BBC Audio Written by Paul Magrs Read by Will Thorp
Sick Building is an engrossing tale of technology gone wrong. The action takes place on Tiermann’s World, a whole planet owned by the incredibly rich Professor Tiermann who has created his own fully-automated Dreamhome. This is an interesting concept which is perhaps a warning to the likes of multi-billionaires such as Bill Gates whose obsession with a fully automated home is well documented and whose fortune pretty much could buy most of the world. The automated servo home is reminiscent of the brilliant Tex Avery cartoon The Home of Tomorrow where everything around the house is done by robots and (weirdly) an episode of Some Mother Do ‘Ave ‘Em wherein Frank Spencer visits his relatives automated home (which he inevitably gets the better of) and at one stage is seen flushing his slippers down the lavatory! But I digress.
Sick Building is read by Will Thorp, a talented actor with strong Doctor Who connections having featured in the 2006 episodes The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit . His urgent narration gives the whole thing an exciting pace. His sublime impersonation of David Tennant’s Doctor is one of the highlights of the disc. He captures the gabbling enthusiasm and rather flippant sense of humour as well as the teeth-clenching authority the tenth Doctor displays when outraged. That said his “Martha Jones” is a rather bland cockney drawl which doesn’t really add any depth to the character. The main threat comes from the alien beast the Voracious Craw, which is intent on destroying the perfect world Tiermann has built for his family. The Dreamhome is set in its own dome-like forcefield within a wintry forest inhabited by sabre-toothed tigers and other wild savage beasts. The prologue’s description from the hungry sabre-toothed tiger’s point of view is both an unusual and very effective way to draw the listener into the tale.
There is a great sequence when the Doctor is imprisoned 39 floors below the main house and encounters Barbara, a talking food dispenser which supplies him with drinks and crisps despite refusing his illegitimate currency and then persuades him to help her friends a talking toaster and a very polite sunbed. The talking toaster is reminiscent of a similar device voiced by Tony Hawks in an early episode of Red Dwarf. Of course Doctor Who has explored (often malevolent) servo machines before, notably the servo robot in the Troughton/Cybermen adventure The Wheel In Space and the robotic cleaners in the dystopian high-rise McCoy tale Paradise Towers. Talking machines are one thing but machines with feelings and personality make for an engaging and often amusing listen.
Writer Paul Magrs racks up the tension and keeps the suspense going throughout. When the Dreamhome’s force shield begins to crack, one can sense the menace of the fast approaching Voracious Craw, as the huge alien beast with a massive appetite begins to tear up everything in its wake. Can anyone or indeed anything survive?
Unlike other BBC audio stories of this length there is plenty to keep the interest over each of the seventy five minute episodes. There are several mini-cliffhangers to make listening for shorter periods easy. Overall this is a very enjoyable story, full of rich description and well-rounded characters that you begin to care about. Well worth a listen.
Running time: 2 hours 30 mins