Revenge vs Rise: We Talk Cybermen In This Week’s Doctor Who PodKast

Kasterborous Doctor Who podKastPodKasting as a duo this week, Brian A Terranova and James McLean give their thoughts on a couple of recent news items before turning their attention to two Cybermen stories.

Revenge of the Cybermen in 1975 was the cyborg race’s first appearance since 1969, while Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel was their introduction to nuWho (a brief cameo in Dalek notwithstanding). Both stories attempted to rewrite the Cyberman legend, with varying levels of success, and also featured a Doctor with two companions.

While it is difficult to establish which story is “best”, Brian and James nevertheless have a great discussion about their likes and dislikes about the two stories.


Kasterborous PodKast Series 4 Episode 11 Shownotes

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10 thoughts on “Revenge vs Rise: We Talk Cybermen In This Week’s Doctor Who PodKast

  1. Delightful episode! I also love the Revenge design, and can overlook the behaviour of their Cybermen– but having an awareness of what the Cybermen HAD been from the 60’s, is what makes them not seem as scary. The Cybermen usually seemed to be sneaky. Cyber signals, Cybermats, Sugar, Sewers, A Cyberbomb in a freighter– sneaky. The clomping around was less sneaky. The Davros/brainless minion (who will then take them over) thing sorta works, but Lumic is no Davros. I do like the back to basics approach to the Cybermen, but really don’t like the resolution involving twerking. Would prefer a vicious cyber-massage, or rotating barrel planet anyday.
    I don’t think I ever considered how the Doctor leaving Mickey made me feel, but I think you’re right (been a while since I’ve seen Tennant outside of anniversary specials), I don’t like how that makes the characters look. Although you can say it was better for the character of Mickey, I’m not so sure that the Doctor’s decision made this ok, or was necessarily what a 900 year old Gallifreyan was totting up in his mind before making that call.
    Your discussion about late Pertwee/ Early baker has prompted me to re-visit.

    I think there is an Roger-Murray Leach interview in both “The Ark in space” and “The Deadly Assassin” DVDs.

    1. Indeed, I watched the Ark in Space interview and was horrified to realise his mirroring technique in the Ark had passed me by. Incredible!
      Yeah Rise ultimately helped Mickey but I remember being very disenfranchised with the Doctor and Rose by the end of the first episode. I found I genuinely no longer liked the Doctor. He seemed weak and lead by a mouth chav. I just lost my respect for him. I was very glad when Doomsday came round! 🙂

  2. Interesting episode. Have to disagree on the Rise debate though – I’m not a big fan of the story and I find the whole Rose/Doctor relationship of Tennant’s era (and to an extent, Eccleston’s) especially with Mickey, particularly problematic and was one of the main reasons I didn’t get back into the show for years after it relaunched. However, I think you’re being unfair on the Doctor on this one – it’s Mickey who makes that conflict all about Rose and the Doctor – it’s he that creates the “emotional” dimension about the Doctor’s priorities. In the debate however, the Doctor is precisely trying to fight against the bloody emotional humans who can’t get their priorities straight. Brian does kind of touch on this, but I think he could have been more explicit – the Doctor is trying to tell Rose to put aside her emotions and look at this objectively and then, just to make things worse, Mickey jumps in with his own emotional blackmail – the look the Doctor gives him then clearly says “not you too! Can’t you see, this is not about you or her or my feelings, this is about not getting involved in something that can only cause harm”. Obviously he has to go after Rose because he knows the risks and, yes, the story goes someway to addressing the awful way Mickey’s character had been used. But the Doctor’s fault is not there.

    My problem with Rise is the fact that the upgrade is too sudden and loses it’s threat as a result – the impression we get of Mondas is a world where gradually parts were replaced over time until eventually the full cyberman became the norm – the parallel Earth had that initially insofar as all the technology was believable – but without there being significant members of the population with cyber arms and hearts, etc, the sudden upgrade just didn’t convince – like upgrading from a Mac 128k to an iphone12 overnight – technology doesn’t work in that way and could only be explained by an ill thought out megalomaniac narrative of which we’ve seen too much. I couldn’t really believe in Lumak’s, as you say, Davros-like vision. My thoughts on the cyberman was always that they are the antithesis of “evil” monsters – there was no evil, self interested mind behind the creation – they were the natural progression of ill thought, well meaning technology. Obviously this is harder to do in a story, but a realistic attempt to create the frustration of someone fighting against something in its early stages that no one can really see a problem with would be fascinating material for a parallel universe story. All in all, though, Rise struck me too much as a an attempt by RTD to re-write the Doctor Who universe on his terms and focus everything on his very Earth-centric narratives. I would probably be more forgiving of it of there had been any our-universe Cyberman stories in his era, preferably in the same season (which would could have been used to make descent non-Dalek overriding plot for series 2). Instead, you get the impression that the classic Cyberman were being forgotten about as an embarrassing mistake.

    Revenge is perfectly watchable. Certainly on the weaker end of Baker’s first season though and was part of the reason I never really saw the fuss in the Cyberman (being the first Cyberman story I saw). I would rate it against Rise for the above reasons.

    1. Interesting points, particularly on the “upgrade” technology being lacking a “jump” between wireless and cybernetics. I suppose one could suggest that other “cyber” attributes were being implemented too – we don’t know that organs or even limbs were being used, less in vogue, but medically – no one would have an armoured limb, it would be technology beneath the skin, but it’s a valid point that the transition is harsh.

