New Who: The Story Thus Far – Series 2 (Episodes 5-13)

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John Hussey continues his series analysing the revival with Series 2.

‘Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel’

Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel‘Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel’ continued the Tenth Doctor’s (David Tennant) journey with the return of an old classic, i.e. the Cybermen. This would become the standard tradition of the New series of having at least one monster/villain from the Classic series revamped for a whole new generation. Though with Russell T Davies’ Cybermen its debatable on whether or not you consider them actual Cybermen. I’m going to refer to them as Cybus-men for the sake of my own personal belief. It was an interesting return plan for the cybernetic killers with the idea of resurrecting them through the means of a parallel universe. This in itself established new territories for the show that had rarely been used. ‘Inferno’ was the only true example prior to ‘Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel’ of using the concepts of parallel universes.

For this two-parter we had insane businessman John Lumic (the late Roger Lloyd-Pack) attempting to cheat death by creating the Cybus-men: cybernetic suits of steel that would hold the human brain without the apparent weaknesses of emotions. This dark scheme resulted in many unwilling subjects to be converted into this dreadful state of evolution. In many ways Lumic’s character reminded me of Davros (creator of the Daleks) due to his wiliness to survive and rise above weaknesses and strive for the superior being. In the end he upgraded himself and became Cyber-Controller before finally succumbing to death along with the rest of his active creations.

The parallel world idea also brought into consideration that family members could still be alive even though they are dead within our own reality. Pete Tyler (Shaun Dingwall), Rose’s (Billie Piper) dad, was still alive along with Mickey Smith’s (Noel Clarke) grandmother (Mona Hammond). The difference was that Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri) was selfish and uncaring, even to the point of putting off having children due to her worrying about her figure in the eye of the public which meant Rose was never born in that world. Mickey also had a double called Ricky Smith who led a gang called the Preachers with Jake Simmonds (Andrew Hayden-Smith) and Mrs. Moore (Helen Griffin), who attempted to take down John Lumic and his company Cyber-Industries.

The Torchwood Institute received another brief mention after Pete spoke about it over his eye-piece indicating that the organisation also existed in the parallel world as well as our own. The idea of the parallel world would became a bigger part of the story-line within the Series Two finale ‘Army of Ghosts/Doomsday’. I believe the idea of using the Cybus-men was inventive but honestly it wasn’t fully necessary and it would’ve been nicer to have just had the original Cybermen from the start. After the death of Ricky, Mickey grew more confident and established his final major development as a character and at last became the hero and no longer the bumbling sidekick. In the end he decided to remain on the parallel Earth to continue the fight against the remaining Cybus-men.

‘The Idiot’s Lantern’

idiots-lantern-wireMark Gatiss returned with the story ‘The Idiot’s Lantern’ (sadly for the last time during Davies’ tenure). It was a very simple basis for a story, but inventive all the same. The idea of something living within the television and stealing your face and identity was just chilling. What better time to use this idea than at the point where everyone was crowded around a television during Queen Elizabeth IIs coronation? The Wire (Maureen Lipman) proved to be a formidable foe that sparked off the anger within the Tenth Doctor after it stole Rose’s face as well as many other innocent people to serve its selfish ambition of regaining its physical form after its own kind destroyed it. ‘The Idiot’s Lantern’ also served to showcase history in a darker manner with the implication of bullying towards their family in the form of Eddie Connolly (Jamie Foreman). I’m just glad his wife Rita Connolly (Debra Gillett) worked up the courage to throw him out after his continuous vicious nature throughout the story. I think it was ironic that the Wire was defeated by the invention of the video-tape, and for extra guarantee, would be taped over.

