Since their inception, The Borg have become incredibly popular (even to the point of becoming social metaphors, if you can believe that shocker). Since the 2005 Re-Launch of Doctor Who has managed to find success on both sides of the Pond, it only makes sense that the Cybermen would make a triumphant and frightening appearance on the Lil' Screen. This new version, however, doesn't look much like a few British Guys in construction suits and Aluminum Foil. They don't look like a Robotic Version of Skeeter from The Muppet Babies either. In truth, they also don't look a GOSH DAMNED thing like The Borg. Dude, they look like Iron Man. Yep, back to Marvel! It looks like they must have boggarted (or, rather, Assimilated) Tony Stark's armor... which, I guess leaves him... "STARK NAKED!" Okay, sorry, that was bad. Even for me, that was a suck joke.
But let's set the stage here. Aside from the inevitable similarities to "War Machine", Doctor Who has gone through a few changes himself. As is common for the series(es), The Doctor is now being played by a new actor in the form of David Tennant (the Tenth actor to play the character in series canon), the TARDIS is experiencing some really annoying maintenance issues (it must have been designed by Ford) and he now has to semi-permanently deal with the irritating presence of Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke). Luckily, one thing that hasn't (yet) changed is that the INCREDIBLY HOT Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) is still with him to melt the camera lens. How could the harsh Cybermen harm something so fair? Sweet, Sweet Rose...
"Rise of the Cybermen" begins with an homage to Frankenstein in which a couple of Madder than Mad Scientists bring forth a mechanical monstrosity to unleash upon London. Meanwhile (a relative term in the Whoniverse) the TARDIS has a Hiccup, loses power and barrels through time and space to wind up smack dab in the middle of... LONDON. Quel Chance, non?
Now, hold up, man, because this is not your Father's London. Nope. Technically, this is Rose's Father's London. Yep. The Doctor, Rose, Mickey and that now-familiar Police Box have threaded themselves into a parallel universe where Zeppelins fill the skies of London, a "President" rules in the stead of a "Prime Minister" and Rose's Dad, Shaun Dingwall's Pete Tyler is very much alive and well. Sound good? Well, the good news is that Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri) is still alive too and is still (legally) married to ol' Pete. The bad news... Rose was never born. The worse news... Mickey still was (though his name in this dimension is "Ricky"). Wow. Two of them. Just thinking about it annoys me. Worse even than that is the fact that homeless people are disappearing in droves in bizarre and secretive scientific experiments. No, I retract that. Two Smiths is still worse than that.
Whether this goofy doctor likes it or not, Rose is dead set on meeting this universe's Pete and Jackie and Mickey is determined to visit his own old haunts. Do I have to tell you these paths crossed in a very bizarre and technologically frightening way? Do I have to remind you that this is "Borg Month"? (Probably So...) As things spiral into control, Mickey and Ricky butt heads as they investigate the Homeless Disappearances.
By now you can guess what happened to those homeless dudes. The downtrodden scientist John Lumic (Roger Lloyd-Pack) has fulfilled the Doctor's worst fears and has unleashed The Cybermen. Once loose, these silver cyborgs offer humanity the choice between an "Upgrade" to "HUMAN POINT TWO" and "Deletion". Those who are "Compatible" will "Become Like Us", those who are "Inferior" face Maximum Deletion. Luckily, the Doctor is here, he's faced these pre-Borg before, right? Everything's cool, right? He knows Bullets can't hurt them, what Rose looks like naked, what their Cyber agenda is and just how to survive the "Processing". Right?
Unfortunately, these are also not your father's Cybermen. In short... WRONG. These "Parallel" Cybermen are following a whole different rule book, and this Doc was never given a copy. So we discover in this episode's thrilling cliffhanger.
While this continues to be a cool concept in an overall nifty reimagined premise, there are still some drawbacks to this BBC Show. Much of the silliness and evidence of low budget, which marked the series from the beginning, still show their presence here. She inventiveness of the long running original series made the most of the budget and sets, and this new one does similar work. However, with the quality Computer Graphics we see here, some of the short shifts stick out like a fat bum. The Cybermen themselves look pretty cool, to be sure, but they also have a certain air of the cartoonish to them. Stiff silver robots with droning, staccato voices and glowing eyes are less Borg than "B-9". This show isn't for all tastes. This is a "Pure" Sci-Fi show (especially this episode) featuring Cyborgs, Mad Scientists, Time Travel, Doppelgangers and the occasional slice of inane dialogue. This is the Ray Gun Fun Sci-Fi, take it or leave it.
Luckily the actors do a fine job of translating the interesting script by Tom MacRae into something fun to watch. Funny, yes, but also appropriately dramatic and chilling. Clarke and the definitively Yummy Piper know their characters well by now, but even Tennant (who replaced Christopher Eccleston only five episodes ago) does a great job of displaying the character in a range of modes and emotions while maintaining the previous incarnation's fun and burning his own Logo into the character. Further, director Graeme Harper chooses some great camera angles and creepy use of light and shadows to evoke some of the best of the Borg (a couple of scenes seem to be straight out of First Contact), to cover up the more comic aspects of the Cybermen and to add an air of terror to their appearance while still remaining true to the original Cybermen characters (created by Gerry Davis and Kit Pedler).
"Rise of the Cybermen" is a cool and interesting re-introduction to the Borg-Like race of "The Cybermen", whose first appearance on TV (October of 1966) predates the first appearance of The Borg (May of 1989) by over twenty years. Three and One Half Stars out of Five. If you're a Borg fan, this (and these) might be worth catching for the comparison. If you're a Doctor Who fan, this next generation of Cybermen might be worth your look as well. If you're a BBC Viewer in the appropriately named "Great" Britain... well, you've probably already seen this and are laughing at your Yank Critic with his silly Sci-Fi Channel subscription. I'll... um... See you in the next reel, Jack!
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