Arriving in the midst of a Human – Android war, the Doctor and Charley find themselves trapped on a star destroyer facing summary execution. However, a believed vanquished foe is stirring in the Garazone system…
It would be lovely to say that the Eighth Doctor’s first meeting with the Cybermen is a complete success. Sadly, this story does suffer from a somewhat generic feeling story, as well as some particularly one dimensional guest characters and a sense that this could have been a story for any Doctor and companion pairing, rather than feeling like it furthers the dynamic between the Eighth Doctor and his new companion. That being said, the performances of McGann, Fisher and Michelle Livingstone as Deeva Jansen deserve credit in a rather forgettable story. Fortunately for Big Finish, their Cybermen stories would get better!
Potentially due to the fact that the story was adapted from an Audio Visuals story, the biggest problem here is that there is nothing that relates directly to this incarnation of the Doctor and his companion. Tonally in places it feels as though it belongs in the 1980s era of stories, while the score seems to hark back to 1960s Patrick Troughton stories. This makes the Eighth Doctor feel all the more out of place, especially as there is none of this incarnation’s charm as demonstrated in the previous story. That being said, the story does evoke a sense of palpable tension during the first two parts in the build up to the reveal of the Cybermen, which I feel works really well and is impressive considering that it only has audio to do this with. The story never really grabbed me as it seemed almost too generic of a Cyberman story, although the information of the Orion War is quite an interesting idea.
Furthermore, the story does struggle with some particularly one dimensional guest characters. I feel as though Grash is probably the best example of this, as he seems to be a standard Doctor Who villainous secondary character with an itchy character We are not given enough information to really care about the crew of the Vanguard as they meet their fates, which feels like poor management of the time given. The one character who really does stand out amongst these is Deeva Jansen, played by Michelle Livingstone, who is the one character who gets anything really meaningful to contribute to the story. Livingstone plays the part of the Android double agent really well, and when she tells Charley “We learn from our creators”, it is a line delivery that is completely chilling.
Despite some limitations in the characterisation, Paul McGann continues to be a great Doctor. This story is notable for giving us this incarnation of the Doctor without any charm or twinkle, but despite this, it doesn’t feel as though McGann is giving this any less than 100%. I feel like this story wastes the opportunity to develop on the promising relationship between the Doctor and Charley, started in Storm Warning, however, despite having little or nothing to in the first part of the story, India Fisher also puts in a great performance. The Cybermen work really well on audio, despite the other limitations of the story in general, as they feel properly scary and a real threat. It sounds obvious to say now, having had Nick Briggs provide the voice of the Cybermen for nearly 13 years on television, but his vocal work really helps them feel like a genuine foe to contend with.
Verdict: Sadly, the Eighth Doctor’s first meeting with the Cybermen is a rather forgettable affair. Strong central performances from McGann and Livingstone alike save this from being awful. 3/10
Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charley Pollard), Bruce Montague (Grash), Michelle Livingstone (Deeva Jansen), Helen Goldwyn (Chev), Ian Marr (Ike), Hylton Collins (Vol), Toby Longworth (Kelsey), Barnaby Edwards (Digly), Mark Gatiss (Thinnes), Nicholas Briggs (Cybermen/Cyberleader), Alistair Lock (Cybermen)
Writer: Nicholas Briggs
Director: Nicholas Briggs
Behind the Scenes
- This is the first Big Finish story to feature the Cybermen, and features the first meeting of the Cybermen and the Eighth Doctor.
- This story was adapted from an Audio Visuals production of the same name.
- Sword of Orion marks the first performance of Nicholas Briggs as the Cybermen, a role he reprised in the revived series.
Is this where you start getting all superior and mysterious with me?
No. This is where, at last, I get to put the kettle on.
Charley Pollard and the Eighth Doctor