Land of Fan-Fic

Big Finish Folly, Part 111 – Legend of the Cybermen, by Mike Maddox

Legend of the CybermenThe Doctor and Jamie have returned to the Land of Fiction – only to find that the Land itself is under siege from a race of beings that detests imagination and individuality: the Cybermen. Somehow, the Doctor must defeat the Cybermen, and find and save the new Queen of the Land of Fiction, before every character in the Hundred Realms is converted or destroyed…

If you’ve paid attention to the tags in these posts then you’ll already know that this trilogy was leading up to this – that all this time, the Doctor and Jamie have been wandering through the realms of the Land of Fiction, summoned here to defend it against the invading Cybermen. But summoned by who, exactly?

To complete the Troughton-esque feel to all this – Cybermen, Land of Fiction, Highlanders akimbo – Wendy Padbury reprises her TV role as Zoe Heriot, and the old team is back together again. Jamie still doesn’t remember his time in the Tardis, but somehow Zoe does. It’s all part of the central mystery which is slowly being unravelled in this story – though some of the solutions are signposted in blinding neon for anybody who chooses to see them.

This time the Land of Fiction has some far more familiar characters populating it, but all of them have been affected by the invasion of the Cybermen in one way or another, and none of them for the better – Alice’s Wonderland has become a battleground, with Oliver Twist a cyberised casualty of war and the Nautilus valiantly holding off a horde of cyber-krakens. Yes, Legend of the Cybermen firmly and defiantly goes down the route of “We’re going to need a bigger imagination” here, and for the most part it actually manages to get away with it.

It would be very easy to get carried away with creating ever more fanciful cyber-monsters, being charged down by laser cannon-toting battalions of Enid Blyton-style fae, but sensibly (if I can use that word here) Mike Maddox chooses to keep the play focused on that central mystery: why is the Doctor here? Why are Jamie and Zoe here? It might be too big a spoiler to say more than that the battle for the Land of Fiction is a kind of metaphor for a different battle that is taking place in the “real” universe. Not such a spoiler to say that the fourth episode of the play goes seriously nuts – Zoe and Jamie begin to narrate the story as though it has become a Walter Scott epic, or a children’s tale, as the barriers keeping the Cybermen out of the Land of Fiction break down at last. There are some nice meta-references for proper canon-diggers (“Doctor Who and The Laird of McCrimmon? I don’t remember that one…,” for example) that prefigure Paul Cornell’s take on meta-Who last year, as well as a neat (though not unexpected) explanation for Jamie’s amnesia.

Not exactly a triumph, but still a far better rounding-off of the trilogy than I thought it was going to get after the shufflings of the middle play.
****¼

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