Tag: Doctor Who

The Golden Age of Cybermen Part 2: From The Tombs to The Invasion

Golden age of Cybermen Tomb, Wheel and Invasion

Golden age of Cybermen Tomb, Wheel and Invasion

Hey, it’s the 49th anniversary of the first broadcast of the second episode of The Moonbase! So when better for Jokerside to conclude its epic look at the Cyber-legion’s best days that began on the Doctor’s 52nd birthday. Having quickly assumed a dominant position these implacable foes marched through the late 1960s with an offensive of classic stories and iconic sequences. Jokerside stands in awe at the close of the Golden Age of the Cybermen between 1967 and 1968.

THERE WAS NO STOPPING THE CYBERMEN ONCE THEY’D STARTED. They’d found their nemesis in the Doctor’s second incarnation and were determined to defeat him. Or rather, repeatedly fail to factor him into their plans until he inevitably turned up to disrupt them. Part of the problem was that the species had clearly splintered into different nomadic factions before the destruction of Mondas in 1986. That’s the narrative angle, but in terms of the production, few alien races in the vast history of science fiction television had change built into their every appearance like the Cybermen. While the fundamentals remained, designers altered, amend and enhanced the design with every story. Sometimes they strove to make further allowances for long-suffering actors, sometimes they incorporated new materials or techniques. That’s a nice nod to the nature of the Cybermen but also a neat reflection of the change built into Doctor Who itself – could the Doctor have found his ultimate villain? If he had, he soon lost them as they dwindled to sporadic appearances after the 1960s.

Golden age of Cybermen The Tenth Planet and The MoonbasePart of the problem was that much like their cybernetic upgrades their appearances were more frequent than they were evolutionary. That’s in stark opposition to the Daleks, where each of the Pepper Pot’s early appearances scaled up the plot and threat in true sequel style. While the fiends of Skaro were first encountered by humans during the their hugely successful invasion in the latter years of the 21st century, human’s first contact with their cybernetic cousins took place a century earlier – the late 1960s or mid-1970s based on your UNIT dating conundrum perspective. And wonderfully strangely, that chronological first contact was the fifth time that viewers at home had encountered them in just over two years.

1968’s The Invasion was the Cybermen’s greatest adventure, an epic eight part serial that finally elevated them to the level of sprawling adventure that the Daleks had grown accustomed to. So perhaps there’s little surprise that it concluded their golden age, retiring them off to infrequent nemeses presumably without so much as a gold watch. From the start the Cybermen had lurked in the background, and come their Invasion they relied on human accomplices to delay their appearance for four episodes. Before that, we and the TARDIS crew had already seen them hatch devious schemes to take control of Earth in the future, even discovered them in a last stand hibernation on their adopted planet of Telos. It’s an odd and fractured timeline eminently irresistible to science fiction fans. And within less than three year’s they’d made enough of a pest of themselves, and posed ironically wherever they could, to ensure they’d joined the top line of Doctor Who foes. In fact, so thick, fast and irresolute was their onslaught that they quite reasonably accelerated the rate they reached retirement rate even quicker than the Daleks.

And what an exit strategy. After skulking, tomb building and space walking, 1968 finally found them, taking on the military might of institution-in-waiting UNIT. But first, things were going to have to get a lot darker before that dawn.

The Tomb of the Cybermen (Season 5, 1967)

Golden age of Cybermen 2 - Tomb of the Cybermen“We will survive”

Tomb of the Cybermen is a inversion of the classic base under siege story seen in the metal militant’s previous two two. For once, we’re on the Cyber terrors’ territory, although they’re hardly at full strength. This four part serial really finds them on their back cyber boot for the first time, with the events of The Moonbase revealed to be part the cyber race’s long decline. It wasn’t simply their previous encounters with two Doctors, although those are mentioned– these Cybermen are once again familiar with him – but their other intergalactic conflicts and significant losses which drive them into hibernation. It’s proves an illogical move.

Fortunately, this base under siege story finds different dynamics at play. First the Cybermen have laid a delicate trap, one that adds terror to the early tension while providing a logical route to their reanimation. Secondly, it’s the human blend of archaeologists and logicians (and TARDIS crew) who are the invaders. It’s immediately obvious that the logicians aren’t seeking the lost Cyber races for an article in New Scientist and the human fascination with their master race cousins who quickly fell to myth would provide fodder for Cyber stories all the way up to Big Finish’s recent The Last of the Cybermen. Crucially that story featured companion Zoe Heriot, akin to a human calculator her entrance would be closely linked to the Cyberman, but that was for a future adventure. First there was the tomb that the BBC managed to banish to a tomb for many years…

Silver chic

“You belong to us. You shall be like us.”

