Whenever one is asked to name famous arch-enemies of the Doctor, the first name that comes to everyone's mind is obviously the Daleks. But there are other big names, such as the Daleks' creator Davros, and the renegade Time Lord known as the Master. But another renowned adversary also falls into this category. And that's the Cybermen.
Like the Daleks, the Cybermen are a truly fascinating race. They are humanity gone wrong in the worst way imaginable, utterly consumed by technology and their need to survive. Cold, logical, relentless, completely emotionless and obsessed with `upgrading' all mankind to achieve their twisted vision of peace and order. And plenty powerful enough to "Delete!" those who stand against them. And the sound of their loud, clanging, impending footsteps will frighten any mortal.
The Cybermen became one of the biggest highlights of Doctor Who when the series was relaunched. Their comeback was a huge success and their two-year absence after the conclusion of Series 2 only made fans' hearts grow fonder. So to follow-up on their return in 2008's Christmas Special "The Next Doctor", the BBC have decided to re-release the classic episodes from the second series in Doctor Who: The Cybermen Collection.
These four episodes are very significant events in the lives of the Doctor and his companions, and change everything forever. Starting with the first two-part episode, "Rise of the Cybermen"/"The Age of Steel" goes one step beyond the traditional time-and-space travels and explores brand new territory, parallel dimensions. It spawns so many ideas and makes for not only an outstanding episode, but also several fantastic sub-plots and paves the way for future epics.
Case in point, Rose continues to excel as not only a brilliant companion to the Doctor, but also as a character with such depth going for, as she discovers in the parallel world that her father Pete is still alive. Torn between the Doctor's warnings and her desire to be part of a happy family again, as well as being made to deal with a brand new threat is all beautifully portrayed by Billie Piper. Plus, this was also an episode where the Mickey Smith character got some much-needed development. How Mickey evolves from being a wimp to a brilliant and brave fighter is so credibly done, making it all the more reason to cherish this episode.
The guest appearances by the likes of Andrew Hayden-Smith (Jake Simmonds), Helen Griffin (Mrs Moore) and the great Roger Lloyd Pack (as John Lumic, the creator of the new Cybermen) is yet more justification of the greatness of this two-parter. All are given such wonderful three-dimensional characters to portray and all are allowed to truly shine because of the events that transpire.
But it's the Cybermen themselves who are indeed the stars here. It's such a radical reinvention of the ones older Who fans grew up with, but it works. It's totally refreshing and establishes the metal monsters as truly nightmarish creatures. Their appearance is teased at so many times throughout "Rise of the Cybermen" and thus creates the desired reaction. The viewer is kept on the edge of their seat throughout, and the sound of the metal footsteps closing in sends deeper and deeper chills. When the Cybermen finally arrive, it's huge and frightening and ends in a cracking cliff-hanger. "The Age of Steel" spectacularly carries on the excitement by showing just how formidable they are, the horrors of being `upgraded', the sheer pain they cause and the tragedy of what they've become. In short, "Rise of the Cybermen" and "The Age of Steel" are absolutely awe-inspiring episodes that will never lose their impact.
But amazingly, the first two-parter doesn't quite match the greatness of the unforgettable finale to Series 2, "Army of Ghosts"/"Doomsday". The mystery of the Torchwood Institute at long last is revealed, and their experimentation has not only led to the Cybermen invading our reality but has also brought the Daleks into the fold! The threat of Doomsday is upon the Earth and regardless of what happens, the Doctor will lose Rose Tyler.
The Cybermen receive awesome development here. Their plan to conquer Earth is so creative and insidious and the moment where they actually succeed is beyond shocking. The satisfying revelations behind Torchwood also make "Army of Ghosts" brilliant but it's the cliff-hanger that TRULY makes the episode. The moment when the Daleks arrive was something that no one ever saw coming and left everyone reeling. The impact hasn't been lost at all, and it's perhaps the greatest cliff-hanger ever in the show, rivalled only by Series 4's "The Stolen Earth".
And of course, nothing lessens at all in "Doomsday". The Dalek-Cybermen conflict is something that's been dreamt of for years, and it's pulled off brilliantly. It's setting in modern-day Earth makes it all the more horrifying and there's more depth revealed in both species, such as the Cybermen's history and development, and the infamous Dalek Cult of Skaro. More is revealed regarding the Time War, too, and Rose's unforgettable departure from the series will still reduce the viewer to tears. The Doctor/Rose team went out in true style here and both David Tennant and Billie Piper were at their best. It's no wonder why "Doomsday" ranks as perhaps the greatest episode ever in the series. It's pretty much perfect.
But re-releases like this are always a problem. Even though this collection contains four of the greatest episodes ever, there's no real point buying The Cybermen Collection if you've already got the original volumes or the Series 2 boxset. Both of the extras here (The David Tennant Introduction and Best Cybermen Moments) are cracking features but aren't anywhere near enough to make you want to get rid of your old versions. Audio commentary on the episodes (among other extras) would've made the set more complete as well. Still, if there are Doctor Who fans out there who`ve missed out, then the Cybermen Collection is both ideal and essential for you.