Third Doctor meets Cybermen as Big Finish upgrades Doctor Who audiobooks

Doctor Who - The Audio Novels: Scourge of the Cybermen
Claudia Gironi artwork

Big Finish Productions already redefined audio drama with its full-cast Doctor Who adventures that kept the dream alive for fans in the lean years between the sci-fi TV show’s original run in 1963-89 and its return in 2005. Now it’s giving the audiobook an upgrade, with original Doctor Who audiobooks that may not have a full cast but aren’t lacking in the star power or production values.

Released July 2, “Scourge of the Cybermen,” written by Simon Guerrier and narrated by Jon Culshaw, is the first of six titles in the new Doctor Who – The Audio Novels range. This eightsix-hour epic tells the terrifying story of the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith as they battle the cybernetic monstrosities on a futuristic off-world sea base.

In the depths of the ocean on an alien world, there’s a city run entirely by scientists. The Doctor is only too eager to help them find new ways to counter pollution and produce entirely clean energy – research that he says will benefit the whole galaxy. But others have recognized the value of the sea base, and their interest is not so benign…

Left to her own devices, Sarah Jane Smith conducts her own investigation. The lights on the base keep flickering, which back home on Earth was the first sign that her bathroom was leaking. Out here in the depths of the alien sea, it’s the first indication of a looming disaster.

Patiently, implacably, the Cybermen are determined to conquer the base and its resources. That includes all the men, women and children who live there.

As the Doctor once again battles his old enemies, Sarah rallies the trapped and terrified people. Then, to her horror, she realizes that the Cybermen have used cold logic to predict exactly what the humans will do in order to survive… 

This enhanced audiobook also features specially composed music and sound effects, plus a guest appearance by Nicholas Briggs as the voice of the Cybermen. 

Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor never faced the Cybermen on screen, except for brief cameo appearances in “Carnival of Monsters” and “The Five Doctors,” and another Big Finish tale. This first installment in Big Finish’s new range of original Doctor Who audiobooks is a great way to rectify that oversight.

“I grew up reading the Doctor Who Target novelizations,” said producer David Richardson. “They were, and remain to this day, very close to my heart. And it occurred to me – what if we were to do audiobooks of brand-new adventures that are authentic in every way to the era? The kind of stories that we could have had on TV. And here they are! ‘Scourge of the Cybermen’ is the first, a dark, thrilling tale that absolutely drips with atmosphere and menace. And there are many more treats to come!

“These stories are huge not only in their imagination, but also in their duration. Each will last at least six hours, with each script lasting 60,000 words. A huge undertaking – but one suited to the immense talents of our chosen narrators, with the brilliant and versatile Jon Culshaw headlining the first.”

Writer Simon Guerrier said: “My vague plan was to do something based on the atmospheric prologue to the Target novelisation, Doctor Who and the Cybermen by Gerry Davis, in which he describes the Cybermen as marauding Vikings, skulking in the darkness of space and only preying on the weak. I also absolutely love Terrance Dicks’s novelization of Death to the Daleks, and wanted something of the same spooky, unsettling atmosphere and futuristic setting.  

“And writing for the Cybermen was brilliant! I’ve written Daleks, Sontarans, Ogrons and even Vardans but was keen to do the Cybermen. I wanted to get the Third Doctor and Sarah right too – I know from previous things that I’ve written that it’s all too easy to make the Third Doctor imperious and overbearing, and it takes effort to convey the dynamism and charm Jon Pertwee brought to the character.” 

Richardson added: “’Scourge of the Cybermen’ is a stunning launch for the Doctor Who – The Audio Novels range. I love Simon’s script which is dripping with atmosphere and menace. It gives us the Cybermen at their best – skulking in the dark shadows, waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting. I think we’ve hit on something very special indeed with this range.” 

Culshaw said: “There are so many stand-out moments in this script. It’s a story which builds tremendous atmosphere; it’s very ominous, very brooding and it really stirs the theatre of the mind. You do see the scenes playing out in your imagination. Some of them are as beautiful as they are tantalizing and mysterious.” 

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