22 October 2011

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Marc Platt

RRP: £14.99

Release Date: 31st October 2011

Reviewed by: Matthew Davis for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 22nd October 2011

The Eighth Doctor without Lucie Miller?; Surely we all said the same thing when Charley Pollard left the TARDIS and now without Sheridan Smith in sight, how will the Doctor cope? Well he won’t need to as this Doctor has not met both of those well loved companions. This is a younger, less hardened Doctor, and it is with this trip to the past that Big Finish brings Paul McGann back into the main monthly range.

Our story begins in Nineteenth Century Vienna. The Doctor arrives with Mary Shelley, after their meeting in Switzerland, hoping to rendezvous with his other companions, Samson and Gemma.

As soon as they arrive, they hear gossip of a killer on the loose and a mechanical marvel that can play musical instruments, and beat anyone at a game of their choice. Intrigued, the Doctor and Mary venture to the great Viennese Exposition, where Alfred Stahlbaum unveils his marvel, the Silver Turk. But nothing is what it seems with the Turk, as one of the Doctor’s greatest enemies makes an unwelcome return.

It is no secret that the returning foes here are the Cybermen, but more specifically the earliest version of the Mondas monsters. It is familiar territory for writer Marc Platt as he worked with them in the wonderful Spare Parts, and to see him writing them again is one of the joys of this audio. 

Platt has crafted a very simple but gripping story, where every character has a significant part to play. The story does not offer any big or grand ideas, for what we get is a creepy and exciting adventure and it serves as a wonderful introduction to a new companion.

The cast here is first rate. McGann’s younger Doctor, but still possessing a rather dangerous edge, is a welcome change after the trauma the character suffered in his last story with Lucie Miller. Although it is a little anti climatic not to have that storyline continue, the decision to go back to the past I believe was a good move, allowing long devoted listeners a bit of breathing space and an essential reminder of what makes McGann so great in the part.   

Julie Cox, returning as Mary from her appearance in last year’s The Company of Friends, is marvellous. The character’s enthusiasm for the life of travel and a particularly brilliant scene where the frightening nature of the situation she finds herself in threatens to stop her journey in the TARDIS before it has begun is superbly played and I look forward to hearing where the character goes in the following stories.

The supporting cast are all fantastic, with Gareth Armstrong as marionette making Dr Johann Drossel a particular highlight, putting one in mind of Tobias Vaughn for more than one reason.

With Shelley in the story, you cannot escape the obvious references to Frankenstein. The Cyberman known as Gram, becomes a prototype for Shelley’s future Creature, mistreated by its masters and demonised by the Doctor. It is the mark of a good writer if he can generate sympathy for a cybernetic creature that speaks like an ancient computer and Marc Platt pulls it off remarkably well. Gram is a fascinating creation, and it is a credit to the vocal talent of Nicholas Briggs that he injects some humanity into the inhuman creature. Gram is by no means a hero for he is still driven by the Cyberman desire of conquest, but with Briggs’ performance and Platt’s handling of him, you feel a smirk of triumph when he finally gets his own back for his mistreatment, culminating in a rather unexpected but brilliant line of dialogue.

Mention must go to the wonderful sound design and musical score by Jamie Robertson, who is quickly becoming one of Big Finish’s best composers. He is also responsible for one of the biggest surprises of this release, a brand new theme arrangement for the Eighth Doctor. It is very different to hat you have heard before, but after a few listens it fits in rather nicely.

With a new theme tune, new companion and new direction, The Silver Turk is an excellent start for the return of the Eighth Doctor to Big Finish and well worth your time.

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