Ascension of the Cybermen Review
And so Chibnall, having egregiously whiffed the one-part finale structure (no shame in it, nobody else has ever made that work save for Moffat who cheated by having Heaven Sent work as a sort of first part), decides to fall back on a proven structure. This is not always a balm for Chibnall, who often seems to struggle with understanding how and why tropes work, instead simply faithfully repeating them shorn of key bits of context like a man in an increasingly bizarre quest to demonstrate how Searle’s Chinese room thought experiment might work in practice. Ascension of the Cybermen plays into that tendency, certainly. But there are relatively few misplaced steps compared to other Chibnall efforts. And this isn’t entirely because Chibnall is playing on easy mode. Yes, the basic structure pioneered by Moffat and Davies—a sense of mounting tension leading to a story-breaking reveal—is one of the easier ones to get to work, with the real challenge being in the back half. But Chibnall declines to go with the sort of zero frills monster runaround that he could have, instead interleaving the seemingly entirely disconnected story of Brendan the cop.
This is, to Chibnall’s credit, a very Moffat move in which the tension is “wait, what kind of story am I watching?” And the decision to go with no reveal about it, leaving it as an incongruous detail to be connected later, is unexpected and probably the most interesting thing ever to happen in a Chibnall script. The answer is probably going to disappoint—I’ll put my bet on “he’s a timeless child” and not on something Cybermen-related, but that’s a next week discussion. This week, his presence made the story weirder, less predictable, and far more interesting.
Unfortunately once you get past him, were into pretty bog standard Chibnall filler. The promotional material stressed the guest role of Ravio as a super-competent fighter against the Cybermen. It sounds cool. But tell me honestly: are you 100% confident you can remember which of the disposable supporting cast she is? (Remembering which actress plays her is cheating.) Can you actually name another secondary character? I can’t. One of them had really buggy eyes. That’s about all I remember. Yaz and Graham get to do the Doctoring for a bit, which is a nice touch. But mostly, this is frighteningly generic Cybermen doing frightfully generic Cybermen things. (The moment of peak bathos, for me, was when they uncover some boxy-head classic models of Cybermen and attempt to, with a straight face, suggest that these were always the “warrior” caste of Cybermen. Past that, we’ve got, what? A lot of action scenes so adamantly no nonsense that Eric Saward would blanche and add a few jokes? A ranting cult leader Cyberman whose final fate (full conversion that strips him of his “unique” qualities) couldn’t be more clearly telegraphed? None of it is objectionable, but none of it is interesting.
The real problem, though, is the ending. It’s not just the aggressive non-shock of the Master being back. (And bragging preposterously about making a good entrance. Honey, you used to ride down on a parasol like a homicidal Mary Poppins, or pull off an increasingly ludicrous series of latex prosthetics. Teleporting in as soon as Segun Akinola begins the “the cliffhanger is coming” crescendo is not impressive.) It’s the fact that the entire episode is spent getting to the exact place we all knew it had to end as soon as its second part was announced as The Timeless Children. There’s not even a cool reveal tying Gallifrey lore to the Cybermen. It’s just “ooh, a magic portal to the thing this story is actually about.” It’s one of the worst instances yet of Chibnall’s absurd spoilerphobia existing mostly to cover the fact that he hasn’t got anything worth spoiling.
As I said earlier, the structure of “part one of a two-part season finale” is forgiving. Often, these episodes are the thrilling, watchable pleasures of their stories, leading into lumpy, flawed masterpieces of actual finales. And while this was by no means wretchedly flawed, it’s difficult to imagine it being that. If Chibnall performs as expected, with a half-baked mess of a finale, nothing in this will compel watching it anyway. If he pulls out a shocker and nails the finale, this will be the disposable fifty minutes of hype leading into it. Neither outcome feels like a triumph.
- There’s a kind of beautiful moment of incompetent marketing in the trailer, which decides to play with our expectations by suggesting that they really might kill Graham and Yaz off-camera in the b story of a cliffhanger, and then includes clips of the people they’re with so as to confrm that people get out alive.
