Title: Ascension Of The Cybermen
Release Date: 23/2/20
Network: BBC One
Genre: Science Fiction, Drama
Ascension Of The Cybermen
The penultimate episode of Season 12 delivers a Cyberman story, with a dark premise at its heart. The story feels me with a strange feeling of dread. For the first time in years, the Cybermen feel like worthy adversaries in Doctor Who’s epic 57 year history.
So, it all begins in rural Ireland, where a baby, Brendan, is discovered and adopted by a couple. Throughout Ascension Of The Cybermen, the story deviates at times to provide insights into this second plot. But what it all really means is anyone’s guess. So, by the end of the episode, on the day of his retirement, Brendan, now an older man, is awarded a memento for his service, and then met by his police mentor and adoptive father outside the station.
However, somewhat eerily, neither of the two have aged at all, whereas Brendan has. He’s subsequently taken by the two into a room, handcuffed to a chair, where they place electrodes on his head, explaining that they’ll need to start over. As a result, Brendan won’t remember a thing. All of this leaves us with no answers and more questions by the end of Ascension. No doubt, next week’s finale will explain all.
Elsewhere, in the far future, the last of the human race, narrowly close to extinction, face the arrival of Cybermen amid an apocalyptic wasteland. There are flying Cyber heads, (drones), to Lumic-age Cybermen and the creepily awesome Ashad from last week. The previous seven humans are barely hanging on, and once an attack from the Cyber drones begins, most are wiped out. The Doctor and his group’s defenses against the onslaught are useless.
Ashad The Cyberman: A Highlight Of Season 12
Now separated, with Graham and Yaz on the Gravraft, bound for Ko Sharmus and the mysterious Boundary, the Doctor, Ryan, and Ethan escape aboard a Cyber shuttle. During the flight, they intercept a transmission from Ashad. Without a doubt, last week’s recurring villain is one of the highlights of not only this episode but the entire series. He remains as calculating and cold as he does menacing. He talks of what lies beyond the Ascension of the Cybermen, warning the Doctor and her friends of their impending deaths.
In deep space, the Gravraft successfully boards an abandoned craft. It’s apparent right away this is a Cyber ship of some type, only everyone seems to forget this. It’s even mentioned that automation sensors were triggered upon their arrival. Not as if there’ll be a Cyber fleet in hibernation somewhere aboard or anything. Well…
For all of Yaz and Graham’s sharp thinking to board the Cyber ship in the first place, they really didn’t see the bigger problem upon boarding. Meanwhile, Ian McElhinney is revealed as Ko Sharmus. He’s not a planet, but instead a ferryman between worlds, helping survivors across the Boundary. He’s a character reminiscent to Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi.
Back in deep space, the penny drops. Graham and Yaz realize it’s a War Carrier. Nothing about that title can be useful, as they soon discover. Some mild flirting between Graham and survivor Ravio is interrupted by the bad news. The War Carrier is literally carrying a fleet of Cybermen. Typical, and Ashad has just turned up, to add to their problems.
But on the plus side, Ko Sharmus, a veteran fighter, and Cyber camp survivor, reveals that the Boundary is real. Somehow I’m getting a bad feeling about all of this.
The Boundary, effectively a massive portal in the sky, opens, revealing the gutted, burning remains of Gallifrey beyond. Rather interestingly, it’s a version of the Doctor’s home planet that Ko Sharmus has never seen before. On the War Carrier, Ashad and his Cyberguards awaken the Cyber Warriors in stasis. It can’t really get much worse than this, can it?
Well, that’s before The Master comes crashing through from the other side of the Boundary. Previously exiled to the Kasaavan dimension, somehow, the renegade Time Lord is back, bringing the Doctor a warning to be afraid, and that everything is set to change.
Verdict: Ascension Of The Cybermen is one of the boldest Cyberman episodes produced in a long time. Throughout Capaldi’s era, the Cybermen appeared in two season finales and were frankly outstaying their welcome.
Compared to the Daleks or as a part of an ensemble cast, the Cybermen have always felt somewhat inferior to everyone else. In the case of the half-human, half Cyberman Ashad, this is not the case. However, the awakening of the Cyberwarriors by the end of Episode 9 did feel slightly underwhelming.
But it doesn’t matter. The return of Sacha Dhawan as The Master and the revelation of Gallifrey beyond the Boundary sets up for next week’s tenth and final episode of Season 12. Plus, there’s the Timeless Child arc to resolve, which no doubt is connected to Brendan and his unageing parents. I’ll hope for the return of Captain Jack next week too. It’d be worth the wait since Episode 5 to see that come to life.
Ascension Of The Cybermen is a dark, uncompromising episode that puts the Cybermen at the pinnacle of their power and sets up things nicely for next week’s finale. I can’t wait.
- Ashad, cold, menacing and as refreshing as always
- The Cybermen Empire at the heart of its power
- The Master's return and the revelation of Gallifrey
- Underwhelming ending with the Cyber army
- Ian McElhinney looks silly in robes as Ko Sharmus