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3.0 out of 5 stars Cybermen in the constellation of Orion!, 29 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Sword of Orion (Doctor Who) (Audio CD)
`Sword of Orion' is the second Doctor Who audio story with Paul McGann produced by Big Finish. It is also the first time Big Finish did a Cybermen story after doing the Daleks previously in three stories before this.

This is a four-part story and continues the new series of audio adventures of the Eighth Doctor and his new companion Charley Pollard (played by India Fisher) who were just getting started.

Following on directly from the first audio story `Storm Warning', the Doctor and Charley have returned to the TARDIS with Ramsey the vortisaur who they've taken with him for the ride. But Ramsey is sick and the Doctor is worried about sending the vortisaur back into the time vortex where he belongs knowing it would probably kill him. The Doctor and Charley decide to go and find someone who knows about vortisaurs which leads them into a space market in the Garazone System. It isn't before long that they're caught in a web of intrigue and are walking the girders of a derelict star destroyer set in space. Within that star destroyer, Cybermen start to wake.

I must admit I found this story a little hard-going. I had to listen to this one a number of times over and over again before I could follow what's going on. The story isn't bad by no means. It's just it isn't great, and it didn't really excite me. At times it tended to be slow paced with moments occurring that left me drifting from the story a little bit. Some of the space scenes were quite hard-going and I wanted there to be more pace in the action. The cold claustrophobic atmosphere added great effect which I'm sure was the intention, but it's not the setting I find ideal in this story with Cybermen in it.

Nicholas Briggs provides directing duties to this story as well as writing it since he adapted it from an Audio Visuals play he did a while before Big Finish came along. It's meant to be an 80s Cybermen story with a movie feel and whilst it did have spectacular sound effects and chilling music in the background, it didn't help to speed up the story as I wanted it to. No disrespect to Nick Briggs as I've enjoyed many of his audio stories he's written and directed for like `The Mutant Phase', `Creatures of Beauty' and the recent `Dark Eyes' series, but the atmosphere and tone of this tale was rather hard-going for me.

The Cybermen (voiced by Nick Briggs as well) in this story were a little disappointing. Although they look like `Invasion' Cybermen on the cover, in actual fact they are `80s' Cybermen from 'Earthshock' and 'Silver Nemesis'. They sound like 80s Cybermen. They sound like they walk and move like 80s Cybermen. I just imagine them walking on the girders of the star destroyer in corridors or in their control room. At least none of them said `Excellent!' all the time, which was a blessing for me. I like how Nick Briggs does a really good interpretation of David Banks, but it's not the sort of Cyber voices I want to hear on audio. My preference is more new series Cybermen or Cybermen from the 60s like 'The Moonbase' and 'The Invasion'. I know they got better later on with Cybermen stories in Big Finish, but for this first story it wasn't what I hoped for.

I enjoyed listening to Paul McGann's Doctor in this one. This was more or less the second audio adventure I heard him in as the Doctor (the first one being `Storm Warning'). He's really getting into the part of the Doctor and I think he enjoys playing on audio that provides him enough space to go anywhere he wants with his Doctor. He doesn't have the restrictions of some of the Time Lord inaccuracies that were planted on him from the 'TV Movie' such as the half-human, half-Time Lord element. That's all forgotten. He's able to portray a character of his own and Big Finish encourage him to express his enthusiasm and energy throughout, especially in this play. He enjoys his relationship with his new companion Charley and has a good go in facing the Cybermen.

Charley played by India Fisher was nice to hear too. This is her first trip in the TARDIS with the Doctor and she gets to face Cybermen. Charley and the Doctor have struck up a good bond with each other and seem to enjoy each other's company experiencing the adventure when either surf-boarding to locate the TARDIS in the space market. I liked it when she was being over-attended to by some alien creature, not knowing what it is whether it's a `she', `he' or `it'. The Doctor and Charley are soon accused of murder and he gets forced by some of the crew of the spaceship Vanguard to down to engineering where the Cybermat is, which must have been cruel for her. I liked Charley's scenes with the Doctor when they're in the TARDIS especially towards the end when they have moments of reflection and discuss what would have been as a consequence from the Cybermen and some of the Vanguard crew's actions.

The star destroyer gets visited and investigated by a spaceship called the Vanguard which is commanded by a lady captain named Deeva Jansen (played by Michelle Livingstone). She has a bit of mystery to her. Even the crew don't understand her on who she is and why she's with them commanding this spaceship. It turns out she was newly appointed and unexpected for this commission, much to the crew's displeasure such as Grash. She gets to join the Doctor when they discover Cybermen aboard the star liner. She has her own agenda, and you're never quite sure whether she's good or bad. The revelation of her identity is so unexpected and sudden, and it connects to a special secret military project that's called - `Sword of Orion'. What does this mean then? How is this significant?

The play's big guest star is Bruce Montague playing Grash, one of the officers aboard the Vanguard. Bruce has done another one of these audios before - a Sylvester McCoy story playing Elgin, the chief librarian in `The Genocide Machine' with the Daleks. He's well known for being in the TV sitcom called `Butterflies'. The character he plays as Grash is a rather hostile character. He suspects the Doctor and Charley and accuses them immediately when he finds blood on their hands after one of the crewmembers Kelsey has been killed (by Cybermen). The Doctor and Charley try to prove their innocence but Grash doesn't listen. He rages against their new captain Deeva Jansen and is the one responsible for starting a mutiny aboard the Vanguard, forcing the Doctor and Deeva to go on the star destroyer and wanting Charley to get killed by the Cybermat in engineering. He gets it in the end when Cybermen gun him down and they turn him into one of them.

The rest of the Vanguard crew include Hylton Collins playing Vol, Ian Marr playing Ike, Helen Goldwyn playing Chev and Toby Longworth playing Kelsey who gets killed in the first episode of the story. There's also some nice guest appearances from Mark Gatiss and Barnaby Edwards who play small parts in this story and yet have a lot to do with the new series - Mark being a writer/actor for the new series and Barnaby (being a Dalek operator as well as a brilliant Big Finish director). They play Thinnes and Digly, two space pirates who board the star destroyer and immediately get killed in the first episode.

There are some trailers to listen out for at the end of Disc 2 of this story. There's a trailer for the next Doctor and Charley adventure - 'The Stones of Venice' and a trailer for their first outing together 'Storm Warning'.

So `Sword of Orion' is not great but it's not terrible. It's is an average tale for me with Paul McGann's Doctor facing the Cybermen. Some will like this, some won't. I'm not saying I don't like it, but I wouldn't consider it my favourites. The music is chilling to listen to and the atmosphere's quite tense. The Doctor and Charley are nice to listen to as well and I enjoyed their relationship together.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 17 Feb 2014 12:42:41 GMT
Last edited by the author on 17 Feb 2014 12:43:56 GMT
Timelord007 says:
Think being Big Finish first Cybermen adventure it was trial & error.

I enjoyed this adventure but felt the ending anticlimactic & rushed as it just happened were back in the Tardis onto Stones of Venice.

I'd liked a bit more tension & longer fleshed out ending as this felt frantic lacked tension & that impacts on the drama leaving the listener a" Is that it" moment.

As ever a in-depth & very well written review bringing up very good thoughts & comments.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Feb 2014 13:53:12 GMT
Tim Bradley says:
Thank timelord. They have got better with Cybermen stories so I'm not complaining.

Yeah the ending was rather rushed. There was no build up to it. And I don't it was clear what was going on with some of the characters in their sudden revelations.

Glad you enjoyed my review. Tim.
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