- Between the Master and Captain Jack, Chibnall really is falling into a habit of having characters show up to deliver slogans to the audience instead of actually interact with the characters around him.
- There certainly is some anxiety of influence in Chibnall revamping the two villains that were revamped during the Capaldi era, then combining them the same way the Capaldi era did. The only difference is that Moffat was revamping two enemies that hadn’t worked in ages, whereas Chibnall was revamping two that had just worked very well. The results are, shall we say, predictable.
- It is vaguely interesting to see Doctor Who attempting to recreate the memories of Saward-era fans. Many of Chibnall’s failings seem shared with 80s Doctor Who, but this sort of “here’s what I remember Earthshock being like” story is a strange thing to have exist. Not because Earthshock is bad per se, but because, in true Chibnall fashion, it seems to be understood here outside of the context of anything around it—a vague marker for “the Cybermen were stompy action movie monsters and it was cool.”
- At least we have a story with the word “ascension” in it with a prominent chair scene. Somewhere, Jane is smiling. If she’s still watching. Unlike me, she’s not paid to.
- Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror
- Fugitive of the Judoon
- The Haunting of Villa Diodati
- Can You Hear Me?
- Ascension of the Cybermen
- Orphan 55
February 24, 2020 @ 10:43 pm
Used to descend on a parasol like a homicidal mary Poppins? Not so, This incarnation, probably, is a regeneration of the dying John Simms last seen trying to get to his TARDIS. Missy didn’t have a TARDIS to get to, so assuming its her next or later incarnation doesn’t stack up. Besides it was suitably ironic that the Master killed his futuremost incarnation. Pity to ruin that. What I dread most is the possibility that humans are the ancestors of the Gallifreyans, and hence the Time Lords. Ko Sarmus is, I guess, Brendan further down the track. The Boundary is a dumb SF concept. Not so much escape to anywhere beyond the galaxy, as promised, but a shortcut to Gallifrey. The episode was a confusing mess. I would love to see it resolved brilliantly in the finale, but I won’t hold my breath.
February 25, 2020 @ 7:47 am
What if the Time Lords are descended from the Cybermen? Ashad talks about wanting to take the Cybermen “beyond Cybermen” or something like that, this would tie in with the supposed dark secret behind Time Lord history, and the story is called Ascension. Maybe the Time Lords are descended from humanity via the Cybermen. That’s why there are so many humanoid aliens out there, and why so many of them develop into Cybermen – the Time Lords have been interfering in other species’ development to ensure their own creation.
Not something I want to see, but I think it fits the available evidence.
February 25, 2020 @ 11:17 am
This has a certain plausibility to it. It was suggested, after all, in Grant Morrison’s The World Shapers in 1987 that the Cybermen eventually evolve into “peaceful beings of pure thought”. Not a huge leap from that idea to make them evolve into the Time Lords. Both are posthuman creatures after all, the Timelords are just more elegant and subtle.
Not crazy about the concept, but I can see several worse ideas in play as well, so if that’s what we get, I’ll feel it’s a lesser evil, for sure.
February 25, 2020 @ 9:20 am
Oh man, when I first heard the boundary described – a safe haven and a gateway to any random place in the universe, my mind went straight to “TARDIS”. I predicted that the boundary was in fact the Ruth!Doctor, picking up the survivors of humanity in her TARDIS and taking them to safety.
A big glowing portal was… slightly less interesting.
February 25, 2020 @ 10:01 am
“Used to descend on a parasol like a homicidal mary Poppins? Not so, This incarnation, probably, is a regeneration of the dying John Simms last seen trying to get to his TARDIS.”
From the perspective of the audience watching, what we saw the Master doing in their most recent stories is more important than where Missy fits on a hypothetical time line.
February 24, 2020 @ 10:58 pm
According to her twitter, No, Jane has not been watching Series 12.
