The Lone Cyberman returned to battle the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions Graham (Bradley Walsh), Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) in tonight’s episode. So what did the Blogtor Who team think about tonight’s exciting event?
PLEASE NOTE THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD
Chris Chibnall, James Stone, Jodie Whittaker and the rest of the Doctor Who team delivered on an excellent exciting first part of Series 12 two part finale. Ascension of the Cybermen was a clever, powerful and exciting.
In a crisp, tightly written episode, the Doctor battled a fearsome and deadly foe – a Cyberman that can feel. Patrick O’Neal embodied an anger and hatred in the Lone Cyberman, Ashad, that is more malignant and horrific than any previous Cyberman. Certainly, the Dalek comment that Cyberman simply die better is long forgotten. There is also an ongoing mystery about Cyberman Ascension that appears to be hidden behind screams of pain from the brutality that Ashad inflicted on his fellow warriors. The Cybermen’s goal has changed and become more abhorrent than merely assimilation.
For the most part, the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) is in a fight on her own. And once again, Whittaker excels in her portrayal of the Doctor alone in her individual fight. It seems both the Doctor and her companions are better suited to being apart rather than together.
Ascension of the Cybermen is set at the end of the great Cyberwar where both Cybermen and humans both have lost. The remain humans seek Ko Sharmus – a refuge from the war. But instead of freedom, Ko Sharmus (play brilliantly by Ian McEihinney) turns out to be a guide set to lead the lost human race across the boundary to salvation. The religion undertones are glaring. A salvation turns out to be the planet Gallifrey and of the return of the Master. Glad to see Sacha Dhawan back for another episode.
There are more mysteries embedded in this episode. Who is Brendan? Why can he seemly regenerate upon death and is he really in 1950s Earth? Obviously not. But we are sure that will lead to the answer of the Timeless Children. Maybe Humans are the original Gallifreyans? More questions to be answered
Now all there is left to do is wait for the final episode.
Oh, what a difference a two-parter makes. You couldn’t ask for a greater contrast with Series 11’s finale.
The use of a familiar monster like the Cybermen – who’ve never looked better by the way – and the space of a full 45 minutes to build up relentless threat and danger before having to tie it up next Sunday, creates a genuinely heart pumping slice of television. Chris Chibnall and his team have never before truly pushed that button marked Universe Shattering Stakes, but Ascension of the Cybermen truly sits up with Army of Ghosts, The Pandorica Opens, or Dark Water in its sense of scale and action.
Meanwhile, if there’s one thing at which Series 12 has shown itself to be unequalled, it’s surprising and wrong-footing its audience. Every time you think you have a handle on what’s happening in Ascension of the Cybermen, it shifts and turns and throws new mysteries at you. So, Ashad, the Lone Cyberman, finds the key to a vast army of the most advanced Cybermen we’ve ever seen. But as soon as he opens the first sarcophagus and lays eyes (well, eye) on one, something very unexpected happens. But why? The portal to which everyone is running holds its own shocking revelations. And what on Earth is going on in 1950s Ireland? Or is it?
Ascension of the Cybermen stacks up the questions high without ever sacrificing its urgency and pace, and leaves you dying to find out the answers next week.
This week’s episode delivered us one of the highest stakes stories we’ve had on the show in a long time. We’re dropped into a period of Doctor Who history we’ve heard about in passing plenty of times and it’s filled with action and a menacing threat that is thrilling to watch, especially when the Doctor’s initial plan falls apart. It’s somewhat satisfying when we get to see the Doctor fallible, that she can’t always just go in, wave a sonic and all is well is something we need to see everyone in a while. In fact, the situation in this episode just seems to keep getting worse which is just a two-part finale needs – to constantly raise the stakes.
Along the way we got some brilliant moments from Jodie as the Doctor as she hits moments of personal despair. Separating the companions once again paid off as this large team works best when they are not together. Graham and Yaz both took on the mantle leadership role amongst the human survivors. And Graham even got to flirt along the way. Ryan was a bit left out as he has for most of this season.
The flashbacks were very intriguing. I’m guessing we’re seeing Mondas before the conversion to become a cyber-race but that’s not confirmed yet. The provided some emotional anchor to our villain’s story and also were nice palette cleansers between all the action. Next week’s conclusion has a lot to live up to because this episode was exactly what a series finale should be.
For at least the third time this season, all I can right now is ‘wow’! ‘Ascension of the Cybermen’ was excellent on its own terms, but especially in the light of the rather anti-climactic finale we were given last series. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire fifty minutes – it feels that now more than ever throughout the Thirteenth Doctor’s era that anything could happen, especially to the companions.
It’s hard to know what to say about much of this episode, since it raised an extraordinary number of questions which I’m sure the internet will be constantly theorising about over the next seven days! I’m especially intrigued by the orphaned boy-turned-police officer and where he fits in to the bigger picture. This episode’s cast of minor characters as a collective are some of the most compelling we’ve seen this season – theirs is such a universal human story any viewer can empathise with, making it impossible not to root for them. Patrick O’Kane, meanwhile, continues to be thoroughly unnerving as the Lone Cyberman. What will happen next is anyone’s guess right now, and I’m excited and apprehensive to see just how much ‘The Timeless Children’ will shake up Doctor Who canon as we know it.
I’m already counting down the days until next Sunday, especially with the very welcome return of Sacha Dhawan’s Master!
Well, that was a decent set up for next week’s finale, wasn’t it?
Ascension of the Cybermen had all the ingredients of a really good penultimate episode. The Doctor and her fam were split up in a Universe almost devoid of humans with Ashad, the not-so Lone Cyberman, and his Cyberchums attempting to end the human race for good. There was an inescapable sense of being unnerved, unsure and a genuinely sickening sense that this may not end well. The Cybermen here are seriously disturbing. In most cases, Cybermen seek to make all life like them. Here, there’s a terrifying sense of the unknown as Ashad appears to attack his own Cybermen. The sickening feeling is actualised as he tells The Doctor, “The death of everything is within me.”
Meanwhile, The Doctor, Ryan and Ethan, one of the last humans, find the semi-mythical Ko Sharmus, which turns out to be a man and not a place. Ko Sharmus has kept guard of The Boundary – a place of apparent safety for humans as they’re hunted to death by the Cybermen. But salvation, to The Doctor’s horror, is Gallifrey – Gallifrey burning. And just when you think things can’t get any worse up pops his good self – The Master – unhinged and filled with malice. We guessed he was coming, but his appearance is no less delicious for the knowing. Sacha Dhawan proves yet again what fantastic casting looks like.
So now we must wait an eternally long seven days to see how this story pans out. Perhaps we’ll discover who the mysterious Brendan is. Or rather, who his father and superior Police officer are. I love a good cliff-hanger and Ascension of the Cybermen has left us with several. I feel I may need to watch this again several times before next week’s final episode. I’d be delirious is it’s a fraction as good as this one.