The Doctor and Evelyn are summoned to the planet Chronos to
help a military and archaeological team unlock the secrets
of a strange temporal wave that is emanating from an ancient
temple. Time is not on their side, and neither are the creatures
attempting to control the temporal phenomenon - the Cybermen...
the planet's name is Chronos, you just know the story is going
to be about time travel, don't you? The title Real Time
is another good clue! (However, the Doctor is wrong when he
claims that the Cybermen have never had access to time technology
before - they had it in Attack of the Cybermen.)
title also refers to the storytelling device employed here
by writer/director Gary Russell. Like the American TV thriller
24, events for the characters unfold over more or less
the same length of time that it takes to experience the drama.
I say "more or less" because this CD release contains a couple
of extra scenes that didn't make it into the serialised BBCi
webcast (the second such broadcast of Doctor Who, and
the first to be produced by Big Finish), which slightly undermines
the "real time" concept.
brevity of the episodes gives this adventure a different quality
to your average Big Finish story. Plot developments are dealt
with in shorthand, such as the fact that the Doctor is recruited
using a space-time telegraph rather than his customary more
gradual involvement. All in all, the pace feels more like
a comic strip than anything else, though perhaps the seeds
of that notion were planted in my head by the sleeve illustrations
of Lee Sullivan (who also provided the images for the webcast).
Long scenes of discussion or disclosure are few and far between,
which make those delivered by Dr Goddard (Yee Jee Tso) stand
out all the more. The first of these is a thumbnail sketch
of the Cybermen's origins, which was certainly useful during
the webcast, since not all visitors to BBCi can be expected
to be die-hard aficionados. However, this conspicuous info-dump
is cunningly crafted into a plot point. Tso gives a markedly
better performance here than he did in Excelis Decays.
The other notable guest stars are the comedians Stewart Lee
and Richard Herring, of whom I am a big fan. Fortunately they
don't play their roles entirely for laughs, but they do provide
some lighter moments, which contrast starkly against the horrors
that ultimately befall them. The wry humour of Herring is
also evident during the behind-the-scenes documentary that
appears on the second disc. Just as he tends to do in his
comedy routines, he bravely airs opinions that might offend
his target audience when he describes Who fans as "nerds"
- he uses the term affectionately, though!
Although in a weakened state through having to use the bare
minimum of cyber-technology, the Cybermen remain a frightening
foe. The concept of visibly half-human Cybermen makes them
even more chilling. The sound effects for some of the gruesome
cyber-conversions of helpless victims prove particularly gruesome.
is a decent enough adventure, though a little bitty, and the
time paradox elements are rather brain-aching. I would say
that Real Time is best experienced in short bursts,
as it was originally broadcast, in order to allow the events
of each episode to sink in, rather than listening to it in
one big "real time" chunk.