February 24, 2020 @ 11:54 pm
Anyone else getting the sense that most of the Nightmare in Silver Cybersuits fell apart between Death in Heaven and The Doctor Falls, and now there are so few left that they build up ranks with the Davies-Era design?
I still think the Master works in The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords. Maybe he’s a little too unpleasant to work long-term in that mold, but teaming up with future humans instead of aliens, actually succeeding, and being all of Russel T Davies pop-music-infused anti-authoritarian streak taken to a camp high just clicks for me.
And yeah, the fact that I’m spending a lot of time on other things suggests how much there is in this episode. Apart from the fact it’s nice to see Yaz and Graham be active characters (and Yaz get the role as the Clara, a new companion type it seems), this feels like most of the rest of the story would make as much sense if Shelley gave them the coordinates to Ko Sharmus, and they skipped the first 30 minutes to just have them discover refugees arriving at the same time.
February 25, 2020 @ 1:14 am
I don’t believe there was any problem with the Nightmare cybersuits – based on behind the scenes pics they started with 6 suits on set for Nightmare, then had 6 on set for Death in Heaven, then had 6 or 7 on set for Doctor Falls.
They were even using them for live appearances over a year after filming, having 5 of them spend a day wandering around Birmingham.
My guess is that they didn’t appear this week because they modified the Nightmare suits to make the new ones. The chest and neck piece appears to be the same.
February 25, 2020 @ 4:14 pm
Cheers, looking at it again, you’re probably right. I think I got too focused on the arms and stomach area which are quite different, but also in ways that are very easy to modify.
As for buckethead Cybermen, I love them too. Watched a lot of 80s Doctor Who reruns as a kid, and they seem awesome when you are 7. But I’m not sure the show needs anymore reminders of the Saward era, and they really are the farthest removed from the idea of Cybermen that Ashad is doing a good job with.
I like Ashad, but honestly his story feels like it would be more compelling if we had even spent half-an-episode with him as a cultist. That’s partly because I think that one look at Elon Musk’s Twitter replies will show how scary technology cultists are. And that’s without bemoaning the wasted potential he was to be Cyber-Yudkowsky.
February 25, 2020 @ 12:38 am
The Ireland scenes were mildly interesting, although it’s so typical that we finally go there after all these years and it’s just a scenic backdrop for some lore bullshit.
Shame they kept randomly cutting away to Ranskoor Av Kolos With Cybermen. Followed by a watered down version of Spyfall’s cliffhanger.
February 25, 2020 @ 12:55 pm
The big question is, was this episode just one long riff on “Gallifrey? Is that in Ireland?”
But yes, I’ve been waiting since I was a child for Ireland to be in Doctor Who, damn it, and it would have been nice for it to have actually been Ireland, not, as it seems to have been, some sort of simulation.
That being said, there is some stuff to explore in this episode’s use of Irishness. The first is, it is a use of Irishness – there have been plenty of characters in the new series who have been incidentally Irish (or more accurately, played by actors who happen to be Irish), but at no point has it been significant that they were Irish.
What it’s doing directly is quite small, but not unimportant — if this had been set in an equivalent idyllic English rural setting, it would have been much more obvious that this might not be what it appeared. Setting in a past Ireland gives it the air of the show doing a setting, and directs the viewers attention away from the possibility that it’s not real.
Other things: setting this all in a chronologically vague post-independence Ireland several decades ago (I understand that it’s supposed to open in the ‘40s, making the final scene c. 2010, but this is not evident on the screen) is nice and timely, with the centenary of Irish independence coming up and inevitably provoking endless bloody retrospectives on the War of Independence era and the subsequent history of the last century. (Plus, it was very generous of the Irish electorate to make all that very salient for viewer who was following the news in the couple of weeks before this.)
And if you have limited time in which to make that apparent on screen, focusing on the Garda Siochána is very artful – there is essentially nothing, at least that I can think of, that is so suited to highlight that this is post-independence Ireland as policing and attitudes to it.
This gives a (probably unintended, alas) additional point to the move from talking about “empire” in the opening Cyberman-focused sequence to the beginning of this Irish strand in the episode. It suggests that Ashad’s ranting maps onto a desire for “Empire 2.0.”
