Like Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, this episode was burdened with perhaps an unfair level of expectation for two reasons. Firstly, the return of the Cybermen. But more importantly than that, the fact that Neil Gaiman was writing the episode.
Of course it didn’t do anything to numb my excitement that Coraline, Neverwhere, and Anansi Boys are some of my all time favorite reads. Factor in that Gaiman also wrote series 6’s sublime The Doctors Wife (probably the best episode of New Who) and watching the episode was more a case of “how shit you’re not” rather than “how good are you?”.
So get the most boring and unfair part out of the way before I review the episode on its own merits: Yes, I was expecting a lot more from Gaiman. Unfair, I know, but there it is. Moving on…
The main draw of the episode for me was the upgraded Cybermen. I was never a fan of the stompy Cybus variety, they looked too much like plain old robots and never really hammered home the point that Cybermen are supposed to be us.
These new chaps are much more muscular and humanlike. A welcome new look after the misfire that were the rainbow Daleks. The fan boy in me also adores the facial resemblance to the Tomb of the Cybermen model.
But besides a new look, it was the fact that they were a real threat again which delighted me. In my opinion the Cybermen haven’t been taken seriously since the Daleks laid a smack down on them all the way back in Doomsday.
Here are a race that can move at super speed, sneak up on you, turn their heads exorcist style and upgrade to overcome any weakness. I’d be interested to see the Daleks take on these Cybermen.
Sadly, the scariest thing about the episode were the child actors though. The girl in particular was such an infuriating little shit that I found it a struggle to care about her at all. Not good when they’re meant to be in peril. Thankfully, they didn’t take up too much screen time, or this episode could have been a hell of a lot worse.
Matt Smith nailed his internal struggle with the Cyber Planner (sadly not the most threatening name going). It’s always good to see a slightly darker side to Eleven, although I do think it could have been a little darker. Ah well, any internal battle which has a brief slideshow of all 11 Doctors does me just fine.
Warwick Davis was great, more of him please. The other soldiers were forgettable and ever so slightly annoying though it was cool to see Clara take charge of the situation. The way she knew it wasn’t the Doctor because he’d never admit how he felt was a nice moment too.
Overall, the Cybermen are scary again. If nothing else this episode achieved that, so that’s cool. It was a fun enough romp but I doubt it’ll stay in the memory for as long as something like… I dunno… The Doctor’s Wife? (sorry).
As a closing remark, I would just like to point out that the fantastic Jason Watkins was wasted as the eccentric park manager. He could have been a fantastic Master, or in my ideal world, The Doctor. Go ahead and watch him again with that in mind. I dare you to tell me I’m wrong.