Scourge of the Cybermen

Posted in Audio by - July 11, 2021
Scourge of the Cybermen

Released July 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

‘The Scourge of the Cybermen’ by Simon Guerrier represents something of a new undertaking for Big Finish, the first of a new range looking to deliver authentic, feature-length stories of Doctor Who within an audio novel format. As the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith feature in their first joint encounter against the Cybermen, Jon Culshaw who has already done so much for The Third Doctor Adventures and across so many Big Finish ranges admirably takes up narrating duties to delve into this beloved era once more.

On an alien world, a group of scientists run an underwater city while searching for ways to combat pollution and to produce clean energy. This is research with wide-ranging implications across the galaxy, and the Doctor is more than eager to help in any way he can. Yet while the Doctor quickly charms his way and proves his intellectual value to the scientists, Sarah who has been left to her own investigative devices becomes concerned about the lights that continue to flicker while coming to discover that a number of denizens here have become ill with incredibly similar symptoms. An impending disaster continues to near, and the Doctor and Sarah soon find themselves embroiled in a fight for the lives of everyone around them as the Cybermen and their cold logic precisely and correctly predict what the humans will do in order to survive.

The expanded running time of a six-part adventure as well as the additional details that narration allows to more intimately and precisely develop characters and settings are used to maximal effect to bring the many facets of this city to vivid life. The Doctor and Sarah, of course, are the featured characters, and Guerrier’s writing and Culshaw’s delivery perfectly capture the spirit and incisiveness of these iconic characters. Yet as both continue to investigate and to continue their fight even as the Doctor himself succumbs to the rampant illness, plenty of supporting characters receive plenty of time in the spotlight to make known their thoughts, motivations, and actions in a wholly developed manner that never cuts any corners. As such, the overlapping and sometimes-conflicting thoughts about what is best for the people on this base develop naturally and understandably, and the underlying mystery surrounding the illness, its symptoms, and the cause provides an engaging twist that proves quite challenging for Sarah in particular to navigate.

Ultimately, ‘Scourge of the Cybermen’ is a story about the best of intentions and the different moralities that can feed them, the consequences, and even redemption, and the calculating nature of the Cybermen as they slowly grow in strength upon awakening is a perfect counterpoint to the variability but assured determination that fuels human nature and the need to survive. In turn, the slow degradation of the gold-laden city is a fitting mirror for the slow degradation of the human spirit that an impossible choice at the hands of the Cybermen affords. The Cybermen themselves are used quite sparingly in order to maximize the claustrophobic atmosphere and the intensifying strain upon the humans within, but Nicholas Briggs perfectly evokes the emotionless certainty of the race that continues to garner strength and the ability to more aggressively pursue its goals with or without human consent.

‘Scourge of the Cybermen’ is an immensely visual and evocative tale, and its focus on technology and the human condition through deliberate pacing interjected with more intense action sequences perfectly captures the spirit of its intended era. The Doctor and Sarah Jane are presented at their most determined and optimisitic even as the odds of survival shift increasingly against them, and the sound design enhances the overall experience to further showcase why this range will assuredly be a successful variation on a trusted format for a long time going forward. Doctor Who long ago perfected the base under siege format, and while this story doesn’t necessarily do too much to reinvent the wheel, it’s an incredible and gripping offering that will assuredly please fans of the era.

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