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Published on October 15th, 2005 | by Brian A Terranova

Spare Parts

London, around the 1950’s. Or so you would think at a first glance, but one look to the sky would prove that it is not. This London look-alike was built under the planet’s surface.

The Doctor knows where they have landed, but he keeps convincing himself that he needs more convincing. He wants to have a look around as his curiosity is too great and despite his best efforts to keep Nyssa in the dark, she learns very quickly that they are on Earth’s twin planet, Mondas.

The people of Mondas are dying. They have taken to replacing their failed organs and limbs with mechanical spare parts, but even this will not keep them alive forever.

Living conditions on Mondas are getting worse and the surface of the planet is a frozen wasteland. Nevertheless, the people have decided to dig to the surface as their next frontier in exploration. They view the event as if it were a moon landing.

No one can live on the planet’s surface, so the committee has placed Doctorman Allen in charge of creating a suit capable of sustaining life in the harsh cold weather.

She has already been a key player in creating Cybernetic Police, lead by Cyber Leader Zheng and Sisterman Constant, to patrol the streets and keep the people “safe”.

Feeling that they are safe for the time being, the Doctor and Nyssa split up to cover more ground.

It’s great to have the Doctor and Nyssa performing as the classic Doctor and one companion team. Peter’s time in the TARDIS was always very crowded, so it was nice to see Big Finish take the chance to explore the dynamic relationship that these two share. They rival the best of the top TARDIS teams.

Nyssa has gotten herself involved with Yvonne Hartley and her dad. They warn her of the curfew and decided to take her to their home, as the city is a dangerous place to be at this time. She knows she must get back to the Doctor, but Mr. Hartley needs repairs to his chest box and Nyssa is the only one out of the three who can repair it. So she agrees to help them home.

The Doctor runs into black marketer who tries to buy some of the Doctor’s organs or parts, but the Doctor is uninterested, to the point of distraction. He seems almost preoccupied by something other then his surroundings.

While not necessarily a running theme in the Big Finish plays, Adric’s death comes up more then one. They have chosen to play a bit more on the effect of his death then the series had. While everyone has their view of Adric, there is no denying that the Doctor feels a sense of loss and guilt. And what better story to explore this guilt, however indirectly, then Spare Parts.

Back at the Hartley home, Yvonne’s brother Frank is less than happy about Nyssa’s company. He is afraid that Sisterman Constant will find her during a random inspection and punish the family. If this happens it could ruin his chances of being chosen as one of the few to travel to the planets surface. He feels that, if chosen, he can help take care of his family this way. Mr. Hartley is not keen on this idea, and would rather keep his family together.

After a close call with Sisterman Constant and Zheng, Nyssa decides that she needs to set out to find the Doctor. She does not get far before Frank finds her. It seems that Sisterman Constant has come to take Yvonne away and Frank wants Nyssa to help him with his father who is not taking it well.

By this time the Doctor has made his way to Doctorman Allen’s office and the whole city begins to lose power. The committee decides to have the Doctor destroyed, but he convinces them to let him help with repairs to the generators.

Peter Davison is quite fantastic in the Big Finish plays, he has a bit more age in his voice than his TV years, but it suits his Doctor very well. He is brilliant at those little moments of Doctor-izums and exploring the depth of relationship he has with his companions. I have often thought that Peter was always the most father-figure-ish of all the Doctors, which is interesting as he was the youngest.

Credit must be given to writer Marc Platt, he has really created a world that is easy to get lost in and characters you can identify with, as well as feel emotions for. That’s a powerful thing when writing a story about creatures with no emotions.

Meanwhile…

Nyssa has gone back to the Hartley’s house to see what, if anything, she can do to help them. But some things are not able to be fixed.

This is possibly one of the most touching scenes in all of Doctor Who history, I’m not even sure I can do it justice, but I couldn’t let it go unmentioned. We have seen people affected by the Cybermen before, most notably the death of Adric, but nothing compares to a father, grieving for the loss of a child.

While speaking with Dr. Allen, the Doctor learns of their real plans for traveling to the planets surface. He also discovers that the life support suits are more then they seem. The Doctor tries to get her to see that what they are doing is wrong and refuses to fix the generators until they agree to stop.

By now Zheng is on the scene and tries to force the Doctor to finish his work. The Doctor moves to destroy the generators in the hopes that it will halt the Cybermen’s progress but ends up getting shocked to the point of unconsciousness.

Doctorman Allen takes this opportunity to see why the Doctor is in such good health, compared to the other inhabitants of Mondas, so she takes him to her lab for analysis.

The people of Mondas are in great danger. The damage to the surface shell has broken through and the ice is spilling into the city. Zheng has new orders to cyber-convert all life, and his men have just captured Nyssa. With the Doctor on the examination table and the generators fixed, can he stop them in time? Or are the people of Mondas and the TARDIS team, doomed to the fate of the Cybermen?

Spare Parts is an excellent portrayal of the beginning of the Cybermen, and one that most fans have been waiting for, for years. It stays faithful to what we knew of their past, while delivering a new and gripping story to build around it. Spare Parts will leave you looking at the Cybermen’s TV stories in a whole new light.

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About the Author

Doctor Who and me go way back. I first discovered it on my local PBS Station WHYY in the suburbs outside Philadelphia when I was a young kid; though I am uncertain of the exact age.




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