Re-released in a collected volume, celebrating their own 50th Anniversary, Big Finish’s Cyberman series presents humanity the gravest danger; locked in a bitter interstellar conflict with its own android creations.
With the incumbent Earth president refusing the more unpalatable options, an insidious conspiracy manoeuvres military hero Admiral Karen Brett (Sarah Mowat) into position, eyeing her as someone prepared to make the tough choices.
Master manipulator Paul Hunt (Barnaby Edwards) offers a friendly face and the chance to turn the tide with his Scorpius project, but at a terrible cost; the long dormant Cybermen have their own agenda.
Realising the threat, Commander Liam Barnaby (Mark McDonnell), Brett’s closest ally, finds himself shut out and forced to ally with the android enemy, in the person of Samantha Thorn (Hannah Smith).
Six months on, Season 2 shows us the horror of Earth under Cyber control – all stage managed by Paul Hunt, now ‘Executive’ in charge of the planet. Struggling to maintain control and to do the will of his Cyber masters, Barnaby Edwards is terrific in the role.
With the planet seemingly lost, the Android solution is to deprive the Cybermen of their raw materials setting a ticking clock the Earth’s survival.
Taking a step further than most Doctor Who stories, as our hero has usually swept in by this point; we see the devastating effect on the human race. A resistance underground, met through the eyes of taxi driver Hazel Trahn (Jo Castleton) springs up, but the odds seem horrendously stacked against them.
Throughout, these Cybermen are drawn from their earliest stories – no fist clenching and sliver moon-boots, but instead driven by an eerie Cyber-Planner and using stealthy tactics; the musical score only servers to reinforces this, redolent of those 1960s appearances.
The production utilises the earliest voices from ‘The Tenth Planet’, despite choosing classic the look of ‘The Invasion’ for the cover art. It is a well-judged move given the amount of dialogue and the vocoder-like tonal quality grants them a bewildered, almost childlike tone.
In tune with the parent series in its darker moments, we see ordinary folk taking up arms against the Earth government and contemplate the nature of humanity, as well as the morals of war. As referenced in the extras, fans of Battlestar Galactica might find common ground here, as well as nods in the direction of Blade Runner. While the plays reference other Big Finish Doctor Who releases, notably Sword of Orion and Kingdom of Silver, the series is essentially stand-alone.
This box set comprises eight hour-long plays, all directed by Nicholas Briggs who wrote the first four, with James Swallow penning the remainder. In addition, a behind the scenes disc covers the series’ production with interviews from all the major players.
Cyberman comes with a hearty recommendation from us; proper grown-up science fiction set in theDoctor Who universe – political and powerful with no easy answers and real consequences.
“There is nothing to fear…”
Released in May 2016 by Big Finish.
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