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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Cannibalists


Starring: Paul McGann
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £10.99 (CD), £8.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 398 9
Available 31 August 2009

The Haven hangs in space, a vast star city, devoid of life - organic life, that is. From their high spire, looking out over silent streets and empty plazas, the Assemblers are waiting for the day when the humans arrive. Waiting, waiting, waiting... When the TARDIS brings the Doctor and Lucie to the Haven, it seems as though the Assemblers’ long wait might be over. Living beings! Without batteries! Protocol be praised! Except... they’re heading for the lower levels. They don’t want to do that. That’s where the Cannibalists live. And if the Cannibalists catch them - well, they won’t be living beings for much longer...

Doctor Who has already done robot cities awaiting the arrival of human beings. Well, it nearly did in the unmade Season 1 story The Masters of Luxor. Then the premise formed the basis for the final episode of Season 2’s The Chase. However, the TV show has never tackled the notion on such a scale as this: a planet-sized city inhabited by robots of various shapes and sizes, and no humanoid characters aside from the series regulars. As the production team note during the interviews at the end of the CD, this is something that only big-budget CGI - or audio drama - can hope to achieve.

The tone of Jonathan Morris’s story is also somewhat different to what has gone before. The Assemblers are rather eccentric characters, behaving like doddering old men and resembling - according to Lucie (Sheridan Smith) - giant vacuum cleaners. Great fun! By contrast, the acts of violence that are perpetrated by the Cannibalists, a rebel faction who disassemble still functioning robots to harvest components from them, are rather disturbing, even though their victims are machines, thanks to the wails of pain and despair from the actors involved.

The guest cast includes Nigel Lambert (Look Around You, The Leisure Hive) as Assembler Domitian, Phill Jupitus (Never Mind the Buzzcocks) as the poetically inclined Servo, and Phil Davis (The Curse of Steptoe, The Fires of Pompeii) as the cruel head Cannibalist Titus - though you may have trouble recognising some of them through the layers of modulation that have been applied to their voices.

As I said above, Doctor Who has already done robot cities, but The Cannibalists does far more than just recycle old components.


Richard McGinlay

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