And they kept coming back, relentlessly and without mercy throughout the original series! Then, after the brilliant hint in an underground museum in the first season episode "Dalek", the 2005 Series reintroduced a parallel-Earth version of the rising Cybermen in an episode appropriately entitled "Rise of the Cybermen"!
And with these Other-Earth (Mondas-free) Cybermen came a whole slew of minor-cum-major differences for the Incredible, Untenable Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and his INCREDIBLY HOT companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper)! Once the TARDIS touches down with Rose's erstwhile guy-pal Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke) they could tell something was amiss. To begin with, Sweet, Sweet Rose was never born and Rose's Dad Pete Tyler (Shaun Dingwall) never died. In fact, he's still happily married to Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri) and he's become a very important man.
Almost as important in this increasingly technocratic London is a rebel leader named Ricky, who is this dimension's Mickey... and instead of being an idiot video game nerd, he claims to be THE MOST WANTED MAN IN LONDON!!!
Ricky's resistance team (which also features Andrew Hayden-Smith's intrepid Jake Simmonds and Helen Griffin's brilliant Mrs. Moore) are ready to fight the Silver Nemesis alone... until they meet the impossible Ally in the form of The Doctor!
When we last saw the greats of counter-Earth, newly created Cyber Troopers of John Lumic (Roger Lloyd-Pack) and his Cybus Industries have used the omnipresent "EarPods" (read: BlueTooth from HELL) to turn the populace first into walking automatons... and soon into cyborgs just like the Cybermen. And they've surrounded the Doctor and his Friends!
After an Arton power cell-Ex-Machina escape, the real game begins and, let me tell you, this one is an incredible doozie!
Like the best of the Cybermen episodes, the Cybus Monsters are frightening, not simply because they are powerful war machines. No, their slow stomp and methodical, computerized-zombie affectations make for a brilliantly frightening and unstoppable force. Tom MacRae's awesome script continues the Cyberman Reintroduction, mining the best of the Cybermen stories from the past while making this new incarnation uniquely its own. Director Graeme Harper likewise understands how to make a wonderful and wonderfully modern two-part episode that is fantastically satisfying, while still never losing the superb ray-gun sci fi that makes Doctor Who what it is.
And make no mistake, the blend of classic and modern Doctor Who truly works here as always. There is still that same scary 1960s mechanical menace that Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis originally created. The TV-Camp of their legacy is outmatched only by the terror they inspire. The truly horrific aspect of the Cybermen is amped up even higher than anything before. It's scarier than anything in Borg Assimilation and even anything in the Hellraiser series.
This, of course, makes the heroism all the more exciting! Tennant has proven again why he is a Fan-Favorite in this longest running Science Fiction series of all time. In his tuxedo and black Plimsols, he's still the eccentric Alien from the Blue Police Box! He's still funny as hell, always able to show indignance, fascination and a great penchant for cracking wise at every step, keeping a scary episode from becoming too heavy. However, let's not forget that The Doctor is also an action hero and one of the most powerful beings ever to visit the Earth. He's vulnerable, but amazing... and his dichotomy is perfectly captured by David Tennant!
Acting is all around fantastic in this (and the previous) episode. Rose's conflict between mounting a heroic mission and facing her long lost Father for the first time is felt from Piper's face alone. Mickey's confusion and horror becomes an exploration of the measure of what he could become while the different-but-the-same Ricky shows that Noel Clarke is more than a one-note actor! Conversely, the greedy Mr. Crane (Colin Spaull) rides the wave of betrayal and self-preservation into a strange, selfish form of resistance all his own. Even the guest stars shine brightly, particularly Dingwall and Griffin.
But just as the best acting and action come from Doctor Tennant himself, the greatest fright and fear comes from The Cybermen themselves (voiced by Nicholas Briggs) and their terrifying Cyber-Leader (voiced by Paul Kasey). The most frightening part of fighting these Cyborgs is knowing that they were, minutes before, friends of the heroes... and that there might be something human still there!
"The Age of Steel", along with its predecessor "Rise of the Cybermen" constitute one of the best stories of the new series of Doctor Who. It never forgets the past and of the decades of great episodes that have led to this great show and it never fails to blaze a new trail through the Time Vortex, using the TARDIS as one hell of a sharp guide! This is Science Fiction of the new-classic style! It's great comedy, action and fun with a true uplifting underlying theme that somehow never feels preachy or silly. This second of two parts is one of the prime examples of how great Doctor Who is and why after each episode we stop and say "Oh Wow" or "That was REALLY neat" without a trace of self-consciousness or irony. This is why this episode is worth at LEAST Four Stars out of Five and why it's far from the only episode to earn such praise. The true horror of losing humanity is only exceeded here by the celebration of humanity that The none-too-human Doctor opines about. It's something to see and hear in this time, or any other. So, my companions... I'll see you cybernetic clones in the Next Reel. Resistance is Useless... But keep that humanity, Kiddos!
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