As Big Finish celebrates its 200th main Doctor Who range release, I decided to take a look back on some of the old favorites and see if they still held up.
Intended as the Cybermen version of “Genesis of the Daleks,” “Spare Parts” is one of the more revered stories from Big Finish. And yet as I listened, I couldn’t recall when or if I’d heard this one before. I feel like I should have heard it when it first came out, but I couldn’t recall many details beyond superficial ones.
Arriving on Mondas in the last days before the population became fully Cyber-ized, the fifth Doctor and Nyssa find themselves embroiled in the politics that helped created the earliest Cybermen. Listening to “Spare Parts,” I couldn’t help but feel that Marc Platt has crafted a superb prelude to “The Tenth Planet” and that I should dust off that DVD and visit the classic serial again.
What could have been a simple imitation of “Genesis of the Daleks” becomes something a bit deeper and different. There’s no one unifying voice for the Cybermen as there was with the Daleks. Instead we see various members of the population and how they react to the developments taking place within their society and on their world. Platt allows us a bit of time to get invested and interested in these characters before he begins changing them into what will eventually become the Cybermen. (If you’ve seen the new series, there are certain sequences from the story that were used in the return of the Cybermen there, though I’d argue they are more effective here).
Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton are on the top of their game in this one. I’d argue that the story is a richer one for Nyssa than much of what we got in the classic series. But that’s probably because the classic series was less character driven than the Big Finish stories or the new series are. Both actors rise to the occasion, though it’s interesting to hear the Doctor shuffle to the sidelines for a bit of the story instead of the companion.
There are even some twists and turns along the way to really keep things interesting. I’ll admit that Platt caught me by surprise with one of the cliffhangers and its implications. My reaction to the cliffhanger (which I went in unaware of it) leads me to believe I didn’t listen to this one when it first came out because I can’t see myself forgetting it.
The big question surrounding this one is — can it really live up to the hype?
I’ll go out and say yes, yes it can. There’s a reason this one is so well regarded and it still shows through. Even with the new series delivering some stellar stories, this is one of the more engaging and memorable Doctor Who stories I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.
The only negative is the realization of The Committee. The voice used sounds a bit too much like the Cylons from the original Battlestar Galactica and that makes some of their long bits of dialogue difficult to listen to and concentrate on.