The Doctor answers a summons for help from Earth. An archaeological dig on the planet Chronos has produced unexpected results, including the loss of at least two entire dig teams. The last transmission from the second team lost included an anguished warning about Cybermen. With Evelyn in tow, the Doctor joins the third expedition of the unusually advanced ruins on Chronos, and discovers a horrifying Cyberman plan to gain mastery over time travel. Will any of the other team members, including Evelyn, escape Cyber-conversion into mindless drones? Can the Doctor unravel the mystery of the unstoppable temporal shockwaves emanating from the ruins? And does team member Goddard, an expert on Cybermen assigned to the team, have too much knowledge of the silver giants – perhaps gained first-hand?
Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Maggie Stables (Evelyn), Nicholas Briggs (Professor Osborn), Robert Curbishley (President), Jane Goddard (Doctor Nicola Savage), Andrew Hair (Fantham), Richard Herring (Taylor Renchard), William Johnston (Lieutenant Krueger), Stewart Lee (Ryan Carey), Alistair Lock (Hoyer), Christopher Scott (Administrator David Isherwood), Yee Jee Tso (Doctor Reece Goddard), Mark Wright (Dean)
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: A mind-boggling experiment in real-time storytelling (the entire story takes place in the hour or so it takes to listen to it, hence Real Time), this first-ever collaboration between BBC Online and Big Finish Productions features an excellent cast of “names” in both British TV and Who history (including Yee Jee Tso, the 1996 TV movie’s Chang Lee). It also features some time paradoxes which all but demand a sequel to explain them – a sequel of which not a peep has been heard. Hmmmmm. As it is, they come across as convenient (or, alternately, shocking) coincidences which move the story forward in the quantum leaps necessary to shrink the episodes down to ten minutes each.
One thing Real Time does have going for it is the Cybermen of old. Sure, they sound like Earthshock Cybermen, act a bit like Attack Of The Cybermen‘s metal menaces, and their dialogue is very reminiscent of Tomb Of The Cybermen. But the cumulative effect is a hell of a lot more powerful than the last Cybermen seen on TV (1988’s somewhat weak Silver Nemesis). These are the squeeze-your-arm-off-to-coerce-you-into-cooperating Cybermen of the ’60s (and that very tendency leads to the story’s most surprising shock-horror moment toward the end of the story – just remember, the visuals are all in your head, so don’t summon the ghost of Mary Whitehouse – you did it to yourself!).
All in all, a nice return to form after the nearly-alternate-universe experimentation with the Who mythos that Death Comes To Time represented, but while it feels more like proper Doctor Who, the story is built on quite a string of coincidences and suffers as a result. To give praise where it is due, however, the cast members handily save the day with the conviction of their performances.