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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who and the Tomb of the Cybermen


Author: Gerry Davis
Read by: Michael Kilgarriff
RRP: £13.25, US $24.95
ISBN: 978 1 4458 2636 3
Available 07 March 2013

The Cybermen – silver, indestructible monsters whose only goal is power – seem to have disappeared from their planet, Telos. When a party of archaeologists, joined by the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria, land on the Cybermen’s barren, deserted world, they uncover what appears to be their tomb. But once inside it becomes clear that the Cybermen are not dead, and some in the group of archaeologists desperately want to re-activate these monsters! How can the Doctor defeat these ruthless, power-seeking humans and the Cybermen...?

The 1967 serial The Tomb of the Cybermen has a special place in the hearts of many fans, because it was the story that returned – not from the tomb but from Hong Kong – in 1992, having been missing from the BBC archives for many years. For me, though, what makes this story extra-special is the fact that, back in the early 1980s, it was the first Doctor Who novelisation I ever read! It was a thrilling experience, and one that ensured that I would go on to read every other novel published in the Target Books range.

I didn’t know or care that the wrong type of Cyberman was depicted in Jeff Cummins’s beautiful cover illustration (though if it bothers you, there is a specially adapted version by Alister Pearson on the inside front cover). In common with many readers at the time, having not even been born when Tomb was originally transmitted, I wasn’t in a position to notice that author Gerry Davis’s descriptions of the Cybermats and the lead Cyberman reflected their appearance in 1975’s Revenge of the Cybermen, which at the time of the book’s publication (May 1978) had been the most recent Cyber-serial. No, I was too caught up in the atmosphere and tension of the tale.

The author emphasises the thematic connection to Egyptian tombs with his vivid descriptions of the darkness inside the Cybermen’s Telos base, the bas-reliefs on the walls, which seem to move under the light from Victoria’s torch, and references to dynasties, sarcophagi and mummies.

Davis also presents us with a rather different opening TARDIS scene to the television version, possibly indicating that the latter was not his work but that of story editor Victor Pemberton. The 19th-century Victoria is suitably scandalised about being seen dressed in a short skirt. The author also takes inflation into account – Kaftan offers five hundred dollars to the first man who can open the doors of the tomb, up from fifty pounds in 1967! However, Davis seems uncertain whether the tombs have been sealed for five hundred years or “thirty centuries”, as Viner states in an early chapter.

Michael Kilgarriff, who played the Cyberman Controller in the original serial, reads this complete and unabridged audio book splendidly. His portentous, doom-laden voice is well suited to the story, sometimes sounding like Tom Baker in gruff mode. He mimics the voices of his former co-stars well – which is all the more remarkable considering that he apparently did not reacquaint himself with the serial in preparation for this recording. His terrified Viner is especially good, and there are several moments when he really captures the lighter tones of Patrick Troughton’s Doctor, and even Kaftan’s exotic cadence. He reads the planet’s name as “tee-loss”, just as I did when I read the book.

When he played the Controller back in 1967, Kilgarriff didn’t speak the lines – all the Cyberman voices were performed by Peter Hawkins. It is entirely appropriate, therefore, that once again that role is taken out of his hands. This time all the Cyber-voices are provided by new series monster man Nicholas Briggs. Thankfully, he goes for a more authentic sound than he did for the audio book releases of Doctor Who and the Cybermen and Earthshock, in which the voices were far too modern. Here they sound very much like the chilling buzzing monotones of old, only more intelligible.

With dramatic sound design by Simon Power, this Tomb is definitely worth exploring.


Richard McGinlay

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