UK TV

Review: Doctor Who – 2×5 – Rise of the Cybermen

The Cybermen are back! The Cybermen are back! Yeah. Whoop-dy do.

I was kind of looking forward to last Saturday’s episode of Doctor Who. But not much. Those publicity shots of everyone’s favourite cyborg who isn’t called Jamie, Steve or Murphy took away my enthusiasm. Star Trek had had the Borg, but these new Cybermen looked almost cuddly in comparison, even 15 years on. Nice one Beeb. The Cybermen could have been the stuff of nightmares. Instead, they’re ‘The Cybies’ in metal moon boots.

So I went into it with low expectations for the Cybermen. Instead, I was keeping my eye on the direction: Graeme Harper, famed and hallowed among classic Who directors, was telling the Cybermen what to do.

All things being equal, though, I wasn’t wholly impressed by Graeme’s first New Who, but then I don’t think he had much to work with. It was an interesting story that I suspect has just enough plot for one and a half episodes. Since they’re spreading the story over two episodes, rather than compressing it down to one, that left the first part distinctly flat and mostly set-up. Part two, however, is going to be worth waiting for since it’s going to be non-stop action.

So what was good?

  • Mickey and Ricky (will one become a Cyberman? Text “Spod” to 80110 for Mickey to get turned into a brain in a tank…);
  • Mickey finally being given a backstory
  • The new concept of the cybermen (brain in a tank)
  • TARDIS in distress and Doctor’s solution
  • Some of those Cyber-isation scenes which are guaranteed to scare the crap out of some of the kids
  • Not feeling like the entire episode was rushed

What was bad?

  • Billie Piper failing to give 110%. She’s starting to seem a bit “flaccid” next to Tennant
  • Don Warrington being given the boot after five lines
  • Another over the top villain in a wheelchair creating a race of monsters (we’ve got Davros for that)
  • Cybermen only being in it for five minutes
  • The new cyber catchphrase. I can’t even remember what it is, it was so catchy.

So not bad. Not brilliant either. I suspect part two is going to be outstanding though.

Incidentally, I know they have some strange music choices in Doctor Who Confidential, but the opening track from Clockwork Orange?

Since this is the second Who posting of the day, I’ve saved up the two Tennant images quota to give you one movie of his being interviewed by John Barrowman. Am I kind or what?

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Lost: a novel new theory

This one hadn’t occurred to me but it makes a whole load of sense:

“It is my opinion that the cast of Lost, having experienced far worse locations than Hawaii and slightly worse scripts than Lost, are stringing this thing out a bit.”

Nancy Banks-Smith, The Guardian

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US TV

Ultimate Force: Oh God. We’re rubbish

I’ve been watching The Unit for a while now. It, of course, is based on – but for legal reasons, isn’t actually about – the US’s Delta Force special forces unit. It’s a hard, manly series exec produced by David Mamet. After a cracking pilot episode written by Mamet, the series dipped a bit, but is right back on target (did you see what I did there?), thanks in particular to some nifty scripts by Lynn Mamet, David Mamet’s sister. It’s not fantastically realistic, but it’s still pretty enjoyable.

But on Saturday evening, Ultimate Force returned to our screens for its fourth season. Ultimate Force stars Ross Kemp as the leader of an SAS unit and it’s supposed to be hard and manly as well. So I tuned in to compare and contrast our depiction of our most daring crack troops with the US’s depiction of theirs.

Oh sweet merciful Jesus. We are rubbish. We are the laughing stock of the world.

I haven’t really watched ITV in a long time. Every time I have, it’s been like playing a Lottery scratchcard: most of the time, it’s a complete waste of time and money and a bitter disappointment. Occasionally, you might win a quid, but that’s the best you’ll ever do. And with respected writer Jimmy McGovern (Cracker) arguing that primetime ITV drama is rubbish, I wasn’t going to change my mind on that very soon. Nevertheless, duty called so I watched Ultimate Force.

I don’t think mere words can really convey just how bad it was. As Sam whotsit on The Guardian said on Monday, it’s impossible to watch without a massive smirk on your face the whole way through, it’s just so bad. So to convey our true awfulness when we actually try to compete with the US, I thought I would go for a photoroman approach, in the style of La Jetée (which I actually fell asleep during, so I can’t be sure this is very much like it).

This is Dennis Haysbert, the star of The Unit

Dennis Haysbert in The Unit

As I’m sure you’ll agree, a hard, manly man. Or at least convincing as a hard, manly man.

This is Ross Kemp

Ross Kemp in his pants

To quote the lovely Marie, “HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA” .

Or if you prefer, “hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha”

Now let’s look at The Unit‘s attempts to do abroad. I’ve already commented on this once but they’re getting better:

Rio de Janeiro

You could kind of believe that was a favella in the background, couldn’t you? Now let’s look at Ultimate Force‘s stab at ‘abroad’:

Ultimate Force's laughable attempt to do abroad

It’s a caravan site in the New Forest! They couldn’t even be bothered to use a real country! They’ve made one up. Dear God, we’re rubbish.

It’s just depressing. Any country insane enough to buy Ultimate Force is going to think Ross Kemp is the best action hero we’ve got! The Germans have more action-packed police shows than this: they have Der Puma – Kämpfer mit Herz and got Donnie Yen to direct the action sequences. We have Ross Kemp in his pants.

It’s disheartening to say the least.

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Lost reviews

I did warn you all that you weren’t going to get answers. Bloody Lost.

“Remember what happened last time round, how empty and cheated you felt at the end? What makes you think it’ll be any different this time? It’s televisual crack, you know it is. ‘I can handle it,’ you’ll keep telling yourself. You can’t though. Just say no.”

Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

“Throughout last night’s two episodes, the programme’s existing mysteries remained as mysterious – and numerous – as ever.”

James Walton, The Daily Telegraph

“Already the dependency is as bad as ever.”

Thomas Sutcliffe, The Independent

“Personally, I couldn’t bear to go on to watch episode two of Lost, which followed on straight afterwards.”

Peter Paterson, Daily Mail

“Lost appears to be scripted by a team of lawyers, who answer every question with a 10-page booklet of further questions.”

Matt Baylis, Daily Express and Daily Star