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Doctor Who: Robophobia by Nicholas Briggs

1/10/2011. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy Doctor Who: Robophobia in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who: Robophobia in the UK

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pub: Big Finish. 2 CDs 120 minute story. Price: CD: GBP14.99 (UK), Download: GBP12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84435-577-8). cast: Sylvester McCoy, Nicola Walker, Toby Hadoke, William Hazell, Nicholas Pegg, Dan Starkey, Matt Addis and John Dorney .

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For those of us watching Tom Baker’s Doctor in the 1970s, one of the most disturbing enemies was not the Daleks but the golden robots in the story, ‘The Robots Of Death’. Their impassive yet human-like faces linger in the memory. This story, which uses the word ‘robophobia’ (total fear of robots) taken from the original series, builds on the previous narrative but brings in Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor to solve the new mystery.

On board the robot transport ship, the Lorelei, the medical officer Liv Chenka (Nicola Walker) develops a tentative friendship with another member of the team. When he is murdered, she finds she has to perform the autopsy on him. It’s not clear initially who or what killed him.

Set to deliver several thousands robots, the team aboard the ship are joined by a strange character who is determined to get to the bottom of the death. Meanwhile Security Chief Farel (Toby Hadoke), is convinced the robots are going to kill them all and another member of the crew, Cravnet (Dan Starkey, Commander Strax in Doctor Who ‘A Good Man Goes To War’) has serious robophobia.

The scenario of being trapped on board with a mysterious killer or killers is a well-used one and the personality of the Doctor is ideally Poirot-like. He uses his little grey cells and keeps his own council until he is able to reveal the truth. In fact, he says very little to the crew members thereby getting really irritating and being thrown in the brig.

It is down to the crew, in particular Liv who is able to follow his clues and work out what is really going on board the Lorelei, preferably before they all die.

McCoy’s delivery is as enunciated as ever and he injects real feeling into every word. His guest cast must fulfil the role of companion as, once again, the darkly brooding, Number Seven is travelling alone. Toby Hadoke and Nicola Walker are good strong characters and Dan Starkey is excellent as the comic relief in the form of the heavily west-country accented Cravnet which might well be short for craven coward. I am quite concerned that he might be based on the lovely Paul Spragg from the production office of Big Finish.

There is a good finish with a nicely tense lead up to it and it does involve some running through corridors which should suit Mr Hadoke and Ms Walker. Amazing how much ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘[Spooks]’ have in common.

I like how a previous classic series has been built on with this follow-up. I’m also much happier that this is an audio. Those robots used to give me nightmares especially after one chatted up my mate at the Blackpool Doctor Who Exhibition in 1978. Like I said, worse than Daleks and they never buy the drinks neither.

Sue Davies

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