01/02/2010. Contributed by Sue Davies
pub: Big Finish. 240 minutes 2 CDs. Price: CD: £30.00 (UK), download: £25.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84435-332-3) cast: Mark McDonnell, Hannah Smith, Barnaby Edwards, Jo Castleton, Ian Brooker, Ian Hallard, Andrew Dickens, Toby Hadoke, Martin Trent, Cal Jaggers, Jess Robinson, Stuart Crossman and Nicholas Briggs.
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In a long awaited sequel, the Cybermen return and the battle for Earth continues. Set against the backdrop of the Orion War, the Cybermen are shown to be capable of the subtle nuances of a takeover by stealth in the climate of fear caused by the war civil liberties are eroded and the population divided. Now the conversions have begun in earnest and taxi driver Hazel Trahn witnesses a collection which includes her sister. Soon she is on the run with the resistance and outside of the law. But the law is breaking down. The 'tinnies' at checkpoints who shoot on sight appear to be men in metal suits but it cannot be long before the people of the Earth realise the truth.
Paul Hunt is now the acting president of Earth but he's an increasingly desperate figurehead, in power while the Cyber-bosses deem it necessary. He's isolated, enhanced by his masters; he stands aloof from the humans but is increasingly aware of the choices he's made.
Liam Barnaby and Sam Thorn are stranded in space with little hope of rescue. When it comes there are strings, of course, and Sam has to make a decision about her loyalty and her mission. Can Barnaby ever really trust an android? If Sam has to keep the faith with her fellow androids can she ever trust a human?
This is a multi-layered story told with diverse protagonists. There are multiple locations and clearly defined characters. There are key action points where decisive moves are made and lines drawn. Once again, I found it a totally absorbing story even when I managed to listen to it out of order. (Please could you number the stories on the audio, Big Finish?) The lead characters were strong and able to carry the narrative. There isn't too much Cybermen interaction but when it comes, it brings much more force and menace. With the introduction of new characters of interest to replace ones from the previous series, the production maintains a continuity essential if there is to be a third series.
Sit in a darkened room to listen to this. Have no distractions. Feel the spine-tingling menace. This is 21st century Science Fiction and it feeds the brain. When so many TV series let me down, I can always turn to audio to release those inside-the-brain pictures, stimulate my imagination and allow it to flow freely. This is another series that can be listened to again and there will be always be another frisson to be released.
Told in four parts ('Outsiders', 'Terror', 'Machines' and 'Extinction') this is issued as a download and in CD box set. Each episode is approximately one hour long and there is also an hour of extras including interviews with the writer James Swallow who has written many previous Big Finish productions and also many outside 'in the real world'. He took over from Nicholas Briggs who wrote the previous series but cannot be cloned and has obviously realised he needs to 'share'. They do share a discussion about the ensemble nature of the piece and how it works to get the scale of the piece. The extras also feature Toby Hadoke who might be better known for his play, 'Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf' and has finally got his foot in the door at Big Finish
If you like this then also try 'Kingdom Of Silver' which features Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor and features Cybermen and the Orion War. It's also written by James Swallow and has been tied to this second Cyberman series. Both the series and 'Kingdom Of Silver' are self-contained and can be enjoyed without necessarily needing to listen to the others but I recommend them all.
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