Doctor Who 2.06 – The Age of Steel

In the escape van, the Doctor considers whether to start a-rockin’, to see if anyone will come a-knockin’.

When his pretend-surrender to the Cybermen fails, the Doctor uses his plucky bit of TARDIS to disintegrate the horde closing in on him.  Luckily the awesome and capable Mrs. Moore pulls the van round for an escape.  “Anyone inside that house is dead; don’t let her die for nothing,” the Doctor urges Pete when he hesitates to flee knowing Jackie’s inside.  “Never seen a slower getaway in my life!” Mrs. Moore complains as they finally flee the scene of Mass Deletions.

Ricky and the rest of the Preachers call Pete a traitor to the State.  Maybe his party was a ruse to assassinate the President, leaving Lumic in control.  Pete reveals he’s a government mole, codename Gemini, only working for Lumic to gain information.  Apparently he’s still a bit of a blunderer in this universe, though: he thought he broadcast info to Security Services but instead channeled it to the Preachers, who seem only like a ragtag bunch (“Scooby Doo and his gang! They’ve even got the van!”).

Micky interrupts that Ricky is London’s Most Wanted.  For parking tickets, Ricky confesses:  “fighting the system; park anywhere, that’s me.”  “Good policy,” the Doctor agrees, as he does much the same.  Rose assures Pete she knew he was on the right side.  “Good, I’ve got the catering staff on my side,” Pete sighs.  Everyone takes out their earpods; the Doctor uses the Sonic Screwdriver to disable them in case Lumic can use them as bugs.  “This ends tonight,” he says grimly.

Lumic revels in “my everlasting children” surrounding him.  The Cybermen assure him they think humans “suffer in the skin; they must be upgraded.”  Lumic triggers everyone’s earpods, and those wearing them begin marching together.  “They will come to me, my new children, the immortal ones,” Lumic declares.  While a news broadcast issues warnings and declares London under martial law, Crane, Lumic’s assistant, rips out his earplugs with an, “Oh, no you don’t!”

“Give anyone a chance to take control and you submit,” the Doctor marvels (it’s his oft-performed “humans just love despots controlling them!” tune; sing along if you know the words!).  Rose remembers those Cybermen heads from Van Statten’s collection (1.06 – Dalek); when the Doctor explains how their origins differed in their universe, Pete looks suspicious.

Ricky barks commands: Mrs. Moore with the Doctor, Pete, and Rose, Jake in a second direction, himself in a third.  After kissing Rose, Mickey follows Ricky.  “They know where we are,” Mickey and Ricky speak in sync about the Cybermen.  How is Mickey exactly like him, Ricky demands?  Mickey calls Ricky “ten times braver” than him; Ricky pronounces Mickey “not that bad”.  When Cybermen catch up to them, “Split up!” they both yell and flee.

Rose, Pete, the Doctor, and Mrs. Moore run for cover; when approaching Cybermen get too close, the Doctor sends them off course with the Sonic Screwdriver.  Have I mentioned how I love Mrs. Moore that is a badass tech-savvy middle-aged woman with a stylin’ haircut?  Consider it done!

Outside Battersea, Jackie marches with the others.  Rejected stock “will be incinerated” a voice announces.  Outside, Mickey and Ricky end up on opposite sides of a chain-link fence.  “Come on,” Mickey urges Ricky, but the Cybermen grab and electrocute him while Mickey cries, “No!” in shock.

“I thought you were one of the faithful,” Lumic taunts Crane.  Crane explains he’s there to request an upgrade.  Lumic arrogantly accepts, and Crane murmurs, “Knowing you so well, I know exactly what to do.”  He yanks out Lumic’s complicated life-support from his wheelchair, for which the Cybers delete him hard!  Uh, it’s great Crane finally threw in with the right side, but couldn’t he have done that before all that brain harvesting?

“We could remove pain forever,” the Cybermen say as Lumic tries to ward them off.  They’ll give him immortality.  “I only will upgrade with my last breath,” he declares.  “Then breathe no more,” they declare.  It’s a terrific dystopian dream come true and nightmare all at once for him.

“Here he is,” Jake cries when he spots Mickey.  He pauses, asking, “Are you Ricky?” “Mickey, that’s you, isn’t it?” Rose asks.  Jake looks devastated, and oh my god, were he and Ricky boyfriends?  Ricky ran, Mickey stammers, but there were too many Cybermen.  “Shut it,” Jake yells. “Don’t even talk about him.  You’re nothing, you are.  Nothing!”