I will stop, before I start ranting about Irishness in the old series and the turn from stage-Irish melodrama in the Troughton era to coding characters as Unionist in the Pertwee era…
February 25, 2020 @ 2:14 pm
This is a small thought, but I’m wondering about the possible Ireland links. Watching the alien planet scenes I was insanely distracted by the power pylons which were clearly visible in the background in more than a few shots. Now, normally the show would go out of its way to avoid that kind of thing – CGI them out in post, or simply avoid having them in shot in the first place. But now I’m wondering… is it deliberate? As far as I can recall, I don’t believe the “alien planet” is ever identified by name (I’ve only seen the episode once so I may be wrong on that), it’s just some vaguely war-torn area… but with exceedingly Earthbound looking power lines. Could this be somewhere either in Ireland, or on Earth, at some point post-the Cyber Wars? Or a version of Earth whose history has been altered by whatever’s going on with the Master/Lone Cyberman/Jack/Ruth Doctor/Timeless Child?
I mean, probably I’m just over-reading into a bit of sloppy production, but I wondered the same about the Master dropping that Jodrell Bank reference back in Spyfall Pt 2. Come on, it’s Logopolis! Chibnall’s way to much in the tank to get a reference like that wrong. Sure, the Pharos Project was originally meant to be Jodrell Bank before it was changed so it could be an exceedingly obscure continuity reference but… what if it’s not? What if this season’s equivalent of Season Five’s “wrong jacket” in Flesh And Stone / The Big Bang?
I mean, that would be neat. It’s not going to be that. But it would be neat.
February 25, 2020 @ 2:54 pm
I’m not going to lie, I’ve always assumed that the opening scenes of the episode took place on a war-torn Earth and aren’t quite sure what’s meant to have signalled to us that it wasn’t.
February 25, 2020 @ 5:38 pm
Specific touches locate it in Ireland, and not in today’s Ireland.
The big one is the period Garda uniforms – it’s one thing to have characters generally dress like rural people from the past (e.g. the scenes in The Doctor Falls), it’s quite another to duplicate the uniforms of a specific organization in a foreign country at a point in time. (Can’t say how accurate they were in detail, as I’m not an expert on the subject, but Garda uniforms certainly looked generally like that in the early decades of the State.). I have a feeling that I might have seen Garda Siochána on the (rather palatial) Garda station, too.
Beyond that, specific Irish touches: police are not called that, but “guards.” The characters have Irish accents (consistent ones that suit where they’re supposed to be from, to the extent that I can tell*), and use Hiberno-English expressions, although not unique ones.
These things point to something more specific than a generic rural postwar future. This wouldn’t be the same if they were generically English: Englishness is the default norm in Doctor Who. But even in that case, I’d say an actual historical police uniform would signal to the viewer that this is a period piece set in the actual past.
It’s quite possible that this is a future that for some reason resembles rural Ireland of sixtyish years ago, and that this is why they put in all this stuff, of course, to mislead the viewer.
February 25, 2020 @ 7:17 pm
Assuming that Brendan is a Timeless Child, and ends up being The Doctor in a past regeneration cycle, there are definitely some reasons for Chibnall to go with a historical police force. I think he picked Ireland so that, as you say, he wanted one long riff on “Gallifrey? Is that in Ireland?”
I imagine Chibnall wanted Brendan/future Doctor to be on the force to have been a policeman and to have encountered police boxes enough where he might be fond of them, so that by the time Doctor Ruth is around she was having the TARDIS disguise as a police box. This would let him pull off the police box reveal we saw earlier in the season and still have a way to explain why the TARDIS looked like a police box before Hartnell stole it (it might not even be the same TARDIS, but has a desktop pattern that the Doctor likes. It may be the same TARDIS, however.) Hartnell might not remember being Doctor Ruth but might have subconscious memories of the TARDIS being a police box and of the desktop pattern so that he used those when visiting 1960’s England, rather than having the TARDIS disguise itself as a phone booth or a van parked in the junkyard.
