At the beginning of this month we brought you the news that the BBC had just released Doctor Who: Cybermen Monster File, an eBook based around one of the Doctor’s longest-standing foes. As July draws to a close, so does the opportunity for UK fans to grab this eBook for free, and so we examine what exactly makes this offer one you shouldn’t miss out on…
The eBook opens with an exclusive video introduction featuring the voice of the Cybermen since their 2006 return, Nicholas Briggs, as well as a foreword from none other than the Doctor himself, leading into the main content of the eBook which is split into two distinct chapters.
Chapter 1 – Cyber File – features a comprehensive timeline for the evolution of the Cybermen, from their initial meeting with the First Doctor in 1966’s The Tenth Planet to the Eleventh Doctor’s run-in with them in 2013’s Nightmare in Silver. What could have been a daunting amount of information is instead broken down into easily-absorbed chunks accompanied by plenty of images, snippets of ‘Cyber Facts’ and a catalogue of all their television appearances, with clips from the show itself sprinkled throughout. This pattern continues into the chapter’s other reference section, where fans can find out all about the different Cyber-creatures the Doctor has encountered, from CyberKings to Cybermats and even unlikely friend Handles.
The rest of this chapter includes two stunning galleries of concept art and iconic moments from the Cybermen’s history, an interactive puzzle and quiz – neither too taxing – and a guide on what exactly it is that makes the Cybermen so deadly. A particularly welcome inclusion – for this fan, at least – is a section detailing the people behind the Cyberman’s creation and development, telling the story of how the idea of the Cybermen was conceived and profiling those who work to create the image of the Cybermen we see on screen today.
Chapter 2 – Cybermen: Status Update – is a brand new short story written especially for this eBook by Big Finish’s Joseph Lidster, who has had previous experience writing for the Cybermen for both the Sixth Doctor and Bernice Summerfield audio ranges. The short story format works extremely well here, providing a neat balance with the fact-laden first chapter.
In Status Update we are introduced to young Jacob Sowersby, a schoolboy from the Earth colony of Tiestus who – as we learn from BOB, the diary newly implanted into his brain – loves pork pies, hates cabbage, and is working up the courage to ask out a girl at school. Jacob’s ordinary life, however, comes to a screeching halt when a spaceship lands on his planet, his initial excitement turning to terror as he realises that the whole population are the latest victims of a Cyberman invasion…
The story is an engaging and enjoyable read, and younger readers in particular will be able to quickly identify with and connect with the main character. The changes in tone throughout the story are handled well, and there’s even some dark humour as BOB continues to update Jacob’s increasingly panicked diary entries with an unfailing chirpiness. The illustrations by Neil Roberts are both gorgeous to look at and complement the story well, whilst the optional narration from Nicholas Briggs is a treat, not only competently portraying Jacob’s stream of consciousness but adding an air of authenticity once the Cybermen themselves make an appearance.
With the return of the Cybermen in Series 8 – which begins this August – the release of this eBook is undeniably timely, although whether this hints at a greater importance to the Cybermen than we might otherwise expect or is just a convenient opportunity to tie this product in to the show remains unclear. Either way, it provides a great user-friendly resource for those wanting to ‘upgrade’ their Cyberman knowledge, with something for everyone in the eBook’s 13+ target audience. In addition the BBC have billed this eBook part of a trial to ‘explore a different platform for delivering additional content’ to its audience, and certainly the high level of interactivity makes it something unique from other products currently available to Doctor Who fans, providing a solid base which the BBC could potentially build on in future releases.
The clips from the show itself are a particular highlight as is the behind the scenes content, which is something I’d liked to have seen more of in this eBook, although that may just be personal preference and perhaps a bit picky considering the volume of material already included! The games and quizzes could also perhaps be more challenging, and any future releases along the line might benefit from a series of these at various difficulty levels to cater for its wide audience. Even so, this eBook is great value for money at full price, but for free it’s an absolute steal and at the very least is something worth checking out before we enter the month in which Doctor Who at last returns to our screens.
Doctor Who: Cybermen Monster File is available for free in the UK until 23:59 on 31st July 2014, after which it will cost £6.99. The eBook is also available to purchase internationally.
This review is based on the Apple iPad version of Doctor Who: Cybermen Monster File, which is also available to download on Android and Kindle Fire – for the correct version for your device and country follow the link here.
The Gallifrey Times Rating: 8/10