the matter is that there is some stuff of real quality here. The Cyberconversion process going on to “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” is a gleeful perversity - what the farting aliens of Series One tried to do and missed on. Noel Clarke gets a tremendous number of good bits. Helen Griffin plays the “Lynda with a y” sacrificial lamb character that Davies relies on for almost all of his stories in an unusual way that comes surprisingly close to making the entire parallel universe concept work.

Which is to say that there is a clever story hidden, Terminus-style, underneath this. There are actually only two mistakes going on here. The first is the abysmal performance of Roger Lloyd Pack, who provides the new series with its first unabashed embrace of the Joseph Furst/Graham Crowden school of acting. This creates a massive problem at the heart of the story, which is that the entire point of the Cybermen is that they’re us and come out of our human frailties, and thus that John Lumic is supposed to be a desperate man clinging to life like so many of us do in the face of a long and withering illness. And instead we get hammy Davros with a side of Henry Woolf. He’s barely watchable (although to be fair Colin Spaul is downright lovely as his henchman), and it absolutely hammers the story’s emotional beats because he’s supposed to be the central metaphor.

Which gets us to the other mistake, which was to reuse the Cybermen in The Moonbase. Because let’s face it, they’ve been a disaster. Their only function is to roll on when you need a Return Of The Monster plot, and at this point Doctor Who has enough of those that it doesn’t even need them. They’re the best of the rubbish monsters. Because something has to come in second to the Daleks. Yes, Davies ultimately leans into this and subverts it brilliantly at the end of the season, but right here, right now, as an exercise in bringing back another icon from the classic series, this is a disaster. These things are idiotic. Which is, actually, pretty much the history of the Cybermen right there. The Daleks may suck most of the time, but at least when they’re brilliant they’re brilliant because of the Daleks. You know, everyone in the 1960s did some good work on the Daleks. Even The Chase was improved by them. But the Cybermen? Pick your favorite good Cybermen story, and I guarantee you it wasn’t good because of the Cybermen. Earthshock is only memorable because of Adric, Tomb of the Cybermen was good because the Cybermen were so vapid that they could just be retconned into mummies suddenly, and The Invasion is good because of Kevin Stoney. And I don’t even think all of those were good.

There are exactly three televised stories that are improved by the Cybermen themselves, and only one of them comes before this point in the series: the original number. The Tenth Planet.

Some time ago, when I was in the early stages of this blog and got the sort of traffic over a month it gets in two days now I may have… been getting bored with it. Just a bit, you see. Look, there were a lot of reconstructions, and they were already slow-paced stories, and look, it’s just not very good for a while in there. Late Hartnell was not the story’s finest hour when you have the pictures. So, you know, small blog, bit bored, and I decided, hey, let’s amp up the occult theories in the blog, just for fun. Because it worked to spice up The Nintendo Project, so why not the new blog. And so I slapped together this great theory of The Tenth Planet as a psychedelic encounter with the ego-destroying energy of the Cybermen, who were perverse mirrors of humanity, and, look, it fed very nicely into the rise of psychedelia and the series’ regeneration with Patrick Troughton. And I used the word “qlippothic.” And it has been a bit of a thing.

The Cybermen were an absolutely lovely piece of design in a wretched story. And they weren’t so much lovely as utterly bizarre. I was just rewriting the entry on Galaxy Four, and one of the things I talked about was how Derek Martinus, the director of both that and The Tenth Planet, salvaged a weak script by going for the visually striking and strange. Give him a good script and he hits it out of the park, but if you give him a lousy script he fills it with iconic weirdness. And the Cybermen were salvaged from the emotionless robots with a weirdly mystical outlook into these oddly and viscerally perverse monsters. Yes, they looked awful, but the series was allowed to, and there’s a spark of cleverness to the design that just hits perfectly.

But the decision to bring them back four stories later in The Moonbase was idiotic. Because there they were just scary robots, blatantly there as the second choice Daleks because Terry Nation was taking his ball and going home. And so the precedent was set that you had to bring these things back repeatedly, and nobody ever got them to work right again, but the series is stuck with the buggers. And here Davies tries his hand at them, and he joins the ranks of Eric Saward, Robert Holmes, David Whitaker, and everyone else who just never got the Cybermen to work.

The funny thing is, he actually comes closer to The Tenth Planet than anything since. You can see MacRae and Davies working to try to get back to the original concept in a sort of Swamp Thing/Marvelman way. So, OK, nobody’s going to buy a twin planet anymore, so let’s scrap all that and go with a parallel universe. Do a full reboot of the Cybermen. What works from them? The St. Paul’s stuff in The Invasion. Earthshock. How they’re shot in The Wheel in Space and Tomb of the Cybermen. The emotions theme from Earthshock was always going to appeal to Davies. Take that, put it together in a parallel universe, update the science from artificial organs to something modern and you’re done. Teatime body horror for tots.

They even go back and take the best bits from Spare Parts, which is why I had to use the word “televised” when I said that there were only three stories improved by the Cybermen. A Big Finish audio by Marc Platt, who gets a credit here, that did an origin of the Cybermen story with Nicholas Briggs using the original voice style from The Tenth Planet to chilling effect as a Cyberman screamed in pain. And sure enough, it’s Nicholas Briggs on the voice. Sure, they have to ditch the actual plot of Spare Parts since it’s really all about Adric there and, again, nobody wants to touch Mondas with a ten foot pole right now. But they’re pulling every single decent bit of Cybermen from the last forty years together and trying their hardest.

But it doesn’t work. None of the emotional scenes of the Cybermen crying or screaming come off right. They’re trying for the perversity of Dalek and missing. The entire story is summed up by the single shot of a Cyberman’s head exploding during the “we’ve turned off the emotional inhibitors and the shock of their pain is killing them all” montage that just drains all possible impact that concept could have had in one gratuitous shot of “let’s watch the robots get sploded.” The catchphrase of “delete” is imbecilic. The story is in the utterly awkward position of having to position cell phones and Bluetooth ear pieces as the pinnacle of technology the year before the iPhone is announced, and felt dated when it aired. The whole thing’s a hash because, look, the Cybermen just don’t actually work.

But that’s actually about it. The villains don’t work. Either of them. If you ignore that admittedly large problem, the story’s actually pretty good. Which is, for the record, the case for most of the next two seasons. Because this is something we have to admit. Starting from about here and continuing well into Series Four, Doctor Who tends to be a spurt of three or four phenomenal episodes in a season of not entirely successful ones. Most of the stories for the next while have one or two persistent flaws that muck them up. I am only sporadically interested in these flaws, however, and don’t intend to recap them for every story. There is, however, nothing between here and the end of the Davies era that is more than one or two tweaks away from brilliant.

So we get monsters from the series’ past inadequately launched into its present. We also, hidden beneath it, get some absolutely lovely character moments. As I’ve already suggested, this is Noel Clarke’s story, and he absolutely runs away with it. Rickey is a brilliant character, played as Mickey only with the sneer on his face he used back in Rose to play “yeah, I’m a black guy in your middle class neighborhood, now piss off before I beat you.” The joke, as ever, is that he’s crap at it, and that his rebellion mostly just racks up parking tickets. But Rickey’s inadequacy becomes the means by which Mickey can step in and assume his identity, carving a place for himself in this world that he’d lost within EastPowellStreet proper. Noel Clarke gets at all sides of this, including recognizing and ultimately coming to terms with the fact that he doesn’t fit into Doctor Who (which is, as he ultimately admits, about the Doctor and Rose Tyler) while still maintaining - both on his own terms and everybody else’s - a sense of dignity and self worth.

Rose, meanwhile, gets her heart broken in a new way as her father simultaneously survives and ascends to being a heroic, Doctor-like figure and ultimately rejects her, and rejects her knowing and understanding who she is. It’s an interesting new spin on Rose’s story, and one that quickly justifies her sticking around for a second season. In essence what we’ve done is moved EastPowellStreet forward dramatically by showing what it isn’t. The parallel universe concept is passé, but applying it to the soap opera world of the Tylers isn’t, and we move everybody’s characterization - including Pete and Jackie, who don’t appear in this episode (save for a very brief Jackie scene at the end) - forward.

And, of course, there’s the criterion we can’t quite judge. As noted, every season of Davies’s Doctor Who, along with the first two Moffat seasons, does the naff for kids monster two-parter. These stories are never popular among fans, but they keep getting made, which suggests at least some utility. And the fact of the matter is none of us have more than anecdotal evidence as to the frequency with which kids are out on the playground shouting “delete” at each other. It’s something we won’t know for decades, when we see which stories from the early 21st century are used when the Cybermen are reinvented in 2042.

Until then we have a story that almost every technique we’ve developed so far for talking about Doctor Who is inadequate for - one on which everything interesting that happens is a character note and where the series mythology is by miles the least interesting part of the episode. It’s a particularly weird vision of the series that decides that this is anything other than our problem.

Comments

David Anderson 4 years, 1 month ago

The story does have one strong moment that probably wouldn't work if it wasn't the cybermen, which is Sally's death. For me at least that worked as it was meant to.


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Anton B 4 years, 1 month ago

Love the opening scene-setting though with the air-ships over London. Pure Moorcock. Also the blase way Mickey and Rose immediately get the concept of a parallel world without acres of exposition, displaying a canny understanding by Davies of how edgy SF tropes have entered mainstream culture. It's also interesting that this particular mirror world is not the standard 'good is evil' iteration of something like Star Trek's 'Mirror Mirror' but a bit more subtle - everyone's actually a bit heightened here. Not evil twins but just more succesful at whatever their character tropes may be. Pete's inventions are making him rich, Ricky is a cooler more streetwise Mickey, Jackie is more borgeous and in all these cases this raising of their game becomes their downfall. Mirrored of course in turn by the Cybermen being 'improved and enhanced' humans. There is some dubious moralising here around not rising above your station and knowing your place that is essentially a Brit version of the Evil Parallel World which demonstrates narrative collapse. Americans fear that their great power will be used irresponsibly, Brits fear that ordinary folks gaining power will collapse the class system. It's notable that the Cybermen's first attack is on a posh dinner party.

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Kyle Edwards 9 months, 3 weeks ago

That is an awesome reading. I'm going to rewatch these episodes again, with that in mind.

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elvwood 4 years, 1 month ago

For me, if I had to pick two I'd definitely go for Doomsday (love the lampshading!), and the other would be a toss-up between Nightmare in Silver and The Pandorica Opens.

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elvwood 4 years, 1 month ago

I don't have much to say about the main content of this post because I had picked up on everything Philip points out (which is unheard of), and happen to agree with almost all of his analysis and opinions. However, what I did find interesting was the bit about the history of the blog and his ennui during the late Hartnell era, because I've reached a point in my marathon where I see long runs of recons stretching out before me - and I'm dreading it. To the point that I have stalled just before getting there, and am finding the lure of the marathon isn't strong enough to keep me away from more important and useful activities. Or, indeed, sudoku.

My solution - since mine is a review blog with a side order of fanfic and I don't have much elbow room to go for the wacky theories, even if I could think of any - is to interpose some extra other-media runs (beyond the Time Can Be Rewritten type of entry). I'll be reviewing the Dalek Chronicles and Dalek books after Mission to the Unknown, because it seems the perfect place to slot them in; and during the Troughton run I'm thinking of doing a release-order Big Finish marathon to catch a bit of the later Doctors in my preferred medium (I wouldn't otherwise be getting to them for about a decade).

I'll see how that works out!

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Col. Orange 4 years, 1 month ago

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Col. Orange 4 years, 1 month ago

My mate loved that the Cyber Leader was "Trigger" from Only Fools and Horses. His hope was that Davros would then be played by Boycie (John Challis). But he's perverse like that.

On the nature of the blog, I've noticed the commentary on the show's iconography has changed. Is this simply because the original show was... shadowed(?) by magical theory and the resurrected show isn't? (The Tenth Planet post is the one that hooked me, because I never imagined the writers of a fun little programme would hide that kind of stuff in it.) Did Doctor Who lose the occult in favour of riffing on pop-culture themes?

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peeeeeeet 4 years, 1 month ago

Yeah, I'd go along with most of that. My main complaint about this story - other than the continued use of those hideous pro-mist filters, but that was at least on the way out by this stage - was "Human point two!" instead of "Human two point oh!" That was rather a big clue that a story about the dangers of rapid technological development was being made by a bunch of luddites...

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Bennett 4 years, 1 month ago

I'd say The Pandorica Opens stands a good chance. That scene, brief as it is, is one of only two moments where the Cybermen really work for me (the other being in the snowy wastes of the South Pole, when the camera pans up from a human hand to a mockery of a human face).

As for the other...I bet there's a really clever reading of Closing Time that makes the casting of the Cybermen in that episode a stroke of unfettered genius. But I'd have no idea what that reading could be.

