The set comprises four stories written by Nick Briggs and released in 2005, along with a second series written by James Swallow and released in 2009. Although featuring the Cybermen, these stories don't include the Doctor, instead, they are slightly darker and are set within a continuity established in the Big Finish Eighth Doctor story Sword of Orion, also written by Nick.
The first four stories focus on the attempts to use forgotten cyber-technology to help humanity fight the Orion war against androids. Key characters are Earth President Karen Brett (Sarah Mowat), her military chief Liam Barnaby (Mark McDonnell), android spy Samantha Thorn (Hannah Smith) and the mysterious Paul Hunt (Barnaby Edwards) turned Cyberman spy. Karen Brett's character goes from lead to puppet as she falls under Paul Hunt's cyber influence. This causes her one-time ally Liam to be labelled a traitor and he survives by joining the enemy in the form of Samantha Thorn. The plot all pivots around the search for a lost Cyberman tomb and a desperate last pitch fight to survive.
The second set of stories brings back Samantha and Liam and finds Paul Hunt now in charge of Earth. Not all is well and the plot is expanded with several new characters including taxi-driver Hazel Trahn (Jo Castleton). Here the plot is far more focussed on survival as the Cybermen seem to have an unstoppable grip on humanity, and the androids are contemplating the next step in their quest for independence from both human and Cybermen alike.
As a set of eight stories (plus a ninth behind the scenes disc) the stories have some influence from Philip K. Dick, (notably Blade Runner) and are amazing value at £25 for the CDs or £20 on download. They may not be essential listening for Doctor Who fans, but are worth listening to in their own right. They ask interesting questions about humanity, what it means to be human versus machines, ethical questions on how far it is right to go to win a war, and also covers one individual’s short trip from everyday life to becoming a terrorist.
The soundtrack and theme music are also worth noting, the opening music is strident, powerful and eerie, and set the scene perfectly for these adventures. It is easy to imagine the soulless creatures working away as you settle down to listen to these tales.
As pure pieces of hard-core science fiction, these are an excellent set of stories and ask some big questions while entertaining. What more do you want?
CYBERMAN THE COMPLETE SERIES 1 & 2 / AUTHOR: NICK BRIGGS, JAMES SWALLOW / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / STARRING: SARAH MOWAT, MARK MCDONNELL, HANNAH SMITH, BARNABY EDWARDS, NICK BRIGGS, JO CASTLETON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW