Back to February 2001 for release number 17 - Sword of Orion, written and directed by Nicholas Briggs.
The Eighth Doctor and Charley Pollard are on deep space salvage vessel which encounters a huge, and seemingly abandoned, star destroyer. It could be the biggest salvage haul ever but it also contains the dark secret of a deadly deal made between humanity and some of the Doctor's oldest foes.
The Doctor and Charley work well together as a team and India Fisher more than holds her own against Paul McGann. I felt that Nicholas Briggs made Charley sound like a genuine Edwardian adventuress, and her vocabulary was more convincing than in Storm Warning. This adventure starts immediately where that left off and if I had a criticism of the writing it would be that Charley seems more familiar with the Doctor's methods and abilities than I would expect at this stage. She came across as a long-standing companion and not one who had only just met the Doctor.
The cover image reveals who are the bad guys here but I had not really looked at it, so the slow reveal of Cybermats and Cybermen was very enjoyable. A seasoned Doctor Who fan would not have much trouble identifying them from the characters' descriptions and by the sound effects, but you can't beat a good Cybermen story. I did find it rather easy to spot who the human villain was but that might just be because I am listening to so many audio dramas at the moment and my ears are becoming attuned.
On the subject of ears I have to give high praise for the music here which is a mixture of weird electronic sounds which took me back to the black and white era of Doctor Who on television. And that is appropriate because these Cybermen are contemporaries of those locked in the Tomb of the Cybermen, although Nick Briggs gives us some very spooky voices that are more like the Cybermen from the 1980s. As well as Briggs himself the cast also includes Big Finish stalwarts Toby Longworth, Barnaby Edwards and Mark Gatiss.
Apparently this is one of Big Finish's top selling stories and I can see why. It never quite hits the heights of Spare Parts but it is very good indeed. 4 out of 5 Cybermats. Next up is the Return of the Krotons!