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Alexander J Bateman 4 years, 1 month ago

I always thought it was interesting that RTD clearly didn't 'believe' in the Cybermen the same way he did the Daleks. The Daleks pretty much get brought back, warts and all. Even the the Emperor. And he makes the warts work.

The Cybermen get a total rewrite and all continuity removed.

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Bennett 4 years, 1 month ago

Anton B - "It's also interesting that this particular mirror world is not the standard 'good is evil' iteration of something like Star Trek's 'Mirror Mirror' but a bit more subtle - everyone's actually a bit heightened here. "

This is a great point - and it's one of the (few) things that I enjoy about these episodes. Even though it does go into the well-worn territory of parallel universes, the characterisation of the duplicates is defined with subtle enhancements of existing personality traits rather than with black wigs and eyepatches.

I also find it interesting that this story, and in particular the series finale, never broached the topic of the parallel Doctor (whose existence is implied by Parallel Torchwood). Oh, and also that Rose's mirror is a dog.

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David 4 years, 1 month ago

I'd have loved to have seen a more incremental approach dealing with a society obsessed with upgrading bodies. Could the end state of becoming a cyberman be a rational decision? Probably wouldn't have made great TV though

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 1 month ago

Nightmare in Silver is bad on every level.

I have a suspicion we'll all be surprised to find out Phil's third is Closing Time.

I'd say Pandorica but it's hardly a Cyber-episode.

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Ross 4 years, 1 month ago

I think it speaks to the fact that even those of us who have an irrational love of the cybermen recognize that they are, pretty much, complete and utter crap. Of the classic Cybermen stories, the Cybermen are the last remaining survivors of a near-extinct race engaged in a desperate last-ditch gambit to avoid utter annihilation in, what, half of them? Two thirds?

When RTD brought back the Daleks, the reaction was "Of course they came back. They always come back." With the Cybermen, if you bracket the whole "Of course classic monsters who non-anoraks have heard of will get brought back" thing, the natural reaction is more like "Seriously? How are those guys not extinct yet?" -- when they turn up in the 42nd century for their cameo in 'A Good Man Goes to War', that's something that doesn't make a lick of sense in light of the classic series. The far-future and the cybermen are still around at all? And not just as the last few survivors with no resources, no home planet, nothing but a bunch of tin soldiers with a pile of spare parts, but as a full on battle fleet that knows everything that happens in their part of space? Pull the other one. But if we can introduce the idea that there's a new parallel race of cybermen who could inject some new life into race, well, then it's all back on the table: these are a partially new and largely unknown kind of cyberman, and they've got a legitimate chance of, if not actually being "not crap", at least "differently crap".

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 1 month ago

Though Russell has said the reason for the reboot is the total incomprehensible backstory of the Cybermen. Odd because the Daleks also have a muddled history in terms of their continuity etc. but you can't really reboot the Daleks.

That said, we'll soon reach the stage where RTDCybermen get a baffling string of continuity - they fell through the void, they crossed the void, some remained even though they were all sucked through, here they have a random Cyberking which the Doctor recognises, here they're meant to be our-world Cybermen but still have the Cs, etc.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 1 month ago

I reached "as everybody knows, Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel sucks" and nearly gave up. But then it was the episode which hooked me, and thus I probably forgive a lot of its flaws.

"But the decision to bring them back four stories later in The Moonbase was idiotic" but popular, we should add. If a baddie makes a good impression and, regeneration aside, the Tenth Planet ones clearly were something bizarre and clever and good, then of course they're due a return. It's arguably only after The Moonbase that they shouldn't have come back for more re-treads. The Moonbase isn't so much "bring them back coz they're great" but "let's see if they have the potential to be reoccuring". It's Dalek Invasion of Earth but for Cybermen. The guys clearly thought them better than the Voord (where's their second story to see if they're good enough?) and the Mechanoids, etc.

I also like the structuring of this. It's Series 2's "support beam" - it's the mid-series finale which sets up the proper finale. It's basically like Series 6 done early. (And, ahem, better.)

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 1 month ago

It's also perhaps interesting that Dalekmania had, naturally, died down after a while... and you could argue that, come The Moonbase, they perhaps were thinking the show needed a secondary big bad - reliance on Daleks alone would've been an issue... particularly as Nation was soon to take them away from Doctor Who.

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Daniel Tessier 4 years, 1 month ago

I have a young friend, who, now not quite 19, was the perfect age to discover the new Doctor Who and grow up with it. This is her favourite story.

Then again, she is a shameless Tennant fangurl and hates Matt Smith. So I don't hold too much sway by her opinion.

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Ross 4 years, 1 month ago

It'd be hard to tell that story at a pace that would work for modern TV, but it's not a bad story in-and-of-itself. The original cybermen, I think have these two sides to their nature: there is the "horror" aspect of people-turning-into-things, but there's also the "tragedy" aspect, which boils down to "Under the circumstances, turning themselves into Cybermen was the only even vaguely reasonable thing they could do."

One of the big weaknesses I saw in RTD's reforging of the cybermen was that he seemed to get the horror aspect down pretty well, but not the tragedy aspect -- by turning the whole thing into "Cybermen are, at a fundamental level, victims of this one guy who's a cheap Davros knock-off", he loses the angle that goes back to the Tenth Planet, that the Cybermen do, in fact, have a valid moral point: "We have freedom from disease; protection against heat and cold. True mastery. Do you prefer to die in misery?" and "Care? Why should I care? There are people dying all over your world, but you do not care about them."

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Froborr 4 years, 1 month ago

My guesses would be Army of Ghosts/Doomsday since Phil makes it pretty obvious he likes their use their, and... hmm... I'm tempted to guess he's being perverse and thinking of the Cyberman head in Dalek, but I'm going to go with Closing Time, since that is their best use in the new series.

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Froborr 4 years, 1 month ago

as everybody knows, Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel sucks

Wait, what? Fandom doesn't like this one? Huh. Here I saw it as the "naff for kids" episode done right--I mean, sure, Lumic is over the top and ridiculous, but it's got some truly great moments and some lovely parallels in the Cybermen and the way everyone in the parallel world is an "upgraded" version of their normal-world selves... except Rose, who gets rejected at the end.

But for me the best part is the scene where Ricky (love that part of Mickey's "upgrade" is having the name that Nine kept insisting he should have!) dies. I mean, from the moment the show Mickey's face it's obvious which died. Mickey has on his typical expression, halfway between a puppy that's just been kicked and glazed obliviousness. But then Ricky dies, and Mickey's face hardens into the Ricky expression, and we know in that moment he's going to stay in this world and take Ricky's place.

Nope, this is clearly one of those places (like the Craig episodes or Love and Monsters) where the fandom is just plain wrong.

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Ross 4 years, 1 month ago

I think a redemptive reading of The Moonbase is possible a la 'Rose'. At some level, The Moonbase is a retelling of The Tenth Planet, but one in a universe where Patrick Troughton is the Doctor instead of William Hartnell. And what happens? Against Hartnell's Doctor, the Cybermen are qlipothic horrors. The Doctor is largely ineffectual against them: this is a Doctor who is reluctant to do the whole "Let's go fight evil and save the world" thing, and whose approach to saving the day is still largely based in "Sitting down with the villain and arguing with him, one intelligent man to another intelligent man, and trying to make him see reason" -- a technique that doesn't work with the Cybermen because, for all the horror of their plans, they've got a valid (though abominable) moral point. They aren't misguided, or short-sighted, or irrational, or stupid, and that's a big deal facing Hartnell's Doctor, who bests the villains, usually, because he's smarter, more rational, farther-seeing, and more moral (Or, I'll grant, just because of dumb luck). And so the Doctor wins mostly due to Deus Ex Machina: he doesn't actually stop the Cybermen, just keeps them busy long enough that their planet blows up all on its own. But the effort of beating these Cybermen kills him. Because they represent something he isn't equipped to deal with.

So along comes Troughton, and we get what comes down to the same setup, with a twist of lime. Isolated base in an unhospitable environment. Cybermen show up and try to take over the base, planning to use what's there to let them destroy the earth. Only this time, the Doctor isn't the "Let's sit down and talk about this as rational men and surely I can convince you to see things my way" type -- he's the "There are some corners of the universe that have bred the most terrible things [...] They must be fought," type. And in the face of that sort of man, the Cybermen are transformed from qlippothic nightmares into a bunch of space-gangsters doing a pretty standard low-budget-sci-fi-monster-movie act. In the face of this Doctor, they can't do the whole "People die on your world all the time, but you don't care about them, so who are you to call us monsters," act because this Doctor isn't having any of it: you guys are the ones in the rubber suits, so you guys are the monsters. Stop waxing philosophical and make with the rampaging.

Just as, forty years later, the monsters are scary when Rose is not around and silly when she is, here, the monsters are complex when Hartnell is around, but straightforward when Troughton is.

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Anton B 4 years, 1 month ago

Of course Classic Doctor Who had its own 'Good is Evil' parallel world complete with wigs and eye patches in 'Inferno'.

Oh, dont get me started on the parallel Doctor! I wanted to wait till 'Turn Left' to discuss that possibility but as you've brought it up - Yes, there's a parallel Torchwood which suggests a parallel Queen Victoria/werewolf (or equivalent) situation in this worlds history. But there's no (human) Rose for this universe's Doctor. Which ultimately forces us to ask are there parallel Gallifreys or just one? And (we can all ponder this til we get there) just who is the Doctor who dies and is fished out of the Thames ln Donna's 'Turn Left' world?

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John Callaghan 4 years, 1 month ago

A crucial point which has not been addressed so far is that when the Cybus Cybermen are marching through the streets together, their movements are very similar to Madness' nutty dance.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-JdFxoOl10

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David Thiel 4 years, 1 month ago

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IG 4 years, 1 month ago

Hope that the motherlode rumours turn out to be true? ;)

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Spacewarp 4 years, 1 month ago

"Total Incomprehensible Backstory of the Cybermen"!

You could have won Phil's competition with that one.

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Alexander J Bateman 4 years, 1 month ago

It's not just Fandom, this was pretty much the point where the Doctor Who critical honeymoon ended. This is the one where David Tennent went on Jonathan Ross and got asked when 'the real cybermen' were coming back. Popular culture basically absorbed this as the first bad episode.

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Spacewarp 4 years, 1 month ago

It's worth remembering that there are no illusions about this revival of Doctor Who - it's a ratings-winner and it's been designed to be. It is one of the most popular programmes on TV at the moment, a fact that RTD continually alludes to during interviews. In hindsight the Classic series has been given a shine of "integrity" by fandom, as a show that tried to continue despite failing ratings. But RTD's series embraces ratings and unashamedly courts them.

Thus we have the Cybermen being brought back amidst much publicity, resulting in "Rise..." being the second-highest story of Series 2, watched by 9.22 million viewers (just behind "Tooth & Claw's" 9.24).

Although their reputation is as "fan favourites", this is based on nothing than anecdotal evidence, and when deciding to bring them back, previous audience ratings would have shown the back in the Classic series, the Cybermen have been respectable audience pulls, if not ratings powerhouses.

Fans may object to the disappointment of their stories, but ultimately Joe Public likes them, and that's why we keep seeing them.

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elvwood 4 years, 1 month ago

Yeah. If you're looking for a cause for the cybermen's creation that comes out of social conditions (rather than a cheap Davros knock-off, as Ross so accurately says), then you need look no further than Spare Parts. Maybe it wouldn't work on telly, but it works brilliantly on audio. And it has that whole "horror combined with tragedy" thing going on.

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Seeing_I 4 years, 1 month ago

I will say Doomsday and The Pandorica Opens. Closing Time was pure filler and Nightmare in Silver was one of the biggest wastes of opportunity the new series has yet perpetrated.

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Seeing_I 4 years, 1 month ago

I agree, and from what I've read the initial idea for this story was much more based on the idea of bodily upgrades as fashion statements or trendy consumer electronics. That could well have been interesting. I *hate* the dumbed down, Davros-lite approach they used instead. I mean, Davros himself is a dodgy concept which totally undermines the Daleks, but they get away with it because he himself was so memorably entertaining. "Davros Point 2" is worse than useless.

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Nicholas Tosoni 4 years, 1 month ago

David, I'm of the opinion that there WAS an "incremental approach," but it was a little bit subtler and more unnerving.

Instead of people gradually replacing parts of themselves on the onset of illness and decay, it was people accepting new technology--the Phone Apps, the Ear-Pods, etc.--as harmless and commonplace.

There's also something to be said about Lumic's use of Battersea Power Station as his corporate HQ...Not only is it a nod to "The Dalek Invasion of Earth," but it also recasts the origin of the Cybermen in terms of Pink Floyd's "Animals," more specifically the song "Sheep."

"What do you get from pretending the danger's not real?/Meek and obedient, you follow your leader/Down well-trodden corridors/Into a valley of steel.