The smokestacks at Battersea puff away; the entire population is readied for conversion.  Mickey accuses the Doctor of making a plan up as he goes along.  “Yup!  But I do it brilliantly,” the Doctor agrees.  Mrs. Moore produces fake ear pods: two of them could walk through the front door as long as they show no emotion.  Pete volunteers, still hoping to save Jackie, and Rose wants in despite the Doctor’s misgivings and Pete’s confusion.

After gallantly asking Mrs. Moore to accompany him to the Cooling Tunnels, the Doctor asks “Jake-y boy,” if he can take out the transmitter located on Lumic’s zeppelin atop the cyber-conversion plant.   “Consider it done,” Jake agrees with a grin.  Those dimples!  *Adam-swoons* It sure was nice of him to take time out of his modeling career for some radical revolutionary stuff.  Mickey rejects the Doctor’s plan to keep him from harm: he won’t be the “tin dog” anymore.  He goes with Jake, who’s none too pleased.

“If we survive this, I’ll see you back at the TARDIS,” the Doctor says to Mickey.  “That’s a promise,” Mickey agrees.  It’s a lovely moment, but it’s nothing to the Doctor’s farewell to Rose.   Mickey watches them embrace and walks away.

Mrs. Moore and the Doctor infiltrate the tunnels.   They edge along a narrow corridor lined with deactivated Cybermen.  The constricted freezing space, the darkness, and their obvious apprehension at sneaking by the Cybermen  makes this one of the more terrifying scenes of the series.  “Let’s go slowly,” the Doctor murmurs, and I shout, “No, no, RUN LIKE HELL!”

“Let’s just say I’m doing it for my mum and dad,” Rose answers when Pete questions why she’s risking so much.  They hold hands for a moment before getting in line (I swear Pete understands on some level Rose is his daughter every time he meets her; it’s wonderful and heartbreaking).

Jake proposes “we can take them,” of the two men guarding the zeppelin.  Mickey immediately says they shouldn’t kill them.  Though Jake resents the order, Mickey asks, “If you kill them, what’s the difference between you and the Cybermen?”  Instead they use “one of Mrs. Moore’s little tricks” of a knock-out vapor (how awesome is Mrs. Moore, RIGHT?).  “There have got to be more guards on board,” Mickey reasons.  “Then let’s go get them,” Jake says enthusiastically.  Two minutes ago he wanted to reject Mickey; now they’re a crime-fighting team!

As they sneak forward, the Doctor learns “Mrs. Moore” is an alias.  She used to work at Cybus Industries; reading one secret document by chance turned her into a fugitive.  She found the Preachers and became a techie for the cause.  Her husband and children think she’s dead.  “Got any family?” she asks him, to which he replies, “Oh, who needs family; I’ve got the whole world on my shoulders!”  He asks her real name.  “Angela Price,” she says, adding, “Don’t tell a soul.”

A Cyberman moves slightly.  “Just the torchlight,” the Doctor dismisses.  Suddenly all the Cybermen come to life.  The Doctor and Mrs. Moore run, escaping up a ladder and through a trap door:  “Oh, good team, Mrs. Moore!” the Doctor exclaims gleefully.  Can I just say, I love that the Doctor clearly adores strong and clever women.

“You okay?” Pete whispers. “No,” Rose answers, distraught.  “Confirm you are Peter Tyler,” one Cyberman commands.  It’s Jackie, though Pete can’t believe it.  “He will be rewarded by force,” the Cyberman intones, ordering others “take them to Cyber Control.”  Rose tells him the process can’t be reversed.  They look back as they’re pulled away, but “they all look the same”: they can’t make out which Cyberman was Jackie.

Gah, I almost regret that Rose gets to see Pete and Jackie in this universe; this version of their family reunion freaking shattered me.

Jake and Mickey slip into the zeppelin to find the transmit controls.  There’s an inactive Cyberman propped up there, which Mickey pronounces “a robot suit for display”, empty with no brain.  Uh, who else worries we’re about to find out that’s untrue?  *raises hand and cringes*

“You are not upgraded,” a Cyberman declares to Mrs. Moore. “Yeah, well, upgrade this!” she replies, throwing an “electromagnetic bomb” to kill it.  They open its casings, finding flesh and a broken emotional inhibitor. “Why am I cold?” the Cyberman asks.  The human whose brain made this Cyberman was a bride, and asks for her fiancé.  Telling her to sleep, The Doctor puts her to rest with his Sonic Screwdriver.  If they can reverse all the inhibitors at once, it would kill the Cybermen (from the sheer horror, which is awful), stopping Lumic’s conversion plot.

