Doctor Who Big Finish- Spare Parts

Spare Parts

“I’m not even sure they are people by the end. They’re just so many tinned left-overs…”
Story 34
Written by: Marc Platt
Released: July 2002

The Doctor and Nyssa find themselves wandering through the dark and hauntingly quiet streets of what could be London in the late 1950’s, only it isn’t. There are many similarities, but far too many differences such as the astronomical location of the planet to the Cherrybowl Nebula. The Doctor is in a peculiar mood and seems just as anxious to get away as he is interested in investigating further, but on his own. Nyssa wanders off and encounters a father and daughter engaged in ‘mat hunting just as the young woman’s father is badly injured, appearing to be dead by Nyssa’s reckoning. To her surprise, ‘Dad’ sits up right as rain even though he has no pulse. Fearing the police-patrolled streets after curfew, they encourage Nyssa to follow them home. Meanwhile the Doctor encounters a street doctor who is eagerly looking for limb and organ donors even though most fashionable replacements are cybernetic these days.

This is clearly not Earth.

When Davison first started his run as the Doctor, he confessed that his favorite ‘monster’ from his childhood was the Cybermen. This should come as no surprise given that he primarily watched Patrick Troughton as a child and the Second Doctor faced the silver-faced cyborgs on several occasions. Billed as a kind ‘Genesis of the Cybermen,’ Spare Parts is a very bizarre story. Written by Marc Platt (Ghost Light, Loups Garoux), Spare Parts is a period piece mixed with cyberpunk elements and a healthy dose of Yorkshire accented locals. I’m not sure how I imagined an adventure that explored the origins of the Cybermen, but patrols of neo-Cyber-cops on horseback was far from my mind!

A fan-made recreation of Cyberman Kroton and horse by Ronald Purviance

On screen, Peter Davison was faced with many convoluted plots involving chicken monsters running water-powered generators in Amsterdam, a giant dog in a vest starting the Big Bang and Concords being swiped to the Stone Age by a stereotypical Oriental wizard. He rarely had the opportunity to flesh out his character with the many mannerisms and quirks that he wished to inject. In Phantasmagoria, Loups Garoux and Spare Parts he is in fine form, depicting a harried and strange traveler who carries firecrackers in his pockets and gives the impression of a very old man in a youngster’s body. His stammering, a terrible sense of direction and tendency for witty puns in moments of terrible danger are very appealing and are all in full effect here.

As Nyssa, actress Sarah Sutton was terribly young when she appeared on screen and came off as rather wooden most of the time. She’s terribly cute and clever, but quite boring in the personality department. I imagine that her creator Johnny Byrne saw this as a sign of her royal breeding, but it is difficult to get invested in her character. In Spare Parts, Nyssa spends much of her time away from the Doctor and by the time they are reunited, she has realized that they have arrived at the genesis of the dreaded Cybermen, the same monsters who killed Adric. Eager to change history so that her friend’s life can be spared by history, she butts heads with the Doctor who once again reminds her of the Web of Time… and that Adric was a rather rubbish companion (I made that bit up).

Spare Parts is very atmospheric, set entirely in a world underground, fearful of life in the surface and protected by miles of concrete from ever seeing the staggering sky. Vocal auteur extraordinaire Nicholas Briggs also brings life to the early and haunting ‘Tenth Planet’-style voices along with the resounding Cybercontroller in its first chronological appearance. There are some spine-chilling moments as well such as the swarming Cybermats attacking the TARDIS and the desecration of the graveyard for fresh material to build more Cybermen.

Amazing fan-made animation

I recall reading before the Cybermen returned in the BBC Wales version that this audio adventure was a strong influence on the televised two-parter ‘Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel.’ Marc Platt is even given credit as a source on screen for the story. Yet after listening to Spare Parts, I am dumbfounded as to how the production crew passed up the opportunity to translate at least some of the ideas in Platt’s scrip for the small screen. The dirigibles, President of the UK, sports drinks and alternate Tyler family are poor substitutes for the amount of fantastic concepts here. Spare Parts does have its problems, but it is miles better than the BBC Wales alternate Cybermen. Imagine The Doctor and Rose landing in what looks like 1950’s London only to encounter a Cyberman on horseback, or the crumbling sky cliffhanger revealing a strange vision of space and you can see right away how amazing this story could have been.

Doctor Who – Spare Parts can be purchased at local retailers such as Mike’s Comics and online from Big Finish.

Read other Big Finish reviews at the Daily P.O.P. here.

20 thoughts on “Doctor Who Big Finish- Spare Parts

      • I think you are a much more positive reviewer than I am.

        If you listed the 10/10 ratings you gave to every Doctor Who story, I would be surprised if there were many 1/10s, 2/10s or 3/10s.

