There’s plenty good to say about Rise of the Cybermen – it features a good writer, a good director and a very good cast. It’s... good. There’s that word again - good. That’s what makes reviewing it so tricky – how to be fair, yet not too severe considering the act(s) it’s following and the very nature of two parters.
Several things about the writing and direction simply don’t work, but they are, for the most part, balanced by a general sense of adventure and some good ideas. Some of the dialogue is pretty stiff, (Pete/the President as they board Lumic’s zeppelin) but then elsewhere, it’s very well judged. He could have done with a little reigning in, (the Mickey interrogation scene walked a tight line) and some more editing. Much of the plot is almost too convenient but it’s easy to forgive. I laughed when the Rickey gag came out and the line about working in the kitchens rings true. The alter-egos are fun to watch, helped in no small part by Camille and Shaun Dingwall who excel.
Essentially, there’s nothing so much wrong with the direction – it ends up on screen without too much fuss, just rather too ostentatious at times. Several features of Graeme Harper’s style which he continually uses, (the gratuitous swoop into close-up) are pretty annoying and, also, the scruffy focus change – yeuch. It’s a hard technique to pull off and it just looks sloppy. The variety of shots don’t always mix well, either: elegant crane shots and not-so-steady Steadicam are all chucked in along with any number of trenches and this week’s obligatory POV. Still, the good outweighs the bad and thanks to a liberal sprinkling of long lenses and low angles he’s redeemed. And the crowning glory – a stunning FX shot of a small, blue box being propelled forward by a time explosion. Nothing like it.
Two things make this that bit special: Mickey and the Cybermen. Noel Clarke has proved without a doubt that last year’s antics were a fluke. It’s seems a shame to kill him off just as he’s become so likable but a lot of heavy hints are being dropped, in both the episode and the commentary. A situation where the Doctor has to choose between Rose and Mickey where he cops it looks fairly likely. Surely there’ll be a clever remark about the men of steel killing the tin dog?
It’s “excellent” that bringing back the Cybermen, they’re re-established as the scary fiends they’re meant to be. It’s crucial that the President apologise to them because it demonstrates their callousness when they go ahead and delete him anyway. It does seem odd they exterm... sorry, delete everyone, of course. Surely they need to have a few people to upgrade
Their creator, is not even slightly scary. Roger Lloyd-Pack is much too larger-than-life to be at all believable and with credibility goes all his menace. Colin Spaull as Mr Crane is much better, (worse?) mostly because of his low-key, unassuming evilness.
So – a decent episode with plenty to recommend it, let down slightly by a few niggles and the simple fact it follows a brilliant trio. Still, it was a fantastic moment jumping up and shouting, “ I know him! It’s PJ Blue!” I’m looking forward to next week and hoping it’ll raise the bar just a little bit.
The Tachyon TV Bumper Book of Made-Up Doctor Who Facts has this to say about Rise of the Cybermen: Following the enormous success of The Amazing Adventures of PJ and his Magical Briefcase, PJ is set to star in a second adventure series battling against the evil Office Paper-Clip which threatens to turn the universe into a single giant, perfectly spelled letter.