Since October 2013 I have been reviewing Big Finish audios for www.planetmondas.com - and now all my reviews are collected here, please take your time to have a read.
Tuesday, 31 May 2016
Cyberman Series 1 & 2
Cybermen always frightened me a lot more than Daleks. Well frightened and brought about a great pity. Whereas Daleks just want to conquer and destroy the Cybermen are altogether more chilling, they want us to become them, they want to assimilate us, they want us to belong to them – to surrender our humanity and become part of a collective emotionless whole whose sole purpose is survival.
This special release collects together the original Cyberman series from 2005 and the second series from 2009 and gives it the full “Special Edition” treatment with a couple of making of documentaries added and trailers for all the Doctor Who Cyberman releases.
But what is the Cyberman series? At its heart Cyberman 1 is a political thriller that begs the question just how far would humanity go to win a war? The war in question is the war in Orion against the Androids. Its a war that has been going on a very very long time and humanity is tiring of the constant losses and sacrifices. There is a top secret covert operations unit named “Scorpius” who have been working to end the war swiftly – and their discovery of a crashed Cyber ship on the sea bed just off the Isle of Wight may just change the direction of the War. Its a long game, a very long game that the Cyberman are playing, getting their agents into top positions in the Earth Government, engineering a state of emergency so that Martial Law can be declared and so enabling President of Earth Karen Brett (Sarah Mowatt) to deploy “Special Commando Units” (Cybermen to you and me) in every city to keep order. Civil liberties are being eroded a tiny fraction at a time in the name of keeping the population safe, Special Commando Units reassure the public in their blank monotone that “there is nothing to fear” and we the listener knows that there really is everything to fear because the path that the earth government is following will lead to only one thing, total subjugation to the Cybermen.
Cyberman 2 carries on where Cyberman 1 left off, Earth is under the control of the Cybermen but doesn’t even know it – but whereas part 1 concentrated on the leaders of society, President Brett, Commander in Chief Liam Barnaby, Head of Scorpius Paul Hunt - Cyberman 2 has more of a focus on the ordinary people and the resistance to the stealth invasion by the Cybermen. Whilst the main players from Cyberman 1 are still part of the story, we also focus on Hazel Trahn (Jo Castleton) a taxi driver from the Midlands who witnesses the Cybermen clearing out the whole town of Stafford to “protect citizens from terrorism” and becomes a resistance fighter. The emphasis is more on the human effect of the Cybermen and how they view humans as raw materials to continue their race.
This is a huge box set – the episodes themselves are almost 8 hours in total, adding the special features takes us up to the 9 hour mark, so plenty to get your listening teeth in to.
As large as the scale is this is a very character based drama with box set one dealing with the manipulation of President Brett by Paul Hunt (Barnaby Edwards). Let me talk a bit about Paul Hunt. Barnaby Edwards gives an astonishing performance as Hunt, the once head of Scorpius who is now the mouthpiece and puppet for the Cybermen in the Earth Administration, Hunt carefully stage manages everything, the puppet playing master puppeteer to the media and the public, gaining huge approval ratings for the more and more extreme but “necessary” curbs on civil liberties brought in – his discrediting of Commander in Chief Liam Barnaby (Mark McDonnell) friend and comrade of the President is worthy of Francis Urquhart of House of Cards infamy. We also get monologue from the main players regarding their thoughts and feelings about events as they occur which further add to the depth of character.
It is an incredibly bleak set full of paranoia and misplaced patriotism based on hatred of the enemy Androids who really are just a mirror of humanity and the shocking cost that some humans are willing to pay for victory. There are no happy endings, no quick fixes, no real heroes or punch the air moments just a feeling of inevitability and frightening parallels with the times that we live in. Well paced over its 8 hours and compellingly acted – a cold brutal cautionary tale 8/10.