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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Last of the Cybermen


Starring: Colin Baker
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 459 4
Release Date: 31 May 2015

It’s been ten years since the final assault on Telos, the last act of the Great Cyber-War, when the half-machine Cybermen were utterly obliterated. Out on the furthest fringes of the galaxy, however, they left their mark – in the form of a giant Cyber-head, hundreds of feet high. A monument? A memorial? A tomb? The Doctor, the Cybermen’s most indefatigable adversary, sets out to investigate… but he fails to return to his TARDIS. Leaving the Ship, his companions, Jamie and Zoe, find a stranger in the Doctor’s place. A stranger in a coat of many colours, who insists that he’s the Doctor – transposed in time and space with one of his former selves. But why here? Why now? Has the universe really seen the last of the Cybermen…?

The Sixth Doctor does seem to have a special affinity with the Second Doctor and his companions, doesn’t he? He met the Second Doctor and Jamie on television in The Two Doctors, called upon an elderly Jamie in the comic strip The World Shapers (which also featured the Cybermen), recalled one of his former selves’ adventures in the novel Players, and had an entire trilogy of Big Finish audios with Jamie in 2010 (one of which also featured Zoe and those pesky Cybermen again). You don’t need to be familiar with any of those stories, however, because this one takes place before the lot of them, at least as far as Jamie and Zoe are concerned. For the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe, these events are set decisively between The Space Pirates and The War Games, a placement that proves highly relevant to the plot...

It might have been interesting to hear Peter Davison in a story set during the time of ‘his’ Doctor, Patrick Troughton, the one he watched as a kid and based much of his characterisation upon, but then perhaps he would have ended up being too similar for that reason. The point of this ‘Locum Doctors’ trilogy is that the displaced Doctor reacts to events in a different way than his predecessor would – which could have disastrous effects not only on the adventure in hand, but also on the established histories of the TARDIS crew.

Zoe (Wendy Padbury) is decidedly blasé about the multi-coloured Doc swap. After all, she and Jamie have experienced changes of appearance before, in The Mind Robber, as the Doctor points out to the Highlander. Jamie (Frazer Hines) remains sceptical, but fortunately not in a way that slows down the story. He also gets some splendid character moments, such as saying, “Aye, that’ll be it”, of a scientific phenomenon he doesn’t understand at all! Writer Alan Barnes also makes good use of Zoe’s background as a product of the controversial Parapsychology Unit.

Last of the Cybermen unites elements from The Tomb of the Cybermen (hibernating Cybermen and the Brotherhood of Logicians), The Wheel in Space (the Parapsychology Unit) and Revenge of the Cybermen (the Cyber-War – we get to hear glitterguns in action for the very first time). The writer sets out to bridge the gap between the Cyber-stories of the 1960s and the 1970s, giving us an insight into the legendary Cyber-War into the bargain.

He could be accused of over-egging the pudding. On top of the Doctor’s displaced nature, the fourth episode gets extra confusing, taking in events both during the war and ten years after it. I could have done with more time being spent on the wartime elements of the plot, perhaps introducing some of them during Part Three. In fact, just one of those two timelines would have been sufficiently interesting to sustain the story on its own. The continuity-heavy time-travelling shenanigans evoke Colin Baker’s time on the show rather than Troughton’s, though from the latter’s era we do have sinister Logicians and Dan Dare style heroes – the latter in the form of Nicholas Farrell as Captain Frank and Nicholas Briggs (who also plays the Cybermen) as Lanky.

A more subtle, perhaps even unintentional, bit of continuity is the Kuiper belt setting of this story. Could the planetoid in fact be Planet 14 – which David Banks theorised as being the 14th (dwarf) planet in our solar system?

Nigel Fairs’ incidental music is not particularly redolent of either Troughton or Colin Baker’s era, but instead recalls aspects of Carey Blyton’s score from Revenge. Meanwhile, the vocalisation of the Cyber-race straddles the gulf between 1968 and 1975 – the Cyber-Planner sounds familiar, but the Cybermen themselves are heading more in the direction of Revenge and Earthshock.

Last of the Cybermen is a somewhat unfocused and over-complicated affair, but it offers plenty of entertainment for fans of the Cybermen from a variety of eras.


Richard McGinlay

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