Doctor Who: The Cybermen Get Upgraded

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I am legitimately one of those people that would read Neil Gaiman's shopping list if it were published in book form, so you'll pardon the lack of objectivity in this week's review. Gaiman returns us to the Cybermen, and not the Cybermen we've known thus far in the rebooted Doctor Who. These are the Mondasian Cybermen, the ones responsible for the death of the First Doctor, and who the Second Doctor used some of his most brutal methods to stop when he would encounter them.

If you go back and watch "Tomb of the Cybermen" or the surviving episodes of "The Moonbase" and "The Tenth Planet," you will of course see the utter ridiculousness of the '60s Cybermen. Their costumes look like they were made by someone's mother, and their voices are incomprehensible. That said, I've been rewatching all of the Second Doctor's run recently, and I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that the classic Cybermen were simply scarier than the ones from Pete's World.

And Neil Gaiman made them so, so much worse.

Flashback
Last Week's Review: The Crimson Horror

We don't get a year to set our calendars by for the episode, but it has to be at least the 25th century since the Cybermen's final defeat is a thousand years in the past. The Doctor has brought along Clara's nanny charges, Angie (Eve de Leon Allen) and Artie (Kassius Carey Johnson), after they threaten to tell their dad they've discovered historical evidence that Clara has been traveling in time. The Doctor agrees to a single trip to the universe's greatest amusement park, because that sort of thing absolutely never, ever goes wrong for him.

Instead of Six Flags Over Alpha Centauri, they find a dilapidated and almost abandoned theme park. There's a wonderful flashback to "The Moonbase," as one of the few functioning attractions is a low-gravity jump generator that mirrors the opening of that story on a lunar reconstruction. You'll also hear a reference to the Moonbase's function as a weather control tower if you're careful.

An eccentric old man named Webley (Jason Watkins) operates a curiosity hall that features, among other things, a hollowed up Cyberman that can challenge people to chess. Turns out the abilities are actually controlled by a dwarf named Porridge (Warwick Davis) in reference to an automatic chess player in the 19th century called the Turk that was secretly operated by a little person crammed inside.

Interesting note: This isn't the first time The Silver Turk and the Cybermen have been linked together, as the Eighth Doctor fought them in an audio adventure.

Here's where it starts to get scary, which was Steven Moffat's explicit instructions to Gaiman. Make the Cybermen scary.


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3 comments
katydidknot
katydidknot

Was the phone the opening for future Cybermen episodes? The Cybermites were shown on the phone of one of the kids early in the episode, and the Doctor, in a somewhat unnecessary move, hands it back to her at the end. 

Anyway, the spoilers about next week's episodes have hit the net due to some Series 7 DVDs that were apparently sent out too early(!). I'm not looking. But apparently the Clara mystery is resolved...

JefWithOneF
JefWithOneF topcommenter

@katydidknot My wife asked the same thing. I think it leaves a convenient hole for the return of the Mondasian Cybermen.

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