Blurb: "I suppose that was one of the Doctor's most endearing qualities: the ability to make the bizarre and the terrifying seem utterly normal."
When Liz Shaw's friend Jean goes missing, the Doctor and U.N.I.T. 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 is unexpectedly re-united with an old enemy…
Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Dr. Elizabeth Shaw. Published by Big Finish Productions and released January of 2007.
Setting: Earth: London. UNIT dating makes the precise chronological placement of this story iffy but it's during the Doctor's first or second year at UNIT, which I would place in 1970-1971. It is unclear from the details given when or why Liz is narrating the events of the story.
Continuity: This story takes place between Inferno and Terror of the Autons. The Doctor mentions that the living metal deserves further research (see Robot). Liz says that Captain Mike Yates has just joined UNIT (see Terror of the Autons but also see Vengeance of the Stones and Old Soldiers for alternatives). The Cyberman here was converted from technology left over from their attempted invasion years earlier (see The Invasion).
Canonicity Quotient: Placing a story in the gap between Inferno and Terror of the Autons gives you a lot more leeway than most gaps in the television series because we don't know much about what happened there. It creates an issue with the many ways that Liz can leave UNIT and it seems that almost all novels and audios set in this gap flirt with the idea of why Liz left UNIT. This story is no different. Liz goes through a great deal of shock, having one of her friends converted into a Cyberman in front of her eyes and this causes her to decide to leave. Some opening is left so that maybe she doesn't mention it right away, so that more stories can be told in this gap but the events here seem to contradict Scales of Injustice and possibly Binary. Mike Yates is mentioned as a new recruit but that doesn't seem to fit what we're told in Vengeance of the Stones or Old Soldiers. I also find it a little unlikely that this is the origin of the living metal seen in Robot as the Doctor and the Brigadier show no indication in that story that they've encountered the stuff before. 0.50
Discussion: Finally, we get a Cyberman story with the third Doctor. For those not in the know, Barry Letts had wanted to do a Cyberman story, but they were never able to get the rights during his tenure as producer. This story finally gives us a chance to see what a story like that would have been like. I also like how this unlike the other Companion Chronicles does 4 15-minute episodes instead of 2-30 minute episodes. It feels more like Doctor Who to have a 4-parter and the need for more cliffhangers means that the story never falls behind on pace.
Another thing that I really like about the story is its sound design. The music that plays while Liz describes her college days is so fittingly of its time. It sounds like what you'd expect to hear in a 60's flashback. There's also some great sound effects and the Cybermats are effectively realized. Caroline John does great narration and I really feel her horror at some of the things that she's exposed to over the course of this story. Her impression of the Brigadier is pretty much the only place where I feel like she really falls down, but that's ok as she only has to say a few lines for him. I feel that in many ways this story did have a bit of a wasted opportunity as Nick Briggs is the other voice actor and the Cybermen don't even show up until the end of episode 3. Of course, I'm not sure what other character would have been a good "second" but John was left carrying the story as a result of that and it was like listening to a talking book for much of the time.
Any good Cyberman story is going to deal with the body horror of conversion and this one does it very well. The whole story also has an air of suspense that keeps you on the edge of your seat. I also like how the story sort of fits into the mold of the 70's spy thriller type of stories. You can almost imagine a similar plot playing out in The Avengers although the ultimate enemy would be something other than cybernetic aliens. I also like some of the ideas like a human who played at converting himself so that he doesn't fully understand the Cybermen's mission. I also like the idea of conversion at the molecular level being an improvement on the normal surgery and grafting of components into skin. It's all interspersed with wonderful character insights from Liz, so I'm pretty happy about the whole thing.
I do have two nagging problems with the story. The first one is exactly what was up at the dentists. The blue Cyberman was actually the dentist but why does no one at his practice notice that the boss has suddenly become metal? Also, the conversion process seems a little confusing. Jean's house has chewed up metal everywhere, implying that somehow the metal is taken from those sources and then imported into the host to add as the cybernetic component of creating a cyberman on the molecular level. So do the cybermats leave the host body and then chew up some electronics and furniture and then burrow back into it? Or once they take over a host is it the host who then starts consuming the metal and furniture? That might work if the jaw was the first thing to be cybernized and reinforced. Yet the whole process remains a little confusing.
Final Rating: 9/10
Recommendation: Full of suspense, mystery, and body horror the Blue Tooth tells a compelling tale that simultaneously transports you back to that golden age of the program that is season 7. All the characters are there in a story that I really wish had actually been made on television. There are a couple of warts but overwhelmingly its the store and the adventure that matters and those put in an excellent showing and I highly recommend listening to it.