What is this all about?
*Spoilers Ahead* In a previous installment, the Twelfth Doctor suffered through four thousand years of torture to reach his home planet of Gallifrey at the edge of the universe. His mortal enemy, Lord High President Rassilon, who was responsible for the Doctor’s imprisonment, torture and the death of his companion Clara was none too thrilled to see the Doctor return home. The Twelfth Doctor subsequently ousted Rassilon in bloodless coup, forcing him to spend the rest of his days in exile. However, the Twelfth Doctor’s act of mercy will come back to haunt Gallifrey and have repercussions for all of his past lives-for the Cybermen have risen to power and time itself is at stake.
We see the Twelfth Doctor struggle to return to Gallifrey in the future after crashing the Tardis on the planet Karn, only to see the Cybermen attack. The Eleventh Doctor and his companion, Alice Obiefune are on a side trip on prehistoric Earth to grab a particular fruit, while the Tenth Doctor and companions Gabby Gonzalez and Cindy Wu are traveling through the 24th century on a ship in deep space heading towards a shopping trip-both incarnations confronted by Cybermen. The Ninth Doctor along with mother-daughter duo Jackie and Rose Tyler and Captain Jack Harkness find themselves in London in 2006, being chased by Cybermen. As each incarnation of the Doctor encounters the Cybermen, we as readers start to see that there’s something very wrong with the universe.
The story begins with the Twelfth Doctor crash landing on the planet Karn after escaping imprisonment, only to demand to be taken to the planet’s leader. Meanwhile, on prehistoric Earth, the Eleventh Doctor and Alice are searching for a particular fruit as a favor for their friend Jenny, to gift to Madame Vastra as an anniversary gift. What they find instead are Nanjura fruit, completely toxic to Vastra’s Silurian people. As the Eleventh Doctor munches on the fruit instead, they cross paths with a green dinosaur and are forced to flee for their lives.
At the same time, we join the Tenth Doctor along with Gabby and Cindy, travelling via space ship to the Cosmomart in the 24th century as they couldn’t trust the Tardis to travel with the Null Zone. As they reach the Cosmomart, however, the Tenth Doctor notices that something is very wrong as the place is completely abandoned. As Gabby is spooked by a mannequin, the trio is confronted by the heavily armed Sontaran army.
We see Jackie Taylor running for her life through the streets of 2006 London as she struggles to escape the cybernetic-enhanced panthers chasing her before the Ninth Doctor, Jack Harkness and her daughter Rose rescue her into a ship. The Ninth Doctor recognizes that it’s the Cybermen causing the problems. According to Jack, who helpfully provides an explanation for the befuddled Jackie, the Cybermen hail from the long dead planet of Mondas and are intent on conquering Earth to turn all citizens into cyborgs and make them a part of the hive mind, eliminating free will. The Ninth Doctor comes to the conclusion that while the Cybermen do have a lot of resources at their disposal, they must have some outside help that has allowed them to work that fast, as the Earth was normal three days ago. The Cybermen even have the Tardis in their possession so the group must infiltrate their stronghold in order to get it back.
The Tenth Doctor makes the decision to surrender to the Sontaran army and the trio is marched to the Imperial Flag ship, even as the Tenth Doctor claims it’s the first time he’s surrendering in all his lives. Gabby and Cindy correctly deduce that the Tenth Doctor has a plan up his sleeve and that in surrendering, he’s right where he wants to be.
There is a quick scene in prehistoric Earth where we see Alice and the Eleventh Doctor receive a brief reprieve as the dinosaur chasing them is quickly devoured by another dinosaur before being confronted by a group of Cyber Silurians who threaten them with conversion. Meanwhile, on the planet Karn, the Twelfth Doctor is greeted by Ohila, the leader, who claims that the Twelfth Doctor is looking for trouble where none exists. The Twelfth Doctor retorts that there are temporal tsunamis raging through the vortex and that he needs to get back to Gallifrey but he can’t get past the transduction barrier and he can’t reach the High Council, so he needs to use their door. Ohila replies that the Twelfth Doctor is overstepping his bounds by demanding the key to their door but their argument is interrupted by the arrival of Cybermen.