Also, if Brendan turns out to be the Doctor, it looks like we will also have Chibnall playing on the idea of the Doctor wanting for a few regenerations to be ginger. It might be another subconscious memory of having initially being Brendan.
February 26, 2020 @ 12:35 am
That’s an ingenious theory. The snag is that, as far as I know, police boxes were never used in the Republic of Ireland – they came in in London around the same time that Ireland became independent, and were never adopted in the South (at least as far as I know). (Northern Ireland, very possibly a different matter, although I don’t actually know that they were ever used there.)
February 26, 2020 @ 10:35 pm
I’m making the assumption that Chibnall didn’t bother to check to see if they used Police Boxes in Ireland, he just wanted to riff off of the Gallifrey-Ireland joke, and assumed that they did without checking.
February 27, 2020 @ 11:41 pm
I certainly can’t say that’s impossible, alas.
I mean, I could go on at length about how the scene with the young gunman relates to the different significance of an unarmed police force in Ireland than in Britain in ways that are quite sensitive and even profound. But I doubt that Chibnall steeped himself in the history of policing in Ireland.
February 25, 2020 @ 12:58 am
”…instead simply faithfully repeating them shorn of key bits of context like a man in an increasingly bizarre quest to demonstrate how Searle’s Chinese room thought experiment might work in practice.”
I believe we’ve stumbled upon the Eruditorum version of a “sick burn.”
Yeah, that just about sums up all the flaws in this era. I still enjoyed the heck out of this one. It was a very competently made dumb stompy Cyberman story.
February 25, 2020 @ 5:37 am
I once wrote a novel proposal in which the Doctor had a literal Chinese Room for a girlfriend.
February 25, 2020 @ 1:31 pm
“The Room With No Door’n Idea What It Was Actually Saying”?
February 25, 2020 @ 12:59 am
There’s a definite Star Wars vibe this episode. What with the swarms of cyber drones acting like TIE fighters, the plucky rebels fighting the evil empire and the bearded Obi-Wannabe at the end. Nothing at all to do with the Rise of Skywalker having come out two months ago I’m sure.
Actually, come to think of it, The Woman Who Fell to Earth came out a month after The Predator and featured an alien hunting humans, Resolution featured a Dalek parasitising on humans and came out two months after Venom and Spyfall is a James Bond riff a few months before an actual Bond film comes out. Is Chibnall just trying to find a popular film to piggyback off?
February 25, 2020 @ 1:24 am
Occam’s Razor would suggest that as a distinct possibility.
Not gonna lie, I’m hoping for a bloodbath next week. A critical bloodbath, that is.
February 25, 2020 @ 7:21 pm
Actually, the Cyberdrone heads flying around didn’t make me think of Star Wars as much as that Chibnall watched the Orville last year and thought that the flying Kaelon heads were cool, so decided to to his own (less successful) version.
February 25, 2020 @ 7:31 pm
I didn’t get the feeling of Star Wars from the flying Cyberdrone heads as much as I felt Chibnall had watched the Orville last season and liked the flying Kaelon heads so much he decided to do it (less successfully) in Doctor Who. He probably christened it the Handles 77th Airborne Cyberhead Wing.
February 25, 2020 @ 6:11 am
“the aggressive non-shock”
This made me whoop with laughter. I mean, I wasn’t displeased to see him, but still.
February 25, 2020 @ 7:33 am
45 minutes of nothing happening VERY LOUDLY and then the Master shows up.
I liked the Brendan stuff, but that’s only because setting up a mystery is a very, very easy thing to do.
February 25, 2020 @ 8:17 am
I hesitate to say that it’s a huge flaw, but reflecting on this episode, I’m struck by the sense of the story happening in spite of what any of the characters are doing rather than because of them.
