DVD Extras (box sets only) include:
But there is some appeal here. His characters of Craig and Sophie were successful last year, and here we get a second helping of them, which boosts their importance in the canon and makes both stories more enjoyable. Plus, they're fun to see. Adding to the fun is the return of Lynda Baron to Doctor Who, who previously excelled at playing Captain Wrack in "Enlightenment" (story no. 128), and had sung the not-so-brilliant ballads back in "The Gunfighters" (story no. 25). Here she plays store clerk Val, who adds a lot of good humour to the story. Nice. In some senses, Roberts is getting away with one of the usual ruts by making it a bit more fun.
I will also give this episode a point in that it manages to visualize the conversion of human into Cyberman in a manner that is more convincing and believable than director Graeme Harper could manage in his season 28 epics, with the added disturbing factor that it is happening to a character we really love, and unlike the case with Star Trek's Borg, this process has ALWAYS been fatal, or perhaps it's better to say irreversible, to the human in the Doctor Who universe. I was really emotionally upset at this point in the episode. But then, the reset button is pushed, and Craig walks out unscathed. I do prefer Craig to live, most definitely, but there doesn't seem to be a plausible mechanism for it in the story. Gareth Roberts says it happens for love, and he's not apologizing for it. No, he shouldn't. Love is a great reason. I'm there. Now give love a plausible mechanism through which it can overpower automatic cybernetic processes, and we'll have a climax no one will want to argue with.
Mind you, there is a lot of dialogue in the concluding moments making some attempt to flesh out a mechanism, but Roberts has a bizarre fixation with writing too wordy a climax once more, when there will be too much noise and energy and not enough time for the audience to hear it and absorb it. I'm only getting half of what I might need to believe in the mechanism here. At least the teleport was established earlier in the story.
Perhaps more importantly, all this raises the question of why the Cybermen are so desperate to be led by a brand new recruit? Can't they just designate and promote the best of their current members, while recruiting Craig to the bottom of their totem pole? This problem seems to be echoing a similar one from "The Next Doctor" (story no. 204). In any case, all this in addition to being relegated to backyard alien of the week has not done the Cybermen any good. Of the four modern stories in which they have had major roles, this is easily their weakest, and may put huge dents in their popularity.
Cybermats are back for the first time in the modern show. I don't know why. Their popularity has always been dubious, and "The Tomb of the Cybermen" (story no. 37) is possibly the only story in which cybermats work remotely well. I'm not much impressed with them here. The updates they get in design, etc., are all fine enough. I just think they take too large a role in the story, while being unable to be anywhere near as interesting as the story's underused actual Cybermen.
Curiously, Madame Kovarian and the Silents also get a more interesting scene to play here than probably anywhere in the upcoming finale. Nice. The timing of this event in River Song's long and confusing journey is intriguing but seems a bit puzzling as well. Apart from that, the big cliffhanger reveal is in a sense just going through the motions of showing us what we already learned back in The One where Vultures Circle (story no. 224), although perhaps this makes it more obvious and explicit, or helps people who may have missed that prior story. Is it really a big revelation though, no matter where it ends up in the season? If, during "The Impossible Astronaut", you stop and ask yourself who Moffat might actually put inside that space suit, there really is only one answer, since he failed to develop any other worthy or credible red herring answers.
In the end, we ended up with fewer two-parters than before. I think this season can just about get away with it though, since every River Song episode is working as another chapter of a longer saga, and some of the between-story cliffhangers have been such plot-twisting shockers.
This story has become available on DVD and Blu-ray.
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Note: The full season sets contain commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and other extras. The smaller volumes feature little more than the plain episodes.
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