Part 1: Scorpius

Writer/director: Nicholas Briggs
Big Finish Productions
RRP: 10.99
ISBN 1 84435 117 3
Available 25 September 2005

The human race could be about to become extinct. Mankind is fighting a long and costly war with its android creations, who want human rights and will stop at nothing to get them. The deadlock must be broken at all costs. The President of Earth must think the unthinkable...

As expected, the first part of this new mini-series shows every sign of doing for the Cybermen what Dalek Empire did for the Daleks. This is logical.

Denied the visual appeal of Doctor Who's second-most-famous monsters, writer/director Nicholas Briggs uses the creatures in more original, interesting and unpredictable ways than they were usually afforded by writers of the old television series. The Cybermen's scheme isn't simply to take over a planet and/or wipe out humanity: it's more complex than that, and we are given only tantalising clues towards it in this instalment.

As with the Dalek Empire series, Cyberman's roots lie in earlier episodes of Big Finish's Who output: in this case, the human/android conflict depicted in the Paul McGann adventure Sword of Orion. Briggs' music is also essentially the same memorable mixture of Malcolm Clarke and Dominic Glynn, inspiring a palpable sense of lurking menace. This time, though, the Cybermen speak not with their 1980s-style booming declarations but with Troughton-era vocal modulations, which are far better suited to the Invasion Cyberman depicted on the cover.

If this episode has a fault, it's that it is slightly bitty. Ideas seem to be toyed with then discarded as though by a bored child. A torture scene highlights the obvious irony of mankind's capacity for inhumanity in the midst of battle against inhuman killers. However, Briggs seems to realise that his morality tale is in imminent danger of reaching its conclusion three episodes too early, and so the torturer, Admiral Brett, is soon heard to regret her actions. Later on, the Admiral receives two Macbeth-style predictions of power, but both come to pass within minutes of running time.

My apologies for not naming any members of the cast, but instead of production credits this CD directs the listener, Spooks-style, to a web page, and the cast list remains shrouded in mystery.

Those niggles aside, if you're hungry for the Cybermen's return in the 2006 series of Doctor Who (a typically emotional response, a sign of human weakness), then this four-part saga should tide you over nicely.

Hooray! I managed to get through an entire Cyberman review without using the word "excellent" - oh bugger, I've said it now.

Richard McGinlay

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