Monday, August 6, 2012

Sword of Orion

The second story in the first season for the 8th Doctor features the Big Finish debut of the Cybermen. It strongly follows the format of the "base under siege" formula that many of the 60's Cybermen stories had. While better things would come from Big Finish for the Cybermen in the future, it's still a pretty fun story.

The most interesting aspect of this story is the idea of the war between humans and androids who have taken control of the Orion system. The twist involving the androids' involvement in the events on the abandoned space ship remains a highlight. The very human actions of the android in saving Charley add to the moral ambiguity about just who is in the right in this war (if you even think it is ambiguous). On the other hand, the subplot with Grash and Ike's smuggling operation adds little to the story, and could have been left out entirely

In addition to being our first Cybermen story, it's still just our second story featuring the 8th Doctor and Charley. McGann and Fisher have tremendous chemistry, and Charley seems to be having a ball at the "galactic bazaar" they start the story in. The guest cast are good with special attention to Bruce Montague as Grash. He couldn't sound more different from his performance as Head Librarian Elgin in "The Genocide Machine". Michelle Livingstone is also quite good as the ruthless Captain Deeva Jansen.

As for the Cybermen, the voice work from writer/director Nick Briggs is definitely based on the 80's Cybermen stories. Big Finish will go on to try different variants of Cyber-voices as the range goes on. Since the Cybermen spend the bulk of the story reviving from hibernation, they perhaps don't seem as threatening as in other stories. This is made up for somewhat by very effective use of a Cybermat. The Cybermat wreaks havoc on the human ship, and given the unimpressive visual realization of the Cybermats in the past, works quite well in the audio format.

The biggest criticism I could levy at "Sword of Orion" is that it's just not remarkable. It's fun hearing the Cybermen for the first time, but it doesn't do anything new with them. (This would be remedied greatly in the near future.) Still, it's a fun time, and McGann continues to charm as the 8th Doctor. The first season of the 8th Doctor is progressing along nicely.

Rating: Good

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