This is the 34th story in the Main Range series by Big Finish, first released in 2002. Written by Marc Platt, this story features the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison), travelling with Nyssa (Sarah Sutton). This story has, quite rightly, come to be considered one of the ‘classics’ of the Big Finish Doctor Who range, and for good reasons.
Nobody had, until this story, really tackled the idea of a Cyberman origin story. The Cybermen first appeared in the classic tv series in the 1966 story The Tenth Planet, which was also incidentally the last story of the First Doctor’s incarnation, as played by William Hartnell. At the end of that story, in another first for Doctor Who, the Doctor regenerated into his next incarnation, played by Patrick Troughton.
The Cybermen, in The Tenth Planet, emerged to our view as a fully formed threat – from Earth’s twin planet Mondas, where, as a means of preserving themselves on their increasingly hostile planet environment, they had implanted artificial parts in their people, which in turn led to them becoming imbued with no emotions, losing their ‘humanity’. Thus they were a threat to other races, and in The Tenth Planet, their plan is to take humans from Earth back to Mondas, to transform them into Cybermen.
The Cybermen have, over the years, changed in their appearance, but their nature remains cybernetic and brutal, emotionless and calculating. This story offers a point from which to view their beginnings – on the planet of Mondas itself, but more from the perspective of how the changing of the people of Mondas into Cybermen impacted on the Mondasians. Thus, while we know that the Cybermen will go on, and we know some of the stories in which they are to become involved in their future, this tragic tale offers an understanding of how they came about. A hugely ambitious undertaking, and one which has been skilfully written, perfectly performed, and wonderfully presented to us in this audio story.
When the Tardis lands, the Doctor realises quickly where they are, and wants to leave. He knows he can’t stop the evolution and the actions of the future Cybermen he has met over his incarnations, but circumstances are such that he and Nyssa become involved in the affairs of Mondas, at its most critical juncture – and from there, only tragedy can ensue.
Peter Davison as the Doctor, and Sarah Sutton as Nyssa, play their roles perfectly – their characters are fully written and developed, and it’s absolutely right to see them under stress, reacting, and sometimes badly to what is going on round them. The other characters, including the ‘ordinary’ family of Dad, Yvonne and Frank Hartley are representative of those on Mondas, and those suffering as the planet dies, and their leaders search desperately for solutions. But the cost of those solutions will be borne by the people, as we know, and it is these characters who we come to know who will bear the brunt of Mondas’s future.
Kathryn Guck as Yvonne, Paul Copley as Dad, and Jim Hartley as Frank, are all wonderful in their parts. Similarly, the parts of Sisterman Constant (Pamela Binns) and Doctorman Allan (Sally Knyvette) are brilliantly written and performed. Thomas Dodd, as the ‘Shylockian’ character is wonderfully portrayed by Derren Nesbitt. This is a fantastic story; a tragedy, where we know the outcome and the future, but we are fully engaged with the present as it unfolds. A story that is, and will remain a classic in the Doctor Who universe.
on 16 September 2006
"On a dark frozen planet where no planet should be, in a doomed city with a sky of stone, the last denizens of Earth's long-lost twin will pay any price to survive, even if the laser scalpels cost them their love and hate and humanity.
"And in the mat-infested streets, round about tea-time, the Doctor and Nyssa unearth a black market in second-hand body parts and run the gauntlet of the augmented police and their augmented horses.
"And just between the tramstop and the picturehouse, their worst suspicions are confirmed: the Cybermen have only just begun, and the Doctor will be, just as he always has been, their saviour..."
"Spare Parts", by Marc Platt, is possibly Big Finish Productions' most highly regarded Doctor Who play, and is also supposed to be the inspiration by the new series' "Rise of the Cybermen". As such I had certain level of anticipation leading up to it (always a risk). As I listened to the first episode, I thought I was going to be disappointed: the sound design seemed lesser than usual, and the events altogether domestic in scale.
However, "Spare Parts" really does turn out to be something special. "Spare Parts" is for the Cybermen what "Genesis of the Daleks" is for the infamous pepper-pots: an origin story, in which the chain of events leading up to the dehumanisation of an entire race is understandable and unavoidable. The twist is that the Doctor, who, once he realises that he and Nyssa have landed on Mondas, simply wants to leave, is eventually instrumental in the survival and development of the Cyber race.
Spare Parts is also a direct prequel / sequel to "The Tenth Planet", and I consider myself very lucky to have listened to "The Tenth Planet" for the first time recently, as I believe it enhanced my enjoyment of "Spare Parts" no end. True to form, Big Finish Productions have recreated the voices of the original "Tenth Planet" Cyberman to perfection, and whatever one's views on those early Cyber voices, it gives "Spare Parts" a tremendous feeling of authenticity and canonicity.