I’m sure this moment played as tragic for many viewers.  But I dislike the way DW sometimes uses barely-developed love relationships as emotional and textual currency.  I’m thinking also of the programmers on the Game Station: one or two lines suggesting unrequited love leading to a leaden death scene. I’m saddened at the idea of a human discovering her or himself turned into a machine.  There needn’t be thwarted romance to drive the point home.

“It’s got to be done,” Mrs. Moore agrees, resolving to reverse the inhibitors to kill the Cybermen.  As she stands, a Cyberman kills her; the Doctor reels at this before he’s hustled off for analysis because of his “binary vascular system”.  Clever Mrs. Moore dying breaks my heart way more than the bride Cyberman.

Jake, unable to get into the controls, proposes they crash the zeppelin on automatic and “leg it.  “Let me have a go,” Mickey says; he’s got experience hacking into secure systems.  “Trust me,” Mickey adds, and dear god, I teared up here, because as wary and petty as Mickey can sometimes be, this is the first “trust me” of this two-episode arc I’ve truly believed.  Aaaand of course the just-for-show Cyberman over in the corner takes this moment to start beeping!

“I’ve been captured, but don’t worry, Pete and Rose are still out there; they can rescue me,” the Doctor says.  Sarcasm phasers set to stun!  Where’s Lumic, he asks Pete and Rose? He’s “designated Cyber Controller”, superior to the uniform Cybermen.  “This is the Age of Steel, and I am its creator,” Lumic declares.  His Cyber-Controller form rests in a wheelchair throne.  Aw, he’s like the Dalek Emperor!  They should take tea sometime.

When the Cyberman aboard the zeppelin starts swinging at Mickey and Jake, “Hey Cyberman, over here,” Mickey taunts it.  “Come and have a go!” It swings to strike him, and slams its fist into electric controls, electrocuting itself and destroying the transmitter in the process. SO AWESOME!  Mickey and Jake jump around and hug each other, awww!

Outside, zombified people come back to themselves, screaming and running from the conversion chambers.  Even a Cyberman army is useless against an onrush of people.  “That’s my friends at work,” the Doctor boasts to Lumic/Controller.  “Good boys!”  He’s so proud!  *clutches heart* Lumic vows to “take humanity by force” with his conversion factories “waiting on seven continents.”  Um.  Including Antarctica?  Thorough!

Mickey finds a screen and zooms in on the Doctor, Rose, and Pete talking to Lumic/Controller.  “I will bring peace to the world,” Controller vows.  “Everlasting peace and unity and uniformity!”  But no imagination, the Doctor says.  It’d be the stop of change and advancement: “One you get rid of sickness, mortality, what’s there left to destroy?”  These impervious metal men lack the thing that makes the planet so alive, “Ordinary, stupid, brilliant people!”

“You are proud of your emotions,” the Controller says tonelessly.  He offers to get rid of the grief, rage, and pain, and set the Doctor free.  “You might as well kill me,” the Doctor answers (having taken Sarah Jane’s lesson very much to heart).  “Then I take that option,” Controller insists.  There’s no way, even with an army, the Doctor answers, not when “the most ordinary person can change the world.”  With his quick glance at the cameras, we know he means Mickey.  “Any idiot,” the Doctor continues, who could say the right numbers, the right code,” giving the clues leading Mickey to discover the cancellation code for the emotional inhibitors.

“Your words are irrelevant,” Control interrupts.  “Talk too much, that’s my problem,” the Doctor agrees.  Luckily he got Rose a good phone plan. He repeats “phone” meaningfully until Mickey understands he has to input the code and press send to Rose’s phone.  The Doctor snaps it into a docking station, sending the command to every computer in the conversion station.

“Yes!” Mickey and Jake shout in unison.  “I’m sorry,” the Doctor tells a Cyberman who, coming to awareness, reels at its refelction.  Everywhere Cybers clutch themselves in pain, dying.  “I gave them back their souls,” the Doctor tells Lumic/Controller.  “They can see what you’ve done to them, and it’s killing them.”  “Delete, delete!” roars Controller, but it’s too late.