What a surprise!/A look of terminal shock in your eyes/Now things are really what they seem/No, this is no bad dream!"

The origin of the Cybermen starts out as a tragedy, but takes a sharp right turn into "Doctor Who's" central call-to-action: ALWAYS QUESTION THE WORLD AROUND YOU.

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Seeing_I 4 years, 1 month ago

I love the Cybermen, and I really liked the idea that they were always just hanging on to existence. I have always thought their default mode should be tragedy plus horror, and I really miss the tragic aspect, but Neil Gaiman has apparently killed the tragic aspect of the Cybermen stone-dead.

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Nicholas Tosoni 4 years, 1 month ago

I wish Ricky had worn an eyepatch, first as the in-joke and then as a character moment: he wears it because he thinks it makes him look 'ard.

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Anton B 4 years, 1 month ago

Erm...Doctor S. looks like my replies are falling foul of the sinister Spambots and vanishing into the Bin of Rassilon again. Can we sort it? Is there anything I can do at my end to prevent it?

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William Whyte 4 years, 1 month ago

Frankly, there was no need not to simply film Spare Parts.

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Seeing_I 4 years, 1 month ago

One thing this story absolutely gets right about the Cybermen is that the characters in the story all relate to the Cybermen not as monsters but as former people. The President asks who they were and says he's sorry for what's been done to them, the Doctor gets his moment with poor doomed Sally, and best of all, Jackie.2 casually walks up and identifies herself, only to get lost in a crowd of identical Cyber-faces a moment later (watch the choreography of this scene, it's quite masterful).

For all its faults, the story does a good job of making the Cybermen creepy and, just like the new series has done with the Daleks, making sure you don't forget that they are NOT just robots.

More Cyber-goodness that has stayed in my memory - the Cybermen slowing coming to life in the frozen tunnels, their grasping hands illumiated by torchlight...the blank looks they give Mickey after killing Ricky...and best of all, in the scene where Rose and Pete infiltrate the factory, you have certain Cybermen just standing there with heads cocked, slightly swaying back and forth, as if in an autistic fuge state, their brains temporarily on standby. That's some great stuff right there.

Graeme Harper, why hast Moff forsaken thee?

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David Thiel 4 years, 1 month ago

The thing that bothered me about this one (well, besides "Delete!") is that it removes the original notion of the Cybermen--medical replacement gone too far--and replaces it with...nothing much. It *seems* to be working toward the idea that we're allowing our iWhatevers and other gadgets to take over our lives, but never follows through.

What I felt was missing was any sense that humanity would welcome Lumic's ultimate upgrade. It should have been a piss-take on marketing, selling people on the idea that they could at last internalize their communications/information/entertainment devices. Instead, it was another forcible assimilation.

I feel like the Cybermen *ought* to work, but they rarely do for all the reasons you mention. And now, with "Nightmare in Silver," they've simply become the Borg.

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Seeing_I 4 years, 1 month ago

We should be so lucky as to have "Rise / Age" as the bottom reach of how bad the new series can be! Because for all it's faults, it's still some VERY watchable television, with a lot of nice moments and good character work throughout.

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Seeing_I 4 years, 1 month ago

@ William Whyte: Yes, there was a huge need not to film Spare Parts. It's really not that good, it all depends on a load of continuity, the revelation about the Doctor's hearts is lame, and the whole "parallel Earth looks like UK Christmas 1959" is just unbelievably twee and whimsical.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 1 month ago

The Pandorica Opens, the Cyber-bit anyway, is more filler than Closing Time. The Cyberman by the Pandorica is just there to be cool and pad the episode out a little. As effective as it is, it doesn't need to be there.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 1 month ago

We should also perhaps delve into the "what if?" - Lumic was not designed to be in a wheelchair. It's only Lloyd-Pack's injury which made them work him into the script by use of a wheelchair etc.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 1 month ago

"When are the real Cybermen coming back?" is nonsensical, though.

They haven't been back since 1966.

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Chicanery 4 years, 1 month ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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David Thiel 4 years, 1 month ago

It happened to me too!

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Ross 4 years, 1 month ago

Instead of people gradually replacing parts of themselves on the onset of illness and decay, it was people accepting new technology--the Phone Apps, the Ear-Pods, etc.--as harmless and commonplace.

Yeah, but doesn't that cast the whole thing as a slightly ugly luddite parable? As in "Everyone panic about how this newfangled technology will DESTROY US ALL, you fools! Read books damnit! And you kids turn off that rock and roll noise! Get off my lawn!"

If I wanted a story whose central premise was alarmism about how the popular new technological marvel is actually undermining our very humanity, I'd just watch science reporting in the mainstream news.

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Chicanery 4 years, 1 month ago

I really like Nightmare in Silver, and
the complaints I've seen leveled
against it range from the fair (the
description of Clara is sexist, which I
accept; some awful acting, which is
not exactly new to Who, is it?), to the
ridiculous (the military are
incompetent; Clara is too competent;
the castle wasn't comical enough).
I'm yet to be convinced it's a bad
episode, and not one with flaws, but
makes up for that with enough fun
and ideas to fill ten episodes.

But then, I like A Town Called Mercy
and Cold War, so I seem to be always
out of step with the fandom.

And Doomsday is terrible. Closing
Time is worse.

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Phil 4 years, 1 month ago

How is it Neil Gaiman's fault specifically? He didn't bother with the tragic aspect, but neither have tons of other writers, and that hardly closes off the possibility of it being used by others in the future.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 1 month ago

Chicanery you get me in an impossible way. I LOVE Nightmare, Cold War and Mercy. And I get bored watching Doomsday. Maybe you're just out of step with some rather vocal people.

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Ross 4 years, 1 month ago

There's a lot of tin notes in Spare Parts. The emotional core of the story is extremely good, but things like "Mondas is 1959" is pretty sour, and the bits where they try to have a specific antagonist in the story in the form of the Evil Council of Evil Overlords drags the story down the same way Lumic drags down this story*.

But also, I think there's something weird and uncomfortable about having the new show go back and do after-the-fact origin stories for classic monsters. Like the show's eating its own tail. If you want to do "Genesis of the Cybermen", I think "Here is a whole new post-Time War origin for a whole new race of cybermen" is probably the only way to realistically do it. It's just that you really want to do it better than this.

(* Lumic is quite obviously designed as a parallel character to Tobias Vaughn. And the fact that Vaughn worked while Lumic doesn't isn't just due to the relative talent of the actors. I think the big problem is that Vaughn represented a third front -- yes, he's allied with the cybermen, but he's got his own agenda. In this story, the Cybermen are purely an extension of Lumic without agency of their own, up until the moment they turn on him, whereupon he's instantly bested and now he's an extension of their agency instead.

In most of the classic cybermen stories, you always have three fronts going on; it's rarely just The Good Guys vs The Cybermen (and their allies). There's a third faction in Tombs, The Invasion, Revenge, The Five Doctors (Which I count as something more than just a cameo because they're the ones doing the Boots-On-The-Ground menacing of the characters for most of the running time), Attack, and Silver Nemesis (Nemesis also has the Nazis as a fourth faction, but mostly I have no idea why they felt the need to include the subplot with the nazis. I don't dislike Silver Nemesis the way most people do, but I do see it as being basically three different stories all squished together arbitrarily, which would be bad enough, except that one of those stories is just the same story they did abotu the Daleks the previous week, and the third one is some random crappy story about nazis). I think Rise of the Cybermen includes a lot of elements that seem designed for one of these three-faction cybermen stories, despite having only two factions.)

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 1 month ago

I've never seen the Cybermen as really that tragic. I see them as the shitty stomping robots that have stupid plans and take up episode space that could be spent on something remotely interesting. The first time the Cybermen were interesting for me was "Closing Time". Of course that was before I had seen "Tenth Planet" and "Spare Parts".

Even with "Tenth Planet", "Spare Parts", "Closing Time" and "Nightmare in Silver" that's still the vast majority of Cyber-episodes would just have been better with someone else as the antagonist. Hell, I'd trade them for the Sycorax even.

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Travis Butler 4 years, 1 month ago

I'm still way behind on the Smith episodes... but yes, I was very unimpressed with Doomsday, too. The Cybermen were set up pretty well in Army of Ghosts, but the resolution in Doomsday degenerated into a juvenile high-concept 'wow, wouldn't it be *cool* to see Daleks fight Cybermen?' bit, followed by an incredibly bad deus ex machina to reset the problem-o-meter.

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Travis Butler 4 years, 1 month ago

Yes, Sally also worked very well for me. Shameless emotional manipulation, but this time I didn't feel used, if that makes any sense.

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Travis Butler 4 years, 1 month ago

Agreed on both the way the parallel characters were set up, and on the question of the parallel Doctor; to its credit, the story handwaved it well enough that I didn't notice until much later, and even then it didn't seem like a big issue.

And yeah, Ricky with an eyepatch would have been great for exactly that reason. :)

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 1 month ago

Better the Borg than stupid stompy Robots that elicit shallow imitation pathos.

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sleepyscholar 4 years, 1 month ago

William: where's ya troosis?

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Froborr 4 years, 1 month ago

The Rubbish Bin of Rassilon would have been a serious contender in Phil's contest, methinks.

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Travis Butler 4 years, 1 month ago

See, I didn't see Lumic in the Davros role at all, and for me he was one of the more interesting bits of the story. Because it's doing very much the same thing the new series has been lauded for, repeatedly - bringing the big epic down to the personal level.

In the classic series origin, the Cybermen were the result of a race trading its humanity for racial survival. In this story, we go down to the individual sphere; this is a crippled man confined to a total-life-support wheelchair, trying to find a way to keep himself alive and even return to a physically-healthy life. (Of course, being a Bad Corporate Executive type, he has others taking the initial risks of conversion for him...) The mass-conversions came when he wasn't able to get the government to let him to go ahead, and decided he needed to take over...

Of course, this just makes the moment when he realizes he doesn't want to be converted yet all the more deliciously ironic.

Then again, I actually liked his portrayal, and even the bombastic Gold score, so what do I know? :)

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encyclops 4 years, 1 month ago

I'll speak up for both Nightmare in Silver and Closing Time.

I enjoyed both immensely, but mostly for reasons unrelated to the presence of Cybermen. They're comedy episodes, and I think it speaks volumes that the Cybermen are such jokes at this point that you have to pit them against "bumbling" heroes like the Punishment Patrol and Craig + Stormageddon to make them seem threatening. I think I might miss them if they weren't there, though; in both episodes they really do add a creepy vibe to the proceedings that serves as a welcome contrast (at least until they start talking).

It didn't occur to me until today to notice that Gareth Roberts decided to set a Doctor Who story in a shopping mall and NOT use the Autons as villains. I look forward to discussing the reasons why.

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encyclops 4 years, 1 month ago

I'm gonna put a stake in the ground and say that almost every Doctor Who catchphrase has been shit except for the two that start with E X.

The list of catchphrases I hate includes the following:

"Fantastic!"
"Allons-y!"
"Geronimo!"
"I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry."
"You will be deleted."
"You will be upgraded."
"Sontar-HA!"

I guess you could make a case that "Are you my mummy?" and "Don't blink. Don't even blink." are catchphrases and that they worked. At the very least I don't hate them. I could even make allowances for "Spoilers!" and "Hello sweetie" but those only work because Alex Kingston is better than her role.

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encyclops 4 years, 1 month ago

I like the portmanteau of "bourgeois" and "gorgeous." It fits. :)

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peeeeeeet 4 years, 1 month ago

It says something about my feelings towards Series 6b that my first thought reading some of these comments was "the Cybermen were in Closing Time?!" Then I remembered the bitey Cybermat and all was well. The only thing I remember - literally the only thing - from Night Terrors was that line about Snow White and the Seven Keys to Doomsday.

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Chicanery 4 years, 1 month ago

No love for "I'll explain later"?

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elvwood 4 years, 1 month ago

Always.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 1 month ago

I was posting replies but I'll just end up derailing good conversations with my opinion. So I am going to come out and say it: I hate the Cybermen. I think they're boring. I think they're laughable. I think they are a squandered waste of several concepts that could be interesting.

What baffles me is that we keep getting stories about them where they are nothing but shitty robots. Where the fact that they are us is glossed over and made trivial. Cybermen could be horrifying and compelling and for some reason we get more and more wasted episodes. I feel like until "Closing Time" every appearance of the Cybermen was a total waste. I don't think a single one of their episodes would not have been improved with their removal and replacement.

