Welcome to DoWntime’s not-too-regular column, Assessing Stress. That’s where we assess … stress. Or more accurately, talk and debate about the newest episodes to hit the television screen, the new releases from Big Finish, and all these good things.
And today, Tibère and Scribbles have a look at the new Cybermen outing from Big Finish, the first bringing back David Banks as the Controller. You shall follow our opinion. You shall be like us. You shall avoid the spoilers after the “read more” tag.
Also, while you’re here, you might be interested in checking out the Twelfth Doctor fan audio series supervised by regular site contributor Janine Rivers – the next episode, coming at the beginning of August, was written by Scribbles, if you need any more incentive!
SCRIBBLES: This is another story I find fairly difficult to asses. That’s not because I have very complicated feelings about it, but rather because what it does right and does wrong are fairly obvious. This is a Cybermen story with a number of pretty good ideas and no idea how to incorporate them into an emotional piece of storytelling, despite some clever aspects of the construction. It also, similarly, marks a major turning point in an ongoing main range Big Finish story arc, but as a result of the same problems, lacks the necessary emotional follow-through to feel as big as it should do. If you’re invested in this new UNIT arc, checking out this story is a must. But as a piece of drama, I find it tepid. Not catastrophic, not amazing, just tepid. It exists, changes some stuff, moves a couple pieces, and might have more interesting impact in a future story, but we’ll have to wait and see. If you’re looking for a perfectly competent piece of Cybermen action that foregrounds the David Banks version, well, you have probably ordered this already and loved it. For everyone else, it’s a bit harder to recommend, at least not until the trilogy concludes.
TIBERE: There are some absolutely brilliant ideas in this, I’m not going to lie – but I really can’t pretend I enjoyed it. It’s an immensely frustrating audio – well, more than frustrating, at this point, really. Big Finish has always tended to have issues when it comes to editorial supervision, and due to an honestly flabbergastingly narrow pool of writers – and while it’s possible to get into the details of what works and doesn’t work within the narrative (and indeed, that’s what we’re going to do in like, two paragraphs), at the end of the day, well, it’s pretty much because all because it lacks editorial polish and because the writer – Andrew Smith -, while certainly not a bad author, seems really ill-at-ease with the subject he’s tackling. Which is not something that should still happen when your company is twenty years old and one of the biggest purveyors of audio dramas in the world. I mean, the fanservice works, and it does get quite a lot of things right, but its flaws are so obvious and would be so easy to fix it’s really hard for me to try and come up with a redemptive reading of it; and it certainly more than spoiled my enjoyment.