nuWho 2×06: The Age of Steel

We left the Doctor and rebel Preachers surrounded by Cybermen ready to delete them good and hard. The teaser just takes us up to that point again. The only noteworthy point is watching the Doctor’s increasing desperation to get the Cybermen to accept their surrender. He’s frantically clicking on the X but the program refuses to close.

I didn’t mention the new Cyberdesign last time, as the post was long enough already. So: It’s good. It looks much less cheap than some of the old designs (surprise, surprise). That’s about it.

So the Doctor has palmed his crystal battery, and he immediately swings it around and fires an energy beam straight out of a video game that locks onto the Cyberman in front of him, spreads to the other Cybermen hemming them in, and vaporizes the lot of them in seconds. Uh. Wow.

“Sweet little weapon you’ve got there! What’s the DPS? I’ve been struggling against group mobs, my T5 plasma blaster just doesn’t cut it.”

The group escapes into the rebels’ van, the Doctor telling a loyal Pete and heart-torn Rose to give Jackie up for dead. The TARDIS battery is back to recharging. The Doctor expects it to be done in four hours, which should be early dawn at the latest, rather less than the twenty-four hour estimate from broad daylight hours, which is impressive considering he just discharged some of its energy. With no apparent drawbacks to having magically “fired” the crystal at the Cybermen, and no reason to hesitate about destroying them, I’m calling this cliffhanger a cheat.

The rebels vent at Pete, promising to put him to death. They have dirt on Pete being a tool of Lumic in the latter’s machinations against the British government. Rose is shaken. But Pete claims to be Gemini, the source of the dirt, and is irked that he was feeding info to “Scooby Doo and his gang” instead of actual government professionals. Now that’s funny. And looking back at last episode, wouldn’t you know it, our Mickey is positioned to become their Scrappy Doo.

It turns out that the fearsome Ricky is actually wanted for parking tickets. He tries to put on a mean face (the lack of grimacing this ep is an improvement BTW) and claim he’s fighting the system by parking anywhere he likes. The Doctor agrees that that’s his policy too, and with the ice broken, introduces himself. He takes charge and off they go to find the authorities.

Off come the Preachers’ earPods, and just in time, because Lumic pauses his scenery chewing long enough to activate the virus across the whole . . . city of London. Well, we wouldn’t want to conquer the people with actual armies and bombs just yet, everything in its time. News anchors are a low priority, too, as one transmits warnings to remove the pods while Londoners zombie their way toward the nearest processing center. Toward Battersea, Pete fills in, as the Doctor fumes over humanity’s willingness to submit to others’ power.

Rose calls back to the Cyberman head in “Dalek” to remind us that Cybermen are parallel evolution made mechanical, then Ricky takes charge and uh he and Mickey are dressed awfully alike right now. Could we not do that, please.

The Doctor sonics some oncoming Cybermen into believing these aren’t the bins they’re looking for, while Rose clutches her ersatz father’s hand protectively. Meanwhile Mickey and Ricky have no garbage to hide behind, so they split up, coming at a fence in an alleyway from opposite directions. Ricky almost gets over before a Cyberman grabs and zaps him. Mickey is angry but has nothing better to do than run off.

Crane is brought before Lumic on charges of having got his earPod off before getting his brain properly stormed. I’d wondered if Crane might team up with Mickey, that would have been quite the duo. Crane gives a speech about volunteering for an upgrade, concluding with the stinger “I know exactly what to do.” Then he demonstrates by ripping apart Lumic’s life-support chair before the Cybermen can intervene. The Cybermen want to treat Lumic’s suffering Cybermen-style, and when Lumic says he wants to stay human until his last breath, well, that breath can be arranged!

Mickey reunites with the main team. Rose quivers her lip until she knows it’s him for sure, then throws herself on him. Ricky’s buddy, Jake, lashes out at Mickey, but the Doctor puts on a super-stern face and focuses everyone on the task.

