Ah, the Cybermen. Ah, Neil Gaiman.
If there was a perfect storm of fandom geekery, this was it.
After altering the nature of the Daleks (first with Series 5’s “Victory of the Daleks” and then with this series’s “Asylum of the Daleks”), the Doctor Who team have taken to rejiggering the Cybermen and have inadvertently created a third type (basically combining the best features of the original Mondasian versions from this dimension with the Cybus version introduced in the second series of Nu-Who). And all in all, I like the change of the status quo of the old metal heads; it manages to make them scarier and stronger (with their ability to adapt and cannibalize the intellects of the people they convert and share it across the species) while bringing back their original mission of survival at all costs.
The other think I liked was the new update of the Cyber Planner taking on the Doctor, which allowed for Matt Smith to show what the Doctor would be like if he went full-on villain mode, and it was a delight to watch. It was also wonderful to see how the theme of chess was used throughout the episode, especially in how it ties into the Doctor’s eventual defeat of the Cyber Planner.
As I mentioned at the top, acclaimed author Neil Gaiman wrote this episode, and while it wasn’t as fantastic as his first episode for the show (that would be last season’s “The Doctor’s Wife”), it was filled with Gaiman’s signature blend of wit (Clara’s test to see if the Doctor was in control of himself), wonder (the entire setting being a run down amusement park planet) and wistful longing (the entire story of Porridge, complete with one of the best reveals of the episode).
There were a few things that I didn’t care for. While I understand the reasons for having Angie and Artie as part of the story (since they pretty much blackmailed Clara into taking them on an adventure with the Doctor), the acting from the kids was a little shoddy. Another problem I had with the episode was with Clara; namely that she felt out of character throughout the episode. It seemed too easy for someone who has shown some moments of being scared in these situations to all of the sudden be leading a platoon, even as one as inept as this one was, was a bit much to swallow.
Which leads me back to my big complaint of the season. As I’ve previously said, this season has done nothing to build the mystery of Clara’s origin. There’s been nothing in the sense of forward progress or momentum to the big mystery of the season. There have been no clues that the audience can start to piece together. If anything, it’s akin to the various mysteries of Lost in that the show is not giving the audience any context to take in the supposed clues that the show is giving, which is forcing the writing team to basically make a Hail Mary pass at the season finale and try to wrap it up all in one episode.
NEXT TIME: And speaking of that finale, here’s the first trailer…
…and now the prelude for the finale…
… which means that we’re headed for the planet of Trenzalor, which ties back into the prophecy from the end of Series 6.
And then there’s this slightly spoiler-ish trailer….
…which looks like Clara is going to be bouncing through time, quite possibly The Doctor’s own timeline. And the return of River Song, so that should be amusing.