Series 7, Episode 13
I don’t like the Cybermen. I’m just going to say that straight away. There are crapper Doctor Who monsters sure, but whenever I hear it’s going to be a Cybermen episode my heart sinks just a little. It’s not even that there’s ever been a truly awful Cybermen episode (of the revived series anyway). There have been terrible, terrible episodes involving the Daleks (Daleks In Manhattan/Evolution Of The Daleks) the Sontarans (The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky) and the Silurians (The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood), and none of the Cybermen episodes have been quite as bad as any of those, but the Cybermen still rank low for me.
The objective of this episode was apparently to make the Cybermen scary again. But the trouble is, they aren’t that scary. They’re bland, they’re clunky and they tend to be dispatched fairly easily. The only time I’ve found them remotely scary is in a brief cameo in The Pandorica Opens. Amy encounters a disembodied Cybermen head and it entangles her with wires like an octopus tentacles, and then the helmet opens and a skull drops out. That is what is scary about the Cybermen, the fear that you as a human being could be converted into nothing but a machine. The other episode I really liked with them in was Doomsday which saw the Daleks absolutely thrashing them in battle. That may be why it’s one of my favourite finales. So, yeah, basically, the Cybermen ; not a fan.
In this episode the Cybermen upgrade while in the battle, so if they encounter a weakness they can overcome it almost immediately. This makes them slightly less rubbish than they have been in other episodes. The centre piece of the episode is an internal battle for control of the Doctor’s mind between the Doctor himself and the Cyber Planner, with it both being a metaphorical and a literal chess match. This is probably the best thing about the episode as Matt Smith is excellent, he shows the contrast with both personalities and that he would be very good at playing a villain.
Clara is a lot of fun when given the role of a military leader, and Porridge, played well by Warwick Davies is a decent guest character, but the reveal that he is really the Emperor isn’t much of a surprise, and his marriage proposal to Clara seems to come out of nowhere. Look, I love Clara as much as the next person and maybe the Emperor is just desperately lonely, but much more should have been made about his feelings developing for her.
The episode in general kind of scatters from one plot thread to the next, and much like in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS there isn’t much time to focus on all of them. Clara has bought the two kids she is a nanny to along in this episode too, which doesn’t help. Their acting is poor, and they’re annoying characters. Artie is dull, and Angie is a brat. She sulks that everything is “Stupid!” or about how bored she is and even says that Kevin The Teenager catchphrase “I hate you!”.
That’s not to say there aren’t things I liked about the episode. There appear to have been some influences from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with the golden ticket, the costume of Jason Watkin’s character and the surreal nature of the theme park, but the spooky abandoned amusement park idea is, well, abandoned early on. I also liked the scene where the military platoon are going over strategy using the theme park directions board, as it reminded of a similar joke being used in Hot Shots!: Part Deux.
But it is still my least favourite episode of series 7 so far. I found it a bit tedious. It’s a shame as I loved Neil Gaiman’s other episode The Doctor’s Wife. I don’t know if it’s mainly because of my aversion to the Cybermen, but I didn’t enjoy this episode I’m afraid.