Arriving at the conversion factory, a plan is developed. Rose (her hair fluttering bravely against the night sky) will go with Pete through the front door wearing fake Pods. Jake goes after the zombie signal. The Doctor and the lady, Mrs. Moore, will go in through the cooling tunnels because A/C vents are just so overdone. Then Mickey calls attention to his own existence and the Doctor struggles to find a role for him. Mickey defiantly attaches himself to Jake.

In the cooling tunnels, the Doctor wishes for a hot dog, but instead finds columns of Cybermen “put on ice” for future needs. The Doctor gets Mrs. M’s backstory so we feel sorry when she bites it — she’s an ex-Cybus employee on the run. One Cyberman is alert enough to notify the system of an intruder. The other Cybermen wake up, and the two barely get out of the tunnel alive.

In Rose and Pete’s prong of the plot, a Cyberman almost reaches Dalek levels of excitement as he reports that 6,500 have been upgraded. In a conversion chamber, a CGI torturebot waves around in mid-air, and poof comes the helmet down on another satisfied customer. A Cyberman recognizes Pete and comes over to tell him, hi, I used to be Jackie. Pete and Rose betray themselves, and are marched off to Cyber Control so Pete can be rewarded for helping create the Cyberrace. Maybe he’ll receive the Order of Planetary Self-Ownage.

Mickey has convinced Jake to not kill the zeppelin guards, who are conveniently still human and therefore druggable. Inside the zeppelin, Mickey commits the classic mistake of stepping backwards without looking first and blunders into a Cyber jump-scare. An empty Cybersuit, in an alcove with mid-20th century fans.

Mrs. M disables a Cyberman with an EMP bomb. Behind its chest emblem, the Doctor finds a goopy central nervous system and the emotional inhibitor that is the only thing keeping it sane. But the inhibitor broke, and the Cyberman’s brain starts feeling cold and wondering where her husband-to-be is. The Doctor deeply apologizes for breaking her and turns her off. He wonders if turning off the system of inhibitors is the right thing to do, if he has any more right to do it than when he had a chance to annihilate the Daleks as the Fourth Doctor. Mrs. M tells him to go for it, then stands up and backs herself into a Cyberman’s arms. Zap! The Doctor wails in anger, but the Cybermen are more impressed by his second heart than by his protests.

Reunited with Pete and Rose, the Doctor tries to bait Lumic out into the open, only to learn that he’s already been upgraded. Jackie, then Lumic: these Cybermen do not mess around. Lumic is Cyber Controller now, and the position comes with its own chair and special voice just like being in charge of the Daleks does.

Jake and Mickey have decided to crash the zeppelin. Mickey works on hacking the steering, and Jake actually pays him a faint compliment. The “empty” Cyberman suit comes alive in response to Mickey’s meddling. But Mickey decoys it over into punching the signal controller and that frees everyone who’s still human. The Cybermen are as effective against the resulting mob as a bunch of mall security guards.

CyberLumic boasts of eliminating differences and sickness, but the Doctor points out that he’s eliminated imagination as well. And with mortality defeated, any further advance will have to be in the realm of things that require imagination. Humanity will stagnate.

CyberLumic points out the pain of emotions. The Doctor embraces it without flinching and continues to drive his own viewpoint home: the world needs people, both ordinary and brilliant, and it needs those people to be human. Echoing his previous incarnation, he asserts that all it takes is one ordinary person to change the world. Mickey, who has hacked into a feed, nods in agreement, but takes exception to the inclusion of idiots. The Doctor goes on, clearly describing Mickey’s computer hacking abilities under the category of useful idiot, seemingly unaware Mickey’s listening in. But then the Doctor mentions a code Pete found, so Mickey gets on that. The Doctor laughs when CyberLumic dismisses his babble as “irrelevant” and continues to feed Mickey directions for disabling the emotional inhibitor. Rose then tosses the Doctor her Mickeyfied phone, he plugs it in, and the Cybermen go haywire.

All the humans cheer, but the Doctor apologizes to a Cyberman who’s seen itself in glass. Then everything explodes, Cybermen are clogging the exits, everything’s on fire. The only escape will be the zeppelin, which Jake implies is full of hydrogen. I guess the Hindenburg taught nobody anything in this history. He and Mickey fight over whether to wait for the others. More explosions, more running, as CyberLumic tears himself free so he can stand up to deliver one last big NOOOOOO!