Ohila then shows the Twelfth Doctor the door but decides to sacrifice herself and the rest of the Sisterhood of Karn to protect Gallifrey and its principalities. The Twelfth Doctor arrives home to discover something horrific: not only have Cybermen taken over Gallifrey but it seems Rassilon has returned from exile. The Twelfth Doctor confronts Rassilon on what his plans are and Rassilon replies that the Cybermen report to him that they will “rebuilt Gallifrey, piece by piece. Our people shall rise from their ashes to usher in a brave new era.” Rassilon claims that they will mold eternity, even as the Twelfth Doctor tells him that he’s using their people as fodder for cyber conversion.
In a flashback, we see that after the Twelfth Doctor had him exiled, Rassilon ended up piloting his ship into the Cybermen stronghold. We’re then taken to prehistoric Earth where the Eleventh Doctor and Alice must contend with the Cyber Silurians. The Eleventh Doctor then causes a diversion by forcing the dinosaurs to attack the Cyber Silurians before running for their lives. As they pause to catch their breaths, the Eleventh Doctor recognizes that the Cybermen technology is in the wrong era and therefore they’re sticking around to find out what happened.
Meanwhile on the Sontar system, the Imperial Flag ship carrying the Tenth Doctor, Gabby and Cindy is under fire and narrowly avoids a crash landing before the Sontaran base. The trio is brought in front of the Sontaran Prime, one of the last original Sontaran people and the Tenth Doctor concludes that the Sontarans are outgunned against the Cybermen and they need help.
Back in 2006, the Ninth Doctor and his trio of companions end up crash landing their ship right by the Tardis with the Cybermen breathing down their necks. All four members of the team cram into the Tardis and as it starts up, an explosion blows all the companions and the Ninth Doctor off their feet.
In the 24th century on Sontar, the Sontaran Prime tells the Tenth Doctor, Gabby and Cindy that while Sontar still stands against the Cybermen, it stands alone. All the clone planets, conquered mega systems and throne planets along with the Rutan and Alpha Centuri are all dead and Sontar itself is teetering on the brink. The Tenth Doctor comes to the conclusion that the Cybermen are eradicating the competition, converting entire worlds almost as fast as you can blink. In response, the Sontaran Prime conscripts the Tenth Doctor as the last field marshal of the Sontaran war fleet.
On prehistoric Earth, the Eleventh Doctor and Alice discover Ark ships while running away from the Cyber Silurians and the Eleventh Doctor concludes that while the Cybermen have time traveled previously, they have somehow gotten the knowledge on how to convert other beings into cyborgs. Upon seeing the Ark ships, he says “the Cybermen are planning to seed the galaxy with cyber tech before humanity ever evolved and it’s up to us to stop them.”
Back on Gallifrey, Rassilon tells the Twelfth Doctor that when he came to the Cybermen’s world, he admired their perseverance and that by joining their cyberiad, he gave them the knowledge they needed to create a new world. The Twelfth Doctor scoffs at this, calling Rassilon a hypocrite as he previously espoused time lord purity.
Their conversation is interrupted by the Chancellery Guard and the general, who whisk the Twelfth Doctor away to relative safety. The general tells the Twelfth Doctor that she gathered what remained of their forces following Rassilon’s return and hid them in Rassilon’s own tomb to avoid detection by cyber technology. The Twelfth Doctor calls out the irony in hiding from Rassilon in his own tomb and tells the general that now that he’s back, Rassilon’s forces will flush them out of hiding for sure. When he asks why the Chancellery Guard didn’t simply send the Battle Tardises back to intercept Rassilon before this all started, the general tells the Twelfth Doctor that Rassilon has done something to the Eye of Harmony that caused all of their Battles Tardises to be completely drained of power.
