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He's back in the main range, and it's about time.
During the final story of 2009s anthology release, The Company of Friends, a pre Charley, Lucie, et al 8th Doctor first meets the famous (some might say infamous) author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelly, (hereby referred to has 'Mary' for the fictional version, and 'Shelley' for the real historical figure). Of course, she hasn't written it yet - it looks like part of the fun of this arc will be dropping knowing hints to this fictionalised incarnation of Shelley. When she first appeared in the aforementioned one episode tale, there was no indication whether it was just a one off or more adventures were planned. Certainly at the moment two of her print contemporaries from that CD, Fitz and Izzy are still confined to one episode dramatisations. Perhaps it was always planned, or perhaps Julie Cox just shone enough as Mary in that first adventure to make bringing her back a necessity. Either way, one full story in and whatever the reasons, she has a certain magic as a companion that few other audio companions have quite attained so early on. Not wanting to drop too many spoilers, suffice it to say I can't wait to see what further wonders her reticule will bring.
The plot itself is a gothic and chilling one in the tradition of Platt's acclaimed earlier Cyber-script, Spare Parts. But whereas that story had literally a whole population of Cybermen by the end, here we have a sorry pair of spare parts that in some ways could be described as tragic. For part of this story the most compelling aspect is the knowledge that both we as an audience and The Doctor have about the true nature of The Cybermen. Yet as emotional beings, unlike the Cyberman, we travel through Mary's innocent eyes with humanity and actually feel pity for the poor suffering creatures, a pity that they cannot give in return. Humanising the monster was previously handled most notably of a Dalek in Rob Shearman's classic audio drama Jubilee which was also the inspiration for his TV script, Dalek. Well read listeners see that this is far from a recent dramatic device. Indeed didn't Shelley herself use similar methods when writing about Frankenstein's monster? How appropriate.
To those used with the more recent one disc adventures for the 8th Doctor, this release is a certain change of pace. It would be a mistake to label this as slow, but in comparison to the speedier predecessors, more time is taken to explore the characters and little nuances of the piece. For such a carefully structured script, this gives the horror elements plenty of room to breathe. Such an appropriate release for the month of Halloween 2011.