Heh… what to make of the much-trumpeted return of Neil Gaiman as writer for Doctor Who, having done the pretty decent “The Doctor’s Wife” in 2011. Also much-trumpeted was the return of long-time nasties The Cybermen. I wouldn’t say it was long-awaited, as they’ve made an appearance in practically every series since Doctor Who was recommissioned.
Last time particularly was a nightmare in silver for a different reason, where they quite correctly tried to kill James Corden but were forehead-slappingly defeated by a parent’s love for its child. Riiiight.
Fortunately one of the things Neil did right with this episode is reintroduce the Cybermen as an insidious and dangerous force instead of a lumbering part-time actor in a plastic robot suit. The seemingly destroyed Cyber army lived on as creepy crawly insect robots, capable of not only assuming control of machinery, but also bonding directly with living organisms without the need for OTT off-screen buzzsaw action.
Once rehabilitated, they showed an unseen level of cunning, and crazy bullet speed (though they only used this once, curiously). Resistance – it seemed – was futile. As this season has taught us, nothing is futile when you have a deus ex machina weapon on your side. I mean the everpresent sonic screwdriver in this case, not the planet-destroying bomb that felt oddly totally justified. Though it was suppose to implode the planet (good idea), that looks boring so it decided to explode it on-screen instead, yippee! Because robots can’t survive in space, can they? Oy vey!
So with the Cybermen commanding the episode with a threat I’d never seen them embody before, what about the goodies? After last episode’s disasterous closing minute, Clara’s foster family have not only spotted her in several photos over the decades (how would that even happen?), and flippantly accepted that she’s a time traveller, but Clara didn’t attempt to conceal it, giving a comedy whoopsie-daisie reaction.
As a result of this ridiculous development, without any further discussion they are taken on board the TARDIS to a dangerous post-apocalyptic theme park. Immediately in trouble after wandering off (lol those kidz!), the kids are fortunately assimilated quickly, but not before Angie defines herself as one of the most stereotypical and monstrously spoilt little shits this side of Veruca Salt. Sarah Jane wouldn’t have stood for this bullshit.
Clara’s reaction to their capture is jawdroppingly flippant. “They’re probably going to be gutted and turned into murderous robots? Oh I’m so cross, Doctor!”, with all the conviction of an exasperated mum whose husband forgot to iron the school uniforms on the one time she needs him to do it. Who cares (in fairness, I was glad to be shot of the little scrotes), she had stuff to do, looking keen-eyed, confident and yelling at poor Tamsin Outhwaite and her idiot brigade of Skins rejects.
The Doctor meanwhile gets part-assimilated by the Cybermen, and has to do a lengthy dialogue with himself as – due to some pseudo-science bullshit – he plays a game of chess with himself for control of his brain. Oh where to start? I’m sure plenty of people loved it, but it just felt hammy and stupid at times. But whatever, he evicted the Cyber brain-bug (apparently he could just shake his head like in a cartoon to get rid of those implants), managed to avoid any further plot exposition with Clara despite prick-teasing us with it AGAIN, used his magic screwdriver’s handy and well-thumbed “defeat the baddy” setting, and left the usual door open for future Cyber encounters when the Season 8 writers get bored.
Doctor Who is still better than a lot of crap on TV at the moment, particularly on Saturdays (Britain’s Got Talent, the Voice, or cracking that cyanide pill hidden in my molars? DECISIONS DECISIONS). But judged by its own standards, its continuing quest to provide accessible family entertainment for all ages went way off track this week. But at least the Cybermen finally feel like a viable threat again. Let’s just hope next week’s finale will make some sense of this whole bloody season.