      I don’t agree on Mickey, specifically because the opening console room scene is directly demonstrating why Mickey feels left out; because he is left out. The audience, as Mickey are intentionally left to feel iced out of the conversation so you see how Mickey is feeling – he’s not creating the issue, the issue is already there – the Doctor and Rose are connected and both are so absorbed – call it love, be it deep friends or more – they can’t see how this makes them, but Mickey and the audience do. The Doctor’s connection to Rose is unlike any of his other companions prior, possibly because he is war wounded and in a state where he’s over-relying on her to support his own burdens, either way, Mickey is ostracized from the conversations, and given he’s in love with Rose, who is in love with the Doctor and the Doctor should at the very least be aware of this, you can see Mickey’s ill-feelings. He doesn’t create the issue – he states what the audience is seeing: that Rose is the Doctor’s first priority and she pretty much dominates his emotional bond (so much so he actually lacks the ability to carry any sense of authority with her, something she interestingly tested in Father’s Day and even laid out to him: she does what she wants because she knows he will follow, and he does). Mickey’s notes this: ultimately Rose comes first, and she does – which isn’t surprising if the Doctor is in love, but for a character who usually shows such fairness, it is mildly disconcerting. We know the Doctor will do whatever he can to save his companions, even lose his playing hand if it protects them – but what makes interesting comparison with Revenge, is despite clearly being more affectionate to Sarah, you never feel that the connection would affect how he handles Harry. This isn’t bad writing, as we said in the podkast, given the Doctor’s war wounds, it makes perfect sense, but it does make for uncomfortable watching, but ultimately plays out in Mickey’s favour, who becomes his own character and detaches himself from Rose’s shadow.

      1. I’m not going to defend the scene too much, as the whole Mickey thing made me uncomfortable – certainly, as you say, in the earlier console scene it was there. But what struck me with your comment was the fact that in that particular instance I very much didn’t have a problem with the Doctor – I got the impression he was right and that the problem was that everyone had their own agenda and no one was listening to him. That said, it was about the first new series episode I watched and you’re absolutely right about her domination of him and his lack of authority over her. If course, he very rarely has any authority over his companions “for once, can’t I have a companion who’ll do what I tell them!” But that’s probably the only instance of him tagging along like a puppy as a result.

  3. I think you’re right about Russell’s earth centric rewrite of established Who history but at the time it was still very early days for the new series and as we know Russell was very mindful of not alienating casual viewers with too much spacey or continuity stuff so bearing in mind the spacey and continuity bogged (Attack of the Cybermen anyone?) history of the Cybermen I suppose it made sense at the time to just rewrite it. The whole shoe could have even been cancelled at the end of that series for all he knew at the time he was writing it. If course now we all know how stonkingly popular the 10th Doctor was that idea sounds crazy. We’ve also had a few years of more complex spacey stories with the 11th Doctor as well so now we know they could have played the Cybermen card different in 2006, but I maintain they did the right thing for the time bearing in mind what they knew then.

    1. I think Rise was right ultimately because as Doctor Who should do at its best, is reflect current social queries. Be it taxation in The Sunmakers, organ transplants in Tenth Planet, Thatcher in Happiness Patrol, or the reliance on technology in Rise. It’s true to the show I think. I think the Cybermen problem post 2006 is the same problem the Daleks suffered in the classic era: they lose their ability to confidently dictate the story. Doomsday was a great moment for them, but ultimately it should be a rare occasion where they are a contemporary threat in my opinion. I think the mistake with the Cybermen is having taken them back to the 60s style, the set dressing needs to be more claustrophobic, more intimate. Rather than the silliness of Nightmare in Silver, where numbers actually weaken them, as does their super-powers, they need to go with the Cold War approach. Make one Cyberman dangerous again.

      Maybe that’s me.

  4. You’re almost certainly right. In the end, RTD brought back the series back and made it successful. In retrospect, I can’t begrudge him that. And while it’s nice to feel rewarded for being an obsessive fan for being in processed position of being “more in the know” (the way Big Finish certainly does, John Nathan Turner did and Moffat has occasionally been known to), I also recognise that that isn’t necessarily good story telling and isn’t going to bring in the audience needed to keep the show going. I only really get disheartened when the show seems to try actively to distance itself from it’s past ( and therefore its long term fans) by trying to make out that it is so much better than it was – to an extent, I even got that with School Reunion, to an extent. Rather than a celebration of the shows past, I almost got the impression that Sarah-Jane was there to showcase how unique Rose was (returning to the problems with that relationship) and that the reason K9 wasn’t updated at all was to provide a cheap laugh at the old shows expense. (That said, K9 was never really much more than a cheap laugh!)

    I might slightly refine my opinion though – I suppose I could turn around and say that Rise of the Cybermen was actually no better or worse than any post-60s cyber-story and that they’ve really been the shows biggest weakness for years. That could be read as justifying RTDs reboot of them, but I think it would have almost been better to dream up a fully new monster.

    That all said, while it wasn’t the best episode around, I did really enjoy Nightmare in Silver – that creates Cybermen of the sort that probably couldn’t sustain their own story, but could be a real background threat as was suggested in this pod cast (which, to an extent, is what Gaiman did with the cyber controller battle).

    1. I would say RTD brought the series back wary it needed to stand on its own two feet rather than rely on its legacy, when that was assured, the nods to the old show grew stronger because the show had found its own style and success. I noted Moffat did something similar in his era, he seemed to deliberately blank the RTD era till he felt his own era was established, and then he dipped a little more occasionally into the more recent legacies.

      I think all eras have their pros and cons, I think RTD did a stunning job doing what I never imagined was possible: bring Doctor Who to a new audience.

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