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Audio Review: Doctor Who - Robophobia 
13th-Aug-2012 04:07 pm
Doctor Who: RobophobiaDoctor Who: Robophobia by Nicholas Briggs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you were to force me to pick my single favorite televised Doctor Who story, I might well choose Robots of Death. First, because it actually seriously engages with a science-fictional idea (albeit one largely stolen from Isaac Asimov). Second, because of its visual design, especially of the robots, which perfectly illustrate the idea of the uncanny valley, being just not-human enough to be creepy. And third, because Leela's in it.

So, I wasn't entirely sure how I'd feel about a direct sequel done on audio featuring a companionless 7th Doctor. It does engage with a science-fictional idea, but it's basically the same one as Robots of Death. And it has no visual design and no Leela.

On the plus side, though, I do tend to love the solo 7th Doctor stories that Big Finish does. For one thing, they offer the opportunity to see the Doctor introduce himself to a new proto-companion. I enjoy the ritual of seeing the Doctor introduce himself to a new person and gain their trust, and it's particularly fun with McCoy's doctor because his Doctor somehow combines the bizarre mercurialness of Tom Baker with a certain gentleness.

This audio also has the 7th Doctor at his most enigmatic. I suspect that if I listened again with a more critical ear, I'd find moments where his stringing along of the other characters seems counterproductive in retrospect, but on a first listen, it helps build the tension nicely.

I was kind of expecting the storyline to be "Robots of Death 2: More Robots, More Death", but writer Nick Briggs has come up with a few twists that make it more than that. And the cast give excellent performances - I actually got a bit teary during one of Toby Hadoke's later scenes in the play. And here I thought the man was merely a funny comedian, gifted writer, nice bloke, and walking encyclopedia of Doctor Who trivia.

My only niggle is that rather than seeing this in the visual style of the original Robots of Death, my mind's eye insists on picturing something much more utilitarian and functional looking. The cast just don't sound like they're swanning around in garish eye-shadow and silly hats. The robots sound perfect, though.

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