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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
Shining Darkness


Author: Mark Michalowski
Read by: Debbie Chazen
BBC Audio
RRP: £9.77
ISBN: 978 1 4084 1025 7
Available 12 March 2009

For Donna Noble, the Andromeda galaxy is a long, long way from home, but even two and a half million light years from Earth, danger lurks around every corner... A visit to an art gallery turns into a race across space to uncover the secret behind a shadowy organisation. From the desert world of Karris to the interplanetary scrapyard of Junk, the Doctor and Donna discover that appearances can be deceptive and that the centuries-long peace that currently exists between humans and machines may be about to come to an end - because waiting in the wings to bring chaos to the galaxy is the Cult of Shining Darkness...

Even in the swanky new version of the Doctor Who TV series, the budget rarely extends to creating robots other than the humanoid variety. Think of the killer Santas in The Christmas Invasion and The Runaway Bride, and the angelic Hosts in Voyage of the Damned. However, prose is another matter. Like Sick Building, Shining Darkness provides robots of all shapes and sizes, from tiny toy-sized versions to giant constructions resembling modern-art installations. This is because there are lots of robots in the Andromeda galaxy.

Unfortunately, “mechanicals” are so prevalent in this region of space that some “organics” think the situation is getting out of hand and that robots need to be put in their place. Enter the Cult of Shining Darkness and some moral discussions about equal rights. The Doctor and Donna meet members of the Cult and those working to stop them. Along the way, Donna, who has hitherto only really encountered robots in the hostile forms of the killer Santas and Sebastiene’s synthetic servants in The Doctor Trap, learns to overcome her own prejudices about artificial life forms. At first you might think author Mark Michalowski is inconsistent in his characterisation of Donna, but he’s going somewhere with this.

Michalowski’s plot is a runaround affair, involving a quest to find the components of a device hidden across space on numerous planets - including Karris, the inhabitants of which have an amusingly fickle attitude towards religion that would not have seemed out of place in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The author keeps things lively by having the travellers swap places halfway through: Donna starts off being stuck with the cultists before ending up in the company of the pro-mechanicals, while the opposite is true for the Doctor.

Debbie Chazen (who played Foon in Voyage of the Damned and previously read the audio book of Wishing Well) adds a great deal of charm to the proceedings with her various voices, many of them comical. Many characters are given regional accents: Garaman sounds German, while the disposal robots Chuck and Crusher seem to be Geordies. Of course, they shouldn’t really have Earth dialects in the Andromeda galaxy, but we can attribute this to the TARDIS’s translation function. She also does a decent impersonation of Catherine Tate and gives maximum cuteness to the little robot Weiou.

All in all, Chazen’s reading adds a distinct polish to Shining Darkness.


Richard McGinlay

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