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Audio Book Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
Sick Building


Author: Paul Magrs
Read by: Will Thorp
BBC Audio
RRP: £9.99 (CD), £6.60 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 4056 8884 0 (CD), 978 1 4056 4692 5 (download)
Available 03 March 2008

Tiermann’s World: a planet covered in wintry woods and roamed by sabre-toothed tigers and other savage beasts. The Doctor and Martha are here to warn Professor Tiermann, his wife and their son that a terrible danger is on its way. The Tiermanns live in luxury, in a fantastic, futuristic, fully automated Dreamhome, under an impenetrable force shield. But that won’t protect them from the Voracious Craw, a gigantic and hungry alien creature that is heading remorselessly towards their home. When it arrives, everything will be devoured. Can they get away in time? With the force shield cracking up, and the Dreamhome itself deciding who should or should not leave, things are looking desperate...

By Paul Magrs standards, this audio book starts off in a fairly straightforward manner. OK, so there’s a giant celestial beast called the Voracious Craw (which sounds a little too much like Penelope Pitstop’s arch enemy, the Hooded Claw, for comfort), but apart from that, the author’s typical weirdness seems to have been played down. He’s probably on his best behaviour for the kiddies.

Before long, though, we are introduced to the Servo-furnishings, robots created by Professor Tiermann to serve him and his family. Like Disney characters, these robots come in all shapes and sizes, each one based upon a household implement, such as a drinks cabinet or a vacuum cleaner. Silliest of all, though in a quite endearing way, are Barbara the vending machine and Toaster the sun bed, aged Servo-furnishings that have long since seen better days. I was reminded of Talkie Toaster from Red Dwarf, in that the decrepit droids keep offering people snacks or a bit of a tan, because that’s all they’re good for. Narrator Will Thorp (who played Toby in the episodes The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit) has fun with these characters, particularly the fruity-voiced Toaster.

The book’s most obvious sources, however, are the movie Forbidden Planet and The Tempest, the Shakespeare play that inspired it. Like Dr Morbius and Prospero, the prideful Professor Tiermann lives in seclusion with his immediate family. Like Prospero, he is surrounded by magical-seeming servants (whereas Morbius had only the one robot, the famous Robby). Like Morbius, his hubris and massive ego prove to be his undoing.

This is Magrs’s first Doctor Who novel not to feature his Time Lady creation, Iris Wildthyme. However, some of Iris’s dottiness is present in the character of Barbara.

Despite the childish nature of certain plot elements, including much supping of fizzy drinks and resultant windiness, things turn surprisingly violent during the second half of the story. Hmmm, perhaps Magrs isn’t on his best behaviour for the kiddies after all...

Fortunately, much of the sluggishness of the final quarter of the print version of Sick Building has been cut from this abridged reading, so you won’t get sick of listening to it.


Richard McGinlay

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