These Cybermen are not nearly as modified as the last faction the Doctor encountered. Although they look slightly shabbier, that’s forgivable. Of two main differences to those encountered on the Moonbase, one is that they are repressed to the point of inert and secondly there is the emergence of an authority figure: The Cyber Controller. Noticeably different, he lacks the Cybermen’s typical handlebars, in their place an extended cranium to process and draw strategy from huge amounts of a data. A huge figure, happy to hibernate in a crouched position, he may be larger and have better squat control than a regular Cyberman, but he lacks their chest units. A rather striking and more mobile, athletic sort of figure, or possibly jumpsuit lanky, he seems to be an amalgamation of a Cyberman foot soldier and his race’s earlier Central Processing Machines. Cyber thinking had clearly become more mobile prior to their forced to retreat. Outside the television universe stories such as Marc Platt’s Spare parts would build central committees and controllers into the emergence of the Cyber race, but here the Controller appears to be a direct response to devastating and constant conflict with other races. And in their hives of sleep, his Cybermen swarm not around a Queen but a logician. And they’ve even brought little pets along to wake up to…
Continue reading “The Golden Age of Cybermen Part 2: From The Tombs to The Invasion”

Jokerside Top 10 Posts of the Year: 2015

Jokerside best posts 2015

Jokerside best posts 2015

The results are in – which posts from the Jokerside were the most read in 2015? From dystopia to horror to platformers to clowns, there was something for everyone…

  1. Waterworld at 20: We need to Parley about Mariner (July 2015)

The Mariner sinks - Waterworld at 20One of the single shots from the Dystopia series, there was no way Jokerside could ignore the 20th anniversary of Waterworld. A huge reaching addition to big budget future-set blockbusters, it’s as much of a dramatic disaster as it is a flop. It made money and has lots to teach modern disaster cinema. Still notorious 20 years on, it’s impossible to overlook the sparing desolation, the beautiful filming, solid retro effects and fine sense of humour in what’s proved to be quite the influential film. Jokerside came to praise…

“Waterworld may never escape its reputation, but it’s never going to disappear. There’s a dash of Snake Pliskin, a helluva lot of Max but essentially it’s a pirate film. Eight years later Pirates of the Caribbean would pull a neat trick on the two Kevs, taking set-pieces and settings from Waterworld while hitting many of the narrative beats of Prince of Thieves. And that’s a real anomaly at the pirate box office, a very successful one. As dystopia has risen again to remind us that it’s still around sunken cities and post-apocalyptic action will continue to grace the big screen.

And really, for all the criticism, let’s not forget that the three Universal Studios are still running Waterworld attractions to this day. And inventive side-effect from an inventive film. Never forget Waterworld’s last line: “It’s more than that” – and so it is.” Read more

If you liked that in 2015: Stay tuned this winter as the Dystopia Series draws to a halt on The Planet of the Apes. Ka-boom…

  1. Doctor Who: Silence – Fooling you twice the same way (Whovember #11 Alpha) (March 2015)

The Eleventh Doctor and the Silence that must fallA surge into the top ten for just one of the Eleventh Doctor retrospectives. The New Series restructure has pushed the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors near the top of the pile in terms of stories. While the Doctor’s 51st birthday saw Jokerside revisit the Tenth Doctor’s tendency to meet historical celebrities.

The Eleventh Doctor’s tortured and twisted tales demanded a three apart retrospective as Jokerside took on the nefarious overlapping plots of the Silence. Quite possibly the biggest mixed bag in Doctor Who. The first part took a look at the prolonged plans of the Silents that didn’t involve their memory averse high priests the Silents. The summary, mid-way through makes it sound all rather exciting, while capturing some flaws that were never solved…

“Of course the something that abducted the TARDIS and blew it up, destroying the universe in the process, isn’t uncovered. The Silence, whatever it is, is still out there. But this Doctor, like his successor, are in no great rush to find out what could have easily accomplished this horror show. Narratively this is a far stronger force than the Pandorica Alliance; the greatest threat he’s ever faced. But then again, it’s a whole new universe and there’s an Egyptian Goddess lose on the Orient Express that’s far more appealing (or possibly not, as it’s contradicted by Series Eight). The Silence are off the hook and would need a Plan B, if they could possibly realise they failed what with it being a wholly new universe and everything… Fortunately, that night aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor’s companions are providing the Silence with just such a second chance…” Read more

