“That which is dead can live again in the hands of a believer.”
The penultimate episode of season 12 of Doctor Who may have somehow left us with more questions than answers as we hurtle into next weeks finale, but it was a fantastic episode all the same. Whether the writing team can stick the landing next week with all of these questions up in the air is something we’ll have to wait for but ‘Ascension of The Cybermen’ was a clever and thrilling episode of TV.
After last week’s spectacular haunted house episode, this week goes instead for all-out war. Set in the last days of the Cyber war, where the last few remaining humans outrun the last remaining Cybermen, the Doctor and companions show up to protect the humans from the ‘Lone Cyberman’ from last week (formally known as Ashtar). The humans are trying to get to a mysterious place across the galaxy know as ‘Ko Sharmus’, where there is a possibility of escape through the ‘boundary’. The gang soon get split up with Graham and Yaz being flung across the universe in an escape craft of human survivors while the Doctor and Ryan are left behind. At the same time, we see a mysterious plot unfolding away from the Doctor; following a young orphan boy in Ireland as he grows up to join the Gardaí as it’s revealed he’s invincible. This plotline is compelling and interesting and so far, makes no sense. As it’s revealed Ko Sharmus is actually a man, responsible for shepherding the surviving humans to safety (more on that in a sec) I assumed the Irish boy’s plotline was about him. After all, Ko Sharmus is played by real-life Irish actor Ian McElhinney, but that doesn’t explain the weird chameleon circuit thing being used on the now elderly Irish boy at the end of the episode. I’m sure it’ll be Time Lord and Gallifrey related, however, as the episode reveals the place Ko Sharmus has been sending the human stragglers is non-other than Gallifrey. There are bigger fish to fry at present tough, as it’s also revealed to be somehow connected to The Master after he comes flying out of the boundary to greet the Doctor.
The rest of the cast is left with only a little to do, but they all make the most of it. Ryan is unfortunately not given much but I think this will change next week judging from the trailers. Graham and Yaz are given more to do, as both are separated from the Doctor. Their interaction is fun, of course, I am just hoping it’s building to give Mandip Gill’s Yaz the big moment her character has been missing. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to the companions after next week. I think the series could do with losing 1 or 2 but I wouldn’t know which one to axe – I enjoy what they all individually bring to the show. The brief appearance of Sacha Dhawan as the Master at the episode’s close again cements him as one of the best incarnations of the character. I’m not sure how his version fits into the history of the character but I also don’t remember much of Missy’s death. I’m just glad to see the character again and being portrayed in such a camp and fantastic way. The other side characters again didn’t get loads to do (Julie Graham’s Ravio got a funny flirty moment with Bradley Walsh’s Graham though) but I’m sure there will be pay off in next week’s follow up episode.
It’ll be interesting to see what get’s answered next week and what is left for the next season. I’ve made my peace with the fact that Captain Jack probably isn’t coming back until next season but I hope they resolve the questions around the alternate Doctor and the Gallifrey stuff. I have hope though, I haven’t been this excited for a Who finale in years.