Doctor Who
Spare Parts

Starring: Peter Davison
Big Finish Productions
RRP 13.99
ISBN 1 903654 72 6, BFPDWCD6CE
Available now

The Doctor and Nyssa explore an underground city on an eerily familiar planet where no planet should be. The last denizens of Earth's long-lost twin are prepared to pay any price in order to survive, even if it costs them their humanity...

For me, the creepiest Cybermen of them all are the ones that appear in their debut story, 1966's The Tenth Planet. Despite - or perhaps because of - their grating sing-song voices, these models seem more menacing than the later, more technologically advanced types. With their cloth faces and cumbersome fittings, the Tenth Planet Cybermen are more akin to undead mummies or Frankenstein's monster than to mere robots.

How pleased I am, therefore, to hear their original voices so lovingly re-created by sound designer Gareth Jenkins and performer Nicholas Briggs. We also get to hear the vocal style of the Moonbase and Tomb of the Cybermen versions, spoken here by the governing Cyberplanner. Perhaps the latter voice has been re-created a little too perfectly, however, because - just as in the 1960s - it is sometimes rather difficult to tell what is being said!

Whereas Genesis of the Daleks ruffled the feathers of some hard-core fans when it was first screened in 1975, Spare Parts slots seamlessly into established TV continuity (but without requiring any specialised foreknowledge on the part of the listener). The chain of events that leads to the creation of the Cybermen seems entirely logical - and tragic. The creatures' very name is presaged by the Mondasians' use of job titles such as Doctorman and Sisterman.

In his depiction of Mondas, writer Marc Platt has created a surprising world that to an extent resembles Earth circa 1950, but which is also chillingly out of kilter. On the one hand we have a homely tea-fixated Dad (Paul Copley), but on the other we are presented with cybernetically augmented policemen mounted upon similarly augmented horses. Whimsical elements such as Dad's wry comment about his accordion-shaped chest unit are soon offset by a more grim and grisly tone, as Platt taps into the horrific themes of the aforementioned Frankenstein.

Although the first episode's ending is something of a non-cliffhanger (the Doctor and Nyssa seem perfectly safe within the confines of the TARDIS), the drama as a whole is quite simply the most original and significant Cybermen story since their debut.

Richard McGinlay