Back on prehistoric Earth, the Eleventh Doctor attempts to open the Silurian teleportal while Alice waits impatiently. With the dinosaurs and the Cyber Silurians breathing down their necks, the Eleventh Doctor opened the portal to find a Silurian workshop which can been converted to a conversion chamber. They find Silurians trapped in the tubes, designated for conversion but the Eleventh Doctor states that nothing can be done for them. He discovered that, “they’re receiving packets of quantum data from the very end of time,” allowing them to move through time freely, which should not be possible. An alarm sounds and suddenly Alice and the Eleventh Doctor find themselves surrounded by the Cyber Silurians previously trapped in the conversion tubes.
On Sontar, the Sontaran war fleet prepares for battle as the Tenth Doctor admonishes the Sontarans for finding glory in death. When Gabby asks the Tenth Doctor why they’re still there if he hates violence so much, the Tenth Doctor tells both women that there are hundreds of birthing pools on Sontar that the Cybermen may have already taken over to breed their own armies of soldiers and that he’s been where they are now, standing on the brink of Armageddon.
When Sontaran Prime tells the trio that the Cybermen have evolved beyond simply invading a planet, the Tenth Doctor correctly deduces that the Cybermen are receiving help from Gallifreyan technology.
Following the explosion inside the Tardis in 2006, Jackie, Rose and Jack wake up to find the Ninth Doctor pinned under what looks like a large branch. As they manage to free the Ninth Doctor, the cloister bell indicates they have another problem: the Tardis is about to implode on itself and they need to get out. Jack arms himself with a gun and the four of them run out of the Tardis to try and get to the relative safety of the flying ship and its shields.
Meanwhile, back on Sontar, Sontaran Prime sacrifices himself to save the Tenth Doctor’s life as the Cybermen attack. As Commander Sturg helps the trio re-group, he asks the Tenth Doctor what his orders are to deal with the Cyberkings, the supersized Cybermen robots.
On prehistoric Earth, the Eleventh Doctor and Alice run to a portal inside the converted workshop which is their exit. The Eleventh Doctor shoves Alice into the portal before apologizing, telling her that it will take her home before confronting the Cyber Silurians. As he confronts the Cyber Silurians, he is attacked.
In London 2006, as they flee towards the flyer with Jack providing cover, the Ninth Doctor and Jackie are horrified to discover that Jack has been shot while Rose has been assimilated by the Cybermen.
At the same time, on Gallifrey, the Twelfth Doctor is dealing with a whopper of a migraine as he is assaulted by visions of his past incarnations facing off against the Cybermen. The aftershocks are causing history to be re-written but there is no time to deal with this as Rassilon and his army of Cybermen are currently beating down the door of the tomb. After Rassilon confronts the Twelfth Doctor, the Doctor decides that it’s time for them to have a chat.
The general accuses the Twelfth Doctor of selling out Gallifrey and the cause but the Twelfth Doctor responds with “Oh General, you still don’t get it, do you? You and your little toy soldiers, you hide from the madmen behind sky trenches and traduction barriers, when you need to confront them, to get in close. It’s the only way to win.”
Rassilon, however, has a surprise up his sleeve for both the general and the Twelfth Doctor, if their horrified expressions upon seeing the Eye of Harmony are anything to go by.
Back in 2006, Jackie is devastated by her daughter’s forced assimilation and as the Ninth Doctor pulls the distraught woman away, he vows revenge towards the Cybermen for killing Rose right in front of him without even touching her. Once he discovers how they converted her, he’ll make them pay. As the Ninth Doctor attempts to fight back, his arm becomes cybernetic. He and Jackie race to the flyer as he realizes that the Cybermen have successfully turned the conversion process into an airborne virus and that staying in the flyer means they can seal it out.
