I’m guessing the first thing that came into most people’s heads when they saw that the Third Doctor was getting full cast audios was “maybe now we can get a Third Doctor – Cybermen story!”, and it took a couple of boxsets, but here we are! Written by Marc “Spare Parts” Platt, Tyrants of Logic is a good story that while doesn’t touch his enduring classic, still provides us with a good full cast Third Doctor confrontation with the Cybermen, at last. So let’s take a bit more of a detailed look…
The Doctor and Jo land on Port Anvil – a bleak, abandoned mining colony on the remote planet Burnt Salt. A huge armoured crate has recently arrived in the almost derelict Spacehub. No-one knows who it’s for. No-one knows what it contains.
Strange creatures lurk around the outskirts, and a rag-tag population of misfits inhabit what is left of the town: a saloon bar owner, a literal one-man band and a hunter of very unusual prey. If they want to survive the night, they’re going to have to work together.
Because the Cybermen want the contents of the crate. And they will stop at nothing to get hold of it.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
The Doctor (Tom Treloar) – It’s been a while since The Doctor had a confrontation with one of his greatest foes, but that doesn’t mean he’s forgotten the telltale signs of their involvement when he sees it…
Jo Grant (Katy Manning) – Jo is unsurprised when she is taken to a remote and desolate planet rather than Earth, and is even less surprised to then start seeing death at every turn…
Hollisen Grier (Ronan Summers) – Hollisen is a Cyber-hunter, tasked with tracking down any surviving Cybermen from the now finished Cyber-war… That’s a lot of Cyber-things!
Professor Marian Schaeffe (Carolyn Pickles) – Marian is a scientist left in isolation on Burnt Salt. She has been creating clones of animals specifically bread to be the antithesis of the Cybermen… almost as if she holds some sort of grudge…
Skippa (Deli Segal) – One of the creatures created by Prof. Marian, she has been given advanced thought and even rudimentary speech. Sometimes, however, she sees this as more of a curse than a benefit…
The Cybermen (Nicholas Briggs) – Once humanoid, now almost entirely machine, the Cybermen are on the verge of extinction. They have lost the war against humanity, and now wish to find their fabled leader, the Cyber-Leveller, to help guide them back on the right path…
Oh look, it’s the Monk again, although not… *sigh*. Separate covers, that’s all I’m asking for here, Big Finish…
There is a lot of familiar stuff here, from the snowy weather to the friendly “regular folk” characters and, well, the Cybermen doing their usual thing, but there is also just enough new to make the story stand on its own legs beyond just being “the story where the Third Doctor finally faces off with the Cybermen”. The Cybermats release “Cyber-fog” that readies whoever inhales it for conversion, overwriting their mind to resist free thought and accept pure logic. The Doctor’s fight against the virus is well done throughout the story, and it further cements his relationship with Jo as being something very close and special. The other new bit of Cyber-continuity is the Cyber-Leveller, which is pretty much just a Cyber-Planner, but one on legs and with armour, as well as one that can seemingly integrate with other technology freely. The fact that the Cyber-Leveller spends the first half of the story in a steel crate and the second half in a basement room cut off from technology, it shows how good the writing is as you get a real feeling that it would be over for our “heroes” if it should get loose.
Most of the guest cast is good here, along with another great performance from Treloar and Manning. Hollisen Grier is little more than a bounty hunter with a grudge, but he does soften and becomes likable by the end. Dr. Schaeffe and her pet experiment Skippa are full of tragedy and humanity, with the rather gruesome reveal that the Professor had been keeping her half-converted husband alive in what really can be called cupboard until she can figure out how to reverse it was at least a nice twist on what was becoming the second female mad scientist in this box of two stories. Skippa was awkwardly cheesy to start with, but actually quite an endearing character by the end.
The actual Cybermen only show up en masse a few times, but when they do stuff goes south quick, which is a far more effective way of using them than having them all get defeated by a flick of a switch like a certain modern show-runner has been doing the last few years. I also like that, after they tally up how many Cybermen are left, the Cyber-Leveller recommends they don’t kill anyone in the base at the end as they need them for conversion. It’s that kind of desperation that often gives them a scarier edge.
While not straight up bad, I thought Gusta and Chad, the two owners of a local tavern on Burnt Salt, were just not very interesting. In fact it felt too much like a deliberate call back to Spare Parts to have such regular folk in the middle of this futuristic nightmare.
It also has to be said that the script could have been cut down. There was a time in Part 3 where I began to wonder if I’d somehow drifted off and not noticed the cliffhanger and that I was into Part 4 already, then 10 minutes later the cliffhanger happened… It’s not unbearable, but it did need to be trimmed, definitely.
As I always say with stories involving long-returning foes, I’m not going to list every Cyberman story here. The Tyrants of Logic does have strong connections with, fittingly, the only 4th Doctor TV story to feature the Cybermen, “Revenge of the Cybermen”. Both are set after the fabled Cyber Wars and therefore both feature desperate Cybermen and humans using “Glitterguns” (guns that fire flakes of gold, Cybermen being weak to the substance and all).
The Tyrants of Logic is thankfully a very good story, perhaps more personal and focused on the human cast that some Cyber-fans would like, but given the run time it just makes the Cybermen themselves more threatening when they do make their appearances. It can be overly long and one or two characters didn’t really work for me, but in general it does feel like we finally have the Third Doctor v Cybermen story we always wanted, and it’s a good story to boot!