‘The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit’

toby-zedThe-Impossible-Planet-The-Satan-PitThe Tenth Doctor and Rose were stranded for the first time in their adventures together during the events of ‘The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit’. It was an interesting idea to actually have the Time Lord and his companion temporarily without a TARDIS, leaving them lost within a strange world millions of miles away from safety. The planet Krop Tor defied the laws of physics by orbiting a black hole while a mad group of human explorers tried drilling to its heart to discover what its secrets were. This adventure also brought about the introduction of the Ood, a slave race for the human empire within the 42nd century. Their origins would later be explained in ‘Planet of the Ood’ but for now their presence was left vague. They were simply slaves without a say due to the unknown reasoning of them cowering away and dying if not given orders. It was sad what became of the Ood after they were possessed and unfortunately left to die after the Tenth Doctor couldn’t return to save them from the pull of the black hole.

The biggest implication this story brought was the mythology behind Hell and its demonic ruler Lucifer. Satan was referred to as the Beast (voiced by Gabriel Woolf) within this narrative and thought to have existed before the universe. The Beast was imprisoned within the core of Krop Tor and if it tried to escape its bonds the planet would fall within the black hole. The creature attempted to leave the planet by infiltrating and taking over the mind of Toby Zed (Will Thorp), with its mind escaping while leaving behind its body. This of course wasn’t the first time creatures and aliens posing as Gods and Demons appeared within the show, but was the first time it had come close to actually using the real thing (which was left up to imagination in the end as the Tenth Doctor doesn’t fully believe in its existence). The creature was finally destroyed when the Tenth Doctor took down the shields protecting Krop Tor from the black hole. The Beast’s body fell with the planet while Rose sent its mind in Toby’s body flying out of the rocket’s cockpit windows. ‘The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit’ gave another reference to the Torchwood Institute and also gave a prediction towards Rose’s fate in ‘Army of Ghosts/Doomsday’ through the Beast’s prophecy.

‘Love & Monsters’

Love & Monsters‘Love & Monsters’ was without a doubt a disappointment and a travesty. I remember when myself and my mum first watched this episode on its original broadcast, we got to the end and thought “was that it?” The concept was just brilliant. The idea of having ordinary people becoming fascinated with the Doctor and trying to seek him out only to be met with dark consequences whilst re-establishing how dangerous the Doctor’s life is to those not just around him. The problem was the execution as it was just a joke of an episode. The characters were a joke, the casting was awful and it just seemed to be a parody of what Doctor Who should be. It wasn’t taken seriously at all in my eyes. Also Peter Kay was terribly misused, which was a total shame of his abilities and fun nature. ‘Love & Monsters’ had the making to be something brilliant but instead Russell T Davies sadly delivered us with a lazy script followed by lazy casting and directing. Luckily Doctor-Lite episodes were treated more seriously in the following series with ‘Blink’.

‘Fear Her’

fear-her-dadThe Tenth Doctor decided to take Rose to the 2012 Olympic Games but was met with a deadly danger within an ordinary street. ‘Fear Her’ seemed to be another filler episode like ‘Love & Monsters,’ only it was good. The story was straightforward and served its purpose of being a nice, calm and entertaining story. It had a dangerous enemy who was no more than a child who craved friends after becoming separating from her many brothers and sisters in space. The Isolus almost caused the end of the Earth by kidnapping all of humanity into her own personal playpen inside of her drawings. It also gave Rose some well-earned attention by having her save the day after the Tenth Doctor was kidnapped by the Isolus (something she rarely got to do throughout her time with the Time Lord). The episode brought in dark themes of family bullying (like with ‘The Idiot’s Lantern’) with Chloe’s (Abisola Agbaje) dad implied to be a drunken thug who would beat his wife and daughter after having a drink before his death. His portrait from the Isolus’ drawings, created through Chloe’s nightmares of him, was shown to be exactly that. This was the first time it was implied the Doctor was a father within the show as a direct reference from himself. The only other reference that implicated this was his granddaughter Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford). At the end of ‘Fear Her’ we were given even more implications towards Rose’s fate within ‘Army of Ghosts/Doomsday’ with the Tenth Doctor mentioning a storms approaching.