There’s no pay off for the Doctor actively searching for the Master or (seemingly at this point) her trips back to Galifrey to investigate there. There’s no sense of the Cyberman story naturally drawing towards the ‘lore’ questions. It just sort of runs into it at the end of the episode without much fanfare. The barrier just ripples into transparency when the Doctor shows up and then the Master springs out like the universe’s most unsurprisingly jack-in-the-box.
The whole Cyber-chase ‘plot’ could have been avoided if the Doctor and co had paused to blow up the second Cyber-shuttle. But that’s never raised as a possibility. The Doctor’s defences just sort of fail under the onslaught of – I can’t believe I’m writing this – flying Cyberman heads. The Cyberman army wakes up, of course, but it’s remarkably unclear what, if anything, the supercomputer from last episode has to do with that (I don’t know about anyone else, but I always assume that ever Cybership has a big red button marked ‘push for cliffhanger’ and it would have had about the same effect).
It all feels rather inevitable, but not in a ‘inexorably drawing together’ kind of way. More in a ‘thus the writer spake and it was so’ kind of way. There’s no real reason for these parts to cohere, no ‘but of course she/he/the Melkur was the Master all along!’ moment. We seem just to have an episode that exists to occupy the main cast for forty minutes while the actual thing we have to worry about happens in rose-tinted flashbacks.
And fair play to the show, there was something delightfully macabre about Brendon’s old boss and his dad showing up to mind-wipe him on the last day of work. But I wonder if things would have felt more satisfying if that had all cohered with the main cast’s plot thread at the end of this episode rather than (I assume/fervently hope) at the beginning of the next one.
Also . . . adding spikes to make the Cybermen more threatening? Really?
February 29, 2020 @ 8:58 am
“The Doctor’s defences just sort of fail under the onslaught of – I can’t believe I’m writing this – flying Cyberman heads. ”
To me that’s just the ultimate example of Chibnall continually making the 13th Doctor completely ineffectual — she finally demonstrates some effort at planning by showing up with /three different/ strategies for fighting the Cybermen … and ll of them fail miserably within seconds.
Followed soon after by the embarrassing scene where the Doctor decides to steal a Cybership and starts telling a long rambling story about how she may or may not have done so before … at which point, the boy whose name I can’t even remember shoves her out of the way so he can do it better, faster, and without talking.
February 25, 2020 @ 8:22 am
“It is vaguely interesting to see Doctor Who attempting to recreate the memories of Saward-era fans”
How much would you bet against the finale credits rolling without music as we mourn the death of Yaz/Graham/Ryan? I’d go as high as five of your English pounds, but no higher.
February 27, 2020 @ 8:03 am
Surely even Chris Chibnall couldn’t be so publicity-blind as to kill off one of the main characters and not advertise that someone was going to die.
February 25, 2020 @ 9:00 am
The thing that most surprised me about the episode is how it’s fragrantly Chibnall remaking “The Doctor Falls” – the Doctor and co. fight a futile battle against the Cybermen on a farm with an army of out-of-their-depth civilians, helping them flee because they’re so outclassed that it’s the best they can do.
I’m pretty sure that every Series 12 plot arc episode has fragrantly replicated a Moffat plot point by now. Spyfall cribs “The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon” two-part-opener structure, recycles the plot twist from “Dark Water/Death in Heaven” and sets up a plot that’s “Hell Bent” but with the Master. “Fugitive of the Judoon” nicks “Let’s Kill Hitler”‘s structure of throwing away its promised episode in favour of surprise story arc material, doing so in order to replicate the plot twist from “Name of the Doctor”. And now we get “The Doctor Falls” but done as the penultimate episode of a series instead of a regeneration episode. I think you once said that Joss Wheedon structured episodes like dramas and individual scenes like comedies. Chibnall appears to structure series like Moffat and episodes like RTD.
February 25, 2020 @ 1:54 pm
“it’s fragrantly Chibnall remaking “The Doctor Falls” ”
You mean it stinks?
Or was that a Froodian slip for “flagrantly”?
