Although the episode doesn’t make my list of top 5 favourites, I do respect it for giving a proper introduction to the Cybermen (although they don’t quite tickle my fancy) for both the old and new fans of the show. While I was browsing the internet, I found a picture of an earlier version of the Cybermen. I’d have to say that the production team did a great job in modifying their appearance. Not only were the aesthetics of the 2006 Cybermen at par with the expectations of the viewers (at least it met my expectations), they looked scarier as well. The earlier version just pales in comparison.

“Rise of the Cyberman” was the first “Doctor Who” episode that I saw play with the idea of a parallel universe, a world for second chances and infinite possibilities. For better or for worse, everything was within our reach. It was only in this episode that the TARDIS, the only permanent companion of the Doctor (since it’s alive), dies. Apart from the alternate universe that Rose accidentally created in “Father’s Day”, this was the only episode that featured Pete Tyler. In this world, Pete was not only alive but successful. Again, it promised Rose a life that she always wanted—a happy life with her family. Likewise, it gave Mickey the chance to deviate from his role as the tin dog. Quite admittedly, its setting’s narrative function, though interesting, gave the producers the liberty to take the narrative in any direction without the restrictions posed by its previous episodes (ex. Pete Tyler was alive, the Cybermen existed in the “real world” even before Lumic created them).

The producers took time to emphasize Mickey’s consistent alienation from Rose and the Doctor. At the beginning of the episode, the Doctor allowed Mickey to keep on pressing the button for half an hour. When Rose learned about her dad from an automatic update from Cybus Network, she ran off to see him with the Doctor trailing behind. Mickey was left alone in a “gingerbread house” because he’s never the priority. This sets the tone for the narration of his life story where we learn about his grandmother’s heartbreaking death and the guilt that he carries with him. For once, “Mickey the Idiot” was humanized; making him relatable to us viewers.

But the episode went further by incorporating an “anti-Mickey” into the picture. When he met Ricky, Mickey saw the difference in their behaviour thus alienating Mickey to himself. Ricky was the rebel who everyone knew could put an end to Lumic’s plans while Mickey was the opposite. In the process of encountering the self, Mickey becomes unfamiliar with himself so he tries to reach out to remedy the situation but Ricky refuses. This pushes him to take in the role of Ricky by “The Age of Steel” only to realize that he wants to trade this life for his old one.

Even if Mickey’s character developed in only two episodes, I feel that the writers paced his transition quite well. I personally prefer Mickey over Ricky simply because he’s funnier. I’ve grown familiar with the character who stumbles about that “upgrading” him felt weird. I even found it hard to distinguish Ricky from Mickey. I kept on thinking that Ricky is simply Mickey pretending to be brave because he wants to prove his worth. Besides, the actor Noel seemed to fit the clumsy and whiney Mickey more than the law-breaker Ricky.

Similarly, the episode’s narrative functioned as a satire to our exponentially growing dependency on modern technology. I enjoyed the irony of using a parallel universe to reflect our flawed reality. It showed the dangers of increasing the accessibility of information (John Lumic breached information regarding Jackie’s birthday celebration using her earpods) because it increases the chances for its abuse (Lumic used information about the house’s security to begin his invasion). In effect, the episode used the Cybermen as a metaphor to show the future of a society that consistently looks for upgrades.

More than its satirical role, the episode established the over-arching theme of immortality. John Lumic was another character who was plagued with his desperation for immortality; denying the natural cycle of life. He wanted an escape from death so he made himself the “god” of the Cybermen without considering that his creation will cause the end of life itself. He was just another character who dreamed to become Peter Pan by calling himself “god” while everyone else saw him as the “exterminator” of mankind.

In my opinion, John Lumic was delusional. He wanted to be god. But “The Age of Steel” showed that he feared to take the “upgrade” because it will forever enslave him to his own innovations consequently killing John Lumic. Despite his better judgement, he allowed his brilliance to cloud his rationality thus making him a lunatic like John Forbes Nash, Jr. (an economist whose life inspired the movie “A Beautiful Mind”).

On a lighter note, I can’t help but wonder how Lumic can think of creating a race that had existed long before he was born. But the setting becomes a convenient escape to this so I’ll let that slide. Besides, I find it fitting that the Cybermen returned in the series after the Daleks did in series 1. But with the return of the Daleks and the Cybermen, shouldn’t the Doctor run into one or two Time Lords as well? It’s quite impossible that the Daleks conveniently fell through time (“Bad Wolf” and “Parting of the Ways”), the Cybermen were recreated by a lunatic (“Rise of the Cyberman” and “Age of Steel”) and the four members of the Dalek’s secret organization escaped (“Doomsday”) yet none of the Time Lords, except for the Doctor, survived. But knowing the structure of the “Doctor Who” narratives, I’m certain that Russel T. Davies can’t and won’t resist the urge to include them.

For me, one of the highlights of the episode was the scene where the Doctor gives 10 years of his life to the little cell. It was funny to see the hero giggle like a little boy because it opposes the stereotypical images of heroes that media has embedded into our minds. I also like that the Cybermen have “delete” as their catchphrase. Throughout the two series, I’ve observed how these catchphrases are scattered in the show. Before every battle, Captain Jack always says “See you in hell” while the Doctor, for one reason or the other, says “fantastic” (Eccleston) and “brilliant” (Tennant). In the same manner, the Daleks say “exterminate” before killing their victims while the Cybermen say “delete”. These details not only contribute to my growing familiarity with the show and its characters but subconsciously attune me to it. Every now and then, I catch myself guessing when the Daleks will scream “exterminate” or when the Doctor will stop his rambling just to say “brilliant”.

Advertisements