Doctor Who: Old Friends – Way of the Burryman / The Forth Generation Review

This two part story manages to tick several boxes here, not just being a really good two-parter for the Ninth Doctor, not just a story where the Ninth Doctor meets the Brigadier, but also a more traditional Cyberman story for Mr. Eccleston after the admittedly great but very unusual one we got in the last set. While it’s not perfect, for example I have no interest in the Sam Bishop character that’s presented here like it’s a long awaited bit of backstory, but overall it’s a really enjoyable two hours. Let’s take a closer look!

Synopsis:

Young Sam Bishop is at a crossroads with girlfriend Fiona: she’s staying in Scotland, he wants to travel the world. As the Burryman celebrations begin, ghosts haunt the Forth Bridge. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart arrives to investigate – and so does the Doctor…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

A nice, if not rather simple, cover for Part 1.

The story focuses on two pairings, The Doctor and the Brigadier, and the couple of Sam Bishop (Warren Brown) and Fiona McCall (Elinor Lawless). They both work well to be fair, the former being based around The Doctor needing an old friend to talk to while The Brig senses loneliness and hardship in this new “Doctor with a buzzcut”, and the latter being your basic young couple in love which ends in Cyber-conversion-related heartbreak. The Doctor and the Brigadier are both investigating phenomena, though admittedly the Doctor only because he tracked his old friend here, and it turns out that the Forth Bridge is actually haunted, though not in a traditional ghost sense but the memories of the people who worked, and often died, during the bridge’s construction were written into the metal like grooves in a vinyl record. As The Doctor tries to rid the Bridge of its haunting alongside the young couple he meets at the start of the story (Sam and Fiona) The Brig meets up with some army folk at a nearby base and ends up nearby and nearly falling from a cliff when the voices spoke to him. He’s saved by The Doctor in the nick of time.

While everyone else watches The Doctor remove the Bridge’s memories Fiona leaves, saying he’s robbing history, and meets up with Creel (or possible Kreel, who knows!) an original Mondasian Cyberman who crashed on the planet at the same time as the one found earlier in this run of Ninth Doctor stories, though without the metallic upgrades. Fiona screams which brings The Doctor, The Brig and Sam to her side, and together they all find out the Creel had used the Bridge workers to create a new army of Cybermen, storing them in the struts of the bridge and making them out of the same red steel and rivets (shame that kind of Cyberman wasn’t visually realised on the cover in some way, but hey-ho.) The Brig and Sam manage to escape and call in for UNIT backup in the form of an old Cyber-Head that they use for such encounters but that only ends up in the train carrying the head, which of course had to travel over the Forth, being stopped and attacked by the Cybermen, the head giving them access to the full Cyber-conditioning that they were previously lacking.

Fiona is partially Cyber-ised so her knowledge of the local environment can be kept intact while The Doctor manages to temporarily scramble his old foes so he can get away with a bunch of potential converted people but eventually all our main cast are surrounded by the “Forth Generation”, as they’re dubbed by Creel (who, for the record, was killed by his own creations for being an obsolete model) but with the help of The Doctor and Sam jogging her memory and love for her town Fiona breaks free of the bit of Cyber-conditioning she had received and talks the Cyber-Leader into destroying itself but refuses to do the same to the Cybermen who were once innocent bridge workers, so The Brig arranges to them to live on a remote island far off the coast. Sam says goodbye to the woman who was once his love while The Brig tells The Doctor he really should find a companion again because being alone gets to you in the end, to which The Doctor simply replies “he’ll think about it” before talking to his TARDIS saying it’s the only friend he needs…

The Bad:

… Pretty much the same cover for Part 2!

As I mentioned, I didn’t care about Sam Bishop. He’s appeared only in the new UNIT sets that have had lukewarm-at-best responses, and the Lady Christina range, which has been received better but in general I spend enough money every month on Who related audio content without going down such obscure avenues. So to me Sam was just a generic soldier character who was mysteriously getting equal screentime (or erm… audio-time?) to the regulars despite not being all that interesting in general.

I also have to mention how I was disappointed about the Mondasian Cyberman known as Creel because Nicholas Briggs didn’t speak like the creepy Mondasian Cybermen, he tried something different that just ended up sounding like Nicholas Briggs trying to do his Ice Warrior voice through a modulator and it not working very well. It took me out of the moment a few times and was made worse when the Forth Generation (which for the record is a cheesy as hell name but in a very Russell T. Davies cliffhanger-y way, so I’ll forgive it) spoke like regular Cybermen alongside him.

The Continuity:

Frankly in the end the overall boxset cover is probably the best of them all for this story!

The Cyberman seen here was apparently part of the same mission as the one seen in Ninth Doctor audio “Monsters in Metropolis”. The Brigadier mentions his last encounter with the Cybermen in Britain was in the Second Doctor TV story “The Invasion” (though I’m sure through expanded media he’s probably faced them since then…) while The Doctor tells the Cybermen, who are receiving the data from the Cyber-network at the time, to “ignore the Marinus and Planet 14 stuff, that doesn’t count”, which is actually mildly confusing as the Twelfth Doctor specifically mentions Marinus and Planet 14 as places where Cybermen have emerged in the TV two parter “World Enough and Time / The Doctor Falls”.

Do they count, or don’t they? As with all these things, it’s up to you because you can fit them in if you want, like I personally would like to forget the Marinus one (seen in the Sixth Doctor TV comic “The World Builders”) because of how it treats Jamie, but there you go. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it on this blog one day…

I also want to mention that an isolated single Cyberman story followed by a two-part Cyberman finale later matches the Ninth Doctor’s single TV series having a single isolated Dalek in a story (“Dalek”) followed by a two-part Dalek finale (“Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways”) at the end. A neat little nod.

Overall Thoughts:

“Way of the Burryman / The Forth Generation” is a really fun Cyberman story that fits perfectly into the Ninth’s era, plus has a proper Ninth Doctor / Brigadier story, which is always a nice box to tick. The story failed to make me really care about Sam Bishop and the main Cyberman voice was wrong so it’s not a straight up 5 like the previous story in this set, but it’s still a fine final note to go out on… Until the next string of four Ninth Doctor boxsets begin soon! Hooray!

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