The Age of Steel
|172b – "The Age of Steel"|
|Doctor Who episode|
The Cyber Controller confronts the Doctor
|Script editor||Helen Raynor|
|Executive producer(s)||Russell T Davies
|Incidental music composer||Murray Gold|
|Length||2nd of 2-part story, 45 minutes|
|Originally broadcast||20 May 2006|
"The Age of Steel" is the sixth episode of the second series of the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who. It was first broadcast on 20 May 2006 and is the second part of a two-part story that was the first to feature the Cybermen since Silver Nemesis in 1988. The first part, "Rise of the Cybermen", was broadcast on 13 May 2006. It stars David Tennant as the Doctor, Billie Piper as Rose Tyler and Noel Clarke as Mickey Smith.
It focuses on events in a parallel universe London, where John Lumic plans to convert the whole world's population into Cybermen and the Doctor, Rose and Mickey Smith try to stop him. They are assisted by Mickey's parallel universe counterpart, Ricky, who is the leader of a resistance movement. At the end of the episode Mickey decides to stay in the parallel universe and says goodbye to the Doctor and Rose.
The episode was relatively popular as it was the climax to the first story to feature the Cybermen since the show's revival. It has an Audience Appreciation rating of 86.
The episode opens immediately after the events of "Rise of the Cybermen". The Cybermen have the Doctor, Rose, Mickey, and the Preachers surrounded. The Doctor uses the recharging power cell from the TARDIS to overload the Cybermen, disintegrating them. The group escapes with Pete Tyler, but Jackie is trapped inside and presumed dead. As they flee, Pete explains to the Preachers that he is "Gemini", the Preacher's secret source of information on Lumic. Pete had thought he was communicating with law enforcement but accidentally involved the Preachers instead. From his hovering zeppelin, John Lumic orders the Cybermen to activate the EarPod devices and use them to control the people of London and bring them in for conversion.
When they reach London, the group discovers Lumic's zeppelin moored near the power station and head towards it. Ricky is killed by the Cybermen while trying to scale a fence to meet Mickey. After inspecting the power station, the Doctor determines that they must destroy the EarPod transmitter located on the zeppelin. Mickey and Jake decide to board the zeppelin, Pete and Rose pose as humans being controlled by EarPods, and the Doctor and Mrs. Moore try to find their way to Lumic. Pete and Rose are captured by the Cybermen when a now-converted Jackie catches sight of them. Mrs. Moore is killed by a Cyberman, but the Doctor discovers that each unit contains an emotion inhibitor to prevent their human side from taking over. He deduces that if he disables the signal from the inhibitors, the realisation of what they have become will kill the converted Cybermen. The Doctor is captured by a Cyberman and taken to see Lumic.
In Lumic's office, the Doctor discovers the Cybermen have captured Pete and Rose and have forcibly converted Lumic into the Cyber Controller. Mickey and Jake successfully disable the transmitter from the zeppelin by taunting a Cyberman into destroying the transmitter's power source. On the factory floor, the humans yet to be converted are snapped out of their trance. Initially confused, after seeing the cyber-conversion machines above them they quickly put two and two together and flee the factory in terror. The Doctor attempts to reason with Lumic to stop the conversions, but Lumic states that the Cybermen will simply take humanity by force. The Doctor, via the surveillance camera in Lumic's office, subtly communicates with Mickey on the zeppelin to find the inhibitor code. Mickey locates the code in the computer and sends it to Rose's phone. The Doctor plugs the phone into the computer systems, causing the inhibitor signal to drop and sending the army of Cybermen into despair. The conversion facility begins to go up in flames, and the group escapes to the zeppelin leaving Lumic to die. At the zeppelin they realise that Lumic is following behind them and Pete uses the Doctor's sonic screwdriver to sever the ladder, causing Lumic to plunge to his death in the exploding factory.
The Doctor, Rose, and Mickey return with Jake and Pete to the dead TARDIS. The Doctor plugs in the recharged power cell and revives the TARDIS. Rose reveals to Pete that she is his daughter from the parallel universe. Overwhelmed, Pete refuses Rose's offer to board the TARDIS and walks away, causing her to cry. Mickey, feeling that Rose no longer needs him, decides to stay in the parallel universe to help care for Ricky's elderly grandmother and to help the Preachers stop the remaining Cybermen, with Mickey ending his relationship with Rose. After the TARDIS dematerialises, Mickey and Jake plan to destroy a Cybus Industries factory in Paris.
Lumic's expression of "Excellent!" is a reference to the off-key rendition of the word that the Cybermen have used in previous stories (beginning with the Fourth Doctor story Revenge of the Cybermen). The Doctor's comments about Cybermen in his universe confirms that the origin of the Cybermen in this universe is not a rewriting of the origins of the Cybermen on Mondas as established in The Tenth Planet. Similarly, this leaves the Big Finish Productions audio play Spare Parts intact. The Cybus Industries Cybermen would reappear in the Series 2 finale "Army of Ghosts"/"Doomsday". The first Cyber Controller appeared in The Tomb of the Cybermen (and later in Attack of the Cybermen) as a differently designed Cyberman with an enlarged cranium. Rose recalls a sequence in Dalek when she saw a Cyberman head in Van Statten's museum.
