We are so lucky, we old buggers who remember the original
series, so lucky to have been around long enough to see the show reborn in
such a fantastic way. Russell T. Davies is a man both applauded and reviled
in equal measure, many of us have had a pop at him over the last eighteen
months, including yours truly. But I’m not too proud to say that I’m blown
over by the first part of his second season knockout. The man has been on
top form this season and it looks like it could get even better still.
The fact that the season finale involved Cybermen was no big secret; nevertheless
the rumours have been circulating for months about what else it could involve.
There was the story in ‘The Sun’ some time last year about there being Daleks
and Cybermen fighting head to head; then there was scouse psychic Derek Acorah
saying he was going to help the Doctor with an investigation into an invasion
from the spirit world. More bizarre still was the rumour that the Doctor was
going to land on the set of Eastenders and have a pint in the Queen Vic.
There is a strong connection to ‘Eastenders’ and Peggy Mitchell does make
a cameo appearance, but all thankfully is not how it seems. There is Tracy-Ann
Oberman of course, who before playing ever-so-slightly fascistic Yvonne Hartman,
head of Torchwood, also played Chrissie Watts, wife of the resurrected Den
Watts a.k.a. Les Grantham, the former Dalek trooper. Den Watts even makes
an appearance in this episode, or rather his ghost does, not Les Grantham.
But back to Ms. Oberman in her role as Yvonne Hartman, a very nicely played
villain if I must say so. Charming and effusive she effectively disarms the
Doctor immediately with a round of applause when his TARDIS appears in Torchwood’s
secret base at Canary Wharf. I love Russell T. Davies’ sense of mischief;
he has Torchwood based in Canary Wharf because their organisation built it
in the first place with the sole intention it seems of reaching a spatial
breach 660 feet above sea level.
The Doctor of course is responsible for the creation of Torchwood, having
been there in the 19th Century when Queen Victoria nearly got nibbled by a
were-wolf. So all through this series we have seen the ripples of this event
travelling outwards, from the time the good Queen made it known she wanted
an organisation to be ready and waiting for the Doctor when he returned. By
the early 21st Century the organisation has become a power unto itself, with
a shed load of stolen alien technology, (‘if it is alien then it is ours’
explains the charming Ms. Hartman as a lorry conveys the TARDIS on its way),
echoing Henry Van Staten’s private collection in a bunker under Utah. There
must be so much alien technology floating around out there, for it seems
a lot of people are in on that scam. But as Yvonne primly tells Jackie Tyler,
the technology is not for the benefit of ordinary people; it is for the benefit
of Torchwood alone and its dreams of a new British Empire (echoes of Rob
Amongst the new toys that Torchwood hope to use in their quest for world
domination is one particular conundrum; a giant spherical object that their
instruments tell them is not there. (Say that wouldn’t be a Sphere would it?
Our Russell has a magpie like nature, stealing the choicest baubles from all
over the shop). The Doctor knows what it is though; it is a void ship, capable
of piercing the barriers between dimensions.
But what about the army of ghosts, where do they come into this? It is Jackie
(Camille Coduri) who provides the background on these apparitions. For the
last three weeks or so before the Doctor and Rose return home the world has
had thousands of these silent, obscured humanoid figures appearing at regular
intervals. With a dig at the Doctor for not being around when the Earth most
needed them, Jackie goes onto explain that after a while people had got used
to them, even personalising the ghosts to the extent that they were mistaken
for lost relatives. Jackie herself is convinced that the figure who visits
her in her flat is her long dead father, even to the extent that she swears
blind that she can smell the tobacco he used to smoke. The Doctor and Rose
are not so convinced and see that her desire for it to be her dead father
has over-ridden her senses. When Jackie takes offence with this explanation
and Rose points out that the figures are definitely humanoid, the Doctor tells
them a ‘footprint is not the same shape as a boot’. Something is pressing
into the walls of this dimension and leaving a three-dimensional imprint and
it is that imprint which has become the ghosts.
This is what I like about RTD’s writing this series; it’s increasing sophistication.
In the past in Doctor Who, a strange concept would be introduced but the emotional
impact, other than the sheer terror it caused, would not be explored so much.
Here we have the bizarre otherworldly concept, i.e. ghosts appearing en masse
in major cities world wide, but we also have how people react to them personally-
that is mistaking them for lost relatives and loved ones.
The Doctor’s investigations into the ‘ghost’ phenomena lead him to Torchwood
Towers (aka Canary Wharf), where he is subsequently taken prisoner by the
effusive Ms Hartman. Jackie has come along for the ride and is passed off
by the Doctor as Rose Tyler (aged by 57 years after looking into the time
vortex) whilst Rose hides in the TARDIS.
Being an alien with alien technology the Torchwood Institute are happy to
seize both the Doctor and his time machine for themselves. He soon finds out
that Torchwood have been harnessing the energy given off by the ghosts when
they materialise, a process that is connected to the spatial anolamy that
Canary Wharf was built to enclose. The Doctor automatically senses that this
is dangerous, likening the sphere to a kind of demolition ball that has smashed
its way into our dimension, causing fractures in the time-space continuum
that the ‘ghosts’ are pressing against.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to everybody, the Cybermen have infiltrated Torchwood
and have already taken over Adeola (Freema Agyeman, who will be playing
the Doctor’s new companion in series three) who is now one of these cyber-controlled
human beings. Together they are planning to open the breach between the dimensions
Meanwhile Rose has managed smuggle herself out of the TARDIS and is wondering
around downstairs, disguised as a Torchwood scientist. She comes across Dr.
Rajesh Singh (Raji James) who is in charge of trying to figure out what is
inside the mysterious sphere. At last the psychic paper comes unstuck, for
it seems that all Torchwood personnel have rudimentary psychic training which
enables Rajesh to see through Rose’s trickery. He asks his assistant to call
security, little realising that the assistant is none other than Mickey (Noel
Clarke), who has come across the dimension gap to stop the Cybermen. Then
all hell starts to break loose as the void ship begins to activate.
Upstairs the Cybermen have revealed themselves to an astonished Ms Hartman
and have taken over Torchwood. They now increase the power of the ‘ghost shift’
to one hundred percent (beating their chest plates again, which seem to act
as giant universal remote controls). The ghosts start to appear in their
millions all over the Earth, revealing themselves to be Cybermen.
“This isn’t an invasion, this is a victory!” exclaims the Doctor. But one
thing still puzzles him; the void-ship is quite beyond Cybermen technology
and he is curious about their connection to it. The sharper eyed amongst you
may well have noticed the shooting star that shot across the sky at the end
of ‘The Age of Steel’? Maybe that was this globe, the void ship, on its way
to our dimension? Whatever it was, the Cybermen do not know; they merely followed
the sphere through the fissure it created. So who is responsible for its
We all know the answer by this time of course, but it is neat the way they
delay the reveal scene to the end, just like Doctor Who of old.
“They’re not Cybermen?” states a bewildered Mickey as four conical shapes
emerge from the sphere, Rose of course is in no doubt about what they are.