In a super secret lah-bor-a-tory, a wheelchair-bound evil man croons to his newest creation, a being featuring a brain welded to an exoskeleton. Calling it “my child”, he pooh-poohs his scientist pal’s insistence they tell Geneva about this. I mean, screw them and their bioconventions! How’s the scientist going to tell on him and his metal babies when he’s killed dead? Yeah, I thought so. Set sail for Great Britain!
In the TARDIS, the Doctor and Rose giggle and make Mickey feel totally left out. Neither of them even noticed his awesome haircut! Er, and Mickey can stop holding that thing the Doctor asked him to hold thirty minutes ago. Um, maybe that thing was important; as soon as Mickey lets go, and the Doctor assures everyone, “I know exactly what I’m doing,” the Time Vortex goes bye-bye. “She’s dead,” the Doctor says of the TARDIS, stunned. “Extinct.”
When Rose suggests they might pop outside and ask if anyone’s got a TARDIS-fixing kit, the Doctor despairs. They’re in a lost dimension. “Otherwise known as London,” Mickey announces, stepping out and pronouncing it “bang on” for their London. “And that includes the zeppelins?” the Doctor asks. Whoopsie. Parallel Universe time!
Apparently in a world of cyberpunk dirigible travel and earbud-wearing citizens, Pete Tyler’s still alive. “He’s a success,” Rose realizes proudly as they view Pete’s advertisement for his best-selling energy drink. “This is not your world,” the Doctor says firmly, insisting Rose can’t go find her father. But but but — the Doctor says she must trust him, while the animated video-clip ad of Pete repeats, “Trust me on this, trust me on this,” with a wink and a grin.
“Oh, the bad penny,” Jackie pronounces Pete when he shows in his luxury car (PETE 1 on the plates). She scoffs, “trust you to cock it up,” when he points to the Happy 40th Birthday he’s had made up for her (she’s 39 in her biography!). “Rose, come here,” Jackie calls, and I just knew Rose was going to be a dog, but I never ever guessed she’d be a Yorkie.
Mr. Lumic calls — uh oh, it’s evil wheelchair man who envies his Steely Dan creations — and Pete thanks him on Jackie’s behalf for her tricked-out new earpieces. Oh, and don’t expect to make your wife’s party on time, because you’re going with Lumic to meet the President, Pete!
Lumic’s gift of souped-up ear pods gives him access to Jackie’s thoughts and the party’s security arrangements (she freezes in front of her vanity mirror, earbuds extending to a metal conductor bar above her head while he gets information). Restoring her back to normal, Lumic contacts his assistant Mr. Crane to tell him he’ll need extra staff. Time to make more Cybermen!
“I told you to keep an eye on her,” the Doctor scolds Mickey, because of course Rose wandered off. A parallel world’s like a gingerbread house, the Doctor fumes: there are all sorts of temptations. He kicks the TARDIS console in frustration. “Did that help?” Mickey asks patiently. “Yes,” the Doctor replies sullenly. “Did that hurt?” Mickey asks (he’s so the dad in this scenario) “Yes,” the Doctor admits.
Rose stops to sit on a bench, and finds her Super Duper Cell Phone subscribed to the parallel universe’s automatic news feed. “Mr. Lumic has denied allegations of ill health,” an anchorperson notes. Cue a clip of Lumic saying the brain is what makes us human, and his mind is more creative than ever. Shares in Cybus Industries have doubled, because the finance world adores an evil super-genius!
The Doctor explains the TARDIS draws its power from the universe. A parallel universe has the wrong sort of fuel. Shouldn’t travel between universes be easy, like in the comics, Mickey asks? Not since the Time Lords died, the Doctor answers. “The walls of reality closed, worlds were sealed,” everything’s a bit less kind. Then the Doctor spots a bit of light still shining in the console. “We’ve got power!” the Doctor cries.
Mr. Crane pulls up in a truck, offering some destitute men all sorts of delicious foods if they’ll only step this way. “They’re lying,” a rather dishy man insists, trying to keep one of the homeless men from boarding. People have been disappearing off the streets, taken for experiments and never heard from again. His acquaintance is too entranced with the offer, so gets in line for, you guessed it, horrible painful brain-harvesting.
Mickey and the Doctor examine the bit of TARDIS clinging to life. This universe has the wrong sot of energy, but “there’s me,” the Doctor says. He breathes on it, and it’s loving and magical, like Peter Pan with Tinkerbelle. I do believe in TARDISes, I do, I do! “I just gave away ten years of my life,” the Doctor says, thrilled as he watches the tiny ember glow brighter. “Worth every second.”
Outside, they find Rose. She’s discovered she doesn’t exist, and her successful parents apparently have everything they wanted. Clearly their dreams didn’t include her. All she wants to do is see Pete. As the Doctor demands Rose stay, Mickey begins to head off. He’s got his own things to see, and besides, it’s always about Rose. “I’m just a spare,” he snaps.