Now I am not so unreasonable to say they could not work. Here’s my pitch: The Doctor and Companion land on a world that seems rather nice for a change. It’s sleek, white walls and chrome like the JJ Abrams Enterprise. Everyone is linked to a world net or some such. People use cranial implants to improve job performance and overall have a good quality of life. They’re friendly cyborgs. We maybe have some sort of corporate greed plot it really doesn’t matter. In the background of the episode we see one of our sympathetic guest cast getting more implants to try and help the Doctor and be of more use. Until we get to the halfway mark…and she’s a Cyberman. White Plastic shell, glowing blue light in the chest piece…she should basically look like an Apple product. And she helps save the day of our B Plot. But she’s started a trend. People are upgrading faster without the same safe guards or good intentions. And key to this is that the Doctor fails. He and the companion just cannot stop these new Cybermen here without killing a planet of innocents. And he leaves. The Cybermen beat him here. The next time we see them we have colonies willingly converting because they still seem to have their own sense of self in some form or another. And then the Doctor has to deal with the fact that he might just be killing innocents if he stops them. Those are Cybermen with layers. Who challenge the Doctor`s morals. Who actually are saying something about the divide between haves and have-nots and what Technology-Stratification does to our society. I think it makes them more interesting than a group of tin soldiers, too easily defeated by a mad man in a box.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 1 month ago

The real Cybermen showed up in Spare Parts.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 1 month ago

I could see it less as "stay in your place" and more as a commentary on the corrupting power of upper-middle-class consumerism.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 1 month ago

More Troughton would be an absolute Dream for the 50th. I'll be honest, if we got either a completed "Power of the Daleks" or complete "Evil of the Daleks" out of this, then I'd be happy.

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encyclops 4 years, 1 month ago

Maybe they felt that humanity was still in alpha release, even after "upgrading." ;)

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 1 month ago

I could see it as that if those elements got a little more play..but as it is all of our consumerist warning are high class ultra rich international business types.

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jane 4 years, 1 month ago

The thing is, this story *does* have an occult undercurrent, not to mention a political one, and sadly Phil's essay doesn't cover either.

First, politics. As the wonderful Jack Graham pointed out last year, the 60s Cybermen can easily be taken as a metaphor for the fear of communism (the Daleks being their Fascist equivalent) what with their conformity, lack of identity, embrace of mechanization, groupthink, etc. Davies, however, casts them as an outgrowth of a capitalist society -- they're invented by an arch-industrialist, in a Britain that more closely resembles America than Britain itself.

Pete, for example, is a successful entrepreneur. Britain has a President (presciently black) instead of a Prime Minister. Lumic's henchmen can easily pick off the poor and downtrodden -- as a capitalist offering social services, it bespeaks to a breakdown of a governmental safety net. In a neat move, the Doctor and Rose become proletariats, waiters for the posh dinner party, right down to the iconic costumes; class divisions in Britain 2.0 are alive and well. It's in these conditions that the Cybermen emerge.

One might think that the qlippothic function of the Cybermen has fallen away for political critique, but this is not the case. This parallel world isn't a mirror universe, it's a place of death, the Other Side of the Great Void. Upon its arrival, the TARDIS is pronounced "dead", completely shut down. Rose discovers her dead father on the Other Side; Mickey finds his dead grandmother. Lumic, the villain who spawns Cybermen, wants to overcome death -- drawing on the original motivation of the Mondasians. The Other Side even has a strange mirror-effect. It seems to recognize, like the two-slit experiment of quantum physics, that two versions of the same person can't be observed in both places at once. There can't be a Mickey and a Rickey, one has to die. Likewise, Jackie Tyler is really alive; her "ghost" becomes fodder for conversion. And we have zeppelins! Floating around like giant flying fish, a nod to Christian iconography.

Of course, this pays off in the season finale. This is why the Cybermen are really "ghosts" and why Rose is really "dead" -- the Other Side is a place of Death. But in terms of this particular story, I'm taken by the convergence of the qlippothic with a particular political economy. It suggests that the engine of capitalism is ultimately the death drive; in turn, the practice of capitalism leads to a qlippothic death and a false ascension. Lumic makes this quite clear during his speech to the President: "They were homeless, wretched and useless until I saved them. And elevated them. And gave them life-eternal." This is his solution, not just escape from death, but the eradication of poverty, itself borne of capitalistic practices.

But Age of Steel not a completely left-wing critique. It isn't collectivism or government policy or the rise of the proletariat that defeat the Cybermen. It's a small, rag-tag group of people -- a family. The Doctor comes from Below, through the Underworld of Battersea, representing Britain's subconscious -- and look, now his costume isn't a prole's anymore, no, now he's James Bond. Rose brings the phone through the Middle Path, while Mickey and Jake tackle the Upperworld, the place of ascension. ("Jake" is short for "Jacob," and borrowing once more from Christian iconography, Jacob's Ladder is an ascension story, but here it's Mickey's Ladder our heroes use to escape.)

So we get a real ascension -- Mickey the Savior stays in the Place of Death. But the real "hero" of the story is Relationship itself, the principle of the soap opera. It's relationships that really drive the story, and relationships that prevail; emotions, not political analysis, defeat the qlippothic capitalists.

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encyclops 4 years, 1 month ago

Another interesting thing. I like Earthshock, though maybe not as much as the people who love it, and I like the redesigned Cybermen it introduced. But I can't deny that the Cybermen are interesting in it largely for being absent for a quarter of it.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 1 month ago

You know, from here on out I'm going to refer to the sweeping generalization of "the fandom" as a monolithic entity instead of a bunch of different people with many different strains of opinion and viewpoints as "The Cyber-Fandom".

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Ross 4 years, 1 month ago

And we have zeppelins! Floating around like giant flying fish, a nod to Christian iconography.

And now that you mention it, it's hard to ignore Zeppelins themselves as a "dead" thing, not just in that they are an aeronautical technology that is itself dead in the "proper" universe, but at the same time, advanced lighter-than-air-craft are a powerful symbol of potential futures that didn't pan out.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 1 month ago

It's true - this one has a heck of a lot of good moments, and as Dr. S said, only a couple real problems.

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encyclops 4 years, 1 month ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 1 month ago

I quite like "Sontar-HA!" The Sontarans are the kind of not-entirely-serious characters for whom a catchphrase works.

(Of course, I like a good chunk of this list, but.)

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peeeeeeet 4 years, 1 month ago

It *seems* to be working toward the idea that we're allowing our iWhatevers and other gadgets to take over our lives, but never follows through.

The thought occurs that this is perhaps a problem of timing. People had mobiles and other gadgets circa 2006, but they didn't fundamentally change the way people lived their lives. The real shift came when Twitter went mainstream - suddenly lots of things were different, including the way people got their news. The key moment for me was Gordon Brown's "bigoted woman" gaffe, which had been mocked every which way before it had even made it onto the TV news. It was as if the twenty-four hour news cycle had become a twenty-four minute one. Had this story been made three or four years later - and I grant they would have never held off from reintroducing the Cybes that long - then the basic themes might have been more effective without needing a lot of reworking.

It might be worth noting that since then, both Futurama and South Park have got decent episodes out of the same basic theme. Perhaps for once Who was ahead of its time?

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encyclops 4 years, 1 month ago

Chicanery: I watched Davison obsessively as a kid and that never registered as a catchphrase for me. So maybe the best catchphrases are the ones that don't come across as catchphrases?

Ununnilium: As a kid I loved the Sontarans. They might have been my favorite recurring monster. I'm not really sure I could explain why, but I also don't see what it is about them that makes them any less redeemable than the Daleks or Cybermen (both of which have had their share of absurd outings). So it's been mystifying and frustrating that they've only been used as jokes in the new series. I cringe every time I hear "Sontar-HA!" and after "Allons-y!" it's the one I hate most on the list.

I mean, of course I love Strax. But it's the only way to cope at this point.

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encyclops 4 years, 1 month ago

To me they're the bland intersection of three concepts:

1. The cyborg: human augmented by technology.
2. The zombie: humanoid form as ravenous empty shell.
3. The blob: identity-destroying collective.

You can get a good story out of picking one of those directions and committing to it. Your pitch tracks #1 and I think is on the right track. But when you try to do all three in the same creature -- it sounds like a good idea, but it ends up making the whole thing more generic rather than less. At least that's what we've seen. And as you point out, the problem is multiplied by adding:

4. The warrior: remorseless military conqueror.

And since we already have 1+3+4 in Doctor Who (the Daleks), and we have the Sontarans jumping on 4 as well...what are the Cybermen for?

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encyclops 4 years, 1 month ago

Jane: I love it. Thanks!

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David Anderson 4 years, 1 month ago

The shameless emotional manipulation is all in the selection of the situation. Having done that, the script trusts us to do the work of shameless emotional manipulation ourselves.

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Anton B 4 years, 1 month ago

'I like the portmanteau of "bourgeois" and "gorgeous." It fits. :)'

Whoops! I wish I could claim it was deliberate rather than just atrocious spelling exacerbated by trying to write replies on a kindle. :)(I'm a teacher too!)

Also can I just say I like the Cybermen redesign here if not the manner of their rebooting. The faux Art Deco/Metropolis vibe matches the rather steampunk alternate Earth setting. I can't believe that everyone including the god Gaiman misses the point of the Cybermen which would make them the scariest and coolest monsters they deserve to be. They're METAL ZOMBIES!

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James V 4 years, 1 month ago

For me, (and having watched this story fairly recently in an Anniversary marathon) any problems in the writing and concept are overshadowed a bit by just how physically difficult I find this story to watch.

When I think of this story the first words that come to mind are things like "loud" and "blaring" and "headache." Graeme Harper, who as we all know is usually fantastic, is depressingly off his game here, shoving his camera right up into Roger Lloyd Pack's face to capture every nuance of performance that isn't there, and blasting spotlights at us like Dalek death rays. Murray Gold's score is particularly overbearing (he has really improved over the years) and Ernie Vincze continues to demonstrate why he's my least favorite DP on anything ever. (BLUUUUUUUUUEEE!!!! MORE BLUUUUUUUEEE!!! SATURATE! SATURATE! SAT-UR-AAAAAAATEE!!! And that bloom filter. Thank god they got rid of that thing after this season)

It's also just so slow. The pacing here is abysmal. The first half of "Rise" is alright, but everything basically from the dinner party to the climax felt so slow. It dragged on forever.

So, while this story has massive problems on a script and conceptual level, it's a moot point for me because it just hurts me to watch, let alone analyze. D- for everyone involved I suppose.

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Adam Riggio 4 years, 1 month ago

Yesterday, I was talking with a friend of mine who was really interested in getting into Doctor Who, and I gave him some reasonable advice about where to start. And one of the other things we were talking about was that even the best tv shows never have a season of entirely indisputable classics. Even the best seasons usually include a couple of B+ or B level episodes. I remember that was one of Phil's positive evaluations of the Letts/Dicks/Pertwee era: that the overall baseline of the show rose to the point that they never really made a D level episode for a long time (and even the Sloman scripts for most of the era were crazy enough to be entertaining).

I mention this because I really enjoyed the Rise of the Cybermen two-parter. Yes, the technology was near-instantly dated (but then we're in a world of commercial zeppelin travel, so I expected some idiosyncracies), Roger Lloyd-Pack makes an excellent heir to Furst and Crowdon, and the Cybermen are a little naff. But the adventure itself was madly fun.

And most importantly for me, it was brilliantly written in terms of character. This story was pure soap opera in terms of what we saw of the cast. What I loved in this story was watching the Doctor-Rose-Mickey tension collapse (though I would have loved to see this three-person TARDIS crew for a while longer so we could explore more aspects of that tension, but that's Davies for you), the comedy segments as the Doctor and Rose infiltrated Jackie's birthday party (and meeting Rose's parallel universe doppelgänger), everything that happened with Ricky's Scooby Gang was on screen, the emotional moments between Rose and Pete (Wayne's World moment: Rose and Pete . . . Pete Rose; unreal, Cincinnati Reds fans), Tennant doing a top notch version of his action-comedy Doctor ("Oh, look! I've been captured! But it's okay, Rose and Pete are still out there! Oh damn").

This is why I'm incredibly frustrated with all the bickering you're all doing in these comments about how shitty Rise of the Cybermen is. Because it's actually a fine 90 minutes of television that I still enjoy watching whenever I throw it on. It's a B+. It's still better than huge chunks of television that are actually made out there.

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Spacewarp 4 years, 1 month ago

Cybermen always elicit threads like these on discussion forums, and I put it down to them spanning so many decades, and when those discussing them were born. I first saw them at the age of 7, and remember them from "Moonbase" through to "Invasion". By the time they came back again in "Revenge" I wasn't impressed...but then I was 13. Yet I've seen posters claim that "Revenge" Cybermen were the best and everything before and since was rubbish. Ditto for "Earthshock", "Nemesis", "Attack" etc. The common denominator is that the poster was a certain age when their favourite Cyberman adventure aired. This is obviously a bit of a generalisation but it has worked for me before.

Remember when you first saw them, and they were at their best? Now look how old you were.

