Sunday, April 17, 2016

Spare Parts by: Marc Platt directed by: Gary Russell: They Were Human, Once

WARNING: This review contains major spoilers for Spare Parts so please if you haven’t listened to this story please take time to give it a listen before continuing.  There are also spoilers for the television story Earthshock.


Spare Parts stars Peter Davison as the Doctor with Sally Knyvette as Doctorman Allan, Derren Nesbitt as Thomas Dodd and Sarah Sutton as Nyssa.  It was written by Marc Platt, directed by Gary Russell and released in July 2002 on CD and in April 2017 on a 500 pressing Limited Edition Vinyl by Big Finish Productions.


The main ideas behind Spare Parts has been around since co-creator of the Cybermen, Gerry Davis proposed Genesis of the Cybermen to John Nathan-Turner, Antony Root and Christopher H Bidmead in 1982.  Shannon Sullivan’s excellent A Brief History of Time Travel reveals that the story would have been a four part story in presumably Season 19 and only reached the storyline stage.  It would have involved the Doctor and his female companion, in the outline called Felicity, arriving on Mondas which was a steampunk like planet where they would accidentally abduct the king which causes the Cybermen to come about from the king’s evil brother.  The script was rejected before any other work could be done on the story which by what we got was probably for the best as after Revenge of the Cybermen was a failure of a story Davis stopped submitting anything for the show and it seemed like he lost touch with what the show meant.  Big Finish however picked up the idea in 2002 with Ghost Light scribe Marc Platt who had already written the excellent Loups-Garoux, but changed much of Davis’ original idea to make a commentary on human nature and their survival instinct.


The plot of the story follows the original synopsis with the Doctor and Nyssa arriving on Mondas where the people there are dying of disease and their planet’s surface is so cold they have retreated into domes.  Their technology has been stuck in the 1950s as the planet is dying and the people have set up the Committee which have implemented work crews to be modified into prototype Cybermen to work on the surface.  Once the Doctor arrives he knows he has to leave, but he can’t help but meddle in a last ditch effort to get the Mondasians to open their eyes to what the upper class are doing to them and stop the Cybermen from coming into being.  The atmosphere that bleeds from this story is just so bleak as you know that whatever the Doctor does, he can’t save anyone.  Everyone is going to become Cybermen and Platt makes most of his characters not megalomaniacal, but just ordinary scared people who want to save themselves.


Doctorman Allan played by Sally Knyvette, when Spare Parts is compared to Genesis of the Daleks, is Davros except she is just a normal person.  Allan is an alcoholic doctor who just wants to see her people safe and even though she is highly emotionally pulled into creating the Cybermen, she knows that what she has done is wrong and wants to fix it.  Her foil is Sisterman Constant who is the recruiter for the Cybermen project.  She is an old woman who shares Allan’s views on the world, but has gotten so old she doesn’t care what happens to others except for the fact that she stays human.  It is almost satisfying when she gets taken in for processing as she deserves it.  The Committee is the team of the best minds which run the planet from their inner chamber until it is revealed that they are just a giant prototype Cyber Planner which works on the logic that the Cyberman project is the only real way to succeed in saving everyone and that they can save anyone else by turning them into Cybermen.  The imagery provoked by the Committee just gives me nausea which shows just how vivid Platt’s writing style is and just how good he is as a writer.  The Cyberleader so to speak is Commander Zheng who is the Cyberman we first saw in The Tenth Planet.


The citizens of Mondas that we follow are the Hartley family who even though I said there are spoilers in this review, I don’t want to get into this because it’s the one thing in this audio that makes me shed a tear.  They are all brilliantly portrayed and act like real people with Frank in particular who wants to become a Cyberman at first as he wants to see the surface even if he doesn’t know what the processing does to people.  There is also Thomas Dodd who is a black market organ dealer who gets paired up with the Doctor who is the only bit of levity in this thing, until of course he is converted into a Cyberman which is also very sad.


The show stealers of this story are Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton as the Doctor and Nyssa respectively.  They’re characters are both trying to recover from Adric’s death with Nyssa becoming irrational and wanting to try and stop the Cybermen to save Adric.  Sarah Sutton gives one of her best performances here as she knows she can’t rewrite history and just wants to leave, but the Doctor won’t let her.  The Doctor wants to try and let them save themselves giving Peter Davison a performance much like the one in The Caves of Androzani that allows for him to show off his acting chops.  Their performances combined just make the ending of the story so heartbreaking.  This is your final warning on spoilers so if you haven’t listened to this audio go and listen to it now and then come back here.  So the Doctor becomes the biological print for the Cybermen which allows them to be produced faster as they use the regeneration ability of the Time Lords as a way to stop the trauma which makes the Doctor hate himself and the Cybermen even more.  He uses this as a motivation to stop them which he does by destroying the Committee and killing Commander Zheng so the Doctor and Nyssa leave Mondas and give them a way to create Cybermen with emotions and human type lives.  Then Platt pulls the rug from under us with the reveal that Zheng is not dead and the fate of Mondas as seen in The Tenth Planet is sealed.  There is no real reason for me to summarize my thoughts as I think this review just speaks for itself on why Spare Parts is one of Big Finish’s best releases.  100/100

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