Rise of the Cybermen
Rise of the Cybermen was the fifth episode in the second series of Doctor Who. It was the first part of a two-part story. The story featured the first televised appearance of a parallel Earth that would recur through series 2 and 4, along with said universe’s Cybermen. Tardisode 5 served as the episode’s prologue, hinting toward the return of the Cybermen, with additional allusions to the presence of a resistance called the Preachers combating the Cyber-threat.
Head writer Russell T Davies decided that it made “little sense”, when a cyborg foe would inevitably encounter the Doctor, for the writers to invent an entirely new cyborg race when the Cybermen were already an “established success”. Nonetheless, Davies, who was aware of the Cybermen that originated in the Doctor’s universe gaining a complicated backstory over prior televised serials, decided against building on said backstory. Instead, he chose to include their creation in a parallel universe. Davies felt that the “original 1960s fears” of organ replacement weren’t as relevant for the 21st century. He instead wanted to focus on the fact that the upgrade of a human into a Cyberman granted people immortality through making them “uniform and emotionless”.
The story was inspired by Marc Platt’s 2002 audio play Spare Parts. Davies decided he wanted the two-parter Rise of the Cybermen and The Age of Steel to be loosely adapted from the Big Finish play, with a similar “feel”, just as series 1’s Dalek was adapted from Jubilee. Platt was paid a fee for Tom MacRae reusing the basic concepts of Parts and was given a credit for both Rise and Steel. Initial drafts of the parallel Earth story were very close to Mondas’ depiction in Spare Parts as a “dying world”.
Along with inspiration from Parts, writer Tom MacRae was supplied the television serials The Tenth Planet, The Tomb of the Cybermen, Earthshock, the DWM comic story The Flood and David Banks’ Doctor Who: Cybermen. Director Graeme Harper also read Banks’ book in preparation for this two-parter, along with the surviving episodes of The Invasion, which Harper’s mentor Douglas Camfield directed.
MacRae hoped to re-imagine the Cybermen not so much as “mere villains”, but as “sad” figures which he thought could be made “terrifying” through the notion of victims being upgraded into Cybermen rather than being killed; as such they were “a cross between vampires and zombies”. MacRae also felt that his desire to make the Cybermen more human and distanced from being “straightforward monstrous villains” would have made the species scarier. After being offered the job of “reviving and updating” the Cybermen as the episode’s writer, MacRae wanted the Cyberman’s backstory to be faithful to the backstory and concept of the original Cybermen from the Doctor’s Earth and also that they couldn’t be interchangeable with any other mechanical being.
It aired during the fortieth anniversary of The Tenth Planet, the story that introduced the original Cybermen. It marked the first time a director involved in the 1963-89 series, Graeme Harper, had directed a revival-era episode. With the exception of other stories directed by Harper, no other director as of 2013 has returned to direct the 2005 version of the show.
In a laboratory, Dr Kendrick examines a humanoid metal form and declares, “It’s alive”, and his wheelchair-bound boss, John Lumic, expresses his pride in this achievement. However, Dr Kendrick warns him that they must tell the authorities in Geneva about their new development, as this is a new form of life. Lumic orders his new creation to kill the luckless doctor, which it does. Lumic then tell his staff to set sail for Great Britain.
Meanwhile, Rose and the Tenth Doctor are laughing about a prior adventure when the Doctor notices that Mickey is holding a control. The Doctor says he can let go. As Mickey indignantly asks if he was forgotten, the Doctor protests that he was calibrating. Suddenly, there is an explosion and the TARDIS crashes. The entire console room suffers a blackout and all its mechanisms shut down. Gas masks drop down from the ceiling, triggered by the possibility the artificial atmospheric generators have failed. While the trio recovers from the nasty landing, the Doctor dreads to believe what has happened. The TARDIS has fallen out of the Time Vortex. Worse, he declares the TARDIS is dead. If it has perished, it cannot be fixed, and as the only TARDIS in existence, the TARDIS species is extinct. Rose asks where they’ve landed, thinking it has to be somewhere. The Doctor tells Rose, “We fell out of the vortex, through the void, into nothingness. We’re in some sort of no place. The silent realm. The lost dimension.” They’ve crashed in the Void, beyond the universe from which the TARDIS draws energy. Mickey rushes outside to find they’ve arrived in what turns out to be London in a parallel universe: almost, but not quite, the same. There are zeppelins in the sky, the population use advanced EarPods instead of mobile phones, and Rose’s father Pete is alive and a very successful businessman, marketing a health drink called Vitex.
The Doctor manages to find a small part of the TARDIS which is still alive, and gives up a bit of his life to help his ship regenerate. Since this will take around 24 hours, he reluctantly agrees to let his companions explore the parallel Earth, but he chases after Rose to persuade her not to seek out her ‘father’.
One of the powerful players on this Earth is John Lumic, owner of Cybus Industries. Lumic is obsessed with the extension of life through cybernetics, since he is confined to a wheelchair by a fatal condition. His latest experiment, a human “upgrade”, is nearing completion, and Lumic has one of his scientists killed for raising ethical objections. He has his henchmen round up bands of homeless people and take them to the Cybus factory at Battersea Power Station to “upgrade” them. He also later has a meeting with Pete Tyler and the President of Great Britain, the latter of whom refuses to allow Lumic to carry on his experiments. Knowing that the President will be attending Jackie Tyler’s birthday that night, Lumic accesses the security arrangements and house plans in Jackie’s mind via her EarPods and orders a new batch of upgrades be created.
The Doctor and Rose discuss Mickey, and Rose tells the Doctor that he was raised by his grandmother after being abandoned by his parents until she died a few years earlier after tripping down the stairs. As the two realize that they take Mickey for granted, they witness a crowd pause as the EarPods they wear download information directly into their brains, and this advanced technology piques the Doctor’s interest. The EarPods are manufactured by Cybus, who also own Pete’s company, Vitex. The Doctor decides to attend Jackie Tyler’s birthday celebration, since the President and many other high profile guests will be there and he may be able to find out more about the Pods.
Mickey has been left to his own devices, and so seeks out his grandmother, Rita-Anne Smith, and has an emotional reunion with her. He finds that, like Pete, she is still alive, but is puzzled when she calls him “Ricky”. He is then suddenly abducted from Rita’s doorstep by two people in a blue van, Jake and Mrs Moore, who take him back to their base where they meet Ricky, Mickey’s counterpart from this universe.
The three of them are the “resistance”, a team who have been investigating Cybus’ abductions of homeless people with the help of an inside agent. Their contact has just advised that a group of “upgrades” is leaving the Cybus factory. The resistance head off to tail the Cybus truck, taking Mickey with them.
Disguised as catering staff, the Doctor and Rose infiltrate the party, but before they can find out anything useful Lumic’s “upgrades” arrive, and the Doctor recognizes them as “Cybermen”. They smash their way into the house and kill the President before rounding up the rest of the guests to be upgraded into Cybermen themselves.
Rose, the Doctor and Pete manage to get outside, where they meet up with Mickey and the others, but Ricky and Jake’s guns are useless against the Cybermen, who surround them. The Doctor tries to surrender, claiming he volunteers for the upgrade, but the Cybermen refuse; as “rogue elements”, they are to “perish under maximum deletion.”