To paraphrase Khan, "Doctor Who is a dish best served when you're young."

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IG 4 years, 1 month ago

Agreed.

elvwood:I would honestly recommend *not* watching recons, personally. I've watched a few and enjoyed them...but they can be hard work, and they're only ever going to give you an indication of what the episode was like. In the absence of the actual episodes, I find the narrated soundtracks generally work fine. ..and you can listen to them on your way to work or whatever, without needing to be glued to a screen.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 1 month ago

My frustration with the episode-by-episode fascination with quality is increasing rapidly as a writer too. I'm currently written three entries ahead of this, and writing the fourth today. Somewhere around the fifth or the one after that I think I'll have thoroughly killed the issue off, at least on my end.

Commenters I'm somewhat more pessimistic about. Particularly when we actually get to the entries I'm writing today and tomorrow.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 1 month ago

When I first saw them? That'd be Revenge of the Cybermen, probably in 1994.

When they were at their best? That'd be The Tenth Planet, in 2011.

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Anton B 4 years, 1 month ago

Never mind Phil's contest I'm pitching it to Moffat for season eight!

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tom jones 4 years, 1 month ago

Lloyd-Pack is clearly just hamming up the script he was given. It's pretty clear from DW Confidential that more than once, the villain's part was re-written to make it more rounded, or at least less one-dimensional. I'm thinking in particular of the businessman in Daleks In Manhattan; all that stuff about how he and the camp leader had had similar experiences in WW1 but drawn completely different conclusions about how to survive was added later.

Lloyd-Pack seems to have simply not bothered. He's been cast as the villain and he's gone for the whole ham sandwich; what Terrance Dicks called the 'green spotlight' pantomime effect.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 1 month ago

There are recons using the narrative soundtracks that can be found. They're some of my favorite recons. Slightly dodgier ethically, as you're using commercially released soundtracks and not paying for them, but quality-wise probably the best way to experience a missing episode.

A chap who goes by elaphe has some particularly lovely recons - very clear images mixed with the narrated soundtracks that are easy to follow and quite good looking.

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Iain Coleman 4 years, 1 month ago

Isn't "juvenile high-concept" pretty much the mission statement for Doctor Who?

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 1 month ago

Terrible confessions of the writer.

I remember writing this back on Monday. I remember staring at that sentence trying to decide exactly how many stories the Cybermen improved. I remember three nominees - Army of Ghosts/Doomsday, Closing Time, and Nightmare in Silver. I remember thinking for a solid five minutes about it and finally deciding that the Cybermen themselves only improved two of those, and thus setting the number at three.

I cannot for the life of me remember which one I kicked off the island.

If you ask me today it's probably Army of Ghosts/Doomsday and Closing Time, with Nightmare ultimately hobbled by the fact that Gaiman can't get the monster to work despite doing almost everything else right.

But I can't promise that's what I meant on Monday.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 1 month ago

The thing is, I just find the Cybermen design and voice terribly bathetic here. It's trying, but instead of perverse emotional manipulation it just hits ridiculous.

Actually, this one can be pinned on Davies, who apparently mandated that the Cybermen should be "steel" and industrial, and in doing so pushed the design away from "human," which is what the Tenth Planet design and the scenes from Spare Parts that they're riffing on were drawing on. It's a basic gap that screws up the whole story - as someone else in comments points out, the good bits are that everyone responds to the Cybermen as though they're human. The bad bits are that to the audience they look like clanking Earthshock robots.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 1 month ago

Jane, did you hack into my computer and read my draft post for Army of Ghosts/Doomsday?

And if so, how did you do it a week before I'm scheduled to write it?

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encyclops 4 years, 1 month ago

While you're in confessional mode, I'd still like to know what your other two Dalek-as-an-epic-force stories are. :)

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BerserkRL 4 years, 1 month ago

And now, my most scintillating comment ever:

Ruth Kelly's name doesn't have an E in it.

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Alan 4 years, 1 month ago

Well, it does have one "E," so you're both wrong.:)

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Travis Butler 4 years, 1 month ago

Isn't "juvenile high-concept" pretty much the mission statement for Doctor Who?

Not really, at least not the connotation of 'juvenile' I'm trying to use here vs 'YA'. Sort of like the difference between 'childish' and 'childlike' I think I've mentioned before.

Juvenile is Beavis and Butthead, South Park, toilet humor, fart gags. It's trying to grab kids' attention by appealing to their worst instincts instead of their best. It's kids thinking the way to look 'grown-up' is to obsess over things kids aren't supposed to do, like foul language, blood 'n guts, 'ooh, titties!', etc., that actually just makes them look more childish.

So instead of, heaven forbid, spending time on what the concepts of the Cybermen or the Daleks might be, or the kind of ideas and conflicts you might get when you slam the two philosophies into each other*, you get 'ooh! look at them blow each other up!'.

* Admittedly, you do get a bit of that ideological conflict when the representatives first meet, but it quickly degenerates into trash-talking insults. Although 'pest control' was funny. :)

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 1 month ago

Spacewarp: It took until Closing time for me to really enjoy Cybermen.

When I first saw them? May 27th 2006 and they were rubbish. RUBBISH.

At their best? Hard to say. Spare Parts when I listened to it just this past March I think.

Encyclops:In terms of making them better...let's scrap 4 and see if we can come up with 5. Maybe they aren't warriors. Maybe something akin to the Handbots or Nuns. Perhaps these new Cybermen are more interested in creating a cultural hegemony? Bringing people into a culture of unity. In my conception the problem the Doctor faces is the fact that people WANT to be converted. They still have their individuality (or a semblance of) and they get all the perks of the upperclasses. Maybe it's 1+3 would make my ideal 5.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 1 month ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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David Thiel 4 years, 1 month ago

And then my comment returned! At least, 'til I deleted it as a duplicate.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 1 month ago

They Sontarans aren't a joke? I authentically thought they were. Even watching old episodes...I just assumed they were kind of taking the Piss.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 1 month ago

Deleted and edited to make it less combative:

I think no matter what we do some people just authentically do not enjoy certain episodes. I am never going to convince most people the "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" is the best single episode of the new Series. Likewise, I am never going to enjoy "Fear Her". I feel for you Adam. I also enjoy lots of episodes people seem to hate. I think taking a live and let live approach is the only way not to start to hate fandom.

Like I said above, for me the episode could have worked had the Cybermen just been less terrible.

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Alan 4 years, 1 month ago

While in the shower after reading this post, I had an epiphany about an idea that might have vastly improved this two-parter: make it an allegory about the need for environmentalism in the face of climate change.

Suppose instead of Earth-2 being just like Earth-1 except for zeppelins and clunkier Bluetooths, the show had gone for something more provocative, like a world in which climate change is more severe, roughly equivalent to the current worst case model for what things will be like in 2050. The dinner party, instead of being just a birthday party for Jackie, is some sort of environmental conference, where global elites gather in expensive mansions to dither about what to do about the degrading environment. ("Yes, it's awful that millions of people have died in Bangladesh, but that's no reason to do something that might interfere with The Market.") And in the middle of it all comes Lumic, not an insane old man who wants to live forever, but a genuinely altruistic man who simply believes that society is not capable of responding to climate change without drastic measures. As he sees it, the only hope for the survival of the human race is cyberization, the adoption of a new form which (a) is capable of surviving on an Earth no longer habitable for humans and (b) is free of the greed, selfishness and other emotional weaknesses that have brought humanity to that point.

This would make the Cybus Cybermen much closer to the Mondasian Cybermen, who also took that step to survive on a dying world. It would also present the Doctor with an actually interesting moral dilemma. Instead of a cartoon villain for him to yell at, he would have to actually defend the value and importance of human emotions even in the face of evidence that those emotions are destroying the species. IIRC, the last time the Doctor had to defend the inherent value of human emotions, he started babbling about enjoying a well-cooked meal, so it might be nice for him to get a Mulligan on that topic.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 1 month ago

Am I the only one who finds the well-cooked meal line compelling?

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Triturus 4 years, 1 month ago

The bad bits are that to the audience they look like clanking Earthshock robots.

Worse than that; whatever one might say about the merits of Earthshock as a story, its Cybermen are definitely more than robots - they have that transparent jaw, and are basically made of upgraded bubblewrap. Earthshock Cybermen are arguably the most organic design other than the Tenth Planet originals.

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inkdestroyedmybrush 4 years, 1 month ago

love this write up on this story. excellent work Jane!

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Alan 4 years, 1 month ago

Part of the problem with the Cybermen is that writers have consistently misunderstood their fundamental concept. What made them damned creepy in Tenth Planet was their rejection of the values of emotion. Unfortunately, Moonbase, Wheel In Space and Invasion pretty much ignored that point in favor of making them generic Space Nazis. And of course, Revenge of the Cybermen made no sense as a title because emotionless beings shouldn't even see the need for "revenge." By the JNT era, we actually get the absurd spectacle of Cybermen literally gloating over the fact that they have no emotions, as though smugness is not itself an emotion.

The brightest spot in the Tennant era depiction of the Cybermen is that it finally addresses the emotion issue and even provides a compelling reason for it. Why does cyber-conversion eliminate emotional responses? Because the process is agonizing and fills the victim with suicidal despair over his condition. One suspects that the Mondasians made the same decision, because most of them would have preferred death to what they eventually became.

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Triturus 4 years, 1 month ago

I first saw them in Earthshock when I was 11, and I just about wet myself with excitement. But I'd already read the Target novelisations (Tenth Planet, Moonbase, Tomb, Revenge) many times, and I uncritically loved cybermen when I was a kid, so I was stupidly happy when they came back. I'd even gone so far as to hand-draw all the different designs based on photos from DWM and stick them up on my bedroom wall. Argh.

Still, if looking at the Cybermen uncritically, my favourite cyberman story is probably Moonbase, because that was the second target book I ever read and I really liked their sneaky nature. I've not watched the any of the surviving episodes because I know it won't match up to the standard of the special effects in my 11 year old head.

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David Anderson 4 years, 1 month ago

I agree that the cyberman design doesn't work. It certainly undermines Yvonne's final stand in Doomsday. And I agree that what passes for attempts at similar moments in the climax are bathetic. Despite all that, the Sally bit got me at the first viewing and again ust now. Partly, there's no clanking. And partly because a line like 'he mustn't see me' gets a weight of dramatic irony given that the character doesn't know that she looks like a clanking robot.

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Triturus 4 years, 1 month ago

Isn't it "well-prepared"?

It's not a bad line IMO, it's just that these days I can't hear it now without thinking of Mark Gatiss taking the piss on the DVD documentary, imagining a load of cybermen all sitting down with napkins tucked into their chest units, saying "Oooh lovely, we must do this more often."

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peeeeeeet 4 years, 1 month ago

That's the premise of Andrew Cartmel's (excellent, in my opinion) novel Warhead - well worth a look if you can get hold of it. My main worry with that sort of story is it might come across as too preachy.

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Jesse 4 years, 1 month ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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Jesse 4 years, 1 month ago

I barely remember this story, but I remember my reaction to it. The story itself, I felt, wasn't so bad -- not one of the show's greatest moments, but I certainly wouldn't have said it sucked. Unfortunately, the episode was shot through with some of the dumbest social satire I've ever seen on the program: a critique of contemporary technology that seemed utterly oblivious to what that technology actually is and how people use it. This is the low point for Russell Davies as a social commentator, or at least the lowest point until you get to Miracle Day.

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Jesse 4 years, 1 month ago

Whoops, posted that comment in the wrong place. Deleted & reposted below...

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Spoilers Below 4 years, 1 month ago

Pick your favorite good Cybermen story, and I guarantee you it wasn’t good because of the Cybermen.

I'm not sure I agree. I don't think The Best of Both Worlds or I, Borg would have worked with the Daleks or the Sontarans. Unfortunately, all of Sylvester McCoy's scenes were cut from both episodes, but I still think they stand up nonetheless. ;)

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encyclops 4 years, 1 month ago

They might have been, but they accidentally put the the Sontarans into some really entertaining stories and had them played by actors who successfully sold them (at least to me, and with the exception of Derek Deadman). When I was in school, they (and David Banks, to stay a little on topic) really seemed badass to me.

This gets into the territory where some fans talk about how the Ogri could NEVER work, being gliding polystyrene and so on, but (a) I'm living proof that they did work and I'm not alone, and (b) these same people are just as willing to excuse the bubble wrap Wirrrn larva.

So no, not a joke. At least not to everyone.

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Seeing_I 4 years, 1 month ago

You know, I am of two minds about the "Rise" Cyber-design. On the one hand, it is far too robotic and not nearly "cybernetic" or surgical enough.

On the other hand, it's a freakin' gorgeous piece of design. I don't care what you say about the flares or what have you - the overall design is gorgeous, and the helmets are the best Cyber-face we've ever had, with the blank teardrop-eyes set into that skull-like outline.