"Spare Parts" boasts a high quality script from "Ghost Light" and "Loups-Garoux" writer Marc Platt, with the Hartley family, with whom Nyssa spends a large part of the story, black market organ trader Thomas Dodd (Derren Nesbitt) and scrientist Doctorman Allan (Sally Knyvette) all being well-formed characters. As stated, the Cyber voices are perfect, while the voices of the Committee that runs the underground city recall the more electronic voices from the Cybermen stories of the Patrick Troughton era. The score is understated and effective and the sound design, which as it turns out offers a quite intentional silence in the first episode, is up to Big Finish's usual high standard.
"Spare Parts" is a fascinating origin story for the Cybermen with an explosive ending, and comes highly recommended.
This is the thirty fourth release from Big Finish in their range of full cast audio adventures starring classic Doctor Whos. It stars Peter Davison as Five and Sarah Sutton as Nyssa. There are four episodes, roughly 25-30 minutes each, complete with original theme music between each, and cliff hanger endings. Two episodes per disc on 2 discs, and a short booklet with some pictures of the cast and production notes.
This is a corker of a story. Five and Nyssa land on a planet much like Earth, but everything seems to be underground. The Doctor has some suspicions as to where they are, which are soon borne out. He and Nyssa are soon thrown into an adventure where they are presented with a variety of moral problems regarding the formation of one of the Doctor's oldest enemies - the Cybermen. It's a story right up there with Genesis of the Daleks as a thoughtful tale with some rip-roaring adventure along the way.
The production is excellent. Nicely tying in with established Cyber-mythology, and strongly reminiscent of the Cybermen encountered by the First Doc in Tenth Planet. The gradual transformation of the proto cybermen to the fully formed article as the story progresses is achieved with subtlety and attention to detail. The script is very intelligent and emotionally literate, giving us some quite touching scenes, and a few big shocks. The supporting cast, especially Derren Nesbitt, Paul Copely and Sally Knyvette are top rate, and give us characters that we can understand and connect with. Davison and Sutton are also on great form, showing us the compassion of the characters, the panic as the situation gets out of control, and managing to explore the nature of the relationship between the two in a touching and believable way.
For me this right up there with them as one of the best Who adventures - classic TV, Nu Who, Audio, book or other medium. It stands prodly alongside Daemons, Genesis Of the Daleks or Caves of Androzani. 5 stars, I wish I could give it more.
This is a four part audio drama with Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor and Sarah Sutton reprising her role as Nyssa from that era of tv Who.
It’s a complex, surprising production that keeps you guessing as to which way it’s going to jump in terms of its direction. The 50’s setting alien world of Mondas makes you think initially that it is going to overdose on quirkiness. But then it plays out as a classic, chilling Cyberman adventure that does not downplay the horror of the conversion process or the loss of humanity and identity it involves for the poor souls involved. The Cybermen here are modelled on those of the Troughton era, with their never bettered drawn out synth voiced monotones. “Youuuuuu willll beee like usss….” Gary Russell does a fantastic job of world building on his Mondas. It’s a world stuck in the 50’s due to the squalor and retrogression caused by living underground on a dying world, whose path is wandering into that of a nebula. The underground survivors send selected enlisted parties to the surface to try and start the giant propulsion engines that may move their planet to safety. It’s a world of curfews, power-cuts, dimly lit streets, boarded up shops and homes, tram-stops, and a town-square with a huge “Committee Palace” with iron gates where the mysterious committee rule. Meanwhile cyber augmentation runs through this society like veins of silver through rock. The classic cyber-mat creatures scuttle through the streets like vermin. People have augmented budgies for pets, and cyber chest units and artificial limbs to help with medical difficulties. It’s a technology in its infancy. Meanwhile cyber augmented police on cyber augmented horses keep order. And this all heading in a direction that the Doctor, and us if we know our Who history, know only too well.
The Doctor and Nyssa arrive on Mondas, with the Doctor clearly knowing where he is and immediately filled with foreboding. They find a struggling family, the Hartleys, Yvonne (Kathryn Gluck), Dad (Paul Copley), and Frank (Jim Hartley). Dad has a chest unit and Frank dreams of being enlisted to the surface which fills Dad with horror. Dad loves his tea and Yvonne is consumptive but popular in the community and pretty much the glue in the family. The actors bring all these characters to believable life and make the distinctly odd setting believable. And when horrible cyber things do happen to certain family members, you really feel it and are appalled by it.
