The Doctor Who Ratings Guide: By Fans, For Fans

BBV Productions


A Review by Richard Radcliffe 11/10/04

These spin-off BBV dramas have reached quite a high standard nowadays. After the very good Airzone Solution, and good Auton Trilogy they had quite an act to follow. In those dramas they had the advantage of being able to use the actual Autons from Doctor Who. This time they use Cyber types, but can't use the Cybermen. But do we get a traditional Cyber type story? - nothing like, and that makes me wonder why they used such an obvious copy from Doctor Who at all. Would it have been as a hook to snare the Doctor Who/Cybermen fans? I would have thought that they would have that hook anyway, thanks to their recent dramas. Does there have to be a connection to Doctor Who in these dramas? Clearly BBV think there should be, even though an alien that is called Cyber - something, is the only connection.

We are introduced to some very good characters - the experimental male American doctor (Tom Mordley) combining well with "Out to make a difference" English doctor (Lauren). These are the two stars, but there are some other pretty good characters too, notably Ray - Lauren's flatmate, George and Denise - two of the residents of the home. The acting is uniformly excellent, and everything is done very convincingly. Jo Castleton is very good as Lauren. I was quite impressed with her acting in the Auton series, but here it is better still. PJ Ochlan is also excellent as Mordley.

The story is a good one. Lance Parkin has never let the side down yet, and he doesn't here. It is well written throughout and is a very good science fiction thriller. The special effects are excellent, fully bringing over the mystery of the Cyberon drug, and its effects on the user. Of note too is the location work. Using familiar locations around London gives the drama a more realistic air, and the direction shows off these scenes well. There are plenty of different locations too at use here. The story moves from the Home, to Lauren's flat, to London's locations, even to a nightclub. BBV keep on improving with the presentation and production of these dramas.

The Cyberons themselves (the creature rather than the drug) are less successful, and I really think they spoil an otherwise fine production. You can't help but compare them to CyberMEN, and the comparison is poor. As part of the drug induced mystery they work, but only part of the blue misted haze around the users. As real entities they are poor. They seem to be quite small and therefore not very menacing, but maybe I am just used the other Cyber race. The masks seem too bulky, too many ridges making them seem strangely deformed.

It's a pity that this one aspect, the Cyberon appearance, lets down the production - the very connection with the show that is the hook for so many fans to these BBV dramas. Apart from them it's great, and definitely stands as a good BBV production. 7/10

A Review by Finn Clark 30/4/13

Bloody hell, what a horrible film. If Bill Baggs is reading this, by the way, I'd like to apologise. I don't mean any of this personally, I admire what you've done over the years and it might be better if you didn't read this review, but instead had a cup of tea.

Diplomatic mode: OFF.

First, let's set the scene. This is a BBV video production. Under the leadership of Bill Baggs, this company used to make unlicensed Doctor Who, or at least as near as he could manage without getting sued. For example, he made a line of audio adventures with Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred as "the Professor" and "Ace", although the BBC got sniffy at that and they became "the Dominie" and "Alice". Meanwhile, he'd also make video productions starring Doctor Who actors and/or second-string monsters like the Autons or the Yeti. This particular film is set in a hospital at which an American doctor is doing some sinister medical trials and features the Cybermen... whoops, sorry, the Cyberons. They're ridiculous, but this was actually their third appearance after a couple of audios (Cyber-Hunt and Cybergeddon) and they'd pop up again the following year in BBV's tenth anniversary self-parody, Do You Have a Licence to Save this Planet?

The weird thing is that I can only find positive reviews of this. People will say things like "quite possible the best yet" [sic] and "These spin-off BBV dramas have reached quite a high standard nowadays". They seem to like it. I have three possible explanations. First, they're retarded fanboys with anti-taste. Secondly, the prospects of ever watching new Doctor Who were looking so remote in 2000 that fans were clinging emotionally even to rubbish like this and wanted to like it. Thirdly... hang on, I'm sure I had a third option.