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Spacewarp 4 years, 1 month ago

I probably didn't explain myself as well, though Triturus has got it. I don't mean critically looking back at the history of Doctor Who and picking which story you think is the best. I mean what did you think was the best when you first watched it? From discussions on GB I invariably found that posters born around 1975 thought "Earthshock" to be the zenith of Cyberman stories; those born in 1968 thought "Revenge" was the pinnacle; while those poor unfortunates born in 1981 hold up "Silver Nemesis" as the Cybermen at their best. Of course fans born later than 1999 think the Cybus versions are by far better than all those 60s and 70s men in plastic suits.
Myself, I was born in 1961, so my earliest memories are of "Tomb", "Moonbase" and "Wheel" Cybermen...which is why I have a fondness for the recent "Nightmare in Silver". Not because of the story, but because the Cybermen look vaguely "60s".
Providing you watch them young enough, I think the Cyberman design of your formative years sticks with you, probably because the Cybermen have been redesigned so many times. Unlike the Daleks who quite frankly looked much the same to me in 1968 as they did in 1975.

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Seeing_I 4 years, 1 month ago

Totally agree with you Anton B. I was appalled that Gaiman, who said over and over that he wanted to make them scary, could miss the chance to portray some properly creepy techno-zombies and instead gave us the "instant upgrading" and "super speed" abilities. And not a SINGLE character got (totally) converted or had their emotions taken away (if they are going around evilly twirling moustaches, it can't be said they are suddenly emotionless).

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Triturus 4 years, 1 month ago

This gets into the territory where some fans talk about how the Ogri could NEVER work, being gliding polystyrene and so on, but (a) I'm living proof that they did work and I'm not alone.

I posted on this blog recently that the Stones of Blood is the only Dr Who story that properly upset me as a kid.

I've worked out since then that a) I was the right age not to care about the special effects, but also b) that the main reason they freaked me out was the plotting of the first two episodes; I got a sense from the story that the Ogri were impossible to run away from, and that is pretty much guaranteed to freak out a little kid.

Back on topic, I don't find the "Sontar-HA!" catchphrase problematic. Firstly, on one level the idea of the Sontarans having a war-chant isn't that far-fetched. And on on another level, given that the Sontarans are an obvious satire of conformism and mitilarism, making them seem ridiculous isn't really a bad idea.

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Ross 4 years, 1 month ago

I think the Sontarans were always a deliberate joke, but not the kind they are now; originally, they were, in essence, Robert Holmes having a bit of a laugh at the whole "Monster of the Week" thing, by writing a story where the "monster", despite having a very non-human morality, is far less "monsterous" than the humans.

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Triturus 4 years, 1 month ago

Seeing_I, I tend to agree, the Cyber-face design is pretty good.

It's the rest of it that's a problem. The whole "DOOOMPH DOOOMPH DOOOMPH DOOOMPH" piston/fife and drum march. The only people these Cybermen could successfully sneak up on are the ones who've taken too many drugs at an industrial dance club night.

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Ross 4 years, 1 month ago

Like many of the visuals in that era, I really like the ideas I can see them trying to incorporate in the design, but I don't care much for the implementation. Also, I think Tony Stark wore that design better.

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Ross 4 years, 1 month ago

I sorta dug the megalomaniacal gloating luxuriating in evil Mr. Clever did while he was shouting about how terrible emotions were. Deliciously ironic. (Though I thought it was a setup for a twist at the end different from what they went with)

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Pen Name Pending 4 years, 1 month ago

I don't think there is ever any "right side of fandom", since I'm sure every story has it's own good and bad interpretations. I gave up caring when "The Rings of Akhaten" was sliced to pieces. I think everyone has their own way they experience Doctor Who, since it does so many things.

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Seeing_I 4 years, 1 month ago

He didn't bother with the tragic aspect, the scary aspect, the psychological aspect, the philosophical aspect, or anything other than the "upgrading" which is the part nobody liked. But whereas RTD's use of the phrase "upgrade" was more or less a joke that illustrated how these computer-people saw us inferior flesh-products, Gaiman's "upgrading" is just a way for them to become unstoppable super-robots who can shrug off any assault through the use of a catch-phrase.

Everybody and their dog - including Gaiman - has complained about how the tragic horror of the Cybermen had been lost, and yet when given carte blanche to reboot them, he turned them into nearly mute Borg-ripoffs (talk about the ouroboros of influence!) with not one but two half-humanoid spokesmen who, rather than espouse a cold and clinical philosophy, twirled their Cyber-staches and made bad jokes.

We never got any sense from the story of just what a Cyberman IS, or how, exactly, a person turns into a Cyberman or what that means for them. Sure, they can use "any organic matter" now to upgrade with, but all I could think of was, does that mean they are partly made from fruit peelings and old scraps of wood?

Do the Cyber-Mites convert them? How incredibly creepy would that have been to see? A swarm of Cyber-Mites engulfing someone, and when they scuttle off, a Cyberman is left behind…(Actually the only thing Gaiman got right was the Cyber-mites. That scene where they came swarming out of the empty Cyberman was spot-on for uncanny shivers.)

Lastly, rather than give us a story that showed why they are scary, a threat both physical and philosophical, he relied on Matt Smith's showboating, an even sillier misuse of chess than in "The Curse of Fenric," and the absurd idea that blowing up a whole galaxy is the only way to deal with them.

OK maybe he didn't foreclose the possibility for future writers coming up with something better, but he sure as hell didn't give them a lot to go on. And I know this is not his fault, but the new design is a top-to-bottom fail, with over-complicated, generic-looking bodysuits topped with Lego-like heads.

Spoilers - I really did not like this episode.

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Seeing_I 4 years, 1 month ago

@ Travis Butler: For all those who complain about the "Doomsday" deus ex machina, I ask you which is a more egregious example? In one story we have the reset button be an actual button (OK, lever) which at least has the virtue of being the very mechanism that brought them into the story in the first place. Just throwing it into reverse makes perfect sense and does not, to my mind anyway, count as a DEM.

In "Nightmare" we had a character who, once the story got to the crisis point, admitted that he could have transported them away AT ANY POINT and thus avoided all the deaths. I mean, that's like Glinda the Good Witch telling Dorothy she could have used the ruby slippers to go home all along. Sheesh.

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Seeing_I 4 years, 1 month ago

@ Triturus: You're right, but that's more of a directorial / sound design problem than a costume design problem. It certainly makes no sense for a heavy metallic thing like a Cyberman to move silently, but they could easily have come up with a sound design that gave the same effect without sounding ridiculous.

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Seeing_I 4 years, 1 month ago

In the book "Doctor Who And Philosophy" there is an extended argument that the Cybermen actually share our ideals (a life free of pain and death), it's just that their methods of achieving it (by force) are at fault, and posits the notion that the Cybermen should rely more on a campaign of persuasion and debate to gain converts.

This dovetails very nicely with an old idea my friend had, which was to find a creepy religious cult infiltrating some dystopia or other, and having the robed, hooded monks pull back their cowls to reveal Cybermen underneath. But these are Cybermen who've realized (logically enough) that war and conquest are illogical, and that the Cyber-life must be freely chosen.

Hell, in the 1990s I even wrote a fanfic that combined John Lucarotti's idea of a space casino with the "Dawn of the Dead" imagery of zombies in a mall and had Cybermen lurking in the infrastructure of an orbital pleasure-station. It ended with all the gold in the casino getting powdered (over the strenuous objections of the more avaricious characters) and dumped into the A/C vents to coat everything in glittery death.

I'm also quite surprised that in all these years we've not seen a story where the Cybermen and the Doctor must work together to defeat a common enemy - after all, of all the Doctor's enemies, the only ones you could trust to actually help you would be the logical Cybermen. That is, until the common enemy is defeated, and logic dictates that the Doctor must be next...

SIGH...all of which is to say, there are SO many interesting stories you could tell using the Cybermen, it's just that Doctor Who on television steadfastly refuses to tell them.

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Anton B 4 years, 1 month ago

Pen Name Pending
' I think everyone has their own way they experience Doctor Who, since it does so many things.'

You are of course entirely correct. Personally I enjoyed 'Rings of Akhaten' too. I'm with Phil on 'Web Planet' as one of the most beautiful Televisual productions I've ever seen but vehemently disagree with him about the Keys of Marinus. There are also many fan favourites that I'd be no less happy if I never saw again -- 'Closing Time' and 'Father's Day' to name two. There are as many interpretations of 'Doctor Who' as there are people who watch it. Some of them like to huddle together for warmth and compose lists, others dance in the moonlight and chant 'Geronimo!'. Some can name every companion in order, including the ones that don't count, some think Daleks still can't climb stairs. I love talking to all of 'em as long as they're polite and wipe their feet on the way in.

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Travis Butler 4 years, 1 month ago

As I said, I'm still catching up on the Smiths, so haven't seen "Nightmare" yet. Oops. (Sheepish look)

As far as "Doomsday", though... three huge sins it committed:

* The 'solution' came out of nowhere. The story never even hinted, to the best of my memory, that there could be any - OK, I'll avoid the cheap shot of 'sucking effect' - any 'pull' created by opening the gate to the Void. If they'd opened the gate and had to fight to push the Cybermen and Daleks back inside, I wouldn't have had a problem with it. But of course they couldn't do that, because it was beyond their capabilities.

* Which is the 'classic' sin of the DEM, of course - it's a 'magic' solution to a problem that the characters can't solve themselves. Which, to me at least, is hugely unsatisfying. This can be ameliorated if it's adequately foreshadowed; if we'd known from the beginning that the Void would do that, we could build towards the moment when the characters could use that. Unfortunately...

* The characters didn't have to work for the ending. No, stopping by the Torchwood supply hangar to pick up a couple of gravity clamps doesn't count as 'work for the ending.' If the characters have to put a lot of effort into setting up the DEM, that excuses a lot for me; I didn't find the end of "Parting of the Ways" to be bad, because even if Vortex!Rose used magical powers to end a problem they couldn't have solved via normal means, they had to go to a lot of effort to create Vortex!Rose, so at least it didn't feel like a cheap cop-out.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 1 month ago

that never registered as a catchphrase for me

It was really Moffat's parodying it in "The Curse of Fatal Death" that burned it into our collective consciousness.

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Pen Name Pending 4 years, 1 month ago

I mostly found "Doomsday" disappointing because the Dalek/Cyberman conflict was, aside from some good lines, basically a bunch of robots yelling "Exterminate!" and "Delete" at each other. (There is literally a scene where they do this.)

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BerserkRL 4 years, 1 month ago

Strax apart, the best portrayal of Sontarans in the new era has been on SJA.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 1 month ago

Juvenile is Beavis and Butthead, South Park

I think of "Beavis and Butthead" and "South Park" as pretty different. B&B really is (most of the time) just juvenile humor for the sake of juvenile humor. SP is fairly intelligent social satire in juvenile-humor mode.

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Anton B 4 years, 1 month ago

The central joke is a cartoon visual too. The monster removes his space helmet and his head is the same shape as the helmet. The zinger punch line is that he then shoots you dead. Making Strax a butler and having the Doctor calling him potato head rather misses the point. As though Moffat decided the Sontaran gag isn't funny enough and needs a custard pie and an exploding cigar. Unlees it turns out to be Strax who ends up killing the Eleventh Doctor. That'd be a good twist.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 1 month ago

basically a bunch of robots yelling "Exterminate!" and "Delete" at each other

Plus "delete" is bad because it's too much like "exterminate" and so erases the difference between the Cybermen and the Daleks, namely that one wants to assimilate you and the other just wants to kill you. (Of course the Daleks have done their share of assimilating too, from Arthur Stengos to Oswin Oswald. But it doesn't make sense. It's like Nazis trying to convert Jews to Nazism: you're doing it wrong!)

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BerserkRL 4 years, 1 month ago

Now we need some Cybermen to march Gangnam style.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 1 month ago

Alan I disagree entirely. The Cybermen works because they were completely alien, but still had vestiges of humanity. Their focus on logic and rejection of emotion is part of that, but not the whole of it. And to go back to what I said above: in their current incarnation and most of their appearances they are just shitty robots. It takes more than the absence of emotion to make them interesting.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 1 month ago

The Doctor is already dead. Stepping into the time stream killed him. He's spending the 50th and Christmas on borrowed time.

At least that's my fannon.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 1 month ago

You're not supposed to see past the perception filter.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 1 month ago

This time the Doctor could defend the value of a well-cooked planet.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 1 month ago

I can't see how I was supposed to pick up on that from your post. ;)

Something Nightmare in Silver does right is it makes them dangerous and scary. They consume and make everything into themselves. They infiltrate and skitter and eventually all become part of a homogenous whole.And in sufficient numbers? Blowing a Galaxy would be the only way to deal with them.