Jake tries to spin the zeppelin wheel — when the factory blows, the balloon will ignite.  “There’s no way we’re leaving them behind,” Mickey argues, and man, I LOVE SEEING HIM AS THE HERO!  He phones Rose, telling her to head to the roof.  “Just hold on, Rose, I’m coming to get you,” Mickey cries out when he sees them running.  “How’d you learn to fly that thing?” Rose wonders in amazement, and Mickey answers, “Playstation!”  LULZ!

When Mickey sends a rope ladder down, Lumic/Controller follows the others as they try to escape.  The Doctor tosses Pete the Sonic Screwdriver to cut the rope and avenge Jackie at last. Lumic falls into the exploding station below.

At the TARDIS, Pete asks Rose what the two of them meant with their talk of different worlds.  He refuses to look inside, refuses to take the hints that she’s his daughter: he heads off to tell the authorities and start the struggle against Lumic’s other factories and already-created Cybermen.  “Dad,” Rose calls, desperately.  “Just don’t,” Pete tells her, walking away.  Oh!  *heart-clutch*

Mickey and Jake show up with the Doctor’s suit, saving him from touring time and space in catering duds.  Jake readily agrees to find Mrs. Moore’s husband and tell him she died saving the world.  “Off we go, then,” the Doctor announces, resolved.  But the thing is, Mickey’s staying.  “You can’t,” Rose objects.  But this world lost Ricky, and someone has to stop the Cybermen, and take care of Mickey’s Gran.

They can never return for him; that’s the way parallel universes work, the Doctor reminds Rose and Mickey both.  Mickey can use the phone and code to stop Cybermen elsewhere. “And good luck, Mickey the idiot,” the Doctor says (the most respectfully uttered “idiot” I’ve ever heard).

“We never saw this, did we?” Rose asks, crying as she recalls how they imagined how they might one day leave the estate.  “Go on, don’t miss your flight,” Mickey tells her.  He waits with Jake as the TARDIS dematerializes.  “What the hell?” Jake says, stunned.  “That’s the Doctor.  In the TARDIS.  With Rose Tyler,” Mickey says proudly.  Good god, this is so brave of him!

Mickey bids farewell to Rose and the Doctor, and goes off to be a BAMF with his new partner-in-crime-fightin’, Jake.

The TARDIS rematerializes in Jackie’s living room.  Rose stumbles out, crying as she flings herself into Jackie’s arms.  Seriously, I started crying before she did — of course Rose would need to go straight to Jackie and make sure she’s all right.  Jackie asks what’s wrong, what happened — and where’s Mickey? “He’s gone home,” the Doctor answers quietly.  Ow, my shattered heart!

Mickey tells Jake he understands it’s not easy, him looking like Ricky, but they should pay tribute to him by fighting in his name.  Why not liberate Paris first?  “What, you and me, in a van?” Jake asks incredulously.  Nothing wrong with a van, Mickey says breezily.  “I once saved the universe with a big yellow truck.”  Hee, that you did when you helped Rose in “Parting of the Ways,” Mickey Smith!  I miss him already.

Oooh-weeee-wwoohhh-oooh!  Important announcement:  I’ll be taking a break from recaps next week because I’m moving house.  Would that I had a TARDIS to take all my belongings in one fell swoop!  But I’ll return the week after (starting Tuesday, August 14th) for more recaps beginning with 2.07 “The Idiot’s Lantern”!  See you then!

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  • Fabrisse

    Good luck with your move.

    And Mickey really does come into his own with this episode.

    • Thank you very much!

      He really does — it was a pleasure to see how far he’s come.

  • Ellie

    Aaaah, this episode made me like Mickey so much. It also shows how the show has changed and all that since the first couple of episodes, when Rose and Mickey were both carefree and happy. And Mickey was…well, just a leetle bit pathetic with regards to standing up for himself/waiting for Rose and following her every word and all.

    Although he’s shown good things before (saving Jackie against the Slitheen comes to mind) here he finally realizes that he’s lost Rose, and goes to look after someone else, himself and the World. I mean, it’s not too bad :P

    Sad moments involving high death toll though D: But then, that’s pretty normal for DW.

    • *jumps around* I love that this ep made you like Mickey! He’s always been a fave of mine, flaws and all, but it’s amazing to see the strength and heroism he has in him here.