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Almost perfect

By:Matthew David Rabjohns, Bridgend, United Kingdom
Date:Monday 13 January 2020
Rating:   9

By Matt Rabjohns​

Whilst Adric may not be many fans favourite companion to have ever graced the show, his death at the time in Earthshock was definitely a palpable moment and very moving moment in the history of the show. We had had deaths of companions before, with Katarina and Sara Kingdom in The Daleks Master Plan, but somehow Adric's death seems to be more vividly remembered.​

The show at the time never dwelt much upon personal or emotional issues as much as they do in the modern era, so with Warzone/Conversion its very good to see Big Finish going into detail with how the Doctor and Nyssa and Tegan cope with the fallout of Earthshock. Do the writers succeed in delivering a memorable follow on to those shocking events? Well, the answer is yes in most respects.​

Firstly the sound production and music are truly authentic to the 80s era of the show. Impeccably so. The bonus interviews are always fun to listen to too. Always great to hear insight right from the actors mouths.​

Warzone and Conversion are written by two different writers (Chris Chapman and Guy Adams) but the stories are directly linked. It is always very annoying though that Big Finish may nor always use the monsters name in the titles, but they always have a picture of them on the front! This at once ruins any mystery the stories may have in my own view. However, if you can get past this annoyance and give the stories a chance they are rather superb overall.​

Warzone begins with the TARDIS team, together with new companion Marc, landing in Warzone. A massive gaming race track full of life threatening obstacles in the best Doctor Who fashion of old. The story has very good pace and develops not quite as ludicrously quickly as most of the modern era show on telly does. The Doctor and his friends at once have to literally run for their lives and become embroiled in the race. And the Doctor soon discovers just what the race is for. The main plot thrust of this story may actually be one of the more simple given to a Big Finish story, but it is all the better for it. It gives the characters a firm background and the acting from all involved in this story is top notch and right on the nail. Two of the best actors in this first story are definitely Pepter Lunkuse as Esma. She interacts well with the Doctor over the course of the two episodes almost enough to make you think she has the potential to become a companion.​

Timothy Blore as Morris works so well paired off with Nyssa. Its good to hear Nyssa being given such a good role within the story. And she seems to strike up a great friendship with Morris so its quite sad and jarring at the riveting climax to part two to have to break apart the bonds that were forming between both Nyssa and Morris and The Doctor and Esma. The warning the Doctor gives to Esma and Morris about being strong willed enough to resist becoming the Cybermen is a brilliant scene.​

Amidst all of this Tegan is not forgotten. The chemistry between her and George Watkin's as Marc is wonderful to listen to. It is quite the fearsome and soul destroying ride that Marc is forced to suffer in this story, and it is only going to get worse in Conversion. ​

Peter Davison is absolutely on his best form within these two stories, but especially in Conversion.​

I will get the only niggle I have with this story out of the way first. The characters of Herb and Creasey just seem a bit too caricatured and clichéd. Though Angela Bruce gives a brilliant performance as Herb the characters are just absolutely nothing new and seem to be rather grafted on to the story rather than written in. Your typical run of the mill space pirates who aren't given anything original to handle. Mind you if you love space pirates then these two girls banter can be very amusing. I'll give them that. But that is where my niggles end.​

The rest of the story is extremely well written. It gives Peter Davison the chance to display a more angry and upset and therefore more rude and unknowable. Its always excellent when actors get to rise above their normal game with an exceptional script, and this script definitely gives Peter the chance to blow our socks off with his titanic performance. ​

And then the delicious treat of once more being able to hear David Banks and Mark Hardy reprise their 80's Cyber roles just steals the show. Here in this story the Cybermen are truly soulless and incredibly nasty with their plans. The prototype conversion they almost succeed in performing on Marc is harrowing and George Watkins copes sublimely well in being totally broken and at his wit's end amidst this horrendous experiment. ​

The emotional impact on all the main crew of the TARDIS is palpable at the stories climax leading to a very unexpected ending. Tegan is truly unsettled and unforgiving of the darker side the Doctor has displayed during this story's run. Even in spite of the fact that against all the odds the Doctor has done his utmost to help Marc return to being as much of a human being as he can. Guy's writing in these final scenes is riveting and heart-breaking for all the main TARDIS team. ​

Conversion is the kind of cyberman story we need to see appearing on the screen in the new modern era televised Doctor Who! To me the serials the modern era have churned out have all rather fallen short of the mark, in that I think they have forgotten the Cybermen aren't robots, they happen to be dehumanized cyborgs! David Banks and Mark Hardy truly work on this fact well in Conversion. ​

The CyberLeader even gets to have a jibe at the Doctor, whom he accuses of being a hypocrite. The Doctor is resistant to murder, yet he destroyed the Cyber Leader in Earthshock. The only thing to offer in the Doctor's defence is that situation was one of acute stress and even a Time Lord is not perfect every day of the universal year. But it does add a gritty edge and bring out a touch of the mystery of who the Doctor truly actually is once more. Vague little titbits like this are scary to hear. Its good to see Peter being given a more Seventh Persona role for once, after all, all the incarnations are still the same man.​

Warzone/Conversion in summation then are two extremely well written stories on the whole. They are a truly stark and belting follow on from the sombre and sad events of Earthshock. I can only hope that Marc can somehow recover from his ordeal. Truly the impact of what the Cybermen can do to people if they get hold of them has never been quite so well portrayed before. This story even beats the Bill Potts conversion of Peter Capaldi's Cyber epic. I would strongly recommend this story as a worthwhile and dark follow on to Earthshock. As two two parters they work extremely well indeed. But be prepared to be stirred by the huge amount of emotional gravitas injected into these episodes.​

Although maybe one other little oddity is that Warzone/Conversion does seem to have forgotten the events of the earlier Big Finish release The Boy That Time Forgot. That story led us to believe that Adric in fact did not die but was left at the beginnings of time and went a little insane. Perhaps this is just forgetfulness although it does make the story's timeline placement rather unfathomable from my perspective, as Nyssa and the Doctor in the Boy story were without Tegan, so that means the story had to be set between the TV stories Time Flight and Arc of Infinity, and then Tegan returned but somehow The Good Doc and Nyssa seem to have lost all memory of the events of the Boy that Time Forgot, so that's just a little strange. But its not a major quibble, and its not as if the show isn't constantly mucking around with its own history and time lines!

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