I'd better start with its good points, though. It looks okay. I'd been expecting lower production values, so I was pleasantly surprised. There are scenes that look a bit silly due to budget restraints (e.g. the autopsy) and the audio quality is horrible, but otherwise it doesn't look amateurish. If you showed this on late night TV, you wouldn't get too many people writing in to complain. Furthermore, the lead roles are going either to actors or to something not far away, with P.J. Ochlan having been a regular on the Police Academy TV series and Oliver Bradshaw having been on and off our screens in a small way for more than forty years. Bradshaw's rather good here, actually. He's the best thing about the film and I liked him. He died in 2007, but before that his last role had been "Old Man" in V for Vendetta.

My favourite cross-reference though is Nancy Allen, whose only other role according to the imdb is in Mod Fuck Explosion (1994).

Okay, that's the good stuff out of the way. You'll notice I haven't mentioned Lance Parkin yet. Wow oh wow, does this script suck. I didn't believe for a millisecond that these medical professionals had ever conducted a clinical trial before. They don't know what they're doing and they talk about the wrong things. At length. Since the film's plot revolves around Ochlan's clinical trials, this is a problem. Furthermore the dialogue is on-the-nose, always producing the obvious sentiment and the least surprising viewpoint. This much I could have lived with. It sucks, but I've seen (slightly) worse. However, what makes it still more unwatchable is that the storyline's ambition level has so obviously been lowered to the level of the micro-budget. There are three main characters, more or less, and throughout the film they hardly do anything. That might have been expensive, you see. Instead, they merely talk, swapping non-insights and very occasionally having underwritten sexual relationships with each other.

Jo Castleton will produce information that she hasn't been told, or else jump to conclusions that don't follow from any revealed premises. "Who doesn't want to be immortal?" Where did that come from? Meanwhile the finale with "I will kill you" brings in new dimensions of stupidity, while we're not even given any reason to think that the Cyberons' plan is evil. Presumably we're meant to think it just because they're Cyberons.

Mind you, it certainly seems medically inadvisable. Cyberon is a mercury-like substance that's injected straight into your brain, where it chooses some cells to mimic and then starts growing. Eh? We're told that it can tell good cells from bad cells (how?), but even so does its judgement have a zero per cent failure rate or else is Ochlan potentially injecting his test subjects with artificial cancers? What's more, Castleton is letting him conduct a whole suite of human medical tests without having first got answers to any of these questions!

There are only two good things about this film, or perhaps three if you enjoy watching brief male nudity. The first is Oliver Bradshaw, who's rather charming. The other is the Cyberons, although this is a highly subjective usage of the word "good". Objectively, their design is a catastrophe, with ludicrous blobby heads that make them look like anime characters, but at least they gave me a good laugh.

Apart from that, this film has nothing to offer. It's empty. It could have been a passable ten-minute subplot in something else, but even then you'd have to flesh it out. The plot is non-existent until the finale, whereupon it becomes a hundred times worse. Visually, it's not horrible, but you'd only call it good if you were a fanboy who'd been expecting an amateur fan video. It has goofs, such as intercutting scenes set at night-time (the nightclub) and on a sunny day (David Roecliffe in the kitchen). I also found it jarring to learn only halfway through that we were in London. Furthermore, the audio quality made the film at times almost unwatchable, although I shouldn't go to town there because I wasn't watching a first-generation copy. Oh, and P.J. Ochlan isn't scary.

It doesn't even stand up compared with outright fanvids like Timebase Productions, which at least have energy, a sense of fun and better Cyber-costumes. It's trying not to be schlock, but that just makes it worse. Schlock will at least have a story. Incidentally, Jo Castleton's character here would return (and get naked) in BBV's Zygon, which I believe has been hated even by people who enjoyed this. Yikes. Would I watch more BBV? Probably, but only because I'm mad. I'm mildly tempted by Do You Have a Licence to Save this Planet?, since it's a parody and my favourite Timebase video was their comedy version of The Wizard of Oz with a Moonbase Cyberman. I bet I'd regret it, though.

It never occurred to me that the Cyberons weren't just Cybermen, by the way. They're doing the correct 1980s voices and everything.