My excitement only grows.
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*fistbump*I think... the Cybermen might be my favorite DW villains, at least when they're done right? It's a great sci-fi concept, and the suggestion here that they are an inevitable, inescapable future of humanity is very sobering (and a bit at odds with DW's generally optimistic and humanistic viewpoint?)
Found myself rewatching the trilogy of World Enough and Time / The Doctor Falls / Twice Upon a Time last night and tonight for the first time since 2017, and came away with rather a better impression, especially of the first two parts. On the old forums, I described the two-parter as "a grim fucking death march," and, listen. It's still that. But there's some really good stuff here, too.
The Cybermen can either be written as an army of disposable clank-clank robots (common and bad), or as a chilling vision of what happens when we give too much of ourselves over to the pursuit of pure technological advancement and lose our humanity in the process (rare and good). This is one of the best examinations of the horror of the Cybermen since Spare Parts (which I also need to revisit sometime), and one of those precious few times DW manages to be a little scary even to an adult. I think... the Cybermen might be my favorite DW villains, at least when they're done right? It's a great sci-fi concept, and the suggestion here that they are an inevitable, inescapable future of humanity is very sobering (and a bit at odds with DW's generally optimistic and humanistic viewpoint?)
Missy is in top form here, with some hilarious lines ("Is this the emotion humans call... spanking?") and character development the likes of which the Master has never seen. John Simm's return is mostly fun, and his interplay with and contrast against Missy produces great results, though I continue to object to the erection joke. The scene of them dancing on the rooftop was the perfect narcissistic note to hit, Moffat, and then you just went too far.
Peter Capaldi's a stellar actor but it took me much longer than usual to warm up to his Doctor, given some of his behavior in series 8 and 9. (I guess I'll have to revisit those and see if my opinion's changed there as well.) His regeneration speech of course doubles as Moffat instructing future writers as to how to handle the Doctor; if only Chibnall had listened! It's largely sweet but very, very indulgent -- the bit about children being able to hear his name is deeply silly. For some reason I had it in my mind that Thirteen got a few lines, but all she actually says is "Oh, brilliant." A telling sign of things to come, that Chibnall had essentially nothing to say about his Doctor from the jump.
I was relentlessly hard on Moffat's era of DW as it was airing and cheered when it came to an end, but the state of the series as it is now has caused me to look back with a little more fondness on what we used to have. So I guess look forward to my realization five years from now that The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos is actually underappreciated genius.
I have about four Cybermen stories I love, and Steve Moffat has written two of them. He's come the closest to realising the almost Faustian deal with technology that they represent, and the sadness behind it all. They're an unintentional monster.
Torchwood: Children of Earth. This is of course relentlessly fucking bleak but in a way I'm totally here for, and makes me wish the rest of Torchwood was anywhere near this good. The 456 are scary to be sure, but what's truly terrifying is the banal and casual self-satisfied evil of the government, which takes about 27 seconds to go from "how on earth are we going to decide which 10% of the children to sacrifice" to "well obviously not our kids. how about the lower class kids. yeah? great! done, let's go to lunch." John Barrowman is probably the weak link in terms of acting ability here but he's... fine, I guess, although the recent allegations about his behavior on the DW set (and, I have to imagine, here as well) were unfortunately kind of distracting. Peter Capaldi is fucking amazing, and his portrayal of John Frobisher is so different from his Doctor that it really shows off his range.
Spare Parts. Decided to revisit this and maybe one or two others to get myself back into the audio drama mindset before I dive in to my recent BF purchases. It's still great. I don't know how I feel about the Doctor being part of the template for all Cybermen ; that's maybe a step too far, but the rest of it is a riveting (hah) portrayal of a doomed society pushed to extreme measures and, in desperation, choosing to prioritize survival over all other concerns. I had less trouble with the Cyber voices this time around; I'm more accustomed to their cadence in general and found the Committee less difficult to understand.
New to me:
Trial of a Time Lord: The Mysterious Planet. This wasn't bad! Colin Baker feels much more like the Doctor here than in previous adventures I'd seen; he's still pompous and blustery but shows a genuine warmth and regard for his companion, and a joy at exploring the universe. I sort of thought that given the title, a little more emphasis would be placed on the mystery of the planet, but it's revealed to be Earth in the first ten minutes and then that plot thread is more or less dropped. Maybe they'll pick it up later in the Trial, but I'm not holding my breath. (Kind of funny how everyone in this time, including the Time Lords, know it as Ravolox, but when Peri asks Glitz what the planet's called he goes "Well of course it's Earth." Okay.) The trial scenes got a little repetitive, but I liked the conceit of the footage we see having been censored by the Time Lords.
There was one throwaway joke I didn't get: after Gwen reveals that she's pregnant, she and Rhys briefly discuss baby names.
RHYS: If it's a boy, how about Edward?
RHYS: Yeah, like the king.
Yeah. They're wrong and comical, but also strangely alarming. Again, it ties into what they are. They are a mockery, a perverted simalcrum of humanity. "Fuck it, it's close enough". Except it isn't, and the Cybermen are humanity simultaneously perfected and destroyed. They don't have the weakness of emotion, fear, anger and hate. They'll also never have the strength of emotion, love, joy and spontaneity. They're us, but with everything that makes us worthwhile scooped out. Their voices have words, but they're snipped up without any of the underlying subtext - Cybermen say what they mean.I miss the sing song Cybermen voices. They are way creepier, even if they are slightly amusing, than just robot voices.
Doctor Who Magazine #368 confirmed that this story was inspired by the Big Finish Productions audio play Spare Parts. Russell T Davies had previously described (along with The Holy Terror) as "some of the finest drama ever written for any genre, in any medium, anywhere." Spare Parts author, Marc Platt, received a fee and was credited in the end titles ("With thanks to Marc Platt"), and there is a nod in the dialogue with Mickey labelling himself a "spare part." However, writer Tom MacRae noted that his television story was not a simple rewrite of Spare Parts: "My story isn't the same — it's got a different setting, different themes, and different characters, 'cause once we started talking, the whole thing developed in a very different direction. But as Russell says, we wouldn't have started this whole line of thinking if he hadn't heard Spare Parts in the first place."
This is actually weirdly perfect, it's metatextural genius.It's like running the concept of the Cybermen itself through the cyber conversion process, allowing their basic form to survive while excising everything that made them interesting in the first place.