Hour of the Cybermen

Posted in Audio by - July 12, 2018
Hour of the Cybermen

Released July 2018
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

‘The Helliax Rift’ introduced an engaging new version of UNIT led by Lieutenant Colonel Lewis Price fueled more by military that made the organisation quite distinct from the version he so fondly remembered from his own time acting as its scientific adviser. With Daniel Hopkins acting as the tempered voice of reason who effectively filled the role of companion, the pieces were quickly put in place for an intriguing dynamic for the many incarnations of the Doctor to explore at least through the reported UNIT trilogy that would continue throughout 2018 with the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Doctors all featuring in turn. When the Sixth Doctor here answers a distress call from UNIT and finds the streets of London deserted, Andrew Smith’s ‘Hour of the Cybermen’ completely subverts expectations with trust a fragile commodity along a journey that takes the Doctor to space, underwater, and everywhere in between as his old foes implement the final stage of their long plan and hold the Earth hostage.

Britain and Britain alone suffering from a drought where even rainfall evaporates instantly and having to rely on bottled water from Europe to get by is a fantastic premise around which to base a story, and it makes perfect sense that it would at first be attributed to fluke natural conditions before an alien influence was suspected. In a country covered by an extensive satellite network that can detect any anomalies, however, the lack of activity leads UNIT to a dead end with little hope other than to call in the Doctor to offer assistance. Surprisingly, though, this decision was not a unanimous one, and none other than the brave and compassionate Daniel Hopkins led the charge against this decision as he instead wanted to commit himself and science to the problem at hand. Following the reveal that he suffered devastating personal losses in a fluke electrical fire and has since dedicated himself to his work, Daniel becomes an immensely sympathetic figure throughout the twists and turns that slowly reveal just how damaged he has become since his last encounter with the Doctor, and Blake Harrison gives a wonderfully nuanced performance that captures the essence of what has come before while exploring completely uncharted territory for the character.

Because of the prominence placed on Daniel as the Doctor and UNIT as a whole try to uncover the mystery of the Cybermen plot and just how the missing memories of a Veridian named Riva who has been partially converted factor in, ‘Hour of the Cybermen’ is a story that would lose some of its impact without first listening to ‘The Helliax Rift.’ However, buoyed by the profound story of Daniel to supplement the main action, the surprisingly patient nature of the Cybermen and the incredible effect of their dehydration weapon that can so effectively agitate hydrogen are used spectacularly to give the Cybermen a true sense of danger through intelligence that is often sacrificed to bring either pure strength or the body horror of conversion to the forefront. Wisely, though, these elements are not forgotten, and both the physical and emotional ramifications of conversion are very effectively discussed to explain how the very essence of humanity or individuality is lost. Frog Stone as the partially-converted Riva gives a sterling performance to put this horror into words as she slowly regains her memories, and the fate that ultimately befell her people as the Cybermen perfected their scheme is harrowing and adds yet another moving layer to a story so fueled with emotion to complement the very emotionless nature of the foes.

Although the resolution is a bit quick, the Doctor uses everything at his disposal to provide a logical means of bringing down this latest incursion by the little-used but engaging Cybermen that featured in the 1980s era of Doctor Who, and David Banks as the Cyber Leader and Mark Hardy as the Cyber Lieutenant are immensely engaging throughout. ‘Hour of the Cybermen’ takes a little bit of time to build up its pacing as it builds up the world and characters, but no person or assumption is safe within its running time, and the uniformly strong performances and direction make this multi-layered mystery and threat a strong instalment that sets the scene well for the presumed finale.

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