Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)
It’s the second time that Big Finish have dusted off a classic release for the vinyl treatment and again they have chosen one of the best and most celebrated stories in their back catalogue.
The Marc Platt penned Spare Parts is often seen as the ‘Genesis of the Cybermen’ to give the equivalent origins tale to the Dalek classic. And for my money it is and isn’t in the best possible way. It is in the fact that it does tell us how the cybermen came about in the last days of Mondas’s humanity (or mondasity as it may be….) but it takes you straight into the action part way through. People have already started turning to machine body part replacements and enhancements; this is the tale of the final days as the upgrades they have chosen cease to be a choice. It gives the classic ‘Doctor’ moment when he knows he can’t prevent what is clearly a fixed point in time (they don’t use this phrase but it’s clearly the same idea) but he can’t just leave all these people suffering.
I really love that it is Peter Davison’s 5th Doctor having this meeting with the cybermen and with Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) as the companion. Not only can you put the loss of Adric into it; one of the few companion deaths that was also at the hands of the cybermen, but you can have a usually mild mannered Doctor put into a war-like situation, man verses machine.
Something that is covered in the retrospective documentary accompanying this release is that Big Finish always did have to walk the line between being true to the character of the Doctor and the various incarnations of the character but make it feel contemporary too. This is a great example. Both the 5th Doctor and Nyssa are unmistakably the same characters but we get to see them explore the more emotional ramifications of things happening around them that sometimes weren’t explored as much in the original TV show. It’s a real credit to the Writer and Director Gary Russell. And let’s not forget, at the time of this release it was the only Doctor Who we had; so anything would have seemed great, but Big Finish with stories like this shone.
I was also impressed looking back at this story and Chimes of Midnight that everything is so good. The sound scapes they came up with in Big Finish right from the first adventure in Sirens of Time instantly found their feet. It would be unfair to the work Big Finish does now to say they didn’t get even better, but Spare Parts is hard to beat for sound effects and music.
Hearing the Mondasian Cybermen again is also a treat and timely in this vinyl release as they are about to be seen back on the TV soon. The sound of their voices is great. They have this high pitched sing song almost chipper sound to them that could sound friendly if it weren’t for things. Firstly of course they are threatening to kill or ‘upgrade’ everyone by removing their humanity. But it’s also about the context. The sing song voice is like someone knowing the tune but not the words. If doesn’t ‘fit’. Some words are elongated others said quickly which makes it somehow unsettling. Nicholas Briggs voices the Cybermen and nails the essence of the original character.
It’s clear to see when the new TV version of Doctor Who was taking on the Cybermen for the first time they looked to this story and you get an exclusive insight as to how that came about in the documentary that comes on this vinyl.
This is an exclusive release to the Big Finish website and is strictly limited to 500 copies, so you’ll want to snag yours quickly. At £79 it’s not cheap but what a great story and a wonderful collector’s item. I give it a 10/10.
You can get your copy here !
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