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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
Plague of the Cybermen


Author: Justin Richards 
Read by: David Warner
Publisher: AudioGO
RRP: £15.99, US $29.95
ISBN: 978 1 4713 2986 9
Release Date: 11 April 2013

When the Doctor arrives in the 19th-century Eastern European village of Klimtenburg, he discovers the residents suffering from some kind of plague – a “wasting disease”. The victims face a horrible death – but what’s worse, the dead seem to be leaving their graves. The Plague Warriors have returned… The Doctor is confident that he knows what’s really happening. He understands where the dead go, and he’s sure that the Plague Warriors are just a myth. But as some of the Doctor’s oldest and most terrible enemies start to awaken, he realises that maybe – just maybe – he’s misjudged the situation...

The style of this book takes me back to the more grown-up tone of the original paperbacks that were published by Virgin and BBC Books prior to the return of the television show in 2005. Indeed, the grim subject matter – which involves grave robbing and the walking dead – bears comparison to Justin Richards’s Sixth Doctor novel Grave Matter, published in 2000. The Cybermen, whose resources are stretched rather thin, make gruesome use of organic body parts such as human limbs, which also reminded me of the Sixth Doctor audio / webcast drama Real Time.

Who better to read such a macabre tale than David Warner (who recently appeared in the episode Cold War as Professor Grisenko, but is no stranger at all to Doctor Who, especially on audio, having played loads of roles for Big Finish, including the Time Lord himself). He gives a very clear reading for the most part, though I was initially confused by his references to the Watchman, which sounded to me like Watchmen (plural). Perhaps inevitably, his rendition of the Doctor sounds more gruff and bad-tempered than Matt Smith’s usually tends to be – though admittedly the Eleventh Doctor is not at his most cheerful at this point in his life, which seems to be during his unsuccessful search for Clara between The Snowmen and The Bells of Saint John. As a result, it occasionally seems as though we are listening to a Fourth Doctor story.

The mood of this unabridged audio book is further enhanced by some memorably creepy music by David Darlington, which is suitably mechanical and doom-laden, and the Cyber-voices are provided, as ever, by Nicholas Briggs.

In addition to the similarities to Real Time, Richards’s plot recalls certain other Cyber-stories. As in The Next Doctor, the silver giants use cybernetic animals, in this case wolves, to aid their cause. As in Closing Time, those clumsy Cybermen have crashed and effectively buried their spaceship. There is a lot of cribbing from 1960s serials, especially Tomb of the Cybermen (as there is, coincidentally, in Nightmare in Silver), with hordes of hibernating troops breaking out of their honeycomb-like cells. The end of Chapter 9 is like a mash-up of memorable moments from Moonbase and Tomb.

Thrilling as it is to have these old enemies back once again, the plot gets a little repetitive on occasion, with much time spent investigating creepy tunnels, or fleeing or fighting the relentless invaders. However, the author puts some original spins on the Cyber-myth, and there is a big surprise towards the end of the tale…

Plague of the Cybermen is not the most original Who story ever told – but when it is told to me by David Warner, how could I possibly resist?


Richard McGinlay

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