On Sontar, the Tenth Doctor tells Commander Sturg that it’s hopeless because their soldiers are following pre-laid plans to the letter and the Cybermen have already predicted their every move. Gabby and Cindy make the decision to take a risk and throw a curveball at the Cybermen by flying a single fighter at them to try and disrupt the pattern. Though Commander Sturg has his doubts, the Tenth Doctor approves of the plan.
Back on prehistoric Earth, the Eleventh Doctor is inside one of the conversion chambers, on his way to being assimilated. As he’s inside the chamber, able to see through the Silurians’ eyes that they’ve captured Alice, he tells the Cyber Silurians that now that they’ve made him a part of the hive mind, he’s always been a bit of tinkerer. “Show me a machine,” he says “and I’ll take it apart. Show me a computer and I’ll reprogram it. Show me a proud reptilian who’s had their emotions ripped away and I’ll return them tenfold!” He sends his emotions through the hive mind, infecting the Cyber Silurians as they scream in agony. As the Cyber Silurians writhe in pain, the Eleventh Doctor tells Alice to run as fast as she can and that the Cybermen can’t keep a good man down.
As Gabby and Cindy fly the space craft distracting the Cyberkings, the Tenth Doctor praises the horrible job they’re doing just as there’s a crash landing. As the Tenth Doctor assumes that Cindy and Gabby have perished, he starts to fight back against the Cybermen. He crashes his own ship and as he feels himself start to be assimilated, courtesy of the airborne conversion virus, he unleashes his emotions towards the Cybermen. Using their latent fear against them, the Tenth Doctor destroys the Cyberkings.
Jackie and the Ninth Doctor hunker down inside the flyer where Jackie frets over what to do about the state of the Ninth Doctor’s assimilated cybernetic hand. The Ninth Doctor says it’s too late to do anything as the nanites are flooding his system and the flyer’s shield is starting to reject him. He tells Jackie to stay put inside the flyer and makes the decision to take out the containment field surrounding the eye of the Tardis, causing it to explode, taking out the Cybermen and Earth along with it as the planet is beyond saving.
On Gallifrey, the Twelfth Doctor calls Rassilon out on his stupidity for trapping members of the Chancellery guard in suspended stasis in order to harvest the energy from them as they go through cycles of repeated of regeneration. Rassilon, however, is unperturbed and also places the general in a similar tube. Rassilon then tells the Twelfth Doctor that the universe, even the cyber race is in its death throes but that through harnessing the regenerative energy given off by the Chancellery guard, he can build a new universe in his image.
However, the Twelfth Doctor correctly deduces that Rassilon has been betrayed, the Cybermen are not under his control, they’ve been plotting their own agenda under his nose the entire time. Instead of ruling the universe, Rassilon has played directly into their hands and given them the knowledge and technology on how to rebuild the universe in their image.
As the Cybermen shove the Twelfth Doctor and Rassilon into the regenerative chambers, the Cybermen tell them they have already won and the universe belongs to them. We see a montage of flashback images through the Doctor’s previous incarnations falling in their battles against the Cybermen.
In 2006, Jackie tries to stop the Ninth Doctor from destroying the Tardis and the world along with it when suddenly, the energy from the Tardis’s core is siphoned away. Meanwhile, on Sontar, the Tenth Doctor’s offensive against the Cybermen starts to fail and the Eleventh Doctor on prehistoric Earth is shocked to discover the Cyber Silurians fighting back by eliminating the soldiers he affected by transmitting his emotions.
The Twelfth Doctor struggles to reach Rassilon as the Cybermen prepare to harness their energy. The Cybermen tell the Twelfth Doctor that they have already changed the past and that with the regenerative energy they’ve been harvesting from the Chancellery guard will accelerate the universe’s last few days in this reality, making way for the cyberiad.