February 25, 2020 @ 2:58 pm
Tbf, both work
(I was about to link to a gif of the MST3K “It Stinks” joke, but the alt-right’s re-purposing of the “OK” hand gesture means that all gifs of that joke now look horrifically suspect.)
February 25, 2020 @ 9:36 am
This episode made me think about other two part stories and finales, and it strikes me that they broadly fall into two types: they’ve either got a big rug pull at the end of Part One or things start making sense at the end of Part One.
So, the end of the first series has bizarre killer TV shows and the death of Rose Tyler, leaving you off balance and unsure of just what kind of story you’re watching before it all falls into place as The Dalek Invade.
The Sound of Drums is a big stakes but knowable urban thriller, until an army of human heads falls out of a crack in the sky and the Master actually wins.
Moffat often complicated this (pulling the rug out of one weird kind of story into a different weird kind of story) but Chibnall just doesn’t try. The props of this story are neither weirded nor swept aside or dwarfed by a bigger story. They’re just added to until all the toys are off the shelf and then the episode ends. There are moments of drama and strangeness but they’re not part of anything.
February 25, 2020 @ 10:06 am
I feel like the Boundary wants to be the void ship from ‘Army of Ghosts’. We build up to a big battle with Cybermen, then the cliffhanger doubles the stakes by revealing another major returning villain.
Except ‘Army’ works because a) we do not expect Daleks to be in this season so it’s a genuine surprise and b) the Daleks have been effectively established as a force of narrative collapse in S1, so they’re a genuine upping of the stakes.
Gallifrey and the Master appearing in the Boundary is a) completely expected, since Spyfall (and Fugitive) all but ended with a “come back in the finale to see how this concludes!” message and b) not a genuine upping of the stakes, since the Master hasn’t established himself as a truly dangerous villain to be feared.
February 25, 2020 @ 10:18 am
That brings up an interesting question, actually. Has the Master EVER been a source of narrative collapse in his/her appearances?
Thinking of it, it seems like every episode they’ve been in, everything they do gets reversed at the end tied up in a neat bow, the Master shoves off, and life carries on as normal.
And if there IS a narrative collapse, it happens only at the end and has nothing to do with them. The closest example I can think of is Four’s regeneration, but even then it’s difficult to argue that actually impacts events in any major way besides forcing the Doctor to be asleep in a box for part of the next story.
February 25, 2020 @ 10:20 am
…Immediately after writing this post, I DID just remember that he was technically responsible for breaking up the Doctor and Sarah Jane.
So I guess he gets ONE point there. Even if done indirectly.
February 25, 2020 @ 10:24 am
(Except that’s not really a narrative collapse either in the grand of scheme of things. God, I should really just go to bed now instead of thinking about this.)
February 25, 2020 @ 11:02 am
You could make an argument for the Toclafane being the ultimate narrative collapse. At the end of the universe, where time cannot be traversed any further, all humanity (and therefore, all Doctor Who companions) is twisted and deformed into monsters who gleefully murder their own past.
February 25, 2020 @ 12:52 pm
I think Utopia/Sound of Drums/Army of Ghosts makes the Master as much a threat of narrative collapse as the Daleks. He’s now bound up with not the failure of the Doctor, but the failure of the series’ optimism. He’s the herald of the cynical collapse and regression of humanity, the opposite of the inventive, invincible species.
February 25, 2020 @ 1:11 pm
I’d definitely say “Logopolis” counts. The Master’s actions on the planet itself literally threaten the existence of the entire Universe – about as big a narrative collapse as there could be. And he takes control of the CVE in the last episode to try and hold the Universe to ransom (how credible that is remains a separate question…) and seems unhinged enough to actually do it should the “universe” tell him to go stuff himself. Not – unfortunately – that we really get to explore it but he does cause actual material damage to the Universe as well. Traken is certainly destroyed by his actions and it’s pretty clearly intended that what we see on-screen (the darkness spreading on the scanner) is meant to represent a significant proportion of reality. So that’s the one time I would give him a clear pass on narrative collapse, and it’s the one time the Ainley Master’s actions actually come close to matching his rhetoric (he has other stories, occasionally even good, where he has power but nothing on this scale again).