If you liked that in 2015: Stay tuned for Jokerside’s customary celebration of Doctor Who in November 2016. And first, this March we’ll be taking a look at the episode that saw showrunner Steven Moffat make Who history…

  1. Super Mario Bros. the Movie! Dystopia hits the Mushroom Kingdom (September 2015)

Super Mario Bros at 30 - MarioAnother one-shot in the series of Dystopia, the 30th anniversary of gaming icon Super Mario’s first solo adventure was the perfect time to revisit his sole Hollywood outing. Another film mired by, it was unfortunate to kick-start videogame big screen adaptations. It’s flawed certainly, but the creativity and ambition behind a film that’s almost never shown and fairly difficult to get hold of should trigger mass-reappraisal. At the very least it remains a vivid lesson.

“The terrible tone issues don’t affect Super Mario Bros. cult status, but they do lessen the chance of a brightening reappraisal. Hollywood’s infatuation with videogames comes not just from their inherent merchandising, but also their in-built audience and huge money earning (as well as surely a wary glimpse at its parallel and media rival). Few chances to merge the two have managed to fulfil the potential and that sadly started here. Ultimately Super Mario Bros. manages to do a disservice to itself and the game franchise while being immensely watchable and on occasion visually stunning. Its greatest injustice is that such a glorious adventure ended with the opposite legacy: two decades later an increasing raft of videogame adaptations are now expected to fail, following standard formulas with the need to break ground being felt less and less.” Read more

If you liked that in 2015: Stay tuned for Jokerside’s widening look at videogames – particularly a special glimpse at James Bond on consoles coming soon…
Continue reading “Jokerside Top 10 Posts of the Year: 2015”

Doctor Who Series 9: The Return to Gallifrey and Chekov’s Hybrid

Doctor Who Hell Bent Rassilon
Doctor Who Hell Bent Rassilon

At least there wasn’t a parallel universe…

And so Doctor Who Series Nine found the doctor where no one thought possible, back on his home planet of Gallifrey. But true to form, the culmination of years of seeding and two sublimely produced episodes wasn’t really about the Doctor’s homecoming at all. As the audience might have expected, it was more about the companion and the return to a mysterious one word story arc…

Travelling to end of time itself, inspired by Hell Bent.

“Tell them I know what they did. And I’m on my way”

WITH THE INNOVATIONS AND MODERNISING OF DOCTOR WHO’S NEW SERIES CAME THE ARRIVAL OF THE ‘FINALE’. That just didn’t happen in the old days, when seasons of serials gave you a denouement-full of finale every four to six weeks on average, mostly once a month. It was almost coincidence when a season closed with a classic story – but then, no production team aimed for a sub-standard story, let alone one to end the year. But with the show’s return in 2015, the wise call to adapt the show to the recognised series format meant an inexorable rise to a finale from the start. It was unavoidable, even if it’s seldom presented itself in the same way over the past decade. But in becoming a series, following the standardised particularly developed by American networks, the emphasis, weight and propulsion simply had to fall towards the story that closed each year. This essay series has already looked at the structure and peaks that developed from reconstructing the show around a series format, and how Face the Raven broke expectation. But in a series of predominantly multiple part stories, that episode commenced a three-part finale. And once again, as the integral difference that marks a series out from a soap, they don’t come much heavier than the finale.

Building up

“At the end of everything, one must expect the company of immortals”

But yes, that build-up throughout each series’ 12 or 13 episodes has come in different forms. Since the show’s return, the emphasis has moved from slow series-long build-ups to full and even half-series finales. Under showrunner Russell T Davies, viewers could expect a resolution that pinned less on an arc than hanging references, strung through the series’ seemingly unconnected episodes like jigsaw pieces of missing bees and big, bad wolves, all stemming from light and romping season openers. Under his successor, Steven Moffat, the show’s seen the introduction of high concept first episodes and mid-series finales. Ever more pressure was piled on each year’s conclusion through arcs and interlinked stories of increasing complexity. Although that looked to have reached its peak during the show’s sixth series, that left heavy expectations for the series that followed. And unfortunately, pressure isn’t always the show’s greatest companion.

Sombre times

“Hope is a terrible thing on a scaffold”

There was a shift after the Eleventh Doctor’s second year in charge of the TARDIS key. After the complexity of the sixth series, series finales were more identifiable by their higher concepts and lower keys. Almost as though the glut of The Impossible Astronaut, A Good Man Goes to War, Let’s Kill Hitler and The Wedding of River Song during Series Six and had worn the format thin. In Series Seven, the half-series finale that bade farewell to the Ponds found a sombre piece in The Angels take Manhattan, despite its showbiz name. A half-series later, The Name of the Doctor stole the drooping crown of sober finales. During the build-up to the show’s 50th anniversary spectacular, audiences might not have expected a crawl through a huge graveyard and overgrown TARDIS tomb, hollow serial killers ruining séances, the Great Stupidity or the Eleventh Doctor weeping at his impending doom in suburbia.

