THE EVENTS OF THIS
STORY TAKE PLACE
BETWEEN THE NOVELS
"THE EYE OF THE GIANT"
AND "THE SCALES OF
MARK J. THOMPSON
BIG FINISH 'COMPANION
CHRONICLES' CD 1.3
RELEASED IN JANUARY
When Liz Shaw's
friend Jean goes
missing, the Doctor
and UNIT are drawn
to the scene to
investigate. Soon Liz
discovers a potential
alien invasion that
will have far-
reaching affects on
her life… and the
Doctor FINDS HIMSELF
PITTED AGAINST THE
CYBERMEN ONCE AGAIN...
The Blue Tooth
(4 15-MINUTE EPISODES)
“The Blue Tooth” gives us a tall tale from Liz Shaw, erstwhile professor of many things and briefly assistant to the third Doctor. Ruminating on her decision to leave UNIT, this sounds like it’s going to play out as yet another ‘Liz’s final adventure.’ However, it has a great deal more to offer than another attempt to have the final word on this continuity gap. Nigel Fairs’ chilling tale of Cyber-conversion is a fine addition to the third Doctor’s earthbound adventures.
Caroline John narrates the tale in character as Liz Shaw. It’s immediately obvious that the actress is a good deal older now, and again, this is used to the story’s advantage by having the character recount the events much later in life. We get to hear a slightly different side to Liz than we’re used too; we hear her tell tales of parties and piss-ups at Cambridge with her college friend Jean. Although this often sounds a little fake and gauche, it does add to her character, matching up the prim professor that she acts like to the mini-skirted dolly bird she often appeared to be in the television series days. It also works as a good lead-in to the story – Liz’s reminiscences about her time with Jean lead into her telling about the time that her friend went missing. Calling on the Doctor and the Brigadier for help, Liz’s investigation into Jean’s disappearance leads inexorably into a horrific plot by a new kind of Cyberman.
The face-off between the third Doctor and the Cybermen is the real draw of this story. Other than in the celebratory knees-up of “The Five Doctors”, we never got to see Pertwee fight
the Mondasian menaces, so it’s good to finally have something to redress the balance. It’s a pity we can’t have Pertwee here to perform it, but Nick Briggs is again on hand to provide perfect Cyber-voices. Not only that, but Fairs has created a new and frightening form of Cyberman. In this story, a dentist’s surgery forms the basis of their attack, as a strange blue metal is used for filling in cavities. Not only does this work on that favourite of phobias, the dentist’s chair, it also gives a brand new method of Cyber-conversion; the living metal hatches into tiny Cybermats, which set about converting human flesh into more of the alloy. The images of partially transformed, metallic blue victims are truly shiversome.
The story is well told, moving forward quickly in four swift instalments. My only gripe is that each episode is a single track on the CD, giving 15-minute long chapters rather than the usual selection of short scenes. Other than that, it’s a fine, creepy tale with two good central performances, leading to an effective, if unoriginal, ending.
Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2008
Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
Of the few bona fide audio books that I have listened to thus far, “The Blue Tooth” is by far and away my favourite. The third release in the first season of Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles, Nigel Fairs’ story takes us back to the early days of the third Doctor, an era that
I happen to hold a particular fondness for. And, thanks to Caroline John’s fervent narration, listening to “The Blue Tooth” really does feel just like being back in the middle of an old UNIT adventure.
There are a whole host of reasons why I think that this production works so very well, the first of which being the quality of the writing. Fairs’ story is rather audacious in that it offers up a double-edged gimmick for the fans – it pits the third Doctor against the Cybermen, whom he never encountered during his own era on television, and what is more, it explores some of
the reasons why Liz eventually left UNIT, something else that was never shown on television, only being addressed comparatively recently in Gary Russell’s 1996 novel “The Scales of Justice”.
To look at the Cybermen first, as one would imagine, Nicholas Briggs’ performance is impeccable. Just as he did in “Fear of the Daleks”, Briggs lends this production a real sense of faithfulness and dynamism – something exacerbated by the shorter, faster episodes (four fifteen-minute episodes, as opposed to two thirty-minuters). However, Fairs’ Cybermen are not quite what I was expecting. They are more Borg than Cybermen – horrific, half-finished creatures with blue, human faces. Much more harrowing than the traditional smooth-faced silver giants in my view. Less iconic, but certainly more harrowing.
As for Liz, it is brilliant to listen to Caroline John walk us through parts of Liz’s life that we
had not really been privy to before. The superb score really evokes the 1960s spirit for the flashback scenes to Liz’s university days, and – sad as it sounds - I find it really absorbing to hear about Liz doing normal things; somehow it makes her seem that much more real, that much more relatable. And, ultimately, it makes this story all the more affecting once the plot starts to come together and the relevance of the university flashbacks becomes clear. The cliffhanger ending to the third episode, for example, really lingers – who would have thought that the line “I was late. I am always late. I forgot my keys...” could be such a choker?
"When did I first decide to leave UNIT? Now there's a question.
With no easy answer, I'm afraid..."
It is little wonder then that, with hindsight, Liz describes these events as being the catalyst for her leaving UNIT. Those of us who take a broad brush approach to continuity need not worry too much though – she does not actually leave during this story, leaving “The Scales of Injustice” pretty much in tact.
Together with all of the above, there are also some beautiful little moments that I really appreciated; far too many to mention in one short review. Thoughtful little touches, like the Doctor’s mobile phone and the Tomorrow’s World gag, or even the Doctor buying his season eight cloak and jacket, really add to the texture of the story and make it feel really quite special.
All in all, this Companion Chronicle comes highly recommended. It took my expectations – or perhaps, I should say, my preconceptions – and completely shattered them.
Oh yes, and the title just happens to be a rather clever pun.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2008
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This story’s blurb places it between the television stories Inferno and Terror of the Autons. As this story explores Liz Shaw’s decision to leave UNIT, we have placed it between the novels The Eye of the Giant
(in which she is still happily working for UNIT) and The Scales of Injustice (which actually sees her leave).
Liz Shaw refers to Mike Yates as ‘Captain Yates’ here, which is at odds with his rank as given in both The
Eye of the Giant and The Scales of Injustice. It seems to reasonable to suppose that Liz refers to Mike as being a ‘Captain’ here as that was his rank when she last encountered him (these things do tend to stick, “Brigadier” Lethbridge Stewart being something of a case in point), and she is of course narrating the tale
with many years hindsight.
Unless otherwise stated, all images on this site are copyrighted to the BBC and are used solely for promotional purposes.
‘Doctor Who’ is copyright © by the BBC. No copyright infringement is intended.