It’s been ten years since the final assault on Telos, the last act of the Great Cyber War. Thanks to the Glittergun, humanity prevailed – and the half-machine Cybermen were utterly obliterated. Out on the furthest fringes of the galaxy, however, they left their mark – in the form of a giant Cyber-head, hundreds of feet high. A monument? A memorial? A tomb? The Doctor, the Cybermen’s most indefatigable adversary, sets out to investigate… but he fails to return to his TARDIS. Leaving the Ship, his two companions – brave Highlander Jamie MacCrimmon, and super-intelligent Zoe Heriot – find a stranger in the Doctor’s place. A stranger in a coat of many colours, who insists that he’s the Doctor – transposed in time and space with one of his former selves… But why here? Why now? Has the universe really seen the last of the Cybermen..?
Following on from last months excellent The Defectors and continuing the “locum Doctors” trilogy, Last of the Cybermen has an impressive start to build upon. With a semi-familiar pairing of the Sixth Doctor and Jamie, with Zoe and the Cybermen to boot, can this month’s audio continue the trend? Yes and no.
While The Defectors stood out for it’s new pairing of Sylvester McCoy and Katy Manning, bringing with them a new dynamic as the morally ambiguous Seventh Doctor took the place of the right-on Third, Last of the Cybermen is saddled with the problem of over-familiarity. There is no clash of eras here and Colin Baker slips almost faultlessly into the Troughton role, his partnership with Jamie already explored both with Big Finish and on television in the Two Doctors and the history of the Cyber-race, like the Daleks, has been explored extensively across many mediums.
In the far future, not long after Zoe’s own time, the Second Doctor and his companions arrive on a mysterious planet that houses a strange monument to the Cybermen. Going out alone to investigate, the Doctor returns wearing a different face… and the outcome of the Cyberwars may be at stake. With a Tomb style group of archeologists, a very human (and Lancastrian) Cyberman and a distrustful Jamie, Last of the Cybermen is both familiar and new in equal measure.
With the presence of the Cyber-Planner and hypercubes, there’s enough classic series references that made it to the new series to keep both old and modern fans entertained, the play being a prequel of sorts to Revenge of the Cybermen and a companion piece to Tomb of the Cybermen and to a lesser degree Nightmare in Silver. This one is steeped in Cyber-lore, giving us the Cybermen equivalent of “the final end” and some echoes of the previous Legend of the Cybermen, but it is with Tomb that the play is truly at home, both in terms of scenario and the protagonists. Not playing to the “locum” concept as well as The Defectors, Last of the Cybermen feels like an amalgamation of the Troughton and Baker eras far more than simply landing a later Doctor in an earlier era which worked so well last month.
Colin Baker, Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury work well together, much as with Manning and McCoy the leads have an instant chemistry, the play having a few light-hearted moments for Jamie in particular, in what is another strong script from the veteran Alan Barnes (The Girl Who Never Was, Gods and Monsters). Jamie and his new Doctor develop something of an argumentative relationship which entertains throughout and there’s a sweet moment toward the end when we find out what Jamie’s thoughts on his future fate exactly are.
While Last of the Cybermen may not be the most original of tales in Big Finish’s canon, the play feeling over-familiar throughout, the script is strong and buoyed by the performances of the three leads, Baker and Hines in particular seeming to be having a whale of a time and given both strong and memorable material. With plenty of Cyber-lore to keep the continuity buffs on their toes, Last of the Cybermen manages to pull of the difficult second part of the locum trilogy and deliver and entertaining Cybermen tale. Plus Jamie’s in it, so what’s not to love!
Last of the Cybermen is available now from Big Finish or via the Amazon link below.
Excellent performances by the cast, Hines and Baker standing out
Cybermen fans well at home
"Locum" concept not as well implemented