And that approach didn’t fall on the Fields of Trenzalore. A year on and it was more of the same in the two-part conclusion of Series Eight. While Dark Water opened with the sudden and rather inexplicable death of Clara’s beau Danny Pink, it followed the Doctor and Clara pursuit to a maybe afterlife, before delving heavily into dark speculation about death and cremation. The extended finale that followed, the joyfully titled, Death in Heaven, wasn’t only miserable in name; a considerable portion of it was spent in a graveyard. It was a far cry from the bombast of previous series finales. While they were always tinged with tragedy and danger (and so they should be, with their frequent wrap parties for major characters) their gloom had never been so overwhelming.  Continue reading “Doctor Who Series 9: The Return to Gallifrey and Chekov’s Hybrid”

Doctor Who Series 9: Influences leave a Score to Settle

Heaven Sent Doctor Who Series 9
Doctor Who Series 9 Heaven Sent

Something tells me Rachel Talalay’s directing this one…

 

Heaven Sent broke many rules of rule-defying Doctor Who as it paved the way for the huge series finale of Gallifrey’s return. But was it such a great departure? It drew liberally from the show’s heritage, the considerable creative talent involved and the rich canvas of science fiction. Most importantly, amid the wealth of influences, it was as much a showpiece for the show’s music as it was the Doctor himself.

Trapped in a revolving door, inspired by Heaven Sent.

WHETHER IT’S THE MIDDLE PART OF A THREE PART FINALE OR A SINGLE SLICE OF ANTHOLOGY, HEAVEN SENT WILL BE LONG REMEMBERED. And apart from the evident format breaking, immediately following the departure of one of the New Series’ longest serving regulars, many strands of influences were evident in the penultimate episode of Series Nine. What’s not in doubt is that Heaven Sent is an immaculately produced piece of television thanks to those influences. And rising to the top is the mighty Murray Gold once again. In his tenth year as the show’s music director he’s once again seamlessly provided something so perfect that it’s easily overlooked. But as much as this Heaven Sent is held up as a one-hander for the Doctor, the music was with him every second of eternity.

Influences

Inherent horror

“Every 100 years a little bird comes”

The influences that comprise Heaven Sent run thick and thin. It’s a welcome return for director Rachel Talalay. Her entrance to the Who universe with the show’s first two-parter since 2011, Dark Water and Death in Heaven, made for an iconic and memorable finale in the rather downbeat Series Eight.

Heaven Sent is another adventure steeped in horror, just as Talalay’s previous episodes were. Although this time, the action moves away from crypts, the undead and body horror to a haunted house and corridors fit for a stalking veiled slasher. Heaven Sent is slasher horror in many senses of the genre. It’s strange to think of the Doctor’s nightmare as a palace of mystery with a corridor lurking monster, when it may very well have resembled a large, ornate garden in need of tending- as he takes a moment to dismiss early on.

Talalay’s worked extensively on genre television in recent years, but high on her resume is prolonged involvement in the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Production duties led to her directing debut, helming 1991’s Freddy’s Dead: the Final Nightmare. That was the deep-end: not only the closing chapter and heightened meta entry of the series but filmed in 3d.

“I’m in a fully automated haunted house, a mechanical maze”

The Veil carries the hallmarks of the slasher genre in Heaven Sent. Haunting the corridors, sticking with a never changing speed akin to Michael Myers, an unknown origin like Jason Voorhees and the product of a dream world like Krueger himself. All that was missing was the slashing, but when that arrived it did so in sizzling and quite graphic quantity. Billions of years of it. Like those single-minded icons of slasher horror, the Veil was part of a code. There was no hidden morality, but its purpose was dictated by the singular aim of unlocking the Doctor’s confession. Unlike most slasher icons, this clockwork fiend never had the capacity to rise to anti-hero.

And of course, this might well have been Dracula’s Castle. It was steeped in the gothic tradition, the bizarre camera point of view that heralded the Veil’s Ghost of Christmas Future march – an update of mirrors that catch a vampire’s likeness. Or a keen reference to ScroogedContinue reading “Doctor Who Series 9: Influences leave a Score to Settle”

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