Reviewed By: Drew Vogel
Review Date: 8/19/17 1:49 am
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I'm really interested in how Nick Briggs decides where to start the story. On one of the "Dalek Empire III" discs, he talks about how he inteded to start the story with more-or-less what became episode three, but was persuaded by early script feedback to expand the Graxis Wardens from a background detail into major characters. I mention that because this episode also seems to have a somewhat arbitrary starting point. The story could have started with President Levinson's resistance to the Scorpius program, or it could eliminated Levinson entirely and started with President Brett. I don't have any complaints about where this story starts, but I am curious how and why Briggs decided to start there.
The story picks up on the backstory of "Sword of Orion", which is an interesting choice. I know that story is quite popular, but in my view, the backstory involving the war between the humans and their android creations was the most interesting thing about it. I am aware that subsequent episodes will deal with the androids more directly, but this episode seems to be taking mostly the same approach as "Sword of Orion"... the Orion War is the motivating factor which convinces humanity to start messing around with Cyber technology, in the hopes of discovering a technological advantage. That's totally fine, it works fine. But I am a little frustrated that we've got this really interesting concept of a human vs. android war, and so far, we're just using it to tell stories about Cybermen.
It's not that I don't love the Cybermen... I do! They've been favorite ever since I was a little kid. I bought at least three copies of David Banks's indispensable coffee-table book (because I kept losing them... I'm pretty sure one was stolen). But "Sword of Orion" didn't really do anything new with them. We'll see where this story goes, but for this episode, they're just a lurking menace.
I feel like I'm endlessly criticizing the villains' plans lately, but I'm going to do it here too. I don't think that killing President Levinson was a very good move, and I'm really surprised that it worked out so well. I realize that Brett is feeling desperate by the end of the episode, and that she's already been established as a character willing to take extreme measures in pursuit of victory. And yet, shouldn't it be clear to her that she's being manipulated and threatened into activating the Scorpius program, which clearly has its own agenda? I feel like she's being very foolish, and I'm already disposed to dislike her because she started off the story by torturing someone.
By the way, torture is morally wrong, and it doesn't work. The script, via President Levinson, seems to acknowledge that torture is at least a morally questionable undertaking, but it could have been a bit more forceful about it. Depicting torture as effective is irresponsible, and using it to demonstrate a character's toughness is gross. I have very little patience for these right-wing militaristic fantasies.