Part 3: Conversion

Writer/director: Nicholas Briggs
Big Finish Productions
RRP: 10.99
ISBN 1 84435 119 X
Available 13 December 2005

Fear is humanity's greatest enemy, but the Cybermen - the mighty civilisation that we could have been - can free us from it. So claims Paul Hunt, as he strives to convert President Karen Brett to his way of thinking. Meanwhile, can Samantha Thorne free Liam Barnaby from his own conversion...?

Following the rather uneventful second episode, Conversion ups the ante considerably. Having previously rationed out the Cyber-presence, Nick Briggs lets his monsters loose in a big way. Kicking off with a dramatic flashback to Paul Hunt's (Barnaby Edwards) earlier life, the Cybermen can be heard during approximately half of this CD's running time.

As ever, Briggs provides the voices for the ruthless machine-creatures, yet despite their increased number, he makes it easy for us to tell them apart. The CyberPlanner warbles as before, while the CyberLeader is distinguishable from his underlings by virtue of his slightly Tenth Planet-like delivery. Perhaps some Leaders or entire squadrons sound different from others - this would explain why the Cybermen in Sword of Orion, which is set in roughly the same era, sound more like the 1980s versions. (Passing thought: am I the only one who liked Sword of Orion? Most other reviews I have read seem to hate it.)

Brett's (Sarah Mowat) torture of a prisoner in Part 1, a development that seemed at the time to be toyed with by the writer but then discarded, is brought back into play here. The President's pragmatism is compared with that of the CyberPlanner. Except, of course, the CyberPlanner never suffers from regrets or other emotional responses as Brett does - something that Paul Hunt (Barnaby Edwards) and the Cybermen aim to cure her of.

On a lighter note, there's a little comic relief as Samantha Thorne (Hannah Smith) endeavours to free Liam Barnaby (Mark McDonnell) from his conditioning by awakening his - ahem - baser human instincts... which she does by repeatedly snogging him! (Another passing thought: considering Liam's Scottish accent, and Briggs' habit of recasting old Dalek Empire players such as Mowat, McDonnell and Ian Brooker, I wonder whether David Tennant would have been playing him had he not been cast as the Tenth Doctor.)

All in all, Conversion is gripping stuff, and it sets things up nicely for next month's arrival at the planet Telos. I was beginning to have my doubts about this series, but now I'm well and truly converted.

Richard McGinlay

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