Mickey is having a blast piloting the zeppelin out of danger with his friends clinging to the zeppelin’s rope ladder. But SOMEHOW CyberLumic has gotten up there fast enough to grab on to the ladder too! Pete cuts the rope below himself and CyberLumic slo-mo plummets to his death. Ho-hum. And then the effects crew throws in the classic “superspeed suhwoosh” sound effect for no reason. The Goofy wa-ha-ha-hooo would be more relevant and no less bizarre a choice.

As the Doctor mends the TARDIS, Rose tries to entice Pete inside with heavy hints about her paternity and the promise of a living Jackie. Pete can’t handle it all being spelled out and politely leaves to save the world from the other side of the ocean from this girl. The Doctor tells Jake to tell Mrs. M’s family how she died. And yes, Mickey is staying, to defeat the Cybermen factories (first stop, Paris!) and be there for his blind old gran. Rose is upset, Mickey’s distressed, and the Doctor deeply hopes Mickey understands the finality of his choice.

Rose and Mickey have a teary goodbye, with Rose genuinely broken up, and then Rose heads home to cry on the shoulder of her living mother.

This story is the good, fun kind of cheese. Aside from the cliffhanger cheat, the second episode holds up to the first very well. Maybe better. Good work fitting all that into three-quarters of an hour. They must have saved enough by amortizing all those zeppelins and Cybersuits over two episodes that they could afford the explosions and fires to wrap things up.

I feel like Tennant got more emotional this story, with his cliffhanger desperation, his rage over Mrs. M, and his big showy Kirk Speech telling Mickey what to do. His ego popped up twice as well, in sort-of-incidental remarks. At the end, Mickey ushers in the next era of Who by bringing the Doctor the pinstripe brown suit.

Mickey himself finally gets his first unqualified hurrah since “Rose”. Despite having “butt of the joke” all but stamped on his forehead in big red letters, he was a rounded, sympathetic character throughout his run, and I wish he’d had more moments to shine, or just to draw a breath without the universe dropping a banana peel at his feet. It’s important that he leaves to be with his gran. He leaves for a positive, internal reason, not just to escape his failed relationship with Rose or out of a sense of obligation to fill Ricky’s shoes.

Rating: 3 tunnels of Cybers

Favorite dialogue: The Doctor: I’ve been captured, but don’t worry, Pete and Rose are still out there, they can rescue me. {He finishes walking up to them} Oh well, never mind. You okay?

People who have never seen a horror movie in their lives: 2

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ST. LOUIS IN MAYHEM

FROZEN TOASTED RAVIOLIS BEING THROWN THROUGH CAR WINDOWS

REVELERS DUMPING GATORADE BARRELS OF FROZEN CUSTARD OVER POLICE OFFICERS’ HEADS

THE LATE LAURA BRANIGAN RETURNING AS THE GUEST OF HONOR TO BLOW WHATEVER TRUMP OF THE APOCALYPSE WE’RE ON NOW

THE SAINT LOUIS BLUUUUES HAVE BROKEN THE CURSE AND WON THE STANLEY CUP

AND ST. LOUIS, THE MURDER* CAPITAL** OF THE NATION, STUBBORNLY REFUSES TO ENGAGE IN EVEN A HINT OF RIOTING

* not counting legalized murder
* if you go by murders/population and deliberately ignore the majority of the population so that you can get headlines by naming the two cities currently playing in the World Series, wow you’re so subtle

Pre-Game 3 thoughts

Bronze medal: Win the conference — Check
Silver medal: Actually win a finals game — Check
Gold medal: WIN THE CUP WOOOO — Let’s do this

Whatever happens, we got a championship in winning the Western Conference. The first “legitimate” post-season championship in franchise history, and it’s long overdue. (President’s Trophy for best regular season record in I think 2001, and our first three years we went to the finals by virtue of being the least frail babies in the expansion conference. We were swept by the Red Wings the first two times, and so developed a second mortal enemy to go with the Blackhawks.)

