Doctor Who – ‘Ascension of the Cybermen’

Series Twelve, Episode Nine

CONTAINS SPOILERS

It’s the far future, and the human race has almost been wiped out by the Cybermen. There are only seven known humans left, and all are at a settlement which is being  invaded by Cybershuttles. The Doctor and her friends arrive to even the odds up a little.

The Cybershuttles send out Cyberdrones, which fire death lasers. The Doctor warns the people not to try and outrun them, but I guess instinctive fear takes over, and some of the people end up killed. The Doctor decides that she should face the Cybermen off on her own to prevent any more human lives being lost, and tells her companions and the humans to escape on a ship. However, they are still under attack from the Cybermen, and Ryan and one of the survivor group, Ethan (Matt Carver) are separated from the rest.

Graham and Yaz end up on the ship with the rest of the survivors, Ravio (Julie Graham), Yedlarmi (Alex Austin) and Bescot (Rhiannon Clements). Despite the fact that both sets have one of their group still out there, they have to take off into outer space due to the Cyberdrones still attacking them.

Ashad and two other Cybermen come out from a Cybershuttle, and the Doctor, Ryan and Ethan move in! They have to hotwire the Cybershuttle, which the Doctor knows how to do,
but Ethan knows how to do it faster! Getting the Cybershuttle up and running, they take off. They get a hologram message from Ashad. The Doctor notes that he has “Quite a grudge against humanity, considering [he] used to be one!”. Ashad fells anger and hatred for humanity, but real Cybermen don’t have emotions – he literally hates what he is!

Meanwhile, the ship which Graham, Yaz and the others are on ends up in an area of space with bits of dead Cybermen floating about, along with abandoned Cyberships. They use the little power their ship has to get to the nearby Cybercarrier, which is empty, but still has power. The survivor group say they should get to “Ko Sharmus” using this ship. Looking around the ship though, it has hundreds of Cybermen in stasis ready to fight. To make matters worse, Ashad and the two Cybermen he had with him come on board! And they fully intend to revive the dormant Cybermen!

The Doctor, Ryan and Ethan are also making their way to Ko Sharmus – who turns out to be a person rather than a place! Ko Sharmus (Ian McElhinney) is someone who was to be converted into a Cyberman, but escaped. He had heard of the Boundary, a portal that will transport humans to safety, somewhere far away from the Cybermen. But rather than go through it, Ko Sharmus felt it was his duty to wait until there were any more survivors. He has been waiting a long time, but finally he gets some contact, after the Doctor manages to communicate a message to him.

The Doctor, Ryan and Ethan make their way to Ko Sharmus, who shows them the portal. But the Doctor sees where it leads to – Gallifrey! Then someone comes out of the portal – The Master! “That’s a good entrance, right?” he says. Plus the trailer-friendly: “Everything is about to change forever!”

There’s also another plot, set in the countryside in Ireland sometime in the early 20th century. An abonded baby is adopted, he grows up to become a police officer, during his career he falls off a cliff, but survives. When it comes to retirement he gets a carriage clock, but is then taken back to have electro-shock treatment, which he’s told will reboot his memory from scratch. What is this all about and what has it to do with the rest of the episode?

Feekat (Steve Toussaint), one of the survivors at the settlement point who ends up killed early in the episode, pointed out the survivors there are just ordinary humans who had ordinary jobs before, they aren’t trained soldiers, they’re just desperately struggling to survive against an army of killer cyborgs. It reminded me of a very insightful observation comedian Richard Pryor made – I think it was in Live On The Sunset Strip, and this might not have been the exact wording, but it was along the lines of: “Most people aren’t brave, most people are just ordinary, most people don’t ever want to be in a position where they have to be brave”.

This episode had a Star Wars feel to it, specifically the first one, A New Hope, with the introduction at the beginning, Ashad giving a hologram message like Princess Leia does, the Cybercarrier being a little like the Death Star, and Ko Sharmus being very like Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The Doctor offers Ryan a humbug “with added ginger!”.

‘Ascension of the Cybermen’ was action packed and visually intriguing, with the spaceships and portals. It’s the first of a two part finale, so the story feels a little “unfinished” because, well, it is, but it sets things up for the second part.

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