THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE BIG
FINISH AUDIO DRAMAS
"STORM WARNING" AND
"THE STONES OF VENICE."
BIG FINISH CD#17
RELEASED IN FEBRUARY
THE HUMAN RACE IS
LOCKED IN DEADLY
COMBAT WITH THE
ANDROID HORDES IN
THE ORION SYSTEM.
HIGH COMMAND'S LUST
FOR VICTORY KNOWS
TRAPPED ABOARD A
STARSHIP, THE DOCTOR
AND CHARLEY AWAIT
BUT THIS IS ONLY THE
BEGINNING OF THEIR
TROUBLES AS IN THE
DARK RECESSES OF
THE GARAZONE SYSTEM,
THE CYBERMEN RECEIVE
receive the signal
Sword of Orion
The eighth Doctor and Charley’s second adventure together has been given quite
a roasting by the critics, and somewhat unjustly I feel. Sword of Orion makes no bones about being a 1980s-style Cybermen story, and if you don’t expect anything more than that from it, then there’s a hell of a lot to like.
Much of the criticism that has been levelled at Nicholas Briggs’ script has been largely due to the fact that it appears to lack innovation. A dark, chilling, and claustrophobic tale told in the customary Doctor Who manner (with just a touch of Aliens grit and grime thrown into the mix), Sword of Orion is so resplendently traditional that it doesn’t stand out from the crowd;
at least, not at a first glance.
The Cybermen aren’t used spectacularly here by Briggs, but in fairness they aren’t the crux of the story. Briggs’ uses the Cybermen as straightforward monsters – their spectre hangs over the first two episodes, creating a morbid sense of unease, and then in the latter half of the production they do what they always do, and they do it well. All the while though, we are learning about the war between Earth and the Android Hordes of Orion, and the frightening lengths that both sides are prepared to go to in order to win the war. Lengths that include the exploitation of the Cybermen...
And to say that Sword of Orion was
originally written well over a decade
ago for a fan production, this four-part
tale really does a tremendous job of
establishing the new Doctor and his
companion; indeed, the structure and
the tone really lend themselves to Paul
McGann’s innate energy and purpose.
What’s more, I find it interesting that
Charley is rather nonchalant about her
trip to the 26th century; such a blasé, devil may care attitude suits India Fisher’s impetuous “Edwardian Adventuress” character right down to the ground. I particularly like how Briggs paints her as being so proactive so early into her travels, charging headlong into moral debates concerning cultures she knows nothing about; championing the Orion Androids before she’s taken the time to found out what they’re really like.
Furthermore, as was the case with Storm Warning, the sound design here is breathtakingly evocative; I was particularly taken with the realisation of Garazone space station in Part 1. Michelle Livingstone also warrants special mention for her terrific performance as Captain Deeva Jansen; in fact, her unique character is probably the one element of Sword of Orion that sticks in my mind above all else.
All told then, Sword of Orion may not the most outstanding adventure that Big Finish have produced thus far, but it’s a thoroughly engaging one all the same. If you’re able to tackle it free of soaring expectations, I doubt that you’ll be let down by it as it’s good, solid Doctor Who - no more, no less.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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