Much like the classic episode “Genesis of the Daleks,” this explores the genesis of the Cybermen. Even though they are alternate Cybermen, they can travel through alternate dimensions, as we will later see. The two-part episode “Rise of the Cybermen” and “The Age of Steel” begins with a murder at the hands of a Cyberman, ordered by John Lumic of Cybus Industries (Roger Lloyd-Pack—who also played David Tennant’s father in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Soon after, the Doctor, Rose, and Mickey are traveling through the universe when the TARDIS suddenly, inexplicably, dies, and they are thrust into a parallel universe—a zeppelin-filled London. Pete Tyler, Rose’s father, is alive and famous, but all is not necessarily right in the world.
Pete Tyler has something to do with the slightly unhinged Lumic, who is using earbuds (they look like Bluetooth headsets) to hack into the brains of those who wear them. He orders his people to go on a recruiting drive—snatching homeless people off the street for experimentation.
Mickey goes to see his grandmother while Rose goes to her mother and father. The Doctor accompanies her and they witness a mass download via the earbuds, and the Doctor’s interest is piqued. Meanwhile, Mickey meets his grandmother—who died in his world—and his name is Ricky in the alternate world (calling back to the Doctor misremembering his name previously).
Ricky is public enemy number one in London, leading a resistance movement against Cybus Industries (and for parking tickets). Soon after, Cybus launches a full-frontal attack on London. He’s going to convert everyone into Cybermen. The Doctor, Rose, Mickey (after Rickey’s death at the hands of the Cybermen), and company all set out to bring down Lumic’s master plan.
This episode really demonstrates the Doctor’s consuming concern for Rose, while she dangerously distracts herself with chasing after her family, regardless of the fact that they’re alternates. Mickey, while intrigued by the Doctor’s world, goes where he is needed regardless of the Doctor’s accompaniment. Mickey is irritated by the Doctor’s lack of concern for him and goes off to explore the world, looking for his place. This episode is where I grew to appreciate Noel Clark as an actor. He’s goofy in the first season, so I assumed that was the actor. However, it was truly a persona he put on; Mickey portrays a great bit of depth of character throughout this episode and his subsequent appearances. He does his best, and succeeds, to prove that he’s not “the tin dog”—the dispensable, laughable K-9 character. Mickey stays behind in the alternate universe. He finally makes a choice that doesn’t involve Rose, finding his place in the universe.
These episodes doesn’t have the wit woven through them like Steven Moffat or Russell T. Davies episodes do, but it’s filled with tension and great action.