I love how Mickey’s changed from demanding Rose put him first to becoming angry with the Doctor for not putting him on equal footing with Rose! Everyone crushes on the Doctor, man. He “can only chase after one of us,” Mickey observes gruffly, saying, “It’s never going to be me, is it?” I love this challenge, though it’s sadly clear where the chips will fall. The Doctor runs after Rose, calling back to Mickey to be back in twenty-four hours. “Yeah, if I haven’t found something better,” Mickey says under his breath.
As Pete and the President of Great Britain (no more Prime Ministers for this parallel universe!) wait for Mr. Lumic’s zeppelin landing, the President disparages Pete’s business practices, “selling a health drink to a sick world.” The President pries for Pete’s opinion of Lumic. At Pete’s assessment of “brilliant” the President inquires, “Then you don’t think he’s insane?”
Mickey walks purposefully, encountering soldiers who remind him curfew starts at 10pm. “Where’ve you been living” that he doesn’t know that, one of the soldiers asks. “Up there with the toffs?” he guesses, gesturing to the zeppelins. “I wish,” Mickey says. And obviously Mickey’s not a uni-educated, upper-class bloke, but he’s also not been living with the toffs of the upper-sphere for his world: he’s an outsider, minor character on the Doctor and Rose’s journeys.
Of course Mickey thinks the Doctor and Rose never wonder about him, when in his absence they’re doing just that. Rose explains Mickey was raised by his gran, a tough lady who died after falling down stairs. “I never knew,” the Doctor replies. “I suppose we just take him for granted,” Rose notes (understatement of both universes, Rose). Maybe Mickey’s gran is alive in this universe, Rose asks? Yeah, we know exactly where he’s headed now. Poor Mickey.
While the Doctor urges Rose they’ve got to all get out of here, the pedestrians freeze. News downloads to Rose’s phone; for the others, the Doctor notes, it’s downloading into their heads. Hello, Google glasses! Or at least, the Doctor puts his specs on as Rose explains Cybus Industries owns Pete’s company. “Okay, I give up, let’s go see him,” the Doctor grouses.
“Shame on you, tricking an old lady,” Mickey’s awesome gran scolds as she answers the door. Mickey’s stymied but then tells her, “It’s me. I came home.” Oh, it’s Ricky, she asks? “Okay, I’m Ricky,” he agrees, rolling with his parallel universe name. She smacks him, hee, because it’s been days! She keeps hearing about people disappearing off the streets. He spots a tear in the carpet on her stairs, and urges her to get it fixed. “You get it fixed for me,” she answers. He calls himself “useless” for not fixing it years ago (god, poor kid, blaming himself for her death!). “I’m sorry, Gran, I’m so sorry,” he pleads.
He needs a sit down and a cup of tea, she pronounces. “For you I’ve got all the time in the world,” he says. Then stop running with those crazy van-driving friends! A van speeds up, and the gorgeous young man from the homeless-men-get-brain-harvested scene nabs Mickey, saying, “We’ve been looking for you everywhere!” “Ricky, Ricky,” Mickey’s Gran calls as he’s driven away, and my heart shatters, because my god, she thinks he’s been seized. *flails*
Mickey’s “friends” remind him he was the one who said “don’t contact your family because it puts them in danger.” Uh, just testing? Mickey offers. Jake tells Mickey “thin Jimmy” has been arrested, so now it’s Ricky who’s “Number One. Top of the List. London’s Most Wanted.” “Okay, cool,” Mickey says, playing along, and then pauses. “Say that again?” Mickey’s the hero of his own story at last! Or at least, he is as Ricky.
Lumic presents his exciting new idea for cyberkinetic impulses bonded onto a metal exoskeleton (translation: we take your brain meat and put it in a tin man). The President answers no government will ever approve something “not just unethical” but “obscene”. “I am dying, sir,” Lumic says, furious. The President, played beautifully by Don Warrington (I loved you as Patrick in Manchild, Don!), says, “You’re a fine businessman, John, but you’re not God.”
Lumic checks in with Crane. The new specimens have “grafted on a treat” and are ready for the upgrade. Send in those homeless men for de-emotion-ing! As the men scream in horror and vicious instruments slice and cut, Crane orders music to play. Oh, god, I’ll never listen to “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” the same way again!
“We’ve got visitors,” Mickey’s new comrades tell him grimly as they arrive at their base. Whoops, it’s Ricky! As Mickey looks shocked, Jake demands of Ricky, “What’re you doing there?” “What am I doing here? What am I doing there?” Ricky demands, gesturing at Mickey. The others train their guns on Mickey, yikes.
The Doctor uses Psychic Paper to get himself and Rose admitted to Jackie’s party. They pose as servants, offering canapés and champagne. “We could have been anyone,” Rose complains. “If you want to know what’s going on, work in the kitchens,” the Doctor advises. Truer words, folks. He’s learned the President of Great Britain’s in attendance.
Pete introduces Jackie. The Doctor warns a wistful-looking Rose she can’t stay. But though Rose has her real mum at home, here they’ve got each other, and her mum’s all alone. Jackie calls for “Rose” and exclaims “there’s my little girl! Come to mummy!” when her Yorkie trots out. The Doctor bursts out into laughter, sobering when Rose gives him a dirty look.
Crane and a driver watch newly-minted Cybermen clomp onto trucks. “I’m told they’re the future,” Crane remarks. “Ain’t technology wonderful?” He checks in with Lumic, who tells him to prepare the factory. “Now send them forth, old friend. Let the good work begin.”
“He’s clean,” Ricky pronounces of Mickey, who they have stripped down to his boxer-briefs (hell-loooo).
Either Cybus Industries suddenly perfected human clothing, “Or your father had a bike,” one of the accomplices, Mrs. Moore, remarks. Mickey knows enough about his father (who went to Spain and never came back) it seems that could be true. They’re not brothers, though, Ricky insists: “he’s exactly the same.”
And who are they? Preachers, Ricky declares, who tell the gospel truth. None of them have earplugs, so they’re free from the oppressive systems Cybus Industries promotes. They’re going to bring Lumic down. When Mrs. Moore gets word Lumic and the others have moved on from Battersea Power Station, Ricky and his crew head out to follow with Mickey in tow.
At Jackie’s party, while the Doctor slips into an office to check a computer, Rose offers Pete champagne. No kids? Rose asks as they chat. No, they kept putting it off. “It’s not too late,” Rose offers. “It’s still too late,” Pete answers. He and Jackie have split; they’re keeping it quiet because it’s bad for business. “Why am I telling you all this?” he asks. She just seems sort of “right”. Aww, Pete’s always drawn to Rose even when he has no idea who she is.
Outside, Ricky decides they have to get inside. Mrs. Moore’s found the house belongs to “Peter Tyler, the Vitex millionaire”, a henchman of Lumic’s and “a traitor to the state”. “We’ve got to get inside,” Mickey panics. “Shut it, duplicate. That’s what I said,” Ricky says irritably. Nearby, Cybermen clomp down a ramp. “What the hell are they?” Ricky demands.
Rose slips out to ask if there’s anything she can get “Mrs. Tyler.” “The last twenty years back?” Rose mentions she spoke to Pete: a “good bloke” and “worth a second chance”. “Who the hell do you think you are?” Jackie yells to this “serving girl”. “Don’t you dare talk to me!” Wow, instead of sniffing at Rose’s (very minor shopgirl-esque) aspirations in their world, Jackie’s fuming at Rose’s familiarity here: she never likes it when she thinks Rose puts on airs!
“The most precious thing on this earth is the human brain,” Lumic pronounces as the Doctor watches at the computer. “This is the ultimate upgrade. Our greatest step into cyberspace.” “Cybers,” the Doctor breathes out, running from the room in a panic.
“I suppose a remark about crashing the party would be appropriate,” Lumic says on the phone to the President as the Cybermen smash walls and windows to get in. “I forbade this,” the President says calmly. He would deny his family, Lumic asks? “Who were these people?” the President asks. “People?” Rose asks the Doctor in horror. They were; now they’ve living brains, cybernetic bodies, and all their emotions removed. “Why no emotions?” Rose asks. “Because it hurts,” the Doctor says gravely.
Lumic rants they were merely homeless, wretched, useless, “Until I saved them, and elevated them, and gave them life eternal.” “Goodnight, Mister President,” Lumic says, leaving him and the guests “in their capable hands.” “I’m sorry,” the President says earnestly for what’s been done to them, but this experiment ends tonight. “Every citizen will receive a free upgrade,” the Cybermen insist. “What if I refuse?” the President asks. “Don’t!” the Doctor cries out. Those not compatible are “deleted”: the Cybermen electrocute the President.
“She’s not your mother, come on,” the Doctor yells, holding Rose back from returning for Jackie. Pete follows (inside, Jackie hides in the basement), guiding them to a way out. They spot “Mickey”; when Rose hugs him, he says coldly, “No offence, sweetheart, but who the hell are you?” No, that’s the other one, Mickey explains, popping up. “Oh, as if things aren’t bad enough, now there are two Mickeys,” the Doctor complains.
“Bullets won’t stop” the approaching Cybermen, so the Doctor tells Ricky and Jake to hold their fire. ” We surrender, there’s no need to damage us,” he calls out, pretending to give in. “You are incompatible…you will be deleted,” the Cybermen decree. “But we’re surrendering!” the Doctor cries, incredulous. “You are inferior. Man will be reborn as Cyberman, but you will perish under maximum deletion.” They close in on the group, chanting, “Delete, delete, delete!”
Eeeeeek, and oooh waheeewoooo ooohh! The ep ends on this cliffhanger, but I’ll be back tomorrow to recap and discuss the second part of this story, 2.06 – “The Age of Steel”! Join me then, won’t you? Dun dah dah dah dun dah dah dah dun dun!