The relentless thud-thud-thud of steel boots. The Doctor’s fearful, “It’s happening again!” The iconic silhouettes. The Cybermen are back and they’re beautiful!
Just like the resurrection of the Daleks in season one, the Doctor Who production team have brought back one of the Doctor’s most revered enemies and they’ve done it with style. The art-deco look of the new Cybermen is a sublime rendering of an iconic figure. When you look back at past incarnations of the Cybermen - always a variation on a theme - the new version beats them all hands down. It is the integration of all production departments on this series which makes it work so well. The Cybermen are not designed merely to look cool (which they do), but because it fits with the overall look of the episode, the universe they exist in. This episode (the first of a two-part story) sees The Doctor, Rose and Mickey inadvertently falling into a parallel world, very much like ours but one which has numerous echoes of the 1930s - for a start, everyone rides around in zeppelins, and the set design is reminiscent of the old Flash Gordon serials. Art-deco is ‘in’ in this universe. And it looks great.
As for the main characters: Rose finds that her father is alive in this parallel world, he’s still married to Jackie Tyler, and he’s a hugely successful businessman - the only difference is, they don’t have Rose. As I’d hoped, Billie Piper was given much more to do in this episode and she delivered some nice moments, like when she realises that her parents are happy and have everything they could ever want because they never had her, and later when she discovers there is a ‘Rose’ in her parents’ lives - a little yappie-type dog!
Mickey also gets a storyline! There’s an emotional visit to his Gran who raised him - until, that is, she fell and broke her neck on the stairs! Then Mickey finds out that his counterpart in this parallel world is an activist called Ricky (nice irony!) who is fighting to uncover the sinister truth behind Cybus Industries. Apparently, next week, Mickey really comes into his own. But will he survive?
And the Doctor? Definitely taking a step back this time around, understandably so, allowing his assistants to explore their own storylines, but Tennant is such a good actor that he packs a broad range of emotions into the smallest screen time. See him acting the angry “Dad” when Rose and Mickey threaten to run off! See his horror when he realises the awful truth about Cybus Industries! See him laughing at ‘Rose’ the yappie-type dog!
Naturally, the episode ended on a suitably cliff-hanging cliff-hanger, and it was nice to see that the BBC had learnt from last year’s faux pas and didn’t show a trailer for next week in which everyone clearly survives the cliff-hanging cliff-hanger!
Roll on “The Age of Steel”!