Doctor Who: Sword of Orion

Hot on the Heels of my last Big Finish audio review, we have yet another Paul McGann /India Fisher Eighth Doctor audio drama to take a look at. This time we have the return of one of my favorite villains of all time – the Cybermen. This play actually marks the very first time we see Cybermen appear in one of these plays, and this is a good thing. After having a ton of these already star the Daleks, it’s good to see other classic villains get sprinkled in.

Here is a synopsis:

“The human race is locked in deadly combat with the ‘Android Hordes’ in the Orion System. Light years from the front line, the Doctor and Charley arrive to sample the dubious delights of a galactic backwater, little suspecting that the consequences of the Orion War might reach them there. But High Command’s lust for victory knows no bounds.

Trapped aboard a mysterious derelict star destroyer, the Doctor and Charley find themselves facing summary execution. But this is only the beginning of their troubles. The real danger has yet to awaken.

Until, somewhere in the dark recesses of the Garazone System, the Cybermen receive the signal for reactivation…”

What really stands out to me in this episode is the sound design. This story could have had a horrendous story, and I still would have liked it based on the atmosphere alone. Not only is the music well done, but the care at which the background noises and sound effects were produced sets a benchmark, for me at least, that no other drama up to this one has come to. The first instance of this occurs at the very beginning of the play. The Doctor and Charley are visiting a “space bazaar” of sorts to hopefully find a way to cure an ailing vortisaur, the creature that they met in the last episode. In this scene we hear layer upon layer of creatures talking, music, and idle chatter, all leading the listener to imagine a robust market side, hustling and bustling with tons of business.

Another place where this stands out is when we finally see the Cybermen that we all know take part in the serial. For the first few encounters we only ever hear a creature that is attacking various people. The noises are both animalistic and insane, making this creature terrifying. Later we find out that this is in fact a rogue Cyberman that has gone totally mad waiting for its connection to a cyberleader to get re-established. After years of seeing sub-par Cybermen that either stomp around saying catchphrases, or are wussy enough that they can be destroyed with a flick of a gold coin, I feel that this is the sweet spot for the creature. Well this or the unsettling voice that the original Cybermen had, which is definitely nightmare fuel of the highest octane.

While some of the side characters in this drama aren’t really all that well fleshed out, they do serve a great purpose to antagonize the Doctor and Charley when they initially believe the pair to be murderers of a fellow crewmate. These characters, the crew of a scrap ship, are your typical Doctor Who rag-tag, and somewhat mutinous ship crew. There definitely could have been a bit more fleshing out of a few of these characters, but it wasn’t really needed. Much like any Alien of Predator movie, some characters are just destined to be bad guy-fodder.

I’m not going to say that this is the best Doctor Who drama that I’ve listened to, but it really does have a great atmosphere and storyline to it. If this is the beginning of a quality plateau that holds steady for the next few releases, I’ll be insanely happy for the rest of the line.

Here is a trailer:

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