❉ Beautifully written by Simon Guerrier, this is gripping listening from beginning to end.
The story behind Big Finish’s Audio Novels range is a fascinating one. For a long time Big Finish were a publisher of books as well as audio dramas, and in fact the Short Trips range started out as a series of books, before transitioning to becoming an audio drama range in 2010. They’ve even re-released some of their print Short Trips in audio form. For one reason or another, Big Finish aren’t able to publish original prose any more. But they can make audiobooks, and this is where the Audio Novels come into play.
First trialled with Terror of the Master, a bonus story available with the limited edition release of Masterful, the Audio Novels are essentially audiobooks… Without the books. Make no mistake, at around eight hours long, what you’re getting with Scourge of the Cybermen (and by extension the rest of the Audio Novels range) is the first in a range of novel-length audiobooks. I love books, and l love audio dramas, but I’ve never really been that keen on audiobooks. But, I’m delighted to say that I am incredibly keen on the Audio Novels range, if Scourge of the Cybermen is anything to go by!
Scourge of the Cybermen is utterly gripping listening from beginning to end. Of course it’s one of that fascinating niche of stories featuring the Third Doctor’s unrealised-on-TV clashes against the Cybermen (one of the previous stories in this niche, The Tyrants of Logic, even gets a reference) but it’s so much more than that. Scourge very cleverly takes familiar tropes of 60’s Cyber-stories, and turns them on their head in very clever ways that I shan’t spoil, as they’re some of the best parts of the story.
Scourge is an immensely evocative story, not just of the past, but of the present. Slowly but surely the shockwaves caused by recent world events have been creeping into Big Finish’s releases, and it’s in evidence here. Not always implicitly (although there are very clear allusions at times), but just in the way the world changes through the story, the way characters become more distant as things slowly get worse. Famously the Pertwee era reflected the world it was made in, and Scourge of the Cybermen does the same for the modern day.
Much of the prose (is it prose if it’s an audiobook?) is beautifully written – Simon Guerrier has always had a unique talent at writing for the early years of Doctor Who – and here he has truly excelled himself. Jon Culshaw’s dulcet tones are a joy to listen to naturally, but a special shout-out has to go to an oft-unappreciated side of audio productions (and audiobooks in particular): The sound design and music by Steve Foxon. The music in particular is absolutely superb!
In fact, I only really have one problem with Scourge of the Cybermen and sadly the audio novels range as a whole I expect, is simply that there is no way to get a print copy of this wonderful story, and more than likely there never will be. But in a time when original Doctor Who novels are few and far between, the Audio Novels range is the perfect successor, and Scourge of the Cybermen is the perfect start to the range.
❉ ‘Doctor Who – The Audionovels: Scourge of the Cybermen’ is available exclusively from the Big Finish website, RRP £17.99 (Digital download).
❉ Stephen Brennan has been writing for fanzines and charity anthologies for some time. A writer by day, a game developer by night, they can be a bit of a grump, but with a mischievous twinkle in their eye that lets you know they aren’t all bad.