The Seventh Doctor is killed by a robot on a ship transporting cargo-bays full of the automata between planets…
Well, that’s where Nick Briggs’s latest contribution to the Doctor Who mythos begins anyway, along with a fast info-dump of the core plot (minus the Doctor and Leela’s involvement) of the 1977 classic story, The Robots of Death, justly regarded as one of the show’s best serials from that era.
Sequels can sometimes just do “more of the same, but bigger” but this time around, Briggs has turned a number of the central tenets of the original on their head, so that, despite the apparent death of the Time Lord at the start of the story, we really aren’t sure exactly who the bad guys are until quite some way into the piece.
What makes this really enjoyable to listen to, though, is the way in which Briggs has characterised the crew of the ship. This isn’t your sleek Star Trek Federation starship, or even a freighter like that captained by Beryl Reid in the Fifth Doctor story Earthshock. This is nearer the horrendously disorganised ship featured in the thankfully short-lived comedy series Hyperdrive from a few years back (the one where Nick Frost was without Simon Pegg, and Miranda Hart got most of the laughs for falling over): the captain couldn’t really give a crap about anything other than arriving on time, and everyone else is absorbed with their own situations. Nicola Walker and Dan Starkey make a great pairing as Liv Chenka and her not-so-bright helper, Cravnet, eliciting a number of wry smiles at some of the tensest moments.
Verdict: An enjoyable murder mystery that doesn’t take itself too seriously. 8/10
Click here to order Robophobia from Big Finish