Doctor Who: Ascension of the Cybermen
February 23, 2020 9:01 PM - Season 12, Episode 9 - Subscribe

In the far future, the Doctor and her friends face a brutal battle across the farthest reaches of space to protect the last of the human race against the deadly Cybermen.
posted by oh yeah! (26 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I thought this was pretty terrible, given the excellent set up last week. I was really only intrigued by the Brendan flashback subplot, everything else was clunky. It's hard to feel for random humans on a future world if you don't set them up properly. Introducing a voiceless character (such a dystopian trope) just to kill them off in an effort to engender sympathy just didn't work for me. Splitting the party worked again - and I have to say I enjoyed Yaz and Graham's part of the episode more than the Doctor and Ryan's part. Until the part when they were all like "it's a carrier" "but what was it carrying" "troops. it was a troop carrier". Oh boy, Chibbers, that's some really bad plotting there. It's a war. Of course it was a troop carrier.

I'm getting more and more of a sense that these three companions will finish up next week or maybe in the upcoming special. "You've come a long way Graham" felt like the beginning of the end. Plus that woman (very badly) flirting with him (it was so bad) was a way to indicate he's getting on with his life post-Grace.

The arrival of the Master at the end was super cheesey (which, okay, fine) but man that was some lazy arc plotting - we'll introduce him in the opening two-parter and then just leave him off screen until the finale, for some reason. For all the investigation the Doctor has supposedly done between adventures, I don't think she's actually figured anything out and next week will just be an info dump. Sigh.

I enjoyed more episodes last season than this season and I don't think next week can really redeem anything because Chibbers has thrown a lot of balls up in the air - and I'm not sure he's interested in figuring out how to catch them (or juggle them), he's just going to show them hitting the ground in spectacular ways.
posted by crossoverman at 2:30 AM on February 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

I suspect this will need to be watched with the final episode in order for either to make sense.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:37 AM on February 24, 2020

Oh, well, this seems to be trying to do something like "Utopia". Last remnants of humanity are desperate refugees seeking a final refuge, surprise appearance of the Master.

Yaz and Graham teaching a group of desperately tired refugees that all they need is ~~more hope~~ was, uh, weird.
posted by BungaDunga at 9:07 AM on February 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

(all of their friends are dead and these two people just popped out of a magic time-box to teach them about hope?)
posted by BungaDunga at 9:08 AM on February 24, 2020 [4 favorites]

I thought the following review was noteworthy, because of the source:

Doctor Who landed in 1950s rural Ireland last night. The fiddles never stopped (Ed Power, The Irish Times)
So it’s a novelty to see Doctor Who pitch its police box in the old sod. It’s just a shame that the instant it does so it is set upon by vicious hordes of cliches.

The Doctor’s foray to Ireland is the science fiction equivalent of a postcard of a donkey gazing over a stone wall. It’s pretty and not entirely disagreeable. But oh for an army of Daleks to come rumbling through and knock the entire sorry edifice down.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:26 AM on February 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

Prediction: The Cybermen used that barrier we saw at the end of the episode to pass through to Gallifrey and destroy it, so the Doctor will fix that next episode. Not sure how the other Doctor we saw in the first episode this season fits into the story line, though.
posted by wittgenstein at 9:55 AM on February 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

I thought the Master claimed responsibility for the destruction of Gallifrey in episode 2? So jumping through the portal into this episode might be what he did straight afterwards? So this might be a younger Master than the one who was left stranded in Carpet People land?

Anyway. With the Master talking vaguely about the origin of the Time Lords and a bunch of human refugees from cyberwars staring at a portal to Gallifrey, it is looking increasingly much like they're going to do some kind of Gallifreyans-are-future-humans BSG plot.
posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 10:20 AM on February 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Can't believe I'm saying this but I'm starting to miss Moffat.
posted by KTamas at 2:17 PM on February 24, 2020 [5 favorites]

This episode was weird because the interstitial Irish flashbacks were just there. What is there to say about them? Nothing. They're only interesting because presumably they'll be explained in the next episode. Ditto the Master popping in. And the plucky human refugees are nearly interchangably annoying. We are told they're the "last humans this side of the Universe" but we don't see it or particularly feel it. Yaz and Graham at least Solved Problems. Ryan was just sort of there.

Just kind of a frustrating episode.
posted by BungaDunga at 3:01 PM on February 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Prediction: The Cybermen used that barrier we saw at the end of the episode to pass through to Gallifrey and destroy it...

It was explained earlier that passing through the barrier would send you to places randomly. As far as we know, there's no way to go to any specific location when you step into it. Of course, The Master was able to link back to the barrier from Gallifrey, so that may be a way to get Cybermen to Gallifrey and destroy it?

We enjoyed it. We were expecting this episode to toss a bunch of balls into the air to set-up the finale next week. Not saying there still won't be balls floating around, though. And, I have a real suspicion we'll see Doctor2 next week.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:09 PM on February 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

And, I have a real suspicion we'll see Doctor2 next week.

I mean, hopefully yes, or else what was the point of her introduction?

