John: Hi, folks! We’re going to do something a little different with these audio “Side Trips”--since the audios are broken up into two discs, we’re going to do two chats. (In fact, we might do a chat after each episode in future, but we’ll see how that goes later.) So at this point, we’ve finished Disc One of ‘Spare Parts’, and I think what we’re both most agreed on is that the Mondasian elements are the best bits. In some ways, this might even be better without the Doctor. Agreed?
Dee: Agreed. And this is not only on-purpose, even the Doctor knows it. He IS a Spare Part. And that’s one of the things I love so much about this title: At this point, every character except Doctorman Allen is, in fact, in one way or another completely unnecessary, completely redundant. It’s so sad, and yet so completely perfect for the fall of an entire planet and the desperate reaching for survival of an entire race.
John: A lot of the story involves the way people react to being made redundant. Sisterman Constant is furious--she’s always assumed she’s irreplaceable. Yvonne is terrified; she assumed she was doing her duty for her planet, but in the end she’s just another interchangeable cog in the work crews. Mister Hartley scrimps and saves and barters and bargains, hoping for some sort of ease that will never come, while Dodd...he’s a survivor in his own way just as much as the Cybermen. You can see him as the last human being alive, cracking open the bones of the second-to-last to get the marrow. And Doctorman Allen...but she hasn’t found out how redundant she is yet, has she?
Dee: Frank is the one who gets to me, really. He wants to be a hero, sees hope in the conversion, and is so very very wrong that he will get either heroics or hope from it. But he’s Yvonne’s kid brother, and he’s every kid who ever dreamed of being more. And it’s that, I’m sure, that made Nyssa bring up Adric.
John: I got the impression that Nyssa brought up Adric because she was upset and it was the most hurtful thing she could think of to say right at that moment. Which is kind of a surprise, given that it is Nyssa we’re talking about here, but I don’t think it was out of character. She’s finding out that she’s redundant, too; neither she nor the Doctor belong in this place and time, and they don’t have any role to play in the destiny of Mondas. But while the Doctor is trying to be fatalistic and fall back on his Time Lord detachment (and doing a lousy job) Nyssa is angry. She’s watching people suffer and die, and sitting back and letting it all happen is anathema to her...even if she didn’t know that the monsters created out of this will go on to murder one of her closest friends. And because the Doctor won’t stop it, she blames him. She is being tested in a way that the character never was on-screen, and good for Platt for doing it.
Dee: Oh, you are very right. I just think that Frank plus Cybermen equals a lot more than just a sucker punch to the hearts. And I saw her pulling that as evidence of exactly how disturbed and angry and sad she is: Nyssa never struck me as the dirty-pool-comment type. I think that was more Tegan’s thing, right? And the Doctor is angry too. “You let a Cybermat into my TARDIS?!” - that line is enraged, but there’s a sense of relief. She’s actually done something he can yell at her for!
John: And further, she’s given him a concrete problem he can solve. He can’t do anything about Mondas dying, he can’t do anything about the Cybermen, he can’t do anything about the inevitable future staring them both in the face...but he can do something about the little metal rabbit nibbling his TARDIS cables! (I think it’d have to be a rabbit. Rats don’t chew cords, do they?)
Dee: (Yes, they do, if their humans aren’t smart enough to supervise running-around time.) So they’re all extraneous, all useless... and meanwhile, the world keeps spinning on toward its destiny and the extinction of all non-converted inhabitants. And this is so different from Iceberg, because even the already-converted have a sense of pathos along with the menace. I also think it’s interesting that it feels like the Doctor, in not really doing anything much, is doing more than in Iceberg.
John: And I think it’s interesting, as we look ahead to the second disc, that just as Nyssa is being tested by finding out that she’s entirely superfluous to events, the Doctor is going to be tested by discovering the exact opposite...far from being an observer, his presence is absolutely integral to the future of the Cyber-Race. But we’ll talk more about that next time!