Tuesday, 16 September 2014
Sword of Orion [Eighth Doctor + Charlotte Pollard]
There is no point beating around the bush. This is brilliant stuff. It's a old school base under siege story done to perfection. In fact, just as 'The Caves of Androzani' is 'The Power of the Kroll' but done much, much better this is 'The Wheel in Space' but a new, improved version.
In fact I'd go as far as to say this is almost the best Cyberman story in Doctor Who's history (as I have covered it in the blog up until now) with perhaps only 'The Invasion' and 'Earthshock' to match it. It has the right atmosphere, which is hard to articulate but you know it when it is there. These are Cybermen who feel like a genuine threat.
Whoever decided to go back to a more electronic voice for the Cybermen and to step away from the David Banks school of fist thumping 'Excellent' type should take several bows. These Cybermen are old school and they have Cybermats to, which is always a pleasure. More importantly they seem genuinely terrifying and here audio really helps. There is no way the television series could have a rogue Cyberman tear somewhere to pieces but on audio you can and then you can have the actors react to that. This story makes it clear that Cybermen are a genuine threat and that Cyber Conversion is a horrible process.
Paul McGann is wonderful to. He's given a chance to show what he can do and grabs it with both hands. He's pretty subdued but partial to the occasional moment of smart arse sarcasm. The Doctor's gradual drawing out of Deeva Jansen's (Michelle Livingstone) plan is nicely done and his discussion with her as the story comes towards an end is nicely played by both actors.
India Fisher's does a fine job as companion Charley Pollard too. She's smart, sharp and pugnacious. I like the way they make her struggle to fit sf concepts into the vocabulary of the 1930s: all that talk of 'deathrays'. [If they somehow squeeze the 8th Doctor into the 50th Anniversary it would be nice if he was accompanied by Charley, even if it would probably throw some kind of continuity spanner into the works. But then The Moff does not really believe in continuity as such. It's all canon so why the hell not.]
The guest cast - limited in number - do a good job. Michelle Livingstone's Deeva Jansen is posh and obviously up to something from the off and the way the layers of her character are gradually unpeeled is nicely done. Secrets beneath secrets.
There is a nice pre-credit sequence featuring Mark Gatiss (Whatever happened to him?) as Thinnes and Barnaby Edwards (Whatever etc?) as Digly which sets up the atmosphere of the story pretty darn well. Someone seems to have made a decision to make the non-officers in the crew northern, which I quite like. My favour is Ian Marr's Ike who almost...well I will not spell it out.
Actually I'm a bit confused about what to do about spoilers with the Big Finish audios. I know a lot of these have been out for ages but they are less well known than the Classic TV ones. Should I avoid them? Or just carry on regardless. Answers on a postcard to the usual etc.
Bruce Montague's Grash is pretty good to. The dodgiest and least untrustworthy member of the crew his suspicisions about the Doctor and Charley last almost too long but then you realise that Grash is the type of man who is forced to be suspicious. He'd be in trouble if he was not.
So I'd recommend to those of you who haven't listened to a Big Finish that you give this a spin. It doesn't really require you to have listened to 'Storm Warning' - which introduces Charley - to enjoy it (although there's a couple of references, particularly to Ramsay, that might nip over your head a tad but nothing too drastic) but it is really very very good.