Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions
Writer: Nicholas Briggs
RRP: £10.99 (CD) / £8.99 (Download)
Release Date: August 2015
Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online
“The Doctor reveals to Leela that they’re heading for the planet Telos. And K9 has new masters...
On Telos, in the past, the Second Doctor and Jamie are exploring the ‘tomb of the Cybermen’.
Meanwhile, the Cyber-Controller and Cyber-Planner consolidate their plans. Spare parts from Krelos are being used to construct a mighty Cyber army. The Doctor must be captured.
Out of control, the TARDIS tumbles down a chasm and the Doctor and Leela find themselves caught up in full-scale planetary invasion.”
There is a school of thought that says that big is better, and you can see that in work here: an adventure with the Cybermen! Ah, but let’s go one further: bring in an old companion! But we can do more: make it a sequel to a past adventure! Brilliant. But: no, let’s go further: we can set it during the past adventure! And let’s not just do any old story, no! Let’s set it during a much-loved classic: The Tomb of the Cybermen!
On paper, it probably sells: the Fourth Doctor and Leela meeting Jamie on Telos is a scenario which is going to get a certain type of fan tingling with anticipation, and it’s no great leap to put both Nicholas Briggs and David Richardson in that category seeing as they’ve gone ahead and made this tale.
It’s not the first time that this approach has been taken. We had The Five Companions by Eddie Robson taking place within another story, and it worked really well: it was a neat fit that took advantage of a period within the existing story when it could logically have taken place without too great a pinch of salt. So, we have previous, and a successful example at that. You can see why they felt confident enough to go down that road again. Indeed, we’ve had mixed-up Doctor/Companion tales very recently, too, and sequels to popular stories in the past time and again. How does it fare here, though?
First things first: the ‘fit’ between new tale and old tale is pretty sloppy, and I’m being generous here. We get Frazer Hines doing his Troughton impression to try and help gel things, but… well, it sounds good in small doses, but often it just sounds like Frazer Hines pretending to be Patrick Troughton, so the effect is not as seamless as everyone seems to think it is if the Extras to this play are anything to go by. The fit in with the plot of Tomb itself can conceivably work I suppose, but only at a push and certainly not as smoothly as Robson managed before. This feels far more like someone desperately trying to squeeze something in than something that clicks; like someone pushing the incorrect part of the jigsaw into the wrong hole. You can make it fit, but it’s a clumsy mess.
Second up: Jamie in a Fourth Doctor story. Now, Jamie seems to continually bump into the ‘wrong’ Doctor whilst facing the Cybermen, so this feels less novel and more old and worn than it should do. Sadly, again it’s a clumsy fit. Quite simply, there is no need whatsoever for this tale to take place during Tomb beyond it being set on Telos, which it could be at any time. It’s been done purely to try and shift CDs and with no regard to the story itself. We’re looking at quantity over quality with regards to elements here.
Thirdly, the story. Again, it’s pretty poor. Cybermen are nasty to K-9, things happen, technobabble, reset, the end. It’s dull at best, predictable at worst, and sadly as jaded and boring as the inclusion of Jamie and the notion of setting it within another story. I understand that Big Finish tend to keep things as they are and the risks are normally minimal and then repeated– the four-by-four format was successful once and so we have it once a year now; a Northern companion worked well, so they’ve been aping Lucie Miller ever since; the false-departure for Charley worked well, so let’s do it again (and again and again…) with Hex! Heck, even the covers tend to stick to a type nowadays and take few risks– but this is about as boring an execution of old tricks that we’ve seen.
We need more, especially after a story in which nothing much happens whatsoever, but what we get here, though it has more incident than Krelos, shows less flair or innovation. Not a good sign.
More than anything else, this feels like a huge disappointment after how strong this series of The Fourth Doctor Adventures has been. We’ve had sparks and new things, and then… this. A story so keen on continuity, it forgets to do anything interesting whatsoever. I really wish Big Finish would stop doing this; it’s utterly without point, and I can’t see who it appeals to. Certainly not this listener. I’m only giving it two out of ten because the Cybermen voices are at least pretty good. That’s overly kind of me, though.
“You will be like us,” say the Cybermen. If that entails being anything like this play, then that is a threat indeed.