on 10 February 2005
OK - it was inveitably going to happen, as is the case with all Dalek releases (the BBC obviously testing the water,) a Cyberman release is never far behind. In 2003, to commerate the 40th Anniversary of our favourite Time Lord, there was a Dalek Tin Released, for the 41st, a Cyberman tin is released.
Firstly, this set is much better presented than that of 2003s Daleks. The tin size has been made smaller, meaning that the CDs inside don't rattle around and thus make the whole thing seem like a biscuit tin, secondly the art is much more attractive. The Dalek tin was just that - a tin with the word 'Dalek' on it - boring!! This year, the BBC have actually done their research, the new tin is far more aesthetically pleasing. There is an improved use of colour, whilst the 3D lettering and Cyber icons are most impressive.
Possibly the bonus to this set (without even looking at the content,) is the fact that each tin is NUMBERED. This is the first time that the BBC have numbered any of their supposed 'Limited Edition,' Doctor Who sets - although the amount is still quite high; 8000, the fact that there is a specific number, makes this purchase feel somehow more special. Although a certificate inside to autheticiate this would also be of benefit.
Now time for the content... The tin comprises a rather mixed bag - the first and last Cybermen stories of the 1960's respectively. Both stories have their place in Whovian history -'The Tenth Planet,' is historic for not only the introduction of the Cybermen, who by 1968 had become a very popular monster but the first ever 'regeneration,' whilst 'The Invasion,' lays the groundwork for a large majority of the Pertwee era.
'The Tenth Planet' in this set offers us the first chance to hear a COMPLETE version of the story - i.e. all of episode 4 (the missing one) and not just highlights. The story itself is slow and feels padded, the inclusion of the Cybermen does little to highten any tension and their 'sing-song' voices do tend to grate on the listener as time wears on. As is common to all of the BBC audio releases, the soundtrack quality is excellent and allows the dialogue to be heard comfortably.
The Cybermen themselves are rather primitive, and the characters are wooden stereotypes. General Cutler suffers terribly from this, his gun-totting over-acting, American stereotypical charcter becomes irritating after a while, and we are grateful that he is killed off at the end.
Being noted for its first regeneration, there are few clues given in the first three and a half episodes. Hartnell's Doctor was always absent from episodes due to the actors' illness and when the regeneration arrives, there is little narration to cover it. This story, in my opinion lacks narration, we are left listening to things without proper explanation - Wilkes does a better job here than before, but her tone is still staid and lacking in places. It is interesting to note at the end of the story, the 'Next Episode' caption is read to announce 'Power of the Daleks,' an interesting piece of advertising spin I think.
Fortunately 'The Invasion' is much better. Troughton's Doctor is placed in a setting we can relate to - London in the present, the absence of snow machines means we can hear characters clearly and keep abrest with what is actually going on. At eight episodes, the story was one of the longest at the time, and curiously is mostly complete in the archives - evidently, the BBC are running out of stories to publish...
However, despite being double the length of 'The Tenth Planet' it doesn't drag - the characterisations are excellent, I adore Troughton's Doctor, and the role of UNIT is well established. The use of incidental music, such as the 'Sting' when a Cyberman appears is chilling, and even though we know the Cybermen are involved, the narration does not betray the secret - thus building tension for the climax of episode 4.
Aside from Troughton, Kevin Stoney shines as Vaughn, the character comes across menacing on audio and is just as effective. Similarly, the audio works better in some places - we can actually imagine futuristic Cyberships, not as was the case, cotton reels, whist the 'clang' of the manhole covers as the invasion begins is truly chilling.
Hines' narration is excellent and he appears to be enjoying himself. This is probably the best release so far and for those who cannot/don't want the tin - I recommend you to buy this when the stories are released individually (as no doubt they will be.)
The extra interviews at the end of each story are a nice bonus, with Hines' being more informative about the actual story rather than about the era in question. The story about the Guiness factory is most amusing...
The bonus disc CYBERMEN is OK, but it is not really in the same league as the soundtracks, if you enjoy having something read to you then it serves its purpose. It appears more as a tool to inform the casual listner as to what Cybermen actually are - but you could guage that from 'The Tenth Planet.'
Overall, an excellent release, presumably the last Cybermen adventures now (unless the BBC begins to release complete WHO on CD, which I hope will happen as the series is fine on this medium.) Better than last years' Dalek's Tin - the BBC need to go a long way to beat this one!!