‘Army of Ghosts/Doomsday’

doomsday-dalek-vs-cybermenSeries Two came to an explosive and heartbreaking end with ‘Army of Ghosts/Doomsday’. We finally met in the flesh the Torchwood Institute which was created by Queen Victoria back in ‘Tooth and Claw’ and mentioned as references throughout the episodes of Series Two. Torchwood One was established at Canary Wharf where it was lead by Yvonne Hartman (Tracy Ann Oberman). The Tenth Doctor and Rose returned to find the Earth infested with ghosts which appeared during shifts. The Doctor quickly deduced that the ghosts weren’t what they appeared to be, i.e. the souls of the dearly departed returning home to their love ones. The Torchwood Institute was the eye of the storm and upon the Tenth Doctor’s arrival he was taken prisoner due to being enemy number one as decreed by Queen Victoria.

For the first time Jackie was made a companion instead of a sidelined character (similar to the evolution Mickey received in ‘School Reunion’) and travelled in the TARDIS (accidentally against her will) with the Doctor on his adventure. Jackie for a tiny portion of the narrative served as replacement for Rose in order to keep her safe from Torchwood but eventually her cover was blown. One of the other interesting parts about the story was the inclusion of Freema Agyeman who would later go on to play Martha Jones in Series Three. In ‘Army of Ghosts/Doomsday’ she played Martha’s cousin Adeola who tragically was killed.

The ghosts were in fact caused by a crack within the Void brought about after the Void Ship crashed through reality. The beings crossed through the breach within the Void and crossed into our universe from there’s. It was eventually discovered that the ghosts were in fact Cybus-men from the parallel universe and wished to take over our world. The contents of the Void Ship turned out to be four elite Daleks created by the Dalek Emperor to think like the enemy and discover new ways of killing and surviving. They were called the Cult of Skaro forming of Dalek Sec, Caan, Jast and Thay. This was the first time within the show that the two great enemies came crashing together in a war to the death. Though it was a brilliant idea on paper I fear it wasn’t executed to the best of its abilities. The Cybus-men didn’t stand a chance for starters, thereby making the war unfair in favour of the Daleks supremacy. Also there wasn’t much action between them. It was a little disappointing in my eyes and could’ve been a lot, lot better. In some ways it probably would’ve been better and fairer if the Cybus-men had the finale to themselves instead of bringing the Daleks in for the sake of it.

Mickey, Pete Tyler and Jake Simmonds made a return in order to help the Doctor prevent the collapse of both universes and stop his two enemies achieve the victory. The Cult of Skaro unveiled their secret weapon, the Genesis Ark, which turned out to be secret Time Lord technology, i.e. a prison that was bigger on the inside housing millions of Daleks. The Tenth Doctor defeated his two enemies by using the Void against them, reversing the breach to suck all contents of ‘Void stuff’ which everyone who had crossed or entered the Void carried. This brought about the tragic end to Rose who was forced to live in the parallel universe. Jackie was sent there to be with Pete (which was a beautiful ending that they both deserved) but Rose refused to take the Doctor’s word of leaving. Unfortunately as much as she tried to stay with the Doctor it was not meant to be. The Tenth Doctor managed to send one last message to her through a projection but was unable to tell her his true feelings towards her after Rose finally declared in the open her love for him. The projection cut shut and left them both devastated. Unfortunately for the Doctor his adventures are ongoing and never stop. Before he could have time to grieve over Rose’s departure he was landed with a mysterious bride (Catherine Tate) which left him utterly confused.

My Verdict

  • ‘Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel’ – 9/10
  • ‘The Idiot’s Lantern’ – 9/10
  • ‘The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit’ – 10/10
  • ‘Love & Monsters’ – 3/10
  • ‘Fear Her’ – 8/10
  • ‘Army of Ghosts/Doomsday’ – 8/10

Join us again next month for the next two instalments, this time looking at Series 3.

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