The Tomb of the Cybermen is one of those classic stories, that seem to evoke memories - memories of the first time you saw the awesome power of the Cybermen, little knowing how formidable they would evolve into being over the years in more stories with more Doctors. While the Cybermen had appeared in Doctor Who before (The Tenth Planet, with the First Doctor in 1966, and The Moonbase, with the Second Doctor in 1967), this, I think is the first time the audience gets to see just how organised, widespread and frightening the Cybermen are, given their clear organisational skills and strategies for domination. These are not just random aliens, they're an entire civilisation. And they seem to be everywhere.
This reading is of the novelisation (by Gerry Davis) of this story from late 1967, which features the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) with his companions Jamie, and Victoria Waterfield in only her second story after being rescued by the Doctor from the Daleks who killed her father in Victorian England. To start with, she seems a reserved and proper Victorian miss, but even in the development of this story, she shows an intelligence and a backbone that will stand her in good stead in future stories.
The Doctor and his crew land in the Tardis on a planet, which they learn when encountering a team of archaeologists and others is Telos, the home of the Cybermen, who apparently died out some centuries earlier. But the Doctor, clearly to us, is suspicious from the start, and when access to the Cybermen's tombs is clearly based on advanced human scientific and mathematical knowledge, the Doctor is convinced that a trap is about to be sprung. But unfortunately for everyone involved on Telos, there are more schemes and more plots hatching than even the Doctor may suspect.
Given that this is only a four episode story, there's a lot going on. There's the expedition with their mix of different professions and the ship's crew, intent on remaining alive long enough to get off Telos, and the Doctor with his friends. And then there are the Cybermen, with their Cybermats. What do the Cybermen intend, and will the Doctor be able to stop them and the others with evil on their mind from unleashing a potentially unstoppable horror on the universe?
This narration of the story is read by Michael Kilgarriff, who played the Cyber Controller in the originally televised story. Given that he's now in his mid-70s, his voice is strong and vibrant; you can imagine him as a man of presence, which would fit with his playing a larger than life character in 1967. It may seem a strange choice for narrator, but believe me it really works. His voice and his reading are spot on for this story; methodical and clear, and wonderfully emotive where required; even his rendering of Victoria and the mysterious Kaftan are absolutely convincing. The Cyber voices are done by Nicholas Briggs.
This is a great story, and it's great to hear it in its novelised form and in this really great reading. I absolutely thoroughly enjoyed this from beginning to end, and look forward to listening to it again and again.
on 20 March 2013
There's a business phrase that is apposite in reviewing AUDIOGO's release of Gerry Davis' novelisation recording of DOCTOR WHO AND THE TOMB OF THE CYBERMEN; "...bringing your A-Game..." In effect, an attempt to complete an activity to your best ability given all your experience, resources available and ambition, and that, for this release, is exactly what has been done.
Thoroughly absorbing - even more so than the frequently vacuous NEW SERIES broadcast episodes - and combining the enviable talents of Michael Kilgarrif, the post-production of MEON SOUNDS and vocal interpretations of the Cybermen by Nicholas Briggs, this four-disc issue is as perfect as both a novel and an audiobook interpretation can be. It's a rare achievement.
(Description of the Second Doctor) "...his green cat's eyes still on her face..."
It's September 1969 - Season Five - and THE TOMB OF THE CYBERMEN premieres a set of stories that collectively have, quite rightly, become known as "the monster era" (Cybermen [twice], Yeti [twice] along with the Great Intelligence, Ice Warriors, and Seaweed creature) that has become a cornerstone in the series' 50-year history and, certainly, never surpassed by the 2005-2013 re-imagineered series with its digital technology and finances.
Like RONSEAL varnish's iconic marketing slogan, this on-screen collaboration between Gerry Davis and Kit Pedler does exactly as its title say. The Doctor, Jamie McCrimmon and, new companion, Victoria become embroiled - through the Time Lord's own curiosity - with an archaeological expedition to uncover the centuries lost titular resting place of the part-mechanical part-organic aliens.
In his novelisation, Davis retains the character-led formatting of the original four-part broadcast, focussing upon the internal paranoia and power-struggle of the humans as each faction seemingly undermine each other in the feint hearted & misguided attempt to secure the ignominy of discovering the actual Tombs. In effect, bravely, it is story of two halves; the first (represented on television as the first two episodes) is the study of conflicting human interaction
Unsurprisingly, Kilgarrif's reading reinforces the tensions within that build toward the faltering first awakening steps of the silver metal giants from their hibernation (whether this is accidental or self-impose, as a form of `genetic gene bank', it is not wholly clear). Whilst the clarity of his voice has diminished with age - as it will with all of us; "...taxes and death...."), it remains as arresting and spellbinding as he sympathetically delivers (there is no attempt, thankfully, to re-create the original actor's performances) Davis' written text with a relish and verve that draws you into the machinations on Telos (or, as it is pronounced, "...Tealos..."). Diligent in his accent choice, vocal gesture and clinical examination of the combination of pitch, stress & time, each character is crafted without pastiche or undermining comedic element, and if you had not watched the original (or DVD release) television broadcast then from his reading then every single player can be visualised.