Mickey refers to his feelings of being the "tin dog", a comparison to the Doctor's former companion K-9. In "School Reunion", Mickey states he is joining the TARDIS crew because he doesn't want to be the "tin dog" anymore, a reference to how he sat at home and provided support while the Doctor and Rose went on adventures. As the Doctor says goodbye to Mickey, he jokingly calls him "Mickey the Idiot". This was a nickname the Ninth Doctor gave him during the events of "World War Three". The Doctor repeatedly uses the word "idiot" to get Mickey's attention during the events in Lumic's office. Mickey tells Jake that he once saved the universe with a big yellow truck. This is a reference to "The Parting of the Ways", when Mickey opens the Heart of the TARDIS with a tow truck, allowing Rose to return to the future and defeat the Daleks.
The Doctor refers to attacking Cybus's factory at three points: "Above, between, below." This is a reference to The Five Doctors, when the Second Doctor recites an ancient Gallifreyan nursery rhyme about the three possible entrances to the Tomb of Rassilon.
According to an interview with Andrew Hayden-Smith, and comments given by Russell T Davies in a press conference, Ricky and Jake were initially intended to be gay and lovers. A deleted scene included in the Complete Series Two DVD box set confirms this.
This episode, along with "Rise of the Cybermen" was produced in the same production block as the series finale story, "Army of Ghosts"/"Doomsday". Location shooting took place at the Coal Exchange and Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff Bay. Footage from "Rose" — specifically, the destruction of the Nestene Consciousness — was reused as part of the destruction of the Battersea Cyber-conversion facility.
Pete derisively calls the Preachers "Scooby-Doo and his gang" and compares their van to the Mystery Machine. The marching of thousands of mind-controlled Londoners to Battersea (referred to by the Doctor as "sheep") echoes the Pink Floyd song "Sheep" from their album Animals, where the sheep are led into the "valley of steel" to be slaughtered. The album also features a shot of Battersea Power Station on its cover, with a pig floating above it just like Lumic's own airship. Pink Floyd is known for incorporating the Doctor Who theme music into live performances of the song "One of These Days".
As noted by Noel Clarke on the commentary, Mickey phones Rose and says "I'm coming to get you!", which echoes the Ninth Doctor's words to her at the climax of "Bad Wolf". The words also constitute a catchphrase used by Davina McCall on the UK television programme Big Brother, the latest series of which started two days prior to the episode's broadcast and which also featured in "Bad Wolf". The climax of the episode echoes that of Casablanca, with Mickey in the role of Rick Blaine and Rose as Ilsa Lund. Indeed, Mickey adopts the name "Ricky" and talks about freeing Paris.
Broadcast and reception
This episode was released together with "Rise of the Cybermen" and "The Idiot's Lantern" as a basic DVD with no special features. It was also released in the complete series 2 box set and the Doctor Who Cybermen collection.
IGN's Ahsan Haque gave "The Age of Steel" a rating of 7.9 out of 10, praising the way Mickey became independent. However, he noted that it worked as a "popcorn episode", with the Cybermen story being a "letdown" and "by-the-book", with the conversation between the Doctor and Lumic about emotions something that was commonly covered in science fiction. Nick Setchfield of SFX gave the two-parter a positive review, highlighting Harper's direction which he felt added imagination and menace to the Cybermen and the parallel universe. However, he felt that Lloyd-Pack's performance was too over-the-top for the current "subtler" incarnation of Doctor Who, which made him come across as "jarringly two-dimensional".
- Attitude, May 2006
- Kilkelly, Daniel (7 May 2006). "Davies wanted 'Doctor Who' gay kiss". Digital Spy. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
- "Walesarts, Coal Exchange and Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff Bay". BBC. Retrieved 30 May 2010.
- "none", Doctor Who Magazine: Series Two Companion (14 - Special Edition), 9 November 2006
- Haque, Ahsan (6 November 2006). "Doctor Who: "The Age of Steel" Review". IGN. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
- Setchfield, Nick (22 May 2006). "Doctor Who 2.5 and 2.6 Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel". SFX. Archived from the original on 27 August 2006. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
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- The Age of Steel on TARDIS Data Core, an external wiki
- TARDISODE 6
- Episode commentary by Noel Clarke, Camille Coduri and Shaun Dingwall (MP3)
- "The Age of Steel" episode homepage
- "The Age of Steel" at the BBC Doctor Who homepage
- "Rise of the Cybermen" / "The Age of Steel" at Doctor Who: A Brief History of Time (Travel)
- "Rise of the Cybermen" / "The Age of Steel" at the Doctor Who Reference Guide
- "The Age of Steel" at Outpost Gallifrey
- "The Age of Steel" at TV.com
- "The Age of Steel" at the Internet Movie Database
- "The Age of Steel" reviews at Outpost Gallifrey
- "Rise of the Cybermen" / "The Age of Steel" reviews at Outpost Gallifrey
- "The Age of Steel" reviews at The Doctor Who Ratings Guide
- "Rise of the Cybermen" / "The Age of Steel" reviews at The Doctor Who Ratings Guide