* * *

The old Blues — any old Blues — would likely have crumpled by now. Bishop being so unbeatable in Game 7, the hand pass in the Sharks series. Well, we put in a good showing but fate was against us, and we lose in 6 or 7. But the Blues persevered, and fought back effectively.

And then Game 1. I didn’t like the two-goal lead, didn’t feel remotely safe against such a hyped Bruins team, and then the Bruins dominated the rest of the way. For a good 24 hours after Game 1 I dreaded the rest of the series. The prospect of watching the Blues get stifled as completely as they were in the last two periods was not enjoyable in the slightest. But as game time approached, I felt hopeful that it would serve as an effective wake-up call.

And these Blues regrouped, came out to win, and had the upper hand for much of Game 2 despite playing from behind early. It’s like they’re a real, non-cursed team. I keep bringing that idea up for those who don’t understand what it’s like to be a Blues fan who watched the good-to-great teams of the ’90s-’00s find one stupid stumbling block after another in the early rounds. In self-defense, I finally quit caring about their postseason prospects unless and until they got into the third round.

I did tune in for Game 7 against the Stars, determined to see it all the way through . . . but I had work the next day and finally went to bed about 5 minutes before the Blues scored in 2 OT. And then I picked up Sling TV for the finals, and the connection blanked after the third period, and by the time I came back and reconnected the Blues had scored and won.

* * *

Speaking of which, I figure the Blues have probably already scored more often against Boston in two games than the Cardinals managed in eight. I don’t want to check the numbers because that hurt both times.

* * *

If we win the Cup, I’ll be thrilled. Ecstatic. But also sad that great players and favorites like Demitra never got their names on the Cup. It’s about twenty years overdue. But I won’t be complaining.

* * *

St. Louis is a baseball town, first and foremost, but we love our Blues too. And the current ownership has made it clear they love us back. The latest example was the team announcing it would pay parking tickets for those who’d jammed the streets outside their merchandise store in the rush to get Western Conference championship gear. (The city later said parking regulations would be temporarily suspended for that area.)

What happened to the Blues?

Game 7 against the Stars was a classic Blues moment . . . except they won.

Snakebit by a ridiculous goal off the ref’s skate. Trying manfully to put the puck past a lights-out goalie. Going into overtime, putting the effort out there, but deep down there’s the suspicion that the light will always remain at the far end of the tunnel.

I went to bed convinced that if the Blues were to win, it would take either a crazy play or simply overpowering Ben Bishop. And expecting that the least fluke or moment’s bad decision would be all the opening the Stars would need to steal away a game the Blues had dominated two periods out of three. Just another bitter chapter in the history of the Blues.

Well, the Blues got their crazy play, and it was their own doing. After letting the Stars win most of the early faceoffs, the Blues turned the tables, finally getting a turnover off a faceoff in the Stars’ end. A shot led to a rebound falling behind Bishop in the crease, and a Blues player was there to ram it home. But also noteworthy is that the Stars also got their flukes and openings late, just as expected, but actually missed every single time.

Is a curse lifted? Are the Blues allowed to be a normal team with normal fortunes, allowed to win a title or two?

Or is this simply the first Blues team in my time that knows how to stay tough, hang in there, and actually get the job done when the season is on the line?

The Blues coughed up a 2-0 lead yesterday in Game 2 when they let a Shark score twice in two minutes. One was a shorthanded goal. Classic Blues embarrassment. But the Blues came back and won by two goals to even the series. That’s . . . not something I’m used to.

This team hasn’t gone away all season, and not in the usual Blues sense of doing well in the regular season, then hanging tough in a playoff series but ultimately bowing out. Not to jinx us, but . . . there’s a genuine chance of winning the conference. Even the Stanley Cup if the team continues to play well and learns to score on the power play. For once, the dream feels very possible, not just “well, glad they got this close.” Not probable, but like there’s nothing standing in the way except the other team. Which is all the opportunity I ask.