From the caustically irritating, paranoid and persistently perspiring John Viner, to the `by-the-book' North American Captain Hopper, to the reptilian-like guile of Kaftan, and to the calming ethereal presence of the Second Doctor, Kilgarrif's degree of energy is captivatingly precise skipping from subdued to vehement within a heart-beat, as is his application of rhythmus and melody lifting the printed word into a digital realm.
The author's description of the murder of Peter Haydon is horrifically realised by Kilgarrif that will cascade cutis anserina across your increasingly clammy skin. (Disc 2 Chapter six).
However, there is another contribution within DOCTOR WHO AND THE TOMB OF THE CYBERMEN that matches Michael Kilgarrif's contribution, and in what seems to have been a `labour of love, Simon Power (as MEON SOUNDS) has created an aural canvas upon which its reader deftly colours with vocal brushstrokes.
Overall, the music `cues' are suitably atmospheric, coated with an enigmatic hard frost that uncompromisingly chills to the bone and then penetrates further to a chromosome level within you. Occasionally, a low-rumbling, akin to lying flat with your ear pressed to an Underground Station platform listening to an approaching train, ominously resonates - almost psychedelically hypnotic - as the threat from the silver-metal bionic alien becomes apparent.
Equally, incidental sound effects are invincibly disturbing whether they are the hydraulically-driven biomechanical joints of the waking giants, or the accurately observed footfalls on frozen metalwork, or the purely science fiction elements of the Cybermen weapon testing area, or the more substantive validity of the Tomb Hatch (the new sound effect gives a credible mass-weight and multi-locking [perhaps, even deadlock seals] format that the television version failed to achieve back in the days when the series was fiscally challenged and realised by hardboard and cooking aluminum foil).
"... now you belong to us..."
It's not easy but ensuring that a sound effect actually sounds like what it is supposed to be is an art, and in this release we witness a Masterpiece being painted within our ears (as opposed beneath our eyes); vast blocks & sheets cracking ice sounds like cracking ice, whilst nefarious footfalls on frosted floors sound suitably treacherous.
Additionally, the sound treatment for the Cybermen voice is genius. Probably, the best rationalisation of these aliens ever, with annunciation crystal-clear and vocal articulation enviously pure courtesy of BIG FINISH's Nicholas Briggs that removes the mildly comical twang of the television versions (past and present) that made them sound like a something from The Buggles' 1976 song, "Video killed the radio star".
If I haven't persuaded to buy - or borrow from a library - DOCTOR WHO AND THE TOMB OF THE CYBERMEN already then I can do no more.
Remarkably astute in its vision, gloriously crafted by AUDIOGO, an intelligent and thrilling novel, this release will stand head and shoulders and ear-pieces above the rest, setting a benchmark for future unabridged TARGET novelisations.
Truly, it is aspirational.
on 18 March 2013
Tomb of the Cybermen is considered by many to be one of the classic stories of the original run of Doctor Who. The book - a novelisation from 1978 - comes to audio courtesy of a dramatic and entertaining reading by the Cyber Controller himself, Michael Kilgariff.
From the start, the reader draws the listener in with one of the best readings in Audio Go's recent titles. Clear and easy to follow, Kilgariff also acts many of the characters and whilst avoiding an attempt to copy Troughton's Doctor, the characters are all distinct and Viner in particular sounds as though the late Cyril Shaps was present.
There has been some disappointment in other Cyber novels that the voices all sounded too much like the 2000's version of the silver giants. Here Nick Briggs delivers a very similar intonation to the original TV versions.
For once, the sound effects are kept in their rightful place - as background tonal soundscapes, and are much the better for it. The dripping water in the echoey tombs adds to the sense of tension as the Cybermen begin to unthaw. THe only slight disappointment is the ineffective "feet walking in cat litter" sounds to suggest people walking - where everyone from the petite Victoria to some of the Cybermen have the same monotonous tone. Also the producers are tempted to add sound where none is necessary and again we have text suggesting silent events that are accompanied with a sound effect!
These are very slight criticisms and I would rate this release as one of the very best of the range. I hope that Mr Kilgariff is invited back - Attack of the Cybermen would be a must - but any other adventure would be great. Michael offers a clear, effective reading of an enjoyable classic novel. Highly recommended!