There is a last minute reprieve, however, as Rassilon brings the Twelfth Doctor’s consciousness, along with his own, into a safe place. Rassilon then tells the Twelfth Doctor that this is his chance to prove that he’s so much better than him, that he can win. He asks the Doctor if he will fight back. The Twelfth Doctor replies that this time, he can’t fight back alone. “I tried to change them, to become them, to destroy them. And it almost worked-until you had them plug me in so I can see it happening all at once. It’s time for a different approach, working together. I became a warrior to fight in your war, Rassilon. I need you to become a Doctor to fight in mine.”
As the Cybermen prepare for the end of the universe, Rassilon and the Twelfth Doctor decide to work together and divert the regeneration energy, causing it to go back through the Eye of Harmony, not forward. The cyberiad is dispersing as former Cybermen throughout time find themselves reverted to humans and time is being remade. At the end of the process, only the Twelfth Doctor will remember what happened.
As the Twelfth Doctor prepares to leave in the Tardis, he says that he remembers every horror, every reality that never existed and every death that didn’t happen. He says that he hopes Rassilon, if he is still out there, in his ship at the end of the universe, also remembers what he did. According to the Twelfth Doctor, Rassilon deserves to remember what he did. After all, the Twelfth Doctor says “I can’t be alone in everything.”
The epilogue starts with the repercussions of the Twelfth Doctor and Rassilon stopping the Cybermen. In London in 1963, the First Doctor is accosted on the street in front of his granddaughter by Cybermen outside the Tardis. The Second Doctor is shown to have cybernetic implants on his face and the Third Doctor faces off against an enemy before suffering a time distortion migraine where he sees his opponent turning into one of the Cybermen.
Meanwhile, the Fourth Doctor is cornered by the Cybermen inside a house and finds his companion K9 having been turned cybernetic and threatened with conversion. The Fifth Doctor finds himself and his companion Peri find themselves stranded on the planet of the Daleks, thanks to a time corridor and the Sixth Doctor and his companion return to London to find it over run with Cybermen.
The Seventh Doctor attempts to eradicate the Cyber fleet only to be struck dumb to hear one of the Cybermen call him Professor. Meanwhile, the Eighth Doctor and his companion find the Tardis overrun with cybermats and are themselves confronted with Cybermen. The War Doctor removes a cube, saying that he will stop the war once and for all, before blowing up the Cybermen, ending the story.
As a complete Dr. Who novice, I thoroughly enjoyed the adventures of the Doctor’s incarnations nine through twelve. Most of the time, whether I was following the Ninth Doctor, Tenth Doctor or Eleventh Doctor, their adventures were perilous and required the ability of the reader to definitely fly by the seat of your pants right along with them.
The danger posed by the Cybermen was definitely real and had you feeling like all hope was lost, especially if the Twelfth Doctor couldn’t convince Rassilon to help. I also thought that it was fitting that only the Twelfth Doctor truly understood what was happening that he and he alone had the wherewithal to reach out to Rassilon to stop the genocide. All of his past incarnations were relatable in what they chose to do to stop the Cybermen, whether it was becoming like them, changing them or trying to destroy them-but only the Twelfth Doctor could see the whole picture of what needed to be done.
As stated earlier, as a Dr. Who novice with only the barest knowledge of storylines and characters, I appreciated that fact that this story wasn’t hard to follow, nor was it extremely long. Though the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors had their own adventures in different time periods (the Ninth Doctor in 2006, Tenth Doctor in the 24th century and the Eleventh Doctor in prehistoric Earth), the narrative still tied in nicely with the overarching threat of the Cybermen, though the threat presented itself in each time period in slightly different ways.
I can understand the necessity of illustrating the consequences of the Twelfth Doctor and Rassilon turning the tide against the Cybermen and that just because some incarnations of the Doctor were fine, that didn’t mean they all were. However, with the story already featuring four incarnations of the Doctor and their respective companions, I felt like it dragged down the narrative and made the story longer than it needed to be to see snippets of how the First through Eighth Doctors were affected by the actions of the Twelfth Doctor and Rassilon.
Reviewed by Lilian Sue