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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Death Collectors / Spider’s Shadow


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 318 7
Available 30 June 2008

“There is only death.” A virulent disease that has killed millions, a missing scientist, and an ancient race of salvagers who collect and preserve the dead - the quarantined planet Antikon connects them all. When the Doctor arrives on a sky station above the planet, a single accident has already set in motion a chain of events that could mean the death of every living thing in the universe. The only way he can stop it is to die - again...

The Death Collectors is difficult to follow - I mean, for the listener. This is partly to do with the subject matter: the emotive topic of death and Professor Mors’s (Alastair Cording) pseudoscientific quest to find a cure for it. It’s also partly down to writer Stewart Sheargold’s dialogue, and the sometimes less than clear delivery of it by Sylvester McCoy and Derek Carlyle (the latter gasping away as the voices of various semi-dead Dar Traders) doesn’t help matters. It wasn’t just me who struggled to follow the story - the behind-the-scenes features demonstrate that The IT Crowd’s Katherine Parkinson (who plays the offbeat and wonderfully named Danika Meanwhile) also found it hard going.

However, this three-part tale does have some things in its favour. Katarina Olsson (yes, her again!) is deliciously sinister as the deceptively upbeat-sounding computer Nancy. The cliffhanger ending to Part Two is tremendously well built up (much better than the confusing end to Part One). And Sheargold foreshadows the Seventh Doctor’s imminent demise in the TV movie with excerpts from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly and by having the Time Lord refer to regeneration as a kind of death.

For those reasons, you may wish to add The Death Collectors to your, um, collection.



It is the eve of battle and Princesses Louise and Alison are hosting a royal ball. But there are unwelcome visitors in the garden and a sequence of events spiralling out of control. What’s more, the Doctor doesn’t even remember arriving...

Despite its arguably more complex subject, involving a disjointed sequence of events, the single-part companion episode Spider’s Shadow is actually easier to follow than The Death Collectors, despite a narrative structure that resembles aspects of Groundhog Day and Memento. This is partly due to the story’s brevity and also because the somewhat fairy-tale-style storytelling (two princesses, one more attractive than the other) is more clearly set out. It quickly becomes evident whereabouts in the timeline you are due to signposts in the dialogue.

Kevin McNally (Doctor Who: The Twin Dilemma, Pirates of the Caribbean) guest stars, though you might not recognise his voice, as a spider called Henry!

Whether you go to shops or obtain it via the web, Spider’s Shadow is worth a listen.


Richard McGinlay

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