        You aren’t a big admirer of the Williams era and you are critical of some of the 80s, but on the whole you don’t seem to have any strong dislikes in Doctor Who.


      • I avoid the point and grading systems because I can usually see strengths and weaknesses in almost every story. But if you read my Tenth Doctor articles you’ll see where I let my bile flow freely.

        The Hartnell era is all over the place but it so far-reaching and ready to try new things that I love it. The Troughton period is almost the same story told over several times, but told well. Pertwee suffers from the wild variation in quality from story to story that (aside from his first year) you have to buy into his portrayal to enjoy it. As a teenager I called him the ‘anti-Doctor’ as I hated his incarnation so much and preferred Davison, Colin Baker and McCoy. These days I’m more holistic in my appreciation of the program and can see that over 26 years it can only be viewed on a particular basis.

        One of the reasons I like the Hinchcliff material is that it has such a broad appeal and is most closely associated with the personality of the program (now this quality is shared by the Tennant era). Like the Troughton era, it is limited in range, but within that limitation it’s all great stuff. The Williams era is quite good until the last year when it became self-serving and camp. The 80’s period was so fannish that it was absurd, aside from the last three years it only appealed to die-hard fans and even that’s a stretch.

        There’s a lot to like in almost every Doctor Who adventure… almost.


      • Our tastes in Doctor Who seem pretty similar Jamieson. Though I have to ask why you disliked Pertwee’s Doctor before. While he is not my favorite the anti doctor statement is puzzling. Is that because he is more of a authority figure who works for the military rather than a wonderer. I have only seen a few stories but I have heard the achilles heel of that era was probably the overuse of Delagdo’s master.

        As for Davidson’s era I have only seen all of his first season and maybe the some of the first two stories of his second. Mccoy’s era tried to reinvent the program by hinting the doctor was more powerful than previously believed. That was a interesting approach that led to some welll written stories. I have never seen any of Colin Baker’s stories.

        Finally I find both season 16 and 17 of Graham Williams era in Tom Baker’s years very hard to get through. I have said this before.


      • If you watch Robot and Terror of the Zygons you see that the Fourth Doctor had a great rapport with the Brigadier, perhaps even better than the Third Doctor’s. The same could be said even more strongly about the Second Doctor in The Invasion.

        I’m not really bothered about the Doctor’s relationship with UNIT. In fact, in Dr. Who and the Silurians, I find myself irritated by how little the Doctor is prepared to work with UNIT for most of the story.

        My biggest problem with Pertwee is all in the performance. He just does not come across as an alien in the way other Doctors do.

        And then there is the indignity of seeing an old man trying to be James Bond.


      • Zeno, It’s hard to recall accurately, but think that the Third Doctor’s use of martial arts and working with what appeared to be the military really put me off as a rebellious teenager. Also, the exile on Earth struck me as an awful idea that killed the concept of the program. Later on I could see that the Doctor and U.N.I.T. working together was a more sophisticated statement on two opposing views working toward a common good. Letts and Dicks were likewise of similar but vastly differing opinions on various things and I think the Third Doctor/Brig relationship mirrors some of that. An entire season of the Doctor fighting the Master is a bad idea and everyone involved agreed that it was a mistake in hindsight, but the viewing figures were strong so it was popular and is likely the only reason that the Master is so fondly remembered today.

        I’m told that my favorite Doctor as a teen was first Davison, then Colin Baker and finally McCoy. I still enjoy all three but find that the quality in production, scripts and acting is all over the place. While the 60’s and 70’s have a nostalgia pull to them, the 80’s Who really demands that you are a fan to appreciate it in my opinion.

        If you are looking for recommendations on Colin Baker I can say that Mark of the Rani, Two Doctors and Revelation of the Daleks are worth a look.

        Of his three year tenure, Davison’s first year had the best scripts but his final season was the strongest overall, though many of the scripts are lightweight. You may like Frontios as it is written by Chris Bidmead who oversaw season 18, Tom Baker’s last outing. Enlightenment is absolutely amazing but it is the last part of a trilogy that is questionable quality-wise.

        I hear you on series 16 and 17. The trouble with talking about Doctor Who so much is that you find yourself saying the same thing over and over. I try and keep a fresh perspective whenever possible and can be swayed to re-evaluate almost anything as well.


  1. I liked this audio a lot. The subject matter is too serious to make it one of my favorites, but it tells a good story.


  2. Spare Parts is my second favourite Big Audio story – Ish being my favourite – and one of my favourite cybermen stories. I agree it’s a pity the new series didn’t rip it off totally.


  3. That Cyberhorse and Cyberman customs are mine. The Cyberman is Kroton from the DWM comics and not from Spare Parts. I did do some work on a Cybercop for the horse, but never really finished him.


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