The Eight Doctor, Mary Shelley, and Cybermen? What a prospect, and I’m glad to say that this doesn’t disappoint. Over the years Big Finish have turned out high quality audio dramas exploring many of the Doctor’s incarnations, and allowing his adventures to continue long after the show was de-Graded in 1989. In particular, it has allowed Paul McGann to flesh out the Eight Doctor from the ill-fated TV movie and given us all a chance to get to know his character more.
And, in a stroke of genius, Big Finish have given him Mary Shelley as a travelling companion. As this four part story begins the Doctor has just whisked Shelley away from that famous meeting at the Villa Diodati in 1816, and taken her to the Vienna Exposition in 1873. Amongst the wonders she encounters there is a curious, metallic automaton who defeats all comers at Checkers and Chess. This is another clever nod back to the history of a real automaton known as the Mechanical Turk. However, unlike the original, there is a dark mystery lurking beneath the Turban and bandages of the Silver Turk.
Before long the Doctor is struggling to prevent some of his oldest foes from taking control of the city, and indeed the planet. As the cover image suggests these are first generation Cybermen from the days of the Tenth Planet story, allowing Nicholas Briggs to give us a fantastic vocal performance as he replicates their peculiar, discordant sing-song voices. And, of course, the meeting between Mary Shelley and creatures who are part organic and part machine allows for some clever parallels between the Cybermen and the monster that she will create in Frankenstein. The moment when she is taken prisoner by a disabled Cyberman and starts to sympathise with its plight is particularly chilling.
McGann is very good as the Doctor and gets to make a knowing joke about the wig he sported for the film. He is ably backed up by Julie Cox as Shelley, and by the familiar voice of David Schneider as a helpful taxi driver. Big Finish are renowned for their sound design and this production is no exception. In fact, the only fault I can find with this is that the Eight Doctor is saddled with my least favourite version of the classic theme tune.
The Silver Turk is available on CD from Big Finish for £14.99, or by digital download for £12.99. If you are looking for a cheaper introduction to Big Finish then Mary’s Story is available as a 99p download. This is a short prologue to this adventure and recounts the Doctor’s first meeting with Shelley. It also serves as a perfect introduction to the joys of the Big Finish audio adventures.
This builds on the promise of Mary's Story and gets a full 4.5 out of 5 flowing Byronic wigs. Recommended.