Genesis of the Cybermen

Review of Spare Parts (#34)
Big Finish Release Date: Jul 2002
Doctor/Companion: Five and Nyssa
Stars: Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton
Preceding Story: Neverland (Eight, Charley)
Succeeding Story: ...Ish (Six, Peri)

Years ago when I first became aware of Big Finish and had conversations about which releases were "best," Spare Parts came up again and again. It's thus been on my "to listen" list for ages, though for one reason or another didn't make it into the rotation until now.

Having now heard it, I completely understand why Spare Parts was recommended so highly. It has its pros and cons, as any of the audio adventures do, but what makes it so appealing is the way it adds to the larger tapestry of the Whoniverse—it's the story of how the people of Mondas became the Cybermen, well before the Doctor first encountered those iconic antagonists in his First incarnation in The Tenth Planet.

Any good Cybermen story needs some body horror, and we get it here, though it's not immediate; after all, we need to get to know characters besides the Doctor and Nyssa so that we can be properly appalled when horrible things happen to them. This slow burn adds to the tension as the TARDIS crew struggles with the implications of their actions on the future they know and what they believe, hope, or wish could be changed.

We don't usually see Nyssa clash with the Doctor—if anything, she tends to argue her position coolly and rationally while he goes all squeaky—but the horrifying events unfolding before them here reopen still-healing wounds. Especially given how Adric's death is, for all intents and purposes, glossed over after Earthshock, it's interesting to see (well, hear) these two get into it a little about the Doctor's culpability in that tragedy.

All of that is background to the devastating situation facing the Mondan population, though. The planet's headed for disaster, and the leadership has instituted extreme measures in an attempt to save them all. Of course, there are unintended consequences and new crises that alter the course of the plan further. It all makes for a compelling story and a believable explanation for what could lead a society to such an end.

As a visual rather than auditory learner, I find audio adventures always present me with a particular set of challenges. That was especially true in this case, as some of the Cyber-voices were extremely difficult for me to parse. As a result, I lost the thread of the narrative several times. (Of course, it doesn't help that I seem congenitally unable just to sit and listen to one of these without having a secondary task on which to put secondary focus.) However, I could always pick it back up again, even if a few details were lost.

Otherwise, the cast and overall production quality were wonderful as always. Neither Five nor Nyssa were ever my particular favorites, but as I hear more of each on Big Finish, my fondness for them grows. I find that this deeper connection with characters I thought I already knew is the biggest benefit to extending my experience of the Whoniverse through audios, and I look forward to learning more about a great number of characters as I continue.




I appreciate that you are enjoying the Big Finish audio adventures. But I have never listened to them and never plan to listen to them. So, since you are doing two columns a month instead of every Wednesday, and one of those columns is devoted to reviews of Big Finish audio dramas, that leaves me only one column a month that is of interest to me.

Have you considered reviewing other media? There are a plethora of novels and comic books and such about Doctor Who. Also, there are a whole bunch of classic stories you haven't reviewed.

Perhaps you could mix it up a little, reviewing one of these other media every once in a while.

By Kara S (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

That's an excellent suggestion. I am wary of starting in on novels or comics, just because that might set the course for my obsessive nature to lead me into bankruptcy ;) but I like the idea of reviewing more pre-Hiatus/Classic stories. It might even allow me to return to a more frequent schedule, if I weren't constantly struggling to decide on a topic to write about.

I'll have to ponder that in more depth, and see if I can devise a feasible plan. Thanks for the suggestion!

By mrfranklin

I've purchased a number of Doctor Who novels for my kindle. They aren't that expensive and take up no space to store.

By Kara S (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

I'm sure the ebook editions are quite reasonably priced. The problem is that I'd want to have them all, and that would be pricey. :\

By mrfranklin

Restrict yourself to one a month. Or only buy a new one after you finish the last one you bought. Or look for certain authors. It can be done.

By Kara S (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

Oh, sure, it can be done. :) I just know myself well enough to know that if I got started, I'd feel compelled to get them all (this kind of thing has happened to me before, more often than I care to admit). That's the part that gets expensive.

By mrfranklin
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