Tony presses a big red button and forgets the series.
Well, there’s a perversity for you.
We’ve had one complaint all the way through this year’s ‘event comic’ from Titan, and that’s that none of the renderings of any of the Doctors have actually looked like the Doctor. Odd then that here in the final issue of the story, they actually start to be recognisable. Not all of them, and by no means all of the time, but the Twelfth Doctor, at least some of the time, is recognisably the Twelfth Doctor in this issue.
Whether that’s quite enough to save the issue and the series though is dubious.
Let’s start with the good things – issue #5 is very very Cyber-pretty. There are great swathes of artwork that would look good on your wall, there are armies of Cybermen, there’s a great montage page bringing in some of the tiny prologue scenes that weren’t even in the main thrust of this story, but were tacked onto the end of some other Titan Doctor Who stories – the Fifth Doctor and Peri are here, as are the Seventh Doctor and Ace, doing their bit to add credence to the central theme of the story, which is that the Cybermen are rewriting history at all its points simultaneously, not just at the points experienced by the ‘feature’ Doctors here, Nine, Ten, Eleven and Twelve. There’s some glorious drawing of new Cybermen, and a sleek new Cyber-Controller from Ivan Rodriguez, and the colourwork throughout from Nicola Righi is set to ‘Ooh!’
There’s a good evocation of approaching apocalypse too, as the various strategies of the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors – including blowing up the Earth, becoming a Cyber-Planner and giving the Cylurians a feedback loop of lizard emotions – all, rather unceremoniously, fail. It’s left to Captain Battle-Eyebrows to do the business, which in itself begins to feel like something of a failing in the writing – which we’d submit is a first from Cavan Scott and George Mann. Of course, it’s traditional in multi-Doctor stories that the ‘current’ incarnation is actually the most crucial player in defeating the ultimate evil that’s risen to create a threat that needs multiple Doctors to solve it. But somehow, having all the previous Doctors’ plans come to absolutely nothing, or to disaster, feels like a tonal miss-step here, an unwarranted assertion that all the previous Doctors’ plans were actually not good enough, when on any other day, they probably would have been.
But then this has been the oddest multi-Doctor adventure in history, more or less because while all the Doctors are battling the same evil, they never get to meet and be cross with each other – a distinct difference from last year’s multi-Doctor event from Paul Cornell, which in many ways outdid the Fiftieth Anniversary episode on TV by adding Mr Grumpy to the mix and stirring up the other Doctors to a little more snark among themselves. This year’s event-comic has got scope, we’ll give you that, but it feels lacking the trademark meet-up that’s actually a big part of the appeal of a multi-Doctor event.
There’s what feels like a second, however unavoidable, miss-step in the ending of the story too. Hands up who loved the epic scale of Russell T Davies’ inescapable, universe-ending series finales (or Steven Moffatt’s Pandorica gambit come to that), which required a Deus to come out of its Machina, or a big red Reset button to be pressed, meaning no-one but the Doctor would remember anything, and the universe would go on just as before?
If you had no problem with those ‘and it was all a dream’ finales, then fill your boots here at the end of Supremacy of the Cybermen, which follows very similar lines to a solution that allows the universe to skip on its merry way, and, if anything, gives the Doctor permission to be more miserable and lonely, carrying the burden of all the deaths that never now happened, because he’s the only one who can. Yes, as we say, it’s rather inevitable that that’s going to be the conclusion if you push the stakes so high that there’s no rational way out of the situation, but the point is, here there were at least two other ways to go – the Ninth Doctor’s plan was a bit ‘war-scarred, scorched-Earth, blow-the-bejesus-out-of-everything’ extreme, however in character it might have been, but the plans of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors could at least have made a contribution to a more rational, less clichéd conclusion, but instead they were rendered null and void and the Big Red Button was well and truly pressed.
Supremacy of the Cybermen has been a quirky affair. It started with great potential as far as the writing was concerned – as you’d expect from Scott and Mann – but the artwork throughout, while frequently fabulous in terms of scenery and Cybermen, has noticeably lessened the supremacy of issues by not getting close enough in terms of rendering either any of the Doctors or any of the companions in recognisable ways. An Issue #5 partial rally doesn’t really make up for the lost impetus and enjoyment that Supremacy of the Cybermen could have, and should have delivered all along the way, rather than the ‘It’s good if I close my eyes’ sensation it actually has delivered. Coupled with the Big Shiny Reset Button ending, it will probably go down in fan memory as another of those occasions where the Cybermen had real promise, had real potential to be as great as they could be…annnnnd then just missed the mark, one way or another. To be fair, that still puts it up with some pretty great Cyber-adventures, but perhaps it was inevitable in the Annus WhatTheHellius that was 2016 that Supremacy of the Cybermen would be doomed to not quite deliver either on the promise of its name or the premise of its action.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk