on 21 December 2011
It is no giveaway that this story features Early Cyberman as it is on the audio cover. In nearly all stories, teasers aside, we know the Daleks or Cybermen are going to be in it because of the name or the product cover. It would otherwise have been an even greater revelation if we did not know that the Silver Turk was going to be a Cyberman.
Paul McGann only had one small screen "episode" of Doctor Who, for which we can say that the television movie was ok but the Doctor was fabulous. Big Finish in early 2001 produced a season of four McGann stories, following up with six the following year, such that we have four proper seasons of McGann and many more stories besides including a bespoke range of Eighth Doctor adventures which ran for four series. For anyone who listens to the range, the eighth Doctor has had many fantastic adventures courtesy of Big Finish and The Silver Turk is no exception. The Doctor is joined by newish companion (one small story beforehand) Mary Shelley prior to her writing of novels. It always seems a shame when Doctor Who companions change, but both on television and with Big Finish audios, the next companion brings a whole new dynamic to the TARDIS crew, and Shelley is an inspired choice. This is not so much a change as a different companion as Big Finish have the opportunity, where canonicity allows to thread in additional adventures almost anywhere.
The great thing about the McGann "seasons" of Big Finish audios is that they are the only Doctor Who stories using past Doctors where they can experiment with the theme tune. They always come as a bit of a surprise because they are fresh and triumphant. Naturally they are shorter for audio but that does not detract.
The use of Cybermen in this story is clever. They are feeble but for good reason. They come across chilling as we and the Doctor know that Cybermen become bad very early on, but in this early instance we are provided with constant uncertainty because of naïve optimism, which is not necessarily misplaced in the setting it is in.
The 2011 series 6 of Doctor Who was excellent all bar the dumbed-down episode Closing Time which underused the Cybermen. The Silver Turk is a far better example of a Cybermen tale and a far more worthwhile Doctor Who adventure; and probably the strongest example (using the same monster as a parallel) of where audio adventures can be better than television ones.
An excellent Doctor Who product and one that I am already looking forward to hearing again. If one has not heard previous McGann adventures, this could be a good place to join.
I admit to being a bit puzzled - the first episode of this story, we are treated to tantalising glimpses of the "Silver Turk" - the marvellous automaton which can apparently play chess, and play the piano. And when the Doctor finally reveals what it actually is ... it's not much of a surprise because it's drawn on the cover of the cd!!!! And quite clearly advertises Nicholas Briggs playing the Cybermen. Why would you do that? Rather defeats the purpose really of building up the suspense for the listener. However, that's a small quibble, as the Cyberman, while certainly integral to the story, are by no means all that waits in the darkness!
This story slides rapidly in gothic horror; visitations by coaches that have strange horses making their appearance right at the beginning of the story, along with strange nursery rhymes, strange exhibits at a local "Exposition"; and mysterious murders, and even more mysterious strangers in the Vienna nights. The Cyberman's purpose and mission on Earth becomes slowly clearer, and the story winds up to a macabre ending with all sorts of unforeseen matters unfolding to the listener.
The character of Mary Shelley - I'm not sure I can really get a feel for her as a companion to the Doctor - she has some trouble with being in her `future' and with the Doctor showing no compassion to the Cyberman - I haven't heard any other stories with her in, so it may be that I need to hear more of her character to understand the relationship. Clearly the Doctor is intrigued by her as the author of her novels which are known to us now; so that would explain his interest in sharing the universe with her further.
All up, while the (gasp!) unveiling of the Cybermen is a bit of a damp squib, the story does not rest too heavily on this discovery; the story is multifaced, multi-threaded and moves quite quickly along on its own momentum. A very good story I thought; the right mix of humour, horror, and uncertainty to make it a gripping listen.
This is the hundred and fifty third release from Big Finish in their range of full cast audio adventures starring classic Doctor Whos. It stars Paul McGann as Eight and Julie Cox as Mary Shelly. There are four episodes, roughly 25-30 minutes each, complete with cliffhangers and original theme music between each. Two episodes per disc on 2 discs, and a short booklet with some pictures of the cast and production notes. There are some interviews with cast and crew at the end of the second disc and a few minutes of the soundtrack at the end of disc 1.
This is the first of a trilogy of adventures that welcomes Eight back to the Big Finish main range (after four successful series all of his own) and teams him up with Mary Shelly, whom he met over thirty releases ago in his last main range outing, Company of Friends.
From the off there is a feeling that this is something special. I just LOVE the new arrangement of the theme tune used here, and hope that BF find plenty of opportunity to use it many more times. Another point in the dram’s favour is that it takes us back in time in the Eighth Doctor’s history, pre Lucie Miller, pre Charlotte Pollard, pre all the dark stuff that has happened to him, so we get the enthusiastic breathless romantic full of tiggerish energy and bounce that was lost as this Doctor saw too much of the dark side of the universe. Contrasted with this bouncy, fun Doctor is a very dark story opening, one that sent a real chill down my spine. It’s a great decision on the part of Big Finish, and gives us one of the best releases for a long time.
The Doctor and Mary Shelly arrive in Vienna, where they hear of a magical automaton, the Silver Turk of the title. Meanwhile some very grisly murders are taking place. It’s not long before the Doctor and Mary are getting to the root of a dark mystery, as they come to grips with a real puppet master.
The production is excellent. As can be seen form the front cover, Cybermen are at the heart of the story, and we are treated to some pre-Tenth Planet Cybermen who are used in a brilliant fashion by Big Finish, doing something quite new with them and evoking sympathy. We see them through the eyes of the naive Mary Shelly, who has some great character moments with them. There are brilliant set pieces, brilliant ideas (the marionettes are a simply wonderful idea that I found really creepy and hope there is room for another appearance in Big Finish for these)
It’s a production bursting with energy, ideas and ambition and has the talent to realise all three. It’s also thought provoking, and definitely the best thing BF have released for quite some time. 5 stars.
on 2 September 2015
The combination of Cybermen and ‘Mary Shelly’ is inspired, and Paul McGann with his gentlemanly manner and foppish attire. The casting is spot on all round. Everything just blends together seamlessly in the Viennese setting of 1873. I am not usually a fan of the Doctor fawning after celebrities of the time, but I was excited to here this one. Marc Platt has taken all these elements and created an incredibly detailed world from them with some wonderfully scenic imagery. I love the opening music to the Silver Turk, very different and followed up by the soft singing of Julie Cox as ‘Mary Shelley’. Jamie Robertson’s musical composition puts him miles ahead of Murray Gold work on the new series.
Then there is Alfred Stahlbaum spoon feeding cabbage soup to his badly damaged Cyberman like a huge mechanical infant in gothic surroundings. There is plenty of contrast between the beauty and horror. The Cyberman is one of the originals from ‘the Tenth Planet’, which highlights the body horror aspect. When Stahlbaum beats the Cyberman it squeals like a small animal and quietly gurgles in the back ground. The first cliff hanger is terrible, we know well in advance that the Turk is a Cyberman but the Doctor revealing the true nature of the automaton to the Victorian audience is the end event of episode one. That’s rather strange and dull.
There are several moments that tempt to evoke sympathy for the Cybermen and one moment near the end where the Cyberman’s tone of voice intimates that it has sympathy for Mary Shelly. I am not keen on this attempt to humanise the Cybermen. Gram the Cyberman telling Drossel to “go to hell” is rather jarring.
This doesn’t get the acclaim that Spare Parts does and while it does miss a few beats it’s still very good in my opinion. The focus is more on mood and character; this is a different kind of Frankenstein homage compared to ‘Brain of Morbius’. And here is another classic
on 30 July 2014
Now with a young Mary Shelley as his companion, the Eighth Doctor decides to take the TARDIS on a trip to late 19th century Vienna, home of pastry, waltzes and now, the Vienesse Exposition, a showcase for all the marvels of the modern age. In particular, the enigmatic automata 'The Silver Turk', a seemingly sentient machine who can play music and games. However, as the cover indicates, there is more darker forces at work here than just mechanical miracles....
Despite botching the major twist out the gate thanks to the cover art, Platt's four-parter is still well worth the purchase. Given the chance he never received on television, McGann elegant and gentlemanly Eighth Doctor has thrived on Big Finish audio, and this is no exception. Joining him is Julie Cox as THE Mary Shelley, and her refinement yet also vocality makes her a perfect match for McGann. However, the star of the show is veteran Nicholas Briggs as the Cybermen, here in their earliest incarnation. They still have a tinge of humanity as opposed to their later, much colder voices, and Briggs exploits this, making the Cybermen, mangled and battered though they are, both threatening yet oddly sympathetic, much like the Dalek in, well, 'Dalek'.
Indeed, Platt's script does follow in that general footstep of the frightening yet sympathetic monster (doubly fitting given Shelley's presence), but now with a period flavour, and while this may lose some points for originality, the story deftly balances tension, humour, thrills and even moments of touching emotion. As if that isn't enough, the technical crew do another solid job, recreating the elegance of Vienna in audio form, classical music, horse-drawn carriages and even the odds ticks of mechanical automata.
As for extras, like most BF Audios, each half ends with a making of/interviews with some of the cast and crew, so business as normal. To cap off, 'The Silver Turk' is truly a great serial, proving yet again a triumph of concept and execution in equal measure, and when you can get the audience to feel some sorrow for beings like the Cybermen, that's really commendable.
on 12 July 2012
I have to admit that the Eighth Doctor audios have been my least favourite of the Big Finish monthly Doctor Who releases. However, this one's a doozy! Reminiscent of the 2005 TV episode Dalek, it brings a battered and isolated representative of one of the Doctor's biggest foes to the forefront of an emotive and dramatic story; along with novelist Mary Shelley, travelling as the Doctor's companion, a chirpy hansom cab driver, a misunderstood aristocrat and his neurotic wife, and a sinister 'inventor', the Cyberman wreaks havoc as it attempts to rebuild itself and return victorious to home planet Mondas.
Atmospheric music, great performances, and a budding rapport between The Doctor and Shelley, mean that this is a hugely entertaining and gripping audio play.