This is the 34th story in the Main Range series by Big Finish, first released in 2002. Written by Marc Platt, this story features the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison), travelling with Nyssa (Sarah Sutton). This story has, quite rightly, come to be considered one of the ‘classics’ of the Big Finish Doctor Who range, and for good reasons.
Nobody had, until this story, really tackled the idea of a Cyberman origin story. The Cybermen first appeared in the classic tv series in the 1966 story The Tenth Planet, which was also incidentally the last story of the First Doctor’s incarnation, as played by William Hartnell. At the end of that story, in another first for Doctor Who, the Doctor regenerated into his next incarnation, played by Patrick Troughton.
The Cybermen, in The Tenth Planet, emerged to our view as a fully formed threat – from Earth’s twin planet Mondas, where, as a means of preserving themselves on their increasingly hostile planet environment, they had implanted artificial parts in their people, which in turn led to them becoming imbued with no emotions, losing their ‘humanity’. Thus they were a threat to other races, and in The Tenth Planet, their plan is to take humans from Earth back to Mondas, to transform them into Cybermen.
The Cybermen have, over the years, changed in their appearance, but their nature remains cybernetic and brutal, emotionless and calculating. This story offers a point from which to view their beginnings – on the planet of Mondas itself, but more from the perspective of how the changing of the people of Mondas into Cybermen impacted on the Mondasians. Thus, while we know that the Cybermen will go on, and we know some of the stories in which they are to become involved in their future, this tragic tale offers an understanding of how they came about. A hugely ambitious undertaking, and one which has been skilfully written, perfectly performed, and wonderfully presented to us in this audio story.
When the Tardis lands, the Doctor realises quickly where they are, and wants to leave. He knows he can’t stop the evolution and the actions of the future Cybermen he has met over his incarnations, but circumstances are such that he and Nyssa become involved in the affairs of Mondas, at its most critical juncture – and from there, only tragedy can ensue.
Peter Davison as the Doctor, and Sarah Sutton as Nyssa, play their roles perfectly – their characters are fully written and developed, and it’s absolutely right to see them under stress, reacting, and sometimes badly to what is going on round them. The other characters, including the ‘ordinary’ family of Dad, Yvonne and Frank Hartley are representative of those on Mondas, and those suffering as the planet dies, and their leaders search desperately for solutions. But the cost of those solutions will be borne by the people, as we know, and it is these characters who we come to know who will bear the brunt of Mondas’s future.
Kathryn Guck as Yvonne, Paul Copley as Dad, and Jim Hartley as Frank, are all wonderful in their parts. Similarly, the parts of Sisterman Constant (Pamela Binns) and Doctorman Allan (Sally Knyvette) are brilliantly written and performed. Thomas Dodd, as the ‘Shylockian’ character is wonderfully portrayed by Derren Nesbitt. This is a fantastic story; a tragedy, where we know the outcome and the future, but we are fully engaged with the present as it unfolds. A story that is, and will remain a classic in the Doctor Who universe.