I loved Nightmare but I do have one question...how was chess misused?

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BerserkRL 4 years, 1 month ago

I'm not sure I agree. I don't think The Best of Both Worlds or I, Borg would have worked with the Daleks or the Sontarans.

Ah, but with the Gungans ....

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elvwood 4 years, 1 month ago

IG: I prefer listening to the narrated soundtrack too, but when I'm doing an episode-by-episode review I want some idea of what it looks like. What I have done so far is generally to do both. It takes no longer than a typical existing episode, which I will watch at least twice (once with commentary), and I'm not in a hurry anyway.

Philip: My personal ethics are basically aimed at not depriving creators of what they are owed rather than following a legal code, so I would read a downloaded copy of an OOP book but not of an in-print (or on-Kindle) one - and I would watch a recon using the narrated soundtrack if I'd already bought the soundtrack. Since I have almost all of them and will buy the last couple before I get there in my marathon, this wouldn't be a problem. So thanks for the pointer!

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 1 month ago

Didn't the children get their entire senses of self taken away?

Also I think plastic is a lot scarier than metal. Metal Zombies will just continue to make them Stompy Robots. Stompy Robots = Not Scary!

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elvwood 4 years, 1 month ago

Great analysis, Jane! Actually, there's been a lot of good discussion going on (more than I can keep up with), but this is particularly fine. And it ties in surprisingly well with the novel I'm currently trying to sell, which features prominently an airship in the land of the dead, so that made me appreciate your post even more.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 1 month ago

Although they are the first Cybermen to wear thongs.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 1 month ago

Alan, one way to explain the title of "Revenge of the Cybermen" is to see it from the Vogans' POV. One of the little fellas even uses that phrase.

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Spacewarp 4 years, 1 month ago

The closer we get to the series as it stands now (Series 7 as I write this), the more like a Doctor Who forum this comments section is going to get. I find this almost as fascinating as reading the blog. Why are these undercurrents of anger and confrontation appearing now as we enter Series 2? There was an element of it during Davison and McCoy, but virtually none prior to that, when everyone was treating the 60s and 70s as historical era. Perhaps people are unable to treat the new series in this way, and feel too emotionally invested in it? Funnily enough I do have lingering feelings of resentment towards the classic series...notably from about 1981 onwards, when I still childishly felt Doctor Who had let me down by no longer being the series I had grown up with, when in reality it was I that had changed, by no longer being a 10-year old child. Conversely I have nothing bad to say about the new series at all, possibly because Doctor Who has finally redeemed itself by returning just in time for my children to enjoy it in the same way I did.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 1 month ago

Speaking of terrible Cyber-designs that mess up stories, I thought the "Cyberwoman" episode of Torchwood was a good script utterly ruined by the fact that "partial conversion" apparently meant "ridiculous bathing suit".

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Ununnilium 4 years, 1 month ago

And on on another level, given that the Sontarans are an obvious satire of conformism and mitilarism, making them seem ridiculous isn't really a bad idea.

Yeah, the fact that they can be scary doesn't miss the joke.

Anton: I think Strax is, essentially, the other side of Lynx: He's an individual Sontaran who is, himself, comical.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 1 month ago

Ununnilium, you say that, but that's probably just about the only thing worth keeping an eye on in that story.

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encyclops 4 years, 1 month ago

In "Nightmare" we had a character who, once the story got to the crisis point, admitted that he could have transported them away AT ANY POINT and thus avoided all the deaths.

In "The War Games" we had a character who, once the story got to the crisis point, revealed that he could have summoned his omnipotent people AT ANY POINT and thus avoided all the deaths.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 1 month ago

This dovetails very nicely with an old idea my friend had, which was to find a creepy religious cult infiltrating some dystopia or other, and having the robed, hooded monks pull back their cowls to reveal Cybermen underneath. But these are Cybermen who've realized (logically enough) that war and conquest are illogical, and that the Cyber-life must be freely chosen.

Daaaaaaamn. I love this.

My personal idea is a version of the Cybermen where, like any technology, cyber-conversion can be an unmitigated good when used correctly; that it's something that's sold like any technology; and that the source of conversion-obsessed mind-controlled soldiers is a monopolistic corporation who wants everyone to be using their product exclusively.

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Ross 4 years, 1 month ago

@Anton: I think there's some merit in the way that Strax the Butler lampoons the entire concept of the "Warrior Race". I mean, that's the thing with the Sontarans, right? That every single one of them is a warrior, that all they know how to do is be warriors.

Except.

They wear clothes. They carry weapons. They presumably have some kind of things they sleep on top of. They probably eat. They have space ships. None of these things are naturally occurring. And Sontarans do not play well with others.

Which means that somewhere out there in space, there is at least one Sontaran Warrior-Tailor. And a Sontaran Warrior-Ship-Builder, and a Sontaran Warrior-Gunsmith. And a Sontaran Warrior-Chef, and a Sontaran Warrior-Cobbler and Sontaran Warrior-Mattressmaker, and so on and so forth, out there in the universe doing noble battle against the forces of crooked hemlines, or fighting the good fight for total dominion over the taste buds of the fifth sontaran battle group of warrior-lumberjacks.

(This is a thing that's been explored in some detail with Star Trek's Klingons. They have the reasonable-on-the-face-of-it idea that Klingon culture is based around treating everything you do as a form of noble combat, but there's a certain amount of willful not-thinking-about-it involved to keep yourself from realizing that this is going to be kind of silly when you get to honorable warriors engaged in a life-or-death struggle against tooth decay, and you're nnot even close to the really silly professions yet)

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Adam Riggio 4 years, 1 month ago

Because I know it's coming next week: I think The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit is one of the best Tennant-era stories. I'm throwing it down early.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 1 month ago

Theonlyspiral: I agree; the only things I really have a problem with are people who pretend that these are objective evaluations (and especially that subset of those people who act as if disagreeing with their opinion is morally wrong).

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BerserkRL 4 years, 1 month ago

It's a mystery to me why people who think evaluations are relative or subjective would want to argue about them.

As for why relativism itself is a mystery, see this.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 1 month ago

Adam, I will never agree with you, but I will fight to the death for your right to believe it.

Ununnilium, I'll admit that I used to be like that. These days I like to have debates but unless I see someone being really asinine I'm happy to just exchange ideas.

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Adam Riggio 4 years, 1 month ago

In a way, I can understand where a lot of people in the longtime fandom community are coming from, hating the new series so much. In fact, Phil has identified through his Wilderness Years writings what the problem was: the fandom community is very much focussed on the traditional iconography of Doctor Who. It's those elements of traditional iconography — the slight naffitude of the Cybermen, not totally thinking through the hard sci-fi example of the parallel world's different communication technology — that fall short in this story, and that, if I'm to judge by the comments, motivate the ire of longtime fans.

The problem is that the widespread success of the new series of Doctor Who shows that the traditional iconography isn't actually important to creating the new show. Rise of the Cybermen is most successful in its characters and their interaction, which is precisely where the story first charmed me and continues to charm me. One of the hard lessons that fandom will have to learn from the Wilderness Years was that a show made according to what fandom tended to think Doctor Who should be would have been a miserable failure. Or at least, it wouldn't have been able to sustain a wide enough audience to keep its budget.

Doctor Who isn't cult sci-fi anymore. It's family sci-fi. And that's the only kind of sci-fi that can succeed for the long term on television.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 1 month ago

Hmm, looks like my replies are being swallowed by the spam filter again.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 1 month ago

I said something like: it's a mystery why people who think evaluations are relative or subjective would still want to argue about them.

I also linked to this: http://praxeology.net/watkins-howlers2.pdf

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Nicholas Tosoni 4 years, 1 month ago

RE: Ross

"Yeah, but doesn't that cast the whole thing as a slightly ugly luddite parable? As in "Everyone panic about how this newfangled technology will DESTROY US ALL, you fools! Read books damnit! And you kids turn off that rock and roll noise! Get off my lawn!""

Hey, I LOVE technology, don't get me wrong. :) I was TRYING to get at the anti-corporatism angle, though I didn't make it clearer (something I regret).

See, I feel that the reinvention of the Cybes was a good idea. RTD could have taken the easy way out and raided the old Qlippothecary, but the 21st Century has new, more relevant nightmares.

The most significant idea here is this: At what stage does a corporation get so big that it can claim eminent domain on individual people?

It's a more understated, disquieting dread...the Cyber-Machines cut your head open, scoop out your brain, deposit it into a steel body, and preserve it with "a copyrighted chemical solution." From that point on, you ARE Cybus Industries, having been stripped of your heart, body, and soul.

Ooh, I just had another brainwave: What Cybus does is the reverse of the Egyptian mummification process.

Back in the day, the Egyptians preserved the internal organs but disposed of the brains, as they believed that knowledge came from the heart.

Cybus, on the other hand, takes the brain but chucks the body--internal organs and all--into the incinerator.

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Nicholas Tosoni 4 years, 1 month ago

Well, Jane, that's...pretty much what I was trying to say in my comments above, but you have bested me.

One other thing about Battersea: In the 1995 movie version of "Richard III," it was used as the Tower of London as a way of setting the world of "Richard" away from our world.

...Do you think Pete's World might have gone through a British Civil War in the 1930s instead of World War II?

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Nicholas Tosoni 4 years, 1 month ago

Oh, Dr. Sandifer, I just wanted to say:

If you plan on making the trip to Chicago TARDIS on Thanksgiving weekend of this year, I would certainly be "DE-LE-TED TO MEET YOU."

;)

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James V 4 years, 1 month ago

@Adam Riggio:

" I think The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit is one of the best Tennant-era stories."

Same here, but I'm not sure how many others share that opinion. Looking forward to the post, not sure I'm looking forward to the comments...

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Josiah Rowe 4 years, 1 month ago

I liked the Klingon sushi chef on Deep Space Nine. Shame we only saw him once or twice.

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Scott 4 years, 1 month ago

@ Nicholas, there IS the fan theory floating about the place that Pete's World is an alternative history where the Doctor didn't manage to save Queen Victoria from being bitten by the wolf, which led to a more repressive Victorian and Edwardian era which eventually ended in a Civil War where they were kicked out; the 1930s would be as good a time as any for it to happen.

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Spoilers Below 4 years, 1 month ago

"Meesa Locutus of Borg! Yousa gonna be `similated! Resistances isa futile!"

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Spacewarp 4 years, 1 month ago

@Adam
"In a way, I can understand where a lot of people in the longtime fandom community are coming from, hating the new series so much."

Ordinarily in Real Life(TM) if you hated something, then one would expect you to ignore it, and not watch it.

Yet there is a very vocal corner of Who fandom (possibly all fandom) that holds the view that not only should you continue to watch something you hate, but you should vocalise your hatred, and try and persuade other members of your peer group to subscribe to your view. You do this by refuting their arguments and pointing out how and why they are wrong. If they disagree you begin to aggressively attack their viewpoint. To my mind this sounds like the worst kind of evangelism, and I'm pretty certain that it's a common human trait that surfaces in many different arenas - politics, religion, sport and fandom to name but four. It also explains why my 15-year old son and his friends continually go on about how crap Justin Bieber is, despite none of them probably having heard any of his songs.

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Anton B 4 years, 1 month ago

The Autons are the plastic zombies. It's a shame that design-wise Trek got the Cybermen exactly right with the Borg. The Doctor Who designers need to really think outside the box now and re-consider the original concept of spare part surgery and prosthetic limbs. A good reference point would be some of the startling images from last years Paralympics. Surely the Cybermen's enhanced bodies should improve their mobility not make them clank.

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Froborr 4 years, 1 month ago

Warrior-Chefs make me think of Triangle and Robert. Anything which makes me think of Triangle and Robert is a Good Thing. Therefore your comment is a Good Thing.

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Froborr 4 years, 1 month ago

So they're the Borg of the 27th Century?

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Anton B 4 years, 1 month ago

Okay I agree that beyond the initial gag may be a potential examination of how a clone warrior culture actually works but this has never been explored. Possibly for very good reasons. I find that whole aspect of the Klingons to be incredibly tedious. I'm now confused, do we want the Sontarans to be treated as comedic or not? I think it's a problematic path for Doctor Who to tread. As I said the original sight gag - diminutive homicidal bully with helmet shaped head - is workable as a horror/comedy trope (the zombies in 'Shaun of the Dead' for instance are no less scary for being funny). Making a monster 'more funny' by dressing them up is a slippery slope that leads to appalling things like the dreadful 'cup of tea' khaki Daleks in 'Victory' ( I know some of you are now going to defend them, I REALLY hated them. It's okay different strokes etc...).

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 1 month ago

encyclops, fair point, but then surely he could've done that at *any point* during the 60s when a situation got too massive for him.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 1 month ago

Also, with "new Who", I don't think enough time has yet passed for people to view it objectively. Even Series 1 and 2, now 5+ years ago, are still quite fresh in people's memories. Hence some more personal/forum-like comments, I think.