February 25, 2020 @ 4:26 pm
I’d argue that the two big ones aren’t the world-shattering events. The Master is a character for world-shattering events. So, the narrative is going as planned when he or she is doing something that threatens everything.
Instead Survival is a narrative collapse. The ending of the fourth episode is the collapse where the Master is consumed by animalism and threatens to consume everything. Wouldn’t be as much of a collapse if the show wasn’t cancelled, but it is, however inadvertently.
The other one is World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls, where the Master kills a companion, then begins to fall apart as the Doctor is trapped in a relatively low-stakes battle that will kill him. Both of those to me set the show off-kilter in a way that Logopolis or his Pertwee years don’t.
February 26, 2020 @ 9:32 pm
Survival has a fourth episode?
Tell me more.
February 26, 2020 @ 10:01 pm
Two possible responses: Dammit, I hate getting things wrong online because I typed too quickly. Especially since it always makes you look lazy.
Survival’s fourth episode is Utopia actually. Both stories about the Master fleeing to modern Britain whilst other people are infected by a rage virus and it ends with one Time Lord having to abandon a lost cause and let a world be destroyed. Also, both episodes have high gayness quotients.
February 26, 2020 @ 10:37 pm
The 4th episode was supposedly burned by JN-T as it revealed too much about who the Doctor really was, but there are rumors that a copy still exists in a vault along with the 6th episode of The Daemons.
February 25, 2020 @ 2:42 pm
Indirectly she sets one up in Death in Heaven; her plan with the Cybermen is only thwarted by Danny’s sacrifice, which leaves Clara with no significant ties to contemporary Earth, strengthening her codependency with the Doctor, and bringing about the events of Hell Bent.
February 26, 2020 @ 7:23 am
Thing is, Danny was dead already. Missy isn’t the one who ran him over with the car (as far as we know, anyway). But given that, I suppose you COULD play it as an even longer game and suggest that her being the one to set Clara up with the Doctor in the first place leads to that collapse.
February 25, 2020 @ 10:46 am
“Oh my god, this is a Cyber-carrier. I wonder what it could be carrying!?” — 15 minutes later — “OMG IT’S CARRYING CYBERMEN!”
Also, Jodie says they can’t use the TARDIS cos it’s too far away. So why not fly the stolen Cybership to it.
Roderick T. Long
February 25, 2020 @ 7:18 pm
Sometimes the Doctor used to be able to summon the TARDIS. Not any more, I guess.
February 26, 2020 @ 7:10 am
Or you know, just… maybe don’t park it THAT far away.
(Not That) Jack
February 25, 2020 @ 10:54 pm
This week’s text from my friend who keeps updating me on episodes, knowing I’ve lost hope: “WELL WHAT ELSE WOULD BE ON A CYBER CARRIER?”
She’s losing hope pretty rapidly herself, but she’s also enjoying having me as an outlet.
February 25, 2020 @ 11:28 am
That entire “can’t make it back to the TARDIS” had me AND my wife both shouting “well why didn’t you just park it nearer then???”. It’s a sign of the times that they didn’t even bother having a line of dialogue technobabble-justifying that nonsense decision.
February 25, 2020 @ 11:30 am
Or at least address it with a line of dialogue:
Graham: Why’d you park so far away then!?
Doctor: Had to keep it out of sight of Cybermen.
February 27, 2020 @ 6:03 pm
I rewatched the episode and it is actually explained clearly, though i made the same mistake on a first viewing as well. They didn’t land “near” the survivors they landed at exactly the co-ordinates Shelly gave them and those co-ordinates turned out be half a mile from some survivors. So it’s the other way round.
(Not That) Jack
February 25, 2020 @ 10:51 pm
“It is vaguely interesting to see Doctor Who attempting to recreate the memories of Saward-era fans”
Been saying Chibnall’s been leaning on the Saward era since, oh, Ghost Monument, so I can’t say I’m shocked here.