BTR Productions: Sentinel

by Peter Zunitch




It’s a fan audio production with Cybermen and some decent writing, but maybe give the ending a miss.


DR WHO: SENTINEL (Four Parts) – OK

Welcome to a distant part of the Galaxy, where the Cybermen cunningly attempt to address a tragic flaw in their army, one that has all too often allowed victory to escape their grasp. If I were to rate these stories by stars, this series would get a resounding 3 out of 4. That’s one bright and shining gold-plus-plus star for each of the first three episodes, and none for the fourth. No… edit that…. –2 stars for the fourth. In fact, listen and enjoy the splendor of the first three episodes, then go off and invent your own ending. No really, I mean it, you’ll thank me. It seems like the writer just became bored and took the easiest, dullest, and most flawed way out of every situation he worked so faithfully to build up in the other three episodes. Indeed the final episode is a full two minutes shorter than all the others. Everything from sound effects, to music, to common sense is abandoned as the ending draws near. Someone became bored. It’s a shame because this story really showed massive potential on all fronts. I highly recommend the first two parts with all my heart. Think Cyber stories the caliber of Earthshock and Tomb of the Cybermen. The third is worth a listen, Consider this Moonbase and Silver Nemesis episode level. The last part, well, the Cybermen were treated with more respect by the writer of The 5 Doctors. Really. I pity anyone who doesn’t take my advice to skip the fourth part.

PART I [11 minutes]

Summary:

On a remote space station near a black hole, a fleet approaches, intending a takeover. Meanwhile something is dragging the TARDIS off course, towards the station.

What’s good:

A very dramatic open, decent writing (mostly), and adequate reads. Good use of music and SFX.

What’s bad:

Some lazy writing. Inconsistencies in character and technobabble.

Plot points:

The story picks up immediately following the BTR “Invasion of the Daleks” production. The Doctor feels the need to list his tools. The shutdown of the TARDIS is word-for-word from the tv series (boring). How does Chloe know all the technical operations of the TARDIS? How does Chloe know how to operate anything on the TARDIS? (She has yet to operate a coffee machine in these stories.) The TARDIS is “changing direction in time only”. Then it is “on a different time vector”; These are different how? The Doctor recognizes the dead man’s wound, but not the gunfire sound. Did Cyberguns ever make a visible wound?

Bottom line:

Once again, the doctor references both the previous BTR productions, in a “Gee I hope it’s not so-and-so-bad-guy again”. It’s getting a little lame. Once again it sounds like Chloe is threatening to leave if they ever meet the same villain again. Once again there’s a word for word re-production of something in the tv show. Once again, the Cybermen are taking over a space station. All that aside though. I still managed to enjoy the episode. Mainly because of the mood that is created, and the (mostly) successful capturing of the Dr. Who spirit. If the piece as a whole lives up to this anticipation, then the problems with the writing can be easily overlooked.

PART II [11 minutes]

Summary:

A good Cybermen story, if a little old-hat at times. The Cybermen are cunning here, and strategic, just like they should be. The story also addresses the biggest large-scale Cybermen weakness, the one thing that has stopped them from winning every battle they’ve ever had in a war since the Tomb of the Cybermen….numbers. It is an issue that is always talked about, but never exploited as a true plot point in the show. Hazzah to BTR for using it, and skirting the overconfidence factor that is so often used to defeat them.

What’s good:

The story of the Cyber War. The doctor admits defeat.

What’s bad:

The Cyber-Leader spills the beans just because the Doctor begs a little. Another moment of “we won’t kill you now for no good reason” here.

Plot points:

How does the commander know the Doctor defeated the Cybermen in the future? The Cyber-Leader seems to imply at first that their greatest triumph will be taking the bridge of a space station.

Bottom line:

It’s a little tiring that everyone’s heard about the Doctor before he arrives. Are there no surprises anymore? Luckily there is… at least one: The Cyber plot is a nice one, if a little far-fetched, and it is oh-so eerie considering what has happened in the new TV series.

PART III [13 minutes]

Summary:

With a new wave of Cybermen on the way, the Doctor and the other prisoners are led off to be converted.

What’s good:

Acting is decent. The Cyber-conversion scene. Decent Writing. The handling of the parallel universe.

What’s bad:

Massive volume problems. Dialogue is quiet, and sfx can be ear blowing. The Doctor escapes the Cyberman with a sonic screwdriver. Well, if it were that easy, it would have saved a lot of previous Doctors a whole bunch of hassle.

Plot points:

A recap of the Cyberman origin, for better or worse. The Cyber-conversion process is reminiscent of the Colin Baker era.  Sometimes losing is winning, and winning is losing.

Bottom line:

An enjoyable episode with major plot thrusts. There are also some nice touches of moral debate here. Still, there’s a growing feeling I have that I can’t escape. I’d really like to see the Doctor do something (anything) more than explain things and be held prisoner. His method of escape was lame. Why don’t the Earth people know about gold versus the Cybermen? They’re in the Cyber War but don’t know about the glitter gun?

PART IV [9 minutes]

Summary:

The Doctor wins with a complete lackluster finish.

What’s good:

A new breed of Cybermen.

What’s bad:

Too short. A totally boring episode with a completely obvious solution where everyone just simply gives up and leaves the other alone to do whatever they want. Things don’t add up. The last word is cut off by the closing music!

Plot points:

The Cybermen should have just shot Chloe (please). That’s what they do to people who serve no use for them. The Doctor plots to assault the drive room, but when they do it, he doesn’t realize he’s near the drive unit. Where else would one put a drive unit but in a drive room? Two men struggle to subdue a Cyberman while the doctor stands around and casually talks like he’s enjoying a cup of tea. The Doctor is the mortal enemy of the Cybermen in the alternate universe as well. Why was the Doctor’s suggestion of a destination cut off at the end? Did they both forget that at the beginning of the episode they had already decided on a place to relax? (…and no, it’s not the place he was about to say at the end.) The writer forgot to explain what dragged the TARDIS off course in the first place? Wasn’t that supposed to be a plot point?

Bottom line:

A complete let-down to an otherwise very enjoyable series. The “distraction” of the Cybermen was pathetic. The explosion was anticlimactic. The noble treatment they were given as characters at the beginning of the story is completely reversed here. They started out plotting, ominous, logical and calculating, and they end up bumbling, illogical, pathetic and lame, just happy to be alive. Funny, since these Cybermen are supposed to be superior to the normal ones.

This article was written by

Peter Zunitch

Father, husband, video editor, writer. I want to experience and create stories of all kinds in all mediums and genres. I want to teach and learn something new.

This article was written by

Peter Zunitch

Father, husband, video editor, writer. I want to experience and create stories of all kinds in all mediums and genres. I want to teach and learn something new.