I also love Impossible Planet. It's my favourite RTD era story full stop.

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Ross 4 years, 1 month ago

@Spacewarp: There are worse kinds of evangelism. But point taken. Years ago, when I finally got fed up with Doctor Who fandom, I came to the realization that every conversation between two doctor who fans I'd seen in years could be summarized as two people slapping each other and then shouting "Why can't you admit that I'm smarter than you are?"

This is also what led me to come up with what I call "The Law of Fandom Jackassery": the average level of douchiness of a fanbase for something is a gaussian function of its obscurity, whose peak is approximately the obscurity of wilderness-years Doctor Who.

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Ross 4 years, 1 month ago

I wonder now if the much more heavily robotic look of the current Cybermen is basically the result of them starting with "Okay, they're basically cyborg zombies", but suddenly going "Oh crap for the love of god don't make them look like Borg. No, less like borg than that. Seriously, they're going to accuse us of ripping off our own rip-offs. More robotty."

Cybermen as iMan might be an idea that had some legs,. though I'm not sure what you'd do with it that wouldn't just collapse into generic monsterism after one story the same way that the original Cybermen did

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Ross 4 years, 1 month ago

I agree that aspect of Klingons is tedious, but I think a big part of the reason that it's tedious is that it's been rather a long time since Star Trek had a proper sense of humor.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 1 month ago

I know some of you are now going to defend them, I REALLY hated them. It's okay different strokes etc...

Well, that's why we should have them as both comedic and not.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 1 month ago

Ross: I actually came up with about the same theory back in the early '00s, and put Doctor Who fandom at about the same place - too big to just shut out the jerks, too small to have the people having fun be louder than they were. Thankfully, with the new series we've moved toward the latter category.

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Chicanery 4 years, 1 month ago

Every single Doctor Who story (bar Pertwee's era) features a protagonist who could teleport out of danger at any given moment. So, that's hardly a fair criticism.

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Ross 4 years, 1 month ago

In "Nightmare" we had a character who, once the story got to the crisis point, admitted that he could have transported them away AT ANY POINT and thus avoided all the deaths

Except for the Doctor and the children.

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Doctor Memory 4 years, 1 month ago

Gods, "Cyberwoman." It's a pity that Phil has no plans to cover Torchwood in depth, because boy howdy the first season there was a long series of fascinating misfires.

If the Cybermen as Doctor Who monsters basically don't work at all, transplanting them into the Torchwood universe (which despite its formal connection to Who is very much a hybrid of a British horror serial and an American action/sf series) is just an unsalvagable disaster: the episode shakes itself to pieces like an unbalanced washing machine. It's no surprise that it was Torchwood's first, last and only attempt to repurpose a Doctor Who enemy into its continuity.

(The script wasn't helped by Chibnall's atrocious dialogue and plotting, but I'm not sure that the resurrected ghost of Robert Holmes could have made that concept work.)

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T. Hartwell 4 years, 1 month ago

I'm like 80% positive Seeing_I was being sarcastic with that criticism, given the Wizard of Oz joke following it.


And Travis, I understand those criticisms of the ending, but surely part of the point is that it's a cheat (in the 'narrative collapse' sense Phil's brought up before) that results in Rose being sealed in the alternate universe? So the fact that the characters don't work for the ending, while certainly true, seems to me almost irrelevant because that's almost exactly what makes the loss of Rose such a shock to the Doctor- everything was going to be fine and perfect and then it goes wrong.

Of course, it's probably also the case that the errant simplicity of the plot solution is just the show blatantly flagging the fact that the plot doesn't matter and the actual climax/resolution of the piece is the Doctor and Rose's departure.

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Nicholas Tosoni 4 years, 1 month ago

Hey, Alan, just FYI: Global warming IS hinted at as a major problem in Pete's World during "Army of Ghosts/Doomsday." It's a little more severe than in our world because of so many holes being punched through the Void.

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Kit 4 years, 1 month ago

Everybody and their dog - including Gaiman - has complained about how the tragic horror of the Cybermen had been lost, and yet when given carte blanche to reboot them, he turned them into nearly mute Borg-ripoffs (talk about the ouroboros of influence!)

Gaiman has noted that he's never really watched Next Gen, so this was not an actual influence.

with not one but two half-humanoid spokesmen who, rather than espouse a cold and clinical philosophy, twirled their Cyber-staches and made bad jokes.

This would have worked MUCH better, as contrast, if the regular Cybermen had been left silent in both tread and speech, as Gaiman scripted.

Do the Cyber-Mites convert them? How incredibly creepy would that have been to see? A swarm of Cyber-Mites engulfing someone, and when they scuttle off, a Cyberman is left behind…(Actually the only thing Gaiman got right was the Cyber-mites. That scene where they came swarming out of the empty Cyberman was spot-on for uncanny shivers.)

Gaiman has said that this is indeed exactly what he wrote, that the takeover process would have been Cybermites swarming across a character's exposed skin.

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Seeing_I 4 years, 1 month ago

@ encyclops: I don't feel that "The War Games" is an apt comparison, as the whole point of the story is to put the Doctor in the position of having to summon the Time Lords.

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encyclops 4 years, 1 month ago

I think you're pointing out exactly how apt it is.

I don't expect to convince you to like "Nightmare in Silver," which is fine by me. I'm just saying that I think even Neil Gaiman would agree (has agreed in so many words, I believe) that he veered away from the original "make the Cybermen scary" brief and got caught up in doing something else. I personally think that something else was more interesting, and the parallels between the situation we're discussing and not only "The War Games" but also the prodigals of the Sandman saga helped cement the story as my second favorite of the season (after "Hide," of course). Your mileage varies, and that's just fine.

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Travis Butler 4 years, 1 month ago

@T. Hartwell: This is not exactly an argument in favor, considering I hated that aspect of the ending even more than I disliked the DEM. ^^;; I was never a fan of the 'Rose is the most specialist companion EVAR' thread, so spending the last 10 minutes of the episode in a bad melodramatic angstfest was, shall we say, rather annoying.

But we've strayed rather far from the role of the Cybermen in the finale, so save the rest of the discussion for that?

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The Lord of Ábrocen Landmearca 4 years, 1 month ago

I thought we, as a species, had mutually agreed that the entirety of Miracle Day was nothing more than a fever dream caused by two loveable but bumbling plumbers accidentally-yet-simultaneously getting peyote into all the world's water supply right before a trans-national airing of Independence Day and Patch Adams.

Because that's the only answer I can think of that fully explains the quality of Miracle Day.

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Nicholas Tosoni 4 years, 1 month ago

Is there now? Hm...it's news to me. :)

There are a few more things that came to me, thinking about this story, and...oh, my head hurts!

For those who complain about Roger Lloyd-Pack's overacting: The disease which is robbing John Lumic of his body has also done some really nasty things to his brain and mind, whether from the disease itself or from seeing and feeling firsthand its effects on his body.

Also, there's something in the "Doctor Who Series 2 Special:" a line that says RLP modeled Mr. Lumic on Donald Rumsfeld. Besides being George W. Bush's Secretary of Defense, he was also--at the same time--Chairman of Gilead Sciences, which produced Tamiflu, a vaccine which is...controversial for its side effects. This proved a conflict of interest (as Chairman, he was also a stockholder), and he had to stay out of discussions about Bird Flu.

As the president of another company in the 70s and 80s, he also got Aspartame sweetener--another highly controversial product--legalized and sold.

Another thing: When the Cybes crash the party, Lumic refers to them as "his children." They are, in my mind, the product of a motherless birth.

Now, before you go on to say "in vitro fertilization" or "What about gay parents?", let me expand on this: In both of those cases, there has to be a mother somewhere along the line. The new Cybermen (and, by extension, the Daleks) represent gestation and birth without all the messy, gooey details. They're children, created coldly and clinically in a lab; they are "birthed" in the form of fully-grown adults, without all the growing up and figuring things out for yourself. They are also utterly invincible. They cannot be conquered by injury, illness, or emotion, but their metal skin cannot feel the warmth of the sun, and their lack of emotion inhibits decision-making. (You can perform cost/benefit analyses all you like, but emotions are the final deciding factor in making decisions.)

In other words, they're the kind of children that a utilitarian like John Lumic would love to have. (It's also interesting that he fetishizes the brain. There are Stephen Hawking parallels here: When everyone's favorite physicist contracted ALS, he reported that the loss of his body was a kind of freedom in that his brain and mind were totally free to wander.)

The Cybermen have always had shades of utilitarianism about them, haven't they? Amalgamations of metal and plastic with only the barest remnants of a human underneath, they've done everything they can to survive, but they've lost quality. It's like the uniquely American mindset that wants to expand math and science and cut away arts, philosophy, literature, and drama from schools. Kids learn how to calculate and all that, but again, there's something missing--the drive to experiment, to get in there and make mistakes and learn by doing. What's also missing is the ability to express states of mind and emotion, and again, we lose something if we can't express our feelings. If we can't express 'em, we can't learn how to regulate 'em, either.

Again, though, I don't stand against math and science on their own. What I DO stand against is a cold, hard mindset that reduces individual people to faceless statistics. (Incidentally, that's my reading of the original "Christmas Carol," too--Scrooge's failing is not greed, but a rigid, myopic, utilitarian worldview.)

And the new Cybermen are the ultimate faceless statistic: a bunch of identical, mass-produced walking refrigerators, all branded with a corporate logo and with all traces of the original person stripped away.

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Seeing_I 4 years, 1 month ago

@ Theonlyspiral: Oh, it was implied! LOL

I think the notion of the Cybermen consuming all is a good & creepy one, but I just don't feel like it was effectively portrayed in the episode itself. We were told more about it than shown it. And the Cyber-threat was always conceptual (see, look at that galaxy, we had to blow it up) rather than personal (like Jackie or Sally being converted). All of the soldiers were killed instead of converted - why? It made their threat seem quite abstract.

I would say chess was misused in "NIS" both because the relentlessly logical nature of the game never came into it, and because of the final dodge with the "processing power." Even a phone can beat you at chess in the real world, the idea that it would take all those hundreds of Cybermen's processing power to figure out a chess move is both unbelievable and terribly un-dramatic.

@ Kit: As for Gaiman never really watching Next Gen, I say rubbish. I never really watched it much either, but I, like Gaiman, have been steeped in fandom for all these years and I bloody well know who the Borg are and what their M.O. is. The idea that he is not aware of them is just ludicrous.

As for the Doctor and the showman being more effective if the Cybermen had been quieter, I don't really see how that would have made a difference. You still had big slices of ham going on, and the Cybermen barely spoke anyway.

I suppose the Cybermites conversion was cut for ... budget? So as not to be too scary? Or some other lame reason? I know I have read Gaiman wrote a LOT of things that were cut or changed in filming. That must be frustrating, but I still can't help feeling that most of my core problems with the episode are down to his script.

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Kit 4 years, 1 month ago

but I, like Gaiman, have been steeped in fandom for all these years and I bloody well know who the Borg are and what their M.O. is.

they're those cyborg dudes off the long-running sci-fi TV show that want to convert all humans to cyborg form, vaguely for their own good, right?

(I liked the ham on its own terms, one of the most successful things in the episode for mine.)

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William Silvia 4 years, 1 month ago

I love the way you said that the generic reader's favorite Cybermen story was probably not good because of the Cybermen... then continue to say that my personal favorite Cybermen story was the only one enhanced by the Cybermen up to this point.

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William Silvia 4 years, 1 month ago

Davros was kind of weird in First Contact, though. Something I just can't place my finger on.

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Sedric 1 year, 10 months ago

You know, I haven't commented on this blog as I've been working through, and this is over two years old regardless, and nobody likes oversharing, but honestly, you know why the Cybermen were my favourite villains even though most of their scripts were ropey as hell? Because they were blatantly queer space-age rubberperverts in steel gimp masks, stomping around in a dom-discipline froth, and even though I was too young when Tomb Of The Cybermen landed on VHS to know the language of such things, and too culturally inculcated to recognise my nascent queerness, deep down I knew I wanted them to fuck me. Because monsters are fucking sexy (I'd bang the Sea Devils too, for the record), and Daleks are just crap lad pepperpots on a drunk night out, waving their plungers and yelling at people

Admittedly the designs between Earthshock's flightsuit tedium and the new series' over-steroidy mess weren't great (the Nightmare In Silver redesign isn't bad), and 'Cyberwoman' was the worst possible Sexy Halloween Costume trainwreck they could've come up with, but c'est la vie, can't always expect to get my fix. Pervosexuals are what we have fanfiction for

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xre 1 week, 3 days ago

a) Shions of he emoion here works

b) These episodes don't suck

c) Your being something of an elitist again

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