Released September 2008
The Seventh Doctor arrives on Tasak in search of some relaxation and refreshment, certainly not intending to find an energy trace. Yet this planet is the site of an ancient power long since forgotten, and the wise Magus Riga is insistent on taking any steps necessary to save his people from repeating the mistakes of the past. As the Cybermen rise, though, disaster is imminent, and the Orion War looms large.
The Doctor on display here is one nearing the end of his seventh incarnation, one who is taking to isolation more and more and one who insists that the problem is not one for him. And for the first bit, before the revelation of the Cybermen’s involvement, he only half-heartedly makes his presence known at best. But his silver nemesis brings out an incredible performance, fear and panic underscoring his desperate pleas to get across the danger and threat of the Cybermen and to stop trying to utilize Cyber technology for personal progress and gain. This may seem like the starting point of any number of Cybermen stories, but the advent of silver as a curative product readily available to the public is still an ingenious spin on a banal plot contrivance. Likewise, tying this story into the Orion War with androids and humans alike searching the galaxy for Cybermen relics and finding that Tasak is a Cybermen tomb world certainly adds an extra sense of scope to proceedings.
Unfortunately, despite McCoy’s heightened performance and some clever scripting, the production as a whole fails to truly come alive. The supporting cast does little to stand out, for the most part content to portray a flat and emotionless population, and the use of the same actors is multiple roles is quite apparent. At the same time, the alien planet so brimming with interesting locales is simply described with exposition rather than experiences. This is no fault of Big Finish’s either since the television series is just as guilty, but the shock factor of the Cybermen’s appearance is completely eliminated by the cover artwork for the story, meaning that the first episode seems to be treading water as details slowly emerge while trying to keep the reveal as shrouded as possible. The end result is a strictly average release with rather average direction, one that fails to fully take advantage of the iconic threat.
‘Keepsake’ is the one-part addendum to the three-part ‘Kingdom of Silver,’ and it may arguably be the best use of the one-part format yet, giving extra depth to Sara from the main release. Having the story unfold from her point of view truly shows how insignificant her life is as an instrument of war and how dangerous emotional attachments can be in her situation. The revelation that her consciousness has been placed into such a meaningless device is devastatingly shocking and emphasizes how heartless her superiors are. This is a story that can’t really stand by itself, but it certainly adds a much greater level of detail to Temeter and Sara as well as the conflict of the Orion War in general, and it supplements ‘Kingdom of Silver’ nicely, though perhaps to the detriment of that release for the same reasons as well.