Saturday, 30 January 2016

The Early Adventures 2.4 - The Isos Network

Before Doctor Who came back in 2005 my favourite story was “The Invasion”. I had loved it since reading the Target Novelisation and the VHS release didn’t disappoint (unlike Tomb) – I loved the pace, the almost hard boiled detective feeling, UNIT, Tobias Vaughn and of course The Cybermen. That scene of them marching down St. Paul’s steps is a classic; the threat feels really big and global. On my many, many watches of the story, from VHS to the DVD with animated episodes one and four, I didn’t give a second thought to exactlywhere the Cybermen who invaded the Earth had come from. But a certain Mr Nicholas Briggs has and this (in part) is what The Isos Network is all about.
Beginning as the Cyber-fleet in The Invasion is destroyed – The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe witness a single ship escaping and decide to follow it. They arrive on a deserted planet that seems to be populated only by empathic giant slugs with not a person or Cyberman in sight – but the Cybermen are not far away; they are lurking under ground, licking their wounds and planning the next phase in their desire to survive at all costs.
The planet in question is Isos 2 and it is indeed where the Cybermen launched their invasion of Earth from – their numbers are heavily depleted, their Controller is in hibernation, but as always the Cybermen have an indomitable urge to survive.
In showing us Isos 2 as a launch point for their invasion Nick Briggs shows us Earth as it could have been had the Doctor and UNIT not defeated the Cyber Invasion, he shows us a world where the population have been used literally as spare parts for a Cyber Army. This is personified in the character of Hilsee – a partially converted resident of Isos who befriends Zoe and helps her when she becomes separated from the Doctor and Jamie. Hilsee is a tragic character, a sorrowful reminder of just what it is the Cybermen take away from us and destroy what we are.
Frazer Hines reprises his role as Jamie and continues to dazzle with his portrayal of the Second Doctor.  He really has captured the essence of Patrick Troughton, all the vocal mannerisms, the throat clearing, pauses and bumbling facade all honed to perfection.
Nick Briggs has not only written and directed this story but also plays the Cybermen and as a true devotee his vocal performance is absolutely spot on and completely of their era – his Cyber Controller is particularly chilling…
The story itself is very “Season 6” and like some stories that season seems a little padded, it may have been snappier as a three part story? The content and structure are interesting, but there does seem to be a lot of too-ing and fro-ing – much as there was in the era so in that way it does retain its authenticity and lives up to the strapline of an audio adventure in Black & White. As a sequel to an all-time classic story this has a lot going for it: Cybermen, the Cyber Controller, a bonkers Cyber Plan (sorry for bonkers, read “completely logical”) a commanding performance as the Second Doctor from Frazer Hines – it just seems to lack a little bit of pace.
7/10.