The Hartley’s, the Doctor and Nyssa become tied up with the comically horrible body-snatcher Thomas Dodd (Derren Nesbitt) whilst being watched by the snooping official Sisterman Constant (Pamela Binns) in discovering the terrible truth about the hidden Committee and its plans. On the way they meet a Doctor involved in leading the cyber augmentation, the conflicted Doctorman Allan, and come face to face with a Cyber nemesis Zheng (played by Big Finish stalwart Nicholas Briggs). The Doctor finds he must do what he can to bring a kind of redemption to Mondas without breaking the strictures of history, his own prime directive.
The story surprises, scares and entertains and has some truly memorable ideas, scenes and set pieces, and I won’t spoil them for you, but the revelation of the true nature of the Committee is a treat. The production scores on every level. The 50’s level is a rich and resonates with themes from that era, such as the Stalinist Committee and it’s Palace to the domestic scenes of the Hartley family. The Cybermen are a nasty and dehumanising evil here, and a fitting monster for our current age of upgrades and increasing reliance on technology and apps.
Get a copy if you can. I was staggered to see it selling on Amazon for £90, but I grabbed a copy for a tenner from a high street genre comic/book store. And you can download it for £2.99 on the Big Finish Web site.
on 2 April 2009
This Cybermen origin story from Big Finish is one of the best original audio dramas of the 117 or so released in the monthly series. In terms of character and mood it serves The Cybermen far better than TV ever could; the title alone immediately giving off vibes of physical and emotional mutilation, and the remorseless, emotionless purpose for which the silver giants from Mondas have become associated.
Peter Davison is on fine form; the youthful and naive appearance of his incarnation of the nomadic Time Lord masking a steely mindset and fierce intelligence, whilst Marc Platt's script crackles and fizzes with energy and panache.
This is a great entry in the monthly Doctor Who audio series, and I heartily recommend it for first-time Big Finish listeners as well as seasoned fans. The price on here is better than if you bought it direct from Big Finish, but their website offers 6 and 12 monthly subscriptions, so if you plan on listening to others in the range it's worth checking their website out before committing to buying this here.
on 2 September 2006
In my opinion for what it is worth is that this is simply the BEST Big Finish adventure ever. It tells the story of the origin of the Cybermen and has echoes of the rise of Nazi Germany.
Peter Davison is at his breathless frantic best and you can feel the tension rising as the story progresses and the twist at the end is unexpected but just right.
on 19 April 2015
I was not really a fan of the Big Finish 'Dr.Who' audios until a friend recommended 'Spare Parts'. I gave it a go, and was stunned. Brilliant in practically every respect. In fact, it is a candidate for the title 'Best Cyberman Story Ever'. Set during the Peter Davison era, it is an origin story for Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis' monsters, but cleverly avoids duplicating the plot of 'Genesis Of The Daleks'. Marc Platt's fine script is done justice by director Gary Russell and the cast, among them Sally Knyvette of 'Blake's 7'. Davison ( an underrated Doctor, in my view ) has never been better. Some ideas were apparently reused in the television episodes 'Rise Of The Cybermen/Age Of Steel' in 2006, but take it from me, this is superior.
on 28 June 2015
So far, I personally have not heard a Big Finish audio better than this. From the superb sound design to the performances of the cast, the whole production excels. However, for me the main plaudits have to go to Marc Platt for putting together such a great script, albeit one with a depressing atmosphere of inevitability throughout. This just shows how good Big Finish can be.
on 22 December 2009
This is a well-written and fairly concise story that is well worth discovering, and which offers one of the earliest glimpses in the history/origins of the Cybermen. Plus it's the Doctor's first visit to Mondas. Which has great charaterisation - the 5th Doctor & Nyssa are as you'd expect them to be, as are the supporting characters, and the parallel of rationing era post-war Britain of the early 1950's.
on 1 November 2008
I've listened to a couple of these audio plays now, and I have to say, out of the ones I have heard so far (Red Dawn, Return of the Daleks and Sirens of Time)this was my favourite and I will definately be listening to it again.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading 'Lungbarrow', and snapped this up when I saw it was by Marc Platt, not least because he writes excellent literature. I wasn't at all disappointed by the scripting of this story, it is crafted and executed really well by both writer and cast alike.
The story centres around the origin of the Cybermen, in the doctors Fifth Incarnation. Whilst it is true Peter Davison's voice sounds older now, i felt he gave a good performance, I even laughed a couple of times. Really the best thing about this play is the convincing performance of the cast.
The downsides: the cyberman voices really sounded a bit like K-9, and weren't especially chilling, I think. Also there is a really annoying Liverpudlian innit. He's annoying because all he does is Moan, Moan, Moan the whole way thru, although I'm sure that's meant to be like that, and the audience isn't supposed to like him anyway, I feel the role could have been written a bit better.
However, these small factors don't detract from a thoroughly enjoyable play. I think this is worth a 'once over', if nothing else.