34. Spare Parts, episode 1

I listened to the first part of Spare Parts from Big Finish last night and really enjoyed it.  Spare Parts is the 34th story in their Doctor Who: Main Range series and features Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor, accompanied by Sarah Sutton as Nyssa.  This is a full-cast adventure that includes characters played by Sally Knyvette and Alistair Lock.


Throughout the episode I kept thinking how much better Davison’s era might have been if he’d had just the one companion like this.  We saw an eleventh-hour hint of this on-screen in Caves of Androzani in which he just had Peri as his companion, and the quality and character-relationship improved immeasurably as a result.

The same thing is true of Spare Parts.  Following the obligatory plot device of the Doctor and Nyssa splitting up (needed to tell the story from two sides), we get a superb performance from both Davison and Sarah Sutton.  While the Doctor is all brave, pro-active, and almost McCoy-like in his manipulativeness, we have Nyssa being caring, sympathetic, re-active and, horror of horror, even scared on occasion.  How can 21st Century Doctor Who be this good?

As the episode nears its ends, the Doctor is ready to leave – feeling he’s done all he can do without the risk of making a right hash out of the time lines – and it almost feels like we’ve had a whole adventure already.

Being an audio drama, it is sometimes difficult to get a clear understanding of what is going on, but I think there’s enough there to encourage the imagination to do its thing.  It feels like a real adventure, and not just Tom Baker narrating Jackanory to some old geezer as was sometimes the case with Hornet’s Nest.  Having feared that the years may not have been kind to either Peter Davison or Sarah Sutton, I’m relieved to report that they both sound just as they did back in the 80s – Sarah Sutton in particular sounds just like Nyssa (which is surprising given that she doesn’t sound like her in certain documentaries and commentaries).  It’s great to hear actors acting.

The original “Cyber-voices” are terrific, too.  I’ve never been convinced of 21st Century TV Doctor Who‘s take on the Cybermen voices (“Delete, delete, delete” – and words that you can’t understand) but latter-day Cybermen in classic-WHO were never the last word either, so it’s been a moot point.  However, these Tenth Planet voices are incredibly creepy.  When watching the episodes on DVD, they sound a bit silly with their woolly costumes, wide open circle-mouths, and lyrical voices, but when it’s audio-only and you’re not saddled with the baggage of Scrapyard Cybermen, the whole thing takes on a new dimension.

I know I’ve only heard the first episode so far, but I will most certainly be buying the remaining episodes so that I can listen to the rest of it.