I know Chibnall said she wasn't a parallel universe Doctor, but maybe Jodie is the parallel universe Doctor? Like this season has been all set in the parallel universe. I dunno. Just spitballing.
posted by crossoverman at 3:48 PM on February 24, 2020

I thought the Irish flashbacks were setting that character up as the lead Cyberman. Somehow.
posted by wittgenstein at 6:18 PM on February 24, 2020 [5 favorites]

I thought the Irish bit was set-up some time ago [SLYT]. It may be that humans all come from Gallifreyan stock at some point.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 8:58 PM on February 24, 2020

I thought this was good, and a lot of other folks apparently didn't, which puts me in the unprecedented position of defending a Chibnall script. I've been one of his biggest detractors, I thought he wasn't in spitting distance of Davies or Moffat... but this was a Chibnall solo script and I thought it was good. That's the biggest shock of the season for me!

I was assuming Brendan would turn out to be the pre-conversion Ashad, although that didn't quite track with what Ashad had said about his own background. (Wasn't he supposed to have been from the future, and he killed his own children because they joined the cyber-resistance?) Brendan emerging uninjured from the shot/fall suggests he's no ordinary human, and that close-up of the clock when he was hooked up to the gizmo at the end makes me think Brendan may turn out to be a time lord who was using the Chameleon Arch. I suspect the men who led him off to the gizmo weren't his father or the police chief. Brendan seemed to be in kind of a trance-like state, and I think they were time lords or somebody else wearing faces that Brendan would find familiar. It seems unlikely he could be the Master, because they already did the "Master disguised by the Chameleon Arch" plot. Maybe he's some form of the Ruth Doctor?

I'm amazed I'm thinking over a Chibnall plot like this, instead of just listing all the ways it doesn't work. I'm actually eager to find out what happens next! But I sure hope we don't find out that the Time Lords are a future form of humanity. That's just too tidy, and explains too much. The Time Lords should be mysterious, always. We're going on sixty years without knowing their backstory, and I don't think now is the time to spell it out.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:45 PM on February 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

In the Brendan-as-Time-Lord versus Brendan-as-Rusty-Cyberman case, I have to draw attention to how cyberhelmetty the pair of headphones that were used to zap him was.
posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 3:25 AM on February 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

That fall off the cliff, that death, that huge breath on revival, nope never seen that before...
posted by ewan at 6:06 AM on February 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

It may be that humans all come from Gallifreyan stock at some point.

I was thinking the opposite - all Gallifreyan's are descended from humanity.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:29 AM on February 25, 2020

Maybe Brendan was a dream state of one of the Cybermen.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:30 AM on February 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

I figured Brendan is the Timeless Child and Gallifrey is in an vaguely Omelas-shaped situation, which (for some reason) pissed the Master off enough to destroy them.
posted by BungaDunga at 7:42 AM on February 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

I have to draw attention to how cyberhelmetty the pair of headphones that were used to zap him was.

I think that was a deliberate thing, as was the closeup of the clock. They wanted to give us reasons to think it could be a cyberman deal OR a Chameleon Arch deal. In the end it might turn out to be neither... or both, somehow.

Of the two I'm leaning Chameleon Arch. The "father" and police chief in that scene were rather cold but they thanked him for his service and expressed some regret he wouldn't remember it, which doesn't quite click with the emotionless, old school cybermen or the aggro, pitiless cybermen Ashad seems to be introducing, but does kind of fit the detached but not totally heartless Time Lords.

I did notice that the father and mother weren't being given aging makeup as Brendan went from baby to young policeman. I didn't think too much of it at the time, but in hindsight maybe the father at the end was the same father we'd been seeing all along. That would be kind of weird, though, since the father seemed like a normal guy who just found a kid, there didn't seem to be anything premeditated about it. He also seemed weirded out by Brendan surviving the fall. People have been saying maybe it wasn't really 20th Century Ireland at all, that it might have been the distant future or another planet. But I think it was too close, right down to the cops being called "guards," for them to try and pass this off as anything but Ireland, a dream or some kind of simulation. It'd just be too goofy for this to be Xebulon-B, the planet that happens to look just like 1948 Ireland for some reason.

I'm obviously really intrigued by all this, and I sure hope Chibnall can stick the landing. If he manages it, I may be forced to conclude that he was going through a Davies-esque period of finding his way for his first two season and may be finally figuring out what he's doing!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:31 PM on February 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

I find it a bit hard to judge what is obviously the setup to something that is supposed to be epic. I have been enjoying the companions over the last few episodes and will miss them if they all end up dead next week.
posted by AndrewStephens at 11:18 AM on February 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm calling it now -- none of the companions die next week, but to keep them safe, the Doctor sends some or all of them through the Boundary to parts unknown, never to be seen again.
posted by webmutant at 11:23 AM on February 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Until a few seasons later when one of them appears in a season finale with scars, eyeparch, and an anti-cyberman gun.
posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 1:42 PM on February 27, 2020 [4 favorites]

That fall off the cliff, that death, that huge breath on revival, nope never seen that before...

He's obviously a Highlander!
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:53 AM on February 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Ravio both flirted with Graham, and expressed hope that they'd all survive, so I predict that she's not making it out of tomorrow's episode.

Did anyone else get a strong Slartibartfast vibe from Ian McElhinney?
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 6:21 PM on February 29, 2020

vaguely Omelas-shaped situation
"I understood that reference."
posted